Monday, December 31, 2012

Maximize 2012 Charitable Deductions - Give the gift of college access.

You have less than 24 hours to maximize your 2012 charitable deductions before we drive off the fiscal cliff.


You can give just because it is the right thing to do.

Please donate to The College Bridge.

The College Bridge is a non-profit that I am a board member.

Their mission is to provide the tools necessary for students to access college.

This can be in the form of skills remediation, applications for admission or financial aid, professional development for their schools. etc.

For those that know me or read by blog, you probably know that I am a first generation college student.
You should also how important and formative getting into college was for me.

I was lucky.
Most students whose parents are not college graduates have some serious obstacles to cross before they can make it in college.

The College Bridge's mission is to be the bridge to college access.

Please donate today.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Article - State may lose 'No Child Left Behind' waiver bid

Article - State may lose 'No Child Left Behind' waiver bid

So it appears that California will not be granted a NCLB waiver.

I have actually read multiple articles on the subject, and I chose to share this one because it sums up my frustration with California public education with the following quotes.

Let's starts with CA's top education leader not appearing to know why the request was denied.

I look forward to thoroughly examining the rationale the administration provides for its decision and will continue to explore every avenue for providing California’s schools and students the relief they deserve,” Torlakson said in a statement.
However, the same article explains.
After missing two deadlines for waivers, California in June submitted a last-minute, customized exemption from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as No Child Left Behind is formally known. The state said even though it did not comply with the specifics of some waiver requirements, it was adhering to them in principle.
Am I the only one that is concerned that the folks leading our state appear surprised that an application that missed two deadlines that did not meet specific requirements would be denied? I wonder how many principals or superintendents in this state send applications that miss deadlines and do not comply with specific provisions can expect different results?

This issue is very complicated and multi-faceted. My fear is that with anything emotionally charged as education in politics, it will get watered down and over-simplified to the usual "are you for or against teachers?" debate that it always ends up becoming.

For example, one of the main provisions that was not fully endorsed by California is tying teacher evaluations to test performance. Like most things NCLB, the specifics on how this done is left for the states to decide so long as it fits into federal parameters. This is already getting attention from the anti-testing crowd.

However, my questions are more pragmatic.

What are the consequences of not getting the waiver?

Could there have been a way to meet deadlines and meet the provisions in a way that was agreeable and reasonable, or will it always be a black-and-white, mindless, Fox news-style debate?

At least EdWeek offers a certain level of pragmatic debate on the topic, especially as it relates to the underlying politics.

Will California always choose to decide to be a rebel and that it does everything "right" without exploring the effectiveness of states with better education funding and educational outcomes?

More importantly, how many children will get caught in the cross-hairs of political agendas?


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Article - Special Education: A Delicate Balance Between Educating & Enabling

What do you think on this commentary?

Special Education: A Delicate Balance Between Educating & Enabling

Two things resonated for me in this article.

1. There is a major difference between legislative intent and foundational philosophy versus implementation. Something may sound great in theory, but what does the average practitioner look like on the average day?

2. The balance for me is not Educating versus enabling. It is accommodating in the short-term while developing and reinforcing skills in the long term. For more on this topic, please read my post on accommodations at



Article - ADHD Medication Treatment may Reduce Criminal Behavior

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Won't Back Down" - My movie review.

Almost two weeks ago, I saw a screening of the movie "Won't Back Down" with my co-workers.

Now, for the purpose of full disclosure, I want everyone to know that I now work at an absolutely wonderful and high-performing charter school. I have only been there for three-and-a-half months, and I don't think that I can ever go back to a traditional district job. In fact, if I did not find this position, I was prepared to walk away from administration entirely. I had tried to get out of district special education administration once when I became a vice-principal, but circumstance had sucked me right back in after two years. Special education administration is a pretty thankless job. In the District Office, you are removed from building positivity with students in staff. Your world is pretty much managing unhappy adults. I still remember the one day when I came on campus, and a co-worker tried to joke, "Uh-oh! If you are here, either someone died or we are getting sued." It wasn't funny, it was true.

Another aspect of working in a traditional district position is the level of politics and political correctness that is required. You better not rock the boat or disturb the "no hassle castle." If you don't know my personality, you probably know at least one adult with ADHD. We are not known for our subtle self-censorship and political correctness.Besides, where does telling the emperor that his outfit is beautiful help kids? Not only am I not cut out to be a bureaucrat, I am more likely to say that a proud and honest nudist for a leader is exactly what the empire needs. That will not happen anytime soon.

So where was I? Oh yeah, the movie...

If you want a more typical review of the movie, you are probably better off on Wikipedia or IMDB.

I loved the movie, and I am not into emotional movies. I usually like my movies to be mindless entertainment. I say, "If I wanted to think, I would read instead."

I also learned quickly that the movie ticked a lot of people off. The criticism, or ire, seems to fall into two categories. The first is to critique it factually and mock the "inspired by true events" label. Really? A big Hollywood movie not being factually accurate? Weren't "Amityville Horror", "The Exorcist", and "The Haunting in Connecticut" inspired by true events? We need a Romney-style fact-check on those movies. The other critique is of the politics of the movies backers.

You know what? I don't care. The movie feels accurate. It is the perfect example of Stephen Colbert's Truthiness.

So what feels accurate about the movie?

  • A parents' frustration and sense of helplessness when their child is assigned to a bad or ineffective teacher.
  • The inspiration of a great teacher.
  • The injustice of a system that will lay-off a great fourth-year teacher, but keep an ineffective one  with more years.
  • The motivated educator's frustration of knowing that no matter how hard he/she works every lazy and incompetent coworker will be on the same salary trajectory.
  • The secret negotiations of shuffling "must-moves" (or whatever local term is used) between administrators that we cannot admit to parents is the reason why that entire class of children must suffer.
  • Having every character in the movie remind me of someone, or two, or three...
  • Seeing a news article of "Rubber Rooms" and knowing that I would be the one in legal trouble if I told the real, first-hand accounts that I have witnessed of say... a convicted sexual predator getting awarded salary for being fired for his crimes and other things that should be headlines that  spark community outrage.

View more videos at:

  • The lunacy and lack of basic logic when a lobbyist for the teacher unions claim that calls to reform the system so that it is fair and reasonable would be tantamount to returning to the days before labor unions protected workers from dying unnecessarily in unsafe working conditions.
  • The refusal in some folks to admit that the truth in these bullett points do more to advance the charter movement than Michelle Rhee, this movie, and charter school financiers combined.
  • Coming to the realization that the lies and smear tactics depicted in the movie are not fictional. If anything, they may be understated.
To quote the movie, "Are you mad?"
I am.
I am also motivated to open more high-quality schools with a staff as awesome as I work with now.