kitchen table math, the sequel: 3/18/12 - 3/25/12

Thursday, March 22, 2012

35 Year Old Man Retakes SAT

35 year old man retakes SAT cold, writes about his experience. (Warning: profanity. Unsurprisingly.)

Barnes & Noble: no discount for adjuncts or school volunteers

Dear Ms. Hjulstrom:

I am contacting you to follow up on the email exchange below, which includes your paragraph citing teachers who “pay for classroom materials out of their own pockets.”

I am an adjunct instructor at a small 4-year college. I attended last weekend’s “Celebration of Teaching and Learning,” where I was denied a “teacher” discount on books for sale in the Barnes and Noble exhibit.

At my college, I teach the most remedial English composition course. Students are placed in my class because, after 13 years of schooling, they need a college instructor to teach them how to write a 5-paragraph essay. Many of my students are low-income; most have taken out loans to pay for their education.

I have no job security, no health benefits, no pension. I pay out of pocket for all books, journal subscriptions, and travel related to my teaching.

Colleges everywhere in the country are experiencing budget cuts, as a quick glance at the newspapers will confirm; my department has nearly exhausted its copier budget mid-semester. I make my own copies at home. I pay for my own paper, printer, and supplies.

At the Celebration, the Barnes and Noble book tables were laden with works by Charlotte Danielson, Linda Darling-Hammond (who appeared on a panel and conducted a book signing), Douglas Reeves (ditto), and other assorted high-profile names in the public education world. These works are not intended for classroom use, and it is disingenuous at best of you to say so.

Catherine Johnson, Ph.D.
Irvington, NY

My purchase: ACTIVATE: A Leader’s Guide to People, Practices, and Processes by Douglas Reeves and John Hattie

Major sponsors of the Celebration of Teaching and Learning:
National Education Foundation
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

In the same email chain, Ms. Hjulstrom also refused discounts to school volunteers and school board members. (School board members are not paid in New York state.) Only "teachers, principals, and select staff" are eligible for the book discount.

My district, where average teacher compensation is approximately $130K including pension and benefits, sent a delegation of teachers and principals to the "Celebration." We funded their registration ($175/day), and we paid the cost of any substitute teachers needed to replace them in the classroom.

I don't know whether any of them bought any books, but they received a Barnes and Noble discount if they did.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

high school - college reading gap

at the Irvington Parents Forum

mixed-level classrooms in high-SES districts

During her workshop on "Project Based Assessment," one of the presenters at the misnamed "Celebration of Teaching and Learning" made a comment that struck me.

She said she had been a teacher in an affluent community, and as a result she had had an extremely wide variation in her students' instructional levels. The reading levels in her 6th grade class ranged all the way from first grade to college level.

That enormous range made group projects more or less a requirement, in her view. When students whose reading level ranges from 1st grade to college work together, the differentiation handles itself. (Her actual words may have been: "They differentiate themselves," perhaps. Unfortunately, my iPad erased my notes.)

It had never occurred to me that affluent districts might have substantially more variability inside the classroom than less affluent districts, though as I think about it, it makes sense.

If it's true that teachers routinely see extremely wide variation in ability and instructional level in high-SES schools, this is another case where the use of group means as the only measure of success is particularly deadly in affluent districts.