Monday, December 30, 2013

Rich People Just Don't Care as Much?

I think this is what F. Scott Fitzgerald was trying to say all along. The article I've linked to would be a great companion piece to The Great Gatsby. I think it would be a great touchstone for class discussion.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Slow Education

I felt that this recent blog post from Edutopia is spot on and is one of the major reasons I'm thinking of just staying in the ELD track rather than moving back to my beloved ELA. In the ELD track, there is time to slow down and think. I never felt like I had that when I was teaching English. What do you think about it?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Visual Writing

My good friend Dr. Chris Crowe recently posted a link to this article: How Visual Thinking Improves Writing. I've been trying a lot of visual things with my ELD classes this year, and it really does work. Plus, the kids have fun while they're learning!!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mind Mapping

Now that I'm not teaching English per se, I've had less to post here, but I recently came across this little gem of an idea and thought it was too good to pass by. I think any teacher in any subject could use both this technique and this basic assignment in class:

Saturday, October 5, 2013

After Shots

Now that I've been teaching for seven weeks, I thought I'd show you how the room looks now. I haven't done a whole lot with it other than clean it up, but it looks much better.
Looking back at the door

The bookshelves and cupboards

Organizing my art supplies in the cupboard

The desk and whiteboard area

The textbook storage area -- a little more work to do here

The audiobook and leveled reading storage area

Student artwork

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Looking Back

Here's some writing I did at the very beginning of the summer, even before I spent the whole ten weeks looking for a job. This sounds very prophetic as to what my summer really was like: 
At the end of the year, I felt secure. Sure, my personal life was going all to heck, but I knew what I was going to do next year. I'd gathered up all of the yearbook materials, and I was prepared to spend all summer going over them and getting yearbook more organized. Then I was derailed at my checkout when my principal informed me that they were eliminating my part-time position. So much for the peaceful, productive summer. I would now spend all summer agonizing over cover letters, chasing down letters of reference, and going to interviews, and this doesn't even include planning and implementing a brand new curriculum. Aargh!
Now I have the crazy dilemma of trying to decide where I'll be at next year. No matter where it is, it's going to be a lot more work for me, because I'll most likely be teaching full time.  I've already got an offer, but I'm not completely convinced that it is the right fit for me. I feel disjointed, discombobulated, and disenfranchised, all at the same time.
I think the job hunt was even worse than I had imagined. I'm glad it's over.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

My New Room -- Yikes!!!!

So after the district finally approved my hire yesterday (the people at the school kept telling me it was not approved, but then the VP remembered that he had sent the request using another email--turns out it was approved immediately the day I was hired), I finally got to look at my room. In a word -- scary.
The teacher who quit suddenly last week left a bit of a mess. Understatement of the day. Here's what I have to work with:

Yes, that is a laptop cart (the laptops are scattered all over the room), and I have an overhead projector and an ELMO and a really nice stand for large paper pads. There are also all kinds of strange things in the room - a step ladder, a music stand, two fans, a space heater, and...boxes and boxes of curling irons, hairspray, and nail polish (I guess the former teacher did hair and nails as as a flex (student chosen reward) time activity)? I also have so much junk piled everywhere that I'm a little afraid of what to do with it. It's not entirely her fault as the custodians have dumped this room in and out this year. Supposedly the former teacher is coming at 3 o'clock today to take out her stuff -- whatever of all this stuff her stuff is. One thing that I don't like is that she has covered some of the walls with large strips of paper, which is torn and looks pretty tacky. That will have to come down ASAP -- so that step ladder will come in handy.
On a more positive note, I had a mostly good experience with the faculty meeting yesterday. It turns out that I am not a member of the ELA team,  but instead I team with the foreign language department. The old ESL teacher never met with anyone because she had a class to teach at the high school, so...I will see how this goes. Wish me luck!!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Whole New World

I haven't posted anything about this yet, but I wasn't hired back at UCAS at the end of the year. I was teaching part-time there, and they kind of rearranged the schedule so that I wasn't on it anymore. It was a bittersweet parting. I had a lot of good experiences and fun there -- loved the students and staff -- but it wasn't handled very well.
I've spent an entire stressful summer looking for a new job. I even briefly accepted a position in SLC, but I came to my senses before I signed the contract -- that 50 minute commute would have killed me. I gave up a very nice contract, but I figured I would get another offer. Well, two months and many interviews later and only a week before school starts, I had despaired of getting a job this year. I confided this to the BHW last week, mentioning what a hit this has taken on my self esteem, and he said, "I'm pretty sure that you'll have a position sooner than you think."
So...on Tuesday I went for an interview at Lakeridge Junior High for an ESL teacher. I haven't taught junior high since I student taught, and I don't have an ESL endorsement. During the interview, I was talking about some of the ways I've tried to create a sense of community and rapport in the classroom, and one the of interviewers said, "When you talk about your students, your face just lights up." I guess that means that they thought I had what they wanted, because they called today to offer me the job. I am beyond stoked. I am thrilled, humbled, and feel very blessed. I am going to work like crazy for those kids!!
This will be a challenge for me, but I think I am up for it. I am excited for the new change and for the chance to work for the local school district. I will have access to a lot more professional development resources, etc., than I ever had working for a charter school.
Well, enough about me. I immediately went on the EC Ning and started looking for resources, and found this site: Larry Ferlazzo's Website of the Day. He has a book on Amazon, too, which I ended up ordering after emailing him back and forth for a bit.

Someday -- Eileen Spinelli

At a CUWP meeting recently, we did some writing modeled on this book. Here is what I came up with--this is not edited and is pretty rough. I started out pretty down but tried to put a twist and positive spin on the end.

Someday I will have my house all to myself. I won't have to pick up after anyone, I'll cook whatever I want for dinner, I'll play whatever music I want as loud as I want to. I'll close off all the bathrooms but one, and I'll only run the washing machine and dryer every other week. The kitchen floor will go months between moppings because it doesn't need it, not because I  don't have time. I won't have to compete for TV time or computer time, and it will be so peaceful that I'll finally finish writing the novel I've been working on for the last five years.

Today I'll return home to a house with three teenagers, all of them messy. Most likely I'll have a group of dubious smelling teenage boys show up around 5 PM to play dungeons and dragons with my youngest son, and my daughter will Skype with her "friend who is a boy from California" for most of the afternoon. My oldest son will bring a stack of dishes ten inches high up from the bowels of the basement where he has apparently been using them to attract rodents. If there ever is a moment of peace, my married daughter and her husband will come over and loudly play every YouTube video they can think of and laugh themselves silly.

Someday my life will be lonely. . . today, it is full.

I think this would be a great way to start out a school year -- kids could write about how things are for them now, and what they want to know/do by the end of the year.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Model Book Review

Last year I was invited to a special writing workshop introducing Debbie Dean's new book, What Works in Writing Instruction: Research and Practices.

As part of the workshop, we did some model writing. We looked at various book reviews from NPR, then we wrote our own versions based on what we noticed the reviewers doing.

Don’t Give Up on Memory

I’ve only fainted one time in my life—after I gave birth to my first-born son. A be-scrubbed nurse had just told that he was dying, and she was trying to get me on my feet so I could see him for the last time. As I came out of the faint, I saw my husband and the nurses’ concerned faces looking down at me, and . . . I couldn’t remember what was happening and why I was on the floor. Within minutes, my memory came crashing back, but I will never forget the immense weight of it as I realized what was happening.

Memories can do this. They can be heavier than mountains. They can add burdens and pain to everyday life. Some of us may wish that we could get rid of our memories and unburden ourselves. We long to be free.

In The Giver by Lois Lowry, an entire nation has done just that. They’ve passed on the mantle of remembering to just one person—know as the Receiver of Memories. At first the memory free society seems like utopia. There is no anger, no violence, no fear. None of the baggage that comes with memory.

But as the book continues, Lowry reminds us that memories are also about love, kindness, compassion, ethics, even basic morality. People without memories are people without a conscience. Memory becomes something to treasure and to fight for.

As for me, I re-read this book again immediately after I first read it, and then I got up at 5 o'clock in the morning and took a two-hour walk to think about it. It disturbed me, it shook me, it made me think. Even with all the painful memories I have -- particularly the death of my infant son -- I would never want to give up my memories -- they are just too precious.
If you are a person with memories, whether they are sweet, bittersweet or downright painful, you must read this book.

I don't remember exactly why I was highlighting certain sections -- I think blue was personal connections, green was ? yellow was summary, and pink was my reaction to the book? I'll have to go back, find my notes, and check. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Castle on the Rock

Edinburgh Castle, with the sign of our hostel just visible
Here is some writing I did at a recent CUWP Workshop. We were assigned to write about our best vacation, then we turned and paired and shared, and our partner suggested something we could expand on and explain more. This is a peer review technique where after reading a peer's paper, the student reviewer generates a list of questions she has about the topic. The writer takes the list and considers them, adding and updating his paper as needed. The section in blue is what I added after my pair/share partner asked me to explain what in the heck was a youth hostel.

Well, my best vacation ever, hands down, would have to be last year's trip to England and Scotland with my husband and best friend, Mark. We have wanted to go to England for years, and we finally decided to just go for it. One fun thing about it was that we alternated between really nice destinations and funky destinations, and so we stayed in 5 star hotels and youth hostels (sharing bathrooms with teenagers) on the same trip. 
What The Castle on the Rock Youth Hostel looks like from the front

One particular hostel we stayed in was situated directly below Edinburgh Castle. Edinburgh castle is an imposing structure situated directly on a giant rock. We would walk out of our hostel, look up, and there was this amazing structure.

Youth hostels are a cross between extremely low budget hotels and college dormitories. You pay for the use of a bed (bedding is extra). They generally have a giant common area and even a kitchen you can use if you want to. There is only one bathroom for all the people who are there, male and female (the showers and toilets, of course, are private). So, everyone is using the same bathroom, and you may be shaving next to a 15 year old who is putting on all his Goth, complete with liner and piercings. This disconcerted my husband a bit. 
The front desk where we checked in every night
Luckily for us, though, we didn't have to sleep dormitory style; for a little bit extra we had a private room with one double bed and a sink. The room was called Antony and Cleopatra. We had to get the desk service person to buzz us into the hostel every night, and when he did, he would say, "Oh yes, it's Antony and Cleopatra."
The funky staircase, complete with Knight in Shining Armor

We also went carless and depended on our feet, taxis, trains, buses, and the underground for all of our transportation, which was an adventure in and of itself. We also had those fun little challenges that always make our vacations memorable, such as rain every single day except one—so much rain that the train we were traveling on from Edinburgh to London was washed out and we had an entire day of rain delay.  Oh, what a fun vacation it was.

So...I felt like it was a better mini-write with the addition, and I tried this with some success with my students. Some of them had some problems coming up with questions, but I think that is probably one of the best parts of this...both reviewer and writer have to do a little thinking.
What the common room looked like pretty much everyday we were there (minus the sun)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

On the Nonfiction Front...

While trolling over at the EC Ning, I discovered this little gem of a website, Newsela. This site is a treasure trove of articles about current events, but the really nice thing about it is that you can click on an article, and it will tell you what lexile the article is written in, and not only that, but you can click a button and lower the lexile. Differentiation heaven!!

In case you are interested, here is some grade level text information relevant to lexile and the common core from the Lexile website, which is also a cornucopia of information and is invaluable in helping kids find books to read at their lexile level.

Typical Reader Measures, by Grade

GradeReader Measures, Mid-Year
25th percentile to 75th percentile (IQR)
1Up to 300L
2140L to 500L
3330L to 700L
4445L to 810L
5565L to 910L
6665L to 1000L
7735L to 1065L
8805L to 1100L
9855L to 1165L
10905L to 1195L
11 and 12940L to 1210L

Data for the first column of text measures came from a research study designed to examine collections of textbooks designated for specific grades (MetaMetrics, 2009). The "stretch" text measures (defined in 2012 through studies related to the development of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts) in the second column represent the demand of text that students should be reading to be college and career ready by the end of Grade 12. 

Typical Text Measures, by Grade

Text Demand Study 2009
25th percentile to 75th percentile (IQR)
2012 CCSS Text Measures*
1230L to 420L190L to 530L
2450L to 570L420L to 650L
3600L to 730L520L to 820L
4640L to780L740L to 940L
5730L to 850L830L to 1010L
6860L to 920L925L to 1070L
7880L to 960L970L to 1120L
8900L to 1010L1010L to 1185L
9960L to 1110L1050L to 1260L
10920L to 1120L1080L to 1335L
11 and 121070L to 1220L1185L to 1385L

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I Think This Pretty Much Sums It Up....

...except for the month before school. Usually it's not more than two weeks here in Utah.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Decapitation of a Carrot

I found this old writing from a CUWP advanced institute. We were shown this funny picture and had to tell what was going on from the point of view of something in it. It will be obvious what I picked.

Mine is a lonely life. I spend most of my days in a dark and crowded drawer. On this particular day, I was pulled from my reverie and slapped ruthlessly on a table. I wondered what was coming next – soft warm bread, a juicy steak, at the very least a ripe red tomato? But, no. It was a puny little carrot with a most alarmed look on its face. How ignoble. Me, once the very heart of a mighty maple, reduced to bearing an mere insignificant root vegetable. It was almost a relief to feel the snick of the knife and know that my humiliation was over.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Cat / Beast Fable

I'd forgotten all about this fable I wrote as an example for my students on how to change a simple story from their lives into a beast fable (using Chaucer's "Nun's Priest's Tale" and Jon Sciezksa's Squids Will Be Squids). Fun times!!!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Book Spine Poetry

I tried this with my students this year. These are the two I came up with as examples. One of them is about my life...with too many teenagers in one house. The other one is about writing papers.

On Technology

This is my scribble from the CUWP advanced institute on digital writing:

One technology memory is associated with Word Perfect. Word Perfect came into being when I was a BYU student. I worked in the Business Office of the Wilkinson Center, and we used a rudimentary, beta version of Word Perfect in our office. As someone who was majoring in English and writing very long papers on a manual typewriter, Word Perfect seemed like such an amazing thing. I really, really liked it. I graduated, and we moved to Palo Alto where my husband got his masters in computer science. While we were there I went to a technology conference with him, and who did I see there? Young enthusiastic presenters from BYU pushing Word Perfect. Wow. I was excited. Word Perfect was going to be big. Over the next few years I didn’t do much with computers, but then my husband and I bought our first computer--333 MG of storage--if I remember correctly. It was a windows computer, but it came with Word Perfect. Of course we quickly ran out of space on that computer, and the next one we bought came with MS Word. Oh my. I did not like Word, and I talked my husband into putting Word Perfect on in. Two or three years later, we got another new computer, once again carrying Word. I asked my husband to put Word Perfect on it, and he said, "Honey, I think you’d better just learn to use Word, as I think Word Perfect’s days are numbered." I fought the idea, but eventually I gave in, and within two or three years, Word had completely taken over, and my beloved WP was no more. Thus I feel I lived through the whole lifespan of that company.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Mentor Authors

Here's a blog that shows some authentic writer's rough drafts.

Monday, June 24, 2013

How Did I Miss This?

My friend Joe over at Joe Average Writer posted a list of amazing writing prompts based on literature two years ago. I'm just discovering his list. Check it out; it looks to be a great resource.

I'm not posting it here because I don't want to steal Joe's hard work. If you click the link above, you'll go right to the page.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Slice of Life

Just one of a million things I'd like to try next year. Wouldn't this be a great thing to send on with students every year?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Framing the Story at NPR

This looks like it will be promising -- I'll check it out over the summer for sure.

How Do You Find A Story In A Painting?

“Something pulls me like a magnet, and then I ignore all the others ... I stand in front of that painting, and I tell myself a story about it. - Tracy Chevalier

About Tracy Chevalier's TEDTalk: When writer Tracy Chevalier looks at paintings, she imagines the stories behind them: How did the painter meet his model? What would explain that look in her eye? She shares the story of Vermeer's most famous painting that inspired her best-selling novel "Girl With a Pearl Earring."

Sunday, June 9, 2013

I Know Why the Caged Bird Doesn't . . . Read

This is a very interesting discussion going over at The Nerdy Book Club. What are your views about required summer reading?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Writer's Notebook Idea

What I will or will NOT do as an adult.

kid 1: I don’t understand why grownups drink coffee.
TWT: That’s a good one.
kid 2: Why do grownups like yoga? It’s so boring.
TWT: Write that down!
kid 3: Why are adults tired all the time, even when they wake up?
TWT: Another good question.
kid 4: I don’t understand why grownups drink pickle juice.
TWT: Pickle juice?
kid 4: My parents were having a party and I came downstairs and they told me to go back to bed because they were really busy drinking a lot of pickle juice.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The New and Improved...Great Gatsby

I haven't seen the movie yet, and I know it's had very mixed reviews, but I thought this article was interesting, so I thought I'd link to it.

Friday, May 10, 2013

This is Water . . . This is Life

I think I needed to watch this today.

Monday, April 29, 2013

No Rich Kid Left Behind

This is a disturbing article, but in my my personal experience, it is oh so spot on.

APRIL 27, 2013, 6:15 PM

No Rich Child Left Behind

Here’s a fact that may not surprise you: the children of the rich perform better in school, on average, than children from middle-class or poor families. Students growing up in richer families have better grades and higher standardized test scores, on average, than poorer students; they also have higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities and school leadership positions, higher graduation rates and higher rates of college enrollment and completion.
Whether you think it deeply unjust, lamentable but inevitable, or obvious and unproblematic, this is hardly news. It is true in most societies and has been true in the United States for at least as long as we have thought to ask the question and had sufficient data to verify the answer.
What is news is that in the United States over the last few decades these differences in educational success between high- and lower-income students have grown substantially.
One way to see this is to look at the scores of rich and poor students on standardized math and reading tests over the last 50 years. When I did this using information from a dozen large national studies conducted between 1960 and 2010, I found that the rich-poor gap in test scores is about 40 percent larger now than it was 30 years ago.
To make this trend concrete, consider two children, one from a family with income of $165,000 and one from a family with income of $15,000. These incomes are at the 90th and 10th percentiles of the income distribution nationally, meaning that 10 percent of children today grow up in families with incomes below $15,000 and 10 percent grow up in families with incomes above $165,000.
In the 1980s, on an 800-point SAT-type test scale, the average difference in test scores between two such children would have been about 90 points; today it is 125 points. This is almost twice as large as the 70-point test score gap between white and black children. Family income is now a better predictor of children’s success in school than race.
The same pattern is evident in other, more tangible, measures of educational success, like college completion. In a study similar to mine, Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski, economists at the University of Michigan, found that the proportion of students from upper-income families who earn a bachelor’s degree has increased by 18 percentage points over a 20-year period, while the completion rate of poor students has grown by only 4 points.
In a more recent study, my graduate students and I found that 15 percent of high-income students from the high school class of 2004 enrolled in a highly selective college or university, while fewer than 5 percent of middle-income and 2 percent of low-income students did.
These widening disparities are not confined to academic outcomes: new research by the Harvard political scientist Robert D. Putnam and his colleagues shows that the rich-poor gaps in student participation in sports, extracurricular activities, volunteer work and church attendance have grown sharply as well.
In San Francisco this week, more than 14,000 educators and education scholars have gathered for the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. The theme this year is familiar: Can schools provide children a way out of poverty?
We are still talking about this despite decades of clucking about the crisis in American education and wave after wave of school reform.Whatever we’ve been doing in our schools, it hasn’t reduced educational inequality between children from upper- and lower-income families.
Part of knowing what we should do about this is understanding how and why these educational disparities are growing. For the past few years, alongside other scholars, I have been digging into historical data to understand just that. The results of this research don’t always match received wisdom or playground folklore.
The most potent development over the past three decades is that the test scores of children from high-income families have increased very rapidly. Before 1980, affluent students had little advantage over middle-class students in academic performance; most of the socioeconomic disparity in academics was between the middle class and the poor. But the rich now outperform the middle class by as much as the middle class outperform the poor. Just as the incomes of the affluent have grown much more rapidly than those of the middle class over the last few decades, so, too, have most of the gains in educational success accrued to the children of the rich.
Before we can figure out what’s happening here, let’s dispel a few myths.
The income gap in academic achievement is not growing because the test scores of poor students are dropping or because our schools are in decline. In fact, average test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the so-called Nation’s Report Card, have been rising — substantially in math and very slowly in reading — since the 1970s. The average 9-year-old today has math skills equal to those her parents had at age 11, a two-year improvement in a single generation. The gains are not as large in reading and they are not as large for older students, but there is no evidence that average test scores have declined over the last three decades for any age or economic group.
The widening income disparity in academic achievement is not a result of widening racial gaps in achievement, either. The achievement gaps between blacks and whites, and Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites have been narrowing slowly over the last two decades, trends that actually keep the yawning gap between higher- and lower-income students from getting even wider. If we look at the test scores of white students only, we find the same growing gap between high- and low-income children as we see in the population as a whole.
It may seem counterintuitive, but schools don’t seem to produce much of the disparity in test scores between high- and low-income students. We know this because children from rich and poor families score very differently on school readiness tests when they enter kindergarten, and this gap grows by less than 10 percent between kindergarten and high school. There is some evidence that achievement gaps between high- and low-income students actually narrow during the nine-month school year, but they widen again in the summer months.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t important differences in quality between schools serving low- and high-income students — there certainly are — but they appear to do less to reinforce the trends than conventional wisdom would have us believe.
If not the usual suspects, what’s going on? It boils down to this: The academic gap is widening because rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students. This difference in preparation persists through elementary and high school.
My research suggests that one part of the explanation for this is rising income inequality. As you may have heard, the incomes of the rich have grown faster over the last 30 years than the incomes of the middle class and the poor. Money helps families provide cognitively stimulating experiences for their young children because it provides more stable home environments, more time for parents to read to their children, access to higher-quality child care and preschool and — in places like New York City, where 4-year-old children take tests to determine entry into gifted and talented programs — access to preschool test preparation tutors or the time to serve as tutors themselves.
But rising income inequality explains, at best, half of the increase in the rich-poor academic achievement gap. It’s not just that the rich have more money than they used to, it’s that they are using it differently. This is where things get really interesting.
High-income families are increasingly focusing their resources — their money, time and knowledge of what it takes to be successful in school — on their children’s cognitive development and educational success. They are doing this because educational success is much more important than it used to be, even for the rich.
With a college degree insufficient to ensure a high-income job, or even a job as a barista, parents are now investing more time and money in their children’s cognitive development from the earliest ages. It may seem self-evident that parents with more resources are able to invest more — more of both money and of what Mr. Putnam calls “‘Goodnight Moon’ time” — in their children’s development. But even though middle-class and poor families are also increasing the time and money they invest in their children, they are not doing so as quickly or as deeply as the rich.
The economists Richard J. Murnane and Greg J. Duncan report that from 1972 to 2006 high-income families increased the amount they spent on enrichment activities for their children by 150 percent, while the spending of low-income families grew by 57 percent over the same time period. Likewise, the amount of time parents spend with their children has grown twice as fast since 1975 among college-educated parents as it has among less-educated parents. The economists Garey Ramey and Valerie A. Ramey of the University of California, San Diego, call this escalation of early childhood investment “the rug rat race,” a phrase that nicely captures the growing perception that early childhood experiences are central to winning a lifelong educational and economic competition.
It’s not clear what we should do about all this. Partly that’s because much of our public conversation about education is focused on the wrong culprits: we blame failing schools and the behavior of the poor for trends that are really the result of deepening income inequality and the behavior of the rich.
We’re also slow to understand what’s happening, I think, because the nature of the problem — a growing educational gap between the rich and the middle class — is unfamiliar. After all, for much of the last 50 years our national conversation about educational inequality has focused almost exclusively on strategies for reducing inequalities between the educational successes of the poor and the middle class, and it has relied on programs aimed at the poor, like Head Start and Title I.
We’ve barely given a thought to what the rich were doing. With the exception of our continuing discussion about whether the rising costs of higher education are pricing the middle class out of college, we don’t have much practice talking about what economists call “upper-tail inequality” in education, much less success at reducing it.
Meanwhile, not only are the children of the rich doing better in school than even the children of the middle class, but the changing economy means that school success is increasingly necessary to future economic success, a worrisome mutual reinforcement of trends that is making our society more socially and economically immobile.
We need to start talking about this. Strangely, the rapid growth in the rich-poor educational gap provides a ray of hope: if the relationship between family income and educational success can change this rapidly, then it is not an immutable, inevitable pattern. What changed once can change again. Policy choices matter more than we have recently been taught to think.
So how can we move toward a society in which educational success is not so strongly linked to family background? Maybe we should take a lesson from the rich and invest much more heavily as a society in our children’s educational opportunities from the day they are born. Investments in early-childhood education pay very high societal dividends. That means investing in developing high-quality child care and preschool that is available to poor and middle-class children. It also means recruiting and training a cadre of skilled preschool teachers and child care providers. These are not new ideas, but we have to stop talking about how expensive and difficult they are to implement and just get on with it.
But we need to do much more than expand and improve preschool and child care. There is a lot of discussion these days about investing in teachers and “improving teacher quality,” but improving the quality of our parenting and of our children’s earliest environments may be even more important. Let’s invest in parents so they can better invest in their children.
This means finding ways of helping parents become better teachers themselves. This might include strategies to support working families so that they can read to their children more often.. It also means expanding programs like the Nurse-Family Partnership that have proved to be effective at helping single parents educate their children; but we also need to pay for research to develop new resources for single parents.
It might also mean greater business and government support for maternity and paternity leave and day care so that the middle class and the poor can get some of the educational benefits that the early academic intervention of the rich provides their children. Fundamentally, it means rethinking our still-persistent notion that educational problems should be solved by schools alone.
The more we do to ensure that all children have similar cognitively stimulating early childhood experiences, the less we will have to worry about failing schools. This in turn will enable us to let our schools focus on teaching the skills — how to solve complex problems, how to think critically and how to collaborate — essential to a growing economy and a lively democracy.
Sean F. Reardon is a professor of education and sociology at Stanford.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Thoughts on the Common Core

Fellow English blogger Brian Kelley recently had some interesting things to say about the new Common Core and assessment.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

4th Annual Yearbook Post

This is the annual yearbook post. We just finished today, and frankly, whew, I'm glad to be done. So much work!! It's looking good, I think. Here is a sneak peek:
Our beautiful cover: the tree is printed with a texture
One of our five dividers: this one is for staff and student mugs

Our photosynthesis bar: we tried to carry this through the book and did a pretty good job

This is one of the wow pages that I made: Student Council

One of my favorite pieces: Senior Profiles

Another wow page that I made (but Teya drew the amazing drawings): yearbook staff

One of our section layouts: here you see the modular design and photosynthesis bar

Another wow page I helped with, Kawin drew the UCAS apps
Our colophon: I love this end of the year design