Monday, August 17, 2015

This Could Be the Excitement Paula Hawks Needs for Her Campaign Videos

Some people have felt that Paula Hawks campaign videos have lacked some punch to them.  Canada provides the answer.  Seriously, if you have not seen this, you have too!  AWESOME is all I can say.

Wyatt Scott, he is running for Parliament.

Change the goose to a pheasant, keep the dragon (but make it a Chinese dragon to make conservatives happy), and have your hands turn into assault rifles.  That should pull in enough voters to win!  Seriously, I love the video for a great smile.

Daugaard and GOP Have Let All Students Down

School is just around corner for many students.  Recently, there was a lot made about the lack of support from the state for "gifted" students programs.  The Argus Leader on August 8, 2015 wrote about the leadership provided under Daugaard:
For the first time in years, the South Dakota’s Governor’s Camp at USD was also graced by the presence of its namesake. 
Gov. Dennis Daugaard offered his support, but left before the end of the ceremony. Gifted education hasn’t been a priority of his administration, but the state has added resources for advanced students under Daugaard’s watch, including a dual credit program so high school students can earn college credits before they graduate. 
After, students expressed disappointment with his comments. Impassioned children and teens demanded more. [emphasis mine]
The general attitude towards education can be summed up by a couple of phrases in the commentary: "For the first time in years," and "left beffore the end of the ceremony."

As Cory Heidelberger points out in the Dakota Free Press on the eighth of August:
As with teacher pay, South Dakota lawmakers hide behind the mantra of “local control” to justify not taking action to support gifted education. But to say, “The state doesn’t have to fund gifted education; local schools can raise and spend all the money they want” is to ignore the practical reality demonstrated by the end of state funding for gifted education in 1995. Take away state support for a K-12 program, and fewer schools will offer that program. In the case of gifted education, the 1995 cuts meant seven out of eight schools lost their programs. 
“Local control” is a sham excuse if local districts don’t have resources to control. The South Dakota Legislature and the Governor should stop making excuses and restore funding for gifted education. 
This mantra impacts not only gifted programs, but all aspects of our children's education.  This became articulated in the Black Hill Pioneer on August 14, 2015.  In the article the Spearfish district states exactly what has been lost (This is a little long, but the depth of the impact to programs is important:)
According to budget reduction information provided by Peters, from 1999 to 2005, the Spearfish School District cut its teaching staff by 15. At the elementary schools, six of those staff cuts were regular teaching positions, resulting in larger average class sizes, increasing from 19 to 25 in K-5. Two librarians were replaced with an aide and classified staff reductions included four full-time employees  
Programs that were eliminated or reduced at the elementary level include: the gifted and talented program, the swimming program, the parallel block scheduling, and planning time and staff development.   
At Spearfish Middle School, seven teaching positions have been eliminated and the assistant principal replaced with a part-time Dean of Students. Two teacher aides have been eliminated, as well as 14 coaching positions, and core classes are at a 30-student average. 
Middle school programs that have been eliminated or reduced include: foreign language, home economics, conflict resolution/peer mediation, industrial technology, alternative education, creative expressions (drama, art, writing), library, band lessons, staff development, and all sixth-grade extracurricular activities. 
At Spearfish High School, eight teachers and two full-time equivalents in classified staff have been cut since 1999. Programs and departments that have been eliminated or have suffered a reduced number of staff since the 1999-2000 school year include: family and consumer science, industrial tech, art, physical education, auto shop, band/choir, social studies, math, English, business/computer and foreign language. 
Since then, nearly 30 high school courses have been eliminated, including: advanced speech, American cultural studies, auto mechanics I, auto mechanics II, auto mechanics III, child development, clothing and textiles, creative writing II, drama II, electronics, family living, foods I, housing, independent living, industrial technology, jazz band, life skills, multi media art history, marriage and family, mixed mediums, music theory, mythology, nutrition and foods, power mechanics, survival cooking, swing choir, and journalism.
Nearly a dozen high school activities have been eliminated, and several others have been impacted by cuts in salaries, supplies, meals, travel, dues/fees, and professional services.
This is happening to schools all over the state.  As the Blue Ribbon Panel looks into the funding issue, I hope that this is something that they consider as part of the equation.  It is time for our legislators to do more than give lip service to making education first.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Increase Teacher Pay Won't Solve Shortages, But It Is a Vital Place to Start

There is no question that South Dakota is facing a serious teaching shortage.  This was pointed out in a KELOLAND report showing that Sioux Falls, one of the highest paying districts in the state, is having more and more problems getting highly qualified applicants:
It's not much different in the Sioux Falls School District where there are currently 14 open positions - double from this same time last year. 
"We had a math teacher position at one of our high schools where we had two applicants," Sioux Falls School District Human Resources Supervisor Becky Dorman said. "We have a science position open at a high school, and that's probably going to be about the same. We've had special ed. teaching positions open for awhile where we had no applicants." (Aug. 7, 2015)
One of the key issues behind the shortage is the lack of pay for the profession.  This is one of the key areas of focus for the Governor's Blue Ribbon Panel.  

For some it appears that they think that increased pay will solve the issue and using logic of a fourth grader, if other states that pay more are also seeing shortages, then we should not worry about compensation.

Cory Heidelberger shares a back and forth with Representative Lana Greenfield who raises the idea of shortages in other places hinting that compensation is the least of the causes.  Pat Powers seems to feed this thinking when he points to a New York Times article about nationwide issues with teacher shortages.  
The story cites that the teacher shortage is “a result of the layoffs of the recession years combined with an improving economy in which fewer people are training to be teachers.”  That doesn’t alleviate the shortage, but it flies in the face of what some would have you believe about South Dakota. (Dakota War College Aug. 10, 2015)
How do New York shortages fly in the face that South Dakota grossly under pays compared to all surrounding states and that the experts in South Dakota are pointing directly at the salary issue as being on of the key issues for the lack of teachers?

The teacher shortage issue will not be solved by passing an  increase in education funding for one year or even two.  It will take a while to convince young people that teaching in South Dakota is a worthy and sustainable career.  Funding alone won't solve the problem either, but it is a vital place to start.  It may begin to convince some teachers not to leave.  It will show younger people that teaching is a viable option for their future.  It will say that we do care about the work educators do and would like to begin to show some respect to the profession.  Something that is severely lacking in Pierre.

In related news:  Lana Greenfield is mother to Brock Greenfield.  Brock is one of eighteen representatives that voted against HCR 1002.  You know the one that said that South Dakota is facing a teacher shortage and it is becoming a crisis.  District 6 legislative members Rep.Isaac Latterell and Sen. Ernie Otten also voted against the resolution.

In other related news:  I encourage you to read Diane Ravitch's blog post that explores the problems with the New York Time's article discussed in the Dakota War College blog and also mentioned in The Dakota Free Press.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

"Don't Call Us Stupid." Okay, How About a Little Slow on the Uptake

In today's education news, it seems that the legislative leaders of the Blue Ribbon Task Force are getting a little irritated by the worries and concerns of those that care about the state of education funding in South Dakota.  Deb Soholt is quoted in today's Argus Leader saying:
“Don’t call us stupid,” state Sen. Deb Soholt said Friday, addressing a crowd of hundreds of K-12 leaders from across the state.
Okay, how about just slow on the uptake.  Maybe the reason that so many people are tired about this issue is because it has been talked about over and over and over for well more than a decade.  As educators, we are tired about hearing about the concern of education and how we wish there was more funding, but then see educators called out for being lazy, greedy, and oh, just incompetent by the leaders in Pierre.  Finally to be told that gee, golly, we just can't seem to find the money, but we have plenty to put into a rainy day fund!

To be fair to Soholt and Sly, did not avoid the last study and vote against HCR 1002 in 2014 like Ernie Otten and Isaac Latterell (You thought I forgot, didn't you?).  Although Representative's Sly's comments printed in the Argus Leader are not helping to give us confidence:
“Their advice to us has been, be bold, be courageous, do something, but we can’t do it alone,” Sly said. “We have to have them also being bold, being courageous.” (Argus Leader Aug. 8, 2015) 
What the heck does that mean?  Are you saying that education officials are the ones sticking their head in the sand and avoiding the problem?  They are the ones trying to do the best they can in a situation that gets tougher and tougher.  

When you have legislative members jumping into opt-out vote for the second largest school district to convince voters not to provide more funding to help them meet their needs, it is things like this that have many in education getting a little fed up with Pierre.  Remember Sen. Soholt, your party has had the strangle on Pierre for a long time now, so whom are we to be upset with?  Senator Soholt, I don't think that you are stupid, but I reserve judgement for a large portion of your fellow members in Pierre.

In Related Coverage:
Educators in this state does not have the time to "play nice" as Cory points out at the Dakota Free Press .  
And if the Blue Ribbon panel delivers a bad plan, educators can give Soholt, Sly, and the panel an F and fight that plan. 
It would be sad if, as Senator Soholt says, we squander the six months ahead of us. But teachers won’t squander that time with their conscientious public statements. Legislators will squander it if they don’t take the teacher shortage seriously and focus on solving that problem.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Mike Rounds Choice for President

Mike Rounds has come out and endorsed the man he think should be the next President of the United States: Mike Huckabee.
Rounds and Huckabee have a long relationship dating back to when the two were both governors. Rounds served as Huckabee's national chairman during Huckabee's 2008 presidential bid. And Huckabee campaigned for Rounds last fall when it appeared that Rounds' Senate bid might be in jeopardy. 
"I am supporting Mike," Rounds said during a press call. "I think he is a great American and I have the utmost respect for him." (Argus Leader 8/6/15)
 As you can see that this comes at no surprise, but what does Huckabee stand for that has earned Rounds devotion?  

Maybe it is the idea that the military is simply a tool for destruction and killing.
"The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things. It's not to transform the culture by trying out some ideas that some people think would make us a different country and more diverse," Huckabee said at the first Republican presidential debate. (NBC 8/6/15)
I suppose that Huckabee and possibly Rounds would be opposed to allowing women to serve in the military or for that fact allowing "colored" men fight side by side in the military.  Just a few cases that the military transformed the culture of our country.

Or maybe it is his views on women?
"If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it." (Arkansas Times June 26, 2014)
Maybe it is his views on gun control?
I almost wish that there would be, like, a simultaneous telecast, and all Americans would be forced — forced at gunpoint no less — to listen to every David Barton message, and I think our country would be better for it. I wish it'd happen. (Wikiquote)
Or just maybe it is his views on making America a Theocracy:
I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that’s what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than trying to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family. (ThinkProgress Jan. 15, 2008)
In the end I would put it at Mike Rounds owes someone a favor.  I think that he will jump on whatever ship is going to help his political career. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Paula Hawks is ALL IN against Noem

Paula Hawks has announced her candidacy for the US House against Kristi Noem.  I knew her back when she was coaching the West Central oral interp team.  She was teaching in the district at the time, teaching high school science.  You can check out her background at her website:  

The problem will be getting people to get excited for someone with a (D) behind her name.  She has some name recognition due to serving in the South Dakota legislature since 2012.  I think part of building her recognition will be pushing her experience out there.  She has a strong background in farming, so the ag sector is covered.  She has a background in education, the banking sector, and legislative experience.  This strong background will give her one leg up over Noem.  

The biggest advantage she has is that she is a person that will stand with her convictions and not change based on the political winds.  During her interview with Rick Knobe today on KSOO View Point University, Paula was asked if she was all in?  Her answer was that she was definitely ALL IN!

That is what it will take to bring Noem down.  Paula Hawks is a person that will stand up and fight against the special interests, be a strong independent thinker that is not tied to the party, and will bring a hard-working attitude to Washington, something that her opponent can't say. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Dangers of Over-focusing on STEM

STEM has become a very powerful buzz word in association with education.  If you are not familiar with the acronym, it stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  

I think that STEM is important for students, but I have worried for a long time that we are putting too much focus on those subjects to the determent of the humanities and arts.  When we shift our focus solely on one concept, we risk damaging all the others.  

This summer I attended a training session for librarians and the focus of the four days was on STEM. I asked where was the arts, the fictional reading, the study of where we came from?  The answer that developed from one of the sessions was that they must all be intertwined.  When we ignore the other components of education, we run the risk of under-preparing students for life in the world after school.  How do they interact with others?  How do they push their creativity to create the next big idea?  How do we as a society continue to flourish and grow as human beings.

Fareed Zakari wrote in the Washington Post on March 26, 2015 this warning:
The United States has led the world in economic dynamism, innovation and entrepreneurship thanks to exactly the kind of teaching we are now told to defenestrate. A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross fertilization. Yes, science and technology are crucial components of this education, but so are English and philosophy. When unveiling a new edition of the iPad, Steve Jobs explained that “it’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — that it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.” (Side note: I have to love a quotation that uses the word defenestrate.  It is one of my all time favorite words.)
Unfortunately Daugaard has fallen into this narrow paradigm of thinking.  Most recently it was noted that at a meeting at the Gifted Education Summit.  During the meeting it was pointed out that education must be well-rounded, but not by the Governor.  It was pointed out by one of the student speakers.  

A parent of one of the campers and a community member that supports STEM activities had this reaction on a Facebook post:
Governor Daugaard owes each and every camper and staff member at the SD Governor's Camp for the Gifted (no relation to politics) an apology. The same man that refuses to support gifted education just told an audience of almost 300 kids - the brightest, most creative world changers you'd ever have the honor of meeting - that creativity is economically worthless. They should avoid "intellectually worthy", but otherwise (what he views as) worthless college degrees and focus on STEM. 
STEM has it's merits of course (speaking as a robotics coach), but it's not the be-all and end-all. (Megan Dahle, July 31, 2015).
A newer acronym is beginning to make the rounds and that is called STEAM.  The letter A stands for the arts.  We need to recognize the importance of all forms of education and not just focus on the STEM.  As Larry Edmunds stated on the International Society for Technology in Education on May 30, 2014:
This means that neither STEM nor the humanities alone can be the answer. We need to share funding across these crucial disciplines to create a teaching mélange in which STEM skills are supplemented by citizenship, effective communication and practical life skills. 
In other words, as always, one basket does not fit all the eggs. Today's students certainly need STEM courses to understand the physical and theoretical world, but they also need courses that will help them to better understand the people they will meet along the road of life. We must create funding schemata that will allow our students to succeed in the world, not just in the laboratory or the class room.
Daugaard, Obama (Obama is also too over-focused on STEM), and other leaders that try to "fix" education need to remember that a STEM can only hold something up, but STEAM can power the world!