News: California Charter Schools Cannot Require Volunteer Hours as a Condition of Enrollment

Picture of I received the following Member Alert this morning from the California Charter School’s Association, that charter schools cannot require mandatory volunteer hours. I am really glad this clarification of law has been published, as I wrote in the past about why I thought requiring mandatory volunteerism of parents during work hours was wrong.  I’m also glad to see that the association was involved in helping to make this change happen, as I think this might help show detractors of charter schools that as a whole charters are working to do the right thing for students and parents:

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Thought of the Day: Having Educational Standards are Good. Having Good Educational Standards is Better.

I was watching an interview of Bill Gates on C-SPAN (Yes, I watch C-SPAN at times, and I think more people should!)  Most of his interview was about the Ebola outbreak, but he also was asked about Common Core.  His basic response was to give an analogy about how the U.S. would be if we didn’t have standards in voltage for power outlets, or different track widths in the railroads in each state.

His analogy has some merit on the surface.  But, he didn’t give the example about feet, inches, yards, and miles…  We have a U.S. standard for distances (and other measurements), that is different from nearly the rest of the world, and our standard has caused problems with engineering, lagged down our economy, and no one yet has found an effective way to change it.   The QWERTY keyboard is another example of a standard that no one has been able to effectively change on a widespread basis, despite being clearly a poorer standard.  (And no, I don’t buy the arguments made by “Reason” Magazine on this topic).

So with the standardization of educational outcomes from the Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards, we should ask ourselves “are these the right standards”.   And, this is where there has not been enough work done to answer that question.

If Charter Schools don’t want Bad Regulations Imposed on Us, we Must Fix our Bad Policies, starting with Mandatory Volunteering Policies

First, I want to preface this article that I generally support charter schools (and as full disclosure I work for one), because  I support having the freedom to innovate in education, and I have seen first hand how traditional regulations burden education, stopping innovation.  As an example of this at the post-secondary level, by the way Title IV regulations are written, Stanford University should no longer be allowed to offer Pell Grants or other financial aid, because they tried to freely share their education with the world via several MOOCs, as I wrote about in the short paper: Why MOOCs Might Be Hindered by the Definition of Correspondence Education.  This same type of unintended consequences of regulation occurs in K-12 schools also, and charter schools are one good method of helping to get around this problem.

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My Short Critique of the Common Core Math Standards

I have not wanted to post too much about the Common Core until I had some time to learn more about it, think about it, etc.  So I’ve been sharing tidbits so far.  But I think it is time to share some of my critiques about the math standards, which I hope may filter into the next set of standards.

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A Letter to my 4th Grade Daughter’s School about their Implementation of the Common Core Math Standards

I continue to be frustrated with how Common Core is being implemented, and a school like H. Clarke Powers, which is usually excellent, is doing many of the dumb things that other schools are.  Thus, when I saw a handout tonight that my daughter was doing, that made very little sense, I wrote the following to her teacher:

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Minesweeper as a Technician Training Tool

A screenshot of Mines-Perfect, a close alternative for Windows XP's Minesweeper game. From Wikimedia Commons, picture by Dimitri Torterat, See Wikimedia Commons Page for Licensing Information: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Minesperfect_windowsxp.pngSince at least 2007, I have used winning the game Minesweeper as an assessment to determine whether adult students were ready to join technician training classes that I have taught.  And in 2010, I conducted a Minesweeper and Hypothetical Thinking Action Research & Pilot Study as my Master’s project, in which I found some initial indications that ones computer ability was correlated with their ability to play Minesweeper. (Although, the sample size of that pilot study was so small, it should not be considered as any form of proof)

And, as I prepare to start a new technician training program with Highlands Community Charter and Technical Schools, I am again using Minesweeper as a prerequisite assessment.

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Free Computer Science and Information Technology Training Opportunity

On August 18, I am starting a small computer science and IT training program with Highlands Community Charter School, that will have no more than 10 students in it. This program is open to students who are 22 years of age, or older, and who don’t have a high school diploma.  Students must also have sufficient computer skills before entering the program, although, students who don’t yet have sufficient skills may join a self-paced IT Prep program with the school, to work up to joining the class.  This is a full-time program, where students go to school 6 hours per day for a full school year.

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Thought of the Day: Charter Schools… operate free from the traditional bureaucratic and regulatory red tape that hog-ties public schools.

Charter schools are independent public schools, designed and operated by educators, parents, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs, and others. They are sponsored in California by school districts and county boards of education that monitor their quality and integrity but allow them to operate free from the traditional bureaucratic and regulatory red tape that hog-ties public schools. Freed from such micro management, charter schools design and deliver programs tailored to educational excellence and community needs. – Kimberly B. Born, California Department of Education

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Thought of the Day: A Solution to the U.S. having a Shortage of Computer Scientists: Integrate Computer Science with Mathematics in School.

Mathematical/Programming symbols: columns represent concepts in math, cs, and programming; rows represent the progression of a concept from theory to implementation. Source: Jeremy Kun. Click to buy the T-Shirt from the original creator.It is clear that the U.S. still has a major unemployment problem, and yet there is a lack of computer programmers.  To solve this problem, many technologists are calling on schools to teach computer science within schools.  But, for all the talk about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) in education, the reality is that thus far our schools continue to not truly teach the Technology portion of STEM.

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Thought of the Day: Why Career Technical Teachers can make Extraordinary Academic Teachers

link between education and the work worldFor the past several days I’ve been posting about the discrimination against Career Technical Education teachers in California, and some solutions to this problem, and yesterday explained how CTE teachers can be recognized as being Highly Qualified by the standards started with “No Child Left Behind”.

And while all of this clearly affects the teachers involved, I want to make clear that this discrimination dramatically affects our children’s future, and hence our nation’s future.

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