Who is reporting from National History Day?

May 30, 2007

Are you planning to be at the National History Day festivities in Maryland, June 10 through 14?

Did any of your kids put an entry into the National History Day Contest?

It may not be a national spelling bee, but I hope it gets some news coverage. If nothing else, go check out the collections of lesson plans and resources that come out of this competition.

Playing with maps

May 30, 2007

Okay, geography teachers — you’ve got a whole summer to figure out how to make geography fun and the most rewarding class your kids will take next year.

By then, Delta and Dawn the whales will be out of the Sacramento River (heck, they’re probably under the Golden Gate as I write this), so this map from the Sacramento Bee won’t be anything of great interest.  I found it via Google Maps Mania, though — and that site promises to provide a barrage of wonderful and bizarre maps.  Surely there will be other maps.  How about this post about street views of major cities?  If you have a live internet connection and a projector, you can show this stuff in real time.

Or, if you’re studying global warming, you can use this map to show what disappears if the ocean rises 1 meter, or 14 meters (from the post, “50 Things You Can Do With Google Maps“) Especially if your city is near the ocean, you can have your kids print these maps out and write a story about what it’s like to watch the ocean take back the land they grew up with.  (I wish the map would allow one to drop the level of the ocean, too — a lot more what ifs, and a lot more opportunities to discuss things like the migration of humans to America 37,000 years ago . . .)

I really liked this one:  What’s on the other side of the world?  In my childhood, more than once we set out to dig a hole to China.  Of course, had we gone straight through the Earth, we’d probably have found the Indian Ocean.   It’s a silly application — just the sort of thing that gets a class talking about and playing with maps, looking at the globe, and making the associations that qualify as “critical thinking” at test time.

If you can’t make a warmup, discussion or project out of the materials you find at that site, you need a Margarita (if you’re in Texas; perhaps a beer if you’re in Ontario, Canada).

Go have fun.

Utah to get vouchers over objections of people?

May 30, 2007

Only in America can a state get what it votes against, maybe.

Utah’s Attorney General Mark Shurtleff’s opinion would require the Utah State Board of Education to implement school vouchers now, even though the state legislature did not intend the implementation now, and even though the people may reject the plan for vouchers in a November election.

According to the Shurtleff’s opinion, vouchers would have to be implemented despite the state’s rejection of them.  The Deseret Morning News tried to explain the mess.

Complicating affairs is a “technical amendment” passed by the legislature after the original voucher authorization legislation, to correct problems in the first bill.  The referendum is on the first bill; the amendment was billed as a “clean-up” bill fixing technical problems with the first bill.  But the attorney general now says that the amendment can stand alone, and consequently the law would require the Board to implement a law they oppose, even if the people reject the law.

So, of course, the courts may be asked to parse out the truth and the law.

If you’re not confused yet, stick around.   Mark Twain famously said no man’s life, limb, nor property is safe so long as the legislature is in session.  Utah’s corollary is that nothing is safe even after the legislature goes home.

Looking up to Finland

May 30, 2007

Commenter Bernarda sent a link to a Washington Post story by Robert Kaiser about Finland, a nation who redesigned its education system with rather dramatic, beneficial results. Among other things, the Finns treat teachers as valuable members of society, with high pay, great support, and heavy training.

Finland is a leading example of the northern European view that a successful, competitive society should provide basic social services to all its citizens at affordable prices or at no cost at all. This isn’t controversial in Finland; it is taken for granted. For a patriotic American like me, the Finns present a difficult challenge: If we Americans are so rich and so smart, why can’t we treat our citizens as well as the Finns do?

Why not? Why can’t we treat our citizens as well as the Finns? Their system boosts their economy and leads to great social progress — which part of that do we not want?

121st Carnival of Education — School’s out, part I

May 30, 2007

The Education Wonks hosts (host?) the 121sth Carnival of Education — including a nice referral to my post on the voucher wars in Utah.

Franklin HS in Seattle, WA -- Natl Reg of Hist Places

School’s out in much of the nation, and won’t last much longer in the rest (except for full-year schools). It’s a good time to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and what to change for next year. I was especially intrigued to learn that Mr. Teacher of Learn Me Good teaches in Dallas — close by, somewhere. One wonders how an alternative certification sneaked through the human resources shredder of the Dallas ISD to get a job, and one hopes it may show a trend; and then one wonders why DISD doesn’t pay more attention to the obvious success of the guy and go back to that alternative certification well. (HR departments in Texas school districts have reputations that they really don’t like alternative certification, even when the teachers work out well; one more indication that we don’t know what the heck we’re doing in education. My experience suggests the reputation is well-earned.) [See comment on alternative certification by Mr. Teacher, below.]

There is much, much more in the carnival. The Carnival of Education is an outstanding example of what blog carnivals can be — useful packages of information, summaries of the field they cover. Spread the word.

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