Saturday, April 30, 2011

Inside Four Walls: Not Quite Ready for AP

Another no-brainer here. Administrators are in a rush to put everyone in AP classes and then this happens.
Even though students had marked deficiencies in basic reading and writing skills, and little desire to work hard, and even though they made repeated requests for transfers, the dragooning of students into my AP course persisted. 
My frequent reminders to school officials that students’ reading and writing levels and willingness to work hard were more important indicators of AP success than their perceived academic potential were berated and ignored. Administrators and some teachers countered with the “data-driven’’ argument that, not only does more exposure to AP courses and tests benefit students by preparing them for the rigors of college, but it signaled our high expectations of them.
It’s a great read about the frustrations that all AP teachers are going through right now.

I have a colleague who teaches AP Government for seniors, government is a required course to graduate. He has been trying to get parents and the counselors to remove the students that weren’t able to make it in an AP level course. So now he has a couple that might now graduate because they are failing. He feels bad and is considering something to help them out, like extra credit or taking the regular civics final and taking off the AP designation on their transcripts, which might not be legal. I told him that by doing it he would be enabling the administrators to continue to put lower level students into AP courses just for numbers sake. He’s a good teacher and realizes that the parents also pushed them in this direction, so he thinks the students shouldn’t be punished for their mistakes. I don’t know what he will do, but once again the administrators cause this mess and leave it to the teachers to sort out.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Venting the Anger: X-Men 1st Class

Seriously, how hard is it to make a movie based on a comic book that has such a vast history to pull from. And when you call a franchise "First Class", seems like it would be pretty easy to just look up who the "First Class" was and go with it.

Of course, I am talking about the new X-Men movie. I talked about it HERE once already. And I just can't see how they messed up the team. Everyone knows Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast (human form), and Angel.

Seems easy enough right? Well here is a screen capture from the new trailer. Let's see;

WTF?!?! Banshee?  Havok?? Who is now Cyclops' dad instead of younger brother???? Magneto? Mystique???? Seriously HOW CAN YOU SCREW IT UP!!!!

And what is up with Havok's costume? He looks like a character in Tron that has his Identity Disk on backwards. At least they got Emma Frost's suit somewhat right.

On it's own it might be a fine movie, but come on too many X-Men fans are familiar with the back story to believe something like this.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Sun Always Shines on T.V.: Storage War$

I really don’t like reality tv. I mean the first 2 season of The Real World were good and a couple of other reality shows were ok, but for the most part it’s a bunch of wanna-be’s trying to whore themselves out for fame. On top of that, you don’t know if the show is really “real” or if it is scripted and filmed, I’m looking at you The Hills.

Well all of this leads me to my favorite new show, Storage War$. Basically, the show follows around 4 different guys who go to storage businesses and bid on storage lockers that haven’t been paid, so they are put up for auction. Probably the most famous story of these kinds of storage units is when Paris Hilton’s “movies” were found in a unit that she stopped paying on and were put online.

The show is really suspenseful to watch. They have a few minutes to look into the unit from the outside; they can’t go in or move items around. And then comes the bidding. I love this part, especially the interaction between the regulars. Dave is the pro and has a store where he sells all the stuff he finds. Jarod and his wife/girlfriend are the newbies. They make mistakes and usually end up getting nothing because the price goes too high. Darrell is one of my favorites because he is pretty impulsive and is willing to take chances. The last guy they follow is Barry. He is different from the rest because he is looking for collectibles in the lockers; he isn’t looking to resell the whole thing. Barry usually ends up losing money because he is constantly looking for that “homerun find”, unlike the others who are trying to make profit on each buy

After the bidding, they go in and look at what they got. Some lockers are full of great items, like memorabilia or antiques. Others are full of clothes and trash. It is interesting to see what people put into storage units. Dave purchased a locker for $200 and it had newspapers from the day of Elvis’ death and were worth at least $10 each and he had about 6,000 copies. He could make over $60,000 on that locker. Darrel got a crap locker for $175, but found a medical tool used in the early 1800’s that caused bleeding, it was valued over $400.

There is another show called Auction Hunters which follows a team and it is basically the same show except they go into more detail of selling the items after they get the lockers. I have seen 2 episodes and while it is good, the lack of other “cast members” hurts because there is no interaction between other bidders.

Inside Four Walls: Prediction Time!

We are testing in math this week and last year I predicted my scores and was off by a bit, except my Algebra B which was dead on. Last year, I counted all of my C’s or higher and said they would end up being proficient or advanced. This year I decided to count just my C+’s and higher to hopefully give me a better estimate. I have been saying most of the year that the students just aren’t putting in the work to pass the CSTs and well my scores will probably reflect that.

So here are my predictions for proficient or advanced;
Geometry – 43/93 46%
Algebra B – 10/26 38%

If these numbers hold up, then this would be my lowest scores for the CSTs. I have been struggling this year more than others on how to get the students to ask questions and do the basic work required. We all remember the challenges I had with my Algebra B classes this year. And is it my fault? Let’s take a closer look.

I have been doing the same thing in my Algebra B classes I did this year as I have for the past 3 years. This includes a daily quiz which tests the students daily on factoring, graphing, systems of equations, and another topic of my choice. We have factored everyday in my class since the beginning of October. And you know what? I still have students that can’t factor. Whether it is they can’t think of multiples of a certain number or they take out the wrong greatest common factory, they just can’t do it. What more could I do to help them? The idea of the daily quizzes is the whole spiral learning. I am constantly reviewing major standards/topics so they don’t forget them. Out of my 26 students, I have 4 who not missed one assignment…that’s it four. 2 others are missing 2 or less. But think about that, 15% of the class has never missed an assignment. I have emailed parents about this as well, telling them homework is crucial to them understanding the material.

Before this year, my CST scores for Algebra B were usually in the 60s – 70s. So is it fair to say I am a bad teacher because of this class? Or is it that I just had a really low group of students? How can my pay be determined by one test for one year? I have had students miss over 15 days during the school year. Is that my fault? Should I be considered an ineffective teacher because students don’t come to school? I wish politicians could see that there are so many flaws in their logic.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Inside Four Walls: Finally some sanity prevails

Most of my posts dealing with education have been about students having free reign on free speech while the teachers have been stifled. Well maybe the tide is turning? Maybe?
That night, Doninger wrote a Livejournal blog post criticizing the school officials' handling of the issue. In the post, she called the school officials “douchebags” and asked her fellow students and their parents to complain to school superintendent Schwartz in order “to piss [Schwartz] off more” than the mass e-mail had.In response to her blog post, the school barred Doninger from running for reelection as Class Secretary for her senior year. At the class election, school officials prevented a group of students from wearing “Team Avery” t-shirts. According to school principal Niehoff, the t-shirt ban was intended to prevent electioneering by candidates and supporters who could afford such merchandise.
So what happened? She sued and guess what? She lost.
The court determined that Avery's blog post constituted on-campus speech for First Amendment purposes, regardless of the fact that she wrote it off campus, because "the blog was related to school issues, and it was reasonably foreseeable that other LMHS students would view the blog and that school administrators would become aware of it." Slip op. at 28. The court then noted that school administrators have the right, in certain situations, to restrict on-campus speech to promote school-related goals. The court also ruled that Avery does not have a First Amendment right to run for voluntary office.
Who knew? This should be interesting to follow. Definitely nice to see this happen though. Students think they own the world, so it's kind of nice to see them come crashing down.

Music Non Stop: Arch Enemy - Khaos Legions

I was never a big fan of Arch Enemy until I picked up The Root of all Evil. It was a solid album, even though it was just re-recordings of their first 3 albums. What I noticed is that musically, they are thrash with a touch of melodic death metal thrown in. What throws them into the melodic death metal category full time is the vocals. I have grown to love the guitarists in this band. Some awesome stuff.

So when I heard about a new album I decided to see what it had to offer. They released a video for their first single, Yesterday is Dead and Gone. Musically, it's great. I can't find one thing to complain about. It hits it in the right spots. Vocals, nothing special but hey you know what you are getting here. I will say for a girl, she does some awesome death vocals.  I will definitely see what else they have to offer on this album.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Inside Four Walls: This ought to be interesting...

I have talked a lot about teacher's rights and blogging and what not. We have seen a lot of teachers recently lose their job or be suspended because of what they say online. And what they say isn't bullying, it's venting or just telling a story.

So it will be interesting to see what happens with this;
Sultan Middle School Principal Robin Briganti found herself the target of online bullying. Someone set up a bogus Facebook page, and posted vile words and humiliating comments under her name.
That's right a principal is being bullied online, by some students at her school. Some people have argued that it isn't bullying, but more slander, I would argue isn't it the same thing? I guess slander is just something we use when your an adult.

It will be interesting to see what happens here. Will the students be suspended or expelled or counselled? I doubt the principal will sue, but how would that play out as well. It's time teachers start fighting back and quit being the punching bag of the nation right now.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Remembering My Grandpa...5 years later

It's been 5 years since my grandpa passed away. It seems much longer than that, but every time go visit my Grandma I still miss him.  It seems like any second he will walk through the kitchen door taking off his hat and gloves.  We all knew he was dying and it wouldn't be long. I'll never forget seeing him and then less than two weeks later he was gone. There isn't a day that goes by that he doesn't cross my mind. I still truly miss him. Getting that call...I knew what it was about, but yet I couldn't believe it. The funeral, visiting his grave it seems all surreal. It's hard to except. I wanted my son to be born today so that April 23rd wouldn't be such a depressing day, but at the same time I am happy. So here is my post I made a few weeks after the funeral.

It's been one week since my Grandpa passed away, so I think I will share some of my memories about him. To me he was a great man. He dropped out of school early on in his life, before the 8th grade, joined the navy and ended up fighting in World War II. He met my Grandmother while she was studying to become a nurse, to which my grandpa responded, "why would you want to be a nurse because if you were my wife you wouldn't work." Classic grandpa.

My grandpa was a farmer . He ended up farming for years. In fact, he was still farming 60 acres of land up until he was in his late 70's. He would wake up in the middle of the night to change his water, to make sure he didn't over water his crops. He did most of the work, minus the actual picking of the crops.

He was the central figure in our family. At Christmas time it was grandpa who would hand out the presents to all of the kids and adults. When grandpa was happy we were all happy, when he was sad or upset we all shared in his pain.

How did he effect my life? Well let's see, he introduced me to golf. I would remember going to visit him in the summer to play golf at the same golf course he played at. It was amazing and an honor. Now I am not shallow enough to realize other things my grandpa taught me; how to tie vines, how to flood gophers out of their holes (that had to be one of the more enjoyable summers ever.) We could spend hours on end talking about football too. Whether it was the 49ers and how crappy they had become, or how the Sooners fell apart. He also taught me how to be a man, how to treat a woman. How to act in certain situations. Now he never came out and said "Kevin, this is what you do", but he always acted in a certain way that would always be the right way. Now there were times that he didn't act the right way, but he would always say later on, how he should have acted.

My grandpa was a huge part of my life. I spent every vacation hour (minus 3 summers because of football) at my grandparents home. Every vacation we had a different job. He would always tell us, that he has to do it because he didn't finish school and this was his life. I guess that hit all of us grandkids because 6 of the 7 graduated from college. That idea that unless you get an education, you would be doing manual labor stuck with us.

My grandpa was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years ago. I guess we weren't surprised because he had been smoking since he was around 12 years old. He had surgery to remove the cancer from the lung. Doctors say that if you can go one year without the cancer coming back, then your odds are pretty good it will stay in remission. Well, with my grandpa it was around 10 or 11 months when the doctors told him the cancer was back. He had no choice but to try chemo-therapy. At his age it was risky, but he couldn't have another operation. He was able to go through all of the treatments, except the last one. Most of the cancer was gone or drastically reduced. I saw him in the middle of his treatments during Thanksgiving. He looked well, he was joking around and we made some bets on the Rose Bowl and Super Bowl, even though we didn't know the teams. We also gave my grandparents a Webtv. Now this might seem like nothing, but my grandparents never owned a VCR. He was excited and happy knowing he could write to any grandkid whenever or check the weather whenever he wanted to. I will never foget his face when he said "So you mean I'm online now?"

We didn't go up to see him at Christmas time because my wife was pregnant at the time and couldn't travel at all. At the time I didn't think it mattered because I figured I would see him next Christmas. During the spring time he battled some serious colds and that also took it's toll on his body. It was in early April during a phone conversation that he commented that his shoulder was hurting him. I told him to lift some weights because he needed to be strong enough to lift our little girl. He laughed and said that his is trying. During spring break my parents came down and said I needed to go see him because he was very ill. I thought it was just my mom being over reactive, but she wasn't. When I saw my grandpa he didn't recognize me because of the medication he was on and because cancer was spreading into his brain. That first day was very rough for me and my wife. After lunch my grandpa walked outside and my wife suggested I go on a walk with him. I was very hesitant to, but agreed to go. My grandpa and I walked about 30-50 yards and back. We talked about the weather (as all farmers do) and about the neighbor building a house. And then he went out and started talking about the war. As soon as he started it was over. I found out later that that was his last walk. The cancer spread to his spine and legs and he couldn't walk. That is something I hope to never forget. The next day he was better, alot better. He knew me and remembered things about conversations from earlier in the day and years ago. My wife and I always played Uno for him, he loved to see me lose. He was sitting in the chair, in pain, but smiling at us and said "I remember that game you guys play, Uni" We said good-bye that day, never in a million years did I think I wouldn't see him alive again. In less than a week, they stopped all treatment and the next Friday he was in hospice care... a total of 8 days. My heart ached for him, my grandma, and my family. We prayed for a quick death so he wouldn't suffer. He was able to leave the hospital and come home to his farm to die. His farm where he made his life and legacy. He died at 2:14 AM on April 23rd. I miss him so much. I am so sad when I think that he won't hold my daughter, hold me, or hold his wife again. I know he is in a better place without pain, but my heart misses him so much. I was honored to be a pallbearer at his funeral this past week. I cried and smiled thinking about the memories of him. My brothers and I shared stories of grandpa over his grave talking to him.

My grandpa saw alot in his life time and lived alot too. My grandpa was and will always be a hero to me. I love you're online so you can read this now.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Thoughts Without Words: Online Cheating & other things

I have talked about teacher's rights before and have posted a bunch of stories about teacher's getting fired or suspended for writing something online about a student. We all know about the hypocrisy of students being able to blast us on or Facebook, but what about blatant cheating online?

Some teachers recently found out that their classes have a Facebook group made for them. On it, the students are clearly cheating. Some ask what answers are to homework questions and others ask how to write a paper. I haven't seen any posts relating to tests, but I only looked back a couple of weeks.

We talked about this and they are all going to keep quiet and present the findings at the end of the year to our administrators. I said nothing will happen to them, except a slap on the wrist and some "counseling".

One of my classes mentioned Facebook and I said what's the point of having one. They said they talk about homework and other things. They told flat out they ask for answers to homework questions. I said that was cheating, just like copying at school. Their response? It's not the same. It's not cheating.

But what about online cheating? Are schools responsible for this as well? Or is it covered because it's not on school grounds?  I am sure it goes on a lot more than this, but it just strikes me that students don't think twice about it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Video Killed the Radio Star: Soccer Trophy Ran Over on Victory Parade

Classic moment. Team is celebrating winning a championship and someone drops it and it gets run over by the bus carrying the team. Too funny. It happens around the 15 second mark from the left side of the bus to the right tire. Didn't the driver notice the big trophy in front of the bus?

Inside Four Walls: At least they're honest...

I was reading off grades to my students the other day. Our computer program also gives us the ability to see their entire schedule and grades, so if they want to know I tell them. Usually there is a strong correlation between math & science. The grades are usually similar.

This one student asks for the grades of all his classes and I see that the student has an A in science and an F in my class. I ask the student why, because they are usually the same. The student looks at me and says, "Honestly, Mr. W? I can't cheat in your class, you make it too hard for me to do it."

I guess I should feel proud?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Video Killed the Radio Star: Earth Day Hippies Save the World

I have been known to make fun of hippies and generalize them. Well this video isn't going to help stop that.

Thanks to Buckhorn Road for the video.

Free Speech for the Dumb: Arnold Schwarzenegger

The first "two-time" Free Speech for the Dumb award goes to our former governor of CA.

For those who haven't been paying much attention in CA our governor decided to reduce the sentence of a convicted killer right before his term expired. The attention grabbing part was that is was Fabian Nunez's son, Fabian was the former speaker. Schwarzenegger has tried to defend it, but he finally let his true feelings show;
“I feel good about the decision .... I happen to know the kid really well. I don’t apologize about it,” said Schwarzenegger, who noted in his commutation order that Esteban Nuñez, 21, did not deliver the fatal wound that led to Santos’ death. “There’s criticism out there. I think it’s just because of our working relationship and all that. It maybe was kind of saying, ‘That’s why he did it.’ Well, hello! I mean, of course you help a friend. I got nothing...seriously, this is why CA is messed up and why no one trusts politicians.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Inside Four Walls: Best parent conference ever!

So I mentioned earlier about my favorite parent conference of all time, so here's the story. It was like my 3rd year of teaching, so I was still learning. We were on factoring and I told my class that if you couldn't factor that you would fail the class. One student told me that I wasn't allowed to talk like that. I asked why and the student told me I needed to be positive and encouraging to students. I said that if you can't factor you would fail 4 chapters, too many to overcome. I told them they needed to bring their best so they could master factoring. The student said I was mean and that they were going to talk to their counselor. I said fine.

So long story somewhat shorter, we have the meeting with the parents (dad was a detective at the local PD) and the counselor. The student tells the story again and the mom chimes in about how teachers need to be supportive and encouraging to students and not tell them they can fail. The counselor took their side too, which I quickly realized is a common thing. When the counselor asked me what my side was I said that what the student said was true. That factoring was necessary for solving quadratics, rational expressions, and for finding roots of parabolas. And that if a student couldn't factor they would fail the class. I told them that I tell students this so they know they need to be focused.

At that point, everyone kind of looked at the dad. When he opened is mouth it was the greatest thing I had ever heard before, or since.
I'm sorry for wasting your time Mr. Wendland. I don't think there is anything wrong with what you said. In fact, it's kind of refreshing to see someone that is honest about what is needed to be successful. At least the kids know what they need to do to pass now.
Ahhhh so good. The look on the student's, mom's, and counselor's faces was priceless. The student tried to talk, but the dad stopped them mid-sentence. The dad stood up shook my hand and I left. That was without a doubt my best parent conference ever.

Tirades of Truth: Deadlock - Bizarro World

This year started off pretty fast for new music. There are a ton of good to great albums that have already come out and we haven’t even hit the half way mark. One of these albums that came out that peaked my interest was Deadlock’s Bizzaro World. I talked about it earlier and have finally had some time to sit down and give it a good listen and give a review of it.

I have been listening to Deadlock since Earth.Revolt. They were a standard melodic death metal/black metal band. Nothing special. Then they added Sabine Scherer on vocals to give them the male/female combination that other bands have. They hit their stride with their first full length album, Wolves, with the dual vocals. It was a breath of fresh air in the stale world of melodic death metal. What stood out on that album was End Begins. They added in a straight techno bridge into the song and it was really amazing to hear for the first time.

On the follow up, Manifesto, they experimented a bit more with a saxophone solo (Fire at Will) and some rapping (Deathrace). I think they pushed the proverbial envelope a bit too much there. They brought back the techno elements for the opening “track” (The Moribund Choir vs. The Trumpets Of Armageddon) which was really cool to hear it blend into Martyr to Science. But overall it felt like a let down compared to Wolves.

So that brings us to Bizarro World. This album feels like Killswitch Engage’s Daylight Dies album. It’s not a bad album, but it’s got the whole “been there, done that” feel to it. They cut back on the experimenting a bit, leaving it on basically one track, Renegade. They incorporate drum & bass into the song. Some have said it is too much, but this song is classic Deadlock. Lyrically they go away from the “save the world” lyrics of Manifesto, but some are pretty rough. Listening to Brutal Romance is painful at times. The whole “it takes two to tango”…ugh.

So what do I mean by the “been there, done that” feel? Deadlock is falling into a pattern with their writing. They will go blazing fast with the guitars & drums while the death vocals are going, but when Sabine comes on, they slow down. It’s predictable for this genre of mixed vocals. There are a few songs where the music doesn’t completely slow down, Virus Jones is one of them and it works nicely as an opener.  It stays in a more of a rock feel, but still no where near the metal just played seconds before.

You want an album to be memorable and this one has a couple of memorable songs, but once again falls short of Wolves. It is better than Manifesto though. I would love to see them speed up while Sabine sings. This is a tough year for my top 10 list, but this still has a solid chance of getting in.

Inside Four Walls: Some Honesty

Parent conferences are a mixed bag. Some go well and others not so well. I will tell my favorite parent conference of all time another time, but this one is pretty good too. I have a student who is struggling a bit, and to top it off this student hasn't been doing the homework.

The counselors usually try to give the student an out, or an excuse, as to why something isn't getting done. I'm not sure why they do this, but they do. It's kind of annoying because they are basically giving the student an excuse...I mean the student doesn't even have to think of one. I guess maybe they want to play good cop to the student in front of the parents?

Anyway, so the counselor asks the student about the homework;
Counselor: So I see you aren't doing your homework. How come? Is it because you don't have time to do it or you don't know how? 
Student: I don't feel like doing it. 
Counselor: Ok, so is because you just don't get it so you don't want to try? 
Student: No. I just don't want to do it.
It was pretty funny to watch both the parents and the counselor's reaction to the statements. When something like that is said, I feel like standing up and saying "ok well this problem seems to have been solved, I'll see you all later."

Most of my meetings have been the same, but it's one of those things that you are kind of required to do.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Thoughts Without Words: New Spider-Man costume

I must really love doing these comic book costume posts because I have done my fair share of them. In fact, I have talked about Spider-Man a time or two as well. Heck, the Ben Reilly costume made my Most Controversial Comic Costume Make-Overs of all time.

So fast forward to today when Marvel announced a new Spider-Man in the works, in the Ultimate Universe. BTW, the Ultimate Universe basically updated all of the old character for the new ploy. So what does it look like? Is it worse than Ben Reilly's? Well...

It's not bad. It's not great, but not bad. But it reminded me of another Spider-Man suit I saw before...
That's's almost identical to Alex Ross' costume for the Spider-Man movies (the first ones). While I like the first one, let's face it it's missing that iconic red mask.  It looks like it is trying to be different to Alex Ross' version, but it fails.  The spider on the chest is better, but that's it.  It's not horrible though, but if you are going to go that route, why not just copy the one done already?  I mean the whole triangle chest, red on the gloves, and bigger chest spider logo.

By the way, this new costume isn't as bad as Electric Superman or 90's-rific Wonder Woman.  I think it would have been better with a red mask somehow.  Oh well.

Video Killed the Radio Star: Lesson in Socialism on Video!

Awhile back I talked about a small lesson I do once a year about "redistributing" points to help out the lower students. It's a fun little lesson.

Anyway, someone took that idea to a college campus...just watch the hilarity!

the funny thing is the comments the lefties make about how you can't compare the two...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Inside Four Walls: Texas not part of America?

Yesterday in one of my math classes a student asked why we can't use a calculator on the standards test. Here is the conversation that took place;
Me: I don't know, it's just the way they want it. 
Student: that sucks 
Me: yeah, but did you know in Texas they are allowed to use a calculator on the entire test. 
Student: what? how come? 
Me: Beats me, just the way they do it there. 
Student: so they get to use it on the CSTs? 
Me: well it's not called the CSTs there because you know that means CALIFORNIA Standards Test. They call theirs the TAKS, which is probably like Texas Assessment... 
Student: So wait, Texas isn't part of America?(laughter from the entire class) 
Me: ummmm no it still is.
Good times, not a bad way to end the week right?

Venting the Anger: Raising Water Rates

Here in CA we have been told for years, "we are in a drought, we must conserve water." Well after a couple years of record rain falls, Jerry Brown declared the drought over. All the people rejoiced because there is a surplus of water, so rates should drop a little or at least stay the same right? Well not if you live in Santa Clara. They want to raise the water rates by almost 10% over the next five years Why? Well, it seems that all of that conservation has cut back on the amount of revenue the water district makes.
Darin Taylor, senior project manager at the water district, said the district needs to raise rates next year because water usage has declined. Water usage hit a 15-year low in 2010 because of the economic recession and a wet year, he said.
Well isn't that great. So the people did what they were supposed to do, not use water, and they are rewarded by getting a rate increase.

Yet another reason why people are fed up with government agencies.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Venting the Anger: CA Legislature has higher accident claims than national average

I don't know if this is funny or what, but in CA the Legislature would get to a car to use at the tax payers expense. They are looking at cutting that out or back. Anyway, the Sacramento Bee looked at the claims made by the CA Legislature and compared it to the national average. Here's what they found;
Of 122 claims lawmakers filed from 2006 through 2010, 59 involved what the insurance industry would consider collisions. For a fleet that ranged between 103 and 111 vehicles, that's about 11 collision claims each year per 100 vehicles. 
The national average for collision claims in 2008-10 was 7.5 per 100 passenger cars each year and 6.1 per 100 SUVs each year, according to Kim Hazelbaker, senior vice president at the Highway Loss Data Institute, an insurance industry data center.
These are our elected officials getting in all of these accidents! How can this be?
Lawmakers are required to carry their own liability insurance for the personal use of the cars, but the state nonetheless paid three claims over the past five years that involved relatives of legislators driving the state car. 
• The state paid claims of $19,037 in 2006 after Maria Robles, wife of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, rear-ended another car in Núñez's state-issued car, causing injury. 
• The son of former Assemblywoman Bonnie Garcia, R-Cathedral City, drove her car into oncoming traffic in 2006, causing an accident and $22,546.52 in damages. Garcia told the Orange County Register that her son was sick and she could not drive him home from the Capitol, where he was attending a ceremony with her. 
• The wife of Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, was driving him to an airport in the state-issued car and hit a disabled vehicle, causing a $32,678 claim.
So wait, why are we paying for relatives? That makes no sense. They are elected officials how come they get the perks? No wonder CA is screwed up.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thoughts Without Words: Another reason why people hate education & unions right now

Because instead of focusing on education & helping students the California Federation of Teachers decided to pass a resolution to support a convicted cop killer...nice.
The California Federation of Teachers (CFT) last month passed a resolution reaffirming their support for Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was sentenced to death in the 1982 murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner during a routine traffic stop.In the resolution, the CFT alleges Abu-Jamal’s trial was unfair and calls the former radio journalist a civil rights hero.
Seriously, what business does a teacher's union have passing a resolution like this? Anyone?

Venting the Anger: The Times is still obsessed with Value Added

The L.A. Times think they are the leaders in education reform because of their whole "value added" evaluations of teachers. Basically they compare a student from year to year to see if their is growth. If there is, then the new teacher has value, if not then the teacher didn't add value and is considered a poor teacher.

Now there are many things wrong with this, but I will just hit two off the top of my head. 1) subjects aren't the same from year to year. They are different and get harder. How can you compare an Algebra 1 score to a Geometry score? Totally different subject and different way of thinking. 2) if a student is already advanced and stays advanced, then the teacher didn't add any value to that student and isn't considered a good teacher. 3) teachers don't control who they get in their class! You can get the greatest class one year and the next...oh man.

In fact, the University of Colorado did a study finding errors in the whole value added method.

And yet, the Times fights on. They talked about it so much now L.A. Unified is going to release school rankings using value added data. How ridiculous is this? Well;
The district's ratings, dubbed "Academic Growth Over Time," can send parents a very different signal about a school's performance. Take, for example, 3rd Street Elementary School in Hancock Park, which has an API score of 938, putting it among the highest-scoring schools in the district. Under the new growth measure, 3rd Street is one of the lowest-performing elementary schools in the district.
You don't think it's low because the students are already advanced or proficient? You can't get higher than that. And API score is based on a lot of factors, much coming from the CST scores. So do you want a school to have low scores so they can add "value"? Seems pretty clear to me that this is some backwards thinking...maybe it's just me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Inside Four Walls: Can't believe what I heard...

I am a pretty open minded person. I don't get offended easily. In fact, some people would say I don't really have a filter on me when I talk and I never get offended. I mean one of my favorite shows is South Park.  Well today I was offended. In fact, it was so shocking what I heard, I won't post it on the main page. So for those that want to read the story...

Video Killed the Radio Star: A girl turns to the Darkside at Disneyland's Jedi Training Academy

First off my son loves this show. If we are near it when it starts we have to watch it. Plus every time he opens his lightsaber at home he says "activate".

Anyway. This is a cute little video of a girl who takes Vader up on his offer to join the darkside. Give credit to the Jedi Master on improving his script.

I can't believe she actually kneeled down like Vader does...classic.

Video Killed the Radio Star: Nice drive on the highway

Just watch this video, it's only 40 seconds.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Thoughts Without Words: Why people hate education right now

Just a couple of "quick hit" stories that helps you understand why people are fed up with education.

First up, Chicago. Seems that the principal of an elementary school was tired of seeing kids bring "unhealthy" food into her school, so what does she do? Bans all lunches from home. The principal thinks she is being a savior to these kids;
Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.
"Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school," Carmona said. "It's about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It's milk versus a Coke. But with allergies and any medical issue, of course, we would make an exception."
Can anyone say "nanny-state"? So now the school has to pay for everyone's lunch? Yeah that makes sense. You can't force someone to not bring a lunch unless you are going to pay for one.

Next up, Maine. Everyone talks about how education needs to bring more technology into the classroom. Sounds good right? Well why not give every kindergartner a brand new iPad2? Sure what's the big deal it's only going to set the district back $200,000.

Just a couple bone-head decisions that make everyday people hate us just a bit more.

Thoughts Without Words: Spring Spheres???

Via Joanne Jacobs;
Some high school students volunteered at a local elementary to pass out Easter eggs, but since we live in the time of political correctness and having anything relate to Christianity is wrong, they passed out spring spheres instead;
"I went to the teacher to get her approval and she wanted to ask the administration to see if it was okay," Jessica explained. "She said that I could do it as long as I called this treat 'spring spheres.' I couldn't call them Easter eggs."

Rather than question the decision, Jessica opted to "roll with it." But the third graders had other ideas.

"When I took them out of the bag, the teacher said, 'Oh look, spring spheres' and all the kids were like 'Wow, Easter eggs.' So they knew," Jessica said.
How stupid have we become as a society. First off a sphere is a round ball, not an oval shape. And when...nevermind. Just nevermind. When are people going to stand up and fight stuff like this?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Free Speech for the Dumb: Rush Limbaugh

As readers of this blog know, I am a Republican and conservative. I love Rush Limbaugh, he is right about some stuff. But when it comes to categorizing teachers. he's an ass and dead wrong.
"Can we get rid of the myth once and for all that school teachers, anymore, are these average, ordinary, next-door neighbors who are just doing everything they can to further the educational experience of your children? That's not who they are. They are left-wing activists, active members of unions who are oriented first by a political agenda, second by their own well-being, and your kids come last.

Could these people who are making what they're making as a result of state and federal accidents, could they earn that money in the private sector on their own? Do they have the skills? Do they have the talent? Could they? Do they have the ability to even do what they're doing now reasonably well? The whole educational system has been co-opted by people who have found an easy way to a good living, and they realize it and they don't want to give it up without a fight. It's always about the money."
I am not a left-wing activist. My job is not about the money, if that were the case I would still be at UPS. I'm not gonna go point by point, but when a voice as powerful as Rush's attacks us, then the attacks are going to get louder and worse. I love education.

Thoughts Without Words: Finally...someone gets it.

Unfortunately, he is a teacher. And of course I am talking about linking state test scores to how good a teacher is. Michael Haring does a good job of comparing doctors and cancer rates, what makes them good vs. bad. It got published in the Dallas Morning News, but I am pretty sure a majority of teachers in America can relate to everything that is being said here, whether you teach at a high performing school or low one.

I have said for awhile now that tying a teacher's effectiveness to a test would be like saying firefighters are bad if a fire grows beyond x amount of acres, police are bad if there are too many crimes, or like Michael mentioned, doctors are bad if they have patients that are over-weight or smoke.

Learn Me Good had a great quote talking about this;
Maybe I'm off on my math a little, but if we can assume that kids are in school for around 185 days out of the year and take 2 standardized tests, then 0.011% of each child's school year will account for 50% of a teacher's evaluation.
That pretty much sums it up for me. When I started teaching test scores weren't looked at too seriously. I remember my first meeting the dean talked about possible reasons for a test score to be off;
  • sick
  • drama at home or school
  • forgot the material from earlier in the year
  • more important things going on
  • blew it off
Now, all of those reasons aren't allowed. In fact, when we bring them up we usually get the "find a way to fix it" type answer.

Head over HERE to read the whole thing, definitely worth it.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Venting the Anger: And yet another reason not to be a teacher

Another sad but true story about special ed and discipline.

People don't understand that things like this happen all the time. We had a special ed student last year who had it in his IEP that he could not have anything searched without the parent's permission first. Apparently, the student was "forgetful" and might put something bad in there.

Special ed is certainly a beast of its own. Like Buckhorn's story, the one above, or mine from earlier in the year in which the parents were able to get the 50/50 grade split they wanted, despite my best efforts. And one question I would have to all politicians who want to link my pay to test scores would be; what do we do with special ed students? Are they going to be counted "against us"?

Discipline in high schools and education everywhere is out of control, but when you put an IEP into the mix, teachers have zero chance of doing what is right. Administrators don't want to take on special ed and it takes away any authoritative power we might have.

Venting the Anger: The Gas Company part 3

For those unfamiliar with my current events with the gas company you can catch up here & here.

We left off with the supervisor telling me that I am responsible for those payments and I could file a complaint if I wanted with the Public Utilities Commission. Talking with my dad though, he said that they probably wouldn't help me out. I also noticed that according to the PUC website, that I have to pay my bill and then if a decision is made after the fact, I would have to sue the Gas Company in small claims court...super.

So I tried to call them to negotiate something better. After telling the operator my story she said that they would go ahead and send someone out to get a reading since the new meter was put in. They would take that gas consumption and basically multiply it for the other 3 months. Bottom line, if you happen to come over to my house in the next few days, bring a jacket because my temperature is set at 65. Keep you updated.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Thoughts Without Words: Yet, another reason not to become a teacher... could get robbed in your classroom, BEFORE school starts.

Got this from Ricochet yesterday. A teacher was in her room when a robber came in took her purse, roughed her up, and left when she threw her hot tea on him.

When schools, especially before school starts, aren't safe anymore you know we have no respect.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Venting the Anger: Another reason not to be a teacher...

...even when the police have to use pepper spray to subdue an 8 year old, the school is still blamed for part of the problem.

Seems that an 8 year old student in Colorado was misbehaving and when the teachers went to remove him he started throwing chairs, spitting at them, cursing, and even picked up a sharp piece of wood. The teachers felt that it wasn't a safe environment so they went into another room.

What did the student do? Well he did what any 8 year old would say,
"I said I'm going to kill you once you get out of that room."
hmmm I don't remember saying that when I was 8.

Well the police showed up to take control of the situation. Clearly, any young child would know that when the police are around it isn't fun and games anymore and it is time to be serious. So what did young Aidan say?
Lakewood Police Officer Steve Davis said that when they arrived on the scene Aidan told them, "I will kill you mother effers," Davis said.
Ouch. Looks like someone isn't going to become a junior officer anytime soon with that response.

So the officers pepper sprayed him to get him under control. Extreme? Nope. Clearly this kid has no boundaries and he needed to have that done to teach him a lesson.

So how could the school be wrong here? I mean here's a student going nuts, threatening teachers and other students, so they call the police. Well the mom sees it a bit differently;
"I think there is a problem, but it's with school and Aidan," Mandy Elliot said. "It only happens at school. It doesn't happen at soccer. It doesn't happen at swimming. It doesn't happen with babysitters, with family members."
Here's a great quote that totally contradicts that statement though;
Aidan's mother said that she's tried putting her son on medication to improve his behavior, but it didn't work.
So wait? If it only happens at school, why put him on medication?

Well mother of the year isn't done yet. She is also an expert in negotiations...who knew?
"I think they should have approached him, tried to talk to him, even if it was from a distance. You talk to him and you find out what it is that's botherhing him as well. You don't just walk in, ask him to stop and then spray," Elliot said.
So she admits they told him to stop, but he didn't so they sprayed him. This is what most parents would recognize as following through. Obviously this is the kind of mom that threatens to take away and never does. The kind of mom that says if I count to 3 and then say 2 and a half, 2.... How many times should the police have to tell someone to stop doing something? It's the police!

If the mom's quotes weren't great enough, the kid clearly comes from the same gene pool. Here's his reason for threatening the teachers in the first place;
"I was rowdy on the bus...They didn't let me do something I wanted to do. We needed to do stuff, but they wouldn't let me. They put me in a corner with chairs and they called my mom," he said. "It was really the teachers because I just got really upset with them."
So it's the teachers fault. Of course, if they would have just let him keep misbehaving then none of this would have happened. Geeze, how rude of the teachers to try and make him behave.

Here's the story from Good Morning America;

I ask again, why would anyone want to be a teacher now? Here's a kid out of control to the point of police needing to use pepper spray and the mom blames the school.

Before anyone says, he is 8, the teachers could have controlled him. First, if they would have and the kid got hurt, then they are going to get sued. So I don't blame them for not doing it. Secondly, my mom was an elementary teacher and I would call her a pretty no nonsense teacher. She raised 3 boys and she had an 8 year old throw a desk at her. She told her principal that he needed to be removed from her class or an officer would need to be in there all the time because she didn't feel safe. Of course, the principal told her she is over-reacting. She eventually got an officer in her room for the rest of the year. But the point is 8 year olds aren't perfect little angels and can harm someone physically.

I'm fed up with parents like this. They never hold their kids accountable. And once again you have the old saying, "and if this kid isn't advanced or proficient, then the teachers are considered bad teachers." Right...

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Who Decides: Metallica albums

Well as I am trying to rank all of Metallica's studio albums, I decided to take a look at each one separately and determine how many songs off of each album I look forward to hearing. Now to say that this is my final list is far from correct. As you will see, Metallica's self-titled album (The Black Album) is 100%, and I can assure you it isn't my favorite album. This was just looking at the album separate from all other albums. So here we go:

Metallica (12/12) 100%
Enter Sandman
Sad but True
Holier Than Thou
The Unforgiven
Wherever I May Roam
Don't Tread on Me
Through the Never
Nothing Else Matters
Of Wolf and Man
The God That Failed
My Friend of Misery
The Struggle Within

Death Magnetic (10/10) 100%
That Was Just Your Life
The End of the Line
Broken, Beat & Scarred
The Day That Never Comes
All Nightmare Long
The Unforgiven III
The Judas Kiss
Suicide & Redemption
My Apocalypse

Re-Load (12/13) 92%
The Memory Remains
Devil's Dance
The Unforgiven II
Carpe Diem Baby
Bad Seed
Where the Wild Things Are
Prince Charming
Low Man's Lyric

Kill Em All (9/10) 90%
Hit the Lights
The Four Horsemen
Jump in the Fire
(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth
Phantom Lord
No Remorse
Seek & Destroy

Master of Puppets (7/8) 88%
Master of Puppets
Welcome Home
Disposable Heroes
Leper Messiah
Damage, Inc.

Load (12/14) 86%
Ain't My Bitch
2 × 4
The House Jack Built
Until It Sleeps
King Nothing
Hero of the Day
Bleeding Me
Wasting My Hate
Mama Said
Thorn Within
The Outlaw Torn

And Justice for All (7/9) 78%
...And Justice for All
Eye of the Beholder
The Frayed Ends of Sanity
To Live Is to Die
Dyers Eve

Ride the Lightning (6/8) 75%
Fight Fire with Fire
Ride the Lightning
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Fade to Black
Trapped Under Ice
Creeping Death

St. Anger (8/11) 73%
Some Kind of Monster
Dirty Window
My World
Shoot Me Again
Sweet Amber
The Unnamed Feeling
All Within My Hands

Interesting to see how this played out. Now some albums are hurt by the number of tracks on an album. Ride the Lightning and Load both have 2 songs gone, but Load has 14 tracks versus Ride the Lightning's 8. This might play into my list, but it definitely isn't the final version.

Inside Four Walls: Why teachers aren't respected...

I said this on Joanne Jacobs blog yesterday when I saw this video from a school on testing.

we do it to ourselves people. How many CEOs would do this during peak season of their business? The students are just moving around, heck that one kid jumps in front of the teacher just to get on camera.

It's things like this that give us zero credibility as professionals.

Thoughts Without Words: KIPP schools are loaded

I have talked about KIPP schools before and how parents/students/teachers all have contracts describing in detail what their roles are in education. And of course, if that contract is broken then the student is removed form the school. We in public education, don't get that luxury to pick and choose our students, we get whoever comes through the door.

Well today I found some more information about KIPP schools regarding funding per student;
In the 2007 school year, 12 KIPP school districts encompassing 25 schools received $12,731 per pupil from local, state and federal governments. Public-school districts where the KIPP schools were located received $11,960 (a few dollars more than the national public school average). Charter schools in general received much less on average: $9,579. Compared to regular public schools and other charters, KIPP received much more federal money, as well as more than double what other charters received in local funding.
So right away you see they are getting more money per student. So not only do they have contracts with students/parents they get more money. Well that isn't the biggest part because KIPP schools receive a lot of private donations from the wealthy like Bill Gates.
Besides the extra government money that KIPP receives, the study found that the 12 KIPP school districtis reported $37 million to the IRS in private donations in 2008, about $5,760 per pupil on top of the nearly $13,000 per pupil they received from the government.
Are you kidding me? An extra $6,000 per student?

The sad thing is, this will never get out to the parents who say we need our schools to be like KIPP. And a politician won't mention this either, so no one will ever know just how easy KIPP schools have it.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Thoughts Without Words: Emma Frost, X-Men: First Class

I have ripped on X-Men First Class already. And today they released a picture of January Jones in full attire.

Now Emma Frost has been around for awhile and started out as a bad guy. Recently though, she has been fighting for good. So before we get to the new photo, here are a couple of her comic appearances.

Her first style was this one. Pretty risque to say the least.
Her current look is a little more...modern?
At least she has pants on now right?

Anyway here is the movie version
Complaints? Can I nitpick on the hair? It has changed since the "fake" team photo was released, even though the outfit is the same. I guess it's that 60's style? I don't know. It seems like it is missing something...can't figure it out though. Maybe it's the lack of a choker? Just seems a bit off to me.

The Last Laugh: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed now a military tribunal

Wait, didn't Eric Holder say a regular civilian trial was the way to go?

I guess it could be worse, Obama could have been on record about it;
"The American people insist on it, and my administration will insist on it," Obama told reporters.

Well at least he is taking the high road and accepting responsibility for the change;
In stark language, Holder lambasted Congress for imposing restrictions blocking any detainees from being tried in the U.S., saying that the "unwise and unwarranted restrictions" undermine the U.S. in counter-intelligence and counter-terror efforts.
Way to go...another win for this administration. Where are all the Bush bashers to defend this one?

Free Speech for the Dumb: Mohamed Al Fayed

Sports stadiums and player statues go hand in hand. Chicago has a Michael Jordan statue, L.A. has Magic Johnson, Vince Lombardi at Green Bay, and so on. So of course fans were perplexed when their soccer team owner unveiled a statue in front of their stadium...a statue of Michael Jackson! Of course the owner Mohamed Al Fayed just doesn't get it;
"Why is it bizarre?" he said. "Football fans love it. If some stupid fans don't understand and appreciate such a gift, they can go to hell."
Really? I have scored as many goals as Michael Jackson has for Fulham. And he has been to only one more game than I have.

And one last thing...telling your fans to "go to hell" might not be the smartest thing in the world.

Thoughts Without Words: FEWER people going into teaching

***changed from less to fewer to be grammatically correct. Thanks to Anonymous.***

Another no duh.

I have said it before, anyone going into education right now has to be a little off. But let's look at the numbers.
In California, the number of teaching credentials issued annually fell 29% during the last five years, from 28,039 in 2004-05 to 20,032 in 2009-10, according to a new report by the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing. The biggest decline, nearly a 50% drop during that period, was in the multiple subject credential usually required to teach elementary school youngsters, while some demand for high school math and science teachers remains.
The 50% in elementary credentials isn't that surprising to me. Districts are dumping the 20:1 ratio, so that leaves a lot of those lower grade level teachers out of a job. And in our district, enrollment for elementary is dropping. New families can't afford to live in CA, so they are moving out.

What about those currently in the programs?
At the Cal State University system, among the nation's biggest providers of new teachers, the number of students in credential classes is less than half of the total eight years ago. An estimated 12,000 students seeking teaching credentials are enrolled at Cal State campuses, officials said.
Private schools?
National University, a nonprofit, multi-campus school that offers mainly online credential classes, reports that enrollment in its teacher training courses has dropped about 30% since 2006.
All no brainers. We are being attacked constantly. If a child doesn't succeed we are the first ones to blame. We are supposed to teach to a test, without teaching to a test. Who would want to go into education now?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Thoughts Without Words: One in five American mothers have children with different dads

Think this effects a child's education?

I feel like the one thing that is lacking right now in all the talk of education reform is the student's home life. I remembering reading somewhere how the student's personal/family life is the number one predictor of test scores, followed by socio-economic status.

By the way, if you are having a hard time wrapping your head around, what 1 in 5 would look like;
To put it in perspective, this is similar to the number of American adults with a college degree. It's pervasive.
wow...just wow.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Music Non Stop: Blackgates

I think I have made it well known that I like, if not love, John Bush era Anthrax. So when he left the band and they got Dan Nelson, I was skeptical. But after hearing some of his live footage, he was an almost dead ringer for Bush. I could live with it.

Well for whatever reason, they dumped him and brought Belladonna back in. He has a couple of side projects going and one of them is Blackgates. The line-up is pretty solid, but it comes down to the music.

stand alone player

QuantcastIt isn't as thrashy as his other works, HERE. But it does have more of an Anthrax groove to it. This guy is a pretty good vocalist. He needs to get a band together, a solid producer, and just go for it. His 15 minutes of fame is quickly running out.

Music Non Stop: New Arch Enemy Song

Taking a break from my "month of Metallica" posts, I will go ahead and share a new song, Yesterday is Dead and Gone, from Arch Enemy from their upcoming album Khaos Legions.

Sounds pretty good. Now Arch Enemy does have a female on lead vocals, although you probably can't tell because of how she sounds. I really got into Arch Enemy with their last release Root of All Evil. I will say this song at least puts them on the radar as a potential top 10 choice.

Arch Enemy have that classic thrash metal sound with death vocals on top of it. The guitarists stated they were influenced by Megadeth and you can really tell by the music. I would recommend Arch Enemy to anyone who loves that classic thrash metal sound and can stomach death vocals.