Category: About Me

More kids passing grad test on 1st try | The Columbus Dispatch.

Here is some good news, I guess; more students passed all 5 sections of the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT) this year than in past years.  This article by Jennifer Smith Richards, is worth a look through.

Statewide, 69.5 percent of

10th-graders passed all

five sections, up from

65.8 percent last year.

Are kids getting better at these tests, are the tests getting easier, are we doing a better job of educating students, or none of the above.  I was pretty disappointed that the Dispatch didn’t ask these questions but just reported on the results.  Our students were a bit below the average number of 69.5%, but overall they did very well.  I never look to the tests as high bars of success.  In fact, it is a lower bar of success compared to students achieving good grades in college courses.  Don’t get me wrong, I am ALWAYS excited when  students pass the tests.  I want them to be able to get through these, but they are not an indication of life-readiness or college-readiness.  We need to be cautious about what conclusions we draw when it comes to these tests and students success on them (again, not taking away a congratulatory pat on the back for the kiddos).  -Ed


For-profit charter operators skirt law | The Columbus Dispatch.




Community Feedback Loop



The Feedback Loop of Real Estate, Poverty, Crime, Education & Taxes | Steadfast Finances.

Can Andre Agassi and a Team of Investment Bankers Improve Education (and Turn a Profit)? – Education – GOOD.

Still not funded by a billionaire, but some new charter schools stand to make a sweet economic situation for some savvy investors.  The plan is that an investment group, that is in the lime light because Andre Agassi is part of their team, is going to set aside nearly $1 billion to fund 75 new schools around the nation.  The idea is that once these schools are fully enrolled that money will go back to the backers through repayment of loans (Liz Dwyer does a good job of explaining the finances in her piece).

As an individual who talks up charters, I am very much disappointed by this news and by these types of investors.  These groups represent the seedy heart of greed that some charter organizations harbor and thwart any good gains the rest of us community schools make.  I am in favor of small, accountable schools that have students’ interest at their heart.  This is exactly who I work for and we are doing well for our students.  You are reading this story because Andre Agassi is an investor.  Think about all of the charters that start up all of the time with the same motives but no Wimbeldon titles to give them ink.  If anything this news leads me to believe that we need to equitably fund charters to prevent such greed, close out for-profit entities, and set up better accountability measures so that all charters are operating with decent funding and can be held to high standards.  -Ed

2011 National Charter Schools Conference.

Today the National Charter School Conference, sponsored by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.  Keynoters for the conference include former President Bill Clinton, Mayor Cory Booker, US Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Children’s Defense Fund president and founder Marian Wright Edelman, and Eva Moskowitz, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Success Charter Network.  Wish I was there.  Conferences are a great way to network, collaborate, inspire, and share with one another. 

It’s worth noting, by the way, that conferences have really got to be on their way out, especially for public employees.  They are very expensive and often show no real change or work for a district.  I’m of the opinion, despite the fact that I go to a couple each and every year, that true professional development occurs when it is meaningful, in-house, and keeps the resources (namely money) close to the students.  At any rate, hope it’s a huge success!

Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer? | Wired Science�|

Education is work.  Hard work.  It is so hard that it is often played like a game that can be won or lost.  In fact, this happens, right?  People who are good students win the game.  They don’t, necessarily, know how to think well, but they know how to play the game well.  The two are not the same, not similar, in fact are often on opposite sides of the continuum of learning.  I went to school with and graduated with lots of folks who were good at the game.  In my graduating class I knew a guy who in his senior year took as many AP courses as he could so that he would have a good shot at testing out of many college courses.  He was trying to better himself.  He got an A- or a B+ (don’t remember which) in one of those AP courses.  Prior to this he was in the running for valedictorian.  Two other students in my class took AP classes as Juniors but once they realized the valedictorian spot was up for grabs, they took really easy courses as seniors and easily coasted into their positions.  They played the game better.  I would argue, and taking nothing away from the two students (they were very bright and decently good friends of mine), that the one student who challenged himself with as many AP courses as he could take was in a better situation.  He challenged himself and didn’t just try to play the game well.

This is my personal history into this article.  My professional entry was in teaching science for 6 years to high school students.  The question, “What’s the answer?” in it’s many varieties was a staple every lab day and nearly every other day.  Students were obsessed with just knowing what to put in the blank.  They didn’t necessarily care if they understood (which would show up later in their lab reports, other papers, or on their exams).  I would fight this, tooth and nail, class in and class out.  My last year in the classroom I felt like I had most of my techniques figured out but there was one more that I’ll share.  This was to refuse to answer questions that were related to directions or information that the students had on the handouts in front of them.  I refused to enable them to be lazy students or to subsidize their apathy.  I would look for ways to encourage them to take ownership.  So when a student asked, “Mr. Ingman, what do we do next?”  I would say, “Let’s look at your lab directions?” or “Take a minute and think it through.”

Mr. Allain is clearly a thoughtful educator who has the best interest of his students in mind.  Our educational system needs to be more than about helping students do well on tests, quizzes, and worksheets.  It should take them beyond bad PowerPoint presentations, and bland poster boards detailing science experiments that they did while reading off of a paper.  It must teach them to be good, critical thinkers.  As Dr. Roseanne Fortner, a professor of mine once said, “Educate those children well, because some day soon their vote will equal yours.”  We owe it to ourselves, our community, and our future.

Would consuming more media shrink the digital divide between white and non-white?  What would it do to access of information and how might it impact the achievement gap?  This article seems to suggest that while there is more media consumed by kids of color than white kids that it’s junk food that won’t further educational aims or make them more likely to succeed in the workplace.

The report finds that minority children spend one to two additional hours each day watching TV and videos, approximately an hour more listening to music, up to an hour and a half more on computers, and 30 to 40 minutes more playing video games than their white counterparts.

Not sure that preferring to play video games too severely stunted my career aims (may have improved it in certain instances), but perhaps it might.  I have noticed that over the last few years that my African-America students seem more attached to their cell phones and texting than other students.  All of my students are pretty addicted to texting, but I often wondered whether or not this would shrink the divide between the two races and thus lead to better access over time.  Another observation, Twitter is used as a 2-way communication street by students and is a way  to get access to Facebook while in school and/or get info via texts with Twitter’s mobile connection option.

At any rate, I hope that time shows this article drawing the wrong conclusion and that this usage is positive for the traditionally disadvantaged.  -Ed

Full article below but link is embedded.

Kids of Color Consume a Lot More Media Than White Kids

by , Associate Editor.  Good.  June 15, 2011.

new study at Northwestern University found a huge difference between the amount of media white and nonwhite kids consume. Minority children ages 8 to 18 consume an average of 13 hours of media content a day—about 4-and-a-half hours more than their white counterparts. In the last ten years, this number has doubled for black children and quadrupled for Hispanics.

The report finds that minority children spend one to two additional hours each day watching TV and videos, approximately an hour more listening to music, up to an hour and a half more on computers, and 30 to 40 minutes more playing video games than their white counterparts.

Given the well-documented problem of the “digital divide” between rich and poor, and white and nonwhite, this may initially be a bit confusing. But it’s the media equivalent of the obesity epidemic in poor and minority communities: There’s a lot of stuff to consume, but it’s not very nutritious. For instance, the study found that black and Latino youth were the biggest users of mobile phones, which echoes other studies that found their adult counterparts are the fastest growing and biggest users of mobile Web technology. Phone Internet is a poor substitute for a high-speed connection—especially when it comes to job-seeking—but this may be the only option for these youths. We still need to put pressure on government bodies to tackle Internet deserts.

Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Center for Media Justice, notes at Colorlines that this media overload is just a sign of the lack of community infrastructure and stress relief in these kids’ neighborhoods. “Recreation facilities are being decimated,” she said. “Arts programs are being decimated. Basically all the places a person goes to transform stress.”

These findings also show that there’s a huge disconnect between what consumers look like and who’s represented in the media they’re consuming. It’s important that kids have access to current technology, but media literacy—the ability to understand the forces and biases that shape what they watch and listen to—is just as important. When peopleroll their eyes at activism surrounding media justice and pop culture, I just remember how much magazines like Bitch and books like The Beauty Myth sparked my own social awareness when I was a teen. Educating kids about the media not only helps them understand their world, but also prepares them to have a say in what gets produced.


Do State Legislators Need a College Degree? – Education – GOOD.

I have earned a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree.  I have little to no ambition for public office, but should public office holders hold similar if not more advanced degrees than me?  Or put more simply, should it be a requirement that elected public officials should have a college degree?  This is the primary question in this ‘Good’ article.  There are many interesting points raised in this article and I think, perhaps, most telling is that the percentages of state legislators without advanced degrees is quite low (or at least they are attaining advanced degrees at a rate that is much higher than the general population).  But there is something to this idea that public officials ought to have pursued their education further than just a high school diploma.  In order to understand the complex bills, not just the 30-second media sound bites that we get on the evening news (or on-line where I get the majority of my information), our elected officials should have an innate curiosity and a drive to do well in academic skill areas.  This isn’t to say that everyone with a college degree gets this (I went to enough college parties to know better), but there is a better shot of having some of these skills if one has pursued their education beyond the state minimum.  -Ed

Stephen Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics

In a startling interview segment on Market Place on NPR, Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner makes the assertion that parents don’t really matter when it comes to their kids’ success in life.  Surprised?  I was too.  Not a dad myself (unless you count my furry dog and he doesn’t respond to anything that I say), I would like to believe that my actions would have a positive impact on my kids.  It turns out probably just being there and being who I am is likely the best way to have an influence on any future rug rats.  Takes the pressure off to be sure, but goes way in the face of conventional wisdom.  Wish I would have known this as a child.  Would have given me a great bargaining chip to play with my parents when they were giving me a hard time about watching too  much tv.  (Technical Note:  I am putting the radio clip here and hopefully it’ll play seemlessly.  If it doesn’t, check out the link; full article below.)  Enjoy.  -Ed

Freakonomics Podcast on Market Place

How Much Do Parents Really Matter?

Kai Ryssdal and Stephen Dubner are both dads. They both hope to have an impact on the lives of their children.  But these hopes exist in the face of data questioning how much parents really matter. This data comes, in part, from economists, who are asking bold questions like what happens when we randomly assign children to families?  And why are college-educated mothers spending more time away from work, chauffering their kids around?  Today onMarketplace, the answers to these questions and a new approach to parenting, endorsed by Dubner’s co-author  Steve Levitt.  Here’s a hint: you need a comfy couch.

What a great story!  A 99-year old man returns to school to complete his undergraduate degree that he left behind for a job in the logging industry during the Great Depression.  Leo Plass is the oldest man to earn an undergraduate.  So cool that he felt it important to go back to complete his undergrad.  If he doesn’t have grandchildren to inspire, he at least inspired me.  Full article from Good’s Liz Dwyer is below.  -Ed


Ninety-Nine-Year-Old Sets World Record, Proves It’s Never Too Late to Finish College

Did you drop out of college? Ninety-nine year-old Oregon resident Leo Plass is proof that it’s never too late to get your degree. Plass dropped out of school in 1932 when he was 20 years old, but after receiving an associates degree from Eastern Oregon University, he’s set a world record by becoming the oldest person to graduate from college.

Plass told Ozarks First he wanted to become a teacher but he was in school during the Great Depression and his friend approached him about a job in the logging industry. “He offered me 150 dollars and it was during the Depression, that was a lot of money, that’s a lot of money,” said Plass. In comparison, a teaching salary was only $80 a month, so he took the logging job.

Years later Plass found out he only needed three more credits to get his degree. Plass says he wishes someone had told him before he dropped out of school. “I would have stayed there all night. I had to just get those three hours in,” he said. Fortunately the university accepted his work experience, which includes picking tomatoes and owning a gas station, as credit instead of requiring him to go back to class. “A good family, a good life, good food, everything good.  It seems it worked for me,” says the new grad.

photo via