Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Teachable Moments From Harvey and Irma

As of this writing some students in Florid public schools are still not in class due to the ravages of Hurricane Irma. They will have missed almost two weeks of class time. For many of these children being in school is the last thing on their mind. Many families lost their homes and their possessions. Others are relying in government agencies or charitable organizations to provide them with food and clothing. One wonders what the phrase “ Getting back to normal” will mean.  I have always maintained that school is as much a social institution as it is an educational one. Teachers and classmates will need to come together to serve as a support network for those suffering from loss. For many, including first- responders and volunteers, there is the risk of depression and PTSD. They will need support too. I saw an interview this morning on TV with a couple in Texas, both who are teachers, and were flooded out for a second time in recent years. What is to become of them? How can we, the greater education community, come together to help folks like them?
Somewhere down the road is the new normal. We, as the education community, will have to find a way to make fractions and parts of speech relevant again. Until then, stay safe, and be of use.

c.2017 J. Margolis

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

an apology

To our friends and readers. We are currently being chased by Hurricane Irma. We will resume posts once we get situated. For those in Irma's path  and to those who suffered from the effects of Harvey, please stay safe.

J. Margolis

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Those who Read Will Know

One of my personal prize possessions is my library. I have hundreds of books on a wide variety of topics. With the advent of eBooks and Kindle, there were prognosticators who predicted that the book could become obsolete. That has not happened. What has occurred because of the Internet and social media, people are reading less. We can access magazine articles, read a paragraph (or two) and then move on. According to a Washington Post article this summer, a study completed by Neilson concluded that the average American spends more than 10 hours a day consuming all types of media. According to the Post story, Warren Buffet admitted to reading 500 pages a day-well beyond the scope of most of us. Other celebs had tried to read on average 5 hours a week. What is a realistic goal for you? What about for your students?
I once had a professor who remarked, “ Those who read will know and those who don’t won’t.” We need to instill a genuine curiosity in students and encourage them to read. Last week I was on a local college campus to participate in viewing the solar eclipse. There were well over one thousand people there, including many children. I was encouraged to hear families discuss the elements of the eclipse and what they had read about it prior to the big event. There are many teachable moments that occur during the course of a school year. Use those moments as opportunities to encourage your students to read. Filter out the distractions and READ.

c. 2017 J Margolis

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Revolutionary Idea- Public Education for All

  For those of you who live in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, the new Museum of the American Revolution is a “Must See.” If you are a teacher or administrator in an area school, a field trip for your students would be a meaningful experience. There are interactive kiosks; a chance to dress up in colonial attire and students can board a model of a privateer vessel.
One of the information panels that caught my eye was entitled “ Educating Citizens.”
It read “ After the a Revolutionary War, many Americans believed that education was the best way to secure their republic.” They held that only people who had been taught to think critically could rule themselves without a king.”

 In fact Dr. Benjamin Rush, a physician in colonial Philadelphia and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote a treatise on the importance of education.
"Thoughts Upon the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic" was written in 1786. Rush observed, “Education must take place in the United States.  A general, uniform system of education needs to be established that would be adequate for all of the essential purposes of citizenship.” 231 year later his observations are still true. If we are to continue to succeed as a nation, we must have an educated population.

As you prepare for the coming school year, keep these notions in mind, as you get ready to meet your students. We wish you much success and satisfaction in gthe coming school year.

c. 2017 J. Margolis

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book Review- “Shame Nation”

I recently had the opportunity to preview a book that is going to be published in October. “Shame Nation” takes an introspective look at the rise of online hate and shaming both in the United States and around the world. One of the facets of the book is to look at cyber bullying. This has become an epidemic among school students that has unfortunately led to the tragic suicides of a number of students.
The authors have defined shame in three parts:

“1) a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety

2) a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute
3) something that brigs censure or reproach” (page 8)

As we approach the start of a new academic year, this book is a MUST READ for teachers. We live in a society filled with negativity and given that computer and cell phone use is so prolific, anyone (even teachers) can become a an online victim almost instantaneously.

Monica Lewinsky will pen the foreword of this book. Her one quote printed thus far observed “ There is a very personal price to public humiliation, and the growth of the Internet jacked up that price.”

The authors of this important work are Sue Scheff and Melissa Schorr. Both are published authors. Ms. Scheff is the founder of Parents Universal Resource Experts and has been involved with working with teens.
Publication information’
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Price- $25.99
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-4926-4899-4

c. 2017 J. Margolis

Friday, July 21, 2017

High School Grade Inflation ( again)

A recent article in IUSA Today reviewed finding that while high school student GPA’s appear to be rising, college admission exam scores (SATs) have not. In fact according to the article, average SAT scores for the class of 2016 have actually dropped. Conversely, the percentage of “A” students has increased to 47%. These statistics can be framed around the fact the graduation rate in US public schools has increased to 83%.
Grade inflation has also crept into college grades. The above-mentioned study also revealed that as much as one half of all college grades given have been “A”s.

The question that educators should be asking is -Why?
Is there more pressure from parents and administrators to demonstrate how successful a school is’? Is the work getting easier? Do grades really reflect student achievement and performance?

Once again it is time to examine what a grade is and what is it supposed to reflect. Based on this current research grade shave been cheapened by inflation for a myriad of factors.
Some institutions have gone to ungraded narrative evaluations. Others have gone to O, S, U grading (Outstanding, Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory.) For many teachers in the US, the new school year is only a few weeks away. IT is time to reflect and prepare for the new year with a candid and proactive review of how to grade.

C.2017 J. Margolis

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Charter Schools on the Front Line

During the academic year that just concluded the State of New Jersey closed four public charter schools for poor academic performance. This brings the total of 16-charter school that have been closed under the current administration. According to reports, there are still 88 charter schools operating the state. All four of the applications for new schools next year were rejected. This exposes a broader conundrum. If the amount of funding for school is finite, where should the available funds be allocated?
According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools there are about 6900 public charter schools that enroll over 3.1 million students. This represents an increase of about 7%. Currently 43 states plus the Districts of Columbia have charter school legislation. Washington, DC has the largest percentage of public charter schools.
Charter schools are publicly funded and independently run, in some cases operated by for-profit companies. Sometimes, they don't have to follow the district's rules and regulations, even though they may receive funding from them. They often don't hire unionized teachers -- a distinction that has put them at odds with teacher unions.

Are charter schools better than their public counterparts? Well, that depends.
This is where the issue will be debated. Should federal funds be spent on public schools or should they be used to expand the charter school program? Secretary of Education Betsy DeVoss is a major proponent of charter schools. She has been a strong proponent of the charter initiative in Michigan.
A great deal of research is inconclusive. Some research points to the fact that charters have been more successful than traditional public schools. Other reports have labeled them as failures. Sociologically, there are a higher percentage of minority and low-income students in charter schools. Concerned parents are obviously looking for alternatives to failing public schools (see Washington, DC).
We don’t know where this debate is headed but charter schools will continue to be a hot button issue.

C.2017 J. Margolis