Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Of smart immigrant children and their teachers

Seventy percent of finalists in a national science talent search competition were the children of immigrants, according to a new study by the National Foundation for American Policy. Which has led many headline writers to blare the news "Children of Immigrants are Smarter." Read down a bit further and you'll find that these 28 talented young people are either of Chinese or Indian lineage, and that 60 percent of them have parents who entered the United States with a visa reserved for highly skilled immigrants -- many to be employed as engineers or scientists. In other words, not all immigrants are equal.

Immigrants come in many shapes and forms, and this study should not be used to conclude that children of immigrants are smarter than children born of native parents in the United States. However, the strong work ethic of the vast majority of immigrants, coupled with the top-notch education of their parents, make the accomplishment of these children almost a foregone conclusion.

This is not to take away from the accomplishments of these young people, but to point out something that's been brewing in the news for quite some time: the desire in some quarters to link teacher performance to their students test scores. No matter how much experts counter there are other factors that influence students grades, the move to blame teachers for their students shortcomings is alive and well.

The study by the NFAP should give everyone pause: the common denominator these of highly achieving students was not their teachers, but their highly successful parents. Their work ethic. As Prof. Paul Thomas of Furman University writes for The New York Times, this whole emphasis on grading the teachers is diverting from the real issue: poverty. A child who's hungry cannot learn. A child whose father's worried about getting evicted from their home has more worrisome things on his mind than learning the time tables. A child whose mother barely finished high school will have a very, very difficult time going on to college. It is well known that the best predictor of a child's educational attainment is their parent's level of education. It makes one wonder why, then, all this emphasis on teachers' performance.

There are many conclusions that can be drawn from the NFAP brief, and it will be used by many in the immigration debate to bolster their own agendas. Hopefully, it will also be used to reinforce, once again, that the most important factor of academic performance is how well educated and how involved the parents of a student are.

Friday, May 20, 2011

An invitation to all teachers in Monterey County

how are you using technology in your classrooms? Do you make your students leave their cellphones in their locker rooms? Or do you have them tweet in class about what they've learned? Do you use laptops, ipads or wii?

It's a question that popped into my mind as I sat listening to Jennifer Pust, an English teacher at Santa Monica High School, a self-described technophile who, nonetheless, at times struggles with incorporating more technology into the classroom.

Pust spoke at a seminar on technology and education organized by The Hechinger Institute, where I'm getting some new ideas and confirming others: yes, kids these days are very, very wired (you'd have to be playing Pong for the last two decades to ignore that one). But how these new media is affecting their learning is not quite that clear. Young students are distracted by Facebook whenever they're doing homework, but if they post a question and ten of the BFF answer, is that such a bad thing?

I've heard there's a teacher out there in the Monterey Peninsula who's using You Tube to enhance his math lessons. Do you have similar stories do you want to share? An opinion on how technology is enhancing/disrupting your classroom experience? District officials, do you have guidelines on how teacher can/cannot use technology in the classroom? Post your answer, email me or send me a tweet!

More congratulations are in order...

This time for 19 educators who were recently recognized for their contributions to the Monterey Bay area educational community.

Each year, the Community Foundation of Monterey County picks educators to honor according to funders’ requests. This year, the recipients of the Allen S. Griffin Awards for excellence in teaching at the high school through post-secondary school levels are:
Peter DeBono, Monterey Peninsula College
Charles Harvey Mills, Defense Language Institute
Timour Radko, Naval Postgraduate School
Moyara de Moraes Ruehsen, Monterey Institute of International Studies
Scott B. Waltz, California State University Monterey Bay
Alfred Avila, Seaside High School
Shannon Giovannoli, Marina High School
Lawrence L. Haggquist, Pacific Grove High School
David Hoey, Monterey High School
Aubrey Powers, Carmel High School

The Mildred Willemsen Awards for excellence in middle school and elementary school teaching were given to:

David “Jake” Glazier, Carmel Middle School
Victoria Lucido, Walter Colton K-8 School
William Lueken, Los Arboles Middle School
Richard A. Mayhew, Seaside Middle School
Ana Silva, Pacific Grove Middle School
Aina Gessaman, Forest Grove Elementary School
Erin O’Bryan, Captain Cooper Elementary School
Wendy Williamson, Olson Elementary School
James “Rick” Ziel, Foothill Elementary School

The Allen S. Griffin Award, established in 1982, was created by a bequest from the late Col. Allen Griffin, founder and former publisher of The Herald, soldier and civic leader, and one of the founders and former board president of the Community Foundation for Monterey County. The Griffin awards honor teachers with a record of sustained excellence in the classroom and significant impact in the community.

The Mildred Willemsen awards were established by name in 2006 when the family chose to honor their late mother and grandmother. They are designed to stimulate and reward excellence in classroom teaching at the elementary and middle school levels in public schools on the Monterey Peninsula.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Congratulations are in order to the 2011 graduating class

And graduation season begins this weekend, with the commencement ceremony of CSUMB and the graduation of 1,022 candidates.

This year, university officials are experimenting with a new kind of ceremony that includes no big-name commencement speaker. Instead, the graduates will get their sendoff from the winner of the President’s Award for Exemplary Student Achievement, Scott Bell, and President Dianne Harrison. About 8,000 people are expected to attend, university officials estimate.

New also is a program that will help students make sure they leave their dorms exactly as they found them. Today and Friday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., personnel from the Monterey Bay Area Regional Recycling Program will be on campus to help students get rid of their waste. These experts will be able to help students decide whether to recycle, donate, or trash what they don't need anymore.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

If you're concerned about the drop out rate among Latinos

perhaps you may want to see "Go for it."

It's the story of Carmen, a 19-year-old Latina who's facing daunting challenges but relies on her passion for hip-hop to keep going. It's a movie that's gotten good reviews, and is playing in very few theaters. One of them, Maya Theater in Salinas.

So, for those of you who bemoan the lack of positive representations of Latinos in the media, this is your chance to see something more complex. The story talks about how challenging it is for many young Latinos to stay in school -- in spite of their best intentions. Plus, you'd be supporting a Latina filmmaker -- there are not too many out there -- and show that these types of movies have an audience.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Unless a miracle happens between now and Thursday

looks like this is it for the dance, photography, horticulture, and other departments on the chopping block at Monterey Peninsula College. Trustees are scheduled to vote Thursday at a special meeting on whether to approve a final layoff notice for nine of its department chair/instructors -- two have since submitted letters of resignation, one could not be laid off according to the grant that funds the position.

In the final layoff list: A.J. Farrar, chair of Administration of Justice; head coach Daniel Phillips; Walter White, chair of the dance department; Sunshine Giesler, chair of the interior design program; Nancy Predham, head of the International students program; Kevin Bransfield, head of the photo department; astronomy teacher David Michaels; counselor Alethea DeSoto; Carolyn Hansen, American Sign Language; and counselor Kimberly Christoff-Mansfield

The affected teachers requested a hearing, but an Administrative Law Judged ruled in favor of the college last week, so the final layoff notices can proceed.

The college has until May 15 to issue final termination notices-- not time to wait for the governor's May revise.

The college could save about $1 million by eliminating these positions -- and the classes that go with them.