April 29, 2007

Not quite Robespierre

NYC Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein's foolishness has now reached the point where Diane Ravitch described it simply as a sorry situation in NYC. The description is accurate with four years of revolving reorganizations and mandates. The Coalition To Put the Public Back in Public Education managed to achieve some significant changes in the planned re-re-reorganization of the city's schools. So it's a reorganization of the re-re-reorganization (but relieving).

Reading about all of this long-distance gives me the sense that neither Bloomberg nor Klein have a clue about how schools run or should run and have attempted to belittle opponents as a substitute for leadership. If this is a model for mayoral control for schools, please let me off the bandwagon at the next stop.

(No, I was never on the bandwagon in the first place.)

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Posted in Education policy at 7:08 PM (Permalink) |

Working without glasses

I left my pair of reading glasses at a recital Thursday night and wasn't able to find it Friday morning when I returned to the hall.  So I've been without my reading glasses over the weekend. My eyesight isn't that bad, mild farsightedness. But I can't just read and compute for hours the same way I can with my glasses.

Tomorrow morning I need to make one last attempt to find my glasses at the recital hall or in one of the various lost-and-found places on campus. Barring that, it'll be time to shell out more money than I'd like to an eyeglass shop.

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Posted in Random comments at 5:12 PM (Permalink) |

Corporate donors and universities

From the cutting-room floor: Adam Emerson and I talked for about half an hour last weekend while he was preparing today's article, Corporate U, and I think he did a nice job of putting the corporate sponsorship of one university program into a broader national contemporary perspective. I shouldn't be surprised that the historical perspective was left out (he quotes me far down in the story), but I thought I gave him the best statement on the history: "If you look just at the names of major universities like Leland Stanford University or Carnegie Mellon University, you'll understand that wealthy philanthropic influence on universities have a long history." I don't know if I said exactly those words, but it was close.

The other gripe is also minor: he quoted me on a general concern about the influence on the curriculum but not on the two questions I have in general:

  • Did a donor have substantive influence on the shape of the curriculum, or did the faculty sponsors determine the shape?
  • Did a program go through a university approval process controlled by faculty?

In talking with him, I said that there was no problem with professional programs having close relationships with the field, and many faculty have an obligation to keep close ties to practitioners, but that there was a difference between consulting with practitioners and turning your curriculum over to them. In this particular program, faculty seemed genuinely enthusiastic when they came to USF's undergraduate council, and I suspect they would have told Emerson that while they value Jordan Zimmerman's enthusiasm and support, they determine the curriculum. From what I understand, the program had existed for a number of years; this was a revision, not the creation of an entirely new entity.

Given that in the USF case, the program in question is advertising, I'm not surprised that the donor wants to claim far more influence than I suspect faculty would say he had.  After all, he wants to make a case for his own influence.

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Posted in Academic freedom at 1:10 PM (Permalink) |

Where's Waldo... uh, Shakespeare?

Why I love reading Miriam Burstein (aka the Little Professor): detail and perspective in response to ACTA's flawed Vanishing Shakespeare paper. The comments are thought-provoking, too.

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Posted in Higher education at 6:56 AM (Permalink) |

April 28, 2007

The question that Reading First's Chris Doherty never asked

(Disclosure: I have had colleagues who are involved in phonemic-awareness or phonics-based reading research. It pains me to see anyone I know involved even tangentially in conflict-of-interest problems, let alone people I highly respect. No, I don't know the principals from Oregon who are at the center of this, and I'm not going to be any more specific.)

"Do you have a sister I could date?"

Well, no: I don't think he needed to ask that question, or because I've never met the man, I'm really not qualified to know anything about his personal life (nor would I share details about it if I did).

But there is a connection between the old saw and the Reading First scandal. Reading the Title I Monitor's OIG Refers Reading First To U.S. Justice Department, I get the sense that everyone in Washington involved in Reading First has no clue about academe.  Here's the nugget about the alleged conflict of interest in having close business relationships tied up in the people who were critical in the Reading First program:

Supporters of Reading First have claimed that the pool of experts in the nascent field of scientifically based reading research was small and that conflicts were therefore inevitable; the OIG, in its reports, said the department did not do enough to prevent the process from becoming incestuous.

The supporters of Reading First's business practices cannot have it both ways: either the University of Oregon faculty were experienced faculty with years of research under their belt or the field is "nascent." Take your pick. But we don't have to; while some of the research on phonemic awareness is new, the University of Oregon faculty involved in Reading First are the second generation of Oregon faculty involved in phonics-based instruction techniques.

"Second generation" is a deliberately-chosen phrase there. Apart from a few parent-offspring pairs, college faculty don't generally reproduce new professors in a biological sense, but there is often a chain of intellectual descendants from mentor to graduate-student advisee, who in turn mentors other graduate students at other institutions, and so on. In a field with 20-30 years of research, any small group of researchers will have mentored at least several dozen doctoral students, of whom some will remain close to their mentors' fields and others will go off in different directions.

And thus, while there are still conflict-of-interest issues involved in a small field where people know each other, there is no justification for using the exact same group of people who benefited financially from the program.  So here is the question Chris Doherty should have asked: "Do you have any former students who might serve on a panel?"

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Posted in Education policy at 9:53 PM (Permalink) |

Education history and school renewal

Today's brief N.Y. Times story, Massachusetts Acts To Save the Country's First Public High School, is about efforts to revive academics in the first public high school, which opened in the 1820s. The school is troubled, far from its origins as part of the 19th century expansion of the public sphere into tertiary education

English High was neither the first secondary school nor the first "public school" (a concept that only became clearly distinguished from private schooling later in the 19th century). There were plenty of schools called academies, seminaries, colleges, and so forth, and their curriculum, academic intensity, and potential student pool all overlapped. As Nancy Beadie and Kim Tolley have documented, New York state provided partial support of academies for part of the 19th century.

But English High represented an idea that was controversial for much of the 19th century: using public funds to provide more advanced education for a small group of students. Today, we think of high school as a universal adolescent experience, but it wasn't until the middle third of the 20th century. In Massachusetts, the legislature repeatedly required towns of a certain size to have high schools, a requirement that was generally ignored until the 1850s. In one case famous among education historians, the town of Beverly, Massachusetts, first started a high school when the state sued.  Then a few years later, the town voted to abolish the school. (The reasons why have been argued over for the last 40 years: see Michael B. Katz's The Irony of Early School Reform and Maris Vinovskis's The Origins of Public High Schools.)

Part of the reason for the controversy in Beverly and elsewhere was the limited enrollment in high schools; few could afford to keep their kids out of work long enough to attend, but taxes still supported the schools. Part also came from competition for legitimacy (and students) from academies. High schools didn't really acquire political legitimacy until after an 1873 lawsuit filed to block public tax support of the Kalamazoo Union High School. The suit failed, and while the state supreme court only had precedential power over Michigan, it essentially knocked the legs out of the anti-high-school movement.

Many interpret the growth of high schools in the late 19th and early 20th century as a direct outgrowth of the Kalamazoo case, and the webpage linked above includes a similar argument:

Although this issue had been heard by other courts, Justice Cooley's prestige helped to make the Kalamazoo School Case a leading decision that was cited in many courts in surrounding states. In Michigan the effect was profound. The number of high schools in the state increased from 107 in the early 1870's to 278 by 1890.

But that's not quite true. As David Labaree notes in The Making of an American High School, the growing credential value of high schools gave people in cities a powerful incentive to push for more access to high schools. That growth in high schools eliminated the institutional prestige of the earlier high schools, such as English High in Boston or Central High in Philadelphia.  Central High reacquired higher status in the 1940s when the city differentiated its high schools, creating an elite tier.

The history of English High would make a wonderful dissertation project, from its origins through various phases: A quick search of Worldcat reveals enough secondary materials to make a go of it.

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Posted in Education policy at 4:06 PM (Permalink) |

The Loeb Rule

A few days ago, I asked if any readers knew the history of early teacher unionization and the Loeb Rule. In comments, CCPhysicist asked for an explanation, so here it is, briefly: Until 1917, there was a forceful teachers union in Chicago, the Chicago Teachers Federation, led for a number of years by Margaret Haley. In a coalition with local progressives such as Jane Addams, the CTF was successful in a number of efforts, most notably a fight against corporate tax exemptions that were impovershing the city and its schools.

The CTF was part of the Chicago Federation of Labor and Local 1 of the American Federation of Teachers. But in 1917, the Board of Education forbid teachers from affiliating with labor unions, and the CTF crumbled.  It wasn't until the postwar era that teachers unions would rise again to prominence.

(See Kate Rousmaniere's entry on the Chicago Teachers Federation in the Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago.)

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Posted in Education policy at 3:10 PM (Permalink) |

April 27, 2007

Violent attacks on educational institutions

UNESCO has a report out on Education under Attack (PDF), violence directed at schools, teachers, students, and staff. It's a quick and very chilling read.

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Posted in Education policy at 10:05 AM (Permalink) |

April 25, 2007

Bad labor history award of the week

This week's historical illiteracy award goes to the Education Partnership for a phrase in its report Teacher Contracts: Restoring the Balance. I'll let others address the merits, because this one is an education historywhopper:

Today's teacher contracts reflect an earlier era in America: the age of the rise of industrial unions, during the 19th and 20th centuries, when a factory system rigidly governed work outputs. (p. 6)

There's a substantial error in chronology: anyone know when the Loeb Rule was created in Illinois that destroyed the Chicago Federation of Teachers for decades? The first teacher strike? The huge wave of strikes and collective bargaining agreements? Hint: "the rise of industrial unions" was centered around the Loeb Rule, not the rise of teachers unions in the late 1960s and the 1970s.

There are also significant slippages in conceptual understanding: First, teachers unions represent largely public employees, not the private employees whose collective-bargaining rights are protected by the Wagner Act. While much of labor law is in common (state agencies overseeing public-employee collective bargaining frequently follow NLRB rulings), both the politics and the details of organizing are different with public employees.

In addition to that subtler point, it is either ignorance or deliberate misreading to claim that collective bargaining agreements are the detritus of industrial organizing. They're legal documents, and the nature of labor law means that the history of those agreements contain the practical solutions to a number of problems over the years, including the history of arbitration decisions that determine interpretation.  That fact doesn't mean that contracts can't change: they can.  But any union leader knows to be wary of a four-word phrase: "Let's simplify the contract."

Finally, the proposal to allow a state agency to wipe out contract language whether that contract language is demonstrated to be related to educational failure or not is a sideways attack on collective bargaining (and some fellow unionists would claim it's pretty direct). Would the Education Partnership want to eliminate clauses that allow teachers to take a lunch? That's implied in the proposal. In reality, the teaching conditions in the early 20th century, during "the age of the rise of industrial unions," were sexist, humiliating, underpaid (and unpaid too often in the Depression), and unsupported. What balance is the partnership trying to restore?

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Posted in Education policy at 11:05 PM (Permalink) |

April 24, 2007

Nicholas Winset

An emerging academic freedom case at Emmanuel College is about a somewhat iconoclastic accounting adjunct who followed the college's advice to talk about Virginia Tech last week and then was fired for what happened in the classroom. At first glance, I wouldn't want to be an Emmanuel official defending their decision.

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Posted in Academic freedom at 1:50 PM (Permalink) |

April 22, 2007

Travel whiplash

I was back home last night after another quick overnight trip, this time to Orlando to interview candidates for the United Faculty of Florida executive director position. That's the fourth overnight trip this month. As you can probably imagine, everything else is happening by sheer force of will right now, and I'm glad that I'm experienced enough now to balance things so that the stuff stays reasonably up in the air even though I haven't had a day to myself (i.e., a day to just work on things without classes, meetings, trips, or other obligations) since March. We're driving up to visit my (very nice) mother-in-law today, so today doesn't do it, either.

Does someone have a spare two or three days they can loan me? I haven't found any on eBay.

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Posted in Random comments at 7:46 AM (Permalink) |

April 20, 2007

Still processing what happened at Virginia Tech

For some reason, I wasn't really hit by the murders at Virginia Tech until Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Students, faculty, staff, administrators, and parents around the country are realizing that we don't have walls around most campuses, and we tend to trust the people who are walking around campus. In the middle of rural Virginia, everyone at Virginia Tech must have felt safer than those at most campuses. The first response in Florida and elsewhere is to identify the obvious holes in security: not enough police officers on campus, not enough counselors, insufficient communications for emergencies. The other issues will take longer.

I have no great wisdom to offer, and I think it'll take a while to figure this out.

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Posted in Higher education at 9:15 AM (Permalink) |

April 18, 2007

New podcast for Accountability Frankenstein

New podcast (finally!) at Accountability Frankenstein. It's about 4 minutes long (what will be close to the average length), and it has a trivia contest. Go, listen! You might win a copy of the book if you can answer the question correctly!

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Posted in Accountability Frankenstein at 11:16 PM (Permalink) |

April 17, 2007

Liviu Librescu

Margaret Soltan pointed out that several of those killed at Virginia Tech were faculty, including mechanical engineering professor Liviu Librescu. In this day of Facebook and university webpages, those cut down at Virginia Tech have an instant memorial. A survivor of the Holocaust and with more honors than most faculty can hope for, Librescu was still teaching at 76 and blocked the doorway to save his students.

Damn.

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Posted in Higher education at 7:08 PM (Permalink) |

April 16, 2007

I'm a serial blogger!

In the mail today, I received back the ISSN application form for the blog. That's right: Bloggers can download the International Standard Serial Number application form, fill it out, and send it in.

From now on, you'll seen the ISSN in the left navigation scroll: 1936-6701.

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Posted in Writing and editing at 5:34 PM (Permalink) |

When is suspending a faculty member appropriate?

This morning's IHE story about Michael D'Andrea's paid suspension from the University of Hawaii Manoa (UHM) and ban from contacting colleagues raises tricky questions about the definition of discipline at a university and the appropriate treatment of faculty under investigation. From the apparent context of the case, it's clear that UHM is in the middle of attempting to document just cause to fire D'Andrea and that the administration faced what they considered a hard choice during the investigation. But the existence of hard choices does not justify any decision, and I'll explain below why this smells strongly of lawyering HR defensiveness more than an academic decision.


Technically, the UHM administration did not suspend D'Andrea but reassigned him to work from home. On the other hand, he was removed from classes; not given a substitute assignment; prohibited from coming to campus except to the university laboratory school for his child; prohibited from using his e-mail; asked to return his parking pass, office keys, all student work; and told not to contact anyone in his college except his significant other. All of this was apparently done without a hearing, though the IHE article is silent on whether there was an investigation that would satisfy the tests of just cause (University of Iowa HR version or the University of Missouri Labor Education version), in particular whether it gave D'Andrea a chance to respond to allegations.

The first concern I would have is the implications of the prohibition on using e-mail or access to the library for a faculty member's professional life. Access to library facilities and e-mail is critical to many faculty members' research. It's how we conduct research and communicate with our colleagues. There is no evidence of whether UHM is forwarding D'Andrea's e-mail to a private address or whether alternative arrangements are being made for his access to support that faculty normally have. Since he's in counselor education, a logical question is whether this "reassignment" is preventing his access to research participants on campus. For other disciplines, other questions would be relevant. It is this step that clearly interrupts one's career activities that makes me suspect the letter was drafted and directed by a lawyer with no clue to academic life.

The second concern is the pretense that this "reassignment" is not discipline. Without more information, I have to place this in a gray area in terms of what I can see in the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly collective bargaining agreement language, which has elaborate procedures for suspensions and firings and has a vague catch-all section for other discipline actions. The common-sense interpretation of UHM's actions is that it is discipline, given the stigmatizing effect of barring someone from campus and removing her or him from teaching until some clearly-ongoing investigation is concluded. (At least theoretically, D'Andrea could have taught from home using distance-learning techniques, so there was a clear choice not to keep his teaching assignment intact instead of that interruption flowing automatically from his ban from campus.)

So what is an administration to do if there appears to be a bona fide disruption/safety issue with a faculty member? It depends on the circumstances, but there are option that UHM didn't choose:

  • If there is a documented expectation of some violence, UHM could and should go to court to get a restraining order. Period. That would require the presentation of evidence and contain due process procedures (if not under the control of the administration). I have occasionally heard administrators hold out the criminalization of bad faculty behavior as something no one should want. But if there is a well-founded basis for expecting criminal behavior, you don't handle it administratively; you go through the courts, which comprise the proper channel.
  • If the issue is a violation of collegiality so severe that it becomes a discipline issue, the administration always has the choice of bringing in a faculty member, explaining the allegations that have been raised, promising a fair investigation, and explaining very clearly the consequences if the faculty member takes any action that could be interpreted as retalitation or intimidation. Having a union on campus is a help to the administration in this regard, not a hindrance. If I were in this position, I'd make sure a union rep is sitting in the room, listening to the entire spiel, because it's the union rep who's in the best position later to explain to the faculty member why intimidation or retaliation would be stupid. If UHM was banning D'Andrea from campus from a concern that he would immediately start a manipulative campaign against whoever his accusers are, they're engaging in a type of prior restraint, a "we're not going to let you talk to peers in fears of what you might say" decision. (To be honest, if the expected behavior is a manipulative campaign, then couldn't UHM essentially invite him to seal his own fate in that way?)
  • If the concern is about a faculty member's mental state (e.g., a psychotic episode or hypomania), then the appropriate step would depend on the person and circumstances and requires some knowledge of mental illness, but apart from true safety emergencies, a leave of absence seems far more appropriate than UHM's actions. (See Mark Grimsley's column on working in academe with bipolar disorder for examples of sensitive, appropriate collegial responses to troubling behavior.)

There is a provision in our own collective bargaining agreement at USF which allows a paid suspension of a faculty member during an investigation. That provision is silent as to the faculty member's access to university facilities during the suspension or appropriate accommodation to satisfy the reasonable interests of all parties. What is not appropriate is to interrupt the professional life of a faculty member, fail to accommodate legitimate interests in the middle of an investigation, and then pretend that the constellation of choices was not disciplinary in effect.

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Posted in Academic freedom at 9:10 AM (Permalink) |

April 15, 2007

The politics of cut scores

Yesterday, the St. Petersburg Times published Letitia Stein's story describing the twists and turns of setting cut scores in Florida's 10th-grade tests. The deeper story is not the inherent tensions in setting cut scores. There's not doubt that cut scores are arbitrary. The question is whether they are arbitrary in the sense of arbitrary and capricious or arbitrary in the sense of arbitration.

In the end, it's the use that matters. To distribute scarce resources (e.g., interventions), one could justify cut scores. But when careers and diplomas are on the line, the thresholds are far harder to justify.

Update: The original post was written quickly, and one issue I forgot to note was the article's taking the norm-referenced test at face value.  In Florida, students take a test that is supposed to be aligned with state standards, but they also take a few subtests of the Stanford Achievement Tests in math and reading.  Note the word few there; one should be very hesitant to take changes (or stability!) in aggregate norm-referenced test scores at face value in any case, and using a few subscales for this purpose is ... well ... hard to explain.

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Posted in Accountability Frankenstein at 10:53 AM (Permalink) |

Who wrote Frankenstein

Germaine Greer neatly shreds John Lauritsen's argument that Mary Shelley didn't write Frankenstein. Hat tip: Erin O'Connor. Also see Miriam Burstein's comments.

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Posted in Accountability Frankenstein at 10:28 AM (Permalink) |

April 12, 2007

Clueless on K Street (PR efforts targetting bloggers)

(In reality, the firm that sent the following is in Arlington, Virginia, but I couldn't resist the alliteration.) It's amazing how the PR response to the existence of bloggers is not to change how one approaches publicity but to apply the same techniques (sending out press releases) to the new arena (bloggers). I suppose some bloggers might feel all warm and fuzzy about being the targets of publicists, but I suspect most won't. Blogging's sine qua non is a somewhat chaotic networking of information.

Incidentally, the press release is slanted towards a blanket endorsement of virtually any pay-for-performance plan, while the report makes clear that the teachers behind it are far more sophisticated than the publicists. Among other things, the teachers excoriate the (now-defunct) Florida STAR program, and the report acknowledges the role of unions in the Denver and Minneapolis systems. They're also skeptical of using growth models as a sole engine for pay systems.

But in the interest of revealing what happens behind the scenes of publicity efforts, here's the whole press release.  Compare it with any stories written in response and see if the reporters did any independent work. (I have to prepare for class after taking another 28-hour trip between my Tuesday and Thursday classes, so I have no clue whether there's anything about this in the news today.)


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
APRIL 11, 2007

EXPERT TEACHERS SAY TIME IS RIGHT FOR PERFORMANCE-PAY

Performance-pay that rewards teachers for helping students make progress, developing relevant skills and taking leadership roles will help improve teaching quality for all students, says first report from TeacherSolutions

Research Triangle, N.C. --­ Teachers will support performance-pay plans that advance student achievement and the teaching profession, says a first-of-its-kind report written by a diverse group of expert teachers from across the United States. The new TeacherSolutionsSM study proposes radical changes in the way teachers have traditionally been compensated, including:

  • Rewarding small teams of teachers who raise student achievement together;
  • Rewarding teachers who accept challenging assignments in high-needs schools and strengthen connections between school and community; and
  • Redesigning pay systems so that teacher success, not seniority or graduate degrees, determines maximum teacher pay.

The report, Performance-Pay for Teachers: Designing a System that Students Deserve, is the first to be issued by TeacherSolutions, an initiative of the Center for Teaching Quality to bring the views of expert teachers to bear on critical issues facing public education and offer solutions based on their classroom experience.

The report proposes a comprehensive new framework for teacher compensation, where base pay would still be tied to level of experience but where teachers could earn more through a variety of incentives as they progress from "novice" to "expert." The incentives would be tied to student progress, professional improvement, school and community leadership, and collaborative work, including mentoring and coaching, that extends teacher expertise beyond a single classroom. To read the full report, go to:

www.teachingquality.org

Performance-Pay for Teachers was produced after a year of research and study by a team of 18 award-winning teachers, including former National Teacher of the Year Betsy Rogers and four winners of the prestigious Milken teaching award. Much of the project, supported by the Joyce, Gund and Stuart foundations, was conducted on the Internet and included a series of live online discussions with leading experts in the field.

"These are the authentic voices of educators who have been successful with every kind of student, in every kind of school," said team member Lisa Suarez-Caraballo, a bilingual math teacher in inner-city Cleveland and winner of the Milken National Educator award. "We know how teachers think and what will motivate them."

To achieve the ultimate goal of improving learning for all students, says the panel of teacher experts, compensation plans must not only create opportunities for all teachers to be rewarded for their impact on student progress, they must provide incentives to attract and retain quality teachers and support their professional development in meaningful ways.

To read the rest of this news release, go to http://www.teacherleaders.org/teachersolutions.

About TeacherSolutions

The Center for Teaching Quality launched the TeacherSolutions model in February 2006 when a select team of 18 highly accomplished teachers from throughout the nation (including both union and non-union members) was assembled in a first-of-its-kind approach to begin to study professional compensation. TeacherSolutions panelists include National Board Certified Teachers, several state teachers of the year, winners of the Milken National Educator of the Year Award, Presidential Award recipients and a National Outstanding Young Educator of the Year award winner. The team includes:

Sarah Applegate, Lacey, Wash.; Susan Bischoff, Manatee County, Fla.; Anthony Cody, Oakland, Calif.; Bill Ferriter, Wake County, N.C.; Nancy Flanagan, Howell, Mich.; Theresa Killingsworth, Phoenix; Becky Malone, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Valdine McLean, Pershing County, Nev.; Renee Moore, Cleveland, Miss.; Ford Morishita, Portland, Ore.; Jennifer Morrison, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; Carole Moyer, Columbus, Ohio; Lori Nazareno, Denver; Marsha Ratzel, Overland Park, Kan.; Betsy Rogers, Brighton, Ala.; Lisa Suarez-Caraballo, Cleveland, Ohio; Amy Treadwell, Chicago; and Maria Uribe, Denver.

About the Center for Teaching Quality

The Center for Teaching Quality seeks to improve student learning through developing teacher leadership, conducting practical research and raising public awareness about what must be done to ensure that every student in America has a qualified, well-supported and effective teacher. Over the past eight years, the Center¹s work, rooted in the National Commission on Teaching and America¹s Future (1996) landmark report, has sought to promote a coherent system of teacher recruitment, preparation, induction, professional development, compensation and school-design policies that could dramatically close the student achievement gap. Through initiatives like TeacherSolutions and the Teacher Leaders Network (www.teacherleaders.org), the Center is committed to cultivating leadership, spreading expertise and elevating the voices of accomplished teachers so that their knowledge of students and schools can inform the next generation of teaching policies and practices.

###

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Posted in Education policy at 7:04 AM (Permalink) |

April 10, 2007

Off to Chicago today

This evening I board a plane for my one-day AERA adventure. My panel: "Semi-semiotic pandering pondering to laborious Laborite Labradors wanting wandering to two serious series of off quadrilateral extensions of path-codeficient metalinguistic metallurgical discourses of No Child Left Behind."

Sigh.

Not only wasn't that panel accepted, I didn't even propose it. But I'm goin' anyway. Shameless plug: Book signing tomorrow at noon at the Information Age Publishing exhibit (I forget the booth numbers).

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Posted in Random comments at 5:43 AM (Permalink) |

April 9, 2007

A war against the empty thesis statement

To The Little Professor, who complains about student papers with the thesis statement declaring "many similarities and differences," I say, I will join with you in this battle. In fact, I think I've been there all along, but I just didn't know where the chain of command was.  Lead on!

My students don't usually declare the existence of "many similarities and differences." My students are far more creative when they write empty thesis statements, finding their own, unique ways of listing topics rather than summarizing an argument. (Sometimes they list to the right, sometimes to the left, ...) I've never thought of writing "Arrrgggh!" in the margins, and that's an interesting idea, though it does bring to mind the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The professor says I have a thesis of ... Arrrgggh!

A thesis of arrrgggh? That sounds like an expletive.

I think it's a note of frustration.  Arrrgggh!

Ooooooohhhhh!

No, not "Ooohhh." "Arrrgggh!"  Frustration.

No, not an "Arrrgggh!" of frustration, but "Ooohhh," as in surprise and alarm.

[they all turn around]

[in unison] Oooooohhhhh!

[The Great Beast of Vapid Writing launches itself at the hapless students, swallowing up their grades.]

And now, to a bit of reading of student work, followed by the judging of undergraduate research posters. After a head-cold-filled weekend, I'm on the market for new nasal passages. Unfortunately, despite rumors to the contrary, it appears that there are not any available at the moment on eBay.

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Posted in Teaching at 5:56 AM (Permalink) |

April 5, 2007

Trip to Atlanta, but no pictures

I had a great time yesterday in Atlanta: talked at Emory, visited Morehouse College, spoke with a bunch of exciting graduate students in different disciplines.  I'm going to be paying for it in the next few days in exhaustion, and my throat's already telling me I should expect a head cold soon, but it was very nice.

Unusual surprise of the trip: I stayed at the house of friends who live almost directly in the line that runs between the Clarkston, Georgia, field that the boys' soccer team known as the Fugees (named for the members who are all refugees from other countries) had been kicked off and the elementary school where they now practice (see NYT and NPR stories). The fields are only a few hundred yards apart.  No, I didn't have time to take pictures of the two fields.  Darn!

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Posted in Random comments at 7:58 AM (Permalink) |

April 3, 2007

Book geography thanks to Google

Google Books now has an interesting feature: in one page, you can find all the places mentioned in a book displayed on a map.  I just discovered it for Education Reform in Florida.

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Posted in Education policy at 11:30 AM (Permalink) |

April 2, 2007

Notes from the underground academic

Tidbits from the last few days:

  • I've been so busy with various things that I forgot to note that two days after Accountability Frankenstein appeared on my doorstep, Education Reform in Florida appeared at my office. Two books in three days: not bad.
  • Tomorrow I head to Atlanta and a talk Wednesday at Emory. Gotta finish the PPT slides and transfer to a thumb drive! (Going to go security-blanket-less... I mean, travel without my laptop.)
  • I got jury service postponed, so I'm going to AERA... for one day.  Yikes!  Wednesday at noon I'll be at the Information Age Publishing exhibit (booths 508 & 510). Two one-day trips in two weeks.  Definitely the way to punish my body, but longer would be punishing my family.
  • Some positive stuff in my program area (curriculum-wise) is just over the horizon, a good thing.
  • I picked up business cards for the journal and hope that they can appear before AERA in the mailboxes of the editorial-board members who sent me their addresses. (There were two other business-card orders, too, one for Accountability Frankenstein and the other for the hat I now wear as faculty union chapter president. But it was the EPAA/AAPE card order that was urgent.)
  • My daughter appreciated the unit-circle explanation of sine and cosine tonight (which I always thought made more sense than the opposite-/adjacent-leg definition).
  • My son and daughter each had public music performance opportunities this weekend.
  • Second day of being chapter president, and I drafted a more serious agenda.  And I prepared the last of the materials for the new chapter treasurer. We need to get her on the signature card for the account, something that I've given myself a good incentive for: I have some receipts, but I didn't make the check out myself. So I only get reimbursed when I get the transfer done successfully. Agendas, getting rid of old responsibilities... as long as there are no politics involved, my time in office will be a complete success!  Oh, darn, ...
  • And I even cleaned my office a tiny bit.  My desk is now in organized piles of junk instead of disorganized piles.  (The disorganized piles have migrated elsewhere in the office.)
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Posted in Education policy at 10:22 PM (Permalink) |

April 1, 2007

E-mail early April 1, 2007

Colleagues,

The following is a draft agenda for the April 6 chapter meeting. Please let me know if there are things that need to be added and deleted. Please also remember that this is my initials agenda, and as the saying goes, "Any president really is like falling off open lake systems."

Sherman

  1. Approval of agenda
  2. Bargaining update
  3. Getting some union thugs for Sherman
  4. Next year's chapter priorities
  5. Completely irresponsible statements go here
  6. Other reports
    1. Grievances
    2. Gripes
    3. Communications
    4. Miscommunications
    5. Excommunications
    6. Treasurer
    7. Waste
    8. Membership
    9. Committee for the Reform of the Task Force to Restructure Committees
  7. Other business
  8. Funny business
  9. For the good of the order
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Posted in Higher education at 12:28 PM (Permalink) |

A new education union blog!

At the risk of spreading myself too thin, I'll now be contributing to the new Faculty Voices at USF blog. I'll have to twist a few colleagues' arms to write for it, but there are a number of reasons why the blog now exists for the chapter.

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Posted in Higher education at 10:08 AM (Permalink) |