Saturday, October 25, 2008

This Week in Surprises

  1. A small mermaid was frightened by my innocuous pirate hat at the office Halloween party.
  2. The Microsoft Word menu seems to be slightly different between platforms.
  3. The parts of NCLB I'm reading are surprisingly good.
    3A. Apparently most of the screw-ups are thanks to state interpretation and implementation.
  4. Sometimes? When you RTFM? It really does answer your questions about how to use the online library.
  5. Buying health insurance through the state website in MA is surprisingly like choosing a flight. Little comparison tables.
  6. When you get more student loan than you need for tuition, the college sends you a big, fat check that makes you breathe a whole lot easier, and will handily cover health insurance costs.


Narya said...

The Word platform is, indeed, different between platforms. I still find the Mac version easier to manipulate and customize.

There are three problems with NCLB: not enough funding is one. The second is that standards-based teaching can encourage (or even force) schools to teach to tests rather than teach to learn, and which assumes that all children can be assessed properly by the same tests (I actually am in favor of some standards, but I've never been convinced that NCLB does the job). The third, which is related to the second, is that some parts of the standards have to do with improvement, so that high-performing schools may be declared to be failing; a second aspect of this is that some school systems have encouraged students to drop out, etc., because then failing students are gone. In other words, lots of bureaucratic manipulation that would be better spent actually, you know, teaching.

The two fundamental problems--which NCLB does not even begin to address and may even exacerbate--is that we still fund schools with property taxes, and typically on a local, rather than state-wide basis, which means poor urban schools have fewer resources than rich suburban schools per pupil. You can mandate that children not be left behind all you want, but if there isn't money, it ain't gonna happen. The other fundamental problem is that we don't pay teachers enough (and the school year is too short--it should be full year, with several long vacations, rather than summers off).

kStyle said...

Re Word: Thanks for confirming that, I sort of thought I was losing my mind.

Re NCLB: Yes, those are all problems, but the interesting thing to me is that they are errors of omission.

1. standards-based assessment: the actual standards and assessment thereof are left entirely to the states to determine. I am for states' rights, but I do think a lot of the crap going on is because the states aren't doing a good job implementing federal legislation that is, in fact, very flexible.

2. good point about the continuous improvement aspect.

3. re funding: the thing is, despite all the criticism we hear about NCLB, the legislation on LEP (Limited English Proficiency) students actually provides a lot of grant money for ESL instruction. Granted (ha ha), this money must supplement state & town money, not supplant it. And, NCLB is forcing schools to give more attention and more resources to LEP students. It actually does have some benefits for LEP students.

4. Re assessment, there's an interesting provision that students who JUST arrived, who had no prior schooling, or who came from war zones are exempt from assessment.

5. There are some very cool provisions to help preserve Native American languages, including money available to create "high quality" instructional materials in those languages.

5a. There's also money ESL instruction for schools with high % of Native American students. It didn't occur to me that, say, Navajo speakers would need English help, too.

6. Also great: lots of mention of funds available to create family & community literacy programs for immigrant communities.

Yes, I agree, those 2 fundamental problems are not solved by NCLB, but one piece of (already VERY long) legislation can't do everything, ya know?

kStyle said...

PS And grants are available for teaching training is ESL instruction.

And, they are strict about the percentages that can go to administration (2-5% depending on the type of grant.)