Saturday, March 30, 2013

March Paddle

A gorgeous March Friday found us on the Missouri River paddling from Frontier Park in St. Charles to Souix Passage Park in North St. Louis County.

We started off making great time and having a wonderful day of paddling.  But then a bad decision made for a couple of hours of hard paddling.  We decided to cut through the Car of Commerce Chute.  It was shallow at the entrance before going through a nice slough and hitting the wall of rocks going from bank to bank.  A few more inches of water and we might have been able to get through, but portaging it was.

The chute remained shallow for much of the way, but the wind was the killer.  It kicked up to where it was negating the little bit of current we had.  It is never fun pulling Zack through what feels like going upstream. 

Our shortcut through the chute was anything but.  Lesson learned...stay in the channel when on the Big Muddy.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Opposite of Intention

This week the Downsizing State Government Committee in the Missouri House of Representatives passed out HB616.  The language is short and simple...

Notwithstanding any other law, the state board of education shall not adopt, and the department of elementary and secondary education shall not implement, the Common Core State Standards developed by the Common Core Standards Initiative. Any actions taken to adopt or implement the Common Core State Standards as of the effective date of this section are void. Common Core State Standards or any other statewide education standards shall not be adopted or implemented without the approval of the general assembly.

I find it interesting that a committee charged with downsizing state government passed out a bill that would require the Legislature's involvement in adopting and implementing education standards.  That doesn't seem like a downsize of government to me, but rather the opposite.

We know a key value of successful organizations is their ability to be agile in the face of change.  This bill heads in the opposite direction.

It seems, however, that local school districts could still implement the common core.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Who's minding the kids?

I recently had a conversation about virtual education with a couple of dads in my son's class.  We were at a birthday party where all the kids were jumping on indoor trampolines, so everyone was just making small talk.  The conversation started with GPS vs. map preferences and went into a technology discussion that led to virtual learning.

We talked about MOOCs (a concept they understood, but hadn't heard the term) and how college as we know could change by the time these rambunctious, jumping second graders hit college.  Then it came...why can't we do significant virtual learning in the early grades.  There's nothing to really say they can't but the comment I made gave them sent them in a different direction.

My comment/thought/question surrounding large scale virtual learning at home is one of daycare.  Whether we want to admit it or not, schools serve as a place for kids to be while both parents are working.  If schools didn't exist in some form, what would working parents do with their kids?

Life in a Voucher world?

Let's imagine for a moment a pure voucher environment.  Every child has a set dollar allotment to use at the school of his or her parents choice.

Now for some questions..
  • Would all schools offer special education services?
  • Would any schools offer transportation?
  • Would there be any need for high-stakes testing?
  • Is there any accountability other than voting-with-their-feet?
  • Would all schools offer breakfast and lunch?
  • How does such an environment not cause income-based segregation?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Taking Schools from the Community

Parent trigger legislation is making its way across the nation fueled by ALEC, StudentsFirst, and others.  It looks like this type of legislation just cleared the Oklahoma Senate and has been filed here in the Missouri House.

It looks to me that the goal of parent trigger legislation is to turn schools over the charter management organizations.  We know these groups perform at or below the levels of public schools.

Here's my issue...We have a building that is 4 years old.  The district issued bonds to build it and the debt is paid by district taxpayers, not just the parents in the school.  Additionally, this school serves only two grade levels.  This means that 50% of the parents are new each year.  Why should a small group of parents be able to take a school away from a community and hand it over to private operators?

Would we allow this for the police department, fire department, library, ambulance district, etc.?