Tag Archives: educational policy and politics

COVID19 at Mark’s Text Terminal

March 14, 2020–But Occasionally Revised

This morning, when I picked up the local paper, I learned that Governor Phil Scott has placed Vermont in a state of emergency, as has the president for the entire country. The Boston Public Schools will be closed until at least April 27. I just received an email from the Network for Public Education asking me to sign a petition calling on New York City schools to close immediately. Many programs and events are shut down and cancelled, respectively, in the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union here in Bennington, Vermont.

The United States, wisely, is shutting down until this public health crisis abates. On March 26, Governor Scott of Vermont announced that schools in this state will remain closed for the rest of the year. That news was easily anticipated, and I expect to hear it again as states see no alternative to this.

It happens that I suddenly have some free time on my hands. It’s a long and entirely uninteresting story, but for all practical purposes, my public school teaching career came to a sudden conclusion on March 12.

Mark’s Text Terminal will, however, continue. I plan to use my free time both to publish material already in my data warehouse, but also to develop some new documents, especially on English usage, and cross-disciplinary worksheets based on Judith Hochman and Natalie Wexler’s excellent framework from The Writing Revolution.

I’ve also opened a Twitter account in an attempt to make material–especially new material–more readily available. I try to remember to tag everything I post on Twitter with #freeopensourcecurriculum, which I contrived for a simple form or organizing my material there. I’ll be revising posts to make them more easily searchable, and I’ll add more extensive, and new, explanations to the “About Posts & Texts” page.

As a teacher, I sought to be of some use to the communities I served. Now as a…well, I’m not exactly sure yet what I will do next, but as a blogger with some free time, I hope to be of some use to those parents who have students at home.

One organization worth following is TeachRock, which has developed, in a very short time, a large amount of extremely high-interest material. TeachRock is on Twitter , and you can sign up for its mailing list at its site. Highly recommended.

Nota bene, please, that most of what I post here is in Microsoft Word: that means it is easily exportable to other word processing programs, as well as adaptable to your students, children, and circumstances. I wrote most of the material found on this blog for struggling high school students. Most of it can easily be modified for a wide range of abilities in students.

That said, I taught under my special education license in New York City for 16 years, so you will find that this material contains a lot of language about that city, and even particular places in the Five Boroughs, the better to call up and build upon prior knowledge I could be relatively confident my students possessed. For more about using worksheets from Mark’s Text Terminal, see the “About Posts & Texts” page just above the banner photograph. Here are a set of users’ manuals for the most commonly posted materials on this blog.

If there is something you and your students need, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line at markstextterminal@me.com. If I don’t have something already (I have volumes of material to publish), I can probably write something for you.

To help your students and children understand the president’s response to this crisis, here is a lesson plan on personality disorders. To understand the biology of COVID19, here are a reading and comprehension worksheet on viruses.

Finally, and I hope not crassly, I started a Go Fund Me campaign last fall, long before COVID19 disrupted our lives. Please rest assured that the material I publish here has been, is, and always will be free of charge; moreover, I will continue, if I am able, to pay the WordPress premium fee that keeps this site free of the clutter of advertisements. However, I am, in fact, unemployed. I need to be smart about keeping myself in food, shelter, and medicine. I am demonstrably bad about selling myself or asking for assistance. Nonetheless, I do ask now (and I’m trying to figure out how to set up a Venmo account today–March 18–and as soon as I do, I’ll post a link to it as well).

As of today [April 2], I don’t think the link above to my Go Fund Me page is working. At the moment, I have decided to prioritize publishing posts over fundraising. If you are interested in contributing to this enterprise, you can search Mark’s Text Terminal on Go Fund Me. Venmo remains as of this date an unrealized project–soon, perhaps, soon.

That’s it. I wish you safety and good health.

Fred Smith: How Michael Bloomberg and Joel Klein Nudged Test Scores to Get Bragging Rights

[Whenever I reblog political posts, I feel obliged for some reason to qualify their presence on Mark’s Text Terminal by noting that this is not a political blog. I offer no such qualification or caveat for this post from Diane Ravitch’s magisterial blog. I worked for the New York City Department of Education throughout the Bloomberg years; yes, I am outraged by this post, but in those years I was more outraged by the culture of contempt toward teachers Bloomberg and Joel Klein ginned up.]

Diane Ravitch's blog

Fred Smith was the testing expert at the New York City Board of Education for many years. After he retired, he became a relentless truth-teller about the flaws of standardized testing and the clever means of distorting the stats to produce the desired results. He currently acts as an unpaid advisor to opt-out parents.

Smith sent this article from 2007 that shows how Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein played games with the data, in this case blaming “immigrant kids” for a drop in test scores.

Mayor Bloomberg and his schools chancellor, Joel Klein, have reaffirmed that old Mark Twain saying about the three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics.

Using a PowerPoint presentation filled with glitzy graphs and color charts, Klein reached a new low yesterday by attempting to blame a sharp drop in this year’s third-, fourth- and fifth-grade reading scores on thousands of immigrant pupils.

According to…

View original post 4,192 more words

The Milgram Studies: Lessons in Obedience

While I have found Stanley Milgram’s studies on obedience to authority fascinating (and the lost letter experiment is also interesting), I do understand that it isn’t exactly high school material. That said, I did, in 17 years of teaching now, have one kid ask about Milgram.

So here is a short reading on Dr. Milgram’s study along with its vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

New Yorkers, It’s Time to Cashier Richard Carranza

As I say every time I post something like this, Mark’s Text Terminal is not a political or policy blog.

That said, by any standard I recognize, it is long past time for New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza to find something else–anything else–to do. As an erstwhile colleague of mine commented recently, Carranza is “a lightweight.”

In the 16 years I taught in New York, we had one condescending, disrespectful chancellor after another–including the amazingly ill-fated–by her own dismal performance–Cathie Black.

So Carranza is not sui generis. That said, as this web page shows, Carranza’s  incompetence is well-documented and his failures many. The irony of this, of course, is that like so many people who occupy offices at his level in public education, he will all but certainly fail up when leaving New York.

Whatever happens, good riddance….

On Education and Data and Ethos

Murray Cohn has, for twenty-three years, run Brandeis according to his own lights. He believes in cleanliness and order—and the halls of Brandeis are clean and orderly. He believes in homework, especially writing—and the students do it, even if they don’t do enough. He believes in publicly praising achievement—and the schools bulletin boards offer congratulations to attendance leaders and the like. What Cohn and other administrators like him impart to their schools is nothing quantifiable; it is an ethos.”

James Traub, as quote in The Great School Debate: Which Way for American Education (1985)

Peter Greene: The Indispensable Glossary to Corporate School Reform

[All of Diane Ravitch’s books are well worth a look, but here’s a reference book that is indispensable to teachers. An earlier edition of this book, by Dr. Ravitch herself, EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon (Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007) is in heavy use here at Mark’s Text Terminal.]

Diane Ravitch's blog

In this post, Peter Greene reviews Edspeak and Doubletalk, the glossary co-written by me and Nancy Bailey.

This is the book you need, the scorecard, to identify the players in the fast-moving world of reform propaganda and over-hyped programs.

This resulting book, Edspeak and Doubletalk: A Glossary to Decipher Hypocrisy and Save Public Schooling, is exceptionally useful as a quick-reference resource. If you are a regular reader of this or other education blogs, you know that there is a forest of acronyms, a Grand Canyon’s worth of program names and purposes, and enough different edu-focused organizations to pave a road to the moon and back. This book makes for a quick and easy reference for it all, and more. Chapters are organized by general topic, such as Charter Schools and Choice, English Language Learners, Technology, and Separation of Church and State. There are guides to the various players…

View original post 195 more words

Examining Students’ Understanding

“The quality of students’ understanding rests on their ability to master and use bodies of knowledge that are valued by their culture. More specifically, it rests on their ability to make productive use of the concepts, theories, narratives, and procedures available in such disparate domains as biology, history, and the arts. Students should be able to understand the humanly constructed nature of this knowledge and to draw on it to solve problems, create products, make decisions, and in the end transform the world around them. Put differently, students should use knowledge to engage in a repertoire of performances valued by the societies in which they live.”

Excerpted from: Wiske, Martha Stone, ed. Teaching for Understanding: Linking Research and Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998.