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Posts published in “Strickland”

An Idaho children’s book

strickland MICHAEL
STRICKLAND

 
Literacy

I first met Stan “The Bookman” Steiner at a reading conference many years ago. He was dubbed “The Bookman” by his students because of his vast knowledge of children’s literature. That is why I was very pleased to see that the acclaimed Discover America State by State series continued with his P is for Potato: An Idaho Alphabet. Lyrically written with his wife Joy, this title explores the lush land and rich history of a state too often overlooked.

Kids of all ages wil love the A to Z rhymes boasting about all the treasures found within Idaho’s borders — from the Appaloosa steed to the zinc mines to Mount Borah, to, you knew we couldn’t forget it, the potato. But after a few pages readers will also allow peregrine, Union Pacific, Quinceanera, Nex Perce, and other Idaho icons to share in the spotlight.

Amazon reveiwer K. Rue wrote:

The cover of this book caught my attention and once I glanced inside I was completely captivated. I purchased 4 copies. One for myself and one for each of our three children – to read to our eleven grandchildren. We live in Idaho but none of them do. What a wonderful way for them to learn about our state. Additionally, I placed a copy in my piano studio. It has been reviewed by numerous students and parents. All have been extremely impressed. The format allows one to enjoy the highlights with beautiful water color illustrations or read on for more in depth information.

Educators can find many wonderful and engaging strategies in this free teachers guide to the book.

A. M. Hansen added:

As a librarian and former early childhood educator, I was very impressed with this book for several reasons. I first heard about the book while researching my family history on various Idaho Internet sites. The main reason I purchased the book is I had read that my great grandmother was in it. Upon review of the book, I was so excited about the wonderful write up about Emma Yearian, Sheep Queen of Idaho, and that an alphabet letter had been designated just to her. In addition, I was elated that I was able to share this book with my Mother, which would be her grandmother. My Mother, whom just recently turned 88, resides with me and will be purchasing more books to give away as gifts. My co-worker, 90 years of age, and who has been a librarian for years, also loved this book. He often will mention to me, with a big smile on his face, how much he likes the illustration of the big potato on the flatbed train. I especially enjoyed the beautiful water colored illustrations. I felt like I was in beautiful Idaho again. I would highly recommend this book for every school and library in the State of Idaho.

Other critics chimed in, including blogger Limelite, who runs the Readers & Book Lovers thread on Daily Kos. “Sounds delightful!” she said.

You write about this series in such an inviting way that I’m inspired to learn my ABCs all over again. I think the organizing premise of state-by-state alphabet books is brilliant. Geography and literacy go hand in hand.

Reminds me that many kids first learn to read by reading road signs and advert logos from the windows of the family care during road trips.

Remember that old license plate game kids used to play? Reading and geography partner up again.

The text comes dancing to brilliant life behind the talented strokes of illustrator – and Idaho native — Jocelyn Slack’s brush. “P is for Potato: An Idaho Alphabet” is as unique as Idaho itself. The Steiner’s “P is for Potato” excels through the love and knowledge of their home state.

It is not only rare to find a children’s book on our 43rd state, but it is a great discovery when children can find this one is done well.

A high-stakes testing crisis

strickland MICHAEL
STRICKLAND

 
Literacy

The need to "raise standards" and insist on "high expectations" for all schools and students is clear and obvious. But unfortunately, in practice, these fine ideas are often reduced to crude slogans: "Test scores are too low. Make them go up." As Alfie Kohn said in his Boston Globe column: Poor Teaching for Poor Students, "the implications are ominous for all students because standardized tests tend to measure the temporary acquisition of facts and skills, including the skill of test-taking itself, rather than meaningful understanding."

Today's crisis in Idaho education has been caused by an amalgamation of high stakes testing, accountability, markets and privatization tied to the Common Core. I generally support the standards, which are designed to ensure that when Idaho students graduate from high school, they will be competitive at the state and national levels and be able to create the futures of their choice. But in Idaho, there appears to be some gaps in some of the goals from grade to grade. And we are over-testing our children at the expense of best practices for teaching and learning. These problems are exascerbated by the new eight-hour Common Core test: the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

“Our students are the most over-tested in the world,” writes education historian Dr. Diane Ravitch. “No other nation—at least no high-performing nation—judges the quality of teachers by the test scores of their students. Most researchers agree that this methodology is fundamentally flawed, that it is inaccurate, unreliable, and unstable, that the highest ratings will go to teachers with the most affluent students and the lowest ratings will go to teachers of English learners, teachers of students with disabilities, and teachers in high-poverty schools.”

It is a bad idea to tie test numbers to teacher pay. To raise scores on a standardized test, when those numbers determine whether a student will receive a diploma and how much teachers will earn, is fundamentally destructive to schools and communities.  Educators often feel compelled to put test preparation ahead of richer forms of teaching.  In years of research that I conducted with my mother, Dorothy Strickland of Rutgers University, we found that this more likely to happen in schools with higher percentages of minority students. Skills-based instruction, the type to which most children of color are subjected, tends to foster low-level uniformity and subvert academic potential. This has stark implications for Idaho's large and rapidly growing Hispanic population.

In November of 2013, I wrote about the fact that Hispanic enrollment growth is outpacing non-Hispanic growth in Idaho’s public schools, colleges and universities. From 2000 to 2011 there was a 75 percent increase in enrollment of Hispanic students in K-12 schools, compared to an increase of 8 percent in non-Hispanic student enrollment. Hispanic student enrollment in four-year universities increased 118 percent, while non-Hispanic student enrollment increased 9 percent. Hispanic students make up 16 percent of K-12 public school enrollment.

Hispanic parents of 10th-graders are more than twice as likely as non-Hispanic parents to say they wish they had more time to be involved in their child’s education — 48 percent of Hispanic parents versus 19 percent of non-Hispanic parents. However, Hispanic parents are much more likely than non-Hispanic parents to say they lack the knowledge to help with math and science homework — 51 percent versus 26 percent for math, and 44 percent versus 13 percent for science.

Idaho educators should make use of multiple measures of assessment for important educational decisions and recommendations. These can include formative assessments: Assessment for learning, not assessment of learning. Interviews, visits, observations, peer-reviews, self-evaluations -- as well as end of course evaluations tied to the actual courses -- are examples of alternatives to the high stakes model that sets up schools and students to be labelled as failures.

Your grammar, your job (or not)

strickland MICHAEL
STRICKLAND

 
Literacy

“If you think an apostrophe was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, you will never work for me.” Kyle Wiens in the Harvard Business Review.

While Idaho’s job market is slowly improving, the buzz around the Treasure Valley is still filled with stories of unemployment and underemployment. A business grammar course in the College of Western Idaho’s Business Partnerships /Workforce Development program suggests a way you can get an edge.

“Clear communication is the foundation for success in the business world, and grammar mistakes create barriers to this communication,” reads the introduction to the CWI student manual for the training. The consensus among teachers, scholars and grammarians is that clarity and correctness have taken a nosedive in the “information age.”

Employers often peruse Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages of job applicants that are filled with spelling mistakes, poor grammar, and textspeak. This is one of the quickest ways for a candidate to seal their own job rejection. According to Time, out of the 70 percent of hiring managers who utilize social media profiles to gather more information regarding an applicant -- one-third have declined on candidates due to “poor communication skills.”

“The employer is more apt to question your professionalism if you show a pattern of misspelled words… or your commentary seems rash, uninformed or non-cohesive,” said Jennifer Grasz, a CareerBuilder spokeswoman. (more…)