Thursday, June 9, 2011

Top Eleven List: Things to Think About Tonight. Or Tomorrow.

1. The tenure bills passed the House. All of them. One major change, given how many layoffs have happened this past year...the seniority rule of "last in, first out" changes (this was pushed by a group championed by Michelle Rhee, the highly controversial former Washington DC superintendent). Another bill limits topics that can be bargained to wages and benefits.  I think this could be a sea change for many school districts. Read more about it in this Grand Rapids Press article.
As far as evaluation goes, of course it is important. It also strikes me that many principals are lousy at it. Principals are typically trained to be administrators, not managers. If we're going to ask them to be managers, then we'd better make sure we're training them on that!
It also highlights for me how disorganized the teachers, and teachers' unions have been. And by the way, it has always surprised me how many Republican teachers I know. And there are plenty of teachers who live in districts represented by Republicans. So tell me--do those teachers agree with the new laws? Or did they just forget to press their Representatives? 

2. I've written previously about how Carolyn King broke the Little League barrier for girls nationally in Ypsilanti.  Well, it turns out that there is a very elite all-girls' baseball team (yes, not softball) called the Dream Team--and they are coming to play in an elite baseball tournament in Ypsilanti this very weekend! Read about it in this Detroit Free Press article. What's even better is that you can go watch them, as well as some other very good teams, this weekend--and it's free! These are very high-level teams. That story reminds me that my older son had a girl on his baseball team for several years, and she was just as good as the boys. . . better than some of them.
Details of the tournament, from the Detroit Free Press:
Check out the Dream Team
WHERE: The Michigan Major Elite will be held at the baseball fields at the Eastern Michigan Recreation Complex on 100 Westview Street in Ypsilanti.
WHEN: The Dream Team will play at least five games in the tournament, which features 28 teams of 13-year-olds:
Friday: Brighton Black on Field 1 at 2 p.m.
Friday: Great Lakes Cardinals (Canton) on Field 2 at 8 p.m.
Saturday: Boys of Summer (Ohio) on Field 3 at 10 a.m.
Saturday: Strongsville Stallions (Ohio) on Field 3 at 6 p.m.
Sunday: Consolation and championship games, beginning at 8 a.m.

3. Scarlett News--I was sorry to hear about the sudden death of the science teacher James Bryant. I had met him, but I had no idea that he was an Olympian!

4. The special education department (SISS) has at least two vacancies right now--Bill Harris is moving to Eberwhite to be a principal and there is another vacancy. Parents with special education concerns should make sure to keep an eye on the process of filling these positions. The other day I heard a story about a parent whose child has an IEP. The child was not doing well in school. They had a parent meeting a couple of weeks ago and one of the teachers says, "Oh, so s/he's a visual learner?" Umm. Yeah. That's what the IEP says. Teachers, read the IEPs. That's what they are there for--so you can tailor your teaching to the needs of the students you are teaching. Parents, don't be afraid to be your child's advocate...even if you have to keep repeating yourself!

5. I recently heard that the number of graduate students in the University of Michigan's elementary-school-age one-year Masters and Certification program (El-MAC) has dropped substantially. So maybe people are getting the idea that there are very few jobs out there. . . I've written before about how we are training too many teachers

6. I'm glad to hear that busing won't be cancelled for kindergarten or high school students in Ann Arbor. Although I understand the rationale for asking high school students to walk further, in my neck of the woods,  for Skyline students that would mean walking down a fairly busy street (Newport) with no lights or sidewalks while it is still dark out in the winter. It would only take one hit-and-run accident to change the whole cost-benefit analysis. I'm glad the school board has recognized this!

7. Speaking about millages. . . did you know that even though we approved the special education millage, it is still not enough money to keep special education funding flowing at the same rate as last year? Read the background here. Since special education funding is mandated, that means that money needs to come from somewhere--and yes, that somewhere is general education. What, you say? How could that happen? Well, I believe it was the WISD board that put this millage on the ballot. Why did they decide to ask for less money than last time? I believe it's because the WISD board operates behind the scenes. Nobody elects them; nobody goes to their meetings; nobody gives them any feedback about their ideas. By "nobody" here I don't actually mean "nobody." I'm referring to the general public that bothers to give the Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Dexter, Milan, Saline, Whitmore Lake, Lincoln, Willow Run, Chelsea and Manchester boards of education a piece of their minds. That public process sometimes keeps school boards (which are, after all, just groups of people) from making bad decisions. [Yes, not always. It was a bad decision to offer the incoming Ann Arbor superintendent such a high salary, and the school board was told that. On the other hand, the school board was also told it was a bad idea to cut high school transportation, and they listened.]  Scott Menzel, I hope you are planning on making the activities of the WISD more public. 

8. The Manchester School Board is conducting a non-traditional search for a Superintendent (they have informally identified a preferred candidate). The first interview will be June 21. Read about it here. In addition, according to the Manchester Enterprise article, the next regular school board meeting is scheduled for at 6:30 p.m. June 20 in the Ackerson Building and will begin with the budget hearing.

9. School of Choice enrollment for Ann Arbor fell short. Surprise, surprise. Remember when I discussed the school board and administration's rationale for not opening up the high schools to school of choice students? I was pretty critical of their reasoning. You know, Ann Arbor school board, there is actually still time to do that. And if not this year, there is always next year.

10. It looks like James Dickson has joined the Ann Arbor Journal/Heritage Newspapers and has been assigned the local schools beat. I believe he was one of the layoffs from a couple of months ago. I personally welcome any additional coverage of local school districts. They deserve much more coverage than they get, despite the best efforts of Kyle Feldscher (; Jennifer Coffman (Ann Arbor Chronicle); Tom Perkins (stringer for several local news sites); and other freelancers. I appreciate all of you!

11. Do you know what the #1 post on this blog has been? It's (very) hard for me to believe, but a lot of people apparently want to know why some female softball players wear bows. Yup, that's right. I invite you to read my post, No Bow Lesbo, to find out the answer. 

1 comment:

  1. I am discouraged by how punitive the legislation has been. From my perspective, this is less about reforming schools and more about dismantling them. I am a retired educator, and as a percentage of their respective professions, I would have to say I've seen more incompetent administrators than teachers. Administrators have limited training on evaluation, and really it is difficult to identify good teaching until you ask the students what they got out of a lesson. I was often surprised at what worked and what didn't work. The whole profession is further compromised by tacky, tacky research. Finally, you could get rid of a tenured teacher under the previous rules, it was just an unpleasant task that most administrators wanted to avoid. Now it is likely to be rather arbitrary.