Extra Credit: How A Maker Space Can Change A School

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Extra Credit: How A Maker Space Can Change A School

A big trend in public education currently is something called “Maker education” or “Maker learning.” There isn’t one universally settled upon definition though its proponents generally use terms like “hands on” and “learner-focused” to describe it.

Benjamin Herold writing in Ed Week said “maker learning” refers to a “wide variety of activities (from computer programming to sewing) that support the development of a mindset that values playfulness and experimentation, growth and iteration, and collaboration and community.

Maker education is part of the broader, loosely organized ‘Maker Movement’ of tinkerers, DIYers, computer programmers, and hackers who put a lot of stock in the act of creation itself and the experimentation and failure that often goes into that.

As you may be able to tell, there’s a lot of buzzwords to sift through when talking about “Maker education.” But what does this look like in schools?

We wanted to try and answer that question. And in the Kansas City metro area where No Wrong Answers tapes there are few schools to get that answer more clearly than Lewis and Clark Elementary in Liberty, Missouri. The school has undergone a revolution of sorts in how teachers their teach and how students learn. And that’s due in large part to the school’s implementation of Maker strategies.

We went there and did something we’ve never done: a live taping of our podcast in front of a small audience of teachers, parents, and students. We wanted to ask people in Lewis and Clark’s community what “Maker education” has meant to them.

Music used in this episode is Inspiring Corporate and Scottish Indie by Scott Holmes; all have been edited.


 

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#16: The "Absentee" Lesson

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#16: The "Absentee" Lesson

Teachers: LuAnn Fox (high school English); Elaine Jardon (middle school math); Jason Steliga (high school science)

This week, Besty DeVos is back. The Secretary of Education gave the commencement address recently at Bethune-Cookman University and boy, did it get ugly. Then, we talk chronic absenteeism, what federal DOE officials have called a “hidden crisis” in American education. But it’s not just the stereotypical trouble-making skippers that miss a lot of class. Finally, we tackle a new Pediatrics study that says bullying is down...way down. So why doesn’t it feel like it to our teachers?

Kids These Days:

  • Luann: Students taking Advanced Placement tests aren’t supposed to talk, text, or tweet about the exams on test day. But they do.

  • Jason: Chance the Rapper was in town. His students’ heads exploded.

  • Elaine: Even though she’s still on maternity leave, her students are grade-grubbing at the end of the semester. Ah, the satisfaction of being able to delete on their emails...

 

Music used in this episode is Inspiring Corporate and Scottish Indie by Scott Holmes; all have been edited.

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#15: The "13 Reasons Why Not" Lesson

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#15: The "13 Reasons Why Not" Lesson

Everyone’s talking about the new Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” and our teachers are no exception. Some praise its frank portrayal of serious adolescent issues like suicide, sexual assault, and drug abuse. Others say it glamorizes suicide and could be a trigger for kids struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. Good or bad, our teachers say it’s definitely sparked discussion, and not always the ones they were anticipating.

Plus, new research from Johns Hopkins University quantifies further the positive effect black teachers can have on black students. Having at least one black teacher in elementary school enhances the likelihood a black student will graduate high school. But while some say the obvious answer is, “Hire more black teachers!” our teachers say we also need to better train the white teachers who still make up the majority of our nation’s teacher workforce.

Finally, if your school had a room for teachers go to smash things in order to relieve stress, would you use it? One elementary school principal in Maryland got in hot water with parents for creating a “smash space” for her teachers. Our teachers say, “What’s the big deal?”

Music used in this episode is Inspiring Corporate and Scottish Indie by Scott Holmes; all have been edited.

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Extra Credit: Poetry In The Classroom

We just completed National Poetry Month in April and we recently asked some of our teachers…for a little bit of show-and-tell to celebrate that. We wanted them to pick examples of a poem, or an excerpt of a poem they have found personally or professionally inspirational as teachers. Or maybe a poem that has been used to particularly good effect in their classroom, that resonated with students.

Maddie Burkemper, Jaime Meyers and David Muhammad brought us their poems. And David started us off. If you didn’t know, he’s a rapper in his spare time outside the classroom.

Music used in this episode is Inspiring Corporate and Scottish Indie by Scott Holmes; all have been edited.

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#13: The "Just Boys Being Boys" Lesson

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#13: The "Just Boys Being Boys" Lesson

Be honest, had you ever heard of “lunch shaming” before news broke about a recently signed New Mexico law that bans so-called lunch shaming in public schools? That is, singling out or punishing students who cannot pay for their school lunch. Our teachers had never heard the term, but they have a lot of thoughts about the bill. They like its principle: don’t punish for kids for not being able to pay. But who is going to pay for it? And should schools everywhere just offer all kids free and reduced-price lunch?

Also, we’re coming to the end of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (The irony, of course, is our latest news cycle has been dominated by news of Bill O’Reilly.) But a new report by the White Ribbon Campaign concludes America still has a long way to go in successfully enlisting men into the fight against sexual assault and rape. Our teachers agree. They see how students perceive sexual violence and sexuality more generally as one of the thorniest issues they face.

We end with a discussion about teachers buying and selling lesson plans and materials on line, in a growing digital marketplace. (Teachers have reportedly raked in more than $1 million in a single year selling their plans.) But some worry this “monetizing” of a key teacher skill creates literal paywalls to organic collaboration. Our teachers’ verdict? In a phrase: “Respect the hustle.”

“Kids These Days”: Maddie has developed a “fast chains” challenge that has gone viral--in its own modest way with her students; Jaime says one of her particularly unique students is himself a walking, talking meme, and David says it’s prom season, so there is nothing else on his kids’ minds.

Music used in this episode is Inspiring Corporate and Scottish Indie by Scott Holmes, as well as Jack by Podington Bear; all have been edited.

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Extra Credit: "Denied" Special Education In Texas

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Extra Credit: "Denied" Special Education In Texas

Above photo courtesy of Jim Bowen

Last September, the Houston Chronicle published a seven-part series of articles that exposed an astonishing fact: for years, the state of Texas had set a cap on the percentage of students in public schools who could receive special education services.

The paper’s reporting showed that starting in 2004, state education officials arbitrarily decided that no more than 8.5 percent of children in public schools in the state could receive special education services. At the same time, the national average of students requiring special ed services was somewhere closer to 13 percent. The decision to implement that cap, say educators and policymakers in Texas, has likely denied needed services to tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of children over the past 13 years.

The Chronicle series was reported on by the paper’s statehouse reporter based in Austin Brian Rosenthal. Rosenthal has won numerous honors for his reporting in this series, including a prestigious George Polk Award. The Houston Chronicle  was also recently a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service.

Full disclosure: Rosenthal is the brother of one of No Wrong Answer host Kyle Palmer’s very good friend, whom he met while teaching in Houston. Kyle taught in Texas for four years while this policy of capping special education services was in place. He doesn’t remember ever hearing about it. Rosenthal says he heard that a lot from educators he spoke to for this story. The policy was never publicized or promoted. But once enacted as part of a state accountability system, schools and districts worked hard to lower the percentage of students they gave special ed services in order to meet this state target.

This story took Rosenthal more than a year of reporting and hundreds of interviews with teachers, parents, students, and state officials. It all began, Rosenthal says, with an unlikely sounding tip.

Music used in this episode is Inspiring Corporate and Scottish Indie by Scott Holmes; all have been edited.

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#12: The "Cell Phone Addiction" Lesson

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#12: The "Cell Phone Addiction" Lesson

Above photo courtesy of Bill Smith

This week, we talk about an inspiring (and kind of appalling) story out of Pittsburg, Kansas. Journalism students at a high school there raised questions about their newly hired principal’s credentials and then the principal resigned. The story was a media darling for a while, blowing up on social media. (The students and their adviser were interviewed on Good Morning America and also got to talk with The Washington Post’s now-Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter David Fahrenthold.)

Plus, toy-free kindergarten: is that a good idea? The Atlantic details the increasingly popular trend in German education. The idea is to prevent small children from developing habit-forming behaviors that, later in life, can manifest into depression, social anxiety, and drug addiction. In America, at least, teachers at higher grade levels say students treat smartphones as toys. Taken those away has predictably disastrous results.

Finally, The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog has once again posted a teacher resignation letter from an educator who says she’s quitting the profession because she fears what she’s doing is not enough to fight against societal forces of oppression and segregation Hmm. For many teachers this type of “why I quit” letter is a tired genre. Why do our teachers think such letters still get written and published?

That, plus ‘Kids These Days’: Chris Brown on Blackish, moms up in arms about Cheerios’ campaign to give away wildflower seeds, and the term ‘lit’. Do you know what it means?

Music used in this episode is Inspiring Corporate and Scottish Indie by Scott Holmes, as well as Dirtbike Lovers by Blue Dot Sessions; all have been edited.

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Extra Credit: #BlackWomenAtWork

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Extra Credit: #BlackWomenAtWork

Above photo courtesy of Loyd Wollstadt

#BlackWomenAtWork has been trending on social media in recent days. It is a response in part to comments made recently by Fox News host Bill O’Reilly referring derisively to California Democratic Representative Maxine Waters’ hair.

On the same day, in a separate incident, President Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer reprimanded reporter April Ryan in a manner many found patronizing. Both events involved white men saying things to or about black women that many found offensive, or at the very least tone deaf.

Activist Brittany Packnett created #BlackWomenAtWork. She says it was meant to start a conversation because the “slights” against Waters and Ryan (things like comments about one’s hair) are experienced everyday by professional black women.

A one-time teacher, Packnett is most well-known as a Black Lives Matter activist and co-founder of Campaign Zero which aims to reform policing practices. A St. Louis native, she helped organize protests in Ferguson, MO, following the 2014 killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown  by police officer Darren Wilson.

At that time, Packnett was executive director of Teach For America in St. Louis. She has since risen in that organization to Vice President of National Community Alliances.

Full disclosure: Teach For America Kansas City is No Wrong Answer’s underwriter but does NOT sponsor these Extra Credit episodes. Also, No Wrong Answers host and creator served as a TFA corps member in Houston, TX from 2006-2008.

Packnett has also served on the Ferguson Commission appointed by former Missouri Governor Jay Nixon tasked with investigating issues of racial inequality and injustice in the St. Louis region. She also sat on President Barack Obama’s commission on “21st Century Policing.”

We wanted to talk with Packnett about how #BlackWomenAtWork could be applied to the world of education. What is working in schools like for black women? Are there special experiences that black women teachers are sharing about their working lives? And do black women educators have a particular role going forward in this country’s ongoing conversation about race, equity, and justice?  

Music used in this episode is Inspiring Corporate and Scottish Indie by Scott Holmes; all have been edited.

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#11: The "Prayer Room" Lesson

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#11: The "Prayer Room" Lesson

Above photo courtesy of Matthew Britton

 

Segregation, if you haven’t been paying attention, might strike you as an educational problem from a bygone era. But, in fact, it’s increasingly seen as a major problem in modern American schooling. Take Howard County, Maryland, one of that state’s most integrated districts.

The Baltimore Sun reports many of the districts’ AP and “gifted and talented” classes are disproportionately filled with white students, and remedial classes are disproportionately filled with black students. Our teachers say that type of often unintentional segregation hurts everyone.

Also relevant to this conversation: a lengthy piece in The New York Times Magazine last year by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones about the agonizing process she went through deciding where to send her daughter to school. Our teachers take some issue with her argument that parents are making a “moral” position by not sending their children to neighborhood public schools.

Also, a Dallas high school with a prayer room is at the center of a growing controversy over religious expression in public schools. This story is well told by Dallas public radio station KERA. Our teachers are fed up with discussions about religion and prayer and public schools. They say this, and many other controversies like it, miss the role schools often play in their local communities. Those angry about kids praying in school, they suggest, are just fuddy-duddy rules followers.

Plus, United Airlines found itself in a bit of a controversy over leggings recently. Discussion of what is appropriate dress in public--yoga pants? Bare shoulders?--is common in schools. Our teachers point out the gendered nature of school dress codes (and really, all dress codes.) And say there is a definite double standard with boys and girls when it comes to what they’re wearing.

Kids These Days? Maddie’s are really into ‘glitter jars’ as stress relievers. Daivd’s kids are all about Kendrick Lamar this week (Psst, he released two new songs.) And Rebeka’s kids...well, let just say...there’s been better weeks, but they’ve picked themselves up and are moving on to better days. Plus, they get to find out the results of the Dr. Seuss ‘Final Four.’ (Have to listen to Episode 9 for that one.)

Music used in this episode is Inspiring Corporate and Scottish Indie by Scott Holmes, as well as The Zeppelin by Blue Dot Sessions; all have been edited.

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Extra Credit: Sanctuary Districts

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Extra Credit: Sanctuary Districts

Above photo from PROdave ungar

By: Kyle Palmer and Matt Hodapp

Recently, the Kansas City, Missouri Public School District essentially declared itself a “sanctuary” district when the school board unanimously passed what it called a “safe and welcoming schools” resolution.

This resolution prohibits federal immigration agents from entering Kansas City schools without a warrant and also  says any request from immigration authorities for information about students will not be provided without a warrant. The district says it will continue to not collect data about the immigration status of students and their families.

This move came just weeks after rumors that potential raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, would be conducted outside Kansas City area churches. Those rumors turned out to be unfounded. And local ICE officials have responded to the Kansas City school district’s resolution, saying they already avoid doing investigations in “sensitive” places like schools and churches.

But Kansas City schools say they want to make sure their schools are “not disrupted by immigration investigation” which can “significantly disrupt the school environment” and “interrupt learning.”

To learn more about why the district decided to take this step, No Wrong Answers talked with Dr. Luis Cordoba, the head of the office of student interventions in the Kansas City Public School District. His office is the one in charge of supporting the district’s sizable population of immigrant and non-English speaking students and their families.

Dr. Cordoba is an immigrant from Mexico himself, who was brought to the United States by his parents when he was one. He grew up in East Los Angeles and became a naturalized citizen while working as a California Highway Patrolmen. He’s also a licensed drug and substance abuse counselor and has led trainings for Kansas City Police cadets on race relations.

Music used in this episode is Inspiring Corporate and Scottish Indie by Scott Holmes, all have been edited.

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#10: The "Harder Schools" Lesson

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#10: The "Harder Schools" Lesson

Above photo by alamosbasement

By: Kyle Palmer and Matt Hodapp

Sesame Street, the iconic American television program that’s been on the air now nearly fifty years, will be introducing a new muppet character, Julia, who is autistic. CBS’ 60 Minutes first reported the story and interviewed the puppeteer behind (or under) Julia, who is herself the mother of an autistic son.

This comes as diagnoses of autism have been growing: the CDC says now 1 in 68 American schoolchildren are diagnosed with some form of the neurological disorder. Our teachers talk about their experiences teaching autistic students. They also talk about how other students are starting to understand and value their autistic classmates more.

Meanwhile, a new survey from the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center for Education Policy shows foreign exchange students think American schools are easy. Really easy. This is nothing new: the survey replicates a similar one done in 2001 that had nearly identical results. But our teachers take issue with what they call “school bashing” conclusions. They say, in short: “Define ‘easy.’”

Finally, a legislative tit-for-tat in Ohio has educators talking. Republican Gov. John Kasich thinks teachers should have to complete yearly job shadowing outside schools in order to get re-licensed. A competing bill would make the governor shadow teachers for 40 hours every year. Beyond these seemingly far-fetched policy proposals, our teachers say there is a deeper discussion to be had about what education should be good for, and what teachers should be preparing students for--career? College? Both?

As always, we end with “Kids These Days.” Special edition this time with one teacher back from maternity leave. What are babies into these days?

Music used in this episode is Inspiring Corporate and Scottish Indie by Scott Holmes, all have been edited

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Extra Credit: What Grade Did You Get?

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Extra Credit: What Grade Did You Get?

Above photo from woodleywonderworks

Some states grade their schools on the traditional A-F scale that many teachers use in their classrooms. Proponents think it’s an easily comprehensible way for parents and policymakers to track the progress of local schools and hold schools accountable.

Education Week reports at least 18 states have adopted some form an A-F grading system that relies primarily or partly on schools’ standardized test scores. And more states are reportedly debating legislation to adopt similar programs. But these grading systems are facing a “mounting backlash” from educators, superintendents and even parents who call an A-F system for schools overly simplistic and focused on the wrong measures.

How do our teachers feel? And let’s break this conversation down into two parts. Do they you use A-F systems in their classrooms? Why or why not? Can A-F grading be applied to schools in a fair, productive way?

Music used in this episode is Inspiring Corporate and Scottish Indie by Scott Holmes, all have been edited

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Extra Credit: Protests In The Classroom?

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Extra Credit: Protests In The Classroom?

Above photo from Eloise Acuna

By: Kyle Palmer and Matt Hodapp

On No Wrong Answers before, we’ve talked about protests and how they might affect the classroom. Our first episode, in fact, was taped a day after the Women’s Marches that occurred in many cities around the country the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration.

But before that, there were protests at the site of the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, the University of Missouri, Ferguson, Missouri, and Occupy Wall Street, just to name a few.

Now, there is a growing legislative backlash: bills in at least 16 state legislatures have been introduced (all by Republicans) that aim in some way to limit protests, make them more orderly, or toughen penalties for protesters who are arrested.

There is evidence this news is filtering into the classroom.  The New York Times, for instance, last year published a lesson plan called “Battle over an oil pipeline: teaching about the Standing Rock Sioux protest.” The authors write: “This lesson plan asks students to weigh the potential drawbacks and advantages of the pipeline project for all involved, then challenges students to develop a reasonable and just solution to the current standoff.”

Also, in December, Teaching Tolerance released a guide for teachers called “The value of teaching protest” that argued in part that teaching students about protests shows them real-world examples of valuable skills:  “persistence, presence, planning and provocation.”

Teachers, is there a value in trying to bring in ‘protests’ as a curricular subject?

So, what do your teachers think? Is there value in trying to integrate protest in their classrooms? Yes, they say. Student voice can be heard in a variety of ways: from literal “loose leaf petitions” presented to the teacher to so-called “Feedback Fridays” that allow students to give a teacher their opinions on what went well (or not so well) that week.     

If you care about education and want to hear what teachers think about the big issues of the day, subscribe and review our podcast at iTunes. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Send us comments and questions at our email: nowronganswerspod@gmail.com.

Music used in this episode is Inspiring Corporate and Scottish Indie by Scott Holmes, all have been edited

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#8: The "Standardized Test" Lesson

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#8: The "Standardized Test" Lesson

The above photo is from Matthew

Beware the “new and shiny” things.

This is the advice of our teacher panel this week, as we continue No Wrong Answers’ conversation about school funding begun last week. (Listen to last week’s episode here.) The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled school funding in the state is constitutionally inadequate. The Atlantic magazine said this “landmark ruling” could open the way for states to help close the achievement gap by funding schools more equitably.

Our teachers are skeptical of such optimism. Why? Partly due to their own experiences watching schools, districts, and states waste money in the past. LuAnn says schools like to buy “new and shiny” things (think: iPads or, blast from the past, Palm Pilots) without training teachers on how to utilize them.

But does that align our teachers with conservatives’ oft-heard argument that schools already have too much money?

“No, no, no. We need the money. We just need to spend it smarter,” David says. LuAnn suggests lawmakers listen to teachers about what they want money for. Jason proposes the the idea “that may not go over well” of paying teachers more.

“Some of these monies need to flow into the community and stop cutting paraeducators, stop cutting custodians, stop cutting language programs, but at the same time, we have to make sure we are providing a means for individuals to live on,” he says.

That’s just the start or our conversation? Did you hear Harvard Law School is ditching the LSAT? (Well, not ditching it but allowing students to submit GRE scores instead.) Our teachers have some definite opinions about the efficacy of standardized tests and what they do and do not say about student performance.

And can you spell jnana? Our teachers struggled, but were amazed at the spelling prowess of five-year old Edith Fuller of Oklahoma, who recently became the youngest ever qualifier for the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. Despite her model, our teachers say spelling--and all the writing skills that go with it--are on the decline.

If you care about education and want to hear what teachers think about the big issues of the day, subscribe and review our podcast at iTunes. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Send us comments and questions at our email: nowronganswerspod@gmail.com.

Music used in this episode is Inspiring Corporate and Scottish Indie by Scott Holmes, as well as Dirtbike Lovers by Blue Dot Sessions; all have been edited.

 

 

 

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Extra Credit: From Teacher To Politician

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Extra Credit: From Teacher To Politician

By: Kyle Palmer and Matt Hodapp

In December, The New York Times described Brett Parker as “an elementary school teacher and rookie politician...a Democrat running against a Republican incumbent in a Republican state that the Republican presidential candidate, Donald J. Trump, clinched by 20 percentage points. In spite of all that, Mr. Parker will be sworn into the Kansas House of Representatives next month.”

Parker was part of a wave of Democrats and moderate Republicans who drastically changed the makeup and political temperament of the Kansas statehouse in Topeka, which is about a 90-minute drive from where No Wrong Answers tapes in Kansas City, Missouri. As many other states and the country in general went more red in November, Kansas got a bit bluer. Parker had been an elementary school ELL specialist for years and says he never had an inclination to run for public office until recently.

For our listeners not from Kansas, a bit of context: the state is currently in dire fiscal straits. Projected budget deficits for this year and next approach $1 billion. Many Democrats and Republicans say the state’s drastic 2012 income tax cuts need to be revised in order to fill that hole. In addition, schools in Kansas have been operating that past two years under a controversial block-grant scheme instituted two years ago after state lawmakers ditched the old school funding formula. Now, there is an intensive push to rewrite that formula after the state Supreme Court this month ruled the state’s funding of public schools is constitutionally inadequate. That made national news because, though the Court didn’t put a dollar figure on its decision, some say the state needs to put up to $800 million more per year into education.

Those are the issues teacher Brett Parker ran on as a candidate in 2016, and the issues he’s now faced with helping solve as a state representative. We wanted to talk with him about why he felt compelled to run...and what it’s like being a teacher in a state legislature, where more typical career paths are lawyer or business owner.

But first, I asked him a question I thought any teacher would want to know first: how could he possibly be a teacher and a lawmaker at the same time?

If you care about education and want to hear what teachers think about the big issues of the day, subscribe and review our podcast at iTunes. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Send us comments and questions at our email: nowronganswerspod@gmail.com.

Music used in this episode is Inspiring Corporate and Scottish Indie by Scott Holmes, all have been edited

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#7: The "School Choice" Lesson

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#7: The "School Choice" Lesson

By: Kyle Palmer and Matt Hodapp

It was a lively discussion this week with our original team of teachers from Episode 1. So lively, in fact, that we have just two central topics this time.

School choice has been a hot topic recently after Donald Trump featured the idea prominently in his joint address to Congress. But our teachers remain unconvinced a broad-based rollout of choice models--especially vouchers and tax credit scholarships--will be effective.

“I think parents should have a choice, but when I hear this notion of having ‘choice’ to go to parochial schools and home schools, what I fear is that minority students will be turned away,” says Princeston. He points more than 90 percent of students are “choosing” to stay in traditional public schools right now.

For Maggie, it’s more personal. Though she has had a few conversations with parents about potentially switching to a charter school or private school, the more intense discussions come within her own family. She says a “large portion” of her family are already “opting out” by sending their children to private schools. “I understand why a voucher program is attractive to them, it helps them subsidize their child’s education,” she says, “but as a public school teacher, my answer is, ‘You know, that’s a sacrifice you’re choosing to make with your money. I love you, but if you don’t want the financial burden, send your kids to public school.’”

Our other big topic this week was school funding. Next door to where our podcast is taped in Kansas, the state Supreme Court ruled recently that the state is constitutionally underfunding schools, possibly to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Similarly, in Missouri, Gov. Eric Greitens has proposed cutting about $14 million from K-12 funding, but justified it by saying none of that money would come from classrooms.

Rebeka dismisses that reasoning: “All dollars are classroom dollars. It all comes from one container, if something is cut, then if you have to take it from somewhere else. If I need new books, new technology, a chair replaced, a new roof because it’s leaking in the corner...again...it all comes from one source. So, if there are cuts, then I might not get one of those.”

If you care about education and want to hear what teachers think about the big issues of the day, subscribe and review our podcast at iTunes. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Send us comments and questions at our email: nowronganswerspod@gmail.com.

Music used in this episode is Inspiring Corporate and Scottish Indie by Scott Holmes, as well as Dirtbike Lovers by Blue Dot Sessions; all have been edited.

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Extra Credit: How Do You Teach ELLs?

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Extra Credit: How Do You Teach ELLs?

By: Kyle Palmer and Matt Hodapp

As part of its 5 Million Voices reporting project, NPR recently released a trove of data about the nation’s 5 million or so students who are labeled as English Language Learners, or ELLs.

It’s now estimated that 1 in 10 school children in the U.S. is ELL and teaching ELLs, as the NPR report put it, is “one of the biggest challenges in public education” today. Some of the more interesting data points culled from this report:

  1. 3.8 million of ELLs speak Spanish as their primary language. Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Vietnamese, and Arabic are the next most-common home languages.

  2. Most ELLs in the U.S. are native-born American citizens. In fact, 85% of ELLs in grades K-5 are U.S.-born.

  3. The states with the largest percentage of ELLs? No surprise: California (29%) and Texas (18%). But between 2000 and 2014, the states with biggest growth in ELL populations were Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

  4. Overall, academic achievement for ELLs is lower. About 62% of ELLs graduate high school, compared with a national rate of 82%.

Our teachers on this Extra Credit corroborated much of what the NPR report’s data suggest. Teaching ELLs is difficult and often an overlooked challenge of  American education. All three of them frankly admitted they don’t feel prepared to teach ELLs and want more training.

If you care about education and want to hear what teachers think about the big issues of the day, subscribe and review our podcast at iTunes. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Send us comments and questions at our email: nowronganswerspod@gmail.com.

 

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#6: The "Bathroom Debate" Lesson

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#6: The "Bathroom Debate" Lesson

Teachers: Greg Brenner (high school government); LuAnn Fox (high school English); Mariam Siddiqui-Din (high school special ed)

Teachers: Greg Brenner (high school government); LuAnn Fox (high school English); Mariam Siddiqui-Din (high school special ed)

By: Kyle Palmer and Matt Hodapp

Another news story impacting education led much of the national news discussion this week: the Trump Administration’s move to rescind Obama-era guidelines that said schools should allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identities.

Though schools remain free to enforce bathroom policies of their choosing, all three of our teachers disagreed with the move, saying it had the potential to make students feel less safe.

“Irrespective of what they might be feeling internally, whatever they express externally: it shouldn’t matter. They’re here [at school] for an education,” says Mariam, who says she recently had a student approach her privately about possibly having gender reassignment surgery. She says that student was not comfortable talking with friends about that issue.

Also, a deadly shooting in Olathe, Kansas, near where No Wrong Answers is taped in Kansas City, Missouri, made national news. Witnesses to the shooting say it was racially motivated: a white man allegedly yelling racial slurs before opening fire on two Indian men, killing one.

LuAnn teaches in a public school near where that occurred and says students and faculty were shocked it could happen there. Greg teaches across state line and says the news still impacted his students, who are mostly Latino. “They could draw a pretty clear line [from the shooting to other news events, like graves being knocked over at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis.”

Mariam, who is Muslim and wears the hijab, says her students of color often come to her “because I share their brown skin. They say Ms. Din, you look like us, you know what we’re going through.”

On a lighter note, we ended by talking about the best (and worst) movies about teachers and school. Inspired in part by the new movies “Fistfight” and the Oscars (which aired after we taped.) The group’s consensus: as inspiring a movie as “Dead Poets’ Society” is, Mr. Keating was a pretty bad teacher. No lesson planning? C’mon.

If you care about education and want to hear what teachers think about the big issues of the day, subscribe and review our podcast at iTunes. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Send us comments and questions at our email: nowronganswerspod@gmail.com.

Music used in this episode is Inspiring Corporate and Scottish Indie by Scott Holmes, as well as Balti by Blue Dot Sessions; all have been edited.

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