Monday, January 26, 2009

Change Has Come...the First Technology President!

What Are President Obama's Plans for Schools and the Use of Technology?

At 12:01 P.M. on Jan. 21st, the White House website got a brand new look...

As you can see, the Obama administration is planning to use blogs, slideshows, and weekly video addresses to communicate with the American people. This is yet another reason why our students should be exposed to and participate in these types of mediums in school.

One page that I found particularly interesting is President Obama's technology agenda. In addition to appointing a Chief Technology Officer, Obama has some very clear goals for technology in this country as well as the use of technology in education. If even a few of these goals are reached there are huge implications for students, teachers and administrators.

How can you begin to prepare yourself & your students to communicate in this environment of CHANGE?

A few ideas for beginning tech users:

  1. Make sure that you have a website that you update daily or weekly.
  2. Find a blog that is of interest to you (there are thousands out there) and begin reading it everyday. Leave a comment every now and then.
  3. Make sure you are requiring students to cite their work anytime it is not their own. Even if the citation isn't 100% accurate every time, it is important that students are in the habit of citing work.

A few ideas for intermediate tech users:

  1. Look at your own website. Does it communicate the messages you want to send to your students and their parents? Revisit the site's purpose.
  2. Make sure you cite work that isn't your own. Model best practices for the students and point it out to them so they understand when & why you cite work.
  3. When teaching opportunities arise, talk to your students about using technology privately and safely. As technology becomes more pervasive, our students will need to hear messages about safety & privacy over and over again, not just once in a while.

A few ideas for advanced tech users:

  1. Start to post student work on your website. You can make almost anything digital through scanning and photographs.
  2. Start a blog for your class or for yourself. As you use blogs in class, make sure to model appropriateness and teach students how to comment constructively.
  3. Make a short video (like the weekly address) introducing yourself to your students & parents. Post it on your website.

Thanks to my friend Geordie Paulus for sending me this information!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama Addresses Comments from an ELMS Student!

Last week, John King, the host of CNN's State of the Union and network reporter, came to Elkridge to interview one of our students who will be attending the Inauguration of Barack Obama. Shortly after the interviewing Melvin, John King had the opportunity to interview the President-Elect and he shared a comment made by our very own Melvin.

Here is what John King asked President-Elect Obama:

KING: I spent some time since the election with a young boy named Melvin Thomas. He’s 14 years old, lives just outside of Baltimore, African-American. He says, if I was visiting with him a year and a half ago and said, "Who’s your hero?" he would have said without blinking, "Michael Jordan." If I asked him today, he said, "Barack Obama." And he says, "Barack Obama’s going to change the country." He thinks you’re going to create more jobs. He thinks you’re going to help stop people from hating black people. What’s the burden you feel there and the responsibility to kids like Melvin Thomas?

Mr. Obama addressed Melvin's comment and said:

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I hope that — part of what my election gave to Melvin is he can shoot for the stars. He can go as far as his worth ethic and his — his imagination takes him.

And what I also hope is that not only me but all of us take responsibility for the millions of Melvins out there. There are so many young people with so much talent.

OBAMA: Well, I think that part of what we have to do is make sure that our school system works. Part of it is all of us as parents taking responsibility. Because government can’t do it all. And what Melvin is going to benefit from, hopefully, is some good policies from my White House, but I also hope he’s going to benefit from parents who instill in him a thirst for learning, that he has a community that is supportive of the idea that there’s nothing wrong with black boys, or any American child, hitting the books before they worry about whether they’re popular or whether they’re worrying about their sports. I think that the idea that each and every one of us has responsibilities to the next generation is one of the things that I want to communicate, both on inauguration day and throughout my presidency.

To see the interview, click here
(You will need to scroll down the page to see the segment featuring Melvin)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Brrrr...Debunking Cold Myths!

Myths about the cold

Myth: Blowing on your fingers will help warm them.

Fact: You should never blow on your hands to warm them since the resultant moisture (present in exhaled air)may cause the skin to freeze or re-freeze. A better choice is to place cold fingers in the armpits where your body heat will slowly re-warm them...

Myth: Bundle up or you'll catch a cold.

Fact: How well you bundle up has nothing to do with catching a cold or not catching a cold. Viruses and bacteria causes upper respiratory illness not cold air.

Myth: You're more likely to catch a cold from someone who sneezes than by holding or shaking someone's hand.

Fact: Colds are most commonly spread by hand-to-hand contact, so be sure to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, especially if you come in contact with common areas such as doorknobs, telephones, public restrooms, automated teller machines and elevator buttons, where other hands have been.

Myth: You should feed a cold and starve a fever.

Fact: No one knows exactly where this old saying originated, but there is no scientific evidence that eating will help ease cold symptoms, or avoiding food will reduce a fever.

Myth: Eat snow to stave off thirst.

Although snow breaks down into a liquid when eaten, it should be melted first. If snow is eaten, your body uses energy to break it down to a liquid and heat is lost in the process.

Myth: Drinking alcohol will help you stay warm.

Alcohol causes blood vessels to dilate, which increase blood flow to the surface of the skin and away from your body's core. Heat is then quickly radiated away from the body.

(Thanks JoAnn for the idea!)

Original source:

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Letter From Dad: Dear Malia and Sasha

On Tuesday, Barack Obama will be sworn in as our 44th President. Recently, he shared a letter written to his daughters with
Parade Magazine

Dear Malia and Sasha,

I know that you've both had a lot of fun these last two years on the campaign trail, going to picnics and parades and state fairs, eating all sorts of junk food your mother and I probably shouldn't have let you have. But I also know that it hasn't always been easy for you and Mom, and that as excited as you both are about that new puppy, it doesn't make up for all the time we've been apart. I know how much I've missed these past two years, and today I want to tell you a little more about why I decided to take our family on this journey.

When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me-about how I'd make my way in the world, become successful, and get the things I want. But then the two of you came into my world with all your curiosity and mischief and those smiles that never fail to fill my heart and light up my day. And suddenly, all my big plans for myself didn't seem so important anymore. I soon found that the greatest joy in my life was the joy I saw in yours. And I realized that my own life wouldn't count for much unless I was able to ensure that you had every opportunity for happiness and fulfillment in yours.

In the end, girls, that's why I ran for President: because of what I want for you and for every child in this nation.
I want all our children to go to schools worthy of their potential-schools that challenge them, inspire them, and instill in them a sense of wonder about the world around them. I want them to have the chance to go to college-even if their parents aren't rich. And I want them to get good jobs: jobs that pay well and give them benefits like health care, jobs that let them spend time with their own kids and retire with dignity.

I want us to push the boundaries of discovery so that you'll live to see new technologies and inventions that improve our lives and make our planet cleaner and safer. And I want us to push our own human boundaries to reach beyond the divides of race and region, gender and religion that keep us from seeing the best in each other. Sometimes we have to send our young men and women into war and other dangerous situations to protect our country-but when we do, I want to make sure that it is only for a very good reason, that we try our best to settle our differences with others peacefully, and that we do everything possible to keep our servicemen and women safe. And I want every child to understand that the blessings these brave Americans fight for are not free-that with the great privilege of being a citizen of this nation comes great responsibility.

That was the lesson your grandmother tried to teach me when I was your age, reading me the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence and telling me about the men and women who marched for equality because they believed those words put to paper two centuries ago should mean something.
She helped me understand that America is great not because it is perfect but because it can always be made better-and that the unfinished work of perfecting our union falls to each of us. It's a charge we pass on to our children, coming closer with each new generation to what we know America should be.

I hope both of you will take up that work, righting the wrongs that you see and working to give others the chances you've had. Not just because you have an obligation to give something back to this country that has given our family so much-although you do have that obligation. But because you have an obligation to yourself. Because it is only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential.

These are the things I want for you-to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach, and to grow into compassionate, committed women who will help build that world. And I want every child to have the same chances to learn and dream and grow and thrive that you girls have. That's why I've taken our family on this great adventure.

I am so proud of both of you. I love you more than you can ever know. And I am grateful every day for your patience, poise, grace, and humor as we prepare to start our new life together in the White House.

Love, Dad

Good luck Mr. President! Best wishes for an outstanding presidency... we can't afford anything less!

(Thanks to Carol Jones for sharing this letter with me!)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Principals Uneasy About Classifying Students

Excerpts from a recent
Howard County Times article written by Jennifer Broadwater:

New federal guidelines for reporting students’ race, which require a principal to identify a child’s race if the parent refuses to do so, have some school officials, principals and parents uneasy.

The federal government and the U.S. Department of Education requires states to collect information about the race and ethnicity of public school students. The data is linked to the disbursement of federal funds and also to reporting requirements under the No Child Left Behind legislation that analyze student achievement.

The government has compiled race data since 1977, revising the standards in 1997. The newest standards will take effect in the 2010-2011 school year.

However, Howard County schools and other public school systems in Maryland will begin collecting students’ race data under the new standards beginning this month.

Also included in the guidelines is a new requirement called “observer identification,” in which someone other than a child’s parent identifies the child’s race if the parent or guardian refuses.

In Howard, school officials have decided the “observer identification” responsibility will fall to principals.

Tom Saunders, principal of Elkridge Landing Middle School, said there’s been some buzz about the new requirement among principals since the information was presented at a county-wide administrators meeting in November.

Although it gives him an “uneasy feeling,” he said he was hopeful parents would work with him if the new requirement was explained to them. If a parent is unwilling to identify a child’s race, Saunders said he would make the selection to the best of his ability.

“I would have a conversation with the parent, explain the dilemma and hope they would pick,” he said.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Author of NCLB Questions Law's Implementation!

Reform NCLB or Go Back to the Drawing Board?

In a recent National Review Online editorial, Michael J. Petrilli, the chief architect of the No Child Left Behind legislation, reviews the impact of the law after 8 years of implementation. He said,

"I can’t pretend any longer that the law is working, or that a tweak and tuck would make it work."

"NCLB is the embodiment of the 1990s era education reform playbook. Educators,
policymakers, think tankers, and activists who support NCLB are saying I’m part of the education reform team. But does that mean that they necessarily agree with the machinery of the law itself? Speaking personally, I’ve gradually and reluctantly come to the conclusion that NCLB as enacted is fundamentally flawed and probably beyond repair. "

He points out two major flaws with NCLB:
  • Narrowing of the curriculum: "Surely schools would respond thoughtfully to the law’s incentives to boost achievement in reading and math, and would understand that providing a broad, content rich curriculum would give them the best shot at boosting test scores, right? Yet the anecdotes (and increasingly, evidence) keep rolling in of schools turning into test-prep factories and narrowing the curriculum."
  • Not enough good schools for school choice: "Surely if those of us at the Department of Education pushed hard enough we could get districts to inform parents of their school-choice options under the law, and ensure that kids trapped in failing schools have better places to go, right? Yet, hard experience has shown that stronger implementation would only make a difference at the margin. It cannot solve the fundamental problem: in most of our big cities, there are too few good schools to go around. Uncle Sam can’t snap his fingers and make it otherwise. Furthermore, while it’s hard enough to force recalcitrant states and districts to do things they don’t want to do, it’s impossible to force them to do those things well. And when it comes to informing parents, creating new schools, or implementing almost any of NCLB’s many pieces, it’s not enough for states or districts to go through the motions. They have to want to make it succeed. If they don’t, Washington is out of luck. It has no tools or levers to alter the situation. That’s why I’ve called much of the law “un-implementable.”
Many education advocates and reformers point out that NCLB is a worthy goal, but unattainable. According to Kati Haycock, the President of the Education Trust,

"NCLB has changed the conversation in education. Which is good! Results are now the coin of the realm; the “soft bigotry of low expectations” is taboo; closing the achievement gap is at the top of everyone’s to-do list. All for the good. More than good. But let’s face it: it doesn’t help the dedicated principal who is pulling her hair out because of the law’s nonsensical provisions — the specifics that keep NCLB from achieving its own aims."

To read more of Michael Petrilli's editorial in the National Review Online, Click Here!

Should NCLB be "tweaked and tucked" or should education policymakers go back to the drawing board?
Please share your thoughts...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Academic Success By 8th Grade Is Key to College Success?

New ACT Study Reveals the Importance of Being on Target
for College and Career Readiness before High School!

A recent ACT report, The Forgotten Middle, suggests that in the current educational environment, there is a critical defining point for students in the college and career readiness process—one so important that, if students are not on target for college and career readiness by the time they reach this point, the impact may be nearly irreversible. This point is 8th grade. Surprised?

According to the report, the level of academic achievement that students attain by eighth grade has a larger impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate from high school than anything that happens academically in high school. The report also reveals that, on average, eighth-grade students who are not on target for college and career readiness are much less likely to be ready for college and career by high school graduation than eighth-grade students who are on target.

The study goes on to say that eighth-grade achievement is the best predictor of students' ultimate level of college and career readiness by high school graduation—even more than students' family background, high school coursework, or high school grade point average. Compared to eighth-grade academic achievement, the predictive power of each of the other factors was small, and in some cases negligible.

Based on this information, middle level students must master the following non-negotiable knowledge and skills:

  • Organization, unity and coherence in writing
  • Word choice in terms of style, tone, clarity and economy
  • Sentence structure and formation
  • Conventions of punctuation
  • Basic operations and applications
  • Probability, statistics and data analysis
  • Concepts and properties of numbers
  • Expressions, equations and inequalities
  • Graphical representations
  • Properties of plane figures
  • Measurement
  • Main idea and author's approach
  • Supporting details
  • Sequential, comparative, and cause-effect relationships
  • Meaning of words
  • Generalizations and conclusions
  • Interpretation of data
  • Scientific investigations
  • Evaluations of models, inferences, and experimental results
For more information about this study, Click Here!

*Non-negotiables are taken from an article written by Amanda Karhuse, NASSP, 2009
Portions of this blog entry were copied from the ACT website.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Maryland Public Schools Ranked #1!

Education Week Releases "Quality Counts" State Education Rankings.

The St. Petersburg Times (1/7) reports, "Maryland ranks No. 1 among states in education quality, according to the latest annual report card from the highly regarded Education Week newspaper." Education Week considered "six broad categories -- including student achievement, standards and accountability, and funding -- and dozens of specific indicators" in determining the rankings." Overall, the state "earned a B this year, up slightly from last year." The St. Petersburg Times also noted that Mississippi, Idaho and Nevada ranked lowest on Education Week's report card, and Massachusetts and New York ranked second and third, respectively.

The Baltimore Sun (1/7, Bowie) adds, "Maryland, ranked third last year, edged out Massachusetts by one-tenth of one percent" to earn the top spot on Education Week's "Quality Counts" state education rankings this year. Both states were given a B grade overall, but the national average was a C. Maryland scored well on the standards for early childhood education and preparing students for college."

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year! Proud to be a TERP!

Happy New Year!

The University of Maryland sent out a really awesome video holiday card to all of its alumni. If you have not seen it yet, below is a link to view it !

And just in case you haven't had enough Maryland's the 2006 video card from the University of Maryland!

Click here to view the 2006 Video Card!

Go Terps!