Posts belonging to Category Education

Politically Incorrect School Supplies

I got a cigar catalog yesterday and it got me to thinking about something from back when I was in elementary school.  Our school supply list called for an actual cigar box for storing our supplies.

I remember that we used to go to Nash’s store in Pritchett, where Mr. Nash would give us empty boxes for free.  I can still almost smell that King Edward box today.

I’ve noticed that current supply lists call for “cigar sized” plastic boxes.  Can you imagine the moaning and wailing if someone brought a real cigar box to school today?  They’d probably call the cops and lock the kid up for possessing a “tobacco product.”

Contempt of Taxpayer?

I confess to only paying sporadic attention to KISD, but I’m starting to take more notice of things, given recent goings-on.

Today’s Star-Telegram article concerning the resignations of two high-level district administrators after violations of district purchasing policies is only the last straw in a series.  There seems to be a rather nasty feud between two factions on the school board and between one of those factions and the district administration (more on this at Keller City Limits). 

The primary problem, from my perspective, seems to be an administration that wants to “manage” the school board, rather than acknowledge the board’s oversight role.  Well before the current issue, and well before the ADA kerfuffle, I watched a school board meeting where a district administrator was presenting some portions of the proposed budget.  When asked specific questions about certain line items, he squirmed and generally had the “deer in the headlights” look.  It was obvious to me that he was uncomfortable addressing the specifics and wasn’t used to being asked these questions.

The ADA issue, though, seemed curious to me (and helped raise my suspicions further).  When the administration takes the view that it can spend $411,577 without being questioned on it by the board, it seems to me that the administration is out of control.

Now if a trustee really threatened a district employee’s job over something, then that’s beyond the pale and shouldn’t be accepted.  But I get the sneaking suspicion that it’s just smoke being blown by those who oppose trustee oversight of administration activities.

If getting to the bottom of what’s going on at KISD and exercising fiscal oversight is considered “meddling” and “micromanagement,” then I all I can say is “micromanage on!”  I can’t help but think that the administration’s contempt for the trustees transfers back onto taxpayers.  The trustees are our eyes and ears at KISD, and I expect them to poke, pry, prod, and generally discombobulate anyone who wants to obfuscate how our money is being used.

What’s That In The Sky?

The National Weather Service Forecast Office in Fort Worth is holding SkyWarn Spotter Training sessions throughout the area through March 31st.

This isn’t just for people who want to go chase tornadoes. The basic training provides good information about the mechanics of tornado formation. This information is helpful in understanding when conditions are right for tornadoes and how to tell when one is forming. You’ll learn the meaning of some of the terms that the weather forecasters on TV are always talking about in the spring in North Texas, things like the cap (and why it’s important), RFD and hook echoes, gust fronts and inflow boundaries, rotation, etc.

Some upcoming classes in the immediate D/FW area are listed below. Bold type indicates that advanced spotter training will also be available.

Date County City Location Time
Saturday Feb 24 Denton Denton Senior Citizens Center (tentative) 8:30AM-4:30PM
Saturday Mar 3 Dallas Coppell City Hall 9:00AM
Saturday Mar 10 Tarrant Colleyville Colleyville Center TESSA Storms Conf. 9:00AM-5:00PM
Saturday Mar 24 Dallas Carrollton Carrollton Public Library 10:00AM
Saturday Mar 31 Tarrant Mansfield St. Jude Parish Hall 500 E. Dallas St. 9:00AM-Noon

Advanced spotter training goes well beyond the basic training and includes much more detailed information on the physics of tornado formation as well as other current thoughts in tornado and severe storm research.

Crossposted to the Keller CERT Association website.

Not Adding Up

An article in this morning’s Star Telegram floored me with the fundamental shortcomings of some elementary teachers. 

Melissa Eastman really got fractions for the first time this summer—eight years after she began teaching kindergarten.

She knew that one-half is greater than one-fourth, and that one-fourth is greater than one-eighth. But why was less clear. It didn’t seem logical that fractions got smaller as the numbers got larger.

During a math workshop for Mansfield school district teachers, it finally clicked. The teachers cut paper into smaller and smaller pieces to show how fractions make up the whole.

“I remember my dad sitting down with me and trying to make it make sense, but it didn’t,” said Eastman, who teaches at Anderson Elementary School. “I needed it explained to me in a different way.”

Experts say it’s common for elementary school teachers like Eastman to struggle in math.

Trained as generalists, elementary education majors typically take one or two core math classes in college and one on how to teach math. That’s in addition to classes that prepare them to teach reading, social studies, science and even art in some cases. The weakness in math has become more acute in recent years as the state and federal governments have looked harder at standardized-test scores.

Maybe I’m a freak or something, but I instinctively understood fractions when I was about five.  I was learning to read and amused myself in the car by reading road signs.  You frequently encounter fractions on road signs and after listening to how my father read them and putting the words together with the numbers I understood what they meant*.

Given what passes for teaching these days, though, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that many teachers don’t “get” math.  When we see schools trying desperately to avoid right/wrong or pass/fail grading so as to spare the precious feelings of the kids, not liking or avoiding math makes sense.  If you get your feelings hurt by being wrong, you’re going to absolutely HATE math.  You either have the right answer or you don’t.  Math cares not for your feelings.

Anyhow, I was greatly amused by this part of the article:

For the past four years, TCU has required education majors to take two in-depth classes on teaching math rather than one. Next year, all TCU education majors will also be required to take calculus.

I’m sure it’ll be a dumbed-down introductory calculus class, but it’s still going to be a bloodbath.  My first reaction was that I’d pay to watch the class, just for the amusement value.  [Perhaps this isn’t the time to mention that my second major after Computer Science was Math?  I kind of thought Calculus was fun, at least the first three semesters.  The fourth was a bit of a bother, but that was due more to the 8:00am class time than to the subject matter.] 

Interestingly, the article goes on to point out that having people proficient in math teaching the students actually makes a difference.  I know that for most people this is one of those “Duh!” revelations, but I suppose the educational establishment has to rediscover these things on its own.  They’ve spent so much time focused on educational methods and study that they forgot about the fundamentals. 

The Birdville school district is experimenting with math specialists this year at 10 elementary campuses. The specialists divide their time among schools and focus on specific problem areas with small groups of students and teachers.

Birdville’s specialists must have at least four years’ teaching experience and extensive math backgrounds, said Caren Sorrells, math consultant for the district. Some are former high school math teachers; one is a retired math coordinator from the district. They excel in interactive, research-based exercises, she said.

“I can’t believe the difference we saw even in just two weeks,” she said, noting that some students who struggled before working with specialists were starting to pass, and even excel on, math tests and quizzes

Not only do people who understand (and even like) the subject matter make a difference in the amount of knowledge transfer, I think their attitude comes through to the students.  If someone is uptight, nervous, or insecure about the subject matter it’s harder to teach.  You have to know the subject fairly well to teach it.  In fact, teaching something (if you do it right) is a good way to make sure you understand it.

* The only trouble I had with fractions in school had more to do with a hostile learning environment than with fractions themselves.  In fourth grade I was sent to “remedial” math because I was unable to complete some exercises at the board adding fractions.  They tested me there and sent me back.  The real problem was our evil teacher who stood by the board with a paddle and whacked you if you got something wrong.  That’s a lot of pressure to put on 9 and 10 year-olds.  Perhaps our teacher was overcompensating for her deficiencies in math.

More on Burleson

I’ve updated my previous post about the Burleson school district.

Burleson Wimps Out

The Burleson school district has “reassigned” Greg Crane, the teacher who was behind the training that taught students to fight back against an armed attacker.  Mr. Crane was formerly a police officer and developed the idea when he asked his wife, a teacher, what she would do if her classroom were to be attacked and she didn’t have an answer.

So far, there is only this video from Fox 4, so I don’t have a transcript to quote from. 

From the video, here is a brief summary:

  • Last Friday the district sent a letter to all parents outlining that they do not support any student resisting an attacker (i.e. they want to continue with the failed cooperate and die strategy).
  • The letter was signed by all principals in the district, save one, the principal of the school where Greg Crane taught, who also happens to be his wife.
  • Greg Crane was “reassigned” from his classroom teaching role to working from home.
  • The Burleson school district is now hiding behind confidentiality rules with regards to Mr. Crane and won’t discuss him further.
  • Mr. Crane says he has not been given a reason for the “reassignment” and is retaining a lawyer.

I should have known that a school district with the spine to teach children to resist an attack was too good to be true.  It sounds to me as if the district didn’t like being at the center of national attention with regards to the training and decided to throw Mr. Crane under the bus to make the stink go away.  But it seems fishy to me, since the Fox 4 report points out that hundreds of teachers and students have been trained in this method.  That couldn’t happen without at least the tacit approval of the school administration.

Update (10/26/2006):  Yesterday’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram has more information about the situation in Burleson.

The district is “clarifying” its position:

Students in the Burleson school district can learn to defend themselves by throwing objects at an armed intruder, but a teacher went too far by instructing them to physically attack someone as part of a security program, district officials said Tuesday.

In recent days, the district sent letters home with 8,500 students clarifying its position on a training video that concerned parents and school officials when local TV news stations aired it this month.

The video, produced by a company paid to teach safety classes at Burleson schools, showed children throwing objects at someone posing as an armed intruder in a classroom, then attacking him.

The classes are part of a security program launched by the district last year to make schools safer. Greg Crane, a criminal-justice teacher at Burleson High School and a former police officer, taught the skills through his company, Response Options.

District officials said they still approve of the rest of Crane’s instructional material.

A money motive?  Or at least a distraction…

The letters come two weeks before voters will decide on a $259 million bond package to build and renovate schools as well as enhance security. Officials said the upcoming election has no bearing on their decision to notify parents about the video.

Fox 4 was saying that he’d been “reassigned,” although the Star Telegram couldn’t get a straight answer out of the school district:

On Tuesday, a receptionist at Burleson High said Crane was not there. Crane did not answer repeated calls to his home, and Crummel declined to comment on news reports that Crane had been reassigned.

“All I can say is, he’s still employed by our school district,” he said.

At least they aren’t staying with cooperate and die like I originally thought.  But just “distracting” the gunman without an attack seems more dangerous to me than attacking him.  Or at least it could be.  What happens when you run out of stuff to throw?  What about the last student who’s trying to run away after everyone else has escaped? 

Especially with a long gun, closing with the shooter might be better, but there are no hard and fast rules here.  I’m of the “shoot the bastard” school of thought, but that requires someone responsible with a gun on the scene.  And we all know what kind of wailing and moaning that type of thought generates. 

But one thing I do want to say about the whole “debate” is that the phrase “arming teachers” probably isn’t the best one.  For those of the socialist bent it brings up images of every teacher lining up in a school armory to obtain a gun (and if you think I’m being funny about this, just read some of the comments on this topic on various blogs).  We need a pithy, short, phrase to encapsulate the concept of getting the state out of the way of those who have the will and the skill to take action. 

Save Your Ammo For A Real Battle

I’m probably one of the more irreligious people you’ll find, yet I can’t find the energy to get worked up over Gideons Bibles being available at Rockwall High.

Students say it would be one thing if a private religious school allowed Bibles to be passed out. But for it to happen at a public school raises constitutional questions.

When FOX 4 arrived at Rockwall High, school was just letting out, and the folks with the Gideons Bible company were just packing up. The company estimates it handed out roughly 2,000 Bibles, which is practically the entire student body.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said student Darren Childs. “I walked into school and there, right on top of a table with our school colors, are Bibles and they’re being passed out.”

From what I saw on the TV this morning, they’re simply available on a table in an area where groups commonly put out literature.  No one was passing them out in class and no one was forced to take one.  It seems to me that as long as Rockwall ISD’s policy for the use of this area is content-neutral, there’s no harm in it.  But to hear the tone of that last student you’d think they were passing out porn or something.

Heck, I remember getting these things issued to us in class (remember the little red bibles?) when I was in school.  I actually kind of liked it, as I like free stuff (except for all the free fungus in the air right now).  I also recall some groups handing out English translations of the Koran when I was in college (at a state school).  That didn’t bother me, either (except for the fact that the damn thing was so obtusely written as to be unreadable).

Now if you want to talk violations, we can mention the fifth grade teacher I had who decided BoR and SCOTUS-be-damned that we were going to have a prayer every day… 

There’s A Reason We Don’t Trust Them

It’s crap like this that just adds to my desire to see public schools dismantled.

Dallas school Superintendent Michael Hinojosa terminated DISD’s credit card program Tuesday, saying employees who abused their cards will be forced to repay the district and could face criminal prosecution.

Dr. Hinojosa said that he expects to suspend “more than a handful” of employees for their credit card use when they return to work next week as an investigation into the spending gets under way. Dallas Independent School District offices have been closed for summer vacation since July 3.

Flanked by four members of the Dallas school board, Dr. Hinojosa said that he would hire an outside company to scour district purchases for credit card abuse. He said the company, which he did not name, would have experience investigating white-collar crime.

“We will start with the most egregious violators,” Dr. Hinojosa said.

“No one will be exempt from this review regardless of their stature or tenure in the district.”

The action comes in response to an investigation by The Dallas Morning News into district credit card spending. Using district records, The News examined more than 155,000 credit card transactions over two years and found more than $6 million in purchases that either violated state procurement laws or district policy.

The News also found hundreds of purchases that seemed to have little to do with educating children, such as iPods, lawn ornaments, gift cards and a subscription to an online dating service.

I’ve known since the uproar over standardized testing that the education establishment didn’t like the idea of accountability.  This just confirms that it’s embedded in their DNA. 

Still, I’m a bit amazed that anyone would give an employee a credit card and not demand any sort of accountability.  As an example, here are a few of the highpoints of the rules and processes for my corporate AmEx:

  • The card is issued in my name, and I’m responsible for making the payments.
  • Any business expenses that I incur have to be submitted via an online expense account system.
  • The expense account system routes the request to my manager (or some other designee) for approval before payment is issued.
  • Major travel expenses (airfare, hotels, car rental) must be made via the corporate card.
  • The online expense account system is tied to the AmEx account (and in some cases can automatically itemize them if the purchase was with a vendor who includes the right information).
  • The expense account system automatically routes payment to AmEx for approved items that were purchased with the card.

In the article it mentioned that most of the cards were issued to do away with the cost of handling purchase orders for “low-cost, everyday items.”  For that sort of thing we have a couple of options.  There’s an online purchasing application that has thousands of items available.  Or, if it’s an emergency, you could purchase it yourself (directly or with the AmEx) and get reimbursed.  Both methods require manager approval, so the expenses are controlled.

I may complain about bean-counters a lot, but they do know a thing or two about accountability and controlling expenses.  It seems to me that DISD needs a dose of private-sector bean-counter business controls.

In Photoshop We Trust

It would appear that the Liberty Elementary yearbook kerfuffle has gotten the attention of one of the big name bloggers.

A quick check of Google News shows that the story has broken out of the D/FW area and has gone statewide with 14 hits from Houston to San Antonio to Tyler.  I can’t help but wonder if this LGF entry will bring any more widespread coverage.  If so, KISD is going to have a crapstorm on its hands tomorrow.  Heck, they already have a PR nightmare on their hands, and I just don’t see them making it any better with any of their stock PC answers.

My take on it is that if they wanted to use the new nickle with the Liberty design, then they needed to remain as faithful to the original as possible, IGWT and all.  What they could have done was to “fade” the rest of the coin a little and add some glinting highlights to the “Liberty.”  They would also need to move the 2005 on the original down and to the left around the perimeter of the coin, then copy it and change the 5 to a 6 in the copy.  This would get them the “2005-2006” in the original style.  Finally, I’d probably have pulled back on the coin a bit so that it wasn’t so damn big.  But I would not have removed IGWT.

Now there are some in the LGF comments who go on about how the U.S. is a Christian country or how the kids “these days” need God.  I don’t buy into any of that, and frankly, you won’t find anyone more adamant than me that God has no place in a public school other than perhaps in a comparative religion class.  Even with my antipathy towards religion, though, I think anyone who’s offended by this phrase on our money has too much time on his hands. 

Thanks to “Grinder” for the heads-up about the LGF entry.

Update (5/22):  The blogosphere is starting to pick up the story…
Toebee’s Fumes
Lab Kat
Going to the Mat
Dvorak Uncensored
Right Wing News
Clear and Present
Capitalist Infidel
Betsy’s Page
The Mill Street Swamp
The WV Rebel’s Blog
Narcissistic views on News/Politics
Cutting Edge Of Ecstasy
Your World, Our World, My World, Yore World
The Pine Blogger
The Texas Songbird

Note to KISD flacks…  Google News and Technorati need to become part of your daily routine…

Not Clear On The Concept


  1. Prohibited by law.
  2. Prohibited by official rules: an illegal pass in football.
  3. Unacceptable to or not performable by a computer: an illegal operation.


        An illegal immigrant.

It would seem that some DISD trustees aren’t quite up on the whole concept of illegal aliens.

Dallas’ school district has a shortage of bilingual teachers.

DISD trustee Joe May knows where he can find a lot of people who speak Spanish fluently and are already in the country. And he’d like to put them to work.

But there’s at least one big hurdle: The school district cannot knowingly hire illegal immigrants because it’s against federal law.

Mr. May wants to amend that so the district can hire illegal immigrants who are college-educated and can qualify for the district’s emergency teaching certification program. The issue will be discussed at the school board’s policy briefing today.

This is the sort of fuzzy-headed nonsense that we get for putting up with PC phrases like “undocumented immigrant.”  Language matters.  If one considers an “undocumented immigrant,” one is likely to conclude that this person somehow forgot to stop off at the office on the way into the country to pick up some papers.  It’s all just a formality.  It glosses over the fact that this person deliberately and knowlingly broke United States federal law by entering this country without permission.  It doesn’t matter now nice they are or how productive they are, they’re CRIMINALS.

Now, having said that, I understand that large parts of our economy rely on people willing to work for very low pay, and that most of these jobs are filled by illegals.  I’m not completely unsympathetic to people who are just seeking a better life for themselves and their families.  Regardless of that, though, we need to get a handle on this and establish a system that lets them come here to work while allowing us to control who crosses our border.  No one who breaks the law should be rewarded.  An “amnesty” program simply rewards people who have broken the law.

I also strongly oppose bilingual education.  If a student doesn’t speak English, that student needs to learn it before coming into the school system.  It galls me that the taxpayer has to pay for teaching English to students who live in this country.  I don’t have a bias against Spanish, so much as I have a bias against people who don’t assimilate to our country.  Further, we simply can’t afford to teach students in every possible language.  That way lies madness and the destruction of our way of life.

Anyhow, in the here and now, DISD already has programs to recruit bilingual teachers abroad, in a legal fashion.

Some districts, including DISD, go abroad to recruit bilingual teachers and help applicants obtain their work visas.

But getting a work visa isn’t an option for illegal immigrants already here, said Maria Elena Garcia-Upson, regional communications manager for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“While we empathize and sympathize with these individuals, there is an orderly fashion in which one can immigrate to this country,” Ms. Garcia-Upson said.

Given the current threats to this country, we simply cannot tolerate our leaky southern border any longer.  I don’t care whether we build a physical wall or an electronic one, but it’s time to close it up and get control of who’s coming into the country.