Saturday, August 23, 2008

Close Enough For Government Work

There is a new law in the illustrious State of California ... you cannot talk on a cell phone while driving (you can however text on a cell phone while driving which makes perfect sense ... NOT!). I think the United States government employees feel they are exempt from this new law because for the second time in 7 days our mail was delivered by a postal worker holding a cell phone to his/her ear. Today's said Postal Guy went one step further ... he was holding the phone to his left ear, driving with his knee, and popping the mail into the boxes with his right hand. Talk about multi-talented!! Maybe they could move him up a pay level just for creativity while completing his job duties. Unfortunately I couldn't get my hands on the camera fast enough to snap his picture.

This was just another of those examples of our crappy mail service. In addition to about 1/2 of my mail taking 4 weeks to arrive anywhere east of the Colorado River over the past 4 1/2 years (when we moved to this house), I've also received "notes" written to me by my Mail Carrier ON MY MAIL. One example was: "Your car is blocking the mail box ... move it." First, it wasn't MY car ... it was the car of a friend of my daughters who was just released from the Marine Corps and who was spending the night to rest up for a cross-country drive to Florida to meet up with his parents who he hadn't seen in 4 years. Second, it is against the law to tamper with the mail. My mail carrier should be arrested. Third, OH HEAVEN FORBID A MAIL CARRIER WOULD HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE DAMNED VEHICLE AND ACTUALLY WALK TO THE MAIL BOX!!! Whatever happened to "neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night will stop the post office from deliverying the mail"? I guess they figure that doesn't include parked cars so they are safe. Speaking of walking to the mail box, I am a member of a book club. Each time I receive one of these boxes, the mail carrier berates my rear for not having a mailbox with a slot large enough to accept boxes ... it makes him get out and walk up to the door. Oh boo hoo. If I were him I'd considering walking off the 50 extra pounds he looks like he's carrying around his middle a "perk" ... free fitness center membership!

... and people wonder why the general public has such low respect for government services provided and the people working for them. *sigh*

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bit Tired of School Issues

Well it's back to school time and you know what that means! ... yes! the annual fight with administration and the edu gurus about the need for the Senior Project. This year I am on a roll to get the Senior Project either changed or deleted completely ... the School District, on the other hand, is on a roll to roll it out to ALL of the high schools in the district. I'd love to hear from others and their opinions on this.

The Senior Project and the accompanying Underclassmen Portfolio were created about 7 years ago. The Underclassmen Portfolio is a three-year packet (freshman, sophomore, junior) consisting of "Evidence Sheets" from each of a student's classes proving the student learned one of the California Standards for that academic area during the semester. Each of the evidence sheets are then compiled into an essay witten by the student discussing the value of the standards or comparing them to the ESLR's. All evidence sheets and both semester essays for all 3 years are held in a student's file until the end of the second semester of the student's Junior year when it is then returned to the student. Students are not required to complete the 2 semester essays or provide evidence sheets in their senior year, but are instead required to complete a Senior Project.

The Senior Project consists of three sections: A formal research paper, a project of 35 hours related to the research, and an oral board explaining the tie-in and results. The research paper is 10% of the student's Senior English class second semester grade; the Project is 20%; and the oral board is 10% (40% total) and all of these grades are posted in the last quarter of the second semester. The process begins during the second week of the school year and ends approximately 1 month before the last day of school. Deadlines are strictly adhered to and all Projects and thesis statements MUST be approved by the English teacher prior to beginning, and a Mentor is assigned to the student to monitor progress.

The Problems
It is 40% of a student's English grade. 4 years of English is required for graduation. Since the Senior Project comprises 40% of a student's English grade, if a student refuses to do a Senior Project, they have in effect failed 1/2 of their Senior English class because that student would have to score 100% on all assignments in the second semester just to get a 60%. Since this is virtually impossible, the student would receive an "F" for that semester and would be ineligible for graduation. Some students know this and simply refuse to do the Project and take a 6 week summer school English class, which does not require a Project, to receive credit and thus graduate. The school and district insist a Senior Project is not required to graduate, but in actuality it IS required since it is such a large portion of the student's English grade.

Inconsistency in approvals. The Project and thesis must be approved by an English teacher even though that Project or thesis has nothing to do with English. Some students have been approved for a particular subject, and others have been denied approval for the same subject by a different teacher or in a different year. There is no consistency and students are basically at the mercy of the teacher.

Waste of resources and expense. The Project portion requires a 4" 3-ring binder with original signed approvals and time logs, back-up documentation, a copy of the research paper, a table of contents and index, evaluation sheets, photographs, certificates of completion, and all notes and other requirement sheets. All pieces of paper must be indexed by section and placed in sheet protectors. Students are graded on the quality of the binder, the quality of "reflections" written on the time logs, and creativity, in addition to the number of hours spent, the "challenge level" of the project, and the opinions of the mentor. A typical binder consists of 100 pages or more costing approximatley $50 to $100 per student to produce. A graduating class of 500 students will produce 500 binders, 4000 index tabs, 50000 sheets of paper in 50000 sheet protectors, and utilize 1000 sheets of construction paper to decorate the outside of the binder. Approximately 50% of the students will throw the binder in the trash bin the week after graduation and 90% will have thrown theirs away within 3 years. This is a waste of resources and a huge impact on the environment (and a parent's pocketbook).

No consideration for student's obligations. The English Department has a very narrow definition of what is considered a valid Project. There are 5 general areas that a student can choose from, but none of these take into account what a student already has going on in their lives. For example, a student can plan and implement a fund raiser for the local children's hospital but if that student is doing that particular project to also receive their Boy Scout Eagle or Girl Scout Gold Award (which have far more difficult requirements and far more hours necessary) the Project does not qualify. In effect, the student has to do two Projects. Why not just allow the Boy or Girl Scout Project and count those hours? The research paper thesis on fund raising or sick children would remain the same; and the oral board would remain the same; AND the student would be pumping over double the number of hours into the Project portion. Another example, a student has a part time job in an office as a clerk. The project was a career exploration thesis on hiring from outside versus promoting from within. The student's goal was to be accepted into the management program by the end of the school year, but she was told by her teacher that her current job, even though it was entry-level, was not sufficient for the Senior Project and she would have to get a different job to prove the thesis because she was already involved with that company!

Mental Meltdown. Several factors related to the Senior Project lead to a total psychological crisis, not only with the student but with that student's family. First is the fact that the entire Project is posted in the last quarter of the last year. There is no time for correction if a student is failing. Second is the pressure of an oral board. Students are not taught the skills to give a 10 minute speech (they "review" the 5 points of oration about two weeks prior). Many students have become physically ill either before or after the speech and more than one has found it necessary to seek professional psychological help due to being forced to "confront the fear" of speaking in public. Third is the overall pressure of dealing with the deadlines of not only the Project but all others to graduate and possibly enroll in college. In one week my daughter had 4 major papers of 10 pages or more, 2 AP Exams, 5 Senior Final Exams, and had to turn in the Project binder. She did not sleep for days. Some people said "Well that's a good example of college for her." What a crock! This is high school and it isn't their concern to "prepare" her for something that may or may not happen. It is, however, their concern to ensure she is learning the material but not necessarily all within a 7 day period of time.

1. The first and best solution in my mind is dropping the required hours portion of the Project. However, if the District wishes to expand the Senior Project to all high schools in the District, then there needs to be a "Clearing House" of sorts to determine what is considered a "valid' project instead of relying on the potentially warped opinion of one teacher. There needs to be CONSISTENCY. In the event a student has an idea that is not on the "approved list" they can petition the District Curriculum Office for a determination as to what would need to be done to include that particular Project.

2. In addition, the choices of what a student can do need to be broader based to take into account what students are already accomplishing in their lives. I had to do some type of "project" when I was in high school and this could be accomplished at any time in the course of 3 years (10th, 11th and 12th grade) and could include:
- Lettering on a school team (whether that be Sports, Band, Cheer or ANY competition where participants are scored or judged)
- A paying job
- Holding an elected ASB office position or acting as a team captain or enrollment in ASB Leadership class for at least 2 semesters
- Volunteering for school service positions (I was the school's ticket seller for all sporting and non-sporting events for 2 years as an example)
- Acting as the school's student representative on a board (Site Council, Access to the Future, etc.)
- Receiving a nationally recognized achievement award (such as the President's Physical Fitness Award, the President's Volunteer Award, the Boy Scout Eagle, the Girl Scout Gold Award, etc.) that entails a minimum number of hours of service
- Participating in a school event or group, or plan and implement a fund raiser for a school booster group, such as the Fall or Spring play, Blood Drive, ROP, etc.
- Scholastic Achievement recognized via AP Testing, a Proficient or high score on the California exams, concurrent enrollment at a local college
- Active participation in a recognized community service youth group (such as YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, etc.)
By including all of these, almost 90% of the students at my school fulfilled their requirements without Guidance Counsellor intervention. Those who did not were assisted by the Career Guidance department. What was chosen and completed was logged on our official Transcript and that was reviewed by a Counsellor with each student as they registered for the next year to make sure it had been completed prior to the last semester so there were no surprises. The Project did not count toward any one class's grade.

3. The oral board presentation should be deleted completely, or if kept, the score should be no more than the value of any other test (100 points or about 2% of the total semester grade). Seniors are enrolled in English, not a Public Speaking course, therefore they should not be graded on public speaking unless they have received instruction on how to do so. If the oral board is included then Speech instruction needs to be made a part of Senior English curriculum AND the student should not be graded on their public speaking ability (which they are now) but rather on the effectiveness of the oral presentation in explaining what was done and any potential changes or awards received. At present, 40% is based on "projection", "public presence" and various other aspects that have nothing to do with the Project itself.

4. The Project should NOT be 20% of a student's English grade or count toward that class's credits. At minimum, the hours and grade should be logged in a 0 or 7th period Work Experience Course so the student gets credit for those hours. A Project Binder would not need to be turned in, but rather a Personal Portfolio including certificates, resume, and letters of commendation or recommendation proving the Project's completion could be "graded" with a pass/fail just as a similar Personal Portfolio is graded in Work Experience now.

I know this is a "piddly" issue in comparison to world problems, but I truly feel the Project and Portfolio are unnecessary to achieve educational goals in California. If anything, the Project accomplishes the opposite ... it reduces the number of graduates and does nothing toward "teaching" students the state mandated curriculum. I would LOVE to hear from ex-students and their parents on their experiences with this, and from anyone else having a opinion.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Lack of Communication

Charlton Heston has passed away at age 84. He had Alzheimer symptoms but they are not saying that was the cause of death. Maybe they forgot? (Sorry ... bad.) This really doesn't affect me but I'm close to two situations that deal with age, dying and dementia at the moment, so Charlie's death got me thinking. First, George just left to visit his dad at Scripps in San Diego. They will release him to a Skilled Nursing Facility tomorrow for 90 days. He is 82, but he does not have dementia. His heart was a mess and the doctors decided to replace 5 or so arteries and 3 valves. He's having a rough go of recuperating, but, 82 and a possible new lease on life for a few years! You go dad!. Second, my mom. Her medications are either not working or they are making her worse. She was dropped off at a 99 Cent Store for a couple of hours of shopping by the care facility personnel. They forgot about her for 3 or so hours and she forgot where she lived and who to call. Thank goodness the manager of the store called the home (albeit the OLD home she WAS in a year ago), who then called my sister, who then called the NEW home and chewed out their asses. Mom is supposed to be the one with dementia and mental issues, NOT the lame-O's who are supposed to be watching her! The thing that is sad (in addition to mom's situation) is the State of California has complete legal custody of her ... we can do nothing except chew out their asses if they mess up, but they are under no obligation to listen to said butt-chewing. Mom's mom died at age 78 of strokes and dementia ... mom will be 74 as of May 31. If she's lucky she'll remember who she is if for only a little while on her birthday, but that's probably a false hope.

* * *

On a different note ... I'm supposed to be in two places at once this afternoon (again and as usual *sigh*). Valley View's flag team is going to Dayton for WGI World Championships and they are hosting a Bon Voyage (I am soooo proud of them!). What a mess of a planning session THAT has been. The Prez of the Booster IMP asked me to plan it (even after I told him last December that I am NOT DOING ANY MORE FOR THE BAND because I'm burned out) because he is at a military training conference. I told him yes IF I got help, etc. No word on the help so I wrote an email telling people I needed help and got an email back that basically said "Why are you doing this? We've been working on it for 3 weeks and everything is decided and planned." Well, isn't that peachy? I'm happy and sort of tweaked at the same time. I'm happy the event is ready to stage; I'm tweaked because there was a serious lack of communication here that BOTH of us were asked to do this, and I was spinning my wheels doing things and worrying for actually no reason. I'm glad I'm "retired" from doing major events.

Second place I'm supposed to be at the same time is to pick up Sarah from RYLA. She REALLY had a total fit and tantrum about going on Friday morning - totally stressed about 3 days away from her bf (but forget the benefits and the good things she will learn ... being away is unbearable! Oh Romeo, Romeo ...) No surprise then that George and I got the phone call on Friday night that she was throwing up and sick. First she's throwing up and sick because she's at 8000 ft. (altitude sickness) and she gets car sick (4 hours in a bus didn't help this). Second she has a stomach condition and can't eat heavy sugars, fat and meat, and is allergic to dairy products. What do they give her Friday night for dinner? Cheese and Pepperoni Pizza and a soda!!!! On top of altitude and motion sickness? OMFG someone at Rotary is going to be missing an ear next week. IT'S ON THE MEDICAL AND SPECIAL REQUEST FORMS PEOPLE. Can you read?!?! We haven't heard a peep from her since Friday night which indicates (to quote Mr. Spock) 1) she is unable to respond; 2) she is unwilling to respond. I'm curious which.

So, do I choose helping at an event showcasing hormonal guard team members that I did not have a hand in planning? or do I drive out and meet a hormonal, sick teenager's bus? I think I'll opt for the bus, mostly because she's my kid but also because it's only one hormonal teen versus 70.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Oh Boy ... blog!!

Everyone and his brother (and sister) has a blog and I do too now! I feel sorry for the people who have little to no time on their hands who read what I have to post, but read it they shall because ... just because.

My first "observation" is a pet peeve of sorts. Why do people who know nothing feel it necessary to tell those who do know something that the "know-somethings" are idiots and wrong because the "know-nothings" have their shorts in a wad because they know nothing? Case in point ... Home Depot (the place I friggin WORKED FOR FOR 15 YEARS) this morning. Cathythepaintdiva felt it necessary to tell me that I could not ask for a particular brand of paint because the paint chip wasn't "made for that brand." BFD CATHY!! ... If a customer tells you the sky is green you say "yes". Holy Hannah sweetheart ... that's "Employee Training 101." Who hired you and WHY?? ... and if you worked for me you'd be looking for another job, sister. Who gives a youknowwhat if I want you to use Glidden vs. Behr? Behr? Believe me they don't really. I'm not willing to pay $12.48 for a quart (a FREAKIN' QUART! Which means a gallon costs $49.92!!!!!!!!!) and want you to tint a brand that will only cost me $7.48 so my kid can use 2 teaspoons of said quart to finish her stupid Senior project, and you have a cow about it and feel it necessary to threaten me with calling over the entire store management team to put me in my place? Want to know even more ironic? I just read yesterday that Home Depot is willing to "negotiate" pricing. Did ANYONE bother to tell CathyDivaB that? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

Does any one else have issues like this? I truly wonder and really feel like I'm the only one sometimes. And my husband wonders why I can't "calm down." Sweetheart ... when the Cathy's of the world disappear from Paint Departments throughout the lower 48, I'll "calm down." Love you. Mwahhhh!