NYT Article Review: “To Get to Harvard, Go to Haiti”

Here’s a good piece about the emphasis on commnuinity and social involvement as a criteria to getting into elite colleges and universities may affect the genuines of that engagment. In particular, the article dicusses the urge for wealthier families to send their student to a third world country to partake in some quick missionary activity or to engage in an entreprenurial pursuit, which is funded my wealthy families, for the sake of getting into an ivt league school.

Two aspects of this piece stood out to me as important to the admissions process as a whole and our understanding of how diversity, income and self-awareness play a role into inspiring and admitting a well-rounded class of students.

Harvard, and schools like them, are engaged in research and rasing awareness on the impact of some of their suggested admissions criteria on some students. An essential element to the growth of any entity is the awareness of such criteria and asking how can we make this better. I think it’s easier for some people to simply brush the criteria of community involvement as a bullet-proof criteria that everyone can be apart in, without questioning what that criteria is supposed to do for and mean to the student.

The second element that stood out to me has to do with how te article starts off and whose voice is heard in the introduction. The intro comes from the perspective of a student who doesn’t have as much money as some of his classmates but who still chooses to give back at the local level because he cares. More inspiring is the fact that he cares enough to know that his community could be made better if only his wealthier classmates also gave back to their disadvantaged, not-a-plane-ride-away-neighbors. It was powerful to have the view point of someone whose local community activies could have been “outshined” by some of his wealthier counterparts. The very act of starting off with this student ackowledges that his efforts are just as important to admissions officers as his some of his classmates international excusions.

Read more here. 

The BackPack Index is Out

Last month, Huntington Bank and Communities in Schools released their annual BackPack Index. The report’s research, though limited to six mid-western states, show the increase in supplies and after-school activity costs and fees. The report, neatly summarized by Huntington in the screenshot below, begs the question of how parents in low-income communities are keeping up with these expenses. And what about schools that serve mostly low-income students? How are they coping? It’s one thing to have a few students in a school who cannot afford the rising expenses, and it’s another thing to have an entire school community that can’t match or come close to matching these demands.

Presumably, some schools eat the cost so that parents do not have to contribute little to no money. Another likely option is that while schools increase spending for all-things-related-to-standardized-testing, they further decrease spending and limit opportunites in the arts and extra-curriucalr activities. As for school supplies, poor districts are probably also limiting how creative their teachers can be with their lessons, making it difficult for students to get a rich a experience.
The point is: if there are parents and schools that are trying to keep up with the cost of quality, much needed afterschool experiences, imagine the schools, teachers, parents, and students who do not have a cent to offer to stay in the race?

Don’t get me wrong. There are parents and schools who are genuinely financially struggling to have their students partake in social activities. Their are parents who are barely making payments in on time for theit child to qualify to play her school’s first basketball game of the year. Their are parents who will go into their savings this fall to ensure their child has these opportunites. But I’m just shedding light on the students who can’t join their school’s ballet team or practice the guitar at home because there are no savings to dip into. Just a parent(s) working paycheck to paycheck. 

Read the full report here.   

  

REPOST: Tim Kaine, Dems’ VP Nominee, Is Strong Supporter of Public Schools (Unlike Cory Booker)

REPOST:

Tim Kaine, Dems’ VP Nominee, Is Strong Supporter of Public Schools (Unlike Cory Booker)

by janresseger

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President, seemed confused last Wednesday when he spoke at a news conference about the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, Tim Kaine.  Trump was reported by Politico to have confused Tim Kaine with former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean: “Her running mate Tim Kaine, who by the way did a terrible job in New Jersey….” declared Trump. I hope that by now most of us are less confused about Tim Kaine than Trump was last week, but perhaps there is still room to learn more about Kaine’s record.

So who is Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s choice as her running mate?  A U.S. News & World Report piece last week explained Tim Kaine’s Hefty Education Resume: “When Hillary Clinton formally introduced her vice presidential pick, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, it quickly became clear that she chose someone with big education policy chops….”

Kaine’s wife, Anne Holton, has a long history of work on behalf of children and families as a judge in juvenile and domestic relations court. During Kaine’s term as governor of Virginia, she became an advocate for adolescents in foster care. Kaine and his wife educated their three now-adult children in the public schools of Richmond, Virginia.  Holton served until last week as Virginia’s Secretary of Education (She just resigned to join the presidential campaign.), a position she used, according to the Washington Post, to bring attention to the needs of the state’s public schools: “‘Teachers are teaching to the tests. Students’ and teachers’ love of learning and teaching are sapped,’ she wrote in 2015. ‘Most troublesome, Virginia’s persistent achievement gaps for low-income students have barely budged,’ she continued arguing that ‘our high stakes-approach’ with testing has made it more difficult to persuade the best teachers who work in the most difficult, impoverished schools… Like most of her fellow Democrats in the state, she has opposed the expansion of charter schools and other school-choice measures, and she has pushed for greater investments in public education, including teacher pay raises.”

2013 column Kaine himself wrote for theRichmond Times-Dispatch describes his commitment to public education as mayor of Richmond, governor of Virginia, and U.S. senator: “Anne and I are now empty-nesters. Combined, our three kids spent 40 school years in the Richmond Public Schools. While we both interact with the school system in our professional lives, we’ve learned even more from back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, attending school events and pulling crumpled notes to parents out of our kids’ backpacks. The lessons learned as parents have made me think about what works and what doesn’t work in Pre-K-12 education.”

What are Kaine’s education priorities as described in his 2013 column?  First is support for the kind of individualized education planning mandated for students with special needs in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: “Most policy debate these days seems to be about charter schools or high-stakes testing. But I’m convinced that the most important reform has been under our noses since 1975, when legislation was passed to guarantee (that) children with diagnosed disabilities receive individualized learning plans tailored to meet their specific needs. Each child brings a mix of strengths and challenges to the classroom. Let’s use the insight gained through advances in educating kids with disabilities to leverage new technologies and teaching methods that can individualize learning for each child.”

Kaine continues by endorsing the expansion of high-quality pre-Kindergarten; reduction of number state-mandated, high-stakes tests; more emphasis on science and social studies at the elementary level; more exposure to exploring careers for students in middle school; a variety of paths to a high school diploma; more opportunities for exploration of the arts and computer science as requirements, not mere electives; and strong efforts to attract and hold on to excellent teachers: “As I listen to public debate, it often sounds like our main issue is how to get rid of bad teachers. But this problem pales beside the larger issue of how to keep good teachers. Too many great prospective teachers never enter the profession and too many great teachers leave too early over low salaries, high-stakes testing pressure, discipline challenges and an overall belief that society doesn’t value the profession.”

Louis Freedberg, executive director of California’s EdSource examines the Kaines’ strong record on education: “It seems clear that both Kaine and his wife favor strategies very different from the top-down, test-heavy, high-stakes reforms of the No Child Left Behind era.”  And writing for the Education Opportunity Network, Jeff Bryant explains: “But in reviewing Kaine’s education policy chops, what’s in his record may not be as important as what isn’t: the current education establishment’s policy checklist of standardization, high-stakes testing, allowing charter schools to sort students by income and ability, and keeping teachers under the authoritative thumb of test-based evaluations—there’s none of that.”

Of course nobody can predict whether a Vice President will leave a mark on an administration’s record in any particular policy area.  But Hillary Clinton’s choice of Tim Kaine over another contender for the vice presidential slot, Cory Booker, sends what many hope is an important message.  Booker has a long history of supporting private school vouchers and was described in Dale Russakoff’s The Prize in league with New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie in hatching the plan to charterize Newark, New Jersey’s public schools and in luring Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to donate $100 million to underwrite the experiment.

Tim Kaine has a strong local, state, and federal record of support for democratically governed public schools —as Richmond Mayor, and Virginia Governor and U.S Senator.

Spaced Learning & My GRE Prep

After battling mini math sections and losing to most of them, I need to rethink how I study. Though I have been studying for a couple of months and my exam date is a little more than eight weeks away, I have been making little progress in the quantative section. As some one who managed to evade math my senior year of high school and all throughout college, I have to re-teach myself most of the material on the GRE. I started to feel overwhelemed by this task and had no clue where to start. My plan has been to complete a practice math section and review the answers I got wrong (which, as I’ve mentioned previously, have been most of them). An obstacle I’m encountering is that because the math section contains problems from various categories (algebra, geometry),  I find myself quickly swinging from category to category and not sticking to a category and the in and outs to that category to actually retain any of the information. I’m going over each incorrect answer and reviewing the correct answer just to learn it in the moment and not make any real effort to actually know and understand it and problems like it. I have come to realize that I need to spend more time on focusing on one category at a time, slowly transitioning into a new category, and intergrating the previously reviewed categories, if I want to do well on the GRE. 

Education Nation Tip: Writing Skills and Social Media

When my 21 year old neice was in high school and started actively using Facebook, I constantly sent her private messages discouraging the use of shorthand text. I worried that it took away from her ability to effectively write and communicate. It’s okay to take your time and express your thoughts. Not everything has to have hashtags, abbreviations and fragmented responses. 

But we live in a society where shorthand and social media go hand-in-hand. This NBC News’ Education Nation tip is timely, educational and require’s a challenge that can involve family members and friends (though I wasn’t aware that fifth graders used social media–boy am I getting old!).

  

Christie Defunding Proposal, Jersey JazzMan & Inaccurate Data on Charter Success

I think charter cheerleading keeps us from having a real conversation about the structural problems related to race and economic inequality in America.

Woah, JerseyJazzman. This and other amazing gems in his scathing post about Chris Christie‘s plan to defund already underfunded public schools and the inaccurate Christie supporter who spews inaccurate data about schools to make charters look like they simply outshine public schools fair and square. 

Chris Christie’s Unfair Fairness Formula

​Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey and Donald Trump supporter (and possible his VP nominee), proposed an education funding plan that would divert funds from underfunded inner-city public schools to well off public schools.

The plan advocates for equal state funding or a flat rate funding to all students, regardless of the amount of funding the student already receives from local property and income taxes. Under his proposal, each New Jersey student would recieve a flat rate $6,599 from the state; this excludes special education students, who would receive more funds.

What exactly does this mean?

Poor school districts, where parents can only afford to rent property and not own property, will see much needed “extra” state funding removed from their school budgets and sent to districts where spending per student already far exceeds the per student spending in poor districts. I placed the word extra in quotations because even with those state funds, the inner-city schools still can’t provide students with a decent  quality education. Students in these poor districts will see a decrease in the quality of education because districts and schools will be forced to fire teachers, aides and cut back on after school programs, extracurricular activities and classroom resources.

Meanwhile parents in the well off school districts will see a decrease in property taxes (meaning they bring home more money to their families) and an increase in the amount spent per student. A Rutgers University preliminary analysis featured in the New Jersey Education Policy Forum lays out how the already well off schools and families will benefit from this proposal and how the poorest schools will evidently be the losers (This report also disproves Christie’s claim that the 31 poorest schools have not in proved under the current funding plan).

According to Christie, this proposal will help ease taxation on middle and upper class families, while forcing lower class famlies to spend (or not spend) what they simply don’t have. He said that middle and upper class families have been footing the bill for 31 of the state’s poorest schools for years, but to no avail. Christie is essentially saying “now is the time for those middle and upper class families to take their money back and these poor schools, these poor, communities, these poor parents, these poor children will simply need to fend for themselves.” 

According to Christie, for these low-income school districts “Failure is still the rule, not the exception…That is an unacceptable, immoral waste of the hard-earned money of the people of New Jersey.”

This is an attack on the beauracratic public school system. I understand that public schools are entrenched with wasteful policy spending, however, it makes no sense to decrease funding  for these students. The obvious reason is that a decrease in funding will only increase their chances of staying in poverty. The cycle continues. But that’s not governor Christie’s problem or concern. How the hell is this proposal fair when it ensures that students in these low-income schools will make due with inadequate resources?  It makes no sense.