Thursday, June 28, 2012
Public schools supporter says educators need to do a better job of making their case to an aging taxpaying public.
It was early in Jamie Vollmer’s transformation from education critic to public schools advocate that a superintendent invited him to spend a day in her district. She had Vollmer, then a business executive, do bus duty and work as an aide to a third-grade teacher in the morning. After a 20-minute lunch break, the superintendent took off the kid gloves. “She put me in an eighth-grade classroom on a warm afternoon,” Vollmer recalls. “I’ve since referred to that as the nuclear option.” Trying to engage, control and teach a class of adolescents gave him a new respect for what teachers face every day. “Many of these kids are victims of a culture that has assaulted their physiology [from medications they take], fractured their attention span and…
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Bethlehem Area School District ranks 370th out of 500 school districts in Pennsylvania.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
The Bethlehem Area School District ranks 370th out of 500 school districts in Pennsylvania, based on its performance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) Exam, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times. The Pittsburgh Business Times recently released its 2012 Guide of Western Pennsylvania Schools. The guide lists the school district rankings on the PSSA scores statewide. The formula for the ranking takes into account three years of PSSA test scores in math, reading, writing and science, according to The Business Journals. Three years of scores are considered, with the current year given the most weight. According to the rankings, Bethlehem Area was ranked 356th in 2011, dropping 14 spots in the past year. Here's how …
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Allentown School District may combine social studies with English to make more time for math. Is that a good idea?
On a recent 13-minute drive home from baseball practice, my 15-year-old explained to me how World War I started. Mind you, I knew the bit about Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand being assassinated by a Bosnian Serb but I couldn’t have told you why other countries started joining in like it was a brawl at an NHL game. For most of us, information has a use-it-or-lose-it quality. If we’re not called on in daily life to remember who was president during the Spanish-American War, it might slip our minds. What stays are concepts. How America’s founders enshrined freedom of speech, religion and the press in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. That America came to England’s aid to …
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Pennsylvania is seeking to revamp its teacher evaluation system. Should an educator’s job be tied to student test scores?
I sometimes think that good teaching is a bit like Potter Stewart’s description of hard-core pornography. The late Supreme Court justice said he wasn’t sure he could define it but he knew it when he saw it. Most of us could probably describe a great teacher we had with adjectives that are hard to quantify: creative, motivating, innovative, passionate, tough but fair, funny, dedicated and interesting. But how do you gauge those qualities in an evaluation system for teachers? Pennsylvania is moving toward replacing its antiquated system that deems teachers either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Under the state’s proposal, teachers would be rated distinguished, proficient, needs improvement or failing. State House Bill 1980, introduced by …
Thursday, October 6, 2011
More Valley schools miss the mark under No Child Left Behind.
To say I was a weak math student is a little like saying Hitler was a bad guy. Math teachers worked with me after class, my parents tutored me and I’d think I understood how to use the Point-Slope Formula to calculate something or other. Then I’d take a test and find out otherwise. I never flunked a class but that was only because back in the 70s my math teachers must have assured themselves I was never going to design bridges – at least none they would drive on – and they held their noses to pass me. Had I needed to earn a proficient rating in math to graduate, I’d currently be the oldest living high school senior. Yet, remarkably all my life I’ve found work that I could do without higher level math. This isn’t to brag about my ignorance…