Friday, May 11, 2007

We Can Do Better

Our children get a decent education, but we can to better.

The legislature is trying to give the children of Texas a better education, but the legislature can do better.

One thing we can all do better is to expect more benefits from education, as I explain here.

Another thing we can all do is to vote!


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Vote, Don't Sue

Parents in Plano have sued the school district.

If there is something you don't like within the district, vote against the incumbents!


Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Parents Must See Tests to Help Their Children

You cannot coach your child on Math or Science or English if you cannot see what mistakes they make. I am very competent in Math, Science, and English, but I cannot help my daughter if I do not know what she gets wrong on tests.

Other parents have also been frustrated enough that they got the Board to vote on the matter. Result? The parents, and the kids, lost. Read about it here.

The administration is not perfect. They make mistakes. But do not give up, go vote against an incumbent!


Friday, May 4, 2007

Cheating and the PISD's Glass House

I had mentioned in an earlier posting that the PISD should tackle cheating head-on. I had in mind involving parents to give a firm message to our children: "I do not cheat at work and I expect you to not cheat at school."

I did not get that explict in the previous post for brevity, but I did wonder how many parents in Plano do cheat at work, and maybe steal also. I wondered what can of worms might be here in Plano.

Then a Plano citizen told me something I did not know: that the Plano Board of Trustees named a Plano elementary school after a convicted felon.

I was surprised. I've lived in Plano for 14 years and had not heard that. I googled the man's name plus the keyword "felon" and I found multiple hits on the internet that this man was a convicted felon and got a pardon from President George W. Bush in February 2004. The school was dedicated on September 29, 2005. The Board knew what it was doing.

How can the Plano Board of Trustees tell students not to cheat on tests when they honor a man who was sent to prison for cheating in business?

You've heard the expression, if you live in a glass house, don't throw stones. Has the Board built a glass house?

Can the Board talk to students about integrity with this shadow hanging over them?


Thursday, May 3, 2007

Student Tests and Parental Rights

I mentioned in one meeting how difficult it is to help your high school students when you cannot see what they get wrong on their tests. A parent later expressed the same frustration to me.

If you want to see what your child gets wrong on a test in high school, you must make an appointment to visit the school and look at the test there. That means parents rarely get to see what their children get wrong and the parents cannot help their chilren.

Yes, Plano has a cheating problem, just like all high schools in Texas. But with holding the tests prevents us from helping our kids learn.

Plano should address the cheating problem directly and not hold the tests hostage in an effort to reduce cheating. The kids are cheating anyway, so locking up the tests does little good.

I viewed this as just one more mistake made by the administration. Another parent told me he viewed it as a parental rights issue.

What do you think?


Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Our Children are Tomorrow's Leaders

I have said that we are in a leadership crisis. We must prepare our children to be better leaders than the men and women leading America today.

The key to better leadership is in better education.

My Winding Spring Process of Education is designed to develop better leaders.

A vote for Canright on May 12 is a vote for your children's future.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

We Need to Address Cheating

I have said that morality is the root of education. Cheating is widespread in American high schools, including Plano. The solution now is to not let the children take tests home and to give different copies of the exams in class.

When I taught math in high school I had to have 4 versions of a test within a single class. Even kids with high grades cheat to get higher grades. Then they go to college and cheat there. When I taught college I found students cheating there.

How can we bring morality into the schools? Talking about cheating is one way. How can we get more parental involvement? Maybe including parents in a discussion of cheating would be helpful.

Yes, people are flawed and we might never get rid if cheating, but we should not be so complacent about it.


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Morality and Education

Chu Hsi wrote that moral priniciple is the root of learning.

Chu Hsi, was a great Chinese scholar. We need to take heed and discuss how we can maintain the teaching of moral principle within public schools.

It is possible to teach morality without teaching religion, but first the community must agree on its importance.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Will Dropping the TAKS Improve Education?

I was chatting with someone recently. She said if Plano did not have to spend time with practice TAKS tests then instruction would improve.

I told her that since the educational philosophy at Plano ISD is flawed, more flawed instruction would not lead to more education. The fundamental flaw in Plano is that the administrators do not believe in teaching knowledge. You will notice this when you hear an administrator say, "A teacher is a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage."

Yes, I heard a Plano administrator say that.

Our children are getting short changed because the administrators do not believe in knowledge. You have heard me talk about math, now let me mention reading. Instead of emphasizing looking words up in a dictionary and increasing their vocabulary when reading, the Plano ISD emphasizes guessing the meaning of words. Plano teaches guessing strategies from elementary all the way up to high school.

Parents must provide personal tutoring or pay for tutoring if they want to ensure their children get grounded in the knowledge they need to succeed. Many parents in Plano send their children for extra instruction or tutoring, but it should not be necessary. The schools could and should do more.


Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Best of East and West

The New York Times Magazine had an article on Sunday, April 1, 2007, saying China is changing its education system to adopt the best practices from American liberal arts education.

The Winding Spring Process of Education is how we can adopt the best educational ideas from China.

China is working hard to compete against us. We also must adapt to compete.


Monday, April 2, 2007

More on Math (Part 2)

Here is a quote from the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) for 3rd grade: "...the primary focal points at Grade 3 are multiplying and dividing whole numbers...."

Put what does this mean? I believe it means the children should leave 3rd grade knowing their multiplication and division facts. This is not, however, what Plano ISD does. If you want your children to know their math facts, you have to teach them yourself. Has anyone ever told you that?

The Plano ISD is so wrapped up with critical thinking, understanding concepts, and integrated curriculum that they neglect imparting basic facts. Some parents take up the slack themselves. Some send their children for tutoring. But what about those kids in Plano whose parents don't have college degrees or money for tutoring? A gap develops in their math skills that is never overcome.

We need to improve elementary school mathematics for the sake of all the children.


Friday, March 30, 2007

Moral Principle is the Root of Education

This link is to another blog describing how a major Dallas law firm was forced out if business because of its weak moral principles.

This yahoo link discusses the importance of moral principle in education.

We should find a way to bring morality back into the school curriculum. The Winding Spring Process of Education works towards this end by helping children work towards a sincere heart.


Monday, March 26, 2007

New TAKS Ratings Blow Smoke

An iteresting article in the Dallas Morning News by Joshua Benton says there is a plan to replace the relative simple system of ratings with a more complicated system.

We now have 4 ratings: exemplary, recognized, acceptable, and unacceptable. The TEA is considering adding 3 more ratings: exemplary-commended, recognized-commended, and acceptable-commended.

Huh? So is recognized-commended better or worse than commended? This is nonsense. This seems to be an effort to make the ratings so nonsensical that people quit paying attention to them.

Have you heard the expression, "If you cannot dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with BS" ? They are trying to baffle us with BS.

Instead of focusing on fixing broken schools, the efforts now are to throw out the test results by making the results obsolete, either by replacing them with new test scores or by replacing the ratings with BS.

Failing districts are squirming like worms on hooks. They are going to the State Legislature and the TEA and doing everything they can think of to avoid fixing their problems.

Plano is stuck with testing because many districts do not educate their children. As long as these districts are allowed to continue failing, we will be stuck taking the same tests they take. If they would fix their problems so all districts provided a decent education, then testing would become either unnecessary or trivial.

We must be vigilant in stopping the failing districts from getting off the hook.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Elementary School Math is Important

Math skills build upon each other, year after year. Once a child falls behind in math during elementary school, that child can fall farther and farther behind. Go to the Texas Education Agency (T.E.A) website and look up the TAKS scores. You will see there are weak schools. You will see patterns of weak schools. Why worry about a weak elementary school math program? Look at the ratings and your will see weak elementary schools lead to weak middle schools, which lead to a weak high schools, which lead to a weak senior high. Yes, one of our senior high schools is not doing well.

I am going to be focusing on third grade math, but first and second grade are also weak. Third grade is where a significant gap occurs in math skills. If a child falls behind in third grade and cannot catch up during 4th and 5th, that child will have trouble in middle school because the math program takes a step up in middle school. It is too late to catch up in middle school and high school compounds the problem. I'll say more later.

Go here, click on "District Name", type in "Plano", click on continue and see how many of our schools are only acceptable.

More later.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

End of Course Exams

I've learned that voters need to go beyond newspapers to understand issues. I was interviewed recently by a local newpaper and I was misquoted twice.

Here's what I said: "I know the TAKS test intimately because I've administered them and and looked at them." The newspaper said I "... looked at time."

I believe many people who are against the TAKS tests have never looked at them. Most of the complaints I have heard about the TAKS tests are inaccurate or untrue. For a middle class suburb like Plano the TAKS test is no big deal. It's a given that the pass rate in most schools is close to 100 percent. The TAKS tests do not diminish our children's education.

The TAKS tests are good for Plano because they are objective measures demonstrating achievement. We like to achieve. If your kids are in sports you know they want to win and do not want to lose. Even when the children are very young and there are no official scores, the children keep score. There is absolutely no good reason for parents in Plano to have a negative attitude towards the TAKS tests.

When you hear your principal say "100 percent of your kids passed, 70 percent were commended, and 40 percent had perfect scores," that gives you a good feeling.

It is the parents and administrators in failing districts who have a legitimate reason to eliminate the test, but to replace the TAKS with yet another state mandated test is absurd. New tests only postpone dealing with failure.

There is nothing wrong with the TAKS tests. They are doing what they are supposed to be doing, measuring the progess schools make in teaching the TEKS, the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, which are the state mandated curriculum.

There is much wrong, however, with spending excessive time and resources preparing teachers and children to well on the TAKS tests because the TAKS are a measure of failure, not a measure of success. There is much wrong with thinking good TAKS scores indicate a good education. There is much wrong with reducing cultural content in education, like Shakespeare or Roman history, to make more time for TAKS preparation.

The TAKS test in itself is not bad, but its impact on education is likely to be bad or ineffective, ineffective because the State of Texas has no idea how to fix schools that consistently fail the TAKS test.

If Texas cannot fix the problems associated with the TAKS test, changing to "end of course" exams will change the test, put money into the pockets of testing companies, but will bring along all the unsolved problems from TAKS testing to end of course exam testing -- a futile waste of money.

Did you know that when the British company Pearson purchased an American testing company they paid billions of dollars? Companies are getting rich writing tests. The only purpose to replace the TAKS with yet another test is to further enrich the test writing companies.

Consider our history of testing. First we had end of course exams. They were considered inadequate. Next came the TAAS tests. They were considered too easy. Next came the TAKS test. I have not heard any complaint against them that sounds accurate. The state legislature wants to return to end of course exams. That's going full circle!!!!

Have you heard of the myth of Sisyphus? As soon as he seems done with a chore, everything becomes undone and he has to do it again, in an unending cycle of futile labor. If we replace the TAKS with yet another test, that is what we are signing up for: unending cycle of futile testing.

I say, "Keep the TAKS or get the testing off our backs!"

If you want to get rid of the TAKS, then get rid of state mandated testing!!

I believe we should keep the TAKS and focus on efforts to help failing schools. We should also look forward to a new Texas rennaissance fueled by better education. Education is not only about measuring and punishing failure.

The newspaper misquoted me on this, saying "We should stick with the TAKS or change the broken schools." Does this misquote convey my views? No. This is why voters need to go beyond newspapers to understand what's going on around them.


Friday, March 16, 2007

I am Running for Plano ISD Trustee

I am Robert Canright and I am running for Plano ISD Trustee.

I hope to communicate with the people of Plano through this blog.
Please contribute comments (you have to have a free Blogger account).