Alan Sitomer's Blog – January 2010 Archive (22)

Meet Kelly Kovacic -- California's 2010 Teacher of the Year and National TOY Finalist

Last week I was part of an amazing banquet where we honored the 2010 California Teachers of the Year in Sacramento. Big kahunas were all over the place. State senators. Educational policy makers from the Department of Ed. And of course, the inimitable State Superintendent of Public Education in California, Jack O'Connell. (Being a part of this crowd is like being a part of my only real Skulls and Bones Society -- aside from this ning, that is... LOL!)

The point is, okay, I… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 30, 2010 at 6:30am — No Comments

Salinger's passing.

If I was going to craft a list of the top 10 books of the 20th century in our nation's English classes, the ones that have most shaped, informed, been taught, and so on, I have a feeling The Catcher in the Rye would make the list.

Today we note that the author of that work, J.D. Salinger, passed away yesterday at the age of 91.

I always really liked the fact that Salinger was a so-called "recluse". Especially since in this day and age, the rush for media… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 29, 2010 at 6:00am — No Comments

Age before beauty... it's not right!

Does it happen to everyone in education that they lose touch at some point, like an athlete that doesn't know when to hang it up, and they hold on for too long... to the detriment of those they have been hired to serve?

Thing about this issue though is that age, oftentimes, has very little to do with the matter of when someone should hang up their educational spurs. Truly, some people ought to take their chips off the table after but 3 months in this profession -- and for a… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 28, 2010 at 6:30am — No Comments

The higher they rise, the further they are from what they need to see

Why is it that the higher up one rises in terms of being an educational decision maker with real power to wield, the further one is distanced from actually working with real kids on a day to day basis?

Kinda weird, huh?

I mean, by this logic -- wacky as it is when you really think about it -- the ratio works out so that those who make the most influential decisions are the folks that spend the least (if any... and I literally mean, if any) time with real kids in… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 27, 2010 at 6:30am — No Comments

Now go out and get me the good data!

I greatly distrust the data I hear. Why? Because the way one presents the data all too often determines the message that the data conveys to the audience. And the less insightful the audience (i.e the more laypersons in the group) the easier it is to spin, spin, spin away.

For example...

Scenario 1: Headline

Local school doubles their test scores over last year! YAY!

Scenario 2: Headline

80% of students at local school… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 26, 2010 at 6:30am — No Comments

Data, You Make Me Smile!! ;-)

I love data. It entertains me greatly.

People collect data.

People save data.

People create data.

People fabricate data.

People withold data.

Really, what can't be done with data?

People spin data.

People generate data.

People ask for data.

People research data.

I bet there's even data about data.

I used to think I knew some things... until I saw the data.

I used to think I could believe in… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 23, 2010 at 6:30am — No Comments

You want the top or the bottom? America's bunk bed educational mentality.

My wife was talking to some mothers the other day about public versus private school. She's worked as a K-2 teacher in both settings for years and as I listened on, something she said really caught my ear.

Overall, she believed, administration at private schools were all about teaching to the top. Push it, set a rigorous pace and work your best students long and hard. That was the mantra. The rest will catch up -- or at least follow along. Kids in private school, that's… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 22, 2010 at 6:30am — 4 Comments

Sensible Evaluations of Teachers... and More Farces from the Front Lines

Schools are so understaffed on the admin front that sensible evaluations of teachers that are thoughtful, timely and fair to all parties involved seem almost like a pipe dream.

Take my school, for example. We have 4 admins on our campus: a P and 3 VP's.

That's for something like 150 teachers.

So if each educator were to get 8 classroom visits (two per quarter; that doesn't seem unreasonable, right? I mean not if you are to reasonably try to gain… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 20, 2010 at 6:30am — 1 Comment

Don't you love how everyone feels as if they can do your job better than you can do it yourself?

Whenever any other adult walks into my classroom, things change. Why? Cause classrooms are fishbowls and when a new species enters the tank, the environment changes.

Sure, in some ways, things will revert back to normal. Especially if I, at the front of the room, keep an even keel, and keep rolling on with business as usual. (Which I usually do. I have sort of given up on dog and pony shows a long time ago... but when you are a young teacher and you think that your job is… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 19, 2010 at 6:30am — 2 Comments

Was I just caught with my pants down?

The other day the Principal and a Vice Principal came into my room un-announced. Why? To do "informal observations".

I was given no notice, no inkling -- didn't even know they were in this wing of our school.

And still during the middle of 6th period they popped in, each took a position on one side of the room -- checksheet in hand -- and they observed.

I was at the front of the room at the time just having finished up giving a cloze quiz about the… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 18, 2010 at 6:30am — No Comments

Uhm, Houston, we have a problem...

Houston is gonna measure teachers by their test scores -- and fire the ones that don't add up.

Interesting stuff.

I guess we always knew it would come to this, didn't we? Nobody is questioning the tests; everyone is questioning the teachers that don't deliver the test scores.…


Added by Alan Sitomer on January 16, 2010 at 6:30am — No Comments

Will we ever again trust in the idea of non-quantifiable learning?

Here's the problem: our scores speak for our school before people know who we are or what we do.

The book is being judged by the cover. But does the cover have anything to do with gaining insight to or prognosticating about the content? For sure.

However, does it tell the whole story?

Probably not.

Does it tell an accurate story?

I am not so sure.

Does it tell a fair story?

Nope, I don't think… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 15, 2010 at 6:30am — 3 Comments

A Bubble Test for Policy Makers

How about a bubble test for politicians? I mean since they are so accurate and insightful -- and can be used to determine so much authentic insight into actual professionalism -- why not make the people who are making our students student up to the scntron have to step up to the scantron sheet themself?

I'll go easy on the -- it'll be a simple T or F bubble test.

Choose A for True and B for False.

Number 2 pencils only… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 14, 2010 at 6:30am — 2 Comments

Informal Surveys

During a class discussion the other day the subject of alcoholism came up. I asked my 2nd period class, "How many people have, in their opinion, an alcoholic relative in their family?"

75% of the kids raised their hands.

"How many people in this room have seen a beer commercial?" (They are 9th graders, kids that are 14 for the most part.)

All hands went up.

"How many people in this room have seen over 10 beer commercials?"

75% of… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 13, 2010 at 9:43am — 2 Comments

Responding to "Bad" Teachers

I had a former student -- now a senior in college who can't graduate because the last engineering class he needs is not being offered til next semester due to furloughs and budget cuts... another blog post entirely -- come to visit me this week. We chatted during lunch.

I asked him how he liked his professors. He said, some were good, some were bad. Then he added, "But the bad ones are good for me because they force me to learn the material on my own. I mean I gotta know… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 11, 2010 at 6:30am — 5 Comments

A student witness to murder-suicide in the age of NCLB

To many students, the holiday break of 2009 is long gone. But I have a student who will never forget it. That's because his uncle strangled his aunt to death -- and then shot himself in the head in a murder suicide -- with his nephew, my ninth grader, in the next room.

And yes, my student heard the whole thing.

Of course I am setting my goal to do all the humanistic work I can to make sure this kid, well... doesn't go off the deep end. But how his story will play… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 10, 2010 at 6:00am — 1 Comment

Is the playing field of teacher accountability truly equal?

I love sports. Always have, always will.

And if you love sports the way I do you really get into all aspects of the game. This even extends to coaches and how they speak with the media.

I have a feeling I should start to take a hint. (More on that in a sec.)

In today's world, it's a simple truism of life. If you can't "manage" the media (no one really "controls" it, but most coaches and players -- the more high profile, the more important this… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 9, 2010 at 6:30am — No Comments

Accountability and Irrationalism

I genuinely do believe in accountability.

I think this message of mine gets lost when I rip on the bubble tests as being the end-all, be-all of assessment in public education.

Yes, I do want elevated academic performance.

Yes, I do want high student achievement.

Yep, I am a big fan of improved classroom work.

However, I think the measures we use to gage accountability in education are flawed... and when flawed measures are used to evaluate… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 8, 2010 at 6:30am — No Comments

Raise your test scores -- that's all they want.

Yesterday I wrote about how first and foremost I must raise my standardized test scores. I also expressed how I was disheartened by such a cold, black and white reality.

However, these are the cards I've been dealt. The federal government is literally strong-arming the states through a lording of the purse strings over their heads (i.e. no comply, no money -- no comply, no money -- no comply, no money) to either raise bubble test scores in our schools -- particularly in our… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 7, 2010 at 6:30am — No Comments

The Ugly Truth That's Black and White

The Ugly Truth is that my number one goal for my students right now has to be to raise their 2010 standardized test scores.

I find it disturbing, off-base, heart-wrenching, and almost something shameful to admit. However, NCLB has my entire school's back up against the wall right now. The state is on the doorstep of taking over the district. The district has already informed us that if we sink to the next level of NCLB probation status, tenure for everyone on campus will be… Continue

Added by Alan Sitomer on January 6, 2010 at 6:30am — No Comments


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