Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Crooked thinking need some straight talk

Crooked Thinking needs Straight Talk

“Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”   How many times are we going to be content with those words that do nothing to change the situation.  Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Once again there has been a school invasion that ended in the deaths of 17 students and educators.  Thoughts and prayers are wonderful but they do not repair the lives that have been devastated by the loss of children and family.  They do not recreate the lives that have been ended. 
Our country has had more mass shootings than any other country in the developed world.  What is wrong with our infatuation with guns and particularly assault weapons? How long will we relive the cowboy era?   The adults refuse to do the hard work of solving the problem.   Some of us keep retreating to the 2nd amendment to our Constitution. Others are afraid of the NRA so they just duck and cover instead of standing for something besides crooked thinking. Yes we have the right to bear arms, don't we also have the right to go to school, attend a concert, or attend a house of worship without fear.   We have done a great deal to prevent terrorists from getting bombs.  How about domestic terrorists who because of mental illness or estrangement are just as dangerous when they get assault weapons.
Maybe, just maybe, a little child shall lead us and shame us.  The students from the school in Florida, scene of the latest invasion, have decided to take matters into their own hands.  As one student said, “we are tired of being collateral” in the gun wars.
The students are organizing.  They have talked about creating a badge of shame that they will award to any legislator who cannot stand up for safety.  The students hit the Sunday talk shows.  They are reaching out across the country to organize a march on March 24.   They are prepared to challenge Trump.  They are prepared to challenge all those adults in the legislatures across the country.   They are tired of the crooked thinking.
How do we as the adults, the people who are supposed to be the leadership, keep telling our children that invasion drills will protect them. The invasion drills are reminiscent of the duck and cover drills of the 50’s and 60’s when we thought hiding under our desks would save us from a nuclear attack.
We know perfectly well that the drills will scare some, leave some kids dead in the next invasion, and will fail to keep school a place where kids feel safe.   Yet we, as the adults, offer nothing else.  We offer prayer, kind thoughts but no guarantee of protection.
The kids are doing the straight talking.  Maybe, just maybe, some of the so-called leaders will be listening.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Let's Test All the people, all the time

Let’s Test All the People, all the time

There are two competing ideas in the Maryland General Assembly.   One seems sort of logical, the other counting what can’t be counted.
Let’s begin with the sort of logical one.   The federal law, Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires that 95% of students be tested annually.  Over the past five years, Maryland has tested 98.5% of its students.  Students who are severely disabled are not tested.
A Frederick County delegate has introduced a bill that would exempt from testing those students whose disability is so severe that the student is non-verbal and lacking communicative competency.  Does it make any sense at all to test these students with grade level tests?   Apparently, it does to the Department of Legislative Services that has cautioned exempting these students could bring Maryland below the 95% threshold and that MIGHT jeopardize federal funding.   Let’s be clear, this is a very small percentage of Maryland’s students.  The law does not allow for an alternative assessment for the children with the most significant cognitive disabilities.  Exactly what is the point of this testing?!   It torments the kids and aggravates the teachers who must administer something that is not even entirely meaningful to students without disabilities.  This bill was introduced last year and failed.  Looks like it is going to fail again this year.   No one ever said politics is logical.
Another requirement of the ESSA is that each state submit a plan that explains how teachers will be evaluated.   Maryland’s plan has been submitted and approved by the U.S. Secretary of Education.  However, Governor Hogan calls this plan a farce.  Here is why.  The State’s plan says that test scores will account for 55% of a teacher’s rating.   Hogan thinks that is entirely too low and is pressuring the State Board of Education to raise it to 85% of a teacher’s rating.   It would be delightful in Wonderland if we could truly assess a teacher’s effectiveness by just looking at test scores.  But the fact is that students' test scores have never been shown to be correlated with a teacher’s ability to teach. You would think that people who seem obsessed with numbers would have wanted some research to support this idea.  There are other factors such as the teacher’s relationship with the children.  And the teacher’s knowledge of the content and the teacher’s enthusiasm for the subject.  These factors may influence test scores but there are other factors that also influence test scores over which a teacher has little to no control.  These are the abilities of the students, the support of the student’s family and the availability of teaching materials. 

The American culture has always had a fascination with things we can measure and put a number to.  Perhaps it is a test of our good sense to see how far we are willing to let this fascination take over our schools.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

How do I tell my child the truth?

How do I tell my child the truth?

Recently my daughter was watching the promo shots for the upcoming Olympics.  After she watched some skaters, she announced that she wanted to be an Olympic figure skater.  She was very serious.  She is 16 and has never even been on the ice.  I tried to do all the logical stuff but her heart and mind are made up.  I don’t want to take away her dreams, that is not fair to her.  But I don’t know what to do.
My son wants to play pro football.  He is a huge Ravens fan and is sure he could make the team.  He is not particularly strong, in fact, his body is rather slight.  Additionally, he has some cognitive challenges that I believe would prevent him from learning any plays.  I just can’t tell him the truth that this will never happen.  I can’t dash his dreams.  What should I do?
My daughter can lip synch almost every song.  She is sure she will have a singing group and a band one day.  It is good she can lip synch because she can’t really sing at all.  I have mentioned that very few people make the grade and make big money in the music world but she is sure she will.   How can I tell her this is a pipe dream that will never come to pass.   She doesn’t believe me.
Our children need us to believe in them.   Our children need us to support their dreams.  But most of all our children need us to be honest with them.
There is an old saying, that the best way to show that a stick is crooked is to place a straight stick alongside of it.  We do our children no benefit to allow them to continue to go down a path that will never lead to the goal they have in mind.  First of all, it is dishonest and secondly while I am chasing a rainbow I am not preparing for what could be the real pot of gold in my future.
So, what is a parent to do.   There are two approaches that can operate simultaneously.   Begin with that crooked stick.   Together with your child identify the skills required of the dream job.  Ask your child if he/she has those skills.  If the child says yes, then push the envelope and ask your child to demonstrate those skills.   If the child says he or she can learn them, don’t be afraid to hold up that mirror and show your child that the skills haven’t come yet and probably won’t.
Then before you totally dash all hope, move to a reasonable approximation of the dream.  A youngster may want to be a veterinarian.  The fact is it is tougher to become a veterinarian than it is to become a medical doctor.  There are fewer schools of veterinary medicine so it is much harder to get into one.  But there are jobs and training programs for vet techs or veterinary assistants. Kennels always need good help.    A child can still be with animals and help make animals well.
There are lots of other approximation jobs that are differently skilled than the so-called dream jobs.

Above all, you want your children to tell you the truth so you owe it to them to be honest with them as well.