In My Spare Time

For a little over a year now, I’ve been consulting for a charter school corporation. Until recently, this involved an occasional presentation and/or discussion with the math teachers. Yes, I was doing this prior to being certified, which was a bit strange.

I am often, uhm, uncomfortable with my role, as I am not convinced that charter schools are the best option. Nor am I convinced that they aren’t a viable option. I have many concerns, two of which are the privatization of education and non-union teachers (but I won’t go into this now). The way I reconcile my work with myself is to believe what I’m doing is helping the staff become better teachers, which in turn helps the students. Is this a rationalization? Yep. I can’t get through too many days without one.

This summer another facet was added to my side work. We are putting together a grant proposal for a new charter school (in Ohio). I am co-designing the math curriculum (well, really one of three, if you count our sub-contractor) . It has been an eye-opening experience.

I know well the standards for the state in which I work, NCTM’s Principles and Standards, and the ACT College Readiness Standards. The math standards in Ohio were new to me. Even more interesting was analyzing the Ohio Graduation Test (given during the spring of 10th grade). The more I learn, the more I believe there needs to be unification of the way in which we are assessing mathematics (Dave Marain has written about this here and here). In order to do this, we first need to determine what we want students to learn. Only then can we determine how we will know if they know it. We’ve all heard “a mile wide and an inch deep”. I now know just how true this is.

This post is much longer than I anticipated and I haven’t even begun to say everything anything about curriculum design. Consider this some background information for my weekend plans – finishing up the remaining course plans, with alignment to standards, of course. I also have to write an overview of the mathematics curriculum (full of edu-jargon – I’m not looking forward to that part). This is due Monday for the next phase of the grant review. At some point I also have papers to grade and lesson plans to make for next week, so, please, don’t write too many interesting posts. I’m having a tough time ignoring this problem as it is.

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4 Responses to In My Spare Time

  1. Robert says:

    Just curious — what are your concerns about privatizing education?

  2. Jackie says:

    Robert,

    Here’s the short list:
    1) Corporations exist to make a profit. How will that effect decisions that are made?
    2) Who will decide what types of schools will be set up in what location? Will they type of education available to a student depend upon where he or she lives? Not that this doesn’t happen already.
    3) What curriculum will be taught? Will the private companies decide what skills are needed?

    Really, I think of the blueberry story and I worry.

  3. Robert says:

    The flaw in the blueberry story is that while there will never be a place for ice cream companies who make ice cream from damaged blueberries, there is lots of room in a free-market educational system for schools to specialize in students with special needs. In fact a school that generates a good track record of doing well with ADHD students would, I think, become hugely profitable.

    And they’d become profitable on the basis of the quality of their output. The higher education system has been significantly private for over 200 years in the US and the decision making process is mainly governed by giving a quality education at a reasonable price rather than a sinister profit motive. (And this also involves fiscal accountability — screwing around with tuition dollars and donations has serious negative consequences, whereas public schools who spend lots of money, regardless of how intelligently they do it, tend to just get more money.)

  4. Jackie says:

    Robert,

    I agree that there is lots of room for schools to specialize in services for students with special needs. However, my concern is that these are generally more cost intensive (lower student to staff ratios and support services). Also, with the mandates of inclusion and L.R.E., I’m not sure how separate schools would play out.

    As for your second paragraph, I can see how that may be the case in post-secondary ed (your field, not mine), but I don’t think that is true for K-12 public schools (at least not on an across the board basis).

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