Clark County School Watch

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Author, CCSW writer join forces

http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/profile6/1088/31/q100000342397780_3588.jpg It is indeed a pleasure to announce that Henderson author Rosalyn Schnall and myself have joined forces.

Through my communications/PR subsidiary, ECH Communications of Las Vegas, we are launching a local PR Campaign here in Las Vegas on behalf of Schnall and her new book WHEN TEACHERS TALK: Principal Abuse of Teachers -- The Untold Story. Schnall is a retired Chicago Public Schools teacher who has conducted hundreds of interviews of teachers, documenting poor teacher working conditions and administrative misconduct. Media interviews and local book signings are to come.

Photobucket CCSW recently profiled Schnall's book.Visit the title's official homepage to learn more about the book and the author, and to purchase the book directly.

E.C. :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Clark County's homeless students could reach 7,000

http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:kNd1aygfuW11zM:http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_9znQG54ZSQc/RzOV5iK4uRI/AAAAAAAAAKw/8MLoQscgnA8/s320/phc_logo.gif CCSW just blogged about the fact that the number of homeless children in the Las Vegas Valley are in the hundreds. Now we get word that the figure could be in the thousands.

It is astounding as it is criminal.

Las Vegas Review-Journal:
The Clark County School District's enrollment has dipped to 309,000 students from 311,000 students a year ago, but one segment of the student population is still growing, much to the dismay of educators and social workers alike.

The number of homeless students in local public schools could reach about 8,000 by the end of the current school year, about 2,000 more than last year, said Myra Berkovits, the district coordinator for the federally funded Homeless Outreach Program Education, HOPE.

"I think it's a perfect storm between job loss, foreclosure and bad luck," said Berkovits in explaining the increase.

As struggling families swap their large homes for small apartments, teenagers are getting forced out of the nest, said Tim Mullin, director of operations for the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth. But being forced to leave home usually strengthens the desire homeless teens have to stay in school. They crave the routine or structure it gives their otherwise chaotic lives, Mullin said.

"They sleep on bleachers in front of the high school, because they want to be at school when the bell rings," he said.

Separately, an article in the Scholastic Administrator magazine says school staff are being trained on tell-tale signs of homeless children. This article lists many of the services CCSD provides in terms of outreach.


Administrator:
Older students remain an under-identified homeless population. The Clark County district estimates—and social service agencies agree—that there are thousands of additional students in the county who meet the definition of homeless but have not yet been identified, particularly in the upper grades.

To help address these unmet needs, this fall the district will try out drop-in centers at several middle and high schools, offering students a chance to do their schoolwork on computers, get clothing and food, and have access to counseling.

Kathleen Boutin, founder and executive director of the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, says thousands of high school students are “couch surfers,” staying a few nights at a time with family or friends, but without anything close to a permanent residence.

The Nevada’s Partnership’s own drop-in center sees about 300 to 400 individuals each month, including a large number of students who come in regularly for food and clothing and to do homework. She praised the district’s plan to focus on a demographic group that is too often invisible.

“These kids are academically interested,” Boutin said. “They know education is their ticket out of homelessness and poverty.”
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E.C. :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Author tells CCSW teacher workplace conditions need addressed (book review/video)

Photobucket A new tell-all book just hit the stands which promises to blow the lid on workplace conditions in our public schools. Trust and believe...this is a book that some administrators, even some union officials, DON'T WANT YOU TO READ.

Author Rosalyn Schnall, a retired teacher in the Chicago Public Schools system, saw first-hand how rancid workplace conditions and school administrator misconduct were in the schools in inner-city Chicago. Now residing in Henderson, Schnall's new book When Teachers Talk exposes the true stories of more than 500 teachers, effectively blowing the lid on what's taking place in these buildings. Unfortunately, it is not a lot of education going on in these schools.

CCSW sat down with Schnall, who painted a very bleak picture on what teachers are going through in our schools as they attempt to teach our children.
"Ninety percent of those surveyed think principals abuse their power...ninety percent of those think the [teachers] union is ineffective in addressing workplace conditions and abuse of power by principals. This is part of a bigger problem," Schnall says.

But even though abusive principals and administrator misconduct are widely chronicled in the book, Schnall is also quick not to indict all administrators with a broad brush.

"There are lots of good principals out there, who are supportive and are trying to do a lot of good. Unfortunately, there are bad ones out there too, and the bad ones are making it hard for good teachers to stay in the profession," she adds.

The average, neophyte teacher spends less than five years on the job before he/she gets burned out and quits.

This is a must read, folks. I urge you to buy this book, go here to purchase the book now from Amazon. Go to the book's Web site: http://www.whenteacherstalk.com/ to learn more.

Below, see this recent Nov. 6 interview of Schnall by Chicago's WGN News:

 



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A heartwarming story out of San Diego (voiceofsandiego.org)

http://images.townnews.com/voiceofsandiego.org/multimedia/testlogo.gif  This is an incredible story. Crawford High School in San Diego has its own version of the famed Jaime Escalante in Jonathan Winn. Winn teaches an Advanced Placement Calculus class. This class, and this school, have defied the odds, broken the rules, and questioned authority. As a result, a success story was born.

Here's an excerpt from Emily Alpert's article over at Voice of San Diego, please read the entire story. You will be inspired:
It starts as a distant ringing, faint over the hubbub of students flipping through binders in the small theater. It grows from the bronze bowl that Jonathan Winn cups in one hand as he swirls a mallet inside to set off the unearthly sound.

It fills the room. The chatting stops. More than 70 teenagers turn to the man who stands before them onstage, his eyes closed. The ringing hangs in the air like the end of a poem.

"GOOD MORNING CALCULUS!" Winn suddenly screams, like a sportscaster calling a goal.

This isn't your typical calculus class. Advanced Placement classes are prized by kids at elite schools, who nab them for college credit. This is Crawford High, where students struggle with English and test scores are among the lowest in San Diego Unified. Classes are supposed to be small; Crawford intentionally made this one big, like a college lecture. Kids are supposed to be prepared for tough classes; Crawford threw calculus open to anyone. It has a few whiteboards on a bare stage. Yet it seems to be working.

"They're in there and they're getting As," says Bill Laine, principal of one of Crawford's schools-within-a-school. "We raise the bar and the kids excel."

Calculus was rarely offered here before and usually drew fewer than a dozen students. Skeptics said it wouldn't work. But scores of teens file into the theatre at 7:15 a.m. to hear Winn explain derivatives.
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E.C. :)

Pay to Play? (Raleigh News & Observer)

http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:nMHfMHIDcUxBvM:http://blog.oregonlive.com/breakingnews/NC_NO.jpg There are some serious ethical issues that are going on in this story.

A school in North Carolina decides to cancel a fundraiser that would have sold grades to middle school students. Yes, you read that correctly. This, from the Raleigh News & Observer.

This is disgusting:
A $20 donation to Rosewood Middle School would have gotten a student 20 test points - 10 extra points on two tests of the student's choosing. That could raise a B to an A, or a failing grade to a D.

Susie Shepherd, the principal, said a parent advisory council came up with the idea, and she endorsed it. She said the council was looking for a new way to raise money.

"Last year they did chocolates, and it didn't generate anything," Shepherd said.

Shepherd rejected the suggestion that the school is selling grades. Extra points on two tests won't make a difference in a student's final grade, she said.

It's wrong to think that "one particular grade could change the entire focus of nine weeks," Shepherd said.

State education officials, who typically shy from talking about grading at individual schools, were not pleased to hear of Rosewood's effort.

Rebecca Garland, the chief academic officer for the state Department of Public Instruction, said she understands that schools are struggling in the recession.

Tight state and local budgets have put extra pressure on schools to raise their own money. Teachers giving extra test credit to students who bring in classroom supplies is a longstanding practice at some schools.
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E.C. :)

Number of homeless children on the rise in Las Vegas Valley

http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:kNd1aygfuW11zM:http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_9znQG54ZSQc/RzOV5iK4uRI/AAAAAAAAAKw/8MLoQscgnA8/s320/phc_logo.gif Today's R-J reports on yesterday's Project Homeless Connect event held at the Cashman Center. It is estimated that among the more than 13,000 homeless individuals in the Valley, more than 400 of them are children, according to CCSD. They're either living in shelters, cars, parks or RVs.

Is it me or is this an outrage, ladies and gentlemen?

R-J:
Dozens of children were among the thousands of mostly desperate people who attended Tuesday's Project Homeless Connect at Cashman Center, an annual event that aims to help some of the valley's estimated 13,300 homeless people find housing, jobs and other services.

The Clark County School District reported in April that 352 children were living in homeless shelters, with 82 others living in cars, RVs or parks.

On Tuesday, 72 children attended Project Homeless Connect, according to the county.
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E.C. :)

Student productions of The Laramie Project, Rent will go on

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/7/76/GVHSpic.jpg/200px-GVHSpic.jpg A group of parents were unsuccessful in seeking to halt a Green Valley High School student production of The Laramie Project and Rent, citing adult themes. CCSW discussed this back on October 24, in which the student stage production of The Laramie Project, which tells the story of the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming, raised eyebrows among some in the community, prompting the lawsuit.

Today's R-J:
A District Court judge on Tuesday refused to drop the curtain on high school productions of "Rent" and "The Laramie Project."

Henderson's Green Valley High School can proceed with both plays, including a Thursday night performance of "The Laramie Project," which deals with the murder of a gay college student in Wyoming.

Sarah Balogh, 17, who has a role in "Rent," said the legal ruling was a victory for the plays' themes. "I think it's a start toward what they're all about: compassion and tolerance."

"The Laramie Project" will be performed at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The high school is at 460 Arroyo Grande Blvd., west of Stephanie Street.

"Rent," about starving artists coping with AIDS and drug addiction, will be performed early next year.

Some parents who object to the plays' "mature content" had sought a preliminary injunction to stop both productions.
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E.C. :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Latch-key kids on the rise

http://www.viewnews.com/images/header_view_aliante.gif This week's View News (Aliante edition) discusses the increase of children are not being picked promptly after the school day is concluded, which apparently is raising eyebrows among some CCSD officials. A weak local economy may be a prime contributor to the problem.

Scary.

View News:

The bright, yellow strip of paper is stuck to the public school door, a telltale sign that children have been left behind. In today's economic climate, It's happening more and more often.

After an elementary school-age child's educational day is finished in the Clark County School District, parents have about 10 minutes to pick up their children before campus staff are supposed to attempt to contact the family, according to district policy. If nobody is reached, the school staff is then supposed to contact the district's attendance office, and an officer will come to the campus to pick up the child in question.

Students who are left at elementary schools are taken to area Boys & Girls Clubs of Las Vegas. Children younger than 5 or those with a disability are taken to Variety School, 2601 Sunrise Ave. If the children still are not picked up when the club or Variety School closes, they are transported to Child Haven.

As of Oct. 23, 459 students had been transported to Boys & Girls Clubs around the valley as a result of not being picked up from school. No children as of that time had been taken to Child Haven.

"It's quite high this year," Pam Gunter, senior attendance officer for the Clark County School District, said. "Usually, that's our total at the end of the two semesters."

Gunter said she thinks the number is so high because of the hard economic times. The public school system doesn't charge families when officers come to pick children up from the schools.

"It's more than ever," Gunter said.
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E.C. :)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

NSC, CCSD partner for middle school mentoring program

http://t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:-YXklxp6nKiawM:http://schools.ccsd.net/legacy/Images/NevadaStateCollegeLogo1.jpg http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:tcjKDOkYMGSnuM:http://employerblog.recruitingnevada.com/wp-content/uploads/CCSD.gif Today's Las Vegas Sun reports on a new partnership between CCSD and Nevada State College targeting middle school students. The goal of the new Crossroads program is to have guidance counselors from area middle schools select a specific number of students, put them through workshops, and award them scholarships provided they complete high school.

The program is very noble.

Sun:
NSC launched its Crossroads program, now in its third year. Guidance counselors are asked to identify 10 to 15 students at each campus who might benefit from participating. The students meet in large groups four times per year for workshops led by NSC faculty and staff.

“Access to a bachelor’s degree changes lives,” said Rene Cantu, vice president of multicultural affairs at NSC and Crossroads’ creator. “There are a lot of bright, promising kids who just need to feel appreciated and that someone believes in them.”

At Wednesday’s kickoff event, [Nevada State College President Fred] Maryanski put his money where his hope is, giving more than 150 students certificates guaranteeing $500 scholarships to NSC, provided they successfully complete high school.

The program costs about $47,000 annually. This year’s funding includes a $25,000 gift from Bill Wortman, co-founder and co-principal of Cannery Casino Resorts, and $18,750 from the Nevada Public Education Foundation.
I'll say again, this program is noble. Having substitute-taught in the middle schools in central North Carolina not long ago, it is at this stage that we begin to lose many of our children. Their focus starts to wane during the latter years of the primary grades, then we lose them in middle school and by the time high school comes, it's too late; we either have them or we don't. NSC is moving in the right direction with this.

E.C. :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

CCSD hits plateau, no new schools needed (R-J)

http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:tcjKDOkYMGSnuM:http://employerblog.recruitingnevada.com/wp-content/uploads/CCSD.gif A midday report in the R-J today said that only five schools are left to be built from the 1998 Bond program and district officials say because of flat population growth, no new schools are needed for the next 10 years.

Wow...really?

How does one come up with this forecast?

Here's the short piece:


Because of flat population growth, the Clark County School District does not foresee building new schools for the next 10 years, officials said today during a School Board workshop.


But it still projects $4.9 billion in capital needs for school renovation and replacements, educational equity, technology and equipment, they said. 
The board has given itself a deadline of January 2010 to decide whether to pursue a new bond program during the 2010 election cycle or defer it another two years until 2012.



The 1998 bond program, which generated $4.9 billion for 101 new schools and 11 replacement schools, is winding down with five schools left to be built.

The comments at the end of the article seem to lead toward many wanting the bond to retire. Others say that because of the current state of CCSD, no more bonds should ever be approved until academic results are improved.

What's your take?

E.C. :)

Hate that report card? Burn it!

http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:nVH62m8JtWm86M:http://www.drillspot.com/pimages/4080/408036_300.jpg In the news of the weird category...this via John Robinson, editor of the Greensboro News & Record, who Tweeted this moments ago:

News report from photo chief: "Small fire in high school cafeteria, apparently started by burning report card."

What's next? 

E.C. :)

Controversy surrounding proposed health clinic at Wynn Elementary (LV Sun)

http://schools.ccsd.net/wynn/images/slideshow/wynn.jpg Today's Las Vegas Sun reports on a brewing controversy surrounding a proposed health clinic on the grounds of the Elaine Wynn Elementary School in the Spring Valley area (see companion story from yesterday's edition).

Neighbors are up in arms over the clinic. Yesterday's Sun reports on some of the opposition:


Some people don’t welcome school-based health clinics. Consider the gathering Monday of about 50 residents of the Spring Valley neighborhood to complain about plans to develop a health clinic at Elaine Wynn Elementary, east of Jones Boulevard. Some of their opposition apparently stems from misunderstandings about how the clinics are funded, and who has access to the services.


Some people say they are angry that tax dollars would be going to provide health care — a service seen as outside the School District’s primary mission. Others expressed fear that the neighborhood would be flooded with uninsured adults and children using the clinic as a primary health care provider.

Here are the facts: Virtually no public money is spent either to build or to operate the clinics. The School District provides the land and the utility hookups and pays only for a staff coordinator in the School Community Partnership Office to work with the clinics, which serve youths up to age 18.

Others residents worry about the impact of increased traffic in their area. But the principals of several of the existing clinics said there is no discernible increase during the clinic hours.

Today's Sun reports the proposed clinic is on hold due to a permitting issue. Not only that, another sore spot for the opposition seems to be the lack of communication among school officials to the community and the neighbors.

Sun:

Much of the anger voiced at a Spring Valley neighborhood meeting Monday about a proposed student health clinic at Elaine Wynn Elementary School was directed at the Clark County School District for not having previously discussed the plan publicly.
On Tuesday district officials acknowledged that neighbors of the school were shortchanged on the ability to weigh in on the clinic.

At issue: whether the School District or Communities in Schools, the nonprofit group that intends to operate the campus clinic, should have applied for a special-use permit from the county. A spokesman for the county said the matter is being researched to determine whether the permit is required.

The permit application would have triggered a Clark County Commission public hearing to air the proposal and measure its merits versus potential effects on the neighborhood. Instead, construction of the clinic began several weeks ago without the public hearing and without a special-use permit.

County, School District and Communities in Schools officials say they think the misstep was based on a genuine misunderstanding, and not an intentional attempt to circumvent a public hearing. In the meantime, construction of the clinic has been put on hold.

This one bears watching.

E.C. :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

CCSD toots its horn on how many jobs saved/created

http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:tcjKDOkYMGSnuM:http://employerblog.recruitingnevada.com/wp-content/uploads/CCSD.gif Clark County Schools is crediting the federal Stimulus package for either creating or saving 1,400 jobs. This, according to today's R-J.

However, the reality lies between the lines. Are our kids learning as a result of this? Are standards being raised?

R-J:
The Clark County School District has saved or created 1,400 teaching and support staff jobs with federal stimulus funds, officials said Monday.


The district is the state's single largest recipient of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, It was awarded $165.1 million as of last month and has 35 percent of Nevada's 4,000 education jobs that reportedly were saved through the stimulus.

The Clark County School District has saved or created 1,400 teaching and support staff jobs with federal stimulus funds, officials said Monday.


The district is the state's single largest recipient of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, It was awarded $165.1 million as of last month and has 35 percent of Nevada's 4,000 education jobs that reportedly were saved through the stimulus.

But at least one analyst thinks the numbers may be inflated.
 

http://i1.ytimg.com/vi/8-P3iRPu3tM/default.jpg Patrick Gibbons, an education consultant with the conservative Nevada Policy Research Institute who is a critic of the stimulus, thinks the number of saved jobs probably was "overstated."

Last spring, the district announced it was eliminating 854 employee positions to save money. The job cuts included 209 teaching positions and 592 support staff.

By September, all affected teachers and about half of the affected support staff were able to find other jobs within the district. Another 200 affected support staffers have gotten temporary jobs or "on-call assignments."
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Quite interesting, don't you think?

E.C. :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

More on Online Education: R-J

phritzy-online1.jpg
Sheer coincidence that only days after I write a blog touting the potential benefits of online education, comes a very well-written piece in today's R-J on the very same subject. Positive article.

The one thing of note in the R-J piece is a quote from Anthony Ruggiero, president of the Nevada Board of Education, who is skeptical of online education.


See this excerpt:

http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:Q2mLKUKI_c52BM:http://www.doe.nv.gov/images/AnthonyR.jpg "But Anthony Ruggiero, president of the Nevada Board of Education, is skeptical whether online education is the same as home schooling, with parents doing most of the work.

He voted against granting charters to Connections Academy and Nevada Virtual Academy because he thought K-4 students were too young for online education. He is also leery of charter schools that are managed by for-profit companies. Charter schools, such as Connections and Virtual Academy, operate as public schools and receive public funding.

"All that money is leaving our state," Ruggiero said." 

 I'm going to take the other side...for many students that cannot function in a traditional public school setting, this is a viable alternative. It is an option for parents to have. And with the state's dropout rate and declining standards, options must be available to parents. I don't see anything wrong with that.


E.C. :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Raise the Standards: R-J

http://www.hispanicparadelv.org/images/las-vegas-review-journal-logo-175.jpg Today's Las Vegas Review-Journal writes an editorial asking state officials to raise education standards in Nevada. We rank near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to education, and quite frankly, an overhaul of public education in the Silver State is an understatement.


EDITORIAL: Raise the standards

Nevada education officials were mildly encouraged last month by a modest improvement in the state's math scores.

But the numbers may have been somewhat misleading.

Results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress testing found that Nevada was one of only four states to show improvement in math proficiency in both the fourth and eighth grades this year.

The scores were still dismal -- only 39 percent of fourth-graders and 34 percent of eighth-graders were deemed proficient in math -- but at least that was better than previous years.

Turns out, though, that Nevada, like many other states, has a different definition of "proficient" than does the federal government. Under the law, states are free to set their own standards -- and they do. While a few fix the bar higher than Washington, most do not.

Nevada, for instance, says a student is proficient if he or she meets the "basic" level on NAEP standards. But Gloria Dopf, the state's associate superintendent for instruction, admits that's one level below what NAEP deems sufficient.


In other words, some students deemed "proficient" at math by Nevada standards are nothing of the sort when judged by the national benchmark.

Now, none of this has anything to do with the slight improvement in Nevada's math scores this year. But it does mean that there are likely many more kids struggling in basic math classes than the state is willing to admit.


At the very least, Nevada should raise its definition of "proficiency" to meet the federal standard.


"States are setting the bar too low," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "We're lying to our children when we tell them they're proficient, but they're not achieving at a level that will prepare them for success once they graduate."


Indeed.

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I couldn't agree more, Mr. Secretary. The proverbial question is this...how do we achieve this?

E.C. :)


Friday, October 30, 2009

More on the CCSD speech debacle: NPRI

http://www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonists/dcr/lowres/dcrn223l.jpg 
Education Researcher Karen Gray inks an article over at the Nevada Policy Research Institute that provides additional insights into the proposed policy changes regarding public comments at CCSD Board of Trustee meetings. And the proposal, as written, raises concerns.

Remember, the trustees are elected by us, the people. If they can't handle criticisms (especially when it comes to our children), then they shouldn't run for political office.

Gray:


In a 180-degree turnaround, CCSD trustees are now considering prohibiting certain public speech and removing trustees' ability to respond to many public speakers.
Current board policy is that "trustees may choose to respond" to members of the public, whether the issues raised by members of the public are on the current agenda or not.

However, the "policy change" that the board is currently contemplating says, "trustees may choose to respond to you if your comments are addressed to an item on that meeting's agenda." (Emphasis added.)

Under this proposed new regime, therefore, if an individual raises an issue supposedly not on the board's agenda for that meeting, trustees will just stare at him and remain mute, no matter how important the issue. Official "policy" would even prohibit trustees from responding to comments or questions about policy — should such issues, however narrowly defined, not happen to be on the board's agenda for that meeting.
Earlier CCSD school boards gallantly pioneered the way for Nevada's tradition of open and reciprocal communication between the elected and the electors. Recent Clark County school boards, however, have affected a self-imposed code of silence that keeps the public at more than arms' length. 
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CCSW will continue to follow this situation.

E.C. :)

Nevada Education Notes added to Clark County School Watch

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Wxz0MCnePbY/SuOIB179FoI/AAAAAAAAAe8/qoRzw6esLKU/s320/psb2.png Karen Gray, an education research with the Nevada Policy Research Institute, writes in to tell us about a new newsgroup titled the Parents Sounding Board. It's found at the Nevada Education Notes blog.

It's been added to our lengthy group of blogs here at CCSW and the Vegas Valley View.

Here's what Gray says about the newsgroup:

For more than 19 years, I was a parent in the CCSD. I had my ups and downs with teachers, administrators, even board trustees. I volunteered in my children’s classrooms, sat on the learning improvement teams and parent advisory committees for their schools. I even participated in school board trustee committees and policy groups. I know I would have welcomed a sounding board like the one started at Nevada Education Notes.

As a parent of children with special needs, I know the pains and hardships of the IEP process. Later, I became a special education advocate assisting other parents through the process. I eventually went on to obtain a paralegal degree to assist attorneys in special education litigation. I know how helpful hearing about others experiences can be.

As I expand my research at NPRI, I want to address the topics that parents and teachers find informative and interesting. And, the Parents’ Sounding Board will provide that insight and give parents and teachers a place to be heard. 

Good luck on this.

E.C. :)

National education standards unmet...time to try something else?

http://zjvv.net/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/cartoon.gif

It's an all too familiar story, folks.

National standards for public education are not being met. Meanwhile, the rest of the civilized world is passing us by in math and science. Yawn!

How many of these headlines must we endure before something of concrete substance takes place?

Take today's article in the New York Times:

A new federal study shows that nearly a third of the states lowered their academic proficiency standards in recent years, a step that helps schools stay ahead of sanctions under the No Child Left Behind law. But lowering standards also confuses parents about how children’s achievement compares with those in other states and countries.

The study, released Thursday, was the first by the federal Department of Education’s research arm to use a statistical comparison between federal and state tests to analyze whether states had changed their testing standards.


It found that 15 states lowered their proficiency standards in fourth- or eighth-grade reading or math from 2005 to 2007. Three states, Maine, Oklahoma and Wyoming, lowered standards in both subjects at both grade levels, the study said.

One asks the proverbial question...okay, now what? Maybe the answer lies in viable alternatives. Online education.


Folks, this is home schooling on steroids.

http://www.k12.com/static/images/k12_logo.gif Recently, a family in the Silverado Ranch area gave me unique access to a demonstration of their children's online curriculum. They participate in the "k12" program (on the web at http://www.k12.com). Aligned to state standards, their children participate in a daily core curriculum of subjects, all completely online. k12 even sends parents the computers for their children to use. Students participate at their own pace. Promotion to the next level doesn't occur until complete mastery of the subject takes place. And results, this family told me, are quite noticeable.


An op-ed in the R-J last month touts the benefits of online education. Written by Gary Waters, the executive director of the Beacon Academy of Nevada, students of all levels can be served (and helped) by this method, he said.


Waters:



Online schooling, once thought of as new-wave and experimental, is now an accredited and widely accepted education option for students across the nation. Contrary to the old conventional wisdom, online schools are now recognized as offering challenging classes, advanced academic opportunities and dynamic social interactions -- both in and out of the classroom -- for a rapidly growing number of students.


A recent Department of Education study assessing the academic track record of students in online education sheds some light on the issue. Students completing some or all of their courses online performed better academically than peers in a traditional classroom. These students scored, on average, in the 59th percentile while the average brick-and-mortar student scored in the 50th percentile.


The study cited the ability of the online classroom to individually tailor education to meet each student's needs. Students have the flexibility to learn at their own pace, taking more time on subjects they find more difficult, or advancing rapidly to more challenging material. May educational leaders throughout the United States predict that by the year 2015, 50 percent of all instruction in public education will be offered online -- and some courses and educational content will be exclusively offered over the Web.


Also contrary to popular perceptions, a recent study from The Center for Research in Education Policy at the University of Memphis found that these social implications are far from negative. In fact, the study found that students enrolled in full-time online public schools demonstrated social skills that were superior to or substantially similar to those of students enrolled in traditional public schools. The study found that students were highly engaged in social activities, both inside and outside the classroom. Consequently, fears about the lack of socialization and social skill building in students who access online instruction appears increasingly unfounded. 


Because we have been unsuccessful in emulating what other countries do (and I'm going out on a limb to say this--especially since I'm a former public school teacher), maybe it is time to look at what is working.


E.C. :) 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

V-3 Introduces (and incorporates) Clark County School Watch

http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:tcjKDOkYMGSnuM:http://employerblog.recruitingnevada.com/wp-content/uploads/CCSD.gif The Vegas Valley View is now incorporating Clark County School Watch. What does this mean to you? Absolutely nothing.

While we've discussed some side topics, clearly this blog has taken a strong political/educational focus, spotlighting the challenges surrounding Clark County Schools. And word about this blog is starting to spread across the Valley.

Instead of completely renaming and rebranding V-3 as Clark County School Watch, it'll simply be incorporated into V-3. Some new links will be added and existing links will be moved over to a new sister blog that will be unveiled in the next few days.

It is hope that you will continue to enjoy and participate and comment.

E.C. :)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Protests abound over production of The Laramie Project

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/7/76/GVHSpic.jpg/200px-GVHSpic.jpg A Green Valley High School student stage production of The Laramie Project, which tells the story of the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming, is not only raising eyebrows among some in the community, it has also prompted a lawsuit.

The Las Vegas Weekly first told the story back in its October 7 edition.

LV Weekly:

The Laramie Project was originally the advanced-study class project,” says Jennifer Hemme, performing arts teacher at Green Valley. “And then the epilogue thing kind of came along, and it was kind of a natural fit.”
Natural, maybe, but not without risk. Because it tends to cause controversy, the play is avoided by many schools. “I think it’s an important story to tell,” Hemme responds. “It’s not pro-homosexuality or anti-homosexuality; it’s anti-hate.”

But now comes word (via CBS-8 KLAS) that a group of parents filed suite seeking to halt the production of The Laramie Project and Rent, citing adult themes.

CBS-8:
"I don't think it's age appropriate for her," said parent Mel Grimes.

A group of concerned parents objects to the mature content found in Rent and the Laramie Project. Though both have been adapted for a younger audience, the plays involve issues like AIDS, homosexuality and drug abuse. 

"It's taking the right of the parents of how to raise their children by exposing them to things that we may not want our children to have exposure to at this time or on this venue in a glamorized place on the stage," said parent Rick Magness.

The group, including Green Valley dad and attorney Cory Hilton, has asked school principal Jeff Horn to cease and desist both productions. In his response, Horn assured Hilton no student may perform without written parental permission and none will be required to watch the plays for academic credit. 
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E.C. :)

Redistricting takes center stage in Henderson

http://www.weaponsofmathdestruction.com/comics/58-public.jpg
A potential brouhaha may be brewing over a proposed redistricting effort in Henderson. The Las Vegas Sun reports a handful of schools in the southern Valley may redistrict students next Fall due to growth, and that has some Henderson parents fuming at CCSD.

Apparently, this is a regular activity. The problem is when school districts do this, schools and neighborhoods lose the continuity.

In my opinion, there has to be a better solution.

LV Sun:

Parents in a couple of Henderson neighborhoods are bracing for a fight over proposals to rezone their children to different schools next fall.

The Clark County School District’s Attendance Zone Advisory Committee took a first look Tuesday at proposals to adjust attendance zones for the next school year.

The proposals included changes to three south Henderson high schools, two middle schools and up to six elementary schools. The elementary school changes are to accommodate a new school in Anthem Highlands.

Also on the agenda are changes to accommodate three other elementary schools due to open next fall — two north of the 215 Beltway and one in Southern Highlands.

What drew the attention of parents at the initial meeting, however, were proposals to move middle school students in the Champion Village neighborhood from Bob Miller to Lyle Burkholder Middle School and to move children in the Pebble Creek neighborhood from Vanderbilt to Cox Elementary.
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E.C. :)

Stepping up with STEP UP

http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:tcjKDOkYMGSnuM:http://employerblog.recruitingnevada.com/wp-content/uploads/CCSD.gif The Las Vegas Sun has been reporting on efforts by some to create a charter school where students earn future college credit towards a teaching degree. But in today's edition, reporter Emily Richmond says a CCSD magnet program already exists at the Northwest Career and Technical Academy.

Reportedly, John Jasonek, executive director of the Clark County Education Association, unveiled a proposal which according to the Sun, "is an outgrowth of a successful initiative started by the School District and the teachers union’s Community Foundation in 2004. STEP UP (Student to Teacher Enlistment Project Undergraduate Program) covers the cost of the dual-credit classes and offers students scholarships to local colleges in exchange for agreeing to work in district schools for four years."

It's good that we're introducing this program to young students. My take on this is simple...students in teacher academies today need to understand the obstacles they will endure going into the classroom. A lot of teacher training comes from research professors who likely have not stepped foot in a public school classroom in years. They may not be aware of the challenges and pitfalls that silently await our neophyte teachers. So in these programs...if that theory can trickle down somehow to the suspecting (or unsuspecting) student teacher, maybe they will have a better sense of what to really expect.

E.C. :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

This really smells of corruption

http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:tcjKDOkYMGSnuM:http://employerblog.recruitingnevada.com/wp-content/uploads/CCSD.gif http://www.ccsd.net/trustees/images/trustees/linda_young.jpg Today's R-J reports CCSD school board member Linda Young (D-3) coming under fire for e-mails lobbying school brass on the potential hiring for former State Assemblyman Wendell Williams as a substitute teacher at the school that bears his name.

It bears the question...is this the role school board members should be taking in the course of "official elected duties?"

R-J:

http://media.lvrj.com/images/90*123/3954700.jpg A community activist is criticizing School Board member Linda Young for lobbying the Clark County School District on behalf of a former state lawmaker who had applied to be a substitute teacher at the campus that bears his name, Wendell P. Williams Elementary School.

"There's a lot of stuff behind him, a lot of baggage," Marzette Lewis said of Williams. "I don't want him around nobody's babies."
Lewis organized WAAK-UP, a West Las Vegas community action group
Williams, who lost his Assembly re-election bid in 2004 after a series of scandals eroded his support, once received the district's Crystal Apple Award in appreciation for his contributions to education.

The veteran lawmaker's fall from grace was fueled by evidence from his one-time employer, the city of Las Vegas, that he was getting paid for work he did not do when he was serving in Carson City. At the time, he also had failed to reimburse the city for $1,844 in personal cell phone calls.

That's not the kind of role model students should have, Lewis said.

Young on Wednesday denied she was using her influence to get Williams a teaching job, saying "I don't have that kind of authority." But she criticized school district staff for not responding to Williams' inquiries about his job application, saying it was a missed opportunity to get a male role model into a school where many students need one.

I don't know about you, but there appears to be a lot more here than meets the eye.

E.C. :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ill-Prepared College Freshmen Prompt New UNLV Study

http://t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:FcksElEJCaFgcM:http://zobi09.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/unlv1.jpg The area's college freshmen are spending more and more time in remedial classes, prompting a new research project by UNLV research staff.

This past Sunday's Las Vegas Sun reports that last year, "more than a third of the Nevada high school graduates who enrolled at the state’s universities and colleges required remedial classes in English and mathematics, at a cost of over $2 million."

UNLV staff refuse to blame teachers, but rather the system needs to be more scrutinized. One answer seems to be "better tests." Well, in our asinine test-driven curriculum, where we spend more time teaching our kids how to take a three-hour exam than teaching them how to read and write and spell and balance a checkbook and how to find Florida on a map, that's the weak way out of the situation.

Sun:


[Neal] Smatresk, who served as UNLV’s executive vice president and provost before being appointed president in August, said the ultimate purpose of his initiative is to reduce the need for incoming UNLV freshmen to take remedial classes.

“It’s not about blaming teachers, it’s about revealing the problems we have and then honestly developing strategies to resolve them,” Smatresk said. “We would like to call it an attempt to help the teachers.”

When I recently blogged about public education in North Carolina, I covered this very issue. See this post I wrote back on November 27, 2007 over at Guilford School Watch. Also see this one from March of 2007.

It is startling, folks. It is about time someone wake up and smell the coffee because it is a travesty of justice that our children are ill-prepared and ill-equipped to handle college-level work.

E.C. :)

No School on Fridays for Hawaii

http://www.google.com/hostednews/img/ap_logo.gif?hl=en
Just when you thought you've seen it all, now comes word that money woes are so bad in Hawaii, they are shutting schools down on Fridays.

Yes, that's right...three-day weekends for students, every week.

Read this nonsense from the AP:


HONOLULU — At a time when President Barack Obama is pushing for more time in the classroom, his home state has created the nation's shortest school year under a new union contract that closes schools on most Fridays for the remainder of the academic calendar.

The deal whacks 17 days from the school year for budget-cutting reasons and has education advocates incensed that Hawaii is drastically cutting the academic calendar at a time when it already ranks near the bottom in national educational achievement.

While many school districts have laid off or furloughed teachers, reduced pay and planning days and otherwise cut costs, Hawaii's 171,000 public schools students now find themselves with only 163 instructional days, compared with 180 in most districts in the U.S.

What have we come to?

E.C. :)