The Catholic Schools Saved by Vouchers


Catholic schools, once a mainstay for the Irish, Italian, and Polish communities in American cities, are struggling. With shrinking numbers of nuns as a source of free labor, and fewer parishioners passing the donation baskets on Sunday and enrolling their kids in parochial schools, many simply cannot afford to keep their doors open. Just last week, the Archdiocese of New York announced the closure of five more schools for financial reasons; that’s on top of dozens that were shutteredin 2011 and 2013.

More here.

The Penguin

OurLadyof Peace.jpg

I spent three days doing nothing but research, write, and edit an article on Catholic schools and school vouchers. (For breaks, I gobbled down cheap, mindless novels in a sunny corner.) Just as my article hits the website, Donald Trump has a meltdown on national TV. Ain’t nobody reading my little education article now. Arg!

This is my dad’s fifth grade school photo. He is sitting in the back. Red hair, big ears, dark tie. Check out the class size. Our Lady of Peace on the Southside of Chicago was closed down in 1999.

What About the Farm Kids?

A while back, I was looking at college admission trends for the Atlantic. I learned that Columbia, for example, admitted more kids from China than the entire Midwest. I can’t remember if that finding made it through the editing process.

Well, the NYT wrote an article about the lack of representation of rural kids in colleges.

To college administrators, rural students, many of them the first in their families to attend college, have become the new underrepresented minority. In their aim to shape leaders and provide access to the disadvantaged, higher education experts have been recognizing that these students bring valuable experiences and viewpoints to campuses that don’t typically attract agriculture majors. Rural students, said Adam Sapp, admissions director at Pomona College, have “a different understanding of complicated political and social issues,” offering “one more lens through which to see a problem.”

Is the Bar Too Low for Special Education?



In fourth grade, Drew’s behavioral problems in school grew worse. Gripped by extreme fears of flies, spills, and public restrooms, Drew began banging his head, removing his clothing, running out of the school building, and urinating on the floor. These behaviors, which stemmed from autism and ADHD, meant that Drew was regularly removed from the classroom in his suburban school outside of Denver and only made marginal academic improvement, according to court documents.

More here.

Super Lame Gift Guide 2016

So, I’m just getting over a week-long bug. According the local doc-in-the-box, there’s a weird ten day, flu-like virus going around and, of course, I got it. So, I’ve been limping around at at half capacity for a week. I don’t have an article in the works. I don’t have a Christmas tree. I just started shopping for reals yesterday. Life fail.

Anyways. Here’s what I’ve just started to do. It’s not organized or pretty, but if you want to steal some ideas. We have a week to go.

(OK. Today suddenly got very busy. I’ll come back to this post throughout the day. This will be the last gift guide of the month.)


Personalized Learning

I’m still in between writing assignments. Well, I have one in the works, but I’m waiting around for the publicist to set up the interview. So, let me tell you about another topic that’s on the back burner.

Last spring, I spent weeks and weeks touring other public schools in the area looking for another public school that would work for Ian. I think I looked at seven or eight different programs. The best programs were doing super interesting things with computers. Let me back up.

One of the big problems in special ed is that you have a group of kids who are disabled, but they are each disabled in different ways. Some have emotional problems, others have cognitive problems, and still others may attentional issues. Public schools dump all those kids in the same room. None of them may read on grade level, but each one is getting tripped up for different reasons.

The old school way of dealing with this diverse bunch is to make them all read the same book at their age-level ability, even though none of them actually reads on grade level. So, the teacher will read the book out loud to the class — in some cases the kids will listen to the book on tape — and the teacher will explain the book to the kids. So, the kids aren’t working on learning how to read. Then the aides and the teachers will talk them through an essay on the book.  I call this pretend learning.

The new way is to set the kids in front of a computer, where they’ll read “Huck Finn” or “Charlotte’s Web” on their reading level. The computer program translates the book to their ability. These programs generate questions and assignments that are appropriate for them. Later, the class might work together on a group assignment or discussion on the same matter. The whole group has read Huck Finn, just on their own level.

This method is very cost-effective. Instead of hiring extra teachers and aides, the kids use a computer. The teacher doesn’t have to generate assignments for each kid. The kids aren’t stressed out by doing work that is too hard for them. There isn’t any of the pretend learning bs. I don’t see a downside.

There’s a quiet movement that’s happening in general ed to do the same thing, because, after all, all kids are different. It’s starting off in some charter schools and spreading. The teachers’ union hates it because, in some ways, it de-professionalizes the teachers. The standards movement people hate it, because they insist that every 9th grader should read the same 9th grade science textbook. But this movement is going to win out, because of money.