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Some students need our help

Bradleytech

An inner city high school. 95% of the student population receives free or reduced lunch. A dozen amazing students and an inspiring teacher. And a donor that promises to help them achieve a trip of a lifetime. But with just weeks to go (and after months of fundraising), the donor backs out…

Read their story, see their travel itinerary and learning objectives, and contribute anything you can. And please spread the word through all of your social media channels. Can we help this English teacher in Milwaukee and her incredible students achieve their dream? 

Inbox Zero

Sanebox folders

Over a 3-day span in late January I worked diligently to whittle the 1,014 emails in my Gmail inbox down to zero. I also cleaned out another 2,300+ listserv emails that were in a second folder. Whew! Since then I have managed to stay on top of my email and the reduction in psychic weight from feeling behind has been glorious. I’m now whittling down my 121 to-do items that still linger from all of those messages. Luckily not too many of them are huge items and I should halve that number in the next week or so. Sorry if you’re still waiting to hear from me!

Sanebox has been a lifesaver for me and well worth every penny. I forward emails to addresses like or or feb.9+4pm@sanebox.com and they disappear, reappearing later in my inbox only when I need them. In addition to using these addresses to schedule work tasks, I also use them in the BCC field of email messages to remind me to follow up with someone.

I also have Sanebox folders set up for each day of the week. I can just drag emails into them and they will reappear at 7am on the morning of that day. My SaneLater folder contains all of my listserv emails and messages from folks who are new contacts. I try to check this folder only once per day.

I am starting to use Trello again for my to-do items, keeping in mind that my emails should be separate from my to-do lists. I’m not there yet but I’m working on it. I also am putting to-do items directly onto Google Calendar and then doing my best to actually work on those things during the reserved times. And, finally, I’m trying to use Google Chat, Twitter, text messaging, and online communities to reduce the number of emails that I’m sending.

Wishing you productivity and serenity with your own email…

Friday fun: Ed reform caption contest

So I thought it might be fun to do a caption contest!

I loved this image from my previous post so much I cleaned it up and made it editable. So let’s have some fun with new captions. The theme is educational policy and reform. What caption might go under each image?

Submit your ideas using this online form. Be as creative / snarky as you wish. Winners will be announced next Friday morning. Have fun!

Ed Reform Caption Contest 00

An #itec14 apology

Sometimes when you think as publicly as I do, you make a mistake publicly and have to apologize publicly. My post earlier this week about ed tech conferences is one of those times…

I stand behind what I said in my post. Most of our ed tech conferences could use a lot of rethinking and many folks agree with me (96 comments and counting…). That said, I wasn’t thinking about ITEC, Iowa’s ed tech conference, in particular but rather about ed tech conferences more generally based on a bunch of experiences that I’ve had over the past year or so. However, because 1) some of the things I mentioned that occur at conferences elsewhere also were occurring at ITEC, and 2) I blogged halfway through the ITEC conference because that’s when my back brain bubbled up my post, and 3) I used the ITEC hashtag several times to share my post (along with other hashtags too), many of the hardworking educators and volunteers here in Iowa thought I was slamming our conference specifically. They’re absolutely correct. At the very least, I should have waited a few weeks to gain some distance.

I am deeply regretful. I hurt some folks’ feelings and angered others, people that I care about greatly and who have been tremendous allies in our state’s journey toward meaningful technology empowerment of students and educators. I’ve apologized in several other less-public places but am also doing so here for anyone in our state that I haven’t reached yet. It was never my intent to single out ITEC or any other conference. But my timing was abysmal and then I compounded the error with my tweets.

I have a tendency to blog what’s in my head and in my heart… Most of the time it’s fine. Sometimes it’s even great. But sometimes it isn’t. This time I didn’t do it in a way that worked, not here with my friends and colleagues in Iowa.

I’m sorry.

Living outside the echo chamber

Fortune cookie: The purpose of argument should not be victory, but progress.

This past weekend I engaged in a really long discussion thread about charter schools in which I was definitely a minority voice. Was it maddening and frustrating? Yep. Was I personally insulted on numerous occasions? Yep. Is it highly possible that I made no dent whatsoever on anyone’s thinking? Yep. Was I sometimes glad that those people weren’t in charge of my children’s education and sad that they were in charge of others’? Yep. Was it good for me? Yep.

In his book, The Big Sort, Bill Bishop notes that we are geographically clustering into like-minded groups. The same is true online, leading to narrowcasting and increased likelihood of calcified thinking within echo chambers. When’s the last time we stepped outside our bubbles? How often do we voluntarily expose ourselves to alternative worldviews? (who’s in our Twitter stream? our RSS reader? our Facebook news feed?) And how are we going to come together to compromise and make necessary policy and other educational changes if we don’t even understand each other?

Image credit: The purpose of argument, jon collier

No one can credibly argue that teachers are trained well enough to be effective and efficient in today’s classrooms

Apparently there’s yet another fear-mongering publicist named Alyssa (yes, a different one!). So once more into the breach…

Here’s the email I received:

On the heels of the recent Vergara ruling in California, which eliminates teacher tenure, the outcome has peeled back the Band-Aid on the appalling lack of adequate teacher training.

Whether the judge was right or wrong on tenure, no one can credibly argue that teachers are trained well enough to be effective and efficient in today’s classrooms. The challenges are too great and the support is so weak, it’s a miracle any teachers are succeeding at all.

And while the California challenges may be acute and the consequences deep, deficient teacher training is a problem from coast to coast.

EXPERT SOURCE: To speak with one of the industry’s top PD expert’s on what’s next to come – Alvin Crawford, CEO of Knowledge Delivery Systems (KDS) – the leading provider of professional development solutions K-12 – is available via phone or will also be at ISTE in Atlanta from June 29 – July 1 and available for in-person interviews.

Crawford comments, “Before we can debate whether teachers should have legal protections to stay in classrooms, we should create effective and meaningful support systems for ongoing growth and development of certified teachers so that they are adequately prepared to support all students.”

He believes that only then can we perhaps all agree that we want them to keep teaching as long as possible.

Crawford, formerly of SchoolNet and responsible for its explosive growth and purchase by Pearsons for $230 million in 2011, is an industry leader in the K-12 educational system and available to discuss PD trends, transformational classroom practices, and how to solve the lagging student achievement gap.

For more information or interviews, please contact me at and thanks!

And here’s my reply:

Alyssa, with due respect to you and Alvin, this PR pitch that you just sent me is a crock. Other than a few anecdotes, made-up education ‘reformer’ sound bites, and, apparently, messages from corporations and publicists who are willing to ignore the truth and use scare tactics in order to make a buck (‘here’s a fake problem and, oh look!, we just happen to have a paid service that can help you solve it!’), there is no real evidence that we have a large, systemic problem with inadequate teacher training. In fact, peer-reviewed research studies from the highly-respected Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond and many others show that graduates of traditional teachers colleges outperform alternative teacher preparation programs.

I’m sure that Alvin probably has some value to lend to the conversation about teacher quality and professional development, but your willingness to exploit the myth of ‘bad teachers’ and/or colleges of education is overhyped, irresponsible fear-mongering. Your overeager use of phrases like no one can credibly argue that teachers are trained well enough to be effective and efficient in today’s classrooms and it’s a miracle any teachers are succeeding at all and deficient teacher training is a problem from coast to coast contributes to an escalating climate of disrespect and disenfranchisement of educators and also distracts from some of the very real factors that significantly impact student learning outcomes.

What would the numerous wonderful teachers that you and Alvin had as P-12 students think of this PR pitch? Do you think that they’d agree with you and be proud of your messaging that their training was deficient?

Why are we hiring grossly ineffective teachers?

Here’s an email I just received. Think about the messages contained in this PR pitch…

Hi Scott,

As the Vergara case continues to steal headlines and spark debate, I wanted to offer up an alternative angle. Although it’s a complicated issue, the tenure controversy seems to boil down to one real problem: that “grossly ineffective teachers” are entrenched and protected. But that raises the question: Why are we hiring grossly ineffective teachers in the first place – and how do we change that?

If you’d like to dive into this overlooked aspect of the issue for a blog post, I’d be happy to set up a call with Joel Sackett of Paragon K12. Paragon is a teacher selection tool that uses decades of research and large quantities of historical data to actually correlate individual teacher attributes (both quantitative and qualitative ones) to student achievement. Joel would be happy to engage in a high-level discussion about the hiring process, including current challenges many districts face – whether a lack of funding, efficiency or effectiveness – and also explain some skepticism and strategies surrounding next-gen hiring technology.

To round out the story, you could also talk to Katie Shortsleeve for an actual use case. She works in Human Resources at Douglas County School District – a district that actually using Paragon K12.

Would you be interested in chatting with Joel and/or Katie sometime next week? Let me know. Happy to set something up and I look forward to hearing from you! Have a nice weekend, Scott!

Best,

Alyssa

Here’s my response:

Alyssa, with due respect to you, Joel, and Katie, this PR pitch that you just sent me is a crock. Numerous peer-reviewed research studies and our best statisticians tell us that teachers only account for about 1% to 14% of the overall variability in student test scores. Nor is there any real evidence – other than a few anecdotes, made-up education ‘reformer’ sound bites, and, apparently, messages from corporations and publicists who are willing to ignore the truth and use scare tactics in order to make a buck – that we have a large, systemic problem with ‘grossly ineffective’ teachers.

I’m sure that Paragon K12 probably has some value it can lend to the educator hiring process. But I believe that this marketing message is overhyped, irresponsible fear-mongering that not only contributes to an escalating climate of disrespect and disenfranchisement of educators but also distracts from some of the very real factors that significantly impact student learning outcomes. What would the numerous wonderful teachers that you, Joel, and Katie had as P-12 students think of this PR pitch? Or the hardworking educators in Douglas County, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, Chula Vista, and other districts that are Paragon K12 clients? Do you think that they’d agree with and be proud of you?

UPDATE 1

Here’s Alyssa’s response:

Hi Scott,

My point was simply that everyone seems to be focusing on the protection of the “ineffective teachers” being cited in the Vergara case, but not asking about how they may have gotten hired in the first place. And while no one factor obviously determines learnings outcomes, similarly respected research has shown time and time again that teacher quality is the most important school-based factor when it comes to improving student achievement – so it is far from insignificant.

Anyways, thank you for the feedback.

Best,
Alyssa

And here’s mine:

Actually, it might be better to say school-controlled. And, at 1% to 14%, it’s less significant than many other, more important factors such as peer-to-peer effects (which could be considered ‘school-based’) or non-school factors…

The subject of your message was ‘Why are we hiring grossly ineffective teachers?’ My point is simply that your messaging is untrue. With very rare exceptions, schools are NOT hiring ‘grossly ineffective’ teachers. Should school districts care about and try to improve whom they hire? Absolutely. Can companies try to create systems that will help schools with this task? Sure. Should companies and their publicists engage in fear-mongering scare tactics and grossly inaccurate overgeneralizations in order to try and capitalize (literally) on the latest education story du jour? I don’t think so, but apparently that’s ‘marketing’ in the eyes of your firm and your client, regardless of the harm and disrespect to our school systems and the dedicated people who work in them.

UPDATE 2

Another message from Alyssa:

I am sorry you found the subject line so offensive. I agree – it is over-the-top, but that is unfortunately par for the course. The double-edged sword of a “clicky” subject line that may be fear-mongering but will result in getting someone to open an email and then consider a nuanced conversation on said topic vs. a muted one that no one reads. Again, appreciate the feedback.

And my response:

You admit to over-the-top fear-mongering, yet somehow are so easily able to disclaim culpability… As an educator, why wouldn’t I be offended by intentional, inaccurate insults to and acts against the profession?

Not sure I’m ever going to understand the Bammys…

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Reflection of Worlds! [guest post]

As you’ve read the posts about the team, seen the pictures and watched the videos…I’m positive you’re wondering what actually happened while we were there. Am I right?!

Lets just take it day by day, shall we?

Day 1: So, Day 1 was on a Wednesday. The team had to be at the school by 4:30 and we left at 5 (in the morning, yes). We stopped every two/two and a half hours. It was a very long car ride, least to say. We got there about 11 am. So we had an hour to blow some steam before the FTC would allow us to come in. It was meant to be a socialization time, but I myself had noticed that not a lot of people were doing that. I took advantage of the time I had. I grabbed Logan, Ben, and others who wanted to come and we went all the way down and back up the very long line of teams. We met people from Chile, Mexico, China, South Korea, and a lot of people from almost every state in the U.S! It was pretty amazing, and a lot of teams were really nice. After they let us in we had an hour and a half before judging. During that time we set up our pit area, became familiar with the dome, and updated family members/took pictures. At 1:15 we headed over to judging where we had to wait I’d say a good 10 minutes. Judging this time around was much different than in the past. Usually judging is set up that the team walks into a room, only those judges are there, the door closes and there is silence until you/your team mates start talking. This time we were in a very large room with multiple teams and a lot of judges. The team went in and so did Mr. Dixon. After judging, there was hardware/software inspection on the robot. The rest of us did scouting, looking at other teams, and sitting in the pit area.

Day 2: Thursday. On Thursday the actual qualifying matches happened. Logan, Kazuki, and Collin were constantly back and forth between the pits and the arena. Ben went a long with them because he was media. I (Molly) was at the pit area throughout the whole day. A lot of people stopped by, talked, asked questions and signed our guest book. We offered them stickers, business cards, and candy. It was a lot of fun and interesting to see the different cultures, costumes, and others come by! Kodi was the mascot so she was always at the pits passing those things out. Adam, Cory, Nick and Jeremy were walking around/sitting with me, etc. It was a lot of fun that day, but really long. That night we went back to the hotel and did laundry/watched movies.

Day 3: Friday. On Friday, qualifying matches were coming to a close. We ended with 5 wins and 4 loses. That night we all went back to the hotel room and ordered chinese! It was a pretty boring day at the arena, but the hotel was pretty fun that night.

Day 4: Last day. That day we went and watched other teams, helped support them, watched some of the FRC and FLL games and just kind of took it easy. It was a really relaxed, easy going day. :) That night was so awesome though! We had been told previously that the FTC was going to throw a big after party. None of us thought that it was going to be that cool though. This year it was circus themed. They used up basically everywhere we had been in the dome, so it was a huge party. There was a rock climb, a couple of those bouncy house race things, games, laser tag, dancers, people who were on stilts, roller blades, and bikes, there was a photo booth, a black out room, air hockey, ALL the food and drinks were free and you could win prizes depending on what games you play! It was so much fun. :) Everyone was running around, dancing, getting glow sticks, playing games, eating the food. Mr. Dixon said that he went and watched these guys who were professional jumpers! It was amazing! :D Will.I.Am made a speech, and Montell Williams went to the World Championships too! It was so much fun. :D The First program is an amazing one, that teaches kids team work, socialization skills, and how to have fun while learning. The reward that myself and my team got for all their hard work was amazing. Everything had payed off and all sacrifices that we made was totally and utterly worth it.

I’m so glad I got to share this experience with you- the reader. If you have children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, anything… I strongly suggest that you find a First program somewhere near you and get them involved! So many people were at this event, it was crazy! This is one of the most amazing, mind blowing things. It teaches so much more than just knowing the math or science of what’s going on. It’s beyond anything else that I believe is currently offered to kids/young adults in the world today.

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Photos! [guest post]

IMG_2512IMG_2900IMG_0964Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.21.42 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.22.53 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.22.40 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.22.28 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.22.09 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.23.07 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.23.22 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.24.26 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.26.51 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.27.35 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.29.35 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.30.05 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.30.35 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.31.14 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.32.00 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 4.00.10 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 3.58.32 PM 1618292_10152069410786720_2323332808920340712_o BmNdRxPCQAEIbj2 Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 4.01.06 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 4.01.20 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 4.07.05 PM 1618292_10152069410786720_2323332808920340712_o 10291294_664742990228162_7538390883394401868_n 10178141_664742893561505_2179137614684017776_n Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 10.07.05 PM share_1398529659631 10321694_664743150228146_5013849957847023824_o 10313398_664743040228157_922818304832015278_n Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 10.06.30 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 10.06.44 PM

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnCaXiJWzMnr6Je_JHkZ-gg

 

photos and videos of our trip! Such an amazing experience. :)

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