Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Teaching or Truckin'?

I came home last night so demoralized and tired that I began wondering how much I could make driving semis. I'm sure that my fondness for Jerry Reed and Burt Reynolds could overcome the itch of long distance driving hemorrhoids. Anyway, as I drove to work this morning I kept fighting the urge to bawl like a baby. This is too hard. I don't know what I'm doing. The kids are going to declare anarchy and my name will be plastered in the headlines as the world's worst teacher. Boo hoo hoo. So what happens? My morning is fabulous. The kids are interacting intelligently, laughing at my jokes and I am organized like a baptist potluck dinner. I am hitting my stride. And then SPLAT! Sixth period. Sixth period my largest class. Sixth period my class full of really large and loud boys. Sixth period. I think they smell my fear. So all in all, I think I will declare the day a draw and head back into the arena tomorrow a little more confident. Maybe. To every fellow teacher blogger who posted about their tiredness on the first day of school, thank you. You have inspired and bolstered me. One other thing though, all you experienced high school teachers, help!!!!!! How do I bluff these overgrown puppies?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

All Quiet

I am humbled by how professional and nice everyone has been at the new teacher orientation at my new district. Even when there have been lines, people have been courteous and so helpful. I spend tomorrow at my new school with the administrators and leadership team. We then go with them to a new teacher luncheon for us sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. I feel like I am sloughing off years of dysfunctional miasma from my education skin. Now if there was only something quick I could do about my teacher big booty.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Which American Civil War General are you?

You scored as General James Longstreet, Trusted by General Lee above all his other generals (after the death of Stonewall), you have a good head on your shoulders and an understanding of the changing art of war. Too bad your people will come to see you as a scapegoat and even a traitor...

General James Longstreet


General Ambrose Burnside


Stonewall Jackson


General Nathan Bedford Forrest


William T. Sherman


U.S. Grant


Robert E. Lee


General Phillip Sheridan


General George McClellan


General Jeb Stuart


Which American Civil War General are you?
created with QuizFarm.com
This is really kinda indicative of what I went through last year. Oh well.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


My grandfather died this afternoon. He asked my uncle yesterday what day it was and when my uncle replied, " Saturday" my pappy said, "Well, I can't die on a Saturday" and went back to sleep. I guess Sunday was the right day for this devoted Church of Christ man. I know that other people and even my own family members have faith and beliefs that support them during a death but mine was probably shaped much more by Thornton Wilder's, Our Town instead of anything I learned in church. I really believe that we will all be together someday and that my Pappy is finally getting to meet the mother he lost when he was only three months old. Even though I don't share in the belief of the christian reward at the end of of your life, the idea of coming back together with all who have gone before gives me hope and sustains me.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Broad Stretch-the Broad Foundation Award

Without going into details about the myriad of sometimes dumbfounding changes happening the past two years, I will go ahead and admit that I have been rather scornful of DISD's mission being to win the Broad Foundations award. Mike in Texas's latest blog got me thinking that maybe I needed to look further into what exactly the Broad Foundation is to make sure that I wasn't being unduly harsh w/o concrete evidence. Unfortunately, the first thing that caught my attention on their website was the 2007 selection jury and the name of Roderick Paige. Yes, former Superintendent of Houston Schools-Roderick Paige. Also former secretary of the Dept. of Education and lead cheerleader for NCLB-Roderick Paige. Wait a minute-wasn't there some sorta controversy about the prize being given to Houston? Which led me to this article in EdWeek(see below). Once again, I am left with more questions than answers. Primarily whether to question if this quest for the prize has more to do with actually making DISD a better district or just making sure that the Superintendent and others involved had a Broad Foundation lovely feather in their caps. Regardless of their personal motive, the inclusion of Roderick Paige invalidates any legitimacy for me. I guess I have my answer. Research, read and question for yourself.

Published: September 24, 2003
Despite Disputed Data, Houston Backers Say District Merited Prize
By Catherine Gewertz

When the Houston school district won what was billed as the nation's most prestigious prize in urban education, the honor added yet another layer of luster to a district whose academic success helped mold federal education law and propel its former superintendent into the country's top education job. Nearly a year later, the winner of the Broad Prize for Urban Education is defending itself against claims that its gains were illusory. And critics are wondering how the judges could have awarded the $1 million prize to a district that substantially undercounted its dropouts.
Even as the district was accepting the Broad Prize last October, it was struggling to address a high dropout rate that had troubled officials there for years. Many people locally knew that the rate was far worse than was suggested by Texas' required calculation method, which in 2001 pegged Houston's dropout rate at 1.4 percent.
"We've told our community for years that our dropout rate is complete baloney," said Jeff Shadwick, a Houston school board member. "Nobody around here was surprised when in fact it turned out to be complete baloney."
State Rep. Rick Noriega, a Democrat who represents Houston, finds it troubling that the biggest district in Texas was held up as a model when so few of its students complete high school.
"Without question, our achievements have been horribly inflated," he said. "The Broad Prize ignores the significance of the dropout rate. We won the prize at the expense of those students [who don't graduate]. You have to ask yourself if it's worth it."
The promotional materials for the prize, awarded by the Los Angeles-based Broad Foundation, tout its "rigorous, comprehensive process" for selecting the prize winner. The process is driven by "compelling data and complete analysis," the materials say.
The data analysts affiliated with the Broad Prize steered clear of Houston's own dropout figures—which the Texas Education Agency later found to be inaccurate in 15 of the 16 schools audited—in assessing the district. Aware that dropout- calculation methods vary nationally, they used a report from the Manhattan Institute, a New York City-based think tank, which estimated the portion of a district's 8th grade class that went on to graduate from high school.
On that list, Houston ranked 43rd out of the nation's 50 largest districts, with a graduation rate of 52 percent.
"Both the review board and the selection jury were well aware of the dropout situation in Houston at that time," said Bradford C. Duggan, the president of the Austin-based National Center for Educational Accountability, which analyzed data and conducted site visits for the Broad Prize. "But their rate wasn't that unusual compared to [other] urban districts'."
Worrisome Symbol?
Noting that honors for urban districts are all too rare, some educators lament that Houston's has been brought into question by the dropout controversy. They worry that the scandal could dim the prestige of the Broad Prize, which was awarded this week for the second time, and erode its intended result: to boost public confidence in big- city school systems.
"We desperately needed this example," said Ted Sanders, who is the president of the Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based policy-research group, and who serves on the review board that determines the Broad Prize finalists. "If it is now tarnished by the lies of a few people," he said, "that would be a shame."

Philanthropist Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe, announce Houston as the winner of the first Broad Prize for Urban Education last October. Supporters say Houston deserved the prize, but skeptics say recent revelations of data problems there call into question the district's claims of success—File photo by Allison Shelley/Education Week
The creation of the prize was announced in March 2002 with great flourish at the U.S. Capitol. Philanthropist Eli Broad was flanked by a bevy of congressional leaders and U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, Houston's former superintendent. Major newspapers covered the event; Education Week, whose coverage of leadership issues is supported by a grant from the Broad Foundation, reported that Mr. Broad hoped the honor would be the educational equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
The list of judges for the Broad Prize boasts luminaries in education, politics, and business. At $1 million, it is the richest annual award to a district: $500,000 in scholarships goes to the winner, and $125,000 in scholarships is distributed to each of four finalists.
When Houston won the award last October, again in a ceremony at the Capitol, President Bush sent a written statement congratulating the district for showing what can be done "to help ensure that no child is left behind." Federal education legislation by that same name, passed the year before, had imposed strict new accountability provisions modeled in part on Texas' example.
Those who have long believed that the "Texas miracle" may produce higher test scores but not necessarily higher-quality learning, see the prize as a symbol of what is worrisome in demanding greater accountability for academic results.
"The Broad Prize is part of a carefully crafted political and public relations campaign to create the appearance of doing something without making a serious investment in schools," said Linda McSpadden McNeil, a Rice University education professor and a longtime critic of Texas' test-driven accountability system. "Test scores can go up. But it's a short-term gain at the expense of long-term learning."
But those who believe the state's accountability system has helped the 210,000-student district raise student achievement defend the prize and the district's other national acclaim as richly deserved.
Many people, both inside and outside the prize-selection process, believe that Houston's achievements are unsullied by its problem in accurately reporting its dropout rate. They point out that many factors went into Houston's selection, and they contend that it shows solid and significant improvement in student progress overall, and in raising the achievement of poor and minority children.
"Dropout statistics are notoriously unreliable," said Susan H. Fuhrman, the dean of the University of Pennsylvania's graduate school of education. "Any district that might have won that prize might have had the same problem. It doesn't change my view that Houston deserved it. They didn't win it because they were perfect."
Many Factors
Because districts' data on dropouts were unavailable, unreliable, or calculated differently, Mr. Duggan of the National Center for Educational Accountability said his group used the Manhattan Institute figures. For districts not included in the institute's report, the center used that same method to calculate the graduation rates for finalists.
Other factors analyzed by the judges included state test scores over a three-year period, including how poor and minority students performed relative to their wealthier and white peers; results of college-entrance exams; data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress; the numbers of students taking Advanced Placement classes; and the rates of attendance and special education designation, Mr. Duggan said.
During visits to the finalist districts, teams interviewed administrators, teachers, and school board members about policy and practice, from curriculum to the use of data to monitor student performance.
Dan Katzir, the managing director of the Broad Foundation, said Houston's dropout rate and its more recent trouble with unsupported data have not altered his view of whether it should have won.
"Despite that, Houston really is a place people can look to demonstrate best practice moving children, particularly those of color and those from low-income families, up the academic-performance scale," he said.
To Laurie Bricker, a member of the Houston school board, the district's acclaim and controversy show both its strengths and flaws. "We have data-integrity issues that need to be resolved, just like many other districts," she said. "Our district showed we are just as vulnerable as any other district in the country."

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Thursday's Thirteen

Thursday's Thirteen Books on my Bookshelf Randomly Picked With My Eyes Closed
1. Gods, Graves, and Scholars by C.W. Ceram
2. The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne(seriously, as if I had to tell you that one)
3. Sabriel by Garth Nix
4. God Stalk by P.C. Hodgell
5. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
6. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
7. Expiration Date by Tim Powers
8. Ghosts of Vesuvius by Charles Pellegrino
9. The Last Apprentice: Curse of the Bane by Joseph Delaney
10. Lone Star: A History of Texas and Texans by T.R. Fehrenbach
11. Noodling for Flatheads by Burkhard Bilger
12. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
13. Neil Sperry's Complete Guide to Texas Gardening

Pink Elephant

I did something very childish but also very satisfying today. No, I did not pick my boogers. I hung up on my sister. Took the cellphone away from my ear, clicked it shut, turned it off and put it away in my purse. I fully believe that if I had not done this, then some really awful truths might have come screaming from my brain and out my mouth. My family is known for the large "pink elephant" in the room at every family gathering. We all know it's there but no one is going to stick their neck out to acknowledge it first. I don't know if you would call this "pink elephant" resentment, familial demons, jealousy, delusion or just plain craziness. What I do know is that we never play Trivial Pursuit anymore after the "I don't appreciate you talking to me like that" commotion of the Christmas get-together of 2004. We are a restrained people and Trivial Pursuit is now verboten. Today, my sister was riding high up on top of that pink elephant and instead of just telling her how po'ed I was and how absolutely horrible I thought she was being, I kicked the pink elephant in the butt and ran away. Right now I really don't want to think about the aftershow consequences but I kinda enjoyed the circus there for a minute.