Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Finally watched "Waiting for Superman"

and if you want to know what I think, indulge me and read first about the honor the International School of Monterey received last week.
The charter school was named "Ocean Guardian School" School and received a banner for its commitment to ocean stewardship by Rep. Sam Farr and NOAA. The school has shown a commitment to protecting the world's oceans by integrating the Ocean Literacy Principles into all grades, participating in restoration activities at a local beach dune, and developing “Captain Conservation,” a superhero who protects the ocean.
Funds for the project were provided by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ California Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program. To receive funds, a school makes a commitment to be an ‘Ocean Guardian’ by proposing a school- or community-based conservation project. After successful implementation, the school receives a banner designating it as an Ocean Guardian School.

And from Captain Conservation we joyfully leap to "Waiting for Superman." What can I say? It's extremely touching and heart wrenching -- emotionally manipulating? I found myself wondering why it was that, except for the middle school girl in Northern California, all the children featured in the movie were of color -- blacks and Latinos. Why is it that, willingly or not, we continue to portray minorities as the victims -- resilient and valiant, but victims nonetheless? And even though the filmmakers want to encourage people to get involved, it's also obvious that they believe charter schools are the solution. Are they? Hmmmmmm. Financial troubles and not-so-stellar test scores may say otherwise, as pointed out by colleague John Fensterwald and his astute readers.

Like one of my teachers used to say, for complex problems, there should not be silver-bullet solutions. And for the complex issues facing education in this country, charter schools can't -- and perhaps shouldn't -- be the silver bullet. They have their place and their use, but I can't imagine them being the end-all. Can you?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

20,000 leagues under the sea

Well, the vessel's not called Nautilus and James Lindholm, a marine scientist at CSUMB, is not exactly Captain Nemo. Just the same, Lindholm and one of his graduate students, Jessica Watson, are currently living on the research vessel Aquarius, 60 feet below the surface in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The two of them, plus four other scientists and NOAA staff members, are spending eight hours a day diving in the Keys as part of a 10-day research mission. Wednesday is the last day the aquanauts will be diving before starting the process of coming to the surface.
Dr. Lindholm is studying social foraging of coral reef fishes and its role in maintaining biological diversity – he's dubbed the mission, "If Reefs Could Talk."
The experience (akin to living in space, with its tight quarters and the inability to just go take a walk when your roommates are driving you crazy) is being webcast (and tweeted, and blogged about and posted on Facebook), and hundreds of classrooms across the country have been tuning in to watch; each day includes a broadcast in Spanish as well as one in English. On Wednesday morning, four classes of fifth-graders at Carmel River School tuned into the webcast and watch Dr. Lindholm explore the coral reefs, talking to them and answering questions submitted from school children all over the country. A teaching assistant from NOAA will be there to help the students understand what they are seeing and hearing online.
You can check one of his broadcast here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Help for children with special needs

Special Kids Crusade, a local nonprofit that supports families with children with special needs, is coordinating an educational series for parents and professionals on Autism Spectrum disorder. The ten sessions will be held the second Tuesday of each month from 6:00-7:30pm, beginning Nov. 9 and continuing through August. Dr. Linda Lotspeich of The Stanford Autism Center at Packard Children’s Hospital will present via video stream into our class site at the San Andreas Regional Center at 344 Salinas Street, Suite 104 in Salinas.

And for young people with disabilities comes the "Transitioning to Independence Conference," which will take place Saturday, October 30, and it's being presented by the Central Coast Center for Independent Living (CCCIL). The conference is free, for young people ages 16-24 with disabilities, who are considering changes in school, work or living situation. The conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Salinas High School, and includes lunch, prizes and entertainment.
The conference will feature speakers from service agencies and disability rights organizations, as well as young people with disabilities who have made successful transitions to adulthood. Conference participants will also have an opportunity to speak about the services and resources they think are needed, with input going to service providers and policymakers. This event is co-sponsored by Workforce Investment Board, Monterey County Office of Education, California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, Workforce Investment Board of Monterey County, Monterey County Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.
Register for the conference here. Or call Denika Boardman at (831) 757-2968 or dboardman@cccil.org for more information.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

No more child care for you

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger may have signed a long delayed budget last week, but he used his mighty pen to veto funding for thousands of working families.
The funding he eliminated was for families who have been off welfare for 24 months and are seeking job retraining.
“The Governor’s veto of funding for the CalWORKS Stage 3 Child Care Program is an attack on working families with children," Superintendent of Public Schools Jack O'Connell said in a statement. "This twelve-year-old program has played a significant role in helping California families leave welfare and become financially independent."
This program helped more than 81,000 children and some 60,000 families during Fiscal Year 2008-2009, allowing parents to work. This veto will terminate child care services for all these families who have worked so hard to leave welfare and maintain employment for at least two years or more.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The beautiful and grim reality of Alisal

Today was career day at Cesar Chavez Elementary school in the Alisal, and I, along with a dozen professionals, came to the school to try to inspire the children into seeking higher education. There were professional basketball players, firefighters, corrections officers, college professors, and one or two journalists. We all gave the students 'high fives' in the cafeteria, and then we had a chance to talk to them in their classrooms. You have to read every day, study hard, and pay attention in class, I told them. These kids are all so precious in their curiosity, their eagerness, their bilingualism: the ease in and out of English and Spanish like a fish swimming in two different waters without noticing if it's sweet or salty.

Then came the questions: Do you go when someone gets shot? And the comments: My uncle got shot in the stomach five times and he died. My cousin saw when somebody got shot the other day. My mom wants us to move out of here. It seems like every single one of the kids I visited with had an experience with violence, experiences that had clearly left marks. And that's all they wanted to talk about. It made me wonder, how much time is there for processing this type of trauma when you have to focus on learning? And can you focus on learning when you haven't processed the trauma?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Is that you, Prince Charming?

Assemblywoman Anna Caballero promised students of Los Padres Elementary School in Salinas that she would kiss a frog if they met their test scores goals.

Well, the students increased their test scores by 21 points, and Caballero delivered. On Monday, she went looking for Prince Charming. Juan, is that you in there?

It's not the first time that Caballero encourages Los Padres students by promising a stunt. Three years ago, she jumped out of an airplane to celebrate the students' accomplishments.

And speaking of motivating children, The Lyceum, in partnership with Hartnell College, is sponsoring a two‑day workshop designed to get kids and adults involved in fun, hands‑on astronomy experiments. Parents and kids will meet for two Saturday sessions and participate in a creative and educational project about the Earth’s moon and the solar system. This exciting class will have you seeing stars! The two sessions take place from 10 a.m. till noon, Oct. 9 and Oct. 23 at the Ching Planetarium in Salinas. $35 per child. For more info, click here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The governor and his pen

In case you missed it, last week the guv signed to pieces of legislation that I'd covered in two separate stories published a few weeks ago. The first one is the Kindergarten Readiness Act, which will move up California's kindergarten entry date from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1 so children start school at age 5. Before, thousands of children would start school at age 4, often without the maturity and social skills needed to meet the ever-increasing challenges of our test-driven schools. Now the kids will be ready to fill in bubble tests in no time...

The second piece of legislation I was following was AB12, the California Fostering Connections to Success Act. Also signed into law Thursday, the bill will allow foster youth to stay in the system until they are 21. Previously when foster youth turned 18, they were basically on their own -- no home, no money, and basically a bleak future. This lack of stability makes foster youths much more likely to be homelessness, incarcerated, pregnant or addicted to drugs than the average teen.

Under AB12 foster youth who continue their education or job training and who work at least a part-time job would be eligible for extended benefits until they are 21. The costs for these extra years of benefits be covered partially by federal matching funds.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Of Bay View and MATE

While the wheels of bureaucracy continue rolling, parents of the Bay View Academy will start enrollment Saturday. Depending on how the political winds blow, the Academy would open at Hilltop Park or the site of the current Bay View Elementary next September. If you're interested, visit the Academy's site right here. Remember, there will only be 150 places, so they are likely to run out fast....

And speaking of innovative institutions, kudos are in order to the Marine Advanced Technology Education Center, housed in Monterey Peninsula College. The center was honored September 21 with the Marine Technology Society (MTS) Special Commendation and Award at the OCEANS’10 MTS/IEEE Seattle Conference in Seattle, Wash.
The Center is a national partnership of educational institutions and organizations, research institutions, marine industries and working professionals funded by the National Science Foundation. It’s mission in to disseminate information on marine-related careers and create enthusiasm for marine technology careers. The Center publishes books and articles, and exhibits at conference. It joined the society to create a catalog of higher education programs in marine science and technology. It helps teachers provide their students with technology-rich learning experiences through its Summer Institutes. The MATE Center is perhaps best known for its remotely operated vehicle (ROV) competitions, which are held around the U.S. and in several foreign countries. Winners of these regional events compete at an international competition each June. The Marine Technology Society is a co-sponsor of that event through its ROV Professional Committee.