Friday, July 30, 2010

Back to School Shopping 2010

I ran across this Wal-Mart vs. Target Shopping Blog entry and wanted to share it with others who may find it interesting.

The author breaks down her school supply shopping list and summarizes that Wal-Mart is only a slight winner in the contest. As someone who no longer has to buy classroom supplies, I still feel for my former colleagues and those parents who are buying. I also know there are cost conscious homeschoolers in the market. I always buy art supplies for Christmas presents at this time of year. You cannot beat the prices on markers, crayons, and colored pencils that you find now. The prices in December are far more expensive.

For those of you interested in reading her review you can find it at Have Fun Teaching.

As I find more helpful back to school information I will post it.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Massachusetts Abandons State Control of Education Standards

Wednesday, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education unanimously approved adopting the Common Core standards abandoning state control of education standards and testing.

While the press has generally ignored the consequences of this action focusing on the dollars that Massachusetts will get for submitting to the bribe, others are concerned with the effect of lowering the standards in Massachusetts. While celebrating gaining the bribes, little has been said about the costs involved with leaving the Massachusetts state standards behind. Every time Massachusetts changes its own standards, schools complain about the costs involved with updating curriculum. Often books and other materials cannot be changed across levels when topics move across grade levels. A book used to teach sixth graders is not going to be age or reading level appropriate for fourth graders and a first grade book, lacks depth for third graders. This requires districts to buy new curriculum. However, states knowing about budget issues can control when curriculum changes. When planning curriculum changes, the DOE can choose to delay implementing changes when the economy does not make changes realistic.

Now in the middle of a very bad economy, the state trades control of its standards for bribes that will not cover these curriculum changes. The bribes are a short-term cover for budget shortfalls. The next time the federal government decides to play with the core curriculum, there is no guarantee that the state will receive any money for curriculum updates.

Massachusetts has a harder curriculum than the core curriculum standards the federal government wants us to adopt. Our testing standards are also higher than those the federal government would like us to adopt. The current attitude developed from Race to the Top is why work harder if we can get more federal money doing less? Well if it were just about money, that might be a sad, but understandable attitude. However, we should be working to improve our curriculum, not making it worse. We want our children getting a better education, not decreasing their opportunities so that we are equal with what children across the country are getting. Why not reach to bring individual state standards up, not force states who have improved their education standards to decrease them to make all educational programs equally bad.

The way to improve education is not to decrease standards and to surrender state control of education to the federal government. When the federal government’s solution to improving education is to lower education standards, it is obvious something is wrong. We need to retain control of our state’s educational system.

Current MA Math Standards

Current MA English Language Arts Standards

MA History and Social Studies Standards Current

MA Science and Technology Standards Current

Federal Common Core Standards

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Moonbase Alpha

NASA has released a free video game for download. The premise of the game has astronauts landing on the moon and encountering problems that need repairs. Players than have the challenge of balancing available resources, using problem solving skills to make the repairs, and limited time to make the repairs to ensure survival of the astronauts.

There are single and multiple player options and the site lists computer requirements to play. This is the closest to the moon many students may get with the severe limitations of our space program.

NASA Moonbase Alpha Game

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