Monday, December 19, 2005

Damn you 2005

I thought my immediate family had lost enough for one year, with my mother's death in April and Hurricane Katrina later but 2005 has struck again.

This past Saturday my 16 year nephew simply died of unknown causes. He began moaning in his sleep and was not breathing. CPR efforts by us and the paramedics had no effect. I held his head in my hands as he took his last breath.

My sister and all of us are devastated. My nephew had been living in Texas with another sister and her family and was doing extremely well.

2005 will not be gone soon enough.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Colorado school district opts out of NCLB

Via Schools Matter comes this story about the folks in Kit Carson, CO who have voted to make up lost federal money so the local school district can opt out of NCLB.

Jane Urschel of the Colorado Association of School Boards said she has never heard of another Colorado district asking voters to make up for the lost aid with a tax hike.

"I think it says that the best education occurs at the community level and the best decisions are made right there," she said.

Finally, some parents are beginning to see the light and react, like this group of Texas parents.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

An interesting question from Polski3

My colleague Polski has posed an intersting question? What is the oddest job you have held?

For me the answer was easy. I worked in the last single screen theater in the New Orleans area. Every Friday and Saturday night at midnight we showed "The Rocky Horror Picture Show". One of my duties was to stand guard in front of the screen when Susan Sarandon sang "Toucha Touche Touche Me" and keep people from rushing the screen and fondling the screen boobs.

Visit Polski3 and tell him about your odd jobs.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Texas cuts per student spending

In their never ending quest to make their corporate buddies rich, I mean improve education for all Texas children, the Republican controlled state govt. has actually decreased the amount of per pupil funds its sends to schools.

According to Science Daily Texas was the only state in the nation to cut per student funding. The study, done by the National Education Association, says Texas per student funding dropped by 1 percent. The study also notes that state share of funding for education has dropped to 35%, down from a high of around 60% last decade. According to the NEA, Texas is spending $7, 132 per student, compared to the national average of $8,618. A spokesperson from Gov. Goodhair’s office was quick to claim that the Texas Education Agency had reported actual per-student spending at $7,358, which if I’ve done my math correctly, shows the state only actually cut per student funding by .7%.

In a related story, the Houston Chronicle points out that:

The governor's press secretary, Kathy Walt, questioned the accuracy of the NEA figures Monday, saying they don't reflect the small funding increase that the Legislature approved for public schools for the 2004-05 school year.

They also pointed out:

Mr. Perry has cited statistics from the annual NEA survey in the past to support his claim that education spending in Texas has been more than adequate.

In short, Gov. Goodhair’s office is saying Texas didn’t cut spending on students by that much, and you can’t believe the NEA’s statistics, unless they agree with what he’s saying.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Is it any wonder?

While watching the local news yesterday there was a story about how the Lufkin ISD football team was practicing on Thanksgiving Day to get ready for their big playoff game this weekend.

Lufkin seems to have enormous amounts of money. To spend on their football team. Their stadium had an instant replay screen and an indoor practice field. All of this was added while other school districts were in court begging for extra money and relief from the demands the legislature has placed on them. Of course, since the football team has won 3 state championships money is no object. Local businesses will kick in thousands of dollars to buy state championship rings for the players. I wonder how much they'd kick in for teaching supplies?

You would think with such outstanding athletic facilities the school facilities would also be top-notch. However, I attended some Science training this summer at Coston Elementary. The cabinets in the room we did training in was that 50s era green (you older folks know what I'm talking about), and it was peeling in most places. I wonder how much lead is in that old paint?

Is it any wonder some politicians believe school districts have to be slapped down and ordered to spend their money wisely?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Texas Surpreme Court does Gov. Goodhair's bidding

Althouth the Texas Supreme Court did rule the state's funding system is unconstitutional it did rule the system if equitable when it comes to access to funds and building funds. One need only check the Highland Park ISD website to see how idiotic this is.

In another nod to Gov. Goodhair, the Supremes made sure to set a deadline for school funding reform after the March primaries. That way none of the seated Republicans will have to answer any pesky questions about school reform.

Unless of course, you are a Republican who stood up to the attempted gutting of the school systems the R's try to pull off this year. Rep. Bob Griggs, who spoke so eloquently in favor of doing what's right for schools, has decided to retire rather than take on the well funded opponents the GOP is throwing at him.

Rep. Tommy Merritt of Longview is facing the same proposition.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

No Texas Teacher Left Behind meeting at Angelina College

One for the locals, the No Texas Teachers Left Behind group will have a meeting this Tuesday, November 15th at Angelina College in Lufkin, TX. The meeting will be held in the Hudgins Room beginning at 6:30 P.M. For an Angelina College map click here

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Scott Elliot hijacks the carnival bus

and hosts this week's edition of the carnival of education here

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Parental involvement isn't that important

According to the folks at EdSource parental involvement is not that important to student achievement.

Now before you teachers all go rolling your eyes you have to realize what a group of experts the folks at EdSource have assembled. For example, there's Executive Director Trish Williams, whose BA in English Literature qualifies her as a public education expert.

Then there's Deputy Director Mary Perry. She has a journalism degree for the University of Oregon and has been a copywriter and an editor, valuable experience for fixing all that ails the public schools.

We can't forget Brian Edwards and his experience in policy analysis, or Carol Studier who has a degree in Education Policy Analysis and Evaluation. I bet that makes Brian feel inferior at those watercooler discussions.

Scrolling through the rest of the staff qualifications finds nothing more than a bunch of policy analysts and journalists. Oddly enough, no one at EdSource, the experts who say parental involvement isn't that important and who:

Over nearly three decades have developed a solid reputation as a credible and respected source of K–12 education information, research, analysis, and data

have any teaching experience.

Who'da thunk it?

Don't take my word for it, check it out yourself at their
About Staff webpage

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching

I'm currently attending CAST in Houston at the Reliant Center. I am staying at the nearby Park Plaza Reliant Center Hotel, a place I recommend you avoid like the plague.

I arrived tired and cranky from the drive here, about 2 and half hours. I spent nearly 45 minutes trying to check in as 1)the hotel did not have enough people working the check in counter and 2) I had the misfortune of arriving just behind a large group of teachers from Wichita Falls ISD, who for some reason did not discuss roommate arrangements on their 8 hour drive to the convention, and had to hash it out at the front desk.

I also had the misfortune of being assigned a room two doors down from one of the Wichita Falls people who was busy screaming at a hotel employee in the hallway just outside my room. Later I saw her down in the bar screaming at the restaurant manager for something.

The hotel is the butt of running jokes among the teachers at the conference. Twice in about 3 hours last night they had to rescue people from stuck elevators. Arriving back from the conference at lunch time we found of all things, the restaurant was closed. Food was available at the bar if you were willing to wait 20 minutes to order it and eat standing up. Not to mention they were also out of Coke. How can they expect people to eat a hamburger without a cold Coke to wash it down?

I'm blogging in the hotel lobby. Their are some very nice, non-functioning high speed internet connections in the room and wireless access available in the bar or lobby.

I attended two interesting presentations this morning. One was by two 1st grade teachers from Lubbock ISD presenting a unit on the solar system they teach to their students. They provided a link to a fantastic website called Planet 10. Be sure to try the Solar System flyby as well as the Planet Builder.

Battery and caffeine levels are running low.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

My son's apartment

My son is 21 years old and lives with 3 other males. Needless to say his apartment does not stay clean but last weekend I saw something I have never seen before.

Ladies and gentleman I give you:

Mold growing on a plastic shampoo bottle!

Other pictures for your viewing displeasure include:

This lovely sofa-sleeper was purchased at a garage sale for only $20. The stain in the lower left corner is ketchup. As an added bonus it came with its own set of sheets! No charge!

No swinging bachelor pad would be complete without a counter space full of empty liquor bottles. Always sure to impress the ladies!!

Another surefire way to impress the babes is with a room like this. I'm pretty sure that somewhere in there is a bed and a computer I seem to remember costing us a lot of money.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The real reason for the 65% rule

From this Austin American-Statesman story comes the real reason Gov. Goodhair is pushing for a 65% spending rule. It comes from an organization called First Class Education, which has paid for commercials to run in several states. The Statesman also obtained a copy of a First Class Education memo which states the group also hopes the rule will "create rivalries between teachers and administrators while boosting Republican credibility on education issues"

Nowhere in the memo does it say anything about actually improving education for kids. Those of you who read by blog know that I feel the Republicans don't give a damn about kids and their real purpose is to destroy public education so their friends like the McGraws and Chris Whittle can make big bucks at the public trough.

Funny how athletics are considered "instructional" when it comes to the 65% rule but librarians aren't. The Republicans know it would be political suicide to cause school districts to give up their football teams.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Help! Updated

Thanks to The Science Goddess and Allen for their help with the experiment problem I was having. One of the links Allen provided showed how the same effect can be created using a black marker and some water, while the Science Goddess' suggestions greatly cut down on the amount of time and safety gear required for this lesson.

The picture at left shows one of the early results. Although we didn't get the red I was hoping for we did get some nice orange and yellow, and it was more than we got the other way. Now if someone could show me a way to capture the results a little better. Snapping a picture of it didn't work out too well so I placed it on a flatbed scanner. This picture does not show the results as well as they really looked.

Thanks again for those who offered help.

Monday, October 10, 2005


I'm hoping someone knows the answer to this problem I am having.

I am doing an experiment with my 2nd graders where we are trying to extract the red, yellow and orange colors out of leaves. So far we've been able to get only yellows. I have tried nearly everything I can think of, and even consulted two chemistry professors, both of whom say I am doing it right.

Here are the steps we do:

1. Tear the leaf into tiny pieces
2. Using the edge of a rock, cut and rip the pieces into even smaller pieces
3. Place all pieces into a cup and add acetone, stir thorougly
4. Using a q-tip, dab the resulting green liquid onto a piece of coffee filter
5. Dip the coffee filter into rubbing alcohol, just barely gettiing into the dab of green liquid.

Variations I have tried:

- different leaves. I've used spinach, lettuce, collard greens, as well as leaves off of local trees.
- differnet strengths of rubbing alcohol, from 71% to 90%
- different strengths of acetone. While I haven't measured the mixture I have used about half acetone/half water all the way up to full strength.

Any ideas out there?

Friday, September 30, 2005

Someone at USA Today is finally seeing the light

Linked, this USA Today story shows that finally there is an education writer out there who digs and finds out the truth.

My favorite line was this, regarding accoutability and high-stakes testing:

It's like putting a slow runner 50 yards behind at the start line and expecting her to finish with the fastest.

Here's another choice tidbit:

Researchers found the act's two key rules — identifying subgroups within student populations (such as black, Hispanic or disabled), and setting a uniform proficiency goal make it easy for large minority districts to fail. Here's why: large urban districts are more likely to be diverse. If just one subgroup doesn't reach proficiency, or if less than 95% of a subgroup take the test, the whole district fails to make adequate progress.

On a more personal note, I've been out all week from school, which needless to say is driving the wife and friends crazy. I could really have some fun if I wasn't also babysitting my daughter. I would LOVE to drive to Tyler to visit the hobby shop; I haven't flown any model airplanes in months. Having an 11 year old girl along would require we also visit the mall, a proposition I can't afford. You Dads of pre-teen and teen daughters know what I'm talking about.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

DeLay Indicted

From a CNN story, Tom DeLay has been indicted and stepped down as Speaker of the House. Here is a direct quote from the article:

A grand jury in Austin charged DeLay, 58, and two associates already facing criminal charges with a single count of criminal conspiracy, accusing them of improperly funneling corporate donations to Republican candidates for the Texas legislature in 2002.

I hope this leads to more legal action in Texas. Who knows? Maybe some judge will throw out the 2002 election results since the whole process was tainted with illegal money. Sure, it's a pipe dream but a guy can hope.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Pictures of Hurricane Rita

Down the street a few houses. Some industrious soul had already cleared most of this one from the street when I took this picture.

My neighbor cattycorner from me. Luckily both trees missed their house, their cars and their camper. They also have a large tree down in their backyard.

This monster fell one block over. It could have easily killed someone but luckily it fell away from the nearby house and no one was on the road when it landed.

Hurricanes are definitely male

All of the things I expected from Hurricane Rita I did not expect her to roar through East Texas as a Category 2 hurricane.

2 days after the storm has passed our little corner of East Texas is still trying to recover. Luckily for us the eye passed about 40 miles east of us, but I understand Jasper, Tx has taken severe damage. I can tell you the power of the storm was awesome, even 100 miles inland and 40 miles east of the eye. I think you would have to be a lunatic to try and ride out a Cat 3 or 4 storm at the shore.

My neighborhood still has blocks without power. Some parts of the city have no water. We were fortunate to be without power for only 15 hours or so.

I don't know why hurricanes were named after females in the beginning. The roar of the wind was definitely a deep baritone as it came through. We lost some shingles off our roof and had the back storm door ripped frame the frame. Our neighbors across the street lost shingles and tar paper off their roof and thus had leaks. They are also without power. We had 3 friends sleep over last night b/c they also don't have power.

There have been some problems. The neighborhood rumor mill has been passing around stories about problems at local Wal-Marts, such as gas and groceries being stolen from people in the parking lots. Sadly, a two year old was run over in some kind of road rage incidents. The local papers are only reporting the story and not providing any details. Another person was killed by a falling tree limb. My family members who tried to flee Houston ended up having an easier time of it than we did.

I have pictures but for some reason they will not appear. I will try to put them up later.

In the meantime pictures from a local paper can be found here.

Friday, September 23, 2005

My turn in the barrel

The relatives I was expecting last night did not show, they couldn't get out of Houston. Looks like Houston has some work to do when it comes to evacuating people, although with 6 million people in the Houston area I don't know if its possible.

The predicted storm track may actually bring the eye of the storm, if it is still around, directly over East Texas and my town sometime late tomorrow. Of all the things I expected I didn't expect to have to prepare for possible hurricane force winds.

On a lighter note, Michael F. Shaughnessy has a commentary called Cleavage: A Commentary over at Education News. I'm not sure if he means students or teachers but I also see plenty of both.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


For the 2nd time in 3 weeks a category 5 hurricane is bearing down on the homes of loved ones. This time it's the Houston area I will be getting evacuees from. We are expecting 6 tomorrow.

This will make for a total of 24 people in 4 different groups who have taken shelter at my house in the last 3 weeks.

We used to complain about never having visitors. . .

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Work on Bush' campaign, get a job you are not "higly qualified" for

All the talk about FEMA director Brown's lack of qualifications has made me think about others who now have cushy govt. jobs they don't deserve.

Spellings, current Sect. of Education, has absolutely zero qualifications for her job. She is not a teacher, never has been. She worked on Bush's campaign.

Ditto, Rod Paige. Many know he was the Supt. of Houston schools (and gained the district notoriety for the miracle that wasn't). Few know, however, that he has never held a teaching job. Paige was a school board member who politicked his way into the Supt's job. He even received a special waiver from the state of Texas, since the job usually requires academic certification.

The Bush govt is filled with people with the potential to make a mess with their incompetence. Let's hope Spellings doesn't do a Brown on education. Too bad Bush doesn't insist his people be "highly qualified".

Thursday, September 08, 2005

U.S. Dept. of Education paid for pro-NCLB/anti-public school ads

From the Dallas Morning News comes this article describing a report from the dept's inspector general. One Texas author, Marcela Garcini, director of parent outreach for the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options, wrote, at taxpayer expense she was "tired of hearing excuses about the lack of funding for schools, particularly under No Child Left Behind."

Ms. Garcini did not disclose the payment she received from the Dept. of Education though she did own up to it after the fact.

Dallas schools spokesman Donald Claxton said, ''It would be disappointing to find out the federal government is paying someone to write ugly things about us."

Where is the outrage from all the groups who claim schools are squandering all their money? Why aren't they furious about this waste of taxpayer money?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Energy costs and budget crunch are leading to desperation for some Texas schools

My school district is teetering on the edge of financial crisis due in part to massive increases in fuel costs and the lack of any new funding from the state. One of the ideas to ease energy bills currently being considered is removing some light bulbs from the classrooms. Another idea is "rolling blackouts" in various parts of the buildings at night, with janitors sticking to a strict schedule for cleaning.

Gov. Goodhair is standing by his 65% order. Also, although he had a press conference proclaiming he had found new money to help schools handle the influx of students from Louisiana no actual figures have been released.

Friday, September 02, 2005

"Compassionate Conservatives" denied levee funds to New Orleans

From a WWL-Tv story:

Just last year, the Army Corps of Engineers sought $105 million for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans. The White House slashed the request to about $40 million. Congress ultimately approved $42.2 million, less than half of the agency's request.

And this wonderful quote from the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert,

"It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed," the Illinois Republican said in an interview Wednesday with the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill.

More on this later.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Katrina and my family

My blogging will be light for awhile, we have 5 family members staying with us and the computer has become the most valuable source of information for them.

My family has been very fortunate. Everyone seemed to know someone they could flee to. At this time we only have an uncle we haven't been able to account for. His children all mostly live in Pensacola, and since last year's hurricanes getting phone numbers and addresses in that area has become difficult.

As for their way of life, for most it has been totally destroyed. My niece and her husband have been offered jobs with Spring ISD near Houston. They are trying to determine their contractual duties with their schools in Gretna (if the schools even exist). Others have no idea what they will do.

Texas schools are opening their doors to refugee children.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

A neat new blog feature, and its a little scary

Thanks to A Constrained Vision my blog now has a cool new feature called gVisit. Apparently its an add on feature of Google Maps that lets you see the locations of your recent visitors. My visitors can be found here.
Do I really want to know where my visitors are from??

I also recently discovered my blog is listed on a national website, a blog created by the American Federation of Teachers.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The 29th week of the Carnival of Education

The Carnival is now open.

Thanks to the Education Wonks for hosting it here

One of my favorites this week is by Janet, a New Jersey elementary school teacher, who extolls the joys of shopping at the dollar store.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Texas Speaker of the House blames supers for failures

The Texas Speaker of the House, Tom Craddick, is blaming the states' school superintendents for the failure of the Legislature to find more money for Texas schools.

Of course, the Republicans had no intention of giving the schools more money; they were much more interested in giving tax breaks to 10% of the population while sticking it to the other 90%. Between the rich and the poor, who do you think was going to get the big tax breaks?

The full story is here.

It amazes me that he is griping about superintendents while he and his buddies basically tried to rape Texas public schools. Among the many "reforms" they tried to pass were:

- no education experience needed to become a principal, only management experience (they will need scores of new principals as NCLB sanctions boot the professionals out the door in the coming years).

-NEXT year's accountability standards determine if you are successful for this year. In other words, your school would have been accountable to next year's standards for this year's scores. Principals whose schools did perfectly well on this year's test could have been removed anyway b/c of next year's standards.

- after two years of adequate (by state standards, but actually one) performance a private management company could be brought in to take over a school, if the school failed to meet federal AYP goals (100% by 2014). Guess who the people who own these management companies are friends with? I'll give you a hint; not the Democrats.

- a "raise" for teachers that would have actually amounted to only $500 a year, after the restoration of the $1000 insurance stipend (which was supposed to be restored this year anyway).

I'm proud to say my super was one of the people who led the fight against the Republican proposals.

I guess all of us teachers were supposed to just shut up and teach.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Never step on ticky-tack

Well school is back in session and last week while putting up some posters on the walls outside my lab I learned another one of life's important lessons.


Its worse than gum when it comes to trying to clean it off.

Other impt. life lessons I've learned.

Never run over a newspaper with a lawnmower. Unless you have an hour to kill.

You can't tell people something they don't want to hear. I wish I would remember this one the next time I get in a heated debate with some on Joanne Jacobs.

You can't look cool driving around in a 1985 Toyota Tercell. Sadly, I learned that one through personal experience.

Anyone care to add some more?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Some pictures from Minneapolis

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from Minnesota.

This is a photo of the Minnehaha Falls. Minnehaha was the Indian princess in Longfellow's famous poem about Hiawatha.

The hotel we stayed at had a food services convention going on. Whoever was putting on the convention also had a cake decorating contest. These are two of my favorites. They are both cakes, believe it or not.

The Santa Claus cake even featured wrinkles on Santa's toes, which can be seen sticking out from the bottom of the sheets.

Some thoughts on Minneapolis

I just returned from 7 days in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and thought I would share a few of my observations.

Minneapolis is expensive. For example, our rental car cost $137 dollars a week to rent but the total with tax included was $187. That works out to a tax rate of 36% if I've done the Math correctly (always a dicey prospect). We also had to pay $12 a day to park it in the hotel's parking garage, something I've never encountered before. Additionally, everywhere we went we had to pay to park the car with parking fees usually beginning at $5 for the first hour alone. A load of clothes at a self service laundrymat was $2.25 and about another dollar or so to dry. A good hamburger at the equivalent of a Bennigan's was around $9 or so.

The F word is very popular. I saw one person at the zoo wearing a shirt that had a long quote that concluded with the sentence, "How about a nice steaming cup of shut the F_ _ _ up", except all of the letters were present. I also saw a young female walking around with a shirt that said, "Too busy to F_ _ _", all letters included. I also heard in spoken aloud in several conversations, always from a young female.

Minneapolis is very clean. Having grown up in New Orleans and now living in Texas I've grown used to seeing litter strewn everywhere on public streets. Minneapolis, even downtown, is spotless. The city also has a great many beautiful public parks, especially the park containing Minnehaha Falls and Longfellow's former home.

We also saw the funniest play I think I've ever seen in my life. It was called Triple Expresso and it is currently playing in Minneapolis and San Diego. I highly recommend it if you are in either city.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I'm officially out of my funk

I've been holding quite a pit party for myself (here) lamenting the fact the end of summer vacation was approaching and it was time to go back to work.

While checking my school email I came across an email written to me by a former student. I have not had this student in my class for 8 years but she took the time to find my email and send me a nice letter. She was a student of mine back in the days when I was my school's ESL teacher. My favorite part was this:

I wish I could turn back time and sit and listen to you read one more time. That was the best time of my life, I think. I don't know If I ever told you, but when we had to take the TAAS test, I would never try because I was afraid to be taken out of your class.

I was always a firm believer that children, especially non-English speakers need to be read to and I chose the books I loved to read to them.

This same young lady also asks if I will attend her graduation, as she is a senior this year. As her former teacher I couldn't be any prouder and have already marked the date on my calendar.

I am now armed and ready for a new year of school. NOW I remember why I became a teacher.

I'm no one's child anymore

As the new school year quickly approaches I have to confess I am not looking forward to it. Besides the usual feelings of not wanting to give up sleeping late and mostly doing nothing, sitting through endless mostly time wasting meetings the first week back when I have a ton of work to do and having to learn to go to bed at a decent time, the thoughts of going back are also stirring up other feelings.

I lost my mother to cancer on April 12th of this year. She had battled it for 5 years but around this time last year it came back with a vengeance. The real problems began for her around November of last year. The cancer, which had been in her neck, began to close down around her throat. The week after Thanksgiving her doctor decided she would need a stomach feeding tube, as she was having so much difficulty swallowing. After this surgery she was terrified and needed someone with her round the clock. My siblings who still live in New Orleans were determined she would not go into a nursing home, and with none of us being rich, a schedule was developed so that someone would be with her twenty four hours a day. We also found someone who could sit with her during the day several days a week. Another sister and I each live about 6 hours away in Texas so we could not help much.

I visited the week before Christmas to give my siblings a break and was shocked at my mother's appearance. The night I arrived breathing became so difficult for her we had to take her to the emergency room. The next day we were told she would have to have a trach tube inserted to help her breathe or she would die. The surgery was done two days later. I returned home the day after her surgery and two days later returned back to New Orleans. We all had to undergo training on how to clean the trach tube but the worst part was suctioning it clean. My mother would now require additional care from her children.

My memories of the spring semester of last year are always centered around my mother's health Roaring down two lane highways late at night on the way to New Orleans, reading email updates from my sister and always wondering how long till the end came. Nights with my mother were often spent tending to her needs, many of which were more for the company she needed because she often could not sleep. When she did sleep I would watch the rise and fall of her chest, thousands of times I watched it wondering if each would be her last and not knowing what I would do if it were.

The end began on a Friday afternoon in April. I have received several emails from my sister concerning the hospice nurse's opinions that it would only be a couple weeks more. My cell phone rang during the day (no one calls me on it during the day, they all know I teach) and my sister informed me things were not going well, and the nurse said it could be any day. The next morning I made my final trip to see my mother. The cancer had actually broken the surface of her skin, her face was swollen to a degree I wouldn't have thought possible and she was barely conscious. The next 3 days we tended to her physical needs. One of my sisters was the bravest of us all and she did things I could barely stand to watch her do or help her with to ensure that my mother was not in pain. On Tuesday morning of the 12th she stopped breathing for a 5 minute period and then, just as we thought it was over, began breathing again. The rest of the day was a long vigil waiting for the end, which came around at 9 o'clock that evening. The hardest part was watching the funeral home people take her away.

Returning to school helped take my mind off of it and even provided a laugh or two. During my week's absence there had been an unbelievable storm that had flooded part of my room and the room next to it (our school building is two years old). The woman who subbed for me, also a Mom of a student, had cleaned it all up and dried out my items that had gotten wet. She could've spent that time sitting around doing nothing. A 2nd grade class had made me sympathy cards, with one child drawing a stick figure, complete with arms and legs, protruding from the casket, on his card. His teacher was mortified but it actually made me laugh.

Throughout the summer I have suppressed most of the thoughts about this time but now the arrival of a new school year is bringing them back. Many of the things I do outside of teaching require long hours of sitting at the computer and updating class lists for the educational software we use or working on the school webpage. It was those times I was always on the lookout for emails about my mother's health, or what the nurse said that morning when she visited. I'm not ready for the daily struggles the new year will bring, the rushing in the morning to have the day's experiments set up for Science lab, the daily afternoon car rider duty in the 100 degree heat and the always horrible fight of trying to teach 7 year olds how to log in to the school's network. I have for years begged for a change to this procedure without any luck (last name, first initial, middle initial); our IT dept. just doesn't understand that most 7 year olds have no clue what their middle name is.

I'm just not ready for the return of it all.

Monday, July 25, 2005

No Texas Teacher Left Behind

A grassroots organziation of Texas teachers has been founded in East Texas. Calling themselves No Texas Teacher Left Behind the group aims to:

"restore the respect owed teachers by our governor and by our legislature, secure pay increases, expand health benefits, and make retirement benefits equitable for all retirees."

A featured story in the Longview News Journal describes how the group gave Texas educators cards reminding them that a million educators live and vote in Texas, and they are not happy with the Texas Legislature.

This next Thursday, July 28th at 10:30 A.M. the group will be conducting a meeting at The Depot restaurant at 1023 Kilgore Plaza in Kilgore, Texas. Guests will include Republican candidate for governor Carole Keeton Stayhorn's campaign manager and son Brad McClellan. I may attend as this is only an hour drive from my home.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Texas lawmakers give themselves a pension raise in a cowardly no record vote

In their continuing effort to save the taxpayers of Texas money the Texas legislature has given itself a pension increase. The bill was passed by a no record voice vote, so they can't be called on it afterwards.

Via the Houston Chronicle, a representative with 12 years experience will now receive an annual pension of $34, 500. Not bad for a part time job that only requires you to work a few months every two year.

At the same time Republicans are trying to change the rules about teacher retirement. For teachers like myself this amounts to a broken promise, as when I became a Texas teacher your age and years of experience had to equal 80. Now the Republicans want to change that effectively to 90, citing fiscal problems. They fail to mention though the state has repeatedly cut back the share it pays into the program beginning in 1997.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The businessman/Republican puppet master

The Texas Observer has a great article on the so called "reform" movement in Texas and who is really pulling the strings. Turns out its a businessman named Sandy Kress who is also a Bush cronie. If you read the article it turns out that Kress is, WHO'DA THUNK IT?, a lobbyist for some of the very companies that want to take over for public schools.

To show you the Republican mindset here are some choice tidbits:

Eighteen people representing teachers, administrators, parents, and public school advocates testified against the bill. They asked for fewer testing mandates and more public school funding. The critics of the bill are part of a growing movement against the Texas education model, enshrined in the landmark federal law No Child Left Behind. Opponents say the current focus on testing degrades education and drains resources from the neediest schools.

Only one witness testified in favor of the bill. There was a small stir as Sandy Kress came to the microphone; in gatherings like this, he is something of a celebrity. Ten years ago, public school accountability was a vague, unenforceable ideal from free market enthusiasts who wanted to see schools run more like businesses. Kress, a Dallas lawyer, was serving what would be his last, tumultuous term as president of the Dallas school board. Fellow board members were calling the newspaper to denounce him as a racist and a bully. The fortunes of the reform movement and of Kress have risen together. He is one of the principal designers of No Child Left Behind, and has used his knowledge and connections to earn millions as a high-powered lobbyist for test publishers

And more:

Despite the lack of an endorsement from any major Texas education group, passage of HB 2 out of the committee was a foregone conclusion. Accountability, with its powerful allies, seems unstoppable. Its supporters are free market reformers who say test scores bring a needed dose of reality to lazy educational bureaucracies. Others are education reformers who believe that the best hope for poor and minority students lies in the public humiliation of their “low-performing” schools. And a select few enrich themselves supplying the demand public school reform has created for tests, and the tools it takes to pass them. Kress appears to be all of the above.

Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law in January 2002. Five months later, Kress registered with the U.S. Secretary of the Senate as a lobbyist for NCS Pearson. Kress specializes in helping his clients tailor themselves to the requirements of No Child Left Behind, something Pearson has done with startling success. A publishing conglomerate that owns The Financial Times and Penguin Books, Pearson had been a bit player in the education market, concentrating on the scoring of standardized tests. In 2000, however, Pearson acquired National Computer Systems, the company that held the contract for designing and scoring the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills. Since then, Pearson has built an accountability empire of sorts, becoming the third-largest testing company in the country, behind CTB McGraw-Hill and Harcourt Educational Measurement.

And the most grevious accusations against him:

black school board members saw accountability as an attempt to undermine the city’s 1974 desegregation order, which allotted extra money and resources to Dallas’s historically neglected black schools . . .Secretly taped conversations alleged to be between Kress and fellow board member and political ally Dan Peavy supported the accusations. Peavy used racial slurs when describing plans to curb the influence of black board members. Kress’s identity on the tapes was never confirmed, but soon after they came to light in 1995, he announced he would not run for another term as board president.

What a guy! I'm sure he has the best interests of Texas schoolchildren at heart over the multi-million dollar enterprises he works for.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Roy Blake named best new furniture by Texas Monthly Magazine

Texas Monthly magazine has come out with its list of the best and worst legislators of the 79th Session. My local rep, Roy Blake, was named best new furniture. The term is an insult meant to convey uselessness. I think its a tad harsh as he was a good little Republican soldier and voted the party line on everything.

The chair of the House Education committee, Kent Grusendorf, who is pretty much the arch enemy of public schools in Texas, was named one of the worst legislators, an honor he very richly deserves. I tend to have some very un-Christian thoughts about Grusendorf. In fact, I hope there is a special place in hell for people like him, who place more value on money than people.

Not very nice of me, but then again I've never claimed to be an angel.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Watch the comet impact live

The Stephen F. Austin State University Observatory is running live updates to the observatory webpage. They are hoping to capture live images of the image and display them over the web. According to their site the page will automatically update itself every 100 seconds.

You can view their webpage here

Friday, July 01, 2005

One for the Science teachers

NASA's Deep Impact is on path to smash into the comet Tempel1 in the early morning hours of July 4, according to a CNN story.

The Deep Impact spacecraft is composed of two probes mated together -- "flyby" and "impactor."

Flyby is about the size of a small car and will monitor the impact. It carries two cameras -- a high-resolution one, which will be tightly focused on the crater, and a medium-resolution camera, which will take wider views.

The impactor is an 820-pound copper-fortified probe designed to produce maximum wallop when it hits the comet. It also carries a medium-resolution camera that will record the probe's final moments before it collides with the comet.

If all goes well, at 1:52 am ET on July 4, Tempel 1 will run into impactor, busting a hole in the comet and revealing its inner core.

"It will be all over in the blink of an eye," Grammier said.

Until its death, the impactor will record images and gather data while flyby passes 310 miles (500 kilometers) away, observing the impact, the ejected material, and the structure and composition of the comet's interior. Most of the data will be stored on flyby and radioed back to Earth after the encounter.

Hopefully there will be some really cool pictures of the event from one of the space based telescopes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Roy Blake sells out again

My state representative, Roy Blake, has sold out his local school districts again. This time he voted again for HB2, which will allow property rich school districts (including the home districts of the bill's author) to raise massive amounts of money while property poor school districts go without. 41 of the 42 school districts in Blake's home district are considered property poor by the state.

He also voted against a Democractic sponsored amendment which would have fixed many of the financing problems with Texas schools. The actual vote was a tie, with the Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, no friend of public education, casting the tie breaker. I'm sure HB2 is also loaded with lots of other anti-public school provisions. The "increase" in funding for Texas schools will be $2.5 billion less per year than a state judge ruled the state needs to put into education. In fact, most critics agree the "increase" will not even keep pace with inflation and rising student enrollments.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

His 9 years of homeschooling have made him a public education expert

I found this incredible op-ed piece linked from Education News. The author is 16 years old and takes offense to the fact the Governator has been booed during some speeches he has given recently. He also compared the protests to "the fascist squadrismo violence imposed on Italy during the early part of the 1920’s"

My favorite tidbit is this:

. . .teachers in California are so incompetent that they can’t get jobs in other fields or industries.

Where does his expertise on California public school teachers come from? Well, his 9 years of home schooling in Minnesota.

Other websites his views are posted on include,, and His article is proof that you need to know nothing as far as the anti-public school crowd is concerned; if you criticize public schools then you must be right.

Friday, June 17, 2005

How vouchers were killed in Texas, and some praise for Roy Blake

There is an excellant article in The Texas Observer about how vouchers were killed off in the last legislative session. It was only through a rebellion by rural Republicans including my own representative Roy Blake, who I have written about before. I am happy to say he stood up to the Republican leadership and voted what his constituents wanted, and that was no vouchers.
The article also describes a brilliant move by moderate Republican Charlie Geren of Ft. Worth.

He has an amendment to his amendment, one that voucher supporters have not seen yet, that he will substitute for his original amendment. It gives the House leadership a taste of its own medicine.

Geren’s amendment would remove the Dallas and Fort Worth school districts from the proposed voucher pilot program and replace them with Arlington and Irving. The choices aren’t random. Arlington is Education Chairman and chief voucher cheerleader Kent Grusendorf’s district. Irving is home to Republican Linda Harper-Brown, who also sponsored the voucher proposal.

Apparently, Grusendorf and Brown intended to stick it to other people's school districts and never intended to have vouchers enacted in their own school districts.

Since I have been so vocal about Roy Blake and the things he's done I didn't like I will have to send him an email thanking him for his vote against vouchers. He also took the time to personally email me on this issue and backed up his words with his actions.

Thanks to Education at the Brink, an Austin area teacher, for the link to the story.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Dr. Cookie is collecting teacher blogs

Jenny D. a.k.a Dr. Cookie is collecting teacher blogs and information about how teachers and students are using blogs. I have a softspot for Jenny as she was the first person to link to my blog on her site. Even though she and I disagree on many aspects of teaching she is always polite and respectful of other people's ideas.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

After 15 years, charters in Milwaukee are pretty much like the public schools

Milwaukee's 15 year experience with charters and vouchers have produced pretty much what you get with the public school system. Some are good, some are bad. I found these quotes most interesting:

The principal effect of choice has been more to preserve the city's private schools, many of them Lutheran and Catholic ones, than to create schools that innovate or reform

Based on firsthand observations and other reporting, Journal Sentinel reporters concluded that at least 10 of the 106 schools they visited appeared to lack the ability, resources, knowledge or will to offer children even a mediocre education. Most of these were led by individuals who had little to no background in running schools and had no resources other than the state payments.

In other words, the money is doled out without much checking from the state, money that could have been going to improve the local public schools.

You can read the article here

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Another court victory for education, and a blow to the "reform" movement

Another state, this time Kansas, has lost a court case over education funding. This time The Kansas Supreme Court has ordered the Republican led state legislature to fund an additional 285 million dollars, which for Kansas will be a 10% increase. The Court also threatened to require the state to add an additional 568 million dollars for the 2006-2007 school year if the legislature does not act to fix the problem.

The most telling statement was from spokesman Jan Lunsford of the Attorney General's office:

The general and his staff want the proper amount of time for a good and thorough look at it

I love the phrase "the general"

One interesting part of the ruling for those of us in Texas was this:

Mays and other Republican leaders also supported provisions of the new school funding law that would allow some districts to raise more money through local property taxes. The court struck those provisions down, saying they would increase disparities between wealthy and poor districts.

In Texas, this was the exact arguement schools were making against the school "reform" package the Republicans tried to ram through the legislature last session. Raising property taxes is the only way for school districts to get any new additional funds. However, the so called 'property rich" school districts can raise millions of more dollars this way than the "property poor" districts. This was one of the central arguements in the recent court ruling by Judge Dietz, as the state legislature had placed a property tax limit on schools. Judge Dietz ruled that such a cap creates an unconstitutional statewide property tax. He also ruled the 55% passing rule, used to determine how much money schools will get, (you'll need to go to pages 56 and 57 but it is very intersting reading) is also unconstitutional.

You can read the article from the Wichita Eagle here

Monday, May 23, 2005

Teachers begging for money

I came across this website via a posting at Joanne Jacobs and at first I thought it was great; teachers could reach out to their communities for financial help with special projects they want to do with their students. The more I think about it though the more I realize how sad it is teachers have to go begging for money to do such things.

In one poor example a teacher is begging for money to equip a class library .

All in all, it speaks wonders about the funding of public education.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Progressive Education?

Earl Hadley, of Campaign For America's Future/ has a great op-ed piece on NCLB. I especially liked this comment:

The Times ignores the possibility that it makes sense to listen to the concerns of those implementing the law in the classroom. It ignores the possibility that teachers may dislike teaching to a test for the same reasons as parents and are not just acting out of a fear of accountability.

At times I feel like I'm wallowing in a sea of teacher-hating reformers and its nice to see someone out there understands we are fighting for what's best for our children and we're not just lazy and incompetent.

Monday, April 25, 2005

How much does your school district spend?

Ever wonder exactly how much and how your school district spends its money? For Texas teachers there is a quick and easy way to check your district's finances out. Using PEIMS data (the state information reporting system for schools), the Texas Education Agency has created a website that will generate reports with breakdowns in various sub areas such as administrative costs and money spent on athletics.

For non-Texas teachers, if you would like to see how the website works you can type in "Nacogdoches" (my home county) for the county name and then select one of the 5 school districts.

The website can be found here.

An Excellent Read

I just finished reading Brendan Halpin's book Losing My Faculties: A Teacher's Story. It provides great description of the day to day work of being a teacher as well as a detailed chapter on working at a charter school, and what happens when the businessmen on the board of directors of the school decide to take over its day to day operations.

Brendan Halpin also has a book out called It Takes a Worried Man describing his wife's struggle with breast cancer and it how it effected the entire circle of family, friends and co-workers. I haven't read it but it has some great reviews on

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Conneticut to begin the revolt

It looks like Conneticut is going to cut in line ahead of Utah to challenge the federal govt. and NCLB. According to this story posed at According to state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal the state is preparing a lawsuit that will contend "the law illegally and unconstitutionally requires states and communities to spend millions of dollars more than the federal government provides for test development and school reform programs.

"Lead on, Conneticut, lead on.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

La Vida Robot

I've decided to quit bashing Roy Blake long enough to post this fantastic story I found via Joanne Jacobs

The story is about 4 illegal immigrants who compete in a design contest against kids from wealthy and well funded schools, including some college teams. The story can be found here

Thursday, March 10, 2005

What Roy Blake did Updated*

Like the good little Republican soldier he is, Roy Blake voted for HB3, which will seriously underfund Texas schools, and Texas in general to the tune of $4 billion, so says State Comptroller Carolyn Strayhorn

Here are the sins of Roy Blake, as committed against Texas public schools and his home district:

- voted to kill a bill which would've have restored the $1000 insurance supplement to both teachers, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, basically all school personnel.

- voted against the Hochberge amendment which would have provided schools with an additional 5 billion dollars in funds as well as a $4000 pay raise to teachers.

-voted against an amendment which would have raised, over two years, teacher salaries to the current national level.

- voted to make it easier for the state to seize public schools and install private management to run them. After only two years of adequate progress, with failure to make federal adequate yearly progress standards (which gradually become more difficult until the year 2014 when they become impossible to meet) the principal is automatically fired and a private company is brought in.

- voted to allow anyone with management experience and a college degree to be qualified as a principal. It doesn't matter if their management experience is running the local burger joint and overseeing 5 employees, they can now run a school.

- voted to increase taxes for the majority of Texas and lower taxes for his rich Republican friends. The average Texas family will no pay approximately 3% more taxes while those making over $140, ooo a year will actually get a tax break.

- voted for a recapture limit on funds that will allow the property rich school districts to spend at least $1600 more per student than others. This move is especially galling in light of the fact every Nacogdoches county school district is considered property poor.

- voted for a bill that every educational organization in the state was against, a bill which the overwhelming majority of his constituents asked him to vote against.

I received this email from my supt. today regarding a conversation she had with Roy Blake:

I visited his office after the vote to ask why. I was told he voted for the children of his district. I asked which children, this bill only helped Chapter 41 (rich property districts). I was reminded that Evadale was property rich and in his district. I reminded his office that his district was comprised of other districts, what about them! This bill was devastating to the vast majority of his district and East Texas. That comment from me resulted in a silent response AND "a red face, a nod and a smile"!

Representative Blake voted the straight Republic agenda, with little regard as to how it would effect the people who voted him into office. I'm sure we can expect him to once again vote the straight rich Republican agenda again when HB3 comes up to vote.

His vote on HB2 can be found here courtesy of Joe Smith at Texas

My state representative, Roy Blake, sold his district out

Despite a wealth of opposition from every education group in the state and despite overwheliming evidence it will be harmful to his home district, my state representative chose to be a good little Republican soldier and voted for CSHB2, whose primary purpose is the destruction of public schools. The voting record can be found here.

I will post more specifics when I have more time.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Texas Republicans are trying to destroy public education

Joining their national counterparts Texas Republicans are doing their best to ensure public educaton fails. I urge all Texas teachers to take action by calling their state representatives and voicing your opinion on the so called "new" money for Texas schools.

Visit Texas Legislature Online where you can look up phones numbers, websites and email addresses of your state reprentatives.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A teacher cannot use a book about her class in class

In the ultimate testing irony, a Florida teacher whose class was feautered in a book about the Florida Everglades cannot use that book with her class, as it does not relate to the state's mandated reading test, the FCAT. Brother Jeb is using his big brother's methods to destroy public education in Florida with a mindless test like Texas uses. The link to the story can be found here

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Federal Reading Research is flawed says panel member

A member of the 1997 National Reading Panel says "The scientific research backing federal reading education guidelines has little science and even less research behind it,"

According to panel member Joanne Yatvin, "the payoff for pushing phonics programs goes to the publishers of expensive and disposable workbooks that underpin those programs"

I have been arguing this point on websites such as Joanne Jacobs for quite some time. In my humble opinion, the entire purpose of NCLB is to ensure the failure of every public school in the United States.

The article mentioned above can be found here

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Utah begins the rebellion against NCLB

The Utah House of Representatives has fired the first shots in the rebellion against NCLB, voting the state's system should take precedence over the federal program. The story, via Susan Ohanian can be found
here Of course, the real rebellion will come when the feds start trying to seize million dollar schools and turn them over to their buddies in the private industry.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Texas education news

A good source for Texas Education news is This page is primarily aimed at supts and principals but contains a good daily round up of education stories in Texas. Many link to the Dallas Morning News, Austin-American Statesman and San Antonio Daily.

Students against testing website

I found a great protest website from Students Against Testing. The site features lots of neat things in PDF format such as bumper stickers, flyers and famous quotes about education. My favorite quote comes from none other than Albert Einstein who said, "Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts." This site even sells "No more tests" T-shirts.

This should be mailed to every Texas state legislature who wants to expand testing in Texas and to Dubya.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Texas Computer Educator's Association Conference

I just returned from the TCEA conference and I had a great time among the vendors. I was fortunate enough to win a CPS system from EInstruction . Our 4th grade teachers have been clamoring for some and our Science/Social Studies Curriculum person has been searching for grants to purchase some for our school. I believe EInstruction has a special right now that if you buy one system you get one free and they throw in 2 of their Chalkboard tools for free. I've had a chalkboard on order from them but they are so popular they cannot keep them in stock. The software is outstanding and a new update will be out in the Spring that will make it even easier to use.

I also purchased a copy of Hash, Inc.'s Animation Master. If you've ever seen the short movie of the dancing Alien singing "I will survive", only to have a disco ball crash on her, then you have seen what this program can do. I'm hoping both my kids and I will be successful in learning how to animate.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Automobiles and automobile companies

I've learned a great deal in the last two months about dealing with auto companies. My wife's 3 year old Honda Odyssey required a new transmission (it only had 66, 000 miles). After a little persuasion on my part Honda agreed to pay for the new transmission and its installation even though the vehicle was out of warranty.

At the same time my less than one year old Nissan Frontier (a pickup truck, as required for all males by Texas law) had a torsion rod (it supports the frame and body) break due to a manufacturing defect and Nissan does not have a replacement part in stock anywhere in the country. Needless to say I had a chat with Nissan customer support and they are paying for a rental car for the next month even though its usually not covered. Luckily for me the only rental available was a 2005 Mustang so for once in my life I can say I have a cool car.