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More evidence that hs students rule

From the NYT:

Re “Gatsby’s Green Light Beckons a New Set of Strivers” (front page, Feb. 17):

If F. Scott Fitzgerald knew that today’s high school students would be comparing Jay Gatsby’s elusive green light to admission to Harvard, he would be shaking his head in disdain.

“The Great Gatsby” is not a novel that glorifies the rags-to-riches American dream. It is, in fact, the very opposite, and I find it most surprising that the students and faculty of the Boston Latin School featured in the article could be so misinformed.

The light does give Gatsby hope, but between West Egg, where Gatsby is, and East Egg, where his hope is, there lies an insuperable cultural divide. The green light represents all of what we want, but that we never can attain. Jay Gatsby would never reach that light, for the end of his American dream saw him face down in his swimming pool.

Nathaniel Eiseman
Charlestown, Mass., Feb. 18, 2008

The writer is a member of the class of 2008 at Boston Latin School.

How do teachers improve?

I asked my class this question, having first considered the Time article on merit pay and the WAPO article on National Board Certification. And I realized midway through their answers that I had constructed the question badly. I wasn’t asking how teachers overcome the significant structural forces aligned against them — lack of prestige, lack of time, etc — but rather how they could improve on their own.

In other words, what do teachers need to do in order to maintain a thoughtful teaching practice? What needs to be in place for teachers, new teachers especially, to continue to re-think their practice?

Revised short talk on school discipline

Five starting points:
1. You must respect your students.
2. You must believe in your students.
3. You must trust your students.
4. Your intentions must be clear.
5. You cannot use academic work you want students to do as part of your disciplinary approach.

Five Statements
1. Be fair and consistent…but you don’t need to treat all students the same way.
2. Don’t make threats…but follow through if you do.
3. Discipline isn’t personal…but you are a human being.
4. The culture of the school may trump your efforts…but don’t give up.
5. Your whole class needs to reinforce the academic and “civic” culture of your room…but you can’t force them to do so.

Seventy Troubled Schools

New report floating about that purports to address the most “troubled” schools in the city:

The remaining 23 schools – the worst performers – would get academic coaches, increased support personnel and resources, principals who work year-round rather than on the district’s regular 10-month calendar, and more time for training and planning, among other benefits. The model for these most troubled schools was created by the district in 2002 and yielded good results until the program office for them was disbanded a few years ago.

Nothing here about empowering the teachers who actually come to work each day in these buildings. Why a “coach” when you could have more teachers? Why support personnel when you could have more teachers? What exactly is “more time to plan” ? Is that code for bringing in more well-paid consultants?

Supah Delegates

I don’t often read CNN, but in looking for Clemens information, I stumbled across this article, which featured the following quote from Willie Brown:

“[Superdelegates] are the keepers of the faith,” said former San Francisco, California, Mayor Willie Brown. “You have superdelegates because this is the Democratic Party. You don’t want the bleed-over from the Green Party, the independents and others in deciding who your nominee will be.”


What’s wrong with…

Usually not a huge fan of the books that explain the fall of Western Civilization but I did like this argument, as put forth by Susan Jacoby (or at least by the reviewer):

anti-intellectualism (the attitude that “too much learning can be a dangerous thing”) and anti-rationalism (“the idea that there is no such things as evidence or fact, just opinion”) have fused in a particularly insidious way.

Usually pundits/scholars base the latter portion of the argument on the rise of relativism. I like this characterization better. Oftentimes, high school teachers fight a losing battle in trying to get students to appreciate multiple points of view without allowing the “everybody has their own perspective so nobody is really right or wrong” stance.

Philadelphia City Hall: Tourist Trap

When I first moved to Philadelphia, I worked for an organization that often helped out at City Hall. A rickety elevator carried you to up to an observation deck that was open in all weather. The ride was free and the view was cool.

Now, after extensive renovations, the city has elected to charge adults five dollars for this experience. Do we have so many tourists stopping at City Hall that we can afford to discourage them from coming?

WPHS: Back in the News

Weird article here, where Ms. Snyder seems to be offering the “turnaround” story while simultaneously describing a baseline of trouble that hasn’t really changed.

I guess what bothered me is that a few students doing a few interesting assignments — something that has always been going on at West an every other comprehensive high school — is somehow evidence of a turnaround. Each of these schools has a staff where somewhere between twenty and forty percent of the faculty is doing a good job. Some of them collect media backers who return to their rooms every year or so for a piece; others toil on with minimal recognition.

Great RFA report

Cool RFA report here.

Only critique — and it’s minor ’cause these folks are heroes to me — is there appears to be a false dichotomy within the report between “neighborhoods” and “middle-class families”, one that elides the presence of Northeast Philadelphia.

These generally conservative neighborhoods are not particularly concerned about schools in North Philadelphia or whether young urban professionals move to the suburbs.

They have the newest schools in the city.

They have politicians like John Perzel who adeptly defend their interests.

North of Cottman lies nearly thirteen percent of the city’s population; North of the Pennypack nine percent of the city lives. Not a huge proportion, but enough to influence the educational landscape.