Saturday, February 27, 2010

Won't It Be a Great Day...

...when schools get all the money they need and the Army has to hold a bake sale to build a bomber?

That was a t-shirt I saw years ago in the Public TV/radio catalog. I wish, now, I had bought it. School financing in Texas has reached crisis levels again, especially in our district. We still have a 20% homestead exemption, and even though getting rid of it would mean more money for the district, it would not be a good thing PR wise, obviously. Kind of like Texas instituting a state tax. Won't ever happen.

The state will not allow us more money unless we repeal the homestead, so now we tighten our belts even more than before. The district had an outside company do an audit and come up with suggestions for ways to cut the budget. Reading it made me ill.

This past week, the district admin and principals have been meeting trying to hash out what budget cuts will and won't work. Do more with less, and still do what is best for kids. I am not so sure about that, this time.

Among the cuts - doing away with all co-teach classes, and replacing them with "In Class Support". A co-teach class has 2 teachers in class for the whole period every day. It supports students who are most likely below level in reading (like 3-6 grade levels below) but allows them to be in a regular science or US History class. It is a "least restrictive environment". In Class Support is a paraprofessional or possibly a certified teacher in the class for about 20 minutes 1-5 times per week, depending on what is decided at the child's ARD.

This year, I have one extremely challenging class. It has 16-18 kids out of 28 who are in a reading class of one type or another (meaning they failed the TAKS reading test) and a few are only reading at 1st-3rd grade level. Several are in Math block (meaning they failed the math TAKS), several are ESL (both active and monitor only), almost all of them are econ disadvantaged as well and there are 5 co-teach kids. I have a co-teacher in that class, and the thought of trying to teach that class without someone in there every minute of every day is daunting to say the least. I could not do it! I might as well cut off my right arm.

I don't know where money could come from, but budget cuts are never in the best interest of kids. Among other cuts - going from a 5/7 teaching day to a 6/7 teaching day was expected. Cutting all department chairs and team leader positions was a surprise. So much for instructional leadership. It will take effect this year at the middle schools and next year at the high schools.

We want excellence in education, but we expect teachers/schools to do it with less and less. I want that t-shirt. I want the Army to have to hold a bake sale.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Are We THAT Much Different?

At inservice this past Monday, we were being inundated with the idea of a 21st century learner and what skill set they need to be successful in the future. The thought floating around in my head since then is "Why and/or how is the 21st century learner any different than the 20th century learner? Is it REALLY that different?" I don't think so. The tools might be different, but the desired skill set is no different today than it was for my great-grandfather at the turn of the 20th century.

We want students today to be problem solvers, information seekers and analyzers, to be literate and able to communicate clearly. My great-grandfather was born in 1873 and came to the US from Europe in 1898 or so. He had to be able to do all those things in order to 1) travel across the ocean and halfway across the continent 2) successfully buy property and set up his farm and 3) sell the farm and set another business when time came. The only difference I see is that he lived in the time of exponential growth of transportation. Today we are seeing exponential growth in information systems. But what do we need to do that is so very different than 100 years ago? I don't think it is anything.

That being said, do we need to change the way we teach kids today? Hell yes. the changes in the delivery of our information makes for a different type of learner than 100 years ago, but they still need the same skills. We do not need to invent another wheel! There - rant over. I feel better already!