Apples to Apples

I was in class recently and the discussion had to do with the innovative concept of Social Justice in Education. A great topic! For some reason though, the lecture evolved into that of school choice and seemed to center on public school bashing.

One of the points that a colleague brought up has stuck with me since then. That question was, and I paraphrase here, why should alternative schools be measured by the same standards as public schools?

Simply put, why not?

Let’s look at some statistics- On the Ohio State 2012-2013 school report cards, the grades for charter schools were as follow:

Performance Index-

  • A’s- 2%- compared to 4% of  traditional districts
  • B’s- 10%- compared to a whopping 72%
  • C’s- 24%- compared to 21%
  • D’s- 58%- compared to 3% of districts
  • F’s- 6%- compared to 0%

Value Added-

  • A’s- 33%- compared to 46% of  traditional districts
  • B’s- 10%- compared to 8%
  • C’s- 22%- compared to 14%
  • D’s- 14%- compared to 9%
  • F’s- 21%- compared to 23%

Meanwhile according to the same article, the six state virtual charter schools scored as followed (Performance Index grade; Value Added Grade)

  • Alternative Education Academy- D; F
  • Buckeye On-line School for Success- C; F
  • Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow- D; F
  • Ohio Connection Academy- C; F
  • Ohio Virtual Academy- C; F
  • Virtual Community School of Ohio- D; F

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2013/09/state_report_cards_show_charte_1.html

Of course the proponents of charter and virtual schools will state that it is not fair to hold them to the same standards as public schools. These are the same individuals who point to the public schools’ grades and say they justify the creation of more charter and virtual schools. That public schools are failing. Double standards? I think so. It’s kind of like a child who decides if he can’t get his way, he is taking the ball and going home. In this case, we hear, “Public schools are failing the students.” When the same measures are applied to the others, “It’s not fair!” If these are not the measurement of all schools and students, then what is?

So once again, why should the same measure be applied to all educational settings? If I am going to constantly hear that public schools are failing the students and charter and online schools are the solution, then prove it. If the success of students is to be measured, the measure must be equal and the same. The old adage that you cannot compare apples to oranges rings true in this case.

Right now, public schools, while not perfect and definitely in need of some change, are still out performing the charter and virtual schools. Until the day that the scores can be reversed and charter and virtual schools can demonstrate student achievement, I will be a supporter of public schools.

Let’s hear it: Is it fair to measure all schools the same way? Or should there be different expectations and ways to prove success of students dependent on where/how they learn?

My Teaching Philosophy

As teachers, one of the first questions we are always asked in any interview is what is our teaching philosophy.

I am here to ask you what is your real philosophy? What do you really believe or think?  How do you deal with your students? When I sat down to write this, I looked at my wife and said that the one thing I did not want to do is sound Holier-Than-Thou. I just felt like I needed to put this out there so that people can see that real teachers exist. Public school teachers are not the bane of the Earth. We are not the reason for the economy failing. And we are not trying to brainwash all of the kids in the world and turn them into Raging Democrats.

My Teaching Philosophy:

All students are created equal. It does not matter if they are White, African-American, Latino, Asian, Native American, Indian, straight, homosexual, bi-sexual, transgendered or sexually ambivalent. Socio-economic status does not matter. Religion does not matter. Perceived intelligence does not matter. It does not matter if they were retained or are 13 or 21.

Every student deserves to have a safe place to learn. Every student deserves to have my respect. They are told walking in the door that respect is a two-way street. I will respect them the same way they are expected to show respect towards me. They also know that they can talk to me about anything. There are things that need reported from time to time but they are aware of that from the onset.

The students know that they will receive honesty from me. I can say that I have never lied to a student. The way I see it is that I might be the only person they can depend on to be honest with them.

As it states in my original page, I teach students with disabilities. Not disabled students. Not “those students” or IEP kids or even kiddos. Students with disabilities. Some are dealing with emotional disorders, some with specific learning disabilities. Some are just dealing with life and the raw deals they have been given.  They are capable of achieving all of the same things as their peers. It might take them longer or they might go down a different path to get there, but they can and will achieve to their fullest potential.

I will never hold grudges. There is nothing that I dislike more than hearing a teacher state that this student did this last year or “that is the student who cursed at me last month and knows it better never happen again or else.” These students already have enough odds stacked against them. It is not fair for them to feel as if we as educators are out to get them. We should be there to encourage and lift them up. We can not make them feel as if they are constantly going to screw up. If they feel that way, they will do so intentionally. A self-fulfilling prophecy is better than not knowing what will happen.

For too long, my students have not been held accountable. They get to high school and feel as if they are just going to pass on to the next grade and not have to do anything. They take pride in the fact that they are the “bad kids.” They expect to complete as little work as possible and be rewarded at least once per week for their minimum effort. They quickly learn differently. I explain to them and their guardians that they will follow the exact same curriculum as their peers in a general education setting. I explain that I know it will be difficult and I know it will be frustrating. But they will do it. They will have the support and guidance that they need. They also know that I will not penalize them for trying. I will not set them up to fail. I am here to help them succeed. My goal is to not only educate them in the classroom but to help prepare them for the world which is right around the corner.

The “real world.” The world where having a bad day does not excuse you from completing work. The world in which you are expected to work on Fridays and not cuss out your co-workers. If they complete high school thinking that life will allow them to skate, I have set them up for failure in life. I do not want to be responsible for that.

I truly believe that when we hold students to high expectations, they will strive to reach them. If we hold them to low expectations, they will strive to reach those as well. If we expect them to get in trouble, they will. If we expect them to behave and act like young adults, they will. Sure they will make mistakes. All people, even us, make mistakes. That is okay. It is expected.

I think this is part of my aversion to virtual learning. It is not personal. They can earn grades and credits on a computer. However, if you are not in the classroom, you can not see the growth and potential of the students. You can not see it in their eyes when something clicks, when the frustration is finally overcome and they achieve what they thought was impossible. You can not possibly know that the man at the bank was once in your class and overcame the huge obstacles that were in his life. You will never know that the bespectacled young man you just passed twirling the store sign on the street corner was once homeless and fought to stay in school in order to graduate. You will never get to sit across from the mother who thought her daughter would never graduate and shake her hand, congratulating her.

So, let’s hear it! What is your teaching philosophy? And is it possible to truly teach a student virtually?

Since when is 30% Acceptable?

In 2011 the Washington Post reported that there are roughly 250,000 students enrolled in online schools nationwide. Of those, roughly 30,000 were in Ohio. (http://stateimpact.npr.org/ohio/tag/online-education/) While that is not a large number, it is large enough to be concerning. Especially given the fact that only 30% of students enrolled in K12’s Ohio Virtual Academy graduated on-time. That is compared to a 78% on-time graduation rate in public schools. Now 78% is nothing to crow about. It is a low number that must improve. There are obviously issues that need fixed in public schools. But 78% is huge when compared to 30%. Huge!
Public schools are constantly under attack for their lack of success in helping students achieve success. Yet, nothing is being said about the for-profit companies taking tax dollars and failing the students even more miserably. 30%?  Virtual schools often state that students come to them in danger of not graduating on-time due to lack of success in the public school. I have had students come to my classes lacking credits.  The majority of them are still able to graduate with the rest of their academic class. They also work online to recover credits. The difference? They get one on one personal attention from a real teacher. Not an Avatar or chat box. A physical human being. Students work in a classroom and still get the social aspect of a traditional school. They are able to immediately ask questions and not only get answers from instructors, but also can learn via their peers as well. More importantly, they graduate.  (Many, not all, but many do so on-time)
So instead of taking responsibility for their failures, virtual schools turn around and continue to blame the public schools. Blame the schools that at least have a 78% success rate. I would love to hear from one of the 70% that failed to graduate on-time in an online setting? Better yet, I would love to hear from one of the 30% who did find success

“We Understand the Politics of Education Pretty Well”

That quote says it all. While reading an article in the Washington Post (Virtual schools are multiplying, but some question their educational value, 11/22/2011), I was stopped short by this quote. Who said it? Ronald Packard- Chief executive and founder of K12. For those who do not know, K12 is a virtual school that seeks to educate students via the internet. “The politics of education…” Amazing. The article describes how the company has started lobbying and making contributions to politicians around the country. Education is a political game. I know that. Everyone involved in education knows that. But when did it stop being about the children and start becoming about money and contributions? $500,000 from 2004-2010. $500,000 in direct contributions to state politicians! Educational decisions must be made by educators, not politicians and lobbyists. Policy should be based on what is best for the students not influenced by contributions. I intend to dive further into this article in the next few blogs. Let’s hear it. Should a for-profit company be allowed to “help” politicians make decisions about what is best for the students of this country?Is it truly about the politics of education?

Information obtained from http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/virtual-schools-are-multiplying-but-some-question-their-educational-value/2011/11/22/gIQANUzkzN_story.html

Rationale

The “innovation” that I intend to explore is the idea of online learning and the push to have more students enroll in it. As a teacher, I take it personally that people are under the impression that students can learn better via computer than in a school setting.
In my short ten years of teaching, I have had roughly 10 students who have left school to enroll in an online school. Of those ten students I have not had one achieve success in an online setting. The students have had difficulty in signing up, getting started and following the curriculum.

What I intend to explore:
· Socialization- lack thereof/effects
· Rigor of courses
· Teacher/ “school” expectations
· Credentials of teachers
· Insurance of academic honesty
· State grading of schools- does it exist?
· Scores on academic testing- ACT/SAT
· Graduation Rates
· Percentage of students who continue on to higher education/success rates
· Open call to students who have “attended” these schools
·  Funding
·  Research-based rationale behind online schooling
I am not saying, and do not intend to say, that the traditional school setting is the only way for students to learn. I am saying that an online setting is not the solution and is not innovative.

Look out! Mike started a blog

I am often told that I am on a soapbox. This is true. I seem to have an opinion about everything and , if asked, I do not hold back. Perhaps that is what worried me about starting up a blog. I do not want to be seen as a know-it-all. I also don’t want to sound like I am coming off as half-cocked. After reading my wife’s blog for the last couple of years, I think it is time that I start one. Well, that and the fact that this is required for a class. That being said… Watch out and be careful what you ask for