Jun 30, 2007

Ben Broussard goes 4-4 as M's beat Halladay

Sure, there aren't yet three outs recorded in the 9th, but is Eric O'Flaherty going to implode? Not likely. So we'll call this a victory for the M's, brought to you by the letter B for Ben Broussard, and the number 4, for 4-for-4. (Yes, that's four consecutive homophones.) B is also for Batista, who got the job done before ceding in the 7th.

Two up on the Jays, and only four back of the Angels. Feels pretty darn good.

the cult of the blog hater

Andrew Keen:
By stealing away our eyeballs, the blogs and wikis are decimating the publishing, music and news-gathering industries that created the original content those Web sites ‘aggregate.’

You can have your eyeballs back.

[via ALDaily]

turned about with a very small helm

Hands or feet out of commission? Instead, steer with your tongue:
In initial tests, eight people were asked to perform four basic tongue movements – up, down, left and right – one hundred times each. While making these gestures, they wore a custom earplug containing a microphone pointing into the ear. This microphone can pick up subtle pressure changes inside the ear caused by the tongue forcing air around, like when a person blows on a microphone. Each movement creates a distinctive signal that can be mapped to a computer command or a wheelchair control.
I believe this was first predicted in the book of James, 3rd chapter.

7 lines, 7 links, 70 words

1. Coming soon: trip to Yellowstone, home of the future Supervolcano.

2. You simply must try the Orange Chicken, Cancun Plaza, Lacey.

3. The Royal, Olympia's downtown bocce bar, is your cousin's basement.

4. Paco's Tacos is easily the best breakfast deal in town.

5. The Mariners are on a roll, Morrow's wildness be damned.

6. Word to terrorists, Islamic or otherwise: Don't worry. You'll lose.

7. Maybe the holier folks in Alabama are praying for drought.

Jun 29, 2007

SCOTUS protects political speech

Today the Court refused to hear an appeal of a case that would be the first to test the latest free speech ruling. The background:
A seventh-grader from Vermont was suspended for wearing a shirt that bore images of cocaine and a martini glass — but also had messages calling President Bush a lying drunk driver who abused cocaine and marijuana, and the "chicken-hawk-in-chief" who was engaged in a "world domination tour."

After his suspension, Zachary Guiles returned to school with duct tape covering the offending images.

Williamstown Middle School Principal Kathleen Morris-Kortz said the images violated the school dress code, which prohibits clothing that promotes the use of drugs or alcohol.

An appeals court said the school had no right to censor any part of the shirt.
Alito's political speech exception was the controlling ruling. "Bong hits 4 Jesus" is unacceptable, but "Bad Bush Hits Bong" is apparently okay.

Perhaps we pessimists have reason to be a little less pessimistic. (Outright optimism is a stretch.)

Yakima teacher could lose license for copying WASL sections

Using the OSPI's freely available study guides to help students prep for the WASL: fine and dandy.

Photocopying last year's test to help students prep for the WASL: big trouble.
Students at Highland Junior High, in Cowiche northwest of Yakima, told a teacher that they recognized some of the questions on the science portion of this year's WASL as examples in a study guide given to them earlier this year by teacher Darryl Hartung.

Highland School District officials investigated and discovered that Hartung photocopied portions of the 2006 science WASL and modeled his study guide after those questions, which state laws forbids....

The tests have been sent for scoring, but they'll be flagged and will go unreported to the students and the district.

Hartung, a 17-year teacher with the district, was placed on administrative leave in April and has since been reassigned to teach sixth grade at Tieton Intermediate School....

If [OSPI] finds that Hartung acted in flagrant disregard of professional standards, he could be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 and have his teaching license revoked.
It will depend on whether the state wants to make an example of Hartung, who really has no excuse, since the test instructions specifically forbid copying (or even discussing) any portion.

However, I'd say that by having his name all over the media, he's probably paid penance enough.

Jun 28, 2007

TheScoop08: students cover the presidential race

Starting this August, students from all over the country will be blogging the 2008 presidential contest, in what promises to be some of the most blogged-about blogging in blogging history. The project is called TheScoop08.

I heard about it when one of the site's founders sent me a request for a letter of recommendation; one of my former debaters is angling for a staff slot. I gladly concurred, and hope he gets it. It's the sort of opportunity we 20th-century students never even imagined.

Which makes me jealous, I guess. But I can deal.

If you know a student with political aspirations, have them check out TheScoop08.

the attention span of a fill-in-the-blank

Keith Phipps is already previewing next summer's blockbusters, even though this summer's haven't even peaked. (Nor are they likely to.)

That's a level of pre-dedication matched only by Wal-Mart's Thanksgiving rollout in early August.

Frankly, we are running out of organisms with short attention spans to complete the increasingly necessary "the attention span of a/an ----."

Goldfish, rabbits, and puppies are just too focused.

NBA draft results 1-9 in: a decorabilia exclusive

1. The Portland Trailblazers select comedian Bob Odenkirk.

2. The Seattle Sonics select resurrected philosopher-historian Will Durant.

3. The Atlanta Hawks select oatmeal pitchman Wilford Brimley.

4. The Memphis Grizzlies select a grizzled Grizzly Adams.

5. The Boston Celtics defer to a wiser ballclub, trading their first-round pick for a lifetime supply of Skittles.

6. The Milwaukee Bucks select handyman Red Green.

7. The Minnesota Timberwolves select voiceover artist Corey Feldman.

8. The Charlotte Bobcats select Adam Morrison, again.

9. The Chicago Bulls select the Noah basketball system.

no fireworks in Lacey, period

Per city ordinance, no domestic ordnance shall be exploded in the Lacey metropolitan region at any time or occasion--day, night, weekend, federal holiday, or religious observance.

The rule, passed last year, has quite a few Laceyans all...


Riled up.

Pun resisted.

Weezer returns, inaugurating the apocalypse

Just as the prophecy foretold.
The group "is just polishing up a batch of songs for a recording session that is going to start at the beginning of July," according to a post from Cuomo on the Weezer Web site. "This will be the final recording session for our sixth album, which we aim to put out in the first half of 2008."
Thanks, Josh. Thanks for ruining my week.

Seattle school payroll to join 20th century

It took this...
Last fall, district officials discovered a Nova Alternative High School teacher allegedly adding overtime to her signed time sheets — something she had been doing since 1992, according to the district. Of the $179,000 the district believes she stole, $120,000 was in the past five years.
...to make this happen...
This fall, the district will launch a new computer system that links its payroll and financial systems, and it is hiring an internal auditor, reorganizing its human resources and payroll departments and training managers to better monitor their budgets.
...despite this.
The state auditor recommended in 2001 that the district cut off employees' access to their signed time sheets, records show. The state made the same recommendation in 2002. And in 2003, 2004 and 2005, audits continued to warn that the district's shoddy payroll system put funds at risk. Auditors pointed out smaller losses: $1,800 in 2003-04, $12,000 in 2004-05.
To be fair:
Despite the findings, Spencer said the district is in good financial shape. She pointed to an audit of the district's financial statements over the same time period. For the second year in a row, that report found no problems. Standard & Poor's and Moody's both recently raised the district's bond ratings — another sign of the district's financial stability, Spencer said.
Still, you have to be amazed that, in 2007, the district is just now linking its payroll and financial systems via computer. And I thought my district was slacking.

Update: Ryan points out how modernization has foundered in the LA Unified School District.

Jun 27, 2007

improbability of improbabilities: M's sweep Boston

What a week for the Mariners. When Ryan Feierabend holds the best team in baseball to zero runs in 5 innings, when Dice-K gives up 5 piddly hits and 1 measly run yet can't win, when Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz go 0 for 10, when Jason Friggin' Davis shuts 'em down to claim the victory, when the Mariners sweep away the Red Sox, one can only say: overachievers.

And smile.

e pluribus, McClane

First it was Walt Whitman. Then came Langston Hughes. Now, spanning the last three decades, an American Everyman for the ages:
When terrorist-slash-exceptional thief Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) taunts hero John McClane (Bruce Willis), "Who are you? Just another American who saw too many movies as a child?" and asks this "Mr. Cowboy" if he really thinks he stands a chance, McClane's answer—"Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker"—marks the moment that McClane, an everyman, assumes the mantle of America's archetypal heroes: Roy Rogers, John Wayne, Gunsmoke's Marshall Dillon, and others who have been so vital to American boyhood. Unlike the many action-movie one-liners that are rooted in the hero's narcissism, McClane's stems from our collective wish-fulfillment. He is not referring to himself, not suggesting an "I" or a "me" but an us.

get your molecules from a dying star

Another amazing discovery from the world of astrobiology:
"Where we thought molecules could never form, we're finding them. Where we thought molecules could never survive, they're surviving," says Lucy Ziurys, an astronomer at the University of Arizona in Tucson, US.

Using the 10-metre radio dish atop Mount Graham in Arizona, Ziurys and her team searched the extended envelope of gas around VY Canis Majoris, a red hypergiant star estimated to be 25 times the Sun's mass and nearly half a million times the Sun's brightness.

There they found the telltale radio emissions of various compounds, including hydrogen cyanide (HCN), silicon monoxide (SiO), sodium chloride (NaCl) and a molecule, PN, in which a phosphorus atom and a nitrogen atom are bound together....

Because VY Canis Majoris is an oxygen-rich star, it was not expected to harbour so many interesting molecules. Oxygen atoms easily outnumber carbon atoms around such stars and would be expected to take up the available carbon by forming carbon monoxide (CO).

The discovery of molecules such as HCN and a carbon sulphur compound (CS) around VY Canis Majoris suggests that chemical composition can vary greatly within a circumstellar envelope. It also implies that the chemistry that leads to life may be more widespread in the universe and more robust than previous studies have suggested.
In related news:
Achim Tappe of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass., used Spitzer's infrared spectrograph instrument to detect abundant amounts of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons along the ridge of supernova remnant N132D. The remnant is located 163,000 light-years away in a neighboring galaxy called, the Large Magellanic Cloud.

"The fact that we see polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons surviving this explosion illustrates their resilience," says Tappe.

These intriguing molecules are comprised of carbon and hydrogen atoms, and have been spotted inside comets, around star-forming regions and planet-forming disks. Since all life on Earth is carbon based, astronomers suspect that some of Earth's original carbon might have come from these molecules - possibly from comets that smacked into the young planet.

Astronomers say there is some evidence that a massive star exploded near our solar system as it was just beginning to form almost 5 billion years ago. If so, the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that survived that blast might have helped seed life on our planet.
The one thing Jurassic Park got right: life will find a way.

distributed snitching: a new weapon in the arsenal

When I previously envisioned an "army of Big Brothers," I figured it would largely remain a hobby of bored slacker types with enough free time to watch other people's webcams.

Now, though, the folks at PostACrime.com have upped the ante. Combining the best in Google Maps technology and civic duty, with a slight tinge of vigilantism, the site collects photos and locations of unsolved crimes, with minimal oversight.

Users can "flag as inappropriate" any crime they fear is a fake, but I'd predict it's a matter of months before someone sues for having their mug shot posted bogusly.

Board meets; discusses cuts

The Olympian reports:
A job saving energy in Olympia schools should be saved from being cut, Olympia residents told the Olympia School Board Tuesday night.

Residents argued that retaining the district’s resource conservation manager — a full-time employee who looks for ways to save electricity, water and gas and teaches students about conservation — was a bad place to cut. The job pays about $70,000....

Also Tuesday, the Olympia School Board unanimously approved 3.7 percent pay raises for 21 administrator positions, including those of the superintendent and other department directors. The information technology manager and two special education directors received additional boosts. The increases came to about $96,000, which Crawford said had already been a factor during the budget discussions.
Our current energy saver has left for a different job, which might explain why the heat was on Monday morning as I cleaned my classroom.

The Board meets for a study session Monday, July 9, and votes the following week. They have a lot more to look over.

Jun 26, 2007

great night for Seattle sports: Storm and Mariners triumph

Tonight the Storm knocked off the Chicago Sky, who looked out-of-sorts from the beginning. Lauren Jackson scored 33, the dance troupe rocked the place, and yours truly got the best line of the night with an alley-oop assist from the trp.

On the Key Arena monitor, up comes an ad for season tickets. "Folks, it's not too late to buy," barks the announcer.

"What kind of deal do they have for me?" asks the trp. "Something for a guy who's moving away, but doesn't know when?"

"That'd be the Seattle Sonics Special," I shoot back.

Also, I did not know the depth of the trp's love for Sue Bird. Now I do. That is all I will say.

Meanwhile, Seattle's other winning team beat the Rouge Hose in thrilling fashion, power versus power as J.J. Putz mowed down Manny Ramirez to close out a wild, sloppy 8-7 victory. Dave Niehaus just about burst an artery calling the pitch.

an advocate for Cheri Yecke

When I was about nine, a girl I had a crush on was being bothered by a gaggle of mean girls on the playground. I bravely strode up to them and told them to bug off, because I was the girl's lawyer. I'm not sure what I was thinking. We would sue them? Press charges on the pickleball court? As I remember it, the girl wasn't terribly flattered by this deranged nerd with no concept of actual legal authority.

Perfect preface to yet another "reputationdefender" story, this time featuring Cheri Yecke. Yecke plays the role of the embattled elementary schooler, and reputationdefender plays Don Quixote in short pants.

Jun 25, 2007

Mariners beat Red Stockings

Afraid that the last two wins against the subpar Astros Reds (see comment below) were mere gifts of the gods, Seattleites sighed in relief this evening when the Mariners exploded against Julian Tavarez, knocking him out in the 5th en route to a 9-4 victory.

Nice to see Weaver notch a win, he of the early-season antacid arm.

Seven games above .500, and within pickoff distance of the wild-card. Hope. Slim, but measurable.

direct your hatred here

At "10 Directors You Didn't Know You Hated." Quite an unenviable group of hacks.

sorry, Jesus: no bong hits for you

Joseph Frederick has lost his free speech case.
Joseph Frederick unfurled his homemade sign on a winter morning in 2002, as the Olympic torch made its way through Juneau, Alaska, en route to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Frederick said the banner was a nonsensical message that he first saw on a snowboard. He intended the banner to proclaim his right to say anything at all.

His principal, Deborah Morse, said the phrase was a pro-drug message that had no place at a school-sanctioned event. Frederick denied that he was advocating for drug use.

"The message on Frederick's banner is cryptic," Roberts said. "But Principal Morse thought the banner would be interpreted by those viewing it as promoting illegal drug use, and that interpretation is plainly a reasonable one."
I've already written elsewhere:
While academics might posit that meaning is a function of the text, or of the author's intent, or of a transaction between author and reader mediated via text, when it comes to this case, school administrators are essentially reader response theorists. What matters isn't what Frederick wrote, so much as what effect it would have on its readers, no matter how nonsensical the message.
Chief Justice John "Stanley Fish" Roberts, writing for the Court, essentially adopted that hermeneutic.

Update: The opinion is here [pdf].

Update II: This is how the Court's thinking has evolved over time: from "materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school" (the Tinker standard) to "inconsistent with the school's educational mission" (the ham-fisted administrator standard).

Update III: Law prof Eugene Volokh tries to understand Alito's ruling, which he sees as controlling the case.

Jun 24, 2007

full circle

The year begins and ends with tacky ties: three for the ultimate week of school, in order of appearance. Special thanks to Megan H. for the rightmost, a gift for the last day.

(The very first of the year is found here.)

standardizing the curriculum in the Bellevue district

In Bellevue, teaching is becoming a committee affair.
Since he arrived in Bellevue 11 years ago, [Bellevue Superintendent Mike] Riley slowly has shifted control away from individual teachers to committees, mostly made up of teachers. Those committees determine what all eighth-grade English teachers or all high-school biology teachers will teach and why. Teachers then write lessons for all their colleagues to use, or they adapt them from district textbooks. Adjustments are made as problems arise.

Teachers can take detours of a day or two to re-teach if they need to, but not much more, without committee approval.

Riley calls Bellevue's efforts "coordinated" or "coherent" curriculum. Critics deride it as "scripted."
The article, in true journalistic fashion, outlines the pros and cons and gives voice to teachers who both hate and love the new curriculum. The core disagreement is how much flexibility the new process allows--critics say it makes robots out of teachers, while proponents praise the amount of guesswork it takes out of the system.

In a way, it reminds me of curricular change my colleagues and I enacted at Capital High School over the past year. Crucial differences, though, made our process not only acceptable to all the teachers involved, but invigorating.

First, although we standardized some elements of instruction, we also purposefully respected teacher autonomy. We set up a book list and outlined lesson plans for specific activities like literature circles, but left it up to individuals to implement the curriculum in the way that worked best for them. We met frequently to discuss what was working and what wasn't, but at no time did we all follow the same daily plan.

Second, not only did we respect teacher autonomy, but we respected student autonomy, too, including three sessions of literature circles where students, with input from parents and teachers, chose their own books and read them together with small groups.

Third, and most important, our impetus to change came from the bottom up. We saw that certain students weren't being reached by a one-book-fits-all structure, and so we worked for months to revamp our curriculum. No principal, superintendent, or government flack breathed down our necks. Instead, we worked as professionals, and the result was impressive: student engagement, teacher confidence, and even district recognition.

Standardization, to a degree, has its benefits. The trick is finding the right degree--and teachers have to lead the way.

(Oh, and to Mike Riley, who thinks this country needs a national curriculum: what, are you crazy?)

Jun 23, 2007

let the summer commence

Well, not quite. I still have a few things to tidy up in my classroom and a few grades to enter into the computer. The bulk of the work is done, though. I received an ovation from one of my junior classes, who were amazed that I had finished all their journals and final essays in one night. "Wait until you see your grades before applauding," I warned. Also, I have no life.

Now it's on to preparing for National Board Certification, with a couple road trips intervening, one to Yellowstone, another to Chicago (for real, this time).

In other news, the grad streaker--who dashed out in only a furry jock strap and a raccoon tail--finally made the paper. Check out the comments for various reactions, mostly of the "way to go, crazy man" variety.

Walt Whitman, idiot?

I've been reading a lot of Langston Hughes' poetry lately, doing my best to help students appreciate its nuances, its power. Part of that requires understanding Hughes' poetic lineage: son of Carl Sandburg, grandson of Walt Whitman.

It takes work, and a level of care and dedication to the poem. It raises my hackles a bit, then, when Joe Carter writes,
As you'll recall from your high school literature class, Whitman's paean of narcissism contained the oft-quoted line,
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
The reason that Whitman could--using the language of poetry--make such a claim is because he was--using the language of philosophy--an idiot.
I'm saddened that Joe, either because of a crappy high school lit class, crappy study skills, or willful ignorance can't see the point of Whitman's supposed "paean of narcissism."

To "get" the poem, we have to realize that the speaker of "Song of Myself" isn't Walt Whitman. The difference between the poet and the speaker is basic. It's a fact I've been trying to draw juniors into understanding; most get it, but a few--the future Joe Carters--have trouble distinguishing the two.

For example, consider Langston Hughes' "I, Too, Sing America," which directly descends from Whitman:
I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.


I'll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody'll dare

Say to me,

"Eat in the kitchen,"



They'll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.
Guess what? Hughes isn't literally a servant in a white household. He also isn't literally America. Instead, he uses "the language of poetry"--Carter's words--to give voice to a more universal, Whitmanic I, to declare the essential dignity and Americanness of the "darker brother."

Whitman's vision of America, the vision that Hughes appends and clarifies, is that of a "barbaric yawp" composed of many voices, yet speaking as one. It is a poetic version of E pluribus unum that does not resolve the contradictions, but swallows them up into a larger vision of American--and, more fundamentally--human identity.

Jun 22, 2007

NCAA to permit limited liveblogging

Last time they kicked out a credentialed journalist for liveblogging a game. This time they've decided to relent.
In a statement released Wednesday, however, Williams said the NCAA had issued "incorrect information" that live updates of any kind were prohibited.

"In fact, in-game updates to include score and time remaining in competition are permissible by any media entity whether credentialed or not," Williams said.
So there you have it. The booted journo hasn't decided whether he wants to sue.

Board to discuss budget cuts; meeting Tuesday

You might want to attend if any of these proposals makes you shudder:
• A $175,000 increase achieved by applying for state funding for special-education students.

• A $116,000 savings from moving the district closer to a new model of delivering some special-education services. The district would add two self-contained special-education classrooms. The savings would be gained because the classrooms would require fewer paraeducators to be paired with individual students.

• An $88,000 cut in funding for individual student help from paraeducators.

• A $69,000 cut to eliminate the resource conservation manager position. The person who had that post accepted a new job, which prompted officials to consider eliminating the post.

• A $36,000 cut to reduce to half time the coordinator who helps ease special-education students’ transition to life after high school. The position was created in the fall, and the district hasn’t been able to get enough qualified candidates to fill the post beyond half time.

• A $22,000 increase through increasing pay-to-play fees for sports. Fees would increase from $30 to $40 per sport for middle school students and from $75 to $90 per sport for high school.
Oh, and did I mention that layoffs are in the picture a year or two down the road?

The public hearing is at 5:30 at the Knox Center, followed by a regular meeting of the Board at 6:30.

the state of special ed in the state

According to the federal government, we need "intervention." But there's a reason:
But Douglas Gill, Washington's special ed director, said the grade was due to missing data, not poor performance.

The state has since turned in the missing information, but federal officials refused to issue a new evaluation, Gill said. Nevertheless, Gill said the report won't bring any sanctions for the state.
Only nine states are up to federal standard, according to the feds.

Ask any special ed teacher whether the unwieldy federal system "needs intervention." Bring a chair and a bottle of water. It's going to be a long chat.

Jun 21, 2007

done, and not done

The last full day of instruction is done, and yet I have a pile of journals and two stacks of essays to mark tonight. I'll be keeping a low blog profile until I've climbed out.

Oh, and today's gem of a quote: "Romeo and Juliet died of irony."

Update: I'm 90% done. The slackers who waited 'til the last day to turn their work in also get to wait until September to get it back. Only fair.

Jun 20, 2007

sex, drugs, rock, roll, the internet, and you

Orin Kerr closely reads alarmist reportage about teenage 'net use.
I guess the headline, "Less Than 2% of Teen Discussions Posted Online on Drugs and Alcohol" was too wordy.
Take a look at the original study for some really incredible observations:
  • Teens think hooking up/having sex is fun while drunk.
  • Teenagers also report that social gatherings are more fun while drunk.
  • A significant portion of discussion focuses on teens’ concern for their friends or significant others who drink too much.
  • Vodka and beer are teens’ drinks of choice.
  • Many teens drink until they get sick and/or blackout.
  • Teenagers also discuss and debate the pros and cons of the legal drinking age.
Naive parents and educators should visit the glossary, which covers all the nuances. Only an old fogey would confuse "crank," "crunk," and "dank."

a tricky question

The union had another round of School Board candidate questioning today, interviewing Lucy Gentry-Meltzer and Tom Hill, both challenging Carolyn Barclift in the upcoming primary. I don't have much to say yet, other than to note a question we didn't ask: What would you do if high school protesters covered in fake blood crashed a school board meeting?

Jun 19, 2007

Capital High School 2007 graduation a success

Aaron Cole, the student speaker, gave a fine speech (I'll add quotes later), and Dale Knuth, the faculty speaker, provided a thoughtful and classy tribute to Dave Shipley, the Dean of Teachers who, sadly, is retiring at the end of the year.

Principal Poff, who's leaving, too, was hugged, kissed, picked up,twirled, body bumped, and applauded through the course of the evening, and not necessarily in that order.

The streaker, whoever he was, absconded quickly and mercifully. The band was energetic as always. The choir sang with great cheer. Many beach balls were batted.

Yours truly laments the fact that he did not get to say farewell to as many of his former students as he had hoped, but treasures the kind words from those who sought him out after the ceremony. Sweet sorrow, indeed.

Update: The Olympian profiles this "unconventional" class. The list of graduates is here.

an open letter to Nancy Faaren

Dear Nancy,

You are about to join a team of expert educators, from teachers to counselors to para-educators to custodians to coaches, all Cougars, all proud of their school's tradition of uniqueness and excellence in the classroom, on the field, and in the wider world.

So, no pressure.

Since you've asked the faculty to fill out a little questionnaire, and since this is the twenty-first century, I've decided to share my thoughts not just with you, but with my blogging audience: fellow teachers, savvy district officials, union chiefs, media tycoons, and random passers-by. Hope you don't mind.

What do you see as three of Capital's strengths?
It's tough to narrow the list to only three. I start with our staff, a professional, committed, and outspoken group. WASL scores and graduation rates don't tell the whole story of our success, but they give an indication that, for the most part, we're doing a bang-up job. We're not perfect--we'll have our moments of sharp disagreement, our lapses of bickering, our times of tension--but as a whole, and to the core, we are passionate about what we do, and we stand up for what we believe.

Our students are also meritorious. They churn out papers and projects, produce plays, win awards and collect trophies, but, more important, they make their mark on our school, on our town, on our world. I see this firsthand as a debate coach: real growth, real passion, from students who dare me to be better than I am.

Structurally we're solid. We've established a rigorous and diverse selection of courses, extracurricular activities, clubs, sports, volunteer groups, and organizations. We have a fantastic facility, and, with fresh levy money, new technology on the way--laptops, smart boards, projectors, and more.

I'm going to cheat and mention parents, our fourth strength. Our Parent Organization and booster clubs raise thousands of dollars to promote and expand activities. Also, each year they reward teachers with a celebratory luncheon including some darn good shellfish. Much like the students they belong to, they're gregarious and candid. They're on our side, and we're grateful.

What are three areas that you think we should work on to improve student learning?
First, we have to protect our electives, vocational opportunities, and rigorous and unique academic programs. The push for standardization is one of the greatest forces influencing education today, threatening the unique culture we've created here at CHS. For years we have offered practical and relevant courses in all academic and vocational areas. Though we recognize that college and the working world place specific demands on graduates, we also have larger aims in mind: democracy, civility, respect, tolerance. These don't arise from a narrow, testing-driven, prepackaged curriculum.

Second, we need better communication between teachers, counselors, and administrators when it comes to catching students at risk of dropping out. The Navigation 101 initiative is designed to address this, but it will take time and training, and will never work without a strong commitment to coordinate action on all fronts.

Third... well, I don't know. I feel pretty good about my department, and I won't pretend to speak for those outside it. If I'm gushing about CHS, so be it. It's worth the gushing.

Are there other things you would like me to know?
As a heads-up, we'll need administrative support as we open up our grading to parental monitoring via Skyward. Though I'm personally ready for the shift, having spent a couple years getting used to the online program and its foibles, others aren't quite there--and I'm not sure anyone's truly prepared for a barrage of emails and phone calls when parents can keep up-to-the-minute track of their students' performance. Long term, I think it will help foster communication and parental involvement, but for the short term it could be a bumpy ride.

Speaking of communication, a while back our outgoing principal began a weekly email called "Monday News." It's a good idea, and I suggest you continue it, or something like it.

The building security code is--no, kidding. Ask Mr. Walsh for that one.

All this is to say: Welcome to Capital High School! I look forward to meeting you this Thursday.


Jim Anderson
CHS English / Debate

Big Proctor is watching

Problem: online courses and computerized testing give students ample opportunity to cheat.

Solution: webcam.
The device, made by Cambridge, Mass.-based Software Secure, is similar in many respects to other test-taking software. It locks down a computer while the test is being taken, preventing students from searching files or the Internet. The latest version also includes fingerprint authentication, to help ensure the person taking the test isn't a ringer.

But the new development is a small Web cam and microphone that is set up where a student takes the exam. The camera points into a reflective ball, which allows it to capture a full 360-degree image. (The first prototype was made with a Christmas ornament.)

When the exam begins, the device records audio and video. Software detects significant noises and motions and flags them in the recording. An instructor can go back and watch only the portions flagged by the software to see if anything untoward is going on - a student making a phone call, leaving the room - and if there is a sudden surge in performance afterward.

The inventors admit it's far from a perfect defense against a determined cheater. But a human test proctor isn't necessarily better. And the camera at least "ensures that those people that are taking classes at a distance are on a level playing field," said Douglas Winneg, Software Secure's president and CEO.

Troy graduate students will start using the device starting this fall, and undergraduates a year later. Software Secure says it has talked to other distance learning providers, too. A potential future market is the standardized testing industry, which has struggled to find enough secure testing sites to accommodate growing worldwide demand for tests like the SAT college entrance exam and the GMAT for graduate school.
You may think to yourself, my obsolescence is still decades away. Keep thinking that.

Just don't bank on it.

support your local taco bus

Salinas, California: where the taco trucks can't roam. At least, that's how some restaurateurs want it.
“We all love Mexico, but once you jump on a plane you leave Mexico behind,” said Antonio Campos, the owner of a Mexican restaurant here. “Once you are in America, you have rules, regulations and standards.”

Taco trucks “should go to the fields and feed the agriculture guys,” said Mr. Campos, 29, a Salinas native of Mexican descent.

Mr. Campos and others want taco trucks off east Salinas streets. “If they are mobile vendors, keep them mobile. We have way more overhead and the competition is not on a level playing field,” Mr. Campos said.
Tom Tancredo can carp all he wants to about Hispanic immigrants being too slack to adopt Americanism, but this article pretty much writes the obituary for that myth.

This afternoon, I'm going to patronize the eastside California Tacos with double my usual vigor. God bless taco trucks wherever they may be found.

[via Jacob Sullum]

Jun 18, 2007

Lakefair haters, unite

You have nothing to lose but a little Lakefair.
The Olympia City Council passed an ordinance this month that enables the city to charge festivals for much of the city’s expenses related to each event, beginning in 2008.

Neither Lakefair nor the city has estimated how much it will cost the festival.

“We aren’t quite sure how this is going to impact our budget because of the vagueness of the writing of the ordinance,” Lakefair President Teri Chmielewski said.

Chmielewski said Lakefair is bracing for the worst and might have to scale back the event.
Sadly, you can count me among the indifferent. Whatever charm Lakefair may once have possessed, it's turned into a lamer form of Super Saturday, except with overpriced rides and zero charm.

Scale it, fin it and gut it. Or throw it back. Whatever it takes.

a veritable feast of clichés

Infuriating, indeed:
Hundreds of readers took a few minutes off from shouting at the television to send an entry to our Infuriating Phrases Competition. The idea was to come up with a paragraph or two, no longer than 150 words, packed with as many infuriating words and phrases as possible.
Warning: if you read the batch of competition-winning clichés, you will suffer a neural meltdown.

more Nancy Faaren news

This time, from The Columbian.
Faaren has been at Fort Vancouver for four years. She has been applauded for working closely with teachers and for her zero tolerance attitude toward gang activity. Several students said that Faaren has made Fort Vancouver a more respectful school.

She has worked in four Clark County school districts, starting as an English teacher at Prairie High School. Prior to Fort Vancouver, she was principal at McLoughlin Middle School.

When Olympia's union president called Vancouver Education Association President Keith Drake to get his view of Faaren, Drake told him that he and Faaren had butted heads in the past, but that he had asked to be placed at Fort Vancouver next year. Drake had worked with Faaren when she was principal at McLoughlin.

"I wanted to work at her school," Drake said. "I think that speaks for itself."
Sorry, Keith. Your loss, our gain. (Incidentally, that unnamed "union president" would be Capital's own David Johnston.)

suspicion confirmed

About this commercial, I once wrote this:

Users of the product should never be allowed to design commercials condemning use of the product.
And then Slate's ad critic comes along, and writes this:
I spoke to Ginger Robinson and Patty Fogarty, the copywriter and art director who worked pro bono on the campaign at the ad agency Wieden & Kennedy. They told me the scenarios in these spots came from personal experiences.
I knew it.

Stevenson likes the ads, though, saying that potheads are uniquely qualified to understand them and fear their message. He could be right--I can't say I have any idea what a stoner thinks like.

nerd to the third degree

I thought a 17-year-old with two degrees was impressive. But then there's Andrew Hsu, who's garnered three degrees at 16.
At age 11, he became a local celebrity when he was the youngest to win a grand prize at the Washington State Science and Engineering Fair.

His entry involved examining a gene found in both humans and mice. The title? "Identification, Characterization and DNA Sequencing of the Homo Sapiens and Mus Musculus COL20A1 Gene (Type XX Collagen) with Bioinformatics and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)."
When the rest of us were building vinegar volcanoes, Hsu was sequencing DNA. Thanks for making us look like a bunch of slackers.

Jun 17, 2007

like the stars in the sky

Visiting my folks' church this morning, I stopped to chat with a longtime friend of the family. "Happy Father's Day," she said.

"Is there something you know that I don't?" I asked. "I'm not a father."

She laughed and tried to clarify by explaining my dual role as a teacher and father figure to many, but it came out like this:

"What I mean is, you've fathered many children this year."

Not as far as I can tell.

a woman of two faiths

Today's religious installment from the Times concerns a woman who has not one, but two faiths.
Redding, who will begin teaching the New Testament as a visiting assistant professor at Seattle University this fall, has a different analogy: "I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I'm both an American of African descent and a woman. I'm 100 percent both."

Redding doesn't feel she has to resolve all the contradictions. People within one religion can't even agree on all the details, she said. "So why would I spend time to try to reconcile all of Christian belief with all of Islam?

"At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That's all I need."

She says she felt an inexplicable call to become Muslim, and to surrender to God — the meaning of the word "Islam."

"It wasn't about intellect," she said. "All I know is the calling of my heart to Islam was very much something about my identity and who I am supposed to be.

"I could not not be a Muslim."

...Frank Spina, an Episcopal priest and also a professor of Old Testament and biblical theology at Seattle Pacific University, puts it bluntly.

"I just do not think this sort of thing works," he said. "I think you have to give up what is essential to Christianity to make the moves that she has done."
Well, which is stranger? Believing that one can be totally Christian and Muslim, or believing that one can be totally human and divine?

Jun 16, 2007

liveblogging earns reporter ejection

One more thing I did not know: it is against NCAA regulations to liveblog while attending an NCAA contest.
Bennett had done live blogging during Louisville's super regional games against Oklahoma State in the previous two games of the three-game series. The representative revoked Bennett's credential Sunday and asked him to leave the game....

The newspaper said the university circulated a memo on the issue from Jeramy Michiaels, the NCAA's manager of broadcasting, before the first super regional game Friday. It said blogs are considered a "live representation of the game" and blogs containing action photos or game reports are prohibited until the game is over.
Check out internet broadcast regulations here. I think they're referring to this rule:
The NCAA reserves the right to deny any entity from producing live statistics for NCAA championship play. In the event the NCAA takes on the responsibility of producing a live statistical representation from an NCAA championship event, no other entity will be permitted to do so. Live statistics are considered a protected right that has been granted to CBS as part of a bundled rights agreement, referenced above. For clarification purposes, a live statistical representation includes play-by-play, score updates, shot charts, updated box scores, photos with captions, etc.
Whether a series of one's own disjointed impressions of a contest counts as a "live statistical representation," I leave for the relevant lawyers to sort out.

why are there pigs on Port of Olympia signs?

I ask you, dear local readers, because my wife and I are completely flabbergasted by the pigs on the port signs. No explanation is offered for what appears to be plagiarism of Seattle's shtick. Occult symbol? Historical reference? Political favor? Why pigs?

local races set

Electorally speaking, we're ready for the August 21 primary. From this morning's paper:
The key races in the primary will be in Olympia, where three candidates are vying for mayor, four for one council spot and three for another council spot. Olympia schools and the port also have three candidates vying to advance to the Nov. 6 general election.
In the various school board races, Carolyn Barclift will face challengers Tom Hill and Lucy Meltzer; Frank Wilson and Jeff Nejedly will square off in the general election; Rich Nafziger is running unopposed.

Jun 14, 2007

depart, seniors

The ties bid thee go apace.

interviews with school board candidates

Watch this space--I'll be posting unofficial commentary on OEA interviews with a couple school board candidates who've agreed to undergo interrogation. The first round is this afternoon.

Update: So far we've met with two opposing candidates for Position 1, Jeff Nejedly and Frank Wilson. Both are in the race for the first time, having worked extensively with parent organizations and other volunteer groups, and both feel strongly that better communication with staff and parents is their fundamental concern.

Once the OEA decides on a course of action, I'll post a more detailed look at the two. For now, I can just say that it's been fascinating to work with other area teachers in designing the questions and evaluating their answers. It's also interesting to see how different people handle interviews--which questions they run with, which questions trip them up.

opt-in law receives SCOTUS support

At last, a ruling in the union dues case. The gut feeling coming out of oral arguments months ago, among most parties concerned, was that the Supreme Court seemed unwilling to buy the WEA's argument that requiring an "opt-in" system was too burdensome. Today's ruling confirms that intuition.
In a Washington state case, the U.S. Supreme Court said today that states may force public sector labor unions to get consent from workers before using their fees for political activities.

In a ruling issued today, the court unanimously upheld a Washington state law that applied to public employees who choose not to join the union that represents them in contract talks with state and local governments. The workers are compelled to pay the equivalent of union dues, a portion of which the union uses for political activities.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the court, said the law does not violate the union's First Amendment rights.

But the state's Democratic governor and Democratic-controlled Legislature recently changed the law to eliminate the provision that was upheld today, blunting the impact of the court ruling.

oh, s---: student swears at concert, claims to imitate teacher

Why you might want to reconsider lacing your lectures with profanities, because, you know, it gets attention: it really gets attention.
After singing solo in a school concert in Longview, a 13-year-old girl said she wanted to thank her choir teacher by imitating her.

Savannah Larson then let loose with a string of expletives and obscenities that stunned the audience of about 700 students, teachers and family members in the gym at Monticello Middle School.
The choir teacher can take solace in the fact that at least Larson was listening.

Update: The Times has more details. Larson had just finished singing "Where or When" by Rodgers and Hart. Those kids and their "popular music."

Update 6/18: Larson explains herself here. I thought kids these days were supposed to be all tech-savvy, recording their evidence on iPods and such.

news o' the mornin'

1. Yesterday's quasi-lockdown still isn't in the news (unless it's in the paper paper).

2. Don't yell "fire!" in a crowded theater, even if there is a fire. Dictum followed; evacuation made safely as a curtain smoldered last night at the last Covered in Bees show. Within fifteen minutes everything was resolved as the (largest of the season) crowd returned for the blazing finale.

3. An old middle school buddy would have referred to 17-year-old college grad Piers Excell-Rehm as "Some kind of super-genius."

4. Larry Stone believes in the M's. Around here we have a very measured optimism.

5. Right after Seattle's Qwest Field goes Jones-only, Starbucks drops 'em. I can't imagine it'll be a huge setback for the local upstart. Who buys soda at a coffee stand, anyway?

6. Steve Chapman has a message for Tom "Welcome to America, Now Speak English" Tancredo. Se habla Inglés.

Jun 13, 2007

God tells Kent Hovind to quit whining

Do you want to know what God thinks? Just ask Kent Hovind, tax-evader, self-appointed martyr, and flim-flamming creationist. Apparently, prison life sucks.
GOD: I know this is hard for you. How many men in there are away from their families?

KH: Nearly all of them, Lord. Some only see their family once a year—and some not at all. I know what you are going to say, Lord, that now I know how they feel and can be a better witness to them, right?

GOD: Very good, son. You are starting to get the picture!

KH: But, Lord, five hundred miles away?

GOD: You are still in America, son. Would you prefer…Siberia?

KH: Oh, no, South Carolina is just fine! Hey, Lord, why did you let me slip on those steps in Atlanta and bruise my ankle so badly?

GOD: I needed you to see the new prison doctor that just came from India. He knows almost nothing about Me, son. I know you didn’t have much time with him, but you did tell him about your Website. He will look at it and read the “How To Be Saved” article. That will start him on the road to salvation later this year.
It's almost as surreal as a trip into the mind of John A. Davison.


[Link via PZ]

the day in numbers

One interpretive reading of this story about a suit-crazy judge, performed by my wife. [Link via Obscure Store]
Two eggs, over medium.
Three slices of toast, two with peanut butter, one with peanut butter and strawberry jam.
Five miles to school at a leisurely clip.
Four classes before lunch.
One very strange announcement of a quasi-lockdown, followed by a retraction three minutes later. (Hasn't hit The Olympian yet. Hmm.)
Two slices of Brewery City pepperoni pizza, cold.
Two handfuls of cherries.
One banana, Dole, underripe.
One can of Pepsi.
One remarkable rendition of "The Starcraft Blues."
Seven minutes of reflection.
One last Covered in Bees show, tonight.

Jun 12, 2007

catching the watchers

You can build a big fence. You can pack the border with guards. You can invest in high-tech gizmos and sign up citizen volunteers to watch for coyotes, literal and metaphorical. But you're battling human nature, and it's a pretty tough fight.
Pfc. Jose Rodrigo Torres, 26, and Sgt. Julio Cesar Pacheco, 25, both of Laredo, and Sgt. Clarence Hodge Jr., 36, of Fort Worth, were arrested near Laredo.

A Border Patrol agent found 24 illegal immigrants inside a van Torres was driving along Interstate 35 near Cotulla, Texas, about 68 miles north of the border, prosecutors said. Torres was in uniform at the time of his arrest. The van was leased by the National Guard.

Prosecutors accused Hodge of helping Torres pass through a Border Patrol checkpoint on the highway by making it look like the two were conducting Guard business. Pacheco was accused of recruiting soldiers to transport the migrants for $1,000 to $3,500 a trip.

read, dammit

I taught one of the coolest classes ever this trimester. When I say "taught," I mean "managed," because it involved just about zero in the way of traditional teaching. Called "Senior Reading," it's a class where students read. All class. All trimester, just about.

It rocked.

My job, mostly, was to keep track of students' reading through intermittent written responses, book talks, and their reading logs, and to circulate through the class as students tried to stay awake at 8:00 in the morning. ("Take a lap around the pod," I'd say, tapping a snoozer on the shoulder. "No, no," they'd always say, a little embarrassed. "I'm okay.") Today, students shared for a minute or two about the experience. Some of their thoughts:
All through school, I never read anything. I just sparknoted whatever books were assigned. This tri I actually read everything.

I hated to read before taking this class. I still don't like it, but at least I can imagine the characters more now. I can read faster, too.

I'm a slower reader, now, but I pay more attention when I read, and remember the story better.

I never imagined that novels could seem so true, so real, before reading some of the books Mr. A. recommended.

I expanded my genres beyond fiction and action/adventure.

It's nice to have a class where all you do is something you enjoy.

At home, I'd be reading a book, and my mom would walk by and say, "What?!" I never used to read at all.

I could set goals and push myself to read twice as much as before.

I'll want to read more after this, even if I don't become an "avid reader."

Before, I just read stories. Now I can get the deeper meaning.
Our sharing time started to take on the flavor of an A.A. meeting--students waxed ecstatic about their mental transformations, all from just applying themselves during our daily Sacred Reading Time.

The literati are always lamenting our culture's dearth of reading, whatever the reason--the mad rush of time, the wiles of the Wii, or that smelly guy who ruins every book club.

One hour of reading, every day, for a couple months: this just might be the solution.

Nancy Faaren to take the helm at CHS

We have a new principal: Nancy Faaren, an Olympia native and PLU grad.

Update 6/16: Faaren has already dropped a "get to know all y'all" survey in our boxes. I'll post mine as soon as I've finished it.

I suppose we can cut-and-paste from Faaren's Fort Vancouver webpage:
I am excited about my new job as principal here at Fort Vancouver Capital High School! I look forward to getting to know the students and making sure that we have the best possible educational program for them.
Only in education do webpages change at the speed of glacier.

Jun 11, 2007

how we pass the WASL

In response to a previous post, drpezz asks,
How does your school prepare your students for the WASL? Do you have an overall philosophy, tendency, or set of ideals guiding your teaching?

What about you personally?
I don't presume to speak for all the teachers at my school. However, I do know what's worked for me, and what's worked for my fellow teachers in CHS's English department. I'd imagine others have similar strategies. I'll focus on writing, because it's been at the forefront of my teaching over the past few months.

1. Philosophically and practically, success on the WASL is not the overall goal.
I believe that good writing is good writing, WASL be damned. If students aim for perfection through a process of constant revision and reflection, they'll become better writers than the baseline the WASL demands.

When I create or assess a writing assignment, I rarely think, "This'll be great prep for the WASL." I'm usually more concerned about the differing interests and abilities of the students in front of me. I want their writing to be authentic and thoughtful, and so I repeat this mantra: "Everything written is a work in progress." Every major assignment goes through three or four drafts, and gets feedback from peers and from me. We focus on narrative development one day, punctuation another, depending on what arises.

2. Even though I don't teach to the test, I teach how the test works.
At least once during the 9th grade and 10th grade years, students read WASL samples and score them according to the WASL rubric. They then debate their scoring in small groups, and lastly in a whole class discussion. They're harsh, even harsher than the WASL demands. (This is good, and it just might prove Point #1.)

3. Departmentally, we focus on WASL scoring at least once annually.
CHS English teachers score OSPI-provided practice essays using the WASL rubric, argue vociferously about the scoring, and then swap class sets and grade each others' students. It gives us a fresh perspective on our own writing instruction, and gives our students a less biased professional judgment of their abilities, without the stress.

4. Across departments, teachers share information.
For a couple years our school has focused on writing across the curriculum, with a measure of success. ("We're ready for math across the curriculum," a calculus teacher noted. I completely agree.) English teachers talked to various departments about assessing writing in any subject area. The administration provided funding for an afterschool writing lab, and, more important, reduced class sizes and a curriculum overhaul in the 9th grade year. (We'll see how that turns out in '08, but we're optimistic.) We presented our progress to the school, as did other departments that have undergone massive changes, in collaboration times set aside by our administration.

Hope that's what you were looking for, drpezz. Next question?

life without water?

The Anthropic Principle takes another whack. [sub. req.]
As a cradle for life's basic biochemistry, water is without a doubt an amazing molecule, but not everyone believes it is unique. "Whether water is necessary for life is, I think, very dubious," says Christopher McKay, a planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. Astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch at Washington State University in Pullman agrees. He thinks that Earth life's reliance on water is coincidental. "Life on Earth learned to work with water because it's the only liquid that is really abundant. I don't think there's anything magic about it," he says. On a warmer planet, oceans of sulphuric acid might do the job, or on a cooler planet, oceans of methanol, ammonia, or even methane.

While the European and US space agencies methodically hunt for Earth-like, water-based life on Mars, evidence is emerging elsewhere to suggest that life doesn't need water. Engineers who harness enzymes in the manufacture of industrial chemicals are seeing at first-hand that these essential biological catalysts can also function in hydrocarbon fluids such as hexane, indicating water might not be as essential as we thought.

At the same time, many point out that not all of water's properties are unique. A handful of other liquids, such as hydrogen fluoride, sulphuric acid, ammonia and even hydrogen peroxide share water's ability to carry around hydrogen ions which catalyse chemical reactions that are crucial for cells to digest nutrients - and all have been proposed as liquids for life. For example, people have suggested that hydrogen peroxide-based microbes inhabit the Martian soil (see "Life on Mars after all?"), and that the clouds of Venus may harbour sulphuric acid aliens (see "Acid drinkers"). Life in non-water solvents might just be possible, at least from the standpoint of getting basic cellular machinery such as enzymes to function....

So where would be the most likely place in our solar system to look for genuinely alien biochemistries? Both McKay and Schulze-Makuch have proposed that microbes on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan might consume a gas called ethene that is produced high in the atmosphere by sunlight, and release methane as a waste product. These microbes' cells would be filled with liquid methane or ethane. Before we send a probe to Titan to test directly for life, most people think another mission will be needed to improve our understanding of the non-biological chemical reactions that happen there - so we can distinguish them from genuine signs of life. "If there's life on Titan, it's probably quite exotic, quite different from life on Earth," says Schulze-Makuch. "We would have to refine our understanding, so we know what to look for."
Suffice it to say that the non-water hypothesis is tentative, and we'll likely not see experimental results in this decade, or observational results within our lifetime. Theoretically, though, the size of the universe and the fresh list of potential requisite traits means that our current estimates of habitability need serious revision.

Jun 10, 2007

Wall Drug, the Corn Palace, and now this

Via PZ, Media Czech visits the Creation Museum so you don't have to. Warning: may be offensive to all with functioning intellects.

M's win--over the skeptics?

I won't be sick to my stomach anytime soon. The expanded beef recall didn't include today's burgers. I think. Also, the M's swept the supposedly red-hot Padres in rather exciting fashion, squeezing out a run in the 9th against the supposedly untouchable Trevor Hoffman. (Our boy, J.J. Putz, showed how to shut things down, closing out the game with blistering high heat.)

Geoff Baker and Jeff Nusser are all over the analysis. All I'll add: it feels good to be an M's fan. Really good. These guys have the talent, sure, but more important, the will to win. They're not getting rattled by deficits or flustered by early failures. They come back. They grind out runs. They bunt. (Felix Hernandez, anyone?) They bounce back from tough losses.

The M's of June aren't the M's of April, or even the M's of May. They have a chance to sneak up on the wild card before ESPN even notices. That is, if Oakland doesn't sneak up on them.

Seven games above .500. Last time that happened? 2003.

It feels good.

Melissa is home.

After ten weeks.

Protracted, profound sigh.

Jun 9, 2007

high school graduation poems, take two

Looking for high school graduation poems? Wanting to know the right way to read a poem at graduation? You've come to the right place. Follow these three steps to success.

First, learn the rules for selecting a good graduation poem.

Second, read a poetry anthology or pick up a book by a quality poet. Skim, then peruse. If you're unacquainted with poetry, you can't go wrong looking at this quality list. Note that these poems aren't about graduation, but about life, love, the universe, and everything else--in other words, what graduates really care about, and what you should really be talking about anyway. The power of poetry is its ability to reinvent the world, to see and hear things in a new way. Same with education. Same with your speech.

If you're still uncomfortable with poetry, or if you have no experience reading poetry, stop. There's no law that says you have to read a poem at graduation. There is a law that says you shouldn't if you're only going to mess it up.

Third, practice reading the poem. Record yourself. Listen to your intonation, your timing, your pauses. Do you read it smoothly, or does it seem halting? Do you read over-metrically, if the poem is metered, or does it flow naturally, after the punctuation? Beware of over-emphasizing rhythm and rhyme.

Don't worry if a poem seems too long; you can always choose an excerpt. Be mindful of time. Unless you are Winston Churchill reincarnated, you have five to seven minutes, max, for the entirety of your speech.


My brother-in-law, Jon Domeck, today receives his Master's in Stockholder Pleasure, otherwise known as an MBA. Jon has spent the majority of the past few months holed up at his computer, churning out his thesis and growing the most enormous sideburns this state has seen since the heady days of the Isaac Stevens administration.

Congratulations, Jon. From here, it's a smooth slope with fresh powder.

Olympia School District's preliminary WASL scores released

The numbers are in:
Of the 805 Olympia School District 10th-graders who took the reading portion of the WASL, 739 passed, preliminary results show. Of the 809 Olympia 10th-graders who took the writing portion, 763 passed. And of the 794 Olympia 10th-graders who took the math portion, 541 passed.
The percentages, for those scoring at home, are 92% in reading, 94% in writing, and 68% in math. Those are provisional scores, though, subject to over-the-summer verification. All are better than state averages.

In the class of 2008, the first who really have to pass the reading and writing portions, only 13 students haven't yet made it. Math, for the uninitiated, isn't a grad requirement until 2013--or maybe not even then.

Jun 8, 2007

we're passing the WASL--well, mostly

Good news:
More than three-quarters of the 10th-graders who took the Washington Assessment of Student Learning earlier this spring passed the reading and writing sections of the test, the two still required for graduation....

Of the more than 73,000 sophomores tested statewide, 85 percent passed reading — about the same as last year's 10th-graders — and 88.4 percent passed writing, higher than last year's students.
Better news:
Taking into account only test-takers still scheduled to graduate in 2008, nearly 96 percent passed reading and writing.
Worst news:
Little more than 53 percent of sophomores passed math, however — slight decline from the 54 percent who passed math last year.

chimpanzees: the next next menace

Another in the "animals are smarter than you think" category:
Andrew Whiten at the University of St Andrews, UK, and colleagues taught individual chimpanzees one of two ways to solve complex foraging tasks, and observed how the different techniques spread across two sets of three groups. The chimps had to manipulate a combination of buttons, levers or discs to extract treats from cubes....

The cubes were then moved into the view of a second set of chimp groups, so they could observe their respective neighbours solving the tasks. The new groups learned the same techniques as demonstrated in the adjacent enclosure, and then passed their set of tricks on to a third group in another round of experiments.
Not to go all Charlton Heston here, but shouldn't we be a leeeetle bit worried about researchers who can influence chimps--for evil?

assembly upsets parents; district sup

Some times Olympia residents of particularly liberal persuasion forget that, despite Olympia's reputation for Greener values and its active and vocal GLBT community, there are still quite a few folks who bristle at the words "gay" and "lesbian." Even a message of tolerance gets translated into a call for acceptance, or, for a select few,


Anti-bullying assemblies that addressed gay and lesbian issues Wednesday at Washington Middle School have angered some parents.

The parents say they should have received better notification that an assembly about a controversial topic was coming up. And some say that if they had known about the assembly, they would have had their child excused from attending.

“They’re undermining parents, and they’re deciding what morals to teach our children,” said Stewart Wood, whose daughter is a Washington eighth-grader. “The school was making a decision to give certain information to sway students a certain way without consulting the parents.”

Superintendent’s response

Olympia School District Superintendent Bill Lahmann said school officials probably could have done more to notify parents beyond announcing the event in a recent newsletter and should do so in the future. However, Olympia schools aren’t going to shy away from teaching students about harassment and bullying issues, he said.

“All kids deserve to be treated fairly and respectfully,” Lahmann said.

“It doesn’t matter what a student’s beliefs are or anything else; harassment is not tolerated.”

Stonewall Youth, an Olympia group that supports and advocates for gay and lesbian young people, provided six 15- to 21-year-old panelists who spoke at the assembly, said Kristyn Leach, the group’s speakers bureau coordinator. The speakers shared personal stories and talked about the discrimination that gay and lesbian people face, she said.

“It was basically making sure our schools feel safe for every kid that goes there,” Leach said. “We’re talking about basic human kindness to each other.”

Speakers from Stonewall Youth have given presentations throughout the region, including at Avanti and South Sound high schools, she said. Wednesday’s assembly was the group’s first at a middle school, Leach said.

“It was about really instilling in young people that they have a lot of control and a lot of power about how people’s lives are impacted” by prejudice, she said. “It was very age-appropriate.”

Wood and his wife, Bev, say their chief concern was that they hadn’t heard about the assembly before their daughter sent a text message to her mother about it. Bev Wood said a recent Washington Middle School newsletter mentioned the assembly but didn’t specify a date. After receiving her daughter’s text message, Bev Wood drove to the school to pick her up.

“They weren’t openly told that they didn’t have to attend this,” Bev Wood said of Washington students. “A lot of them weren’t happy with being in there or were uncomfortable being in there.”

Some Washington parents say they think the school should have sent a letter home to parents or sent an audio message to all parents through Washington’s automated phone-messaging system.

“I was livid,” said Patti Connolly, the parent of an eighth-grader, describing her feelings when her daughter told her about the assembly. “It’s not appropriate. That stuff is taught at home, not in schools.”

Connolly said that if she had received notice, she would have talked to her daughter about the topic and asked if she felt comfortable attending. She said that if her daughter had wanted to go, she would have taken time off work to attend as well so she could answer any of her daughter’s questions.

Karen Overmiller, who has an eighth-grade daughter and a sixth-grade son at Washington, said she was shocked when her daughter told her about the assembly. She said she also would have given her children a choice about attending the assembly if they’d known about it. And if the two students had wanted to go, Overmiller or her husband would have attended as well to answer their questions, she said.

“We didn’t have an opportunity to be there for our children because the school didn’t notify us about it,” Overmiller said.

Leach said the assembly wasn’t intended to replace family discussions about gay and lesbian issues but to add to the conversation.

“Parents do need to talk about these things to their kids,” Leach said. “It’s terrifying to me that even one child would be pulled out of this classroom. I hope that they do go home and talk about it.”

Although speakers asked that personal stories shared during the assembly remain confidential, Leach said that message wasn’t intended to prevent students from talking about the assembly with their families.

“We just wanted to make sure kids out in the classrooms weren’t teasing each other about things they’d heard,” she said.

Some parents said they worried that the confidentiality message might have been confusing to students.

“This is a public school,” Stewart Wood said. “Nothing is confidential that happens in the classroom.”

Jun 7, 2007

a little change...

...is good for The Science Goddess. Update links as need demands.

Update 6/9: TSG moved again. The link is now 100% current.

change in scenery

Our very own Science Goddess has moved. Update your links accordingly. Update 6/9: It's moved again. The current link is the right link.

waitin', watchin'

Why did I choose the Kill Bill Vol. 1 soundtrack to back up my blogging? No conscious reason--and then Charlie Feathers starts wailin' and warblin',
That woman, she's gonna show
I need this little bitty woman
How much you'll never know
Right now Melissa is preparing for the journey home from Spain. This, thus, is a night of just waitin' and watchin'.

She's gonna show. Soon.

this week's ties

The first one says, "As a matter of fact, I do manage at Safeway." The second is silent, offering strawberries and books for your contemplation.

They are presented in reverse chronological order.

bumbling, stumbling T. rex

New research is challenging Jurassic Park's status as a documentary.

a new museum in town

I'm in the middle of a busy week, but tonight I'll have the chance to blog as usual. Until then, satisfy your craving for links at The Skeptics' Circle.
Welcome, friends! Welcome to our series of exhibits that reveals the truths that THEY don’t want you to hear about!

Yes, after years – decades, in some cases – of hard work, battling many well-funded enemies who have repeatedly tried to hide the truth, we have finally been able to reveal to one and all what THEY were so desperate to keep hidden.

Jun 5, 2007


Co-blogger Ryan is beating himself up a bit over a poem.
Looking back, I was sharp with him. I bullied him. I told him his work was garbage, and I meant it.

But was I wrong?

At what point do you set aside patience and make the student responsible for their own work? When they fail in this responsibility in a spectacular way, how many opportunities to succeed are they owed before you let them own their failure? Can “being nice” get in the way of letting the kid solve his own problems?
I offer a passage from James Berry's "Getting Nowhere" in response.

Next week I'll leave school.
Next week, nil, fulltime--
me--for good!

Yonks now
nobody bothered.
No teacher scrawled, "work harder."
Or, "Use your potential."

They'd twigged on.
Their words were whispers
to a rock.

The speaker of Berry's poem is partly ambivalent about where the blame lies. "I couldn't win them. / They couldn't win me," he remarks, but the implication is clear: giving up was the only guaranteed failure, on either side.

I'd imagine that Ryan is less of a tyrant than he imagines. He cares, deeply, and even Ryan's most recalcitrant student knows that better than he knows his sums.

Langston Hughes, self-censor?

Today my juniors heard Langston Hughes, arriving from 1959 via the magic of CD, sharing his poetry with an college audience. In one of the more interesting moments, Hughes, reading "Elevator Boy," makes an interesting substitution. The speaker of the poem talks about his dead end job manning a hotel elevator, and describes what his new earnings provide:
Two new suits an'
A woman to sleep with.
Hughes, though, says, "Two new suits an' / a whole lotta money."

I've said before that my view of the writing process is that each text is a "frozen moment of stasis"--that even the final, published version of a text is up for revision as the author finds a better way to read things. I wonder, though, what prompted Hughes' change, and speculate that it might have been the propriety expected while speaking to a late 50s college audience. Any Hughes scholars in the audience have a better idea?

Update 5/25/09: Listening to Hughes again, I realize that, when writing this post, I unconsciously edited Hughes self-emendation to make it more rhythmic than it actually is. His reading is clunkier: "Two new suits an' / a lotta money." Strikes me as stronger evidence for self-censorship, rather than mere preference.

the Olympia School District and the eternal budget crisis

This isn't new news, but it's news again. After a new report, conflicting pressures from an advisory board mean that the district is going to have to come up with its own plan to trim excess from the budget.
An Olympia School District administration budget proposal slated to be unveiled later this month could be different from the advisory group proposal and likely will cut deeper, district officials said Monday. Superintendent Bill Lahmann said he expects to recommend phasing in the $1.7 million in cuts during the next two years rather than cutting the entire amount this fall.

Budget advisory group members and Olympia school board members both said they had concerns about adding higher fees for sports. Under the proposal — which would require school board approval before it was implemented — pay-to-play fees would increase from $30 to $40 per sport for middle school students and from $75 to $90 per sport for high school students.
You can bet that as the OEA interviews school board candidates for the upcoming election, we're going to ask about those cuts.

Jun 4, 2007

a signature signature

Josh links to this hoo-larious piece about whether anyone actually cares what your signature looks like. (Well, anyone taking your credit card, that is. Wouldn't recommend trying to prank the IRS.)

My signature is pretty minimalist--two quick flourishes that get me mistaken for a physician. When anyone asks me why it's so quick, I say I have better things to do with my time. The usual response is, "Oh, yeah, I guess you're right."

In other news, today in second period we calculated that the average high school senior will have said the Pledge of Allegiance for approximately 7 hours by the time they graduate.

I figure we could have one kindergarten day of nothing but the Pledge, and when everyone is thoroughly inculcated with Americanism, we would never have to do it again.

NBA finals prediction, 2007

Cavs in 6.

Don't need a reason.

Update: Would anyone like to give my bro-in-law, my bro, and me $45,000 so we can score sweet seats in Cleveland?

school board candidate hits the blog

In Washington we could use more school board candidates like Seattle's Lisa Steubing, who's taking advantage of the new/old media to share her thoughts, unfiltered-like, on the P-I's blog. A sample:
I believe in defining what professional teachers should accomplish--then giving them the academic freedom, the support and the tools to achieve those goals.

It is terrible that the WASL has such weight because it is tied to NCLB. Teachers have practically been reduced to technicians in preparing their students. The more we script and restrict instruction the less time we have for creative, in-depth and higher-order learning.
As part of a local union effort, I'll be interviewing Olympia's upcoming candidates, and will be sure to publish their thoughts on my other blog.

Update: Incumbent Darlene Flynn joins the fun. Commentators complain about a lack of communication; maybe blogging begins the healing process?

Heelys: the latest menace

We prohibit skateboards, and frown on running in the halls, but somehow we haven't gotten around to banning Heelys at CHS--surprising, given public education's usual approach to liability. Heelys are hell on wheels.
Nine-year-old Noah Woelfel of Davidsonville, Md., wasn't a novice but still tripped and fell, breaking several fingers and wrist bones in his right hand last year.

"All it took was a tiny piece of gravel in the driveway that went up in the wheel and stopped him cold," said his mother, Nancy. "He required surgery and pins, and he was six weeks without using his hand, right at the beginning of school."
Or maybe not:
Heelys in April said a study it commissioned shows that their shoes have a safer injury rate than skateboarding, inline skating and even swimming.
Kids these days. What's next? Pogo pants?

Update: Turns out they're even more dangerous than originally estimated.

increased stipend equals increased National Board enrollment

As I've noted elsewhere, $5,000 certainly sweetens the prospect of enduring an extra 200-400 hours of work in the National Board certification program. Turns out there are a lot of other Washington teachers (blog title!) like me:
Teachers pay $2,500 to go through the certification process, a yearlong evaluation that measures their teaching skills against national standards.

In Washington, $1,250 scholarships are available. By the May 15 scholarship deadline, more than 1,200 teachers had applied — up from 500 who apply in a typical year, state officials said.
Last Saturday I attended the orientation for PLU's Professional Development program, which helps teachers work through the process, and am starting to assemble documentation of my work as a professional in a learning community.

They'd better count blogging.

five more days

Melissa's most recent--and final--batch of photos is posted here.

Five more days!

Jun 3, 2007

D.A.R.E. to resist bad taste

The D.A.R.E. lion: he knows his way around the rock. Well, yes, that kind of rock, too.

putting the "whine" in "winner"

Every teacher knows and understands.

Bill O'Reilly and the ruckus that wasn't

A high school dared to host a forum that, among other things, criticized aspects of the War on Drugs. Somehow, the event got tagged as a hotbed of treachery by everyone's favorite pitbull, Bill O'Reilly. Dave Kopel of Rocky Mountain News explains:
Caplis insists that teachers should have driven the students out of the auditorium because "within five minutes" the panel was promoting drug use and sex. In fact, the opening 10 minutes consisted of introductions and a presentation by Sanho Tree of the Institute for Policy Studies, who simply critiqued counterproductive programs, such as DARE, which loses credibility because of its reckless exaggerations....

Appearing on Bill O'Reilly's Fox TV show, The O'Reilly Factor, Caplis did not even know the name of the school's good-hearted and excellent principal Bud Jenkins, but was sure that Jenkins and every administrator should be fired. Heedless of First Amendment case law, O'Reilly proclaimed that the panel's speech constituted a crime. The only crime was perpetrated by the O'Reilly producer who, attempting to ambush interview school board President Helayne Jones, criminally trespassed into her garage.

As a Boulder High parent, I have discovered that the school is a much more tolerant place than the average large high school. Respect for freedom of speech is part of what makes Boulder High special.

O'Reilly tells the world that Bud Jenkins is "the villain." As Boulder High students are learning, media scandal-makers sometimes tell you much less than the full story.
[via Instapundit]

one man wrecking crew

The surprise popularity of The Passion of the Christ a few years back and the solid success of Amazing Grace have led some to speculate that we're in the middle of a renaissance in small-e evangelical cinema. That is, until wannabe auteur Jason Epperson wrecks everything with a short titled "Getta Rhoom."
By making it this far in the competition, I have a newfound confidence level and I'm excited to show off what this Kentucky boy can do. I am a Christian and feel that God has blessed me and put me on this show for a purpose. I don't consider myself a Christian filmmaker necessarily, but a Christian who wants to make positive films.
Positive films about people with disabilities making asses of themselves and getting zapped straight to hell? Har har!

Oh, and don't blame me if you click on any of the other profiles to see how nominally bright directors fare when handed fancy equipment and a healthy budget. The world of TV commercials may never be the same.

[via The Hater.]