Archive for the ‘Administration’ Category

MANDATORY study hall

March 21, 2009 | Administration, Scheduling | RSS 2.0

My first semester at the Defense Langauge Institute we were “drinking from a fire hose” – 8 hours a day we heard, spoke, and read our target language (French in my case).  I had an advantage – I took French from eigth to tenth grade, so for me DLI’s first semester was like a refresher course (plus learning how to say things like “aircraft carrier” and “infantry” – didn’t learn that in high school).  I can’t imagine what it was like for the people learning Farsi, Chinese, Arabic, etc.

In order to ensure success, our instructors placed us on mandatory study hall for the first eight weeks.  Each Tuesday and Thursday we spent two hours under the guidance of one of our instructors getting extra practice and working on assignments.  After eight weeks, if our grades were high enough, we could get do the normal student thing and just do our homework in the dorm….er, barracks.

My school has something similar, but it needs tweaking.  We currently restrict any student failing two or more courses from particiapting in extra-curricular activities.  That’s all well and good, but I think it’s time to move the remedial period from the end of the day to a time when the students are required to be in the building.  Students who are passing all their courses could still use that time for their club meetings, but our at-risk kids would need to spend the time catching up on work, studying, getting extra practice, and whatever else will get them above the 65% mark.

Many of the kids who are failing are in a downward spiral.  Perhaps its time for a drastic change to help get them flying level again.

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Are you a mission-critical member of the unit?

January 13, 2009 | Administration, Unions | RSS 2.0

Imagine this – you’re unit is on the battlefield suited up in chemical gear and it appears that the chemical hazard is no longer present.  Since chemical detection kits don’t react with every possible threat, you need to choose one or two of your soldiers to take their masks off and take a breath.  Of course you are ready to provide immediate treatment should there still be a chemical agent present and the soldiers show symptoms…but it’s still a scary question: who do you pick to take off their masks?

People outside the military might assume that you would choose the lowest ranking soldiers in the unit, but it’s not quite that straightforward.  Your youngest private may be the only one in your squad who speaks Kurdish, and if your mission is to negotiate with the head of a village in northern Iraq then that kid is critical to the mission.  Military leaders learn that in situations such as this, the people first exposed to the danger are the people who are least mission-critical.

Unfortunately, it’s not always that way in our schools.

We got an email from our Superintendent recently – seems New York is in a bit of a budget crunch and our district stands to lose millions of dollars in state funds and tax revenue next year.  Programs are being scaled back, and staff cuts are quite possible.

Unfortunately, we all know that in the public schools it won’t necessarily be the most ineffective teachers who get cut, but rather the ones with the fewest years in the district.  Competence be damned, they’re going to keep the people who have been around the longest.

This has to change!  I’m not saying there’s any easy way to measure how good a teacher is (that’s probably another post), but keeping people around just because they’ve been around is seriously screwed up.  It’s one of the reasons that teachers’ unions are often maligned – and in my opinion its deserved in this case.

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