Friday, August 25, 2006

Develop A “Don’t Give Up” Attitude

A group of South Carolina business leaders commissioned a closer look at their schools and found something they were not looking for. They discovered that their “worst-in-the nation dropout rate” cannot be explained by high poverty levels, single-parent households, or rigorous graduation requirements, as reported on the South Carolina Home Page

Kudos to South Carolina State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum, who pointed to recent state-sanctioned initiatives targeting truancy and curriculum changes to make high school instruction more relevant to individual student interests. This is a wonderful start to developing a powerful strategy that teachers can use to keep kids in school. The strategy is: Develop a “Don’t Give Up” Attitude.

Why do your students leave school? Do they “step out” to pursue other alternatives, such as full time work or marriage? Do they experience “push out” because the staff passively allows them to leave with little effort to help them identify problems or reasons to stay? Or do they “drop out” because of boredom, alienation, low academic skills or a negative perception of themselves as a learner?

Gene R. Carter, Executive Director for ASCD, describes in his article “Is it Good for the Kids? What our High School Students Need” the efforts of a high school journalism teacher who chased down one of her students on the football field to remind him his paper was overdue, and how it changed his life. Now that is the “Don’t Give Up Attitude” I was talking about.

Would more of your students stay in school if each, and every one of us ratcheted up our “Don’t Give Up Attitude”?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What do you mean, as a teacher I fare better than other professionals?

I'm not in agreement with Amy Jeter and Deirdre Fernandes blanket statement, "Public school teachers used to earn less than just about everyone else with a college degree. No longer." The statement was taken from their article in the The Virginian-Pilot on August 7, 2006.

I do, however, agree with their statement, "Few political priorities locally or nationally trump the desire for good schools and qualified teachers." So, I would like to introduce a couple of points they might want to ponder before they continue their public discussion on the topic.

The authors refer to the "average" teacher salary, which may not be "average" at all. As educators know, the largest number of classroom teachers, (those darn baby boomers,) are at the top of the pay scale with many holding out on retirement until they are sure of a strong economy. This recent trend is inflating their "average"” figure. So much for numbers!

Let's look at a statement from the article: "On average, professionals work 232 eight-hour days a year, including paid holidays and vacation, the federal survey shows. Teachers work an average of 187 days, 7.5 hours a day." I ask them to probe a bit further.

Amy, Deirdre...interview a business manager or executive who is about to give a four-hour presentation, and ask: How many hours did you take to prepare? My guess would be a day or two. When do the authors think the classroom teacher prepares? When do they think he or she corrects student independent or group work from class? When do teachers review and comment on individual homework assignments? When do they study student data and reflect on changes to be made to their classroom instruction? When do they make those changes?

Just one more quick comment before I ask for your thoughts on this topic. Let's not forget to add in the holidays and paid vacations those "other" professionals receive. Let's see, 187 teacher days + 12 holidays + 10 vacation days + professional development days, now that is a least a better starting point from which to begin.

I believe good teachers work twelve months a year in a nine-month timeframe. How about you?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

“Waste Not, Want Not”

While we are on the subject of money… A surprising number of districts don't fully utilize their E-Rate funds. In fact, school districts' use of awarded E-rate funds have declined from 80 percent in 2000 to 55 percent in 2004; according to an E-Rate consulting firm Funds for Learning.

Sheila Riley has written an article on lessons from the School District of Philadelphia who are model E-Rate recipients. They believe the maxim, "Waste not, want not" are words to live by. Sheila also gives an E-Rate legislative update at:

A key aspect of making the most of E-Rate funding involves the often thankless, but nonetheless crucial, task of paperwork. Peter Kaplan, director of regulatory affairs for Funds for Learning, notes that districts often lose out on E-Rate money simply because they fail to make filing deadlines. "Each spending request has several dates and deadlines associated with it, whether it's an installation, payment, or Form 486 deadline," he says. E-Rate filing deadlines can be found at

Another mistake, says Kaplan, is handing the paperwork job to someone on the low end of the office hierarchy. He cautions us, "Someone relatively high up on the food chain needs to manage and oversee the program, there's a lot of money at stake here." Administrators take note: this strategy is worth a look!

Is your E-Rate manager high enough on the decision making latter to make a difference?