Celebrating 100 posts — the Top 15 most popular

Well, yesterday marks a milestone for me.  100 posts since I began the blog.  I've been amazed at what all has happened since then; so many of you have read and participated in the varying topics from "ordinary" social skills and character discussions to the many, many on school bullying.

In honor of the "centennial" posting, here's a list of the Top 15 most popular posts with links and also the first post...

Thanks to all of you that have joined me on this journey.  Hope to keep adding to our group as we going into the second 100 post era!

  1.  "Text Rage:" Technology doesn't CAUSE youth violence
  2. Report: OnLine Ed beats traditional? Think again
  3. What if schools were run like a business?
  4. "Race to the Top" requires improved teacher effectiveness
  5. Effectiveness of anti-bullying programs
  6. Wayne Treacy "explains" his actions
  7. High School -- 1959 vs. 2009
  8. 2009 NCES Indicators of School Crime and Safety: Still think there’s no problem?
  9. "Teachers don't have time..."
  10. Teens and offensive speech: "...part of  the common vernacular.”
  11. About Corinne Gregory
  12. Scott Oki - "Outrageous Learning:" another voice begging for transformation
  13. 44 States now have anti-bullying laws
  14. New reports imply Phoebe Prince had it coming?
  15. Teacher caught on camera beating student

And the very first one, May 2, 2009:

Would love to hear your comments on which post is your favorite or least favorite of those in the list and why.  Also, if you have a particular topic or issue you'd like me to discuss, drop me an email and I'll be happy to add it to the list of issues we can explore!

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The Power of Positive Energy

Ever have one of those meetings where you just "connect" with another like-minded individual and it just helps validate what you've been doing?  I had the amazing pleasure of having coffee yesterday with Liv Finne, the Director of the Center for Education for the Washington Policy Center.  Now, I'd had the opportunity to meet Liv before -- first at the launch of Scott Oki's book, "Outrageous Learning" (I'm sworn to secrecy on the circumstances of that first meeting), and a few short weeks later at the AWSP/WASA Summer Conference in Olympia, WA.

Liv is another no-nonsense, "where is the practicality in the solution?" kind of person.  She is highly passionate about helping our education system become what it needs to be to better serve the children and the families in the State of Washington. And, this is one of the things I respect so much about her: for her, it IS about the kids.  It's not about agendas, about "feel goods" or (as I call them) "dere dere's" (i.e., " 'dere 'dere, why don't we talk about HOW we FEEL  when someone slams us up against our locker because they don't like the color we chose to wear this morning? Maybe if we talked about how the color grey was a problem for the bully, we could understand why this reaction took place.")

Liv, (pronouced "LEEV" just like "Corinne" is "CoREEN") is highly motivated to cut to the chase about what works in education and doesn't -- and WON'T.  I appreciate that, because, as I explained to her in our meeting, I have this nasty habit of examining every "solution" or proposal in light of the annoying question, "Ok, but what problem are we trying to SOLVE? And, how will this get us closer to our goal?"

I'm excited.  I like organizations like the Washington Policy Center who, instead of just falling into predicatable rhetoric and prognostication, actually examine FACTS to reach their conclusions. They really approach issues with an eye toward common sense: what's real here, what's not, what's practical, what's sustainable?

There's too much buy-in happening along party lines and popular opinion these days.  I can't say how the conclusions and and recommendatons of the Washington Policy Center will weigh in against those areas, but based on what I've seen so far, their direction seems to make SENSE.

Which is a rare commodity these days, if you ask me.  Common sense is altogether uncommon, and frequently isn't sensible.

BTW...if you're interested in checking out Liv's blog on education issues you can find it at:  http://washingtonpolicyblog.typepad.com/washington_policy_center_/education/.  If you're a Washingtonian with any interest in what's going on (really!) in education, I encourage you to check it out.  Heck...it's probably even valuable and relevant to folks outside the Emerald State, too, 'cause chances are the same litanies are being recited in your state -- that's been MY experience at least.  Repeat after me..."underfunded, classes too large, teachers need more pay..."  (heavy sigh)

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“Underfunded”?

I attended Scott Oki's book launch last night in Seattle, put on by the Washington Policy Center.  Quite a crowd attended, and it seemed as though it was very mixed in terms of who was there and why.

Scott gave a short talk about the book and why he wrote it.  Afterwards he took some questions.  One of the main themes that came up was about how our State's schools are so woefully underfunded.

Now wait a minute?  We may not have "enough" money, in some people's eyes, for education but is that because there's not enough money in the system to educate our kids? What does it REALLY cost to educate a student for one year?

Heck, in school year 2006-2007 (last one reported on our OSPI website), the state spent $8,692 to educate a student for a year (this is average across all districts).  That seems to be "too little," but it's hard to say that without understanding where the money is actually going and what we believe would be "enough."   On the "high side" is the other Washington -- Washington DC public schools -- which spends well in excess of $20,000 each year to educate a student.  Can't say that the extra money has resulted in better outcomes, that's for sure.

In fact, if you use the argument that "more money = better education" you'll see that this isn't necessarily true.

Take a look at the chart below: it's intended to show the correlation between dollars spent per WA State district to educate a student per year, and the corresponding academic achievement.

DollarsSpentvsOutcomes

Do you see the problem? There ISN'T any relationship between the dollars spent and academic achievement. Schools that spent $15,000 per student (TWICE the state average) aren't really doing better than those in the middle of the spending range.

So, we can't say that "more money" is the answer.

I believe that much has to do with HOW it is spent and too much is being lost to inefficiency and spending on things that do not improve education.  Much of this, as I've pointed out in earlier posts, has to do with the waste of time, money and productivity on classroom management and discipline problems.  If you're interested in how YOUR district might measure up in this area, you can go to the online calculator on our website at http://www.politechild.com/cost_calculator.cfm  It's use is fairly simple: put in the values of how much your district spends on educating a student for a year, drop in a number that represents how much has been spent on TEACHING, then enter the amount of time you know or believe is being spent on discipline.  If you're not sure of the dollar values, you can find them for WA State at http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/summary.aspx?year=2007-08 - you can select your district there and the amounts will be near the bottom of the page...scroll down, you'll find them.

I guess the bottom line is this: at a time where the schools are ALL asking for more money, it's also prudent for US to ask what they plan to do with it.  Our State has just released $672 MILLION dollars of stimulus money to schools and Gov. Gregoire has said more is likely to be available in the future.  Rather than do the same things over and over again and hope -- pray -- for a better outcome, perhaps we need to take a hard look at where those dollars are going and how they will actually result in improved education.

As the saying goes, "if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you always got."  Our kids deserve better.

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