Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Race to Nowhere is about overloaded kids.They are overloaded with many things - athletics, arts, academics and employment chief among them. While it mildly chides parents for over-scheduling the kids outside of school, it focuses on schools. Within the schools, there is pressure to achieve in order to gain admittance to a top post-secondary school, and there is minor mention of this being driven by our societal fear of falling behind the rest of the world. According to the film, the nationally systemic manifestations of this fear are high testing standards, resulting in impossibly high quantities of course content. From this come teachers assigning impossibly large homework loads. Kids react to this with cheating, chemical stimulants, sleep deprivation, loads of stress and ultimately lost childhood. All of this is the premise of the film, not my statement.
After viewing the film, this premise was largely endorsed by the parents (and a handful of teachers) who attended the screening. They were eager to talk about their kids' workloads and stress, and they talked about the ways in which they try to help their kids cope with it all, and prioritize.
I sat down to watch with a truly open mind. I'd heard good things about the film, but I also had seen the widely regarded film Two Million Minutes, about the intellectually sedentary life of the American Teen in comparison to kids in China & India. The two films seem to be at odds.
The major flaw in the film is its presumption of universality. The U.S. doesn't have one public school system. We have thousands. Within each system, schools are unique. Within each school, teachers are unique. Within each classroom, kids are unique. My own kids have had a wide range of teachers, from those who lit a fire under them to those who poured cold water on their desire to learn. There are kids in high school weighed down by backpacks full of books that twist their spines, and kids in that same school, in the same classes, who carry nothing but a pencil.
The appeal of the "universal truth" approach that Race to Nowhere takes is that it speaks with confidence and authority, which is always a good way to get people to believe you. The viewer picks out the 10% of the information that jibes with his personal experience, and then instinctively assumes the rest of the 90% to be credible. (I've written about this same problem with the school budget... I observe one thing that I think is wasteful, therefore I conclude that the entire system must be awash in waste, though the objective measurements don't bear this out.)
What one parent mentioned last night, to the disbelief of others, is that some middle schools in Loudoun are trying to cut back on homework assignments. This is actually true, and it sparks its own controversies (Schools Miscommunicating with Parents). This is the major problem with the "universal truth" approach that Race to Nowhere takes. Not that anything in it is untrue, and yet as a total it is largely untrue because it refuses to acknowledge anything, or anyone, that might interfere with the conclusion that the filmmaker came to prior to her starting to make the film.
What it boils down to is this... Race to Nowhere is a film about the filmmaker's kids, the filmmaker's schools, and people who felt comfortable making blanket statements about my kids in order to explain the filmmaker's situation to her. She took pains to interview folks from different cities in California, and add on to that some folks from suburbs in NYC, Miami, and Ohio as if this were a representative sample. It isn't. The filmmaker is from California and most of the students, schools and professionals interviewed are from California. And that leads me to my largest complaint. California is in no position to be giving advice to the rest of the nation on public education.
While I am sure that it is an accurate portrayal of the filmmakers kids, and the many kids like them, it did nothing to address the many kids who are not like them. Or the schools that aren't like them. It didn't have anything to say about high school graduation rates in Mississippi, which were at 60% for the class of 2005. Does the film posit that 40% of Mississippi students aren't graduating on time because they had too much homework and because the pressure to get into a top school was just too great? Of course not. And it didn't need to, the film could have said "look, we're talking about one particular kind of kid and one particular kind of school." But it didn't.
With all of that said, my favorite part of the film was the closing credits, which gave students, parents, teachers, administrators and others advice on taking action in their own lives, schools and communities. I couldn't agree more. Parents have power. Take control of your kids' school life. Shape the classroom and the school where they attend. If you have a problem with the amount of homework assigned, tell the teacher.
The end result is that while the film had valuable insights for individual students, parents and educators, it does not present a prescription for education reform in America.
On the local policy side, At-Large member Tom Reed spoke to parents last night after the film and said that the School Board will be responsive to parents if the parents want change, and are willing to speak up about it. I spoke to one gentleman last night who asked why parents should have to do anything... why the Board and Administration aren't already doing it. The answer is in part that the Board and Administration are constantly bringing change on a number of fronts, if not always the particular topic du jour. The answer is also that the despite the sentiment of the self-selected community present last night, the community has not spoken with one voice on this issue. I have just as many parents (maybe more) who tell me that their child is not challenged at school as those who tell me that they are overburdened.
I commend Doug Anderson and the administrators and guidance staff at Broad Run for bringing Race to Nowhere to Loudoun. It can't be easy to bring in a film that is critical of the field in which you work.
Update: Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews takes down Race to Nowhere.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
A report by the Treasury Inspector General (IG faults locations of taxpayer assistance centers) illustrates the inherent challenges government agencies have in meeting the needs of its customers. The IG found that the "Internal Revenue Service's free taxpayer assistance centers are not optimally located and are often out of easy reach for many Americans." In fact, over 60% of the 401 service centers either are too far from their customers or overlap each other's service areas.
In a response to the report, "the IRS conceded that most of its centers have not changed locations since fiscal 2000 and have failed to keep pace with shifts in population and demographics. [...] The duplication in services is most obvious in Pennsylvania, where 10 of its 21 assistance offices cover much of the same population." Despite having leases for 119 of the centers expire in 2008 and 2009, no plans were made to "combine, relocate, or close locations, citing 'budgetary constraints and legislative concerns.' "
I can't help but think that this is what happens when an organization operates outside the advantages of a competitive and customer-responsive market; a disconnect between what the customer wants and what the organization provides occurs when the flow of revenue is guaranteed no matter the level and quality of services.
Anyone notice when the Ashburn Village Starbucks closed? During the last 18 months Starbucks Coffee severely cut back the number of its stores, realigning with its customer demographics for its 16,000+ stores in less than a year ("How Starbucks Got Its Mojo Back"). Within minutes of seeing the missing logo in the Village that first time, I was at one of the other six or seven locations in Ashburn sipping a mocha. Why can't government services accomplish this level of customer service?
I think it's the mono-focus on inputs rather than outputs. In public education we measure seat time and the effort teachers put forth, rather than learning achievement and outcomes. In Loudoun, the budget discussion emphasis is on whether the tax rate should be 1.32 or 1.31 or 1.30, not whether the organization is delivering what it says it is or what the customers want (or should have, since we're dealing with a government monopoly here). Face it, no matter what budget is approved, the status quo will still be the status quo, and not only will the current services still be in place essentially unchanged, so will the current inefficiencies and unvalidated methodologies.
As long as Loudoun County Public Schools is guaranteed an unending revenue flow, there will be no change; there is no incentive to reevaluate quality, need, efficiency, and return on investment. Like the IRS, LCPS has no reason to improve services to its customers.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
In a 6-3 vote after a few quiet minutes of discussion in which only two members spoke, the Supervisors voted to cut $7.75M, or 1.5% of the total requested local contribution to the LCPS budget.
This is what is referred to as a straw vote. It isn't final until the Board of Supervisors makes its budget vote on April 5th, but without further action the decision will stand. The School Board will finalize the LCPS budget by April 15th.
I'm withholding comment while I review the potential impact to the LCPS budget, but wanted to give you all an update and a place to discuss.
[Loudoun Times Mirror]
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Not only is it a waste of money and time, more significantly, it deludes children, educators, and parents into believing something is actually being accomplished by the effort. That is a serious concern when we're talking about the well-being of children. This is another example of schools running programs whose results are not measured, or worse, the results are counter to the stated goals of those programs.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
This may seem a trivial, unimportant question, but how we introduce ourselves to each other says much about the relationships we intend and maintain (not to mention whether the plane we're on plummets to the ground).
A couple years ago I remarked to another teacher how curious it is that 90% of teachers always refer to each other as "Mister Buell" and "Missus Manhave" and "Miz Sink," rarely using first names, whether addressing each other indirectly or directly. My colleague responded with a story about spending an entire year at one school at which she never learned the first name of another teacher the whole time she was there!
This anecdote may contain an element of exaggeration, but not necessarily hyperbole. Over the many years my child was in school, I never once had a teacher introduce herself using her first name, or add "you can call me Mary." This never struck me as too odd, even when I would go out of my way to introduce myself as "Erv" and the teacher would persist in calling me "Mister Addison" for the entire meeting. I did begin to think this distinctly weird, however, shortly after I got my first job in a public school; after spending years in private sector jobs, I was used to coworkers always using my first name with me (and others). I think the only coworkers I addressed with "Miz" and "Mister" were CEOs and vice presidents, and most of them disabused me of that necessity during the first meeting.
I used to think the teachers were being overly respectful to me; now I suspect another dynamic was at work.
This seemed a small thing, until I encountered the concept of "mitigated speech" and the idea that teachers may have something in common with crash-prone Korean pilots.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, recounts how Korean Airlines turned around a deadly history of crashes by focusing on how Korea's cultural emphasis on social class interfered with the effective work relationships of its cockpit crews. During the 1980s and 1990s, the airline suffered crash after crash after crash of its planes, losing hundreds of passenger and crew lives. An extensive analysis of the incidents showed that miscommunication and lack of communication among the crew were the causes of the crashes, not equipment failure or weather. Because of the cultural importance of showing respect and obedience to senior officers, Korean junior officers used "mitigated speech" as the standard form of work communication, which—
"–refers to any attempt to downplay or sugarcoat the meaning of what is being said. We mitigate when we're being polite, or when we're ashamed or embarrassed, or when we're being deferential to authority. If you want your boss to do a favor, you don't say, 'I need this by Monday.' You mitigate. You say, 'Don't bother, if it's too much trouble, but if you have a chance to look at this over the weekend, that would be wonderful.' In a situation like that, mitigation is entirely appropriate. In other situations, however — like a cockpit on a stormy night — it's a problem."
In other words, a plane's first officer would never dare tell the captain that the course he just set was going to take them directly into a mountainside; instead he would say, "The radar is working exceptionally well tonight," believing that was enough to alert the captain that he should reconsider his flight path — while they sped to their deaths! Not even a sense of self-preservation could allow him to transgress the bonds of ingrained cultural courtesy.
A school is not a plane, and its staff is not a cockpit crew, and our schools are culturally American, not Korean, but when Gladwell pointed out that one of the steps Korean Air took to eliminate mitigation speech in its crews was to have them start addressing each other using their first names, it struck an obvious chord. Working in an environment in which we constantly address each other as Mister and Missus, we must ask ourselves if this courteous "distancing" affects how we work with each other; is this collegial "tradition" an indicator of something else more significant in our work relationships?
Consider the "movie showing" policy of one of our Loudoun high schools—
"It is our belief that we should not have a school wide form at this point in time requesting permission to show movies. We feel a more professional approach is to look at the time period after AP and SOL tests when excessive movies have become a problem across the school. Each department chair should have a copy of each teacher’s general syllabus which could be used at a department meeting for curricular idea sharing which go beyond movies. For instance, one teacher has suggested tapping into our reading initiative and using the blocks that might be previously dedicated to a movie as silent or even reading out loud time. Discussions, reading quizzes, projects, or writing assignments would supplement the unit. If teachers do decide it is absolutely necessary to include a movie with a direct curriculum impact, these movies will be accompanied by a discussion, assignment, or project. It is suggested that teachers submit a general syllabus or fill out the plan below and forward it to their department chair. The chairs could then share plans at a chair meeting looking for new ideas and too many movie trends. If the process is more transparent, we will avoid having a student watching movies in four different blocks during the course of one day."
When a teacher emailed this to me, I was immediately struck by the pervasive use of passive language, what I now know is mitigated speech: "we should not have," "We feel," "Each department chair should have," "which could be used," "For instance, one teacher has suggested ," "using the blocks that might," "If teachers do decide," "It is suggested," "The chairs could then share," and "If the process." This school policy — which was "promulgated" to prevent a student from seeing the same movie more than once on the same school day — was written by department heads. It is so passive in tone, however, we have to wonder exactly how much policy direction and efficacy it actually delivers.
Doesn't the form and tone of the "directive" come across as more timorous than decisive? It appears that the authors are afraid to offend.
I worry that if school managers hesitate to be assertive on something as seemingly straightforward as movie use in lesson plans, how effective can they be when critiquing and coaching teachers and peers in teaching methods and styles? If we can't even call each other by our first names most of the time, how can we possibly be open to new ideas, suggestions for improvement, and constructive criticism from our colleagues? How can the language we use even be effective?
Korean Air was able to transform itself through consciously addressing the undesirable effects of its cultural heritage, becoming almost overnight one of the safest airlines in the world. Is it possible public education has its own cultural heritage in need of similar transformation?
* This is from the perspective of a high school educator; consequently, I'm keenly interested in thoughts and experiences from elementary and middle school employees (as well as everyone else, of course).
Monday, March 14, 2011
On the other hand, Chairperson Stevens also says in his post "Reforming through Budget Cuts" that he believes "that many reforms are already taking place, and that Loudoun is in a better position than many communities to undertake these reforms as a leader and not a follower."
So, when are we going to start leading?
Yes, many Loudoun citizens want the budget cut, whether it's to force "reforms," cut services, or to make the system more efficient. Others want to increase spending to enhance the learning experience or to make up for underfunding or to expand services to meet current and future needs. Unfortunately, none of these parties is well-served by the current state of affairs.
I fall in the middle. I say hold the budget where it is. That is, hold the line while we do three things: (1) begin to make LCPS truly fiscally responsible down to the school and program levels, (2) require existing and future programs to be based on research-backed, measurable goals against which progress is regularly assessed, and (3) begin to actively employ the "reforms" Chairperson Stevens espouses.
When are we going to start leading?
I say hold the budget line because I know there are numerous areas where significant money can be saved without cutting any services at all. In fact, not only could existing services be maintained, they would be improved by increasing efficiencies and assessments of value and return on investment.
When are we going to start leading?
Chairperson Stevens cites one key area in need of improvement, saying that although "the compensation structure needs reform, that is a long-term project that can't be accomplished during a budget season." Szheesh! When isn't it the budget season around here? We need to start changing the system now, budget season or no. Isn't the budget season really the best time to "reform," since the reforms referenced here have significant financial impact? And shouldn't we be budget-minded year-round?
When are we going to start leading?
The current step-in-grade pay structure rewards only those who stay in the job and system for many, many years. Chairperson Stevens acknowledges it does not fit the needs of our workforce demographics — something that our workforce itself acknowledges to the tune of 1 out of 2 of us leaving the system in the first five years of employment. Only 50% of us are being rewarded by a pay structure that has been in place — essentially unchanged – for at least three-quarters of a century.
When are we going to start leading?
Chairperson Stevens criticizes the Board of Supervisors for attempting to "reform" LCPS through controlling the purse strings. While I agree with him it should be the School Board who directs the school system, it is difficult to not sympathize with the supervisors and their constituents given the lack of transparency in the system and the high degrees of misunderstanding and distrust with which both boards and their constituencies have burdened themselves.
Chairperson Stevens rightly says, "The School Board must be the body that reforms Loudoun County Public Schools. It will do so only of its own will [...]." I have to ask, however, where is that will? I must admit I am not an expert at navigating the School Board document management system, so maybe my inability to locate multiple and regular motions to reform the compensation system in the board and committee minutes of the past few years may be due to my lack of expertise rather than their lack of existence. I will, however, continue to look for the evidence of that "will" to make meaningful change in the form of motions to not only structure compensation focused on more outcomes, but also motions focused on making it much easier for charter schools to open in Loudoun, as well as those aimed at restructuring schedules and buildings to truly enhance our students' learning achievements. For now, however, I can't find proof of that "will."
When are we going to start leading?
Yes, Chairperson Stevens is absolutely right: "If Loudoun, as a community, wants to see reform efforts in its public schools, it must demand it of its School Board. It must elect reform-minded School Board candidates." I do, however, respectfully disagree with him about the budget; maybe it's time for some "tough love," and let the current board members know they need to demonstrate their willingness to embrace true change now. Don't cut the budget, but don't increase the budget either; it's time the members of the School Board step up their management of their business. There's more than enough room in the system to improve efficiencies and ROI while maintaining services at current levels. Let us know you are the persons we should re-elect next election.
Isn't it time we start leading?
Sometimes members of a funding body, like our Board of Supervisors, believe in reform too, but don't have the authority to enact it. Sometimes they anticipate that reform will save money. So they put these components together and decide that if they just cut funding, the school system will of necessity reform itself to handle the cuts. Supervisor Lori Waters in particular has expressed that she will not favor an increase in school funding toward employee salary increases until those salaries are based on performance instead of seniority.
While I agree that the compensation structure needs reform, that is a long-term project that can't be accomplished during a budget season. More importantly, it can't be inspired by budget cuts. Witness California's experience with Proposition 13, which in 1978 limited property taxes. Does the following sound familiar?
A large contributor to Proposition 13 was the sentiment that older Californians should not be priced out of their homes through high taxes.So property taxes in California are now capped, and school funding has decreased. What impact has this had on California schools? Are they paragons of efficiency and reform? I did a little checking.
In a recent study of public school efficiency by the Center for American Progress, California school district scores were from 26 to 94, with only three districts scoring 90 or higher. Virginia schools districts were all ranked between 70 and 95, with 35 scoring 90 or higher. Loudoun scored 93.
Digging more, I found a report by the Rand Corporation called Ultimate Test:
One state, California, serves as an especially compelling case study. Widely regarded as one of the best systems of education in the country as recently as 30 years ago, the California public school system has since become, according to most measures, one of the worst.
By reviewing the recent history of California’s public schools, their precipitous decline, and their potential for revival, policymakers nationwide can learn important lessons about how to manage public schools. Today, for example, the citizens of California need long-term, comprehensive solutions, beginning with an improved financing system that can tap into what the state can really afford and that can then provide the resources that the schools really need.
Whether at the national or at the state level, public education needs both accountability and resources. Although providing resources without demanding accountability can lead to a waste of resources, demanding accountability without providing adequate resources can be an evasion of accountability by setting up public schools for failure. (emphasis mine)Anecdotally, while a number of Loudoun residents have written to say that Loudoun's schools are far superior to those their kids attended in California, I've never had any write to me to say that their schools in California were better.
Candidates for Supervisor Malcom Gladwell and Janet Clarke expressed publicly at a recent public hearing on the budget that the schools must be reformed, and that as officeholders they would use the budget to do just that. This will be the first time but not the last time in this election year that I remind candidates for Supervisor that if they want to reform the school system, they're running for the wrong office. If they want to reform it through budget cuts, they're using the wrong tool. Just ask the current Board of Supervisors, which has cut per-pupil school funding by over 15%, and still have not seen the reforms they hoped for.
The School Board must be the body that reforms Loudoun County Public Schools. It will do so only of its own will, not because of funding cuts. The will comes only if the community asks for reform, not because of funding cuts. If Loudoun, as a community, wants to see reform efforts in its public schools, it must demand it of its School Board. It must elect reform-minded School Board candidates.
In the meantime, it must fully fund its schools, or watch the quality of those schools decline.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
"The Center for American Progress rated districts of all sizes nationally using data from the 2007-2008 school year, and rated LCPS among the top-performing school districts for efficiency & results. I'll have more details in a future post."
We do need those details. When I read the report in January I was struck most by this statement:
"Our nation’s school system has for too long failed to ensure that education funding consistently promotes strong student achievement. After adjusting for inflation, education spending per student has nearly tripled over the past four decades. But while some states and districts have spent their additional dollars wisely—and thus shown significant increases in student outcomes—overall student achievement has largely remained flat. And besides Luxembourg, the United States spends more per student than any of the 65 countries that participated in a recent international reading assessment, and while Estonia and Poland scored at the same level as the United States on the exam, the United States spent roughly $60,000 more to educate each student to age 15 than either nation."Yes, LCPS appears to do better at providing a return on investment than many schools in Virginia, but it is by no means a leader; it is pretty much in the middle of the pack. For instance, locally, the report lists Fauquier, Clarke, Prince William, and Stafford counties as providing a significantly stronger education ROI to its taxpayers. More importantly, it's hard to miss the Center's overall condemnation of public schools' efforts at efficiency and ROI. Loudoun is in the middle of a not-so-well rated pack.
Bear with me a minute, and take the time to read the report's thesis, something I think we should keep in mind when citing the report--
"When successful businesses want to improve performance and boost efficiencies, they focus on creating the conditions for organizational change. They use data to identify problem areas, create short and long-term goals, and engage their employees to sustain transformations and nurture further innovation. Such approaches have long worked for the private sector, and there’s clear evidence that the techniques can help drive better performance in large, public organizations as well.
"But schools and districts have long been effective at deflecting or watering down meaningful change in order to protect entrenched bureaucracies and interests. And even reform-minded school administrators often confuse merely novel techniques with successful ones and dash from one educational fad to the next without tracking their efficacy. To increase productivity, school leaders will need to fundamentally reinvent the way that they do business and create an outcomes-based school culture that sets high goals—and gives employees the strategies to achieve them.
"That will entail doing away with obsolete traditions and ineffective programs, to be sure. But it will also require schools and districts to embrace transformational ways of delivering a cost-effective education that reduces spending while boosting performance. The goal must be nothing short of a breakthrough in performance that guarantees that every dollar produces high achievement for all students."
"LCPS has become more efficient, reducing the ratio of non-school-based positions from 10.0 per 1,000 students to 9.2 per 1,000 students. Our proposed FY12 budget, has a higher share of school-based employees than any other NoVA district."
My concern with this statement is two-fold: (1) A simple math calculation seems to show that this change could primarily be the result of not hiring more staff during the past couple years as student population grew; and (2) while that might result in greater efficiencies, this is an awfully narrow definition of efficiency, and just saying that we did more with less doesn't mean our processes became more efficient.
In fact, it could be argued it was the voters who limited the past few budgets who achieved this "efficiency," not just LCPS. But again, this doesn't prove LCPS is more efficient; it could be that it is only as efficient as it was two years ago, but being so with less staff. This statement begs more support than just a simple math calculation. I'm definitely interested in hearing more on this.
"School lunch subsidies have dropped from $900,000 to $0. Lunch prices have climbed from $2.10 to $3.00"
My first thought may seem a non sequitur, that the $900,000 is close to the amount LCPS is not going to collect in AP Exam fees next year (an amount that had to have been in the first budget drafts). Factor in that we will likely have to refund the $900k from this year, and possibly the $900k from last year, that lunch subsidy savings doesn't look all that significant. I'm almost afraid to ask how seriously the AP and Honors courses grade weighting committee considered the legality of these fees a couple years ago?
This raises another question about what we mean by efficiency: How is shifting the revenue collection method from one path to another necessarily an indicator of cost savings and process improvement? Chairperson Stevens may be saying that the total costs of school lunches decreased, but the juxtaposition of the subsidy elimination with a statement that families pay more for each lunch can lead us to believe that there is a relationship between the two statements. Loudoun families could still be paying the same amount for lunches, so where's the savings, where's the efficiency? Whether the funds come out of our property taxes or our wallets each morning makes no difference here. I could be wrong, so let's get more context.
"Average class sizes have increased."
Please show me the scientific research that supports the idea that class size has a significant impact on classroom learning when compared to other factors also within the control of LCPS (other than NEA assertions). Period.
"The average Loudoun tax bill has dropped from $5,307 to $5,244 at the proposed tax rate of $1.32"
Another simple math calculation shows this drop is barely %1. I'm concerned that property owners who have seen their homes devalued in the double-digit percent amounts aren't going to buy this as a reason to support the proposed budget.
Statistics are important, but so is context. Let's get some more.
Friday, March 4, 2011
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Crisis in the Dairyland - For Richer and Poorer - Teachers and Wall Street|
Thursday, March 3, 2011
- Loudoun is still next-to-last in per-pupil spending among Metro DC school districts
- Loudoun is last in starting salaries among Metro DC school districts
- In 2007, a Forbes study titled "Best and Worst School Districts for the Buck," LCPS was ranked 11th in the nation among large districts when rated for a combination of efficiency & outcomes
- The Center for American Progress rated districts of all sizes nationally using data from the 2007-2008 school year, and rated LCPS among the top-performing school districts for efficiency & results. I'll have more details in a future post.
- LCPS has become more efficient, reducing the ratio of non-school-based positions from 10.0 per 1,000 students to 9.2 per 1,000 students. Our proposed FY12 budget, has a higher share of school-based employees than any other NoVA district.
- The share of LCPS funding coming from local taxes has dropped from 72% to 67%.
- LCPS cost per pupil has dropped over 15%.
- Starting salaries have fallen. All salaries are frozen.
- Insurance premiums and co-payments have increased for employees.
- Capacity has grown through both new buildings and increased class sizes, but has not kept pace with our growth. Our capacity usage has grown from 91.5% to 96.7% county wide.
- School lunch subsidies have dropped from $900,000 to $0. Lunch prices have climbed from $2.40 to $3.00
- Average class sizes have increased
- Funding for ongoing building renovations has dropped from $4.1M just before this board took office to $0 last year.
- The average Loudoun tax bill has dropped from $5,307 to $5,244 at the proposed tax rate of $1.32
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
As a teacher, larger class size scares me. My classes are wall-to-wall now. I teach 138 students in 5 classes. Each time that I give a unit assessment, if I spend only 5 minutes grading each student's paper, that equates to 11.5 hours of grading time. I teach Chemistry and I require students to work out problems, showing their work in detail, not merely selecting a multiple choice answer for every question. I have been recording the number of hours that it takes me to grade a unit test throughout the course of this year and the average grading time is about 23 hours. Unit tests occur about every 5th class. During those same 5 class blocks [=10 days], I have 15 hours allotted for personal planning. How can I possibly grade a unit test within that time? The obvious answer is that I can't. In fact, I rarely grade anything during my planning periods except for simple quizzes, because I cannot count on having uninterrupted time to be able to grade even one short answer question across all 138 papers to ensure consistency. My planning time is continually interrupted by: changes in the schedule due to assemblies, parent conferences, students who have requested my help during their study hall (which coincides with my planning period), e-mails to parents, and meetings about students. I do almost all of my lesson planning, copying, room set-up, lab set-up, and all other preparations required to actually teach outside of the time period specified by my contract. And now I may have even more students? There are no more hours in my day. I routinely spend 13 hours per day at school. I grade on the weekends.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Crisis in Dairyland - Angry Curds|
"Don't let these teachers fool you. Unlike Wall Street bankers, teachers are no friend of the working man, Mister fancy-pants middle school social studies teacher."