30 June 2006

Adventures in Pseudo-Administration

As soon as the Hedgetoad survives her AP training, she's heading back to her district to teach WASL support classes. Our state has identified students they think would most benefit from a bump in skills before the August retakes and then provided a targeted curriculum to do so. The state has also provided grants to districts (based on the number of kids who need help) in order to pay for these "extended learning opportunities."

And me? Getting this program off the ground for my district has been my task over the last couple of months. The Summer School Principal and I have worked closely as our programs are housed in the same building and run on similar dates and times (for the most part). We've hired staff for one another and have been busy taking care of issues of food, transportation and room assignments.

My program began yesterday for math. Thirty brave students are coming to take a 5-hour math class for 20 days. They now have two under their belts. For me, things are about to get really boring. I got the staff picked and trained. I made nearly 200 phone calls and enrolled kiddos...worked with parents...and coordinated with others. Things should run on their own from here on out.

But there are always going to be issues...and although there is an official admin for the summer, he's not going to be around very much. Summer programs are housed in three different buildings and the little tykes and SPEDs will need him present much more than the secondary program. So, I get to be the default for problems. It's already been...interesting: talking through transportation issues with bus drivers, dealing with a mess in the bathroom, and calling parents of students who have yet to show up (in case their parents think they've been coming here).

The early start with this math program is a great opportunity to get my feet wet. We have a couple more days of class next week before the "real summer school" hits. Should be quite the adventure from there on out.

28 June 2006

Buying the Cow

Did you mother ever try encouraging you to keep chaste by asking "Why would anyone buy a cow when they can get the milk for free?" The imagery this conjures up is mildly disturbing, but I suppose there is something to ponder there. If you have something of value, will others treasure it if they don't have to earn it?

Paul Edelman is encouraging teachers to sell what they normally share for nothing: their very best lesson plans.

The site, teacherspayteachers.com, aims to be an eBay for educators. For a $29.95 yearly fee, sellers can post their work and set their prices. Buyers rate the products.

"It's a way to pat teachers on the back, to value what they do," Edelman said. "They create the material night after night. The best way to value that is to put a price on it."

Lots of Web sites offer lesson plans that can be purchased or downloaded for free. Yet Edelman says they don't cover a fraction of what teachers themselves have come up with. By offering them a way to make a buck, the 33-year-old former teacher says he's found a niche.

He's banking on it. Edelman cashed in his retirement fund and maxed his credit cards to launch the business in April. He keeps 15 percent of every sale, but he knows the only way he will really make money is by getting "teacher-authors" to pay the membership fee.

I'm not quite sure what to think about this idea. On one hand, I understand the investment of time, thought, and purpose into crafting something of high quality in the classroom. All of those things are worth something. But on the other hand, we're talking about the needs of kids here. And if you have something that truly gets to the heart of learning, wouldn't you want kids to have access to that through their teachers? Will this site be just another "gate" that keeps the best instruction out of the hands of the poorest classrooms?

26 June 2006

Gearing Up for Next Year (Already)

Sure, the 2005 - 2006 school year came to a close just a few days ago, but today we forged ahead with planning for 2006 - 2007. After all, it's less than 2 months away.

An official publisher's rep headed up here to provide a day of in-service for our grade 6 - 9 teachers on the new curriculum. Although there was a lot of excitement about the new materials, the presentation was horrible. The rep was a retired teacher---and one who had obviously burned out on the classroom before she left. Nothing says enthusiasm like a person who doesn't enjoy kids. Anyway, we survived the morning and my sixth grade teachers had a very productive afternoon without the trainer. My 7 - 9 teachers didn't fare so well. Most of them bailed early in the afternoon---and I couldn't blame them. The poor things.

Meanwhile, I ran down during my lunch break (not that I got lunch---the rep ate mine...and hers) to drop the elementary science bomb on principals. I expected a rather nasty reception. I'd already been warned that five of them were on the warpath. But as I sat there, I realized that I just wasn't going to give them the option of being ugly...and amazingly enough, they weren't. Mind you, I didn't provide any time for them to ask questions or think too deeply. It may be that there are some interesting e-mails in the next few days.

Things are off on the right foot for next year. Yes, already.

25 June 2006

Organized Abandonment

I learned some new educationese this week: organized abandonment. This is another immigrant term from the business world:

The first step for a change leader is to free up resources that are committed to maintaining things that no longer contribute to performance and no longer produce results. Maintaining yesterday is always difficult and extremely time-consuming. Maintaining yesterday always commits the institution's scarcest and most valuable resources--and above all, its ablest people--to nonresults. Yet doing anything differently--let alone innovating--always creates unexpected difficulties. It demands leadership by people of high and proven ability. And if those people are committed to maintaining yesterday, they are simply not available to create tomorrow.

The first change policy, therefore, has to be organized abandonment. The change leader puts every product, every service, every process, every market, every distribution channel, every customer, and every end use on trial for its life. And the change leader does so on a regular schedule. The question it has to ask--and ask seriously--is "If we did not do this already, would we, knowing what we now know, go into it?" If the answer is no, the reaction must not be "Let's make another study." The reaction must be "What do we do now?"

In three cases the right action is always outright abandonment:

1. When you think that the product, service, market, or process "still has a few good years of life." It is the dying products, services, markets, or processes that always demand the greatest care and effort. And we almost always overestimate how much "life" actually is left. Usually, they are not dying; they are dead.

2. When the only argument for keeping a product, service, market, or process is that "it's fully written off." To treat assets as being fully written off has its place in tax accounting, but for management the question should never be "What has it cost?" The question should be "What will it produce?"

3. When for the sake of maintaining the old and declining product, service, or process, the new and growing product, service, or process is being stunted or neglected.

For every product, service, market, or process, the change leader must also ask, "If we were to go into this now, knowing what we now know, would we go into it in the same way we are doing it now?" And that question needs to be asked about the successful products, services, markets, and processes as regularly--and as seriously--as about the unsuccessful products, services, markets, and processes.
---from Change Leaders by Peter Drucker in Inc. Magazine, June 1999

My understanding about this as it applies to education might also be called "How to Remove Outdated Responsibilities." We consistently ask teachers and principals to add items to their routine, but we never offer them ways to remove others so that the job is reasonable. We ask people to keep doing what we've done because well, we've always done it that way.

I know I'm oversimplifying things. As nice as it sounds to be able to work with people to get them to identify things to let go of, I also know that most people aren't all that excited about change, no matter what form it takes.

In the case of elementary science changes---which I have to sell to principals tomorrow---the organized abandonment is already built in. Some teachers are going to have to learn to use a new curriculum, but there will be fewer kits, a longer time to use them, less management of materials, and teacher materials that will be theirs to keep. We giveth something to their plates, but we taketh away quite a bit, too. I have already heard from several teachers that they like this plan. Principals? Not so much. They're worried about having staff angry about change (a valid concern) and that they didn't have at least a year's notice about the changes (kids can't wait...get over it, admins). But perhaps in the name of organized abandonment, I can help them see some value.

24 June 2006

Hope You Enjoyed Yourself

Cliff Arnall, a scholar at a British university, has developed a formula that can be used to calculate the happiest day of the year.

"He used what he considers a 'simple equation' to reach his conclusion: O + (N x S) + Cpm/T + He.

O stands for outdoor activities, N for nature, S for social interaction, Cpm for childhood summers and positive memories, T for temperature and He for holidays and looking forward to time off."

Based on this information, yesterday, June 23, was the happiest day of the year. So I hope you enjoyed it. It's all downhill from here. (January 23 is the saddest day, according to Arnall's equation.)

Personally, Thursday was a much better fit for this equation for me. The Boss Lady toasted me at lunch as the "Queen of Everything"...I received a card and healthy gift certificate to a local nursery as a "thank you" from my department...and I got to go to a lovely garden party at the end of the day, boosting the O, N, and S factors. School ended on Wednesday, so that increased my ranking for Cpm and He. Some people thought that Thursday was a bit on the chilly side, but I thought it was quite nice.

It was a pretty great week, all-in-all. There was lots of positive energy and I was able to lose 300 pounds of hideous fat on Friday, although I think my friends are going to miss reading all of the very entertaining letters that have been sent to me over the last few months. But I am grateful, as always, for the good people I know who seek out truth and examine both sides before reaching conclusions...people who believe in what's right and not in what's petty. Let's see if we can find a way to improve on June 23. It can't be all bad if Bambi I and II show up in your yard on June 24, right?

McDonald's in Africa

Image Credit Unknown

23 June 2006

Physics When?

Over the last several years, many districts across the U.S. have adopted a "Physics First" sequence for their high school science. More traditional scope and sequence adoptions suggest physics to be an 11th or 12th grade science course, if taken at all. The sequence of biology, chemistry, and physics originally grew from an idea in the late 19th century. At that time, biology was about the organism---no DNA, genetics, viruses, and so on---a very naturalist approach. It made sense to have the "simpler" science first. But over the last 100 years, the field of biology has grown significantly. Students need a good foundation in basic chemistry to get the most from biology.

In a Physics First world, the idea is for kids to get a basic understanding of forces...so that they can make better sense of atomic bonding when they take chemistry...and then DNA when they reach biology. Many schools have spent a lot of time and money to retrain teachers and reverse the sequence. The San Diego School District had been one of these, but their school board recently voted to change the policy, even though the numbers of students in their science program has risen dramatically since adopting a "Physics First" program. The district continues to perform poorly on state tests in science and many students are struggling with the math component of a physics first world.

It is a difficult line for districts to walk: you have to get kids to standards but somehow consider the aptitude and personal interests of students in course development. I am wondering how many districts are going to follow San Diego's example. I'm sure that the "Physics First" curriculum has taught them all about pendulums...and it looks like this one is starting to swing the other way.

22 June 2006

P-A-R-T-----Y? Because I Gotta.

Now that the school year has wrapped, the festivities for staff are underway. We had a luncheon for Curriculum today---and a chance to toast our accomplishments and say farewell to those who are moving on to other jobs.

This afternoon was another fete at the home of one of my cohorts. This time, we could have a little wine to use with our toasts, breathe some fresh air, and laugh out loud. We all needed to celebrate and take a step into summer.

It's true that most of us will be at work in the morning. It's not really summer holiday yet. There are trainings to set up for Monday, meetings with principals, new hires to interview, and summer programs to get off the ground next week. But the chance to blow off some steam will go a long way toward making that grindstone look a whole lot more appealing.

21 June 2006

Only in Texas

The class of '86 will be having it's 20-year reunion soon (Can mine really be just a year away?!). I love the way they're kicking things off next weekend:

"Registration and Bar-B-Que at The C------ Bar (We're sure everyone remembers where the C------ Bar is located!). Children are welcome to join in on the fun!"

School's Out...Now Go Do Some Math!

There are lots of summer reading programs to be had...most of them with the "hidden curriculum" of getting kids to keep up their reading skills between school years. But maybe we should be more concerned about the deterioration of math skills over the summer. According to a recent USA Today article:

This year, as in the past, many teachers will slip a summer reading list into their students' backpacks as they send them off for vacation. The notion is admirable. Keep kids reading over the long break so their brains don't turn to mush.

But what teachers and parents really should be doing this summer is encouraging students to practice their math skills. Educators have long known that the summer break wreaks havoc on learning. Dozens of studies have found that students score lower on standardized tests at the end of the summer than just before the summer break.

But less well known is that these summer losses are heavily concentrated in math. According to a study published in the Review of Educational Research, students lose about 2.6 months of grade-level equivalency in math skills over the summer. This setback was similar among lower- and middle-income students.

In contrast, summer's effect on reading skills is less dramatic. On average, middle-income students actually made slight gains in reading performance over the summer break. Lower-income students tend to lose ground, but not as much as they typically lose in math skills.

The article includes several suggestions of ways for students to practice math over the summer.

Of course, most kids would rather be outside playing over the long break than inside doing math. But with so many great services available, parents can get their kids to devote a few minutes a day on the subject. The time needed is small, but the rewards will be substantial.

Parents: start your calculators!

20 June 2006

Medic!

Things have been a bit tense around Curriculum lately, but you know things are bad when two people get carted off to the emergency clinic before noon. One was a teacher who came to a training on the math adoption and had some sort of panic attack right after things got started. My understanding is that it took a lot of finesse to get the teacher out of the room and to help. The other casualty was another curriculum specialist. I guess there had been so much tension that her neck and back seized up and she couldn't move. She, too, was a challenge to get to a point where someone could load her in a car and get her some aid. We all felt so helpless.

There are two more days of school (including today) and most of us in Curriculum will be working until the end of the week. If Monday was any indication, perhaps the district should have a nurse on standby for us.

19 June 2006

Everything Old Is New Again


Highlights by bunnicula CC-BY-ND

I had an aunt who always gave me a subscription to Highlights each year. I loved the "Hidden Pictures" and the adventures of the Timbertoe family.


According to Yahoo! News, Highlights is getting updated just in time for its 60th anniversary and 1 billionth copy:

"Highlights' pages pop with more vivid colors and illustrations that have a three-dimensional feel, but the changes are subtle enough that its 2 million readers won't be dismayed.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
(c) Highlights Magazine
The 'smiling H' — the jaunty capital letter with its upturned middle line — still leads the title, and the cover remains a full-page illustration showing kids and animals having fun.

The August issue adds cover teases, widely used in the industry.

Highlights, which doesn't accept ads and is sold primarily through subscriptions that cost about $30 a year, hit a peak in circulation a decade ago at about 2.5 million. To grow again, the magazine will need a bigger presence on the newsstand, Husni said. Other magazines, such as those tied to the kid-focused Nickelodeon television network and Disney, have built-in publicity.
Still, of the about 6,500 consumer magazines available, Highlights is one of about 40 that have a circulation of 2 million or more, Husni said.

Highlights features articles on topics ranging from T. rex to teenage soccer star Freddy Adu, as well as jokes, games and crafts such as making a dragonfly using pipe cleaners. Several pages are filled with drawings and poems produced by readers.

Highlights can be even more relevant now than it was 60 years ago, Johnson said, because it provides a balance to technology, a chance for children to turn away from the television and find the teacup in 'Hidden Pictures.'

The feature is one of the best parts of the magazine for Katie Hammond, 7. Her brother, Tyler, who turned 10 on Sunday, said he likes that the magazine involves his whole family. 'It's not just a thing that kids can do. Families can sit down and look for things,' he said.

The magazine's endurance speaks to the faith parents have in it, said Steve Cohn, editor-in-chief of Media Industry Newsletter.

'These days there's not all that much you can trust anymore,' Cohn said, adding, 'It might be a little white-bread for some, but it works.'"

18 June 2006

TMI

My additional duties over the summer include managing a summer program for our sophs who didn't meet the standards on the state tests in April...and making sure the retakes in August run smoothly. School isn't out yet (3 more days!), but I've already been getting the program components in place.

This was the week that student enrollment began. I had lots of parent phone calls, many of which provided me with "too much information." For example...
  • My husband and I are having a fight. Ht thinks that our daughter take the class this summer and retake the test in August, but I think she should just continue her math sequence in the fall and retake in the Spring. Which one of us is right?
  • It's ridiculous that kids have to explain their reasoning on the test. No one has to do that in the real world. You just call someone and get an answer. That's all that matters. Why should my kid have to write out answers on the test?

Not to mention the number of families who didn't read their letters properly, seem to have been living in a bubble over the last 5+ years and claim to never heard of graduation requirements, or are under a delusion that their kid is going to make up several grade levels in reading during a 16-session prep course. How about moms who are more worried about how their sons are going to be able to go to weight training for football with this pesky math class interfering? (Keep in mind that the tutorial options are free and not mandatory.)

I have quite the call log going. Part of the reason for it is that we actually get money from the state for all of this "academic counseling" I'm doing. But the other part is simply a way to document all of this in case these same parents want to sue the school district for not helping their children to graduate.

There is a job posting right now for someone to do this job full-time. I've been asked to sit in on the interviews. It will be really good to pass along all of this (especially the TMI tidbits) to someone else...especially the phone calls.

17 June 2006

Jo-Jo


Flat Iron Studio by lindsaybayley CC-BY-NC SA

My dad had a childhood friend named Joe. And in true child(ish) fashion, dad would occasionally refer to Joe as "Jo-Jo the Dogfaced Boy," usually at a moment when Joe would be drinking something. This caused milk to spew from his nose, which is a highly desirable sort of outcome if you're a grade school boy. Although dad's and Joe's lives took separate paths starting by high school, they always stayed in touch. We always saw Joe and his family at Christmas and they have continued to look after my grandmother.

Ripley's 0027 by WraithTDK CC-BY-NC-SA
Joe and his wife are retired and like to travel in their RV. It wasn't a complete surprise the other night when they called to tell me that they're staying in a KOA campground not too far from here---they've been wandering about this area in previous years. Still, everytime I hear from them, I can't help but picture the real "dog faced boy."


My dad has been gone more than seven years now, so it is still
nice to have this tie to him...someone who knew him far differently than I. I'll travel to meet Joe and co. later today, have some lunch, reminisce about the past, and plan for the future. And I'll do my best to not have milk come out of anyone's nose.

16 June 2006

We're Safe

By yesterday evening, I had figured out who the new Boss Lady would be. There was only one logical choice...and the fact that my current Boss cc'ed me on two e-mails to the new One pretty much made things clear.

Those of us who work in Curriculum could do far worse than who has been assigned to ride herd on us. She gets rave reviews from the secondary principals (over whom she currently supervises) and seems capable and friendly enough. The principals were worried about who would be their boss now, and although we've all heard the answer to that question, I haven't seen any admins to get their reaction. My guess is that they won't be jumping for joy, but will also be relieved that it's someone they know and have worked with in the past.

My goal this weekend is to write up something about what my job is and describe the various irons I have in the fire. Considering the scope of the job she's been assigned to, there's going to be an intense learning curve and I think I would do well to help her know how to help me.

There will be one person in our office who is going to be very unhappy with this new change, as our current Boss Lady has given her quite the gravy train. I don't think our new supervisor will change anything that has already been set in motion for next year, but I think that math, science, and secondary ed are going to get a lot more (and balanced) attention in very short order.

So, welcome to Boss Lady 2.0.

15 June 2006

You Dropped a Bomb on Me

The last two days have been amazing...much more than I can capture here at the moment.

Yesterday, the Boss Lady announced in front of the Union and everybody that we would have a different science kit curriculum for elementary next year. And while I'm thrilled that the recommendations will move forward, it was also a little weird to have her say all that when she and I hadn't ever gotten to talk about it. But, okay.

And today? Today the Boss Lady told us that she'd resigned...and that tomorrow, the Supe is going to appoint someone to her position.

If I thought the last 24 hours were interesting, my guess is that the next 24 will be even moreso.

14 June 2006

Education Carnival #71: End of Year Staff Party

"Hey, we made it!"

"And not a moment too soon," Graycie said. "You should have seen everyone at my school. They’ve been scavenging items from various classrooms. Whoever we hire is going to have some terrible furniture to start with."

"You’re not kidding. People have been so crabby. Why can’t we just figure out the right thing to do and work together to do it?" mused the Portable Princess.

"There does seem to be a lot of ‘sibling rivalry’ between grade levels," added the Science Goddess.

Ms. Cornelius added, "It’s not just the teachers. Even the kids are edgy, but it’s all the more difficult when the administration doesn’t do its part in promoting a safe environment for students."

The teachers sighed and took a sip of a frosty beverage. "I need another..." said the Princess as she wandered off.

"Yeah, well, I heard about a school where the principal lost a confidence vote by her staff," Darren said. "She was asking them to focus on academics, and I guess they’d rather focus on their own morale."

School Me! joined the group. "That does sound tough, but here in LA, we’re trying to find a new supe. That job is definitely not a cakewalk."

"I know what you mean," added 3 σ to the Left. "I’ve been dealing with parents who want me to make all sorts of last-ditch efforts on behalf of their kid."

"Shouldn’t the kid be the one making an effort throughout the year?" asked I Thought a Think.

"My point exactly."

I Thought a Think said, "I had a similar problem here at the end of the year. There are two youngsters in my room that might need to be retained. But that is such a tough decision to make."

"We’re worried about whether or not we should keep kids, too," said the Anonymous Educator, "but for different reasons. Some of them can be entertaining."

"It seems to me that many parents and students do not feel that they are in any way responsible for a student’s academic progress—while others disagree," interjected the NYC Educator.

"Maybe it isn’t a change in the students and parents," added Mamacita. "Maybe the curriculum is just too different now. I remember when everyone had access to some life skills and were taught them when they were ready to learn."

A call came from across the crowd. "Yo! Goddess! Where’s the bathroom?"

"Down the hall and to the left."

"Geez," said Greg, "I’ve just been dealing with bathroom use issues at my school. Is it really too much to expect a high school age kid to wait to go until passing time? (No pun intended.) Don’t most of them go all night without using the restroom?"

"Hic..." Mr. Lawrence said as he tripped. "Pardon, but it is time for a cuba libre or three. I gotta do something to get those crazy kid names from this year out of my head." Lawrence continued toward the kitchen.

Theo was gathering his things as if he was leaving. "Where you goin’, Theo?"

"Oh, I've got to get back to grading." He rolled his eyes. "These days, it seems like 'authentic' assessment is synonymous with 'slow.' Are things really any better with these new expectations?

"Depends on who you talk to. It seems to me that until the DoE has some common expectations about how states determine their subgroups for AYP, we won’t can’t know the value of these different assessments. I was just blogging about that over on the AFT/NCLBlog."

"Speaking of the DoE," said Alexander Russo, did you see that Spellings isn't on the witness list for the House hearing on the possible AYP loophole?"

Eduwonk stopped by with Crystal from the HUNBlog and joined the group. "And speaking of NCLB, I’m wondering why, in this information age, some schools can’t figure out a way to use technology to get struggling students the support they need."

"Yeah, well, there’s always next year," The Science Goddess said as she pondered her margarita.

Crystal laughed. "Next year? After originally moving from a primary classroom to a grade 8 science classroom, I’m really wondering about how well certification matches qualifications. TGI Summer."

Scott joined the party late, but was catching up quickly. "I was just reading something about math certification that relates to what you're talking about."

"I’ve already been pondering the evolution of the syllabus," said Zeno. "Does one size fit all?"

"Probably not. But then, most college students these days approach their education with a sense of entitlement. I’ve been thinking of writing a ‘Tough Love Manifesto' about this very same issue over at Right Wing Nation."

"College students..." said the Science Goddess. "Did you see how their indiscretions with personal information on sites like ‘MySpace’ are costing them jobs?"

Mildly Melancholy chimed in, "I’m already planning for next year, too. I have lots of ideas to teach kids to be better writers."

"Maybe you’d be interested in our contest," said The Reflective Teacher.

"What contest?"

"The one for nerds! Come on over and give a lesson plan your best shot."

"I can’t even think about next year," said the ChemJerk. "I’m still trying to get over all of the misconceptions my students had about the material this year."

The Science Goddess wandered over to check in on the Wonks. "Are you having a good time? I’m so glad you let me host."

"Things are great. But not everywhere. Did you read about that situation in Texas where a former teacher wants full custody of the child she had with a 13-year old student?" The Wonks shook their heads. "What’s happening with the world today?"

D-Ed Reckoning looked over. "I hadn’t heard that. What’s been bugging me is the lack of quality research in education these days."

Janine sighed. "I have to get going."

"So soon?"

"Well, I have to get ready for next week’s ‘do.’ We’re hosting the Carnival of Education next week over at ‘Why Homeschool?’"

"Great!" said the Wonks. "How do we contact you if we want to participate?"

"Just send your permalink to cate [at] panix [dot] com by 7 p.m. PT on Tuesday, June 20. And be sure to come over and check things out."

"I’ll do that," said the Science Goddess. "I really enjoyed your post on the differences in brain development between girls and boys, and the effect this can have on how they learn."

And with that, the faculty party started to break up. Summer was here.

This Carnival is registered at The Truth Laid Bear.

12 June 2006

Truth or Consequences

Alan Finder of The New York Times is reporting that a person's on-line persona can undermine their resume (reg. req'd.). Information about nearly anyone is just a "google" away. Employers are using this to their advantage in order to find out more about prospective candidates before hiring. The full article follows:

When a small consulting company in Chicago was looking to hire a summer intern this month, the company's president went online to check on a promising candidate who had just graduated from the University of Illinois.

Tien Nguyen, a college senior, signed up for job interviews but said he was seldom contacted until he withdrew a satirical online essay.

At Facebook, a popular social networking site, the executive found the candidate's Web page with this description of his interests: "smokin' blunts" (cigars hollowed out and stuffed with marijuana), shooting people and obsessive sex, all described in vivid slang.

It did not matter that the student was clearly posturing. He was done.

"A lot of it makes me think, what kind of judgment does this person have?" said the company's president, Brad Karsh. "Why are you allowing this to be viewed publicly, effectively, or semipublicly?"

Many companies that recruit on college campuses have been using search engines like Google and Yahoo to conduct background checks on seniors looking for their first job. But now, college career counselors and other experts say, some recruiters are looking up applicants on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Xanga and Friendster, where college students often post risqué or teasing photographs and provocative comments about drinking, recreational drug use and sexual exploits in what some mistakenly believe is relative privacy.

When viewed by corporate recruiters or admissions officials at graduate and professional schools, such pages can make students look immature and unprofessional, at best.

"It's a growing phenomenon," said Michael Sciola, director of the career resource center at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. "There are lots of employers that Google. Now they've taken the next step."

At New York University, recruiters from about 30 companies told career counselors that they were looking at the sites, said Trudy G. Steinfeld, executive director of the center for career development.

"The term they've used over and over is red flags," Ms. Steinfeld said. "Is there something about their lifestyle that we might find questionable or that we might find goes against the core values of our corporation?"

Facebook and MySpace are only two years old but have attracted millions of avid young participants, who mingle online by sharing biographical and other information, often intended to show how funny, cool or outrageous they are.

On MySpace and similar sites, personal pages are generally available to anyone who registers, with few restrictions on who can register. Facebook, though, has separate requirements for different categories of users; college students must have a college e-mail address to register. Personal pages on Facebook are restricted to friends and others on the user's campus, leading many students to assume that they are relatively private.

But companies can gain access to the information in several ways. Employees who are recent graduates often retain their college e-mail addresses, which enables them to see pages. Sometimes, too, companies ask college students working as interns to perform online background checks, said Patricia Rose, the director of career services at the University of Pennsylvania.

Concerns have already been raised about these and other Internet sites, including their potential misuse by stalkers and students exposing their own misbehavior, for example by posting photographs of hazing by college sports teams. Add to the list of unintended consequences the new hurdles for the job search.

Ana Homayoun runs Green Ivy Educational Consulting, a small firm that tutors and teaches organizational skills to high school students in the San Francisco area. Ms. Homayoun visited Duke University this spring for an alumni weekend and while there planned to interview a promising job applicant.

Curious about the candidate, Ms. Homayoun went to her page on Facebook. She found explicit photographs and commentary about the student's sexual escapades, drinking and pot smoking, including testimonials from friends. Among the pictures were shots of the young woman passed out after drinking.

"I was just shocked by the amount of stuff that she was willing to publicly display," Ms. Homayoun said. "When I saw that, I thought, 'O.K., so much for that.' "

Ms. Rose said a recruiter had told her he rejected an applicant after searching the name of the student, a chemical engineering major, on Google. Among the things the recruiter found, she said, was this remark: "I like to blow things up."

Occasionally students find evidence online that may explain why a job search is foundering. Tien Nguyen, a senior at the University of California, Los Angeles, signed up for interviews on campus with corporate recruiters, beginning last fall, but he was seldom invited.

A friend suggested in February that Mr. Nguyen research himself on Google. He found a link to a satirical essay, titled "Lying Your Way to the Top," that he had published last summer on a Web site for college students. He asked that the essay be removed. Soon, he began to be invited to job interviews, and he has now received several offers.

"I never really considered that employers would do something like that," he said. "I thought they would just look at your résumé and grades."

Jennifer Floren is chief executive of Experience Inc., which provides online information about jobs and employers to students at 3,800 universities. "This is really the first time that we've seen that stage of life captured in a kind of time capsule and in a public way," Ms. Floren said. "It has its place, but it's moving from a fraternity or sorority living room. It's now in a public arena."
Some companies, including Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Ernst & Young and Osram Sylvania, said they did not use the Internet to check on college job applicants.

"I'd rather not see that part of them," said Maureen Crawford Hentz, manager of talent acquisition at Osram Sylvania. "I don't think it's related to their bona fide occupational qualifications."

More than a half-dozen major corporations, including Morgan Stanley, Dell, Pfizer, L'Oréal and Goldman Sachs, turned down or did not respond to requests for interviews.

But other companies, particularly those involved in the digital world like Microsoft and Métier, a small software company in Washington, D.C., said researching students through social networking sites was now fairly typical. "It's becoming very much a common tool," said Warren Ashton, group marketing manager at Microsoft. "For the first time ever, you suddenly have very public information about almost any candidate."

At Microsoft, Mr. Ashton said, recruiters are given broad latitude over how to work, and there is no formal policy about using the Internet to research applicants. "There are certain recruiters and certain companies that are probably more in tune with the new technologies than others are," he said.

Microsoft and Osram Sylvania have also begun to use networking sites in a different way, participating openly in online communities to get out their company's messages and to identify talented job candidates.

Students may not know when they have been passed up for an interview or a job offer because of something a recruiter saw on the Internet. But more than a dozen college career counselors said recruiters had been telling them since last fall about incidents in which students' online writing or photographs had raised serious questions about their judgment, eliminating them as job candidates.

Some college career executives are skeptical that many employers routinely check applicants online. "My observation is that it's more fiction than fact," said Tom Devlin, director of the career center at the University of California, Berkeley.

At a conference in late May, Mr. Devlin said, he asked 40 employers if they researched students online and every one said no.

Many career counselors have been urging students to review their pages on Facebook and other sites with fresh eyes, removing photographs or text that may be inappropriate to show to their grandmother or potential employers. Counselors are also encouraging students to apply settings on Facebook that can significantly limit access to their pages.

Melanie Deitch, director of marketing at Facebook, said students should take advantage of the site's privacy settings and be smart about what they post. But students may not be following the advice.

"I think students have the view that Facebook is their space and that the adult world doesn't know about it," said Mark W. Smith, assistant vice chancellor and director of the career center at Washington University in St. Louis. "But the adult world is starting to come in."

11 June 2006

It's Headed This Way!

Candy Apples, Popcorn by ilovememphis CC-BY-ND


School may be out in many areas, but the Education Carnival rolls on. The midway will be open for business right here on Wednesday morning. Please get your submissions to me (the_science_goddess [at] yahoo [dot] com) no later than 7 p.m. (PT) Tuesday evening.

10 June 2006

Sibling Rivalry

I work with both elementary and secondary teachers. It's interesting to hear how each of them perceives the other---especially in terms of attention from the district.

My sixth grade teachers told me this week that the big discussion recently has been "How come secondary doesn't have to do the standards-based report card?" This has been a major source of upheaval in the district (and will likely continue to be over the next two years as it becomes phased in) and teachers have felt a bit put upon.

Secondary teachers? They want to know how come the elementaries get all of the instructional coaches and access to a whole other set of substitutes for professional development.

Principals' from the district's elementary schools were complaining on Tuesday that they want the program secondary has which allows teachers to go out and observe other teachers as a reflective tool.

Gimme. Gimme. Gimme. :)

08 June 2006

Whiplash

There are officially nine days of school left, but there doesn't seem to be any sign of things slowing down. Monday, I had my k-5 group...yesterday, it was seventh grade life science teachers all day...and today was a group of sixth grade teachers and planning to deliver in-service on the new materials at the end of June. I'm experiencing a bit of whiplash going from group to group like this and trying to keep it all straight.

Yes, I'm still meeting with my class each morning. And, I'm working through my second grad class for my EdD (got a 20 page paper due in a week). WASL scores will be released Monday, meaning my summer project is going to take off like a shot.

But hey, at least I'm not bored. :)

07 June 2006

If You Don't Talk to Your Kids about the Education Carnival...Who Will?

Really, folks, I've been remiss about barking for the weekly Carnival of Education. Number 70 is up at the 'wonks, ready for you to stroll down the midway. Just be careful---it's addictive.

06 June 2006

Bird Flu Hits Florida Trailer Park!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Image Credit Unknown

Limbo...It's Not Just for Parties

Original Image Credit Lost to the Sands of Time :(
Do you remember your Dante? The outermost circle of Hell was "Limbo," where all the good people who had the bad fortune to be born before Christ had to hang out. It wasn't really their fault that they weren't "saved," but yet they just couldn't be allowed to go to Heaven. Working in Curriculum recently has been a lot like that. I keep thinking that one of us should print "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate."* on the door.

We keep being assured that answers concerning our job descriptions, office locations, and associated goals will be provided soon. But with two weeks left to go in the school year, we're getting a little nervous. Can we buy the science kits our kids need? What will Curriculum Optional Day look like in August? Do we get to replace the instructional coaches who have moved onto other jobs? Is there just one Boss Lady next year---or three? Can we train some building level math and science experts? Will we know all the answers if we tune in tomorrow?

In the meantime, I guess we all just keep dancing as fast as we can. Limbo!


* "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."

04 June 2006

In Case You Missed It

Last week, federal legislation was introduced last week which would amend the No Child Left Behind Act (a/k/a "Elementary and Secondary Education Act") to include science as a measure of Adequate Yearly Progress, along with reading and math. Science testing at 3 grade levels was already required, however reporting the results was not. The amendment would require testing in science in grades 3 - 8 and at grade 10. These would be phased in by 2010.

When I think about what this will really mean, I don't know what kind of excitement to have: the kind like "Oh, boy! Finally science is getting attention!" or "Oh, crap! We're getting too much attention!" Love it or hate it, at least NCLB is going to make schools start paying attention to science. It won't be left behind (!) in favor of reading and math. I think that's a good thing. The idea that we're going to have to address equity issues in science is also good. (We have major issues with the achievement gap in science in my district.) The whole 2010 thing is a bit frightening. That's such a short time to be ready. My job has suddenly become a whole lot more important to the district.

Will "testing" mean another WASL for other grades...or some sort of classroom based assessment? What about the fact that our standards are not assigned to grades...but are in grade bands---how can we test each year? I'm sure the state must be peeing in its britches at the moment, considering the development and money involved.

Meanwhile, my k-5 science group meets again tomorrow to try to make some final recommendations about scope and sequence and kit selection. This new wrinkle will have to be taken into consideration...and we're going to have to sell it to the Boss Lady. She has alluded that we won't be allowed to purchase anything other than FOSS kits, but that curriculum doesn't work with our standards and is rather poor in comparison to other programs. I know that teachers may be uncomfortable making a bit of a change---but isn't our goal to help kids?

03 June 2006

Welcome to...

...students of St. John Fisher College.

Best wishes as you journey into literacy in the content areas (and blogging). From my own bookshelf, I recommend Teaching Reading the Content Areas by Billmeyer and Barton (there are even special books for math, science, and social studies). Its sister book, Teaching Writing in the Content Areas, is also worth a look.

I absolutely love Reading Reminders by Jim Burke. If you can get only one book---make it that one. I have not looked through his Writing Reminders, but do plan to borrow it from a colleague one of these weekends. Burke also has a fabulous book of graphic organizers called Tools for Thought.

Speaking of graphic organizers, here are three kickin' websites with templates and samples to download: Notemaking, via Englishcompanion.com, Tools for Reading, Writing, and Thinking from Greece SD in NY, and Graphic Organizers on ed.com.

Lots of good stuff to share. I hope you'll let me know what you find out there that you like!

02 June 2006

Listen...

Do you want to know a secret?
Do you promise not to tell?

Closer...
let me whisper in your ear...
say the words you long to hear...

WASL scores are good!

:)

More specifics to follow when things are officially ready for release...

01 June 2006

Another Way to Get There

From UPI:

A growing number of U.S. students who have dropped out of high school or failed to graduate are going to college without a high school diploma.

The New York Times reports that about 2 percent of all college students do not have high school diplomas, up from 1.4 percent four years ago. At community colleges, 3 percent of students lack diplomas and at commercial institutions, the figure is 4 percent.

The trend is raising questions about whether students who have failed to complete high school should be eligible for state tuition grants and loans.

In California, where students must have a diploma to qualify, a Democratic legislator has proposed changing the law. In New York, Gov. George Pataki unsuccessfully tried to deny aid to students without diplomas.

This article piques my interest---and I wish there was more to it. Are these students without diplomas home schooled? Are they dropouts with GEDs and good SAT scores? Kids who did well in terms of meeting college entrance requirements, but didn't jump through all of the hoops to get a diploma (like passing a state exam)? If a student meets the college admissions standards, why would you try to deny them funding?

I work with someone who is a high school dropout...and college graduate. High school just wasn't his thing. He has a ton of intellectual curiosity and enjoys learning. When he was ready to move on with a formal education, he found a way to do so---and I admire that. I'm not suggesting that this is the best pathway for everyone, but it seems like we need to have more options out there...not less.

UPDATE: A-ha! The New York Times has more information.