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A Classroom with a View

"Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all" –Aristotle

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Policy and Advocacy

Advocating for students and educators because every student deserves to have an adult on his or her side and every educator deserves to have a voice and to be heard.

The Human Faces of High Stakes Testing

I spent the weekend with my baby sister, and during the course of our girl’s weekend, we discussed her 14 year old daughter who was struggling in school. Because I am an educator, my sister is able to discuss with me the kinds of modifications and accommodations her daughter is receiving in school, knowing I would not only understand all the coded language of education but also that I would be able to provide her with advice. Unfortunately, the area she lamented the most was the dreaded STAAR tests, Texas’ measure of learning and “college readiness.” The absurdity of that particular statement is neither here nor there and is a subject for many past and future posts, but suffice to say, her 8th grade daughter must take an ELA Reading test, along with a Math, Science, and Social Studies test later this school year. This is, of course, on top of all the eleven other standardized tests she has taken since 3rd grade, and doesn’t include the 5 standardized tests she must pass in high school in order to graduate.

While my sister doesn’t necessarily disapprove of the tests altogether, she does have issue with the immense pressure and anxiety these tests place on students as a result of the test-intensive environment of Texas public education. My sister was overjoyed by the possibility that she could opt her daughter out of state-mandated testing, which would help alleviate the anxiety and illness that these exams cause my niece. I had to break her heart: no such thing exists in Texas.

To understand the human face of high-stakes testing, you must first see the human, something the state has forgotten. You see, Masie is a beautiful, funny, witty young girl. She has the deadliest blue eyes, an infectious smile and laugh, and skin models would kill Continue reading “The Human Faces of High Stakes Testing”

What teachers want from their principals

Eveline M Bailey, consultant, embteach.comIf you’ve ever had the unlucky experience of teaching in a school with a difficult principal at the helm, then you know the nightmare such a leader can create in a school. I’m blessed that I’ve worked for 14 years at a school whose leadership has always been supportive, engaged, and champions of the teachers and students who attend. However, I’ve also been witness to some school environments that are toxic to all, including the leaders who initially created the havoc.  Continue reading “What teachers want from their principals”

What does “college-ready” mean anyway?

here-and-now-413092__180Discussions in education have become a veritable Tower of Babel with enough acronyms to make any bowl of Alphabits soup a solid summary of every school’s August professional development. Amidst the calls to revise standards (CCSS), reduce the impact of testing scores on students and schools (ESSA, NCLB), or to eliminate standardized testing altogether in favor of more authentic and reliable means of gauging student learning, terms such as “college and career readiness” (CCR), “21st century skills” (21C), “EQ v IQ,” “critical thinking” (CT, HOTS, DOK), and “grit” (well, that one didn’t change) seem to lose their meaning for anything other than keyword Google searches and SEO development. Continue reading “What does “college-ready” mean anyway?”

How many lollipop moments have you created?

Global CXN: The Technology Challenge, Part 2

Part 2: Technology and Time Difference

TOS students celebrating their first place win in Olympia Athletics, but their joy is not dissimilar to our joy in finding solutions to our technology issues.
In my last Global CXN post (click here to read Part 1), I talked about how our group started and the initial “getting to know you” stage of the interactions. Once students learned a little about each other and found a common project to undertake, work got underway and students have enjoyed their collaboration. However, getting them on a reliable, functional, collaboration-friendly platform has been a hit-and-miss operation for Vietnam GCXN facilitator Daniel Rymer and me. While we have most of the kinks ironed out now, it was off to a dubious start three months ago.

When we first started in September, I knew getting our students on a platform that encouraged discussion and collaboration was going to be a challenge. Not only were we facing a 12 hour time difference that could stymie any sort of real communication, but also The Olympia Schools is a Google platform school, whereas La Porte ISD is an Office 365 school. My school district blocks all things Google except for Google Search and previous requests to unblock Google have always been met with rejection. Too, Continue reading “Global CXN: The Technology Challenge, Part 2”

Global CXN: La Porte, Texas meets Hanoi, Vietnam, Part 1

Part 1: The Beginning

US Global Connections group.
US Global CXN group.

This year, students from La Porte, Texas, have the opportunity to correspond and collaborate with students attending The Olympia Schools in Hanoi, Vietnam, to learn about each other’s local communities, lifestyles, education, and other sociocultural issues. Initially begun as a way for US and Vietnamese students to engage in literary and cultural studies that would provide a basis for cultural awareness and allow them to interact and share their worlds, the group has moved far beyond our hopes and is now a thriving learning community of global citizens.

A few TOS students sharing a picture with us after a water fight at an autumn festival.
A few TOS students sharing a picture with us after a water fight at an autumn festival.

The idea for the group began last March when Christopher McDonald, Head of Schools for The Olympia Schools in Hanoi, Vietnam, and fellow AP English Literature grader sent me a television newscast video of the charitable work TOS was doing as part of a service learning project in their community. His students were interacting with the world around them and becoming better citizens and stewards of their community while learning valuable life skills and character development through experiences that complement the lessons taught in the classroom. While McDonald has cultivated many partner schools in the US and Canada, La Porte High School, the only high school in a suburban city of 35,000 people approximately 30 miles outside of Houston, is relatively insulated from the world. What better way to broaden my students’ worldviews than by introducing students from each school and providing an avenue for them to collaborate, as well as gain proficiency in 21st century skills and the real-world application of those skills? McDonald and I discussed the possibility of a student-led collaboration between the two schools, and with high hopes and no idea where this project was headed, we created the Global CXN group. Continue reading “Global CXN: La Porte, Texas meets Hanoi, Vietnam, Part 1”

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