N. Y. Times: Who Needs Charters When You Have Schools Like This!

Ask children, teachers, and parents about time.  They will likely say:  “There’s not enough time in a day to do what needs to be done”.    There are ways to do something about it.  We in Alachua County have been talking about how to reorganize the day to fit in pre school, hands on academic programs, school activities, and after school activities in a semi rational way.  We are asking if it is possible, without large influxes of money, to make an 8-5 school day.  Could all of these activities happen in one place without driving teachers to distraction??  Our local league will study examples of how this could be done.

Professor David Kirp, University of California, Berkeley, already has some successful examples.  In Tulsa, Oklahoma the  Union school district has implemented a community-based school program that has defied the demographic odds. School attendance has soared, achievement has risen, and suspensions have plummeted.  We need schools like that here.

We have one school, Howard Bishop, that has been identified as a community school.  It is just starting in that direction this year, and has not expanded to the full eight hour day.  The community social services support, however,  are centered not in various offices in town, but in the school.  They have a ways to go to catch up with the Union school district, but the Children’s Home Society is helping them.

We all need to help community schools make progress.  If nothing else, you can help financially.  It is not all about money, though.  Oklahoma has lower per student funding than Florida, and this district has found a way to expand the day and still make ends meet.  Let’s find out how.

With community support we can begin to dream of a world where the lack of time does not manage us; we manage time!  Let’s see if we can make our public schools the envy of the world of choice.

 

League Forum on Schools of the Future


The League of Women Voters invites you to join us in Gainesville on March 4th. We are celebrating the Schools of the Future with Peggy Brookins, CEO of the National Professional Teachers Certification organization.  She is on the President’s Commission on Education.  Peggy was a teacher and innovator in Florida for many years before joining the National Board.

Following her presentation will be a panel of educators who will respond to audience questions.  Panelists include the Deputy Superintendent, Teacher of the Year, elementary and secondary curriculum specialists and the head of the Alachua County Council of PTAs.

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Technology: Are children at risk?

by Carole Hentschel

baby-84626_1280In this post, Carole Hentschel expresses concern about rampant expansion of the use of educational technology for young children.  National Public Radio reported on the health risks for excessive screen time just this morning.  For some, online learning is a solution to looming teacher shortages.  For others, the real issue is one of educational quality.  The truth is that all of these factors deserve close scrutiny.   We cannot be alarmist; nor can we be complacent.  We must be alert.Continue reading

Lake County Rejects New CSUSA Charter

curriculum plate-413157_1280NOTE: FROM KAREN WEST:  I served on the charter review committee as the “community member” for the second year.  Our strategy was to highlight all the weaknesses in the CSUSA proposal when we presented it to the Lake Cty. School Board in a workshop Sept. 19.  However, we did recommend approval of the application – with strong reservations – knowing that a rejection would then be handled by the appeals committee in Tallahassee which is heavily populated with friends of charter schools.

This vote by 4 of the 5 school board members was a surprise and delight to me!  It may have an impact of the selection of the new superintendent of schools, which will take place after the election of two new school board members.  As a representative of LWVTRI, I serve on that advisory board as well.

Many thanks to Sue M. Legg – chair of the LWVFL Education Committee for providing strong factual information about charter school companies and their financial dealings.

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Which Way Forward: A Broader Bolder Approach

faces-426078_1280There is a better way than the test and punish approach to achieving equity in our educational system.  School grades, student retention, student achievement gain scores for teacher evaluations have narrowed the curriculum and resulted in test driven instruction.  They do not improve student achievement.

What are the alternatives?  Many analysts report that solutions must be community based.  Educational, economic, and social factors are intertwined.  Improving schools takes the support of the entire community. How this can be accomplished is beginning to emerge.

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Why The Arts Matter in Schools

rawlings kidsThe arts change how students learn.  Remember when I posted the description of Rawlings Is Singing, and Dancing and Acting and Creating Art?  This school has been one of the lowest achieving in the district.  It was transformed, but the children are still there. Reread the post. Then, watch this video of the school’s first performance.

Rawlings is a traditional public school making a difference in children’s lives and their perceptions of themselves.  The arts focus on the joy in learning. The arts teachers and core curriculum faculty are working together to build students’ academic and behavioral skills in ways that might seem invisible to children, but you can definitely see how it is done.  The teachers describe the process.  It is fun to see.

I do not care what school grade Rawlings has had in the past.  Those grades have little to do with the excellence demonstrated by the teachers and students.  The State must give credit where credit is due.

Testing, When is Enough, Enough?

dmbtestI wrote this piece as a lead in to the testing forum sponsored by the Gainesville Sun on September 16th.  The issues are there.  So are some ways to think a little differently about current tests and testing alternatives.  The article was published today.  It starts like this:  “Florida has been using tests to drive instruction for years”.  It ends with putting Florida’s legislature to the test.   In between are  some ways to think about improving our schools.  See the article here.

Nathan Crabbe, the Gainesville Sun’s editor, announced a forum on testing to be held on September 16th at 6 p.m. in Pugh Hall on the University of Florida  campus.  He will moderate a panel that includes Superintendent Owen Roberts, Sue Legg (President Alachua County League of Women Voters, Susan Bowles (Teacher of the Year), and Shan Goff, Foundation for Excellence in Education.