Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Testing Season

It's Indiana
Friday we didn't need coats at recess
Saturday it snowed
Sunday was sunny but windy
Monday was beautiful for a day in February
Today- Tuesday- it was supposed to be a high of of 64
it wasn't
Instead it was damp and windy and cold.

It is currently raining.

So you may wonder
what Season it is...

It's the beginning of March
in Indiana

The weather may be unpredictable
but the one thing we know for sure...
               It's testing season.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


"Hi. I just inherited a box of photos from my great aunt and I saw that you had an individual on your tree that matches the family and I was wondering if you are connected and interested."

This is the gist of an e-mail I read on the way home from running errands with my husband.

My head exploded with excitement! If we had been driving a team of horses I might have snapped the reigns.

This person is a member of Ancestry and saw on my Ancestry tree that we had the same relative in common. A relative who moved from my hometown to the Kansas prairie and started a family. He mentioned he had photos from Kansas as well as my home town. The possibilities running through my head were endless but the dream I mentioned out loud to my husband was the possibility that it was of my great aunt's wedding and that it might include a photo of the family altogether so I could see what my relatives looked like.

I told him my connection and he agreed to e-mail me photos.

Later that afternoon I received a few from Kansas.  And that night he sent me twelve from my home town. And you know what? There was a photo of a couple with the woman in a wedding dress!

Freak out!

I opened my family tree and got to that branch of the family to try to match faces to how old they would be approximately. Going on the assumption that the couple were my great aunt and her new husband I figured out who would be married and therefore with a spouse, who would have had kids by then and how old they would be, and who else might be there and photographed considering it would have been 1889. Some things were a bit off but others meshed. The crazy thing was the woman in the photo did not look like the one in a photo from Kansas several years later. Some of the kids with parents didn't look old enough. And my great- grandparents who had married two years earlier were no where to be seen.

So I allowed myself to go down the "what if" road.

What if the wedding couple was actually MY great- grandparents? Things fall into place if this is the case. If the wedding couple is my great- grandparents then I have all of my great- grandmothers siblings and their families if they were old enough at the time. And a photo of my great-great grandmother who would have been about 53 in 1887.

Some people that were photographed are unknown to me. More detective work is needed. But the scenario in my head is this:  My great grandmother's family was rather poor. My great-grandfather's family were fairly prosperous.  Maybe his family paid for the photos. Then, when younger sis married and moved to Kansas she took the photos of her family with her, since heading to Kansas with her Lutheran preacher husband meant it was unlikely they'd be back anytime soon.

This is the story in my head. The story I want to be true. But that makes it hard to make an unbiased opinion on the photos taken 30 years apart that I am comparing to decide if they are mine.

Does she look 50ish?

Do these people

Look like 2nd woman from left and 4th man

How amazing is it if these are actually my great grandparents in 1887?

And that leads to the next question.
The next quest.
The next obsession.

If the photos sent to me represent the great grandma side, and
it actually was my great- grandfather's side that paid for the photos, where are the great grandpa side of the family photos?  Because both of my great-great grandparents on that side would have been alive at that time.

And Oh how I'd love to see them!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

It starts here -- Wherever that is

The big news today is, of course, the appointment of Betsy DeVos to Secretary of Education. And apparently this is the end of public education as we know it AND that should make us: sad, mad, outraged, and void of all hope.

I honestly don't care if she is Secretary of Ed or not. If she had been rejected I would not have cared.

However, I do have questions of those who feel so emphatically that DeVos is just one of the atrocious choices made by an administration that is less than three weeks old.

What was education like before The Secretary of Education became a cabinet level position? If I am reading the history correctly, President Carter made it a cabinet level position in 1979. I am guessing in an attempt to ensure that poorer states and districts had opportunities that government could provide?  This is an admirable attempt to try to provide equity in opportunity.

 Has it succeeded?

One of the top concerns of those opposing DeVos is her support of Charter Schools. The belief as well as truth is that Charter Schools take money away from public schools. So I've done some research.

The first Charter school was opened in the 1990's under President Clinton  as a way of expanding public education. President Bush allowed it to be an alternative for parents in failing districts. In this article


not only does it state that President Obama and his Secretary Arne Duncan were in favor of Charter schools, they also tied the expansion of Charter Schools to their Race to the Top replacement of No Child Left Behind established by President Bush.

This link


and the links within, demonstrate how states who did not allow the expansion of Charter Schools would be penalized on the rubric determining federal dollars that would be distributed by the Department of Ed. to those attempting to obtain Race to the Top dollars.  Did everyone march in the streets to protest Charter Schools at that time?

The other main criticism is her lack of experience in public education.


In the above article, they go through each Secretary of Education and their experience level.

The first, Shirley Hufstedler, was a lawyer and a judge. She served under Jimmy Carter.

The second-- Terrell H. Bell-- was a teacher and superintendent and is credited with the report A Nation at Risk. The article says many believe it was at this time the persistent bashing of public education began. He left in Regan's second term because Reagan still meant to dismantle the department of Education.

William J Bennett who served under Reagan didn't have any K-12 experience but did have some at the college level.

The same is true of Lauro F Cavazos who served under Bush 41 and taught at the college level with a medical background.

Ted Sanders did have a K-12 background and served interim under Bush 41.

Then Bush 41 appointed Lamar Alexander, a politician who had made education reform a cornerstone of his Govenership in Tennessee but had no personal experience.

Clinton had Richard Riley who had also been a Governor ( in South Carolina) and had made Education Reform part of his platform.

Roderick Paige, who served under Bush 43, did have a K-12 background. But Margaret Spellings did not-- and she is credited in helping draft No Child Left Behind. She was, however, the first mother of school aged children to serve as Secretary of Education.

Obama had Arne Duncan who had been in charge of the Chicago Public Schools and had experience in other administrative rolls pertaining to education. He helped draft the Race to the Top initiative.

Obama also had John B King as an interim Secretary and Mr. King had taught High School.

So, Mrs. DeVos is not the only Secretary to not have classroom experience in a K-12 setting or for some, in any setting. I could argue some of those who had experience made things worse.

And if you think locally, when was the last time your Superintendent or Curriculum Director were in a classroom? The further from experience they get the more "expert" they feel they are. Perhaps Mrs. DeVos, because she doesn't have experience, will be more willing to listen to those of us in the trenches.

Educators seem to be digging in to defend an education system that is broken. If it worked parents wouldn't be trying to escape it. To say it isn't fair to the poor kids or the inner city kids or the  fill in the blank kids, is not an accurate assessment. THOSE kids deserve the opportunity to escape as well. And if I am being completely honest, I am glad our youngest is a junior. If the changes going on now, where we are, had started when the boys were in elementary, we would be looking for a different district. I can care about the kids in our care, in our community, in our state, in our country, in the world even, but if it comes down to a choice between what is best for my child or ensuring my kid is lockstep and on par with every other child -- even if that means swimming in a sea of mediocrity, I'm sorry -- my kid comes first.

We can all name what is wrong with public education. Many are--in all forms of social media. How many are doing more than just angrily  lamenting all with which we disagree?  I wish all the educators who called congress about saying No to DeVos would call their representatives about reforming education in their states and districts.

Because when your really get down to it, it is the states that interpret what the federal government says and the districts who interpret what the state says and the principals who interpret what the district says. We can't fix it by trying to control one person in Washington.

How many are willing to get together with your colleagues and march to the principal's office and demand support? How many are willing to get together with your district and storm the superintendents office and tell them how you wish to be represented to the state? What change that really matters to you and can really make a difference in your classroom and maybe even to your personal health and emotional well being are you willing to fight for in your school?

Start there.