Outdated Schedules…

scheduleBrowsing twitter the other day and I noticed a Think Progress article on Outdated School Schedules. Are school schedules outdated? YES! Casey Quinlan makes a glaring mistake at the start of her opinion piece.

“The vast majority of parents — 70 percent — work full-time from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the median closing time for a school is 2:30 p.m. On top of that, schools are closed 80 percent longer than the typical worker receives in paid holidays and vacation time, which works out to 13 more days off than parents have, according to an analysis from the Center for American Progress.”

Schools do have schedules that do not mirror our workers, should they? Absolutely not, a work day is longer than a school day should be, it is not age appropriate to have students at school in a rigorous academic program for 9 hours. By starting her opinion with this fact Quinlan is continuing the  American assumption that schools should be the child care provider. Schools have become the dumping grounds for every social ill in the United States. Bullying is a problem? Schools need to address. Drugs? Address in schools. Social Media skills? Lets educate students in schools. Now the issue is child care costs and the needs of our working class. Instead of paying employees enough to pay for childcare or having work provided childcare options, it becomes a school issue.

Our society isn’t worried about doctors and dentists offices that only have appointment hours during the school day! Or the fact that many families choose to pull students out for family vacations or to help out with daycare. So the question arises how can we make a flexible school that assists families with their busy lives, honors the educational process and is respectful to teachers.

Why not build a school with no defined hours? Have it open from 7 am till 7 pm. Teachers can build their schedules with in those hours. Parents then can design their students schedules (and at the upper levels students can). This model would make all school look more like college. The school could utilize a blended instructional model. Students find quiet spots to work, when needed teachers find them to hone their skills. Student experiences would be scheduled but optional to all. ALL students could take the classes they desired as long as they kept up. (Instead of now having pre-selected elective classes where class choice eliminates other classes.)

Schools need to build more flexible learning models for students and teachers alike. Let’s work at building a model that values student learning not parents child care needs!

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Honoring Time

time

“It must be nice having summer off!” Rick exclaimed as he climbed into the passenger seat of my car. “Sure” was my quick response as I put the car in drive as we headed downtown to the 1 pm start of a Thursday Detroit Tigers game. “Hold it a minute, Rick, aren’t you working right now? Must be nice to work from anywhere with flex time.” Rick along with 4 others in my car were technically working on this afternoon. I was the only one with the summer “off”. All jobs are different and honor time differently. Many of my friends work in the corporate world having the flexibility to go to sporting events or other outings as long as their jobs get done. Often these outings are done in conjunction with work. As they are jealous of my “free” summer, I envy their working conditions that honor their time. A teacher’s day is very different than any other professions. My previous blogs: “A Teacher’s Day” and “7 Hour work day and summer free must be the life” talk about how a teachers work is different than other careers.

How can the educational system honor teachers’ time? It is critical for us in education to answer this question. As other careers create flexible conditions that honor employees time, the education field appears less and less desirable. Millennials desire a work-life balance. Does our current system allow for this balance?

During the school year, teachers teach during normal school hours. Then they are often expected to attend meetings and other school functions outside of the school day. While still creating lesson plans and grading student work during their evenings. Many teachers end up putting in 50 to 60 hours a week and sometimes more. Teaching pay is not growing at the same rate as other college graduates, but pay alone won’t keep them from quitting. Our educational system needs to change so it honors teachers time! How?

Some suggestions:

  1. Remove mandated number of school days and hours. Focus instead on student learning.
  2. Build time into the school day for lesson planning, feedback and meetings. Many educational systems around the world have figured this out. The US is lagging behind here.
  3. Allow more flexibility in the scheduling of school hours. Why do schools start so early? Couldn’t teachers design their schedules in conjunction with schools?

Education is an inflexible profession because society views the education system as daycare. Schools are used as babysitters for kids while adults work. We need to end this notion and fix our educational system.

Teacher Certification Matters

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Would you go to an non-certified doctor? Lawyer? Dentist? Probably not, those are all professionals that have a high degree of schooling. How about have an non-certified nurse or mechanic? No again. We value our health and our cars. Here is Michigan our legislators are considering allowing Non-certified teachers with HB 5384. Is this something we should be even considering? Do we value our students learning as much as our health and our cars? Teachers are professionals with a high degree of much needed education.

Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher! Legislators say they want the best and brightest teaching our youth, this bill shows that is just lip service to the voting masses. Teacher certification matters, just like licensing and  certifications in all other fields. Teachers need to have skills to work in the classroom. In fact Michigan recently changed the teachers certification test making it harder for candidates to pass. Now they just want to put anyone with a pulse in front of our students? Certified teachers aren’t what created the mismanagement in Detroit which has lead to its financial problems. It has been corruption by management.

Why is having certified teachers so important? Teaching is an art that requires certain skills. Without these skills teachers will fail and quickly leave the classroom, creating a steady flow of teachers out of the classroom. Teachers need to be masters of content while also understand how to manage a classroom. The teaching channel presents a great list of 8 essential skills for new teachers. These skills are keys to ALL teacher certification programs .

Certified teachers know:

How to teach

What to teach.

How to differentiate.

How to motivate.

How to integrate technology.

How to address every students needs.

How to manage a classroom.

How to connect to parents and community.

That relationships are key to success.

That flexibility and adaptability are needed.

Their students are more than a test score.

It takes training to learn these skills. Even our most skill profession, medicine, makes error. Currently the 3rd leading cause of death in the US is medical error!  Does this mean we should start allowing non-certified people practice medicine? NO, time to fine tune training to help reduce errors.

It is time to TELL Lansing to stop devaluing the education profession and OUR KIDS EDUCATION. We need certified teachers in EVERY classroom. HB 5384 is a step backwards in time. It is not good for our students, our schools or our communities! Don’t we value today’s youth enough to know this is a bad move!

Singular Education Focus

Iphone upload Oct 2015 1892-ANIMATION
Photo by: T Bloch 2015 advisory

 

Where should schools focus their efforts? This seems to be a frequent topic of conversation from political pundits. Here in Michigan our governor has just released a plan to reinvent our educational system to prepare students for a global economy. Are there some needed changes? YES, our system has pretty much remained the same for our 100 years. Changes need to be systematic. It starts at the TOP with a singular focus on our students. Four major steps need to occur for our state to shift our education system to focus on STUDENTS.

Step 1:

Seek educator input: The state department of education and our legislative body currently hold meetings and often make major decisions regarding education with NO classroom educators at the table. Schedules need to change so that education committees meet during the summer or travel the state to receive educator input. Regular school visits need to be held by any key decision makers. Teachers should be the largest voice heard. We are the experts. When legal reforms are made: Lawyers are listened to, medical reforms listen to doctors, construction reforms the contractors are heard, but when it comes to education it seems that teachers are the last one heard. WHY? All current road blocks to hear classroom educators need to be stripped away. Without this happening our reforms are like asking a lawyer for advice on how to repair our roads: just not going to work well.

Sadly every education commission focuses on having business professionals input. WHY? They seem to only focus on how the education system can benefit their industry, no build an educational system that benefits all students.

Step 2: 

Meet students at their level: Students arrive in classrooms at all ability levels. Some come ahead, some behind and many at grade level. How students arrive in schools is a function of our society not teaching. Many factors impact how students arrive, school have to accept them where they are, show the benefits of growth and help them grow. We can’t expect one-size fits all standards and growth. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Our system needs to promote a growth mindset for students by eliminating the rank and sort system. Sure all students CAN go to college, our system need to reflect ALL career fields and most careers don’t require a 4 year degree. Trade skills are being lost in our country due to our college focused educational system.

Step 3: 

Collaboration: In Michigan our schools compete not only on the sports fields but for students to fill seats in the classroom. With open school of choice and uncapped charter schools collaboration between districts and charters does not exist. Since businesses compete out legislative body (influenced by lobbyists) decided our schools should compete for students. The impact of this decision has drastically widened the gap between the haves and the have not schools. School spend money on advertising and marketing that should have been spent on students. Parent choice decisions are made based on cool school names, flashy advertising, infrastructure appearance, or technology. One school’s gains in another’s loss. With this constant battle for students, districts struggle with long term planning, causes staffing uncertainty hindering district growth.

This model of education system would be similar to ask General Motors to have each of its business units to compete against each other. A companies business units collaborate helping each other with weaknesses so they all can succeed together. Schools need to collaborate in this way, not compete, leave that to the sports fields.

Step 4: 

Equity: From community to community schools vary greatly. This is okay when the variation reflect the community. A school near a GM plant has an engineering focus, school by a fishery has natural resources strand or a school by resorts has hospitality program. Many times these variations are due to funding. One school has 1:1 technology program and the next is functioning on old computer lab model. The state needs to remember that equity does not equal equality.

Equity is often used in the argument for choice, but it isn’t working well. If schools are treated with equity, the choice is easy most would go to their local, closest community school. Sure their would be some specialized charter school but not the plethora of choices that are all the same.

 

EqualityEquity

Let’s build a better educational system! Just remember where our focuses should start, in the classroom, listening to teachers talk about THEIR STUDENTS. This is the shift that needs to happen NOW. End the rhetoric that persists that our schools are failing and it is the teachers fault. Society has been failing our schools, now it is a time for them to be a focus!

Dear Governor Veto HB 571

Gag

Dear Governor Snyder-

House Bill 571 is not good for our state. It is not good for our schools, communities, police and fire departments. It is just poor legislation. Kim Russell Writes in detail about this bill for WXYZ TV here.  As she says the bill will gag public entities from giving factual information about any bond issues for 60 days prior to an election. They are already ban by law from lobbying/ advertising in favor of bonds.

If you choose to sign this bill you will effectively ruin Michigan. Our already aging infrastructure will crumble. Why shouldn’t public entities be allow to share facts about bond issues? This would be the equivalent to banning politicians from campaigning for 60 days prior to their election! Oh wait no, public institutions aren’t allowed to campaign. It means politicians couldn’t answer questions about facts in their campaign or give any interviews what so ever.

It seems many GOP state legislators did not read the bill carefully enough and are regretting signing it.  If you won’t listen to those that are most affected by the bill. You should at least listen to those in your party who feel that it is an overstep by the government.

Most voters don’t pay attention to bond issues until right before the election. If you sign this bill you will be eliminating their ability to get the facts, creating many uninformed voters. A better bill would be not to allow any information about campaigns until 60 days prior.

House Bill 571 is not go for anyone,   only going to serve deep pocketed special interests. PLEASE listen to your state and veto this bill.