Posts Tagged ‘students’

More on the Classroom Digital Revolution

October 26, 2011

CONNIE USSERY, RETIRED MUSCOGEE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT MEDIA SPECIALIST,  WHO NOW TEACHES CARVER HIGH TEACHERS TWO DAYS A WEEK HOW TO TEACH WITH ELECTRONIC MEDIA, SENT THIS CLARIFICATION OF THE PREVIOUS POST ON HER TALK LAST SUNDAY TO COLUMBUS UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS.    

As far as I know, all core teachers at Carver utilize netbooks in instruction and I think most of the electives teachers do, when
appropriate, because tech support folks are bombarded when any networking problems arise. The students have to have their netbooks up and working during the school day and they make sure we keep them online. Teachers make sure their students bring them to class.  Paper textbooks will always be useful for classroom teachers as supplementary materials and especially for some types of special needs students.  Elective courses may rely on paper texts for a lot longer than core teachers because those courses are often taught using a variety of print and digital resources anyway.  I still think there are some teachers around the district who are “holdouts’ who prefer print textbooks, but I can’t imagine that they don’t utilize digital resources and software for projects.

Also, the researchers who talk about the differences in brain development among digital native children don’t make it sound like a bad thing: it’s just something that we teachers have to understand. Our students are as casual with technology as we used to be with doll houses and match box cars.  Their “learning curve” is way ahead of ours.

I hope I wasn’t too misleading during the Q & A yesterday.  I probably shouldn’t have tried to talk much about this since my talk was mainly about resources for UU, but I get excited and I find I have to reassure the people who aren’t comfortable with computer-based learning and project development, as some of the questions from parents and instructors indicated.

It’s very exciting seeing the teachers and the students working so hard to bring Carver into the 21st Century in instruction and in
facilities.The new building opens next fall and it’s going to be a showcase for technology and learning.

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Article Tells How MCSD is Meeting the Poverty Challenge

September 7, 2011

I thought I’d let you know about an article I just wrote for Columbus and the  Valley magazine that shows how the Muscogee County School District is combatting the school poverty crisis.  It’s called “The Columbus School Poverty Challenge.” The challenge is very real and very large.  When 65 percent of students receive free or reduced price lunches, and 61 percent of the schools have poverty rates of 50 percent or more, the school system faces an enormous challenge in improving student achievement. Studies show that, overall,  poverty-class students do not perform as well in school as middle-class students.  

The system does have a plan in operation, and it relies heavily on the aHa! Process Inc. approach. That program is run by its founder Ruby Payne, who wrote the million-seller book A Framework for Understanding Poverty.  That book was supplied to MCSD teachers and administrators.

In the article retired high school teacher and media specialist Connie Ussery gives us a first-hand look at what it is like for a middle-class teacher to connect with poverty-class children.  And she realized very quickly that if she didn’t connect with  them she would get nowhere. 

I hope you’ll get hold of a copy of the magazine and check this out, because it deals with a very basic crisis that our city, state, and country is facing, and how some educators are coping with this challenge.

The Education Solution: Is it Really the Teacher’s Fault?

February 21, 2011

IS IT REALLY FAIR TO COMPARE OUTCOMES FOR A TEACHER IN A CLASS FULL OF KIDS WHO LIVE IN POVERTY TO A TEACHER WHO HAS A CLASSROOM FULL OF AFFLUENT KIDS?

 
 
 

While taking pictures at North Columbus Elementary, a school with mostly middle-class kids that are not at the poverty level, I noticed that it had something else in common with the world's highest ranked school system, Finland, a relaxed atmosphere. And the students perform well in 4th grade reading, with 92% passing the state's standardized reading test, which is higher than both the state average of 87%, and the MCSD average of 82 %. It scores lower in math, with a 74% passing rate, which ties with the state average. South Columbus Elementary School, which has a high percentage of children who live in poverty, has a 4th grade reading passing rate of 55%, and a 4th grade math passing rate of 33%.

 

A lot of my teacher friends are getting hot and bothered by teachers being blamed for the country’s allegedly poor education performance.  I use the word “allegedly” because some claim the rankings are unfair. 

For instance, they say it is unfair to compare the Finland system, which is ranked number one in the world at this time, with ours because Finland doesn’t have a diverse population, few students are not native speakers.  And Finland has almost no children living in poverty. 

Not only does the United States have great diversity, it also has the highest poverty level of any of the world’s rich nations.  If it is agreed that Mexico is a rich country, it would edge out the United States for number one.  

According to a UNICEF study, the child poverty rate in Finland in 2005 was 2.8 percent. The United States child poverty rate is 21.9 percent. And, yes indeed, a child raised in poverty is far more likely to perform poorly than one raised in affluence.

Now, if you live in a place like my home town, Columbus, Georgia, the poverty problem is much larger than the national average.  This is often true in urban areas. Overall, schools in suburban districts  score better on standardized tests.

In the Muscogee County School District sixty-five percent of the students come from families who live in poverty, based on how many qualify for free and reduce-priced lunches.  The rate in some schools goes as high as 95 percent. I asked Muscogee County School District Superintendent Susan Andrews to explain the extent of the poverty problem and how the MCSD is coping with it.  This is what she told me.

“Sixty-five percent of our students receive free and/or reduced price lunch.  Many other children are on the borderline of this poverty line.  Generational poverty is a persistent problem and a formidable foe.  In order to work on the issue and ensure that children who live in poverty receive a quality education, we begin by serving as many students as the State will provide us slots in the prekindergarten program and by partnering with programs such as Head Start.  Early childhood education is a key in developing children’s vocabulary at an early age.  Children who live in poverty have significantly smaller vocabularies than students from middle class families.  The gap in achievement between students from poverty and other students is present when students enter our doors.  Schools with high levels of poverty are provided more support in the form of personnel (family service coordinators, more assistant principals, more academic coaches) than schools without a high level of poverty.  The purpose of the federal ESEA is to provide funding for additional support for schools with high poverty so these schools (we refer to them as Title I eligible schools) receive additional funds for supplies, equipment, and professional development.  This funding cannot supplant other local and state funding but must supplement the local and state funding.

“Our Partners in Education program, as well as other community involvement projects, assist our students who live in poverty to have the opportunities and mentoring they need.  Columbus Scholars is another program designed to reach out to students who need additional support.” 

But, you may say, there are children who start out in poverty, but do quite well,  ending up with college educations, thanks to the work of excellent, dedicated, caring teachers. I believe that is true.  But, there are those who say reports about that can be misleading. We’ll look at that in a future post in our The Education Solution  series.

If you would like to find out how a school performs anywhere in the United States,  just click on this link to NBC’s Education Nation Scorecard.   

The Educational Class System

June 21, 2009

Neatly tucked away at the end of the Sunday Ledger-Enquirer story about the Muscogee County School Board retreat  was a much more alarming report than the cell-phone-used- for-cheating issue that got top billing and tons of space.  More portables are being added to Northside, and   Hardaway High Schools. It’s not because of population increase in Columbus, but because students are transferring out of Carver, Kendrick, Jordan, Spencer, and Shaw High Schools.  Those schools did not make Adequate Progress last year. When that happens the federal No Child Left Behind Act says students can transfer to schools that did make Progress.

But, it is really worse than that. Two of the under-performing schools had no Star Students last year.  Neither Jordan nor Carver had a student who made the minimum SAT score to be a Star Student.  

Columbus High, where most of the real classroom achievers congregate,  will not have to take any of the No Child Left Behind transferring students because, as the article says, “it is a total magnet school.”  

What does this do to the morale students remaining at those schools?   What does it do to their teachers? Why is it happening?  Have we, as a society, decided that we’ll have good schools for good students and to hell with the rest? 

This is an educational disgrace.

We can’t blame the system’s new superintendent, Susan Andrews, for this. She inherited this situation, and she says she is committed to improving test scores at the under-achieving schools.  Let’s hope she gets some results.

I  get the feeling that No Child Left Behind, while maybe the result of good intentions, is leaving a lot of children behind.