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A Welcome to Readers of “In These Otsego Hills”

Many thanks to The Ellsworths, authors of the column “In These Otsego Hills” that appears weekly in The Cooperstown Crier, for their kind words regarding this site. In today’s column they wrote:

We have also discovered that at least one Cooperstonian has his own website, matthewktabor.com (education for the aughts). Matthew, who graduated from CCS in 2000, has taken on the job of talking about education, including thoughts on CCS, by pulling together education articles from around the country. According to the website “Matthew’s background includes work in higher education, executive recruiting, consulting and government. He educates privately and writes out of Cooperstown, New York.” Anyone who is interested can check Matthew’s website out at: www.matthewktabor.com. We also hasten to point out that we imagine there are other Cooperstonians with websites which might be of interest to the community. If anyone is aware of any, please let us know.

I’d like to echo that – if there are any Cooperstonians who maintain websites, send me an e-mail at mktabor@gmail.com [e-mail link will open in a new window] and let me know as well. Not only would I like to link to you, but I’d like to point out interesting content for readers in Upstate New York and beyond.

If you’re a first-time visitor looking for discussion of education issues in, around or relevant to Otsego County, you might want to get started with these:

You can subscribe to regular updates via e-mail by putting your e-mail address in the “Subscribe to Newsletter” box in the top left of the main page and clicking submit. Your e-mail won’t be shared, given, sold, or otherwise used inappropriately by this site or any third-parties. You’ll just get e-mail updates every few weeks about the most interesting content on this site.

The Ellsworths also pointed to an excellent video of Cooperstown/Lake Otsego from the 1920s. Youtube user “lipwak”/”John L” wrote the following about the 7+ minute video:

From my grandparents’ home movies. Cooperstown and Lake Otsego views, party at the Cooperstown Country Club w/ tennis, badminton and croquet, old cars, a biplane seaplane takes off and lands, tour of lake from speedboat with Kingfisher Tower.

You can view it by clicking here [video links open a new window]. He also uploaded this 46-second clip of toy steamboats which he guesses are also filmed on the Lake. This is great stuff.

Again, a warm welcome to all the new readers from the Cooperstown area – I hope you’ll check back often. And, as always, feel free to e-mail any comments, submissions, suggestions, etc. to mktabor@gmail.com [e-mail link opens in a new window].

UPDATE: Cooperstown Central School Approves Surveillance Cameras

I examined last Tuesday the Cooperstown Central School District’s decision to implement surveillance cameras to monitor school grounds. At that week’s meeting, the Board of Education adopted the policy [click here and scroll down to download/view the policy].

A quick review of the issue:

  • The Crier’s article quotes Principal Gary Kuch and the elected Board as saying cameras are in place to deter vandalism. No report of the cost or frequency of vandalism was presented.
  • “It’s not the ‘Big Brother is watching you’ thing, it’s really about watching other people who come into the school,” said high school principal Gary Kuch. The Board then explained that cameras will also include blanket indoor coverage of public areas within the building. This is at direct odds with the reasons given for needing the cameras. As I wrote in my last post on the issue, “If students aren’t the target, there’s no reason CCTV should be used indoors during the day. Turn it on from 3pm – 7am, turn it on outside, turn it on during the summers and vacation periods.”
  • “He [Kuch] said the footage would only be held for a few days before being deleted.” That simply isn’t enough time for the footage to be an asset. There is no comprehensive plan for the storage and use of the footage.
  • There is no behavioral data to support the need for a CCTV system inside the school buildings.
  • There is still no budget for the project that includes the following: Cameras and installation, storage/media [and necessary hardware], planned and unplanned maintenance, signage and public notification costs, training sessions for users, cost of staff time to maintain storage of footage, etc.

Even so, the measure was passed.

The approved policy explains that the District-wide Safety Committee will meet and make recommendations to the Superintendent regarding the details of the policy. Superintendent McPhail will then, at her sole discretion, make recommendations to the Board. These parties will make the following considerations:

  1. Demonstrated need at specific locations;
  2. Appropriateness and effectiveness of the proposal;
  3. The use of traditional, “less-intrusive means” of achieving a safe school;
  4. Right to privacy for students and staff;
  5. A budget of all necessary expenses.

There is no data to show the necessity of cameras at any location; the proposal and admissions by administration and the Board outline inappropriate, ineffective use; the school continues to avoid effective disciplinary measures [including proper oversight of guests] that would render the camera issue moot; they have no cost [or cost-benefit] estimates. They do, however, have a handle on the privacy issues, but that’s because hundreds of other schools have already done the legwork.

They’ve got a lot of work to do.

Browse the 112th Carnival of Education Midway

The Carnival of Education is a weekly roundup of salient blog posts and articles from the the education blogosphere hosted by The Education Wonks.

Some highlights from this week’s midway:

  • Edspresso follows up Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s resistance to a $200 million gift to fund charter schools.
  • Going to the Mat examines measuring teacher effectiveness using the same Sabermetric analysis employed by Moneyball-driven baseball teams.
  • Joanne Jacobs reveals that interdisciplinary projects are often heavy on the art and light on academics.
  • Cold Spring Shops reinforces the obvious: if teachers want more pay, they’re going to have to do better.
  • Dr. Madeline Daniels explains the self-fulfilling prophecy of how encouraging legitimate self-esteem brings real achievement.

And, of course, my entry about the Advanced Placement philosophy.

A note from the Wonks:

Next Week’s Carnival midway will be hosted by Matthew Paulson over at Getting Green. Contributors are invited to send submissions to: ggreenblog [at] hotmail [dot] com , or use this handy submission form. Entries should be received no later than Tuesday, April 3, 2007. Please include the title of your post and its URL, if possible. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the midway should open next Wednesday morning.

Many thanks and a hearty welcome to the first-time readers who are visiting Education for the Aughts by way of the Carnival.

Students and Teachers Get Money for AP Exam Success; The Benefits of Advanced Placement

The Wall Street Journal Online [via Yahoo! Finance] reports on a new initiative to reward students and teachers for performance on Advanced Placement exams. Students would receive $100-$500 per passing grade and teachers would receive compensation based on their students’ exam grades. The article highlights the achievements of 17-year old Jessica Stark; she made $600 last year for passing six AP exams.

A new initiative, aimed at encouraging careers in math and science, plans to replicate these AP bonuses across the country. Teachers get them, too — at times, $5,000 annually or more — for helping their kids pass AP classes in math, science and English.

We’ve known for years that the United States lags behind other nations in math and science education. “The math and science situation in this country is serious — serious to the point that the U.S. is suffering competitively today and is going to suffer worse competitively in the future if we don’t do something about it,” Exxon Chief Executive Rex Tillerson said in an interview. Exxon has ponied up $125 million toward the $900 million goal for the Initiative. Other power players in both education and business are on board:

The National Math and Science Initiative, announced in early March 2007, is a nonprofit project whose leaders include former high-ranking U.S. Department of Education official Tom Luce, former president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Charles Vest, and College Board head Gaston Caperton. It aims to build on both the Texas AP-incentive effort and a University of Texas program that that encourages college students to become math and science teachers.

The program’s proponents say AP incentives have succeeded at getting more students to pass the tests in Texas, and they expect the broader initiative to encourage more students to go on to careers in math and science.

Critics of the program contend that bribing kids and teachers is harmful and a waste of money; they seem not to realize that financial rewards [or at least the opportunity to reap them] are exactly what you get later on for a job well done. It isn’t bribery, it’s reality.

The Advanced Placement curriculum is designed to give outstanding high school students an opportunity to take college-level classes and earn credits toward future degrees. Many high schools [such as the one I'm spending the most time in currently] encourage students to take the challenging AP courses but don’t require them to take the exam. I explain to AP students whenever I get a chance the value of taking the test – even if getting a 3 is a long shot:

  • Saving money on future tuition. Tuition for a 4-credit course at a private university is ~$3,600. The fee for the AP test is $83 [or $53 if you apply for a financial hardship credit]. This means a student needs only a 2.3% chance of getting a 3 on the test to make the gamble financially viable – that’s about 1 in 45. So, no matter how woefully inadequate you’ve judged your skills to be, the test is worth taking. Buy or borrow an AP review book and give it a shot.
  • Fast-tracking to higher-level courses. By testing out of introductory courses, students avoid the hassle of 101′s that they’ve already taken. They can engage themselves in more challenging and advanced coursework earlier in their post-secondary careers. As a result, they’ll build relationships sooner with professors who can influence their work over the next few years.
  • Making the most of your class selection. You’ve only got ~32 courses in your undergraduate career [8 semesters, 4 classes a semester]. Take the most interesting and challenging stuff you can, not Calculus for the second time.
  • Show colleges you can do the work. Guidance counselors love to trumpet AP courses as a way to “look good” to college admissions officers. The reality? Selective colleges want to know that you can do the work, and that means taking a tough class and demonstrating competence at the end of it. The AP test is a standardized certification of the material you’ve learned, not a grade from a teacher that, as I wrote about the other day, can mean anything. Take the test and show the colleges what you know, not just that you showed up for class and did your homework.
  • Use your time for something worthwhile. Consider the opportunity cost of not taking an AP exam and instead taking the course over again at the college level. By getting credit for AP exams, you can shave courses – even entire semesters – off your next few years. That’s time you can use for jobs, internships, or additional study to advance your career. Or, if you’d prefer, you can relax and enjoy yourself – there’s no shame in that, you’ll have earned it.

There are many more benefits of taking a rigorous Advanced Placement curriculum, but I’d also like to spend some time on the teachers. The National Math & Science Initiative [which looks to include English exams, too] also plans to reward teachers for, well, doing their jobs properly. Why should a teacher take seriously the job of giving students the AP experience?

  • Students deserve it. The kids are supposed to be the real focus of teaching, right? Your students deserve access to the highest-quality education. Yes, Advanced Placement classes are tougher than the regular high school curriculum you’re used to delivering – but you have a Bachelor’s degree and the ability to transmit knowledge about a 101-level course. If you can’t do this, find out how. The College Board offers workshops on AP teaching. The colleges and universities around you can help with professional development. Organizations like the University of Texas’s Uteach [cited in the article above] specifically address the needs of secondary teachers.
  • Professional development. Teachers don’t do enough of it and administrators don’t encourage it with enough frequency or zeal. Keeping in touch with the AP curriculum – a great linking device between K-12 curriculum and its relevance to college – will help align your teaching with the positive curricular changes beyond your classroom. At the least, it’ll keep you in the know.
  • Accountability. I know I’ll take heat for this, but the main reason teachers don’t encourage their students to take AP tests is because those results make the teacher accountable. It’s true. A good teacher who is well-prepared and confident in their abilities wants their students to take the test. If you aren’t comfortable with your students being tested, put yourself in a position – via professional development, peer/mentor help, anything – not to have to worry about their results. You’ll have solid numbers to show administrators, peers and parents that prove your value in the classroom.
  • Performance bonuses. The trend to reward teachers for excellent student performance is growing. If your school doesn’t already recognize outstanding teachers with financial bonuses, bring it up to the administration, the Board of Education, or contact a private foundation and have them approach your school. Doing your job well and focusing on the students may not do it for you; if that’s the case, you can be driven by the almighty dollar until you can get yourself out of teaching.

Put succinctly, if you’re a student, take the test. If you’re a teacher, encourage all students to take the test. The benefits to both parties are enormous.

*** If you’re interested in scheduling a presentation to your district or students about the value of Advanced Placement exams, e-mail mktabor@gmail.com [e-mail link opens in new window] with “AP Exams” in the subject.

Florida Teachers Get an Education in Style: Fashion Tips for Teachers

Jeffrey S. Solochek of the St. Petersburg Times has followed up on a 2006 blowup about whether teachers in Pasco County, Florida should be subject to a dress code:

A committee of teachers and administrators convened by superintendent Heather Fiorentino, who identified the issue as a problem, completed its review of teacher dress Thursday by deciding that there really is no problem.

The group agreed that attire matters, even suggesting that it deserves a prominent mention in new teacher training. But it deemed the district’s current policy, which says the staff should dress in a manner that “will add dignity to the educational profession,” as quite sufficient.

The committee suggested that the rare cases involving inappropriate attire can be addressed by the principal.

General George Patton said that you must, “Always do everything you ask of those you command.” Maintaining a professional appearance and demeanor in a school is an important part of education. If a teacher doesn’t demonstrate the utmost pride in their appearance and respect for themselves, no one should expect the students to follow suit.

That means a teacher must:

  • Dress neatly, wearing professional attire that shows students that you care about your appearance and are proud of it.
  • Wear clean, ironed clothing. Dirty, wrinkled clothes are the most prevalent (and needless) problem I see in schools. If you don’t like ironing, buy a bottle of wrinkle releaser. It’s $3 and works in 30 seconds.
  • Have a variety of outfits – don’t wear the same thing every day. You need not have an extensive wardrobe, just some standard tops/bottoms and a basic knowledge of how they can go together. If you don’t know how to do this, ask your sister, mom, or stylish co-worker. They’ll be glad to help. [If you're a male teacher, make use of ties to mix up your appearance.]
  • Conceal any obnoxious additions to your body, e.g. tattoos and piercings. This is not as obvious to many as it ought to be.
  • Wear clothes that fit. Clothes that are too tight, loose or revealing are distracting and reflect poorly on you.
  • Avoid “business casual” attire when possible. It looks lazy. It’s the equivalent of getting a grade of C. You know, just enough to get by without taking too much heat for it.
  • Keep current. You don’t need to read GQ or Elle every month to look good. If your clothes are out of style, stop wearing them to school. Students don’t take you seriously if you wear badly outdated clothes.

If you want respect, you’d better look and act as though you deserve it. A well-dressed teacher suggests (actually, it’s more like “screams”) that there is an important purpose for his/her presence in the class. To most adults, clothes reflect a person’s seriousness of purpose – and they’re right. Kids think in more simplified terms; they’re even more likely to equate a well-dressed teacher with seriousness.

There is no excuse – none – for being a teacher and not dressing well. It is a necessary part of the job with which you are charged (and which you have chosen). Your personal preferences and comforts mean far less than the students’ rights to encounter positive examples of adult behavior. Think you can’t afford to dress well? Saturday I spent $95 at Macy’s and got a suede jacket, a tweed suit coat, a microfiber windbreaker, two pairs of dress slacks and two chic ties.

The Education Wonks sum it up well when they say, “Maybe it would be a good idea if those who wanted to be treated as “professionals” dressed professionally.”

If you don’t want to take it from me, take it from the high school girl who last week called me “divalicious.

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