Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hope for schools of the future?

My niece Katelin is a student at Illinois State University, studying to become a Special Education teacher. She is also a recent Golden Apple Scholar awardee. In her EAF (Education and Foundation) 228 class, she was assigned to write her reflection on the state of education in the U.S. ... and to be creative. She has written the following poem (which she has given me permission to share). I applaud her ideas about schools needing "positive attitudes, high spirits, hope, and caring people" as critical resources. It's her hope for schools of the future. What do you think? Please feel free to leave a comment for Katie.

The State of Education

Geoffrey Canada once shouted through poetry to take a stand
An equal education is all we demand
But is it really equal?
We claim that our education is free
But since we’ve enforced NCLB
All our teachers are paying with time.
Precious time, our teachers invest.
Just so their schools can pass a standardized test
And keep what resources they have.
I worry about it as a teacher in training
That when I get there, my time will be draining
And I’ll miss those teachable moments.
I worry about the state education is in
Its imbalances are practically a sin
Children don’t have the same opportunities
Students up in the wealthy suburbs
Get all that a student deserves
And then grow up to be a success
While on the other side of town
School enrollment is down
Teachers are in a state of distress.
Because their school doesn’t get
Brand new laboratory sets
Or books with fresh, crisp pages
They just want what every school needs
And hopes to exceed
Society’s expectation of them.
I worry with my peer, Mae
who had much to say
about the schools on the other side of town.
She said its ignorant to be color blind
For these poor students you’ll find
Are no different from anyone else.
They start off with hope, but it becomes hard to cope
In a neighborhood that deals with dope,
Alcohol. Gangs. Fear.
Everything I’ve seen and everything I knew
Cannot compare to what these students have been through
They’ve had to give their education to chance.
Mae agrees that they easily fall
Into statistics, and find it harder to crawl
Out of the labels they’ve been given.
How its always the minorities
Getting gypped by the authorities
Because they’re low income, low property tax.
Their test scores are skewed,
They’re wrongfully viewed,
All they need is a chance.
Mae’s father says times have changed
Plans must now be arranged
To have a concentration in school
And to go onto college
And expand that specific knowledge
To excel in today’s society at all.
Such wisdom was passed to Mae
Who had something to say
Growing up in a white middle class suburb
Although her neighborhood changed
And races were rearranged
She never found it strange to adapt to.
She feels you could have the best schools
And still educate fools
Resources aren’t the only factor
While another school could be falling down
Yet have the brightest kids around,
All it takes is a chain reactor:
Positive attitudes, high spirits, hope, caring people.
American education is doing its best
To teach students from east to west
Lessons of the world around them.
These are the words of Miss Mae
But my opinions must stray
From something which sounds so clear.
For I feel education is split
Into a wide open pit
And all that is seen is an achievement gap
That must immediately be closed
Despite those who are opposed
To spend their tax dollars on proper education for all kids.
There are those who are with me
And those who disagree
One day I hope to resolve
We must all lend a hand
And together take a stand.
To fight such a huge discrepancy.

- by Katelin Johnson

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day, Oct. 21

Last May I posted information about the debut of Wolfram|Alpha -- a website providing "free access to computable knowledge in nearly every imaginable subject area. Whether you're working on problem sets, papers, or projects, Wolfram|Alpha's algorithms compute answers that can help you not only complete your assignments but take your understanding of the subject to the next level." (Learn more about Wolfram|Alpha in this 12-minute screencast)

Now that school has started, Wolfram|Alpha is hosting a Homework Day on Wednesday, October 21, where "attendees" can:
*Learn tips and tricks to make schoolwork more fun,
*Chat with the experts behind Wolfram|Alpha, and
*Be a part of the webcast and win prizes

Wolfram|Alpha is soliciting homework questions or video clips showing how Wolfram|Alpha is being used in Math, Biology, Computer Science, Calculus, Chemistry, Finance, Physics, Astronomy, or ??? Visit the Wolfram|Alpha homework day website to submit your questions or videos... then visit the site on Oct. 21 to see whether your question or video is featured.