Articles Tagged with Education

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schoolEveryone agrees something has to be done about deficit spending. The question is what taxes (if any) should be increased and what budget items do we have to cut back if we conclude that taxes are not the only answer.

Lansdowne High School has an opinion. Landsdowne has survived and thrived in recent years in spite of economic challenges the community faced long before the recent economic downturn: half of the children qualify for free or reduced lunch. Landsdowne has shrugged off these challenges, achieving an 84% graduation rate (something you would never expect in South Baltimore after watching just one Wire episode).

But while Lansdowne may have a city feel to it, it is in Baltimore County. Like most municipalities in Maryland and around the country, Baltimore County is struggling. One potential victim: reducing the budget for teaching positions which means Landsdowne is going to have larger class sizes and cancellation of subjects.

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Raise your hand if you think something is very wrong here. Yesterday, I wrote about Maryland Superintendent of Schools stepping down after a 20 year run. Yesterday, Cathie Black is leaving her post as New York City chancellor. Her tenure? Three months.

This is an “only in New York” thing a recent public opinion poll this week placed her approval rating at 17 percent. Really? What exactly did she do in three months? Did this get her fired? Or was it just an admission by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that he made the wrong call in the first place?

I don’t know. But one this is for sure: there is nothing productive about a 3 month tenure in any leadership position in our schools, much less this one.

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First Grade Skills and Second Grade Skills are two iPad apps put out by Visual Learning Aids. I love the idea of this app. But these are not a good apps. The premise is fantastic. Reading comprehension, vocabulary, science question, all in multiple choice format that is very “standardized testish”. But that application is terrible. First, there are spelling errors everywhere. Really? It is a $3 app, get the spelling correct. Moreover, it has a very limited number of questions so, after a week, you can only pull it out every few months. Moreover, the layout is sophomoric, it looks like something we could do if we had only the most basic skills in putting together an app. Attention app developers: someone build on this great premise and make an app just like this one… only good.

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Maryland’s legislature passed Senate Bill 985 this week which tightens the screws a bit on for-profit colleges by tightening regulation of these institutions. Governor O’Malley supports the bill and is expected to sign it soon. Where are the feds on this? The for-profit college industry doubled spending on lobbying this year. Ah. For-profit colleges are not a bad thing.

But government offering loans for tuition which generates people looking to find opportunistic ways to grab onto that money. Some for profit colleges are probably great, some are not so great. We should figure out which is which. Here is what we do know: many people going to these colleges are not paying back their loans and are not graduating. These numbers are twice as high with for profit colleges, a statistic that should give us all cause for pause.

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Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick, the longest-serving appointed head of state schools in the country, announced yesterday that she is retiring after 20 years.

Good for her. And she probably did a great job (I’m in no position to access). I don’t like parsing the words of someone I don’t consider a public official. But this line concerns me a little bit: “I just want more flexibility in my life, and I love leaving on top because I think it’s fair to the next person.”

There are three parts to this quote. The first is that she wants more flexibility in her life. She’s earned that for sure. The second part is that she loves leaving on top.

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finnish_flagI read last night a really thought provoking article in Time about the educational system in Finland.

The article calls Finland’s system in the title “anti-Tiger” playing off the subject of yesterday’s blog post. In a recent study, Finland was second in science literacy, second in reading and third in math, putting them in the same league as educational giants such as South Korea and Singapore.

The educational systems of South Korea and Singapore don’t sell well with Americans because they require too much work. Long days, long homework… understandably, not every parent wants to sign their kids up for that struggle. In Finland, the school day is actually shorter than it is here. So what are they doing?

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I am a huge fan of the iPad app Math City. There are many iPad applications that are high definition, high tech and just feel (to me) like 2020. Math City feels like 2002. It has a simple and, frankly, unimpressive design. But Math City really works and, to boot, it costs only 99 cents, not exactly a bank breaker compared to many other iPad math educational games I have seen (and bought).

The premise of the game is that math problems are falling bombs and you need to tap on the correct answer before the bomb explodes on the city. Thus, Math City. The premise is a little violent for my tastes but the nuance of all of this gets lost pretty quickly in the excitement of the game.The bombs fall faster as the game goes on requiring quicker responses. The ultimate reward for success is a spot in the Hall of Fame – the top 500 scores. You get your name, score and country’s flag on the list. My son is on there. Seeing your child’s name and your flag… it feels like your kid winning an Olympic gold medal yet you don’t have to make all of those 5:00 a.m. trips to the ice rink. (Perhaps I exaggerate. A bit.)

The downside of the game being unsophisticated is that the combinations are limited. After a while, you can answer 51 minus 28 in a flash not because you know the answer or can calculate with ease but because that problem continues to reoccur. I would love to see an update with more variability… but you can also find your variability as we do: using other iPad math apps as well.