Friday, July 31, 2009

Summer Reading Coming to a Close

I hope you've found some time during the summer months to take some time for yourself and read a good book or two. I've had some really enjoyable fiction reads including "The Doomsday Key" by James Rollins; "The Devil's Punchbowl" by Greg Iles; and I just finished "A Plague of Secrets" by John Lescroart.

All of them were good reads, and if I had to recommend them I would pick Iles first, followed by Rollins and finishing up with Lescroart.

Iles work is takes you to life in Natchez, Mississippi for corruption, gambling,prostitution, and dog fighting. He is very graphic in his writing--so be warned.

I've never read any of Rollins work but I enjoyed this story line and there are a number of ethical/real life questions that makes you really think about dealing with the earth's population.

I've always enjoyed John Lescroart's work and this is no different. Secrets continues to build on the relationship between lawyer Hardy and detective Glitzky. I was surprised when he revealed the person/s who were responsible for the crimes.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Editorial Facts and Common Sense

An editorial in the Oklahoman, addressing Oklahoma's poor showing in per pupil expenditure based on the latest US Census Bureau's report, brought out suspect arguements as it tries to refute Oklahoman's support of the HOPE campaign (SQ 744).

In an effort to address perceived short-comings, Oklahoma is compared to Utah whose students do better on the NAEP, despite warnings by NAEP officials for states not to compare results if states have their own state standards.

Utah's students are recognized by the writer as being "predominately white and more affluent" than Oklahoma's students. For years, the impact of poverty on kids has been a strong indicator of success. In comparing kids from the USA to other countries, America's public schools are bashed for not being competitive. But when you take out the scores of students in poverty, our kids come out on top.

No one is saying you ignore those in poverty, but to ignore the role poverty plays in students lives is irresponsible.

Another "fact" is that common education receives 35% of the Oklahoma budget. What the article fails to mention is that common ed use to receive 39% of the budget as its share continues to decrease.

Oklahoma is supposedly working very hard and will do better "when the economy recovers and revenues permit." Oklahoma is an oil state. The revenues coming in were incredible. Because Oklahoma had so much growth revenue, the legislature, thinking the revenue would last forever, cut taxes. They learned nothing about oil revenue, tax cuts and the impact on revenues occurring in the 1980's. For Oklahoma, our revenue problems, with a shortfall of $2B, are largely self-imposed.

The piece even states "[t]he claim that the Legislature enacted tax cuts at the expense of schools is unfounded...." Is it really? The state has a shortfall of a couple of billion, and it's not at the expense of schools? Not only schools but everything else.

Addressing salaries for the Oklahoman has always been about merit pay and the salary schedule. When presented with ways to enhance teacher pay, they balk at the possibilities and always return to the same old arguments.

Paying teachers to be competitive with other states and other professions gives Oklahoma the opportunity to recruit and retain people. However, when we aren't competitive, we end up with teacher shortages the legislature addresses by passing a variety of ways to become a teacher. We don't have a teacher shortage in our state. We have a number of graduates with education degrees who are in other professions because the pay and benefits are so low.

As more information is made available showing the legislature's embarrassingly low commitment to kids and our future, you will continue to see responses that try to white-wash the truth. Sadly, all Oklahomans are impacted by the "white-wash" and our state will have a difficult time competing and growing in its second century if the truth is not told.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Thoughts from a Boston Cab Driver

During a cab ride back to my hotel on my recent stay in Boston, I struck up conversation with the driver. He shared a number of interesting stories including fares in which he picked up a number of athletes, Mr. & Mrs. Tom Hanks, and his favorite passenger, Donald Sutherland. As the conversation shifted to Boston and the surrounding area, I asked him how long he’d been a resident. All my life, he said.

When someone responds in that manner, I always ask them why. For the driver, it was two reasons. The first was one I wasn’t surprised to hear, the four distinct seasons, which he loved. Many of the locals have said the same thing.

I was surprised with his second reason. He said he loved the commitment to higher education the city had to offer. Kids from all over the world come to Boston for school, and a large number of them stay and make their homes here. He loved the thought that his city was never growing old and that wouldn’t be happening without the colleges and universities in the area.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lessons from the Horizon Summer Programs

Earlier this evening, NBC News ran a story on the Horizon Summer Programs that are helping public school students address the "summer brain drain". According to the video, the programs help address the achievement gap issues by providing selected students with tuition to attend, individual attention, and a varied curriculum involving swimming and other electives.

In order to attend, public school teachers nominate kids to be considered, and the ones who get accepted have their tuition paid by a private foundation.

It would seem that money, individual attention aka. lower class size, quality time with kids (including schedule) and a well rounded curriculum make a difference in the achievement gap.

These are the same issues public school teachers have been advocating for their schools. Maybe now the "so-called experts" will address those needs for all of our public schools.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

2009 RA Sights & Sounds-OEA's New Leadership Team

OEA's new leadership team: Lori Burris-Mid-Del Schools, Senior NEA Director, Linda Hampton-Pleseant Grove, Vice-President; Alicia Priest, Yukon, Jr. NEA Director, Becky Felts, Tahlequah, President, Lela Odom, Executive Director.

They will make a great team and do an outstanding job.

2009 RA Sights & Sounds-Passing of the Gavel

The passing of the gavel to Becky Felts, OEA President.

2009 RA Sights & Sounds-OEA Skit

Whenever there is a change in leadership, OEA delegates to the RA give tribute to the outgoing officers with testimonials before "throwing them under the bus" in a special skit in remembrance of their time in office. Special recognition to Greer Nichols who played me and Vice-President Elect Linda Hampton, who played my wife Katherine.

Monday, July 13, 2009

2009 RA Sights & Sounds-OEA at the RA

2009 RA Sights & Sounds--Bob Chanin, NEA General Counsel

"During the Bush administration...NEA was audited by the Internal Revenue Service, repeatedly. It was investigated by the Department of Labor. And it was called a "terrorist organization" by the Secretary of Education....Attacks by conservative and right-wing groups will continue unabated....Why, you may ask, is this so? Why are these...bastards picking on NEA and its affiliates. I will tell you why. It is the price we pay for success. NEA has been singled out because they are the most effective unions in the United States.--Bob Chanin, NEA General Counsel addressing the 2009 RA.

2009 RA Sights & Sounds--Anthony Mullen, Teacher of the Year

"America's teachers and education support professionals live in very challenging and stressful times. Incredibly, many of the nation's economic problems are now directed at unions. We have become easy targets for some misguided government officials, economists, and media talking heads who believe it is time for us to give back and to share the pain. Well, teachers and education support professionals have burdened the pain of being underpaid and overworked for too long.

And since we have been given very little, we have nothing to give back. Teachers did not leave their classrooms and abandon children when the best deal in town was to work in the financial services sector. We did not join the legions of people that became wealthy by sitting in front of a computer and selling stocks and managing hedge funds. We did not envy friends and neighbors who prospered during the 1980s and 1990s and bought McMansions and took trips to Bali. No, we stayed with our students because we believe that education and our nation's children are too valuable to be abandoned for a new sports car. So we accepted our meager raises. We worked harder to narrow the achievement gap and did more with less to help our nation prosper. And now, some of the very same people who once asked me how I could live on a teacher's salary, are now asking me what I can do to help the economy. What my union is going to do to help the economy.

And I tell these people two things: One, teachers did not crash the economy. Greed and corruption by people entrusted with our country's financial health collapsed the economy.

And two, unions are helping to recover the economy by protecting the rights of their members. Unions are making sure that what has made our country great, the middle class, will not be sacrificed for the decadence of Wall Street."--Anthony Mullen, 2009 National Teacher of the Year

2009 RA Sights & Sounds--Linda Darling-Hammond, NEA Friend of Education

"We need federal education policies that support educators in doing the challenging work they have committed to do, that supports schools to improve, that supports students in and out of school with adequate health care, with housing, with community supports. You know, when you go to high-achieving nations around the world, they don't have children who are homeless. They don't have children without health care. They have a safety net that enables every child to come to school ready to learn that day and to take advantage of what the school has to offer, as well as well-qualified teachers, counselors, principals and plentiful, high-quality learning materials. We need to meet international standards by treating education and teaching in this country the way they are treated in high-achieving nations around the world."--Linda Darling-Hammond, 2009 NEA Friend of Education

2009 RA Sights & Sounds--Dennis Van Roekel's Keynote Address

"And contrary to what our opponents might say... NEA welcomes a national conversation about how to transform our school system... better ways to measure student learning... to improve the practice of our profession... to attract bright and talented students into teaching... and to confront the problems that plague poor and minority children in struggling schools."--NEA President Dennis Van Roekel's keynote address on July 3.

2009 RA Sights & Sounds--Arne Duncan

"The President and I have both said repeatedly that we are not going to impose reform but rather work with teachers, principals, and unions to find what works."-Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

2009 RA Sights & Sounds-OEA Night Out

The 2009 Oklahoma Night Out was a ballgame. We started out in the bright, warm sun, but as soon as it went down, it got cool--mid 60's. Unfortunately for San Diego fans, the Padres' bats were just as cold as they lost 6-1 to Houston.