“I Don’t Know What a Person Says Next. Please Help?”
By Michelle Strater Gunderson.
What does it mean to teach our youngest students?
It means that we have the privilege of guiding dear persons in having good and fulfilled lives.
It means learning to wait for someone else to tie their shoes before running out to recess. It means working for days on end to learn the difference between a lower case b and d. It means learning to be careful with your words and actions.
I am always so taken by how many mistakes my first graders make in the course of a day, and how willing they are to pick themselves back up and try again. The following story happened last week and reminded me of how precious and vulnerable children are at this age.
During our sharing time one of my students wanted to sing a song she had made up for our class. She sat in the sharing chair and started singing a heart-felt song about how different she was than everyone else and what it felt to be like her. Two of the boys sitting in front of her plugged their ears.
I was appalled. How could children who have spent four months with me learning to care for others do such a thing? Then I took a moment and realized that they had never experienced such raw emotion, and they were not sure how to react to it.
I had to say to myself – remember, when we teach young children even the simplest events are brand new to them.
After the song was over I took the boys aside to explain to them that plugging ears when someone is singing is never the right thing to do. I asked them what they were thinking and one of them said, “It was so icky.” We talked about how it makes us uncomfortable when someone shares their heart, and that this feeling can be icky.
As you snuggle next to a roaring fire and reach for the family’s favorite Christmas poem, don’t forget we live in a Common Core world now where close reading rules even for the youngest among us.
Follow the script! And don’t forget you are to read the poem three times.
Of course, I really believe this poem is best read once or twice with excitement and children allowed to ask their own questions whenever they want. We should trust children to understand what is happening and ask questions when they are curious.
I also believe for older students there are times when close reading is justified. Teachers have been using close reading techniques long before Common Core. I cite the questions and the worksheet I used below.
Merry Christmas to all! Enjoy a little Eggnog!
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (or A Visit from St. Nicholas) by Clement Clarke Moore
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The First Reading
What is the main idea? Summarize the passage I just read. Do you have questions about what I read? What did you hear? What is this about?
We've got just a few more days before it's time to put on the New Year's Eve dancing shoes and break open the champagne. So what's U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan predicting for next year?
More than 60,000 additional children will enroll in high-quality early learning. (I think he's hoping for good results from the administration's new Preschool Development Grant program and other initiatives.)
Six hundred new commitments by colleges, organizations, and companies will help thousands more students prepare for and graduate from college. (Sounds like he's putting a lot of stock in the White House's recent higher education summit.)
Ten million more students will have high-speed Internet access (That would mean a great success for the Obama administration's E-rate initiative.)
America's high school graduation rate will set a record—again. (Graduation rates were, indeed, at an all-time high this year, but it's noteworthy that big achievement gaps remain. What's more, the metric in question has only been required since 2008, and only uniformly used since 2012. Plus, grad rates went from 79 percent to 80 percent, hardly a dramatic jump. Still, a record's a record.)
Not on Duncan's list? A reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, a top priority for both U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the incoming chairman of the Senate education panel.
That omission puts Duncan pretty much in line with the majority of education insiders surveyed by Whiteboard Advisors, a government-relations organization in Washington. On the most recent pollconducted by the group, just 40 percent of insiders expected to see NCLB renewal in 2015.
Los Angeles Unified school board members plan on taking a harder look at approving new charter schools, because they fear their expansion will cripple the district’s ability to educate children by diverting precious state funding.
In less than five years, the nation’s second-largest school district has approved 126 charter schools, and there are now a total of 250 charter campuses that educate 119,000 students in its jurisdiction.
For each pupil who attends a charter school, the district loses $9,269.78 in state funding. And with aggressive plans for further expansion by large charter organizations, school board members Steven Zimmer and Monica Ratliff are questioning the need for more in certain areas, while board members Bennett Kayser and George McKenna have also expressed concerns.
“I am not looking to specifically limit new charter expansion, but I am absolutely intent on having a real and important conversation about what continued expansion in LAUSD means for all children, not just some children,” Zimmer said.
Last year, LAUSD’s board approved 18 charters, down from the three previous years. Approval was given to 24 charters in 2010-2011, 39 charters in 2011-2012 and 37 charters in 2012-13. This year so far eight have been approved.
Three were approved earlier this month, including an Alliance College-Ready Public Schools campus to be located in Sun Valley for 1,050 students in grades 6 through 12. Alliance is the largest charter operation in Los Angeles with 26 schools and 11,000 students.
Board members also approved plans by the nation’s largest charter organization, Kipp, to open two elementary schools, in Boyle Heights and South Los Angeles. The schools are slated to start educating 1,100 pupils in August, as part of plans to more than double Kipp’s Los Angeles operations by opening 11 campuses and enrolling 5,000 additional students by 2020.
Those plans alone by Kipp will cost Los Angeles Unified $35 million per year in funding, according to a report from bond and credit rating agency Moody’s.
“That’s a whole lot of schools to close down” if students move to the new charter schools, board member George McKenna said at the Dec. 9 board meeting. “To lose 300 teachers, that doesn’t bode well for us, as an organization as large as we are. Like they say, ‘how do you eat an elephant,’ one bite at a time; I think we’re being eaten alive.”
Even if LAUSD were to try to slow the growth of charters, school board members would face an uphill battle. State law provides few acceptable reasons for rejecting applications to open charter schools. Those causes mostly center on the application process and proposed academic program.
Charters can also appeal school board denials to county and state education officials. Additionally, a loophole in state law allows charters to obtain permission from neighboring districts and open inside LAUSD should they fail to find a suitable facility within the jurisdiction that approved their charter.
Ratliff said she wants state law changed to give board members more authority to deny charters, especially those that want to open in the vicinity of traditional campuses that are high-performing.
“Ultimately, I believe Sacramento and Gov. Brown should allow authorizers to take into account the landscape of existing schools in an area when authorizing charter schools,” Ratliff said.
Zimmer, who pointed out his previous support for high-performing charters, said he suspects reformers aiming to break apart LAUSD and its 35,000-member teachers union are behind plans for aggressive expansion in LAUSD. If they truly cared about parents and students, he said, organizations such as Kipp LAUSD board members look to slow charter school expansion: