Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorial Weekend Paddling

It was off the meet some friends at Meramec State Park for a brief Memorial Day Weekend camping trip.

Being a holiday weekend the campground was, of course, full.  Thankfully our friends were able to get there early and secure us some spots that had not been reserved.

A nice fire, good food, and great company kept us busy Friday evening.  It was bit cooler that night than expected, but Zack and Debbie both reported being warm all night.

We were iffy on when to paddle Saturday due to the possibility of rain in the forecast.  With the water high and a quick look at the radar (rain was way north) we headed out.

About an hour in we started hearing some rumblings of thunder and the sky darkened to our west.  When it started to sprinkle I pulled out the rain gear.  Shortly thereafter it started coming down in buckets.  We pulled off with some other folks and attempted to use the boats as shelter. 

Years ago we had to do the same while paddling on the Jacks Fork.  It was Debbie's first canoe trip and we tied a rope between two trees to support the canoes while eight of us huddled under them.

This time Tony and I stayed out in the rain and held the boats and some plastic in place.  We ended up moving everyone over to a large fallen tree to prop up the boats, but it quit raining shortly after.

Photo: Gimme shelter.

We rearranged everything and headed out after the rain, but hit another shower shortly before our takeout.  All in all everyone did very well in the cool and wet weather...at least much better than I would have thought.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Wrong Ideas

There are a set of concepts being pushed by the education reform movement and the legislators to which they make contributions.  We see this movement across the country, with elements coming from the US Department of Education as requirements/assurances of applying for competitive grants.

The trouble is these are the wrong ideas.  We should, instead, look to the schools and districts that outperform their demographics to how to improve schools.  The education reform crowd says that teachers are the problem out of one side of their mouth, while talking about how great teachers make a difference from the other side.  Beating down the very people charged with improving performance just doesn't seem like a good idea.

When we look to those schools and districts making significant strides, we see collaboration, not caustic confrontation.  I recently spent time in two buildings, but three schools, in a different district.

The first building was an elementary school with about 25% free and reduced lunch.  They've instituted a continuous classroom improvement model.  Although their performance was pretty good, they've shown system improvement under the new model.  In other words a student will perform better the longer the student is in the school.

The second school is contained in the same building as the first.  They have about 55% free and reduced lunch.  They've implemented the same model and are also starting to see system improvement.

The third building has 88% free and reduced lunch.  It's an older building in an older part of the town.  What one might expect in a building with this high a free and reduced lunch is not what you find.  The school has an active parent volunteer group and uses the same classroom improvement model as the other two schools.  It's performance isn't as high, but much higher than one might expect.  The system improvements are considerable, especially considering the mobility in this school.

Are any of these schools implementing stuff from the reform crowd?  No.