Monday, April 28, 2014

The Redundancy of "Teacher Leader"
Designating a teacher as a "teacher leader" is sort of like calling something a "final completion" or that you'll "repeat the directions again." There has been plenty of talk about empowering teachers with the tools they need to implement the new standards and boost student achievement. What a fabulous idea!

In fact, we should have been doing this all along. We know that leadership takes time and intense discipline to develop, yet we expect teachers to effectively 'lead' their classrooms on limited prep time (let alone time for meaningful professional development). 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Magic of College?
The article Asking the Tough Questions (AACC 21st Century Virtual CenterAACC 21st Century Virtual Center) includes a synopsis of the twelve questions posed by The SOURCE on Community College Issues, Trends, & Strategies in their document "12 Important Questions for 16 Community College Leaders." As all good questions do, these twelve questions raise more questions. Most of my questions percolate because I can't help but notice a dichotomy between some of the original questions. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Warm Blankets in 2-Year Programs

The New York Times article What Makes a Positive College Experience? gives a few of Dr. Daniel F. Chambliss's answers to some questions about how to make college a positive experience. The short story is that what really matters comes down to one element: PEOPLE.

He suggests things like living in a dorm your freshman year, joining a club or sport, and signing up for classes based on the teacher rather than the content. These are all wonderful ideas if you're a traditional student attending a 4-year university. In fact, as a graduate of a 4-year university, I can attest to the difference doing all of these things can have. 

But what if you attend a community/technical college, and the campus doesn't offer residency? Or you attend as an adult and don't need residency? Or your small 2-year program just doesn't allow enough semesters to get to know that many teachers? Or your college's student body can't support many - if any - clubs or sports to join? Or you work almost full-time to pay for school, have a family at home, or your class schedule is so tight that you simply don't have the time to participate in anything? 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Education as a "Filter"

Because of the discussion around how expensive college is, the actual worth and ROI of a college degree has also popped up, like this one:

Why Education Spending Doesn't Lead to Economic Growth - Businessweek

The article talks about education as America vs. the rest of the world, but there's an interesting finding that is worth looking at on a national level: 

What explains the limited impact of increased education on economic growth? A possible answer is that education acts as a filter rather than an investmentrecent study (PDF) in Italy found that test scores had a significant impact on the earnings of employees—but none on the earnings of self-employed people. One interpretation of that result is that schooling signals persons with intelligence and ambition, rather than actually imparting or indicating skills that make them better at their jobs over the long term. Signaling helps as a screening tool for employers, but makes no difference to people who work for themselves. Presumably, they already know how smart and ambitious they are.  [Emphasis mine]
The value of an education, then, is not necessarily content. This reminds me of the Chinese proverb "Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself." Many students in my office looking for resume help need a little reminder about what employers are actually looking for in a candidate - the ability to learn, the work ethic to take on challenges, the motivation to innovate, etc. Many developmental education students find the true value in the processes that become habits during the sequence more than the refresher on fractions or commas. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Sibling Rivalry - "Why Job-Seekers Pick For-Profit Colleges" (CCS)

There is undoubtedly some sibling rivalry between for-profit colleges and, well, the rest of the education world. It seems that educators - and education as a field - is very protective and territorial. Maybe this is because teachers are accustomed to knowing almost everything and having the answers; maybe this is because teaching as a profession feels 'watered down' when parents, lawmakers, and even students claim to be able to do the job; maybe this is because the teacher's ability is being questioned in light of disappointing test scores and reports about college- and career-readiness. 

So when an educational institution isn't shy about the fact that they are in the business to make money (instead of pretending like money isn't the primary goal, like many post-secondary institutions), educators may get a little reactive to reports like this:

Community College Spotlight | Why job-seekers pick for-profit colleges

Monday, April 14, 2014

Coincidence? I don't think so.

Have we covered the fact that college is expensive and student loan debt loads are outrageous enough yet? 

It is understandably frustrating when a student graduates from a 4-year university only to find a job that barely pays enough to cover the subsequent student loan payments. But there are a few assumptions in this situation that merit some further questioning. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

College for All - including students with special needs

I was very glad to find this article pop up in my ListServe folder this morning: 

The article is from, and speaks to some of the most frustrating issues a post-secondary instructor can face. 

Teachers in K-12 (at least in Minnesota) are required to include training in special needs as part of their license renewal, and are held to 504 plans and IEPs, ideally with support and collaboration from the special education team. On top of that, the instruction and curriculum in a K-12 classroom can be adapted to a student's special need pretty readily; in fact, the trend seems to be that this is expected for each individual student...but that's another post. This adaptation is possible since licensed teachers have built an instructional toolbox from which they can choose the appropriate method.