Poetic Justice

by Robert Pondiscio
June 3rd, 2008

More than two dozen young people who broke into Robert Frost’s former Vermont home for a party and trashed the place are being required to take classes in his poetry as part of their punishment. Homer Noble Farm, an unheated farmhouse on a dead-end road, which is now part of Middlebury College, was vandalized last December at a party attended by more than 50 people. The Associated Press reports about 25 ultimately entered pleas, or were accepted into a program that allows them to wipe their records clean, provided they undergo the Frost instruction.

“I guess I was thinking that if these teens had a better understanding of who Robert Frost was and his contribution to our society, that they would be more respectful of other people’s property in the future and would also learn something from the experience,” said prosecutor John Quinn.

On Wednesday, Frost biographer Jay Parini attempted to show the vandals the error of their ways and the redemptive power of poetry. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” he thundered, citing Frost’s The Road Not Taken. He called the line symbolic of the need to make choices in life.

Frost might also have observed that good fences make good neighbors.

Teachers Wanted: $63 Billion a Month

by Robert Pondiscio
June 3rd, 2008

The government of Zimbabwe has awarded teachers a salary increase to $63 billion per month. (Hat tip: Mike Antonucci)

The Cradle of Differentiated Instruction

by Robert Pondiscio
June 3rd, 2008

Today we call it differentiated instruction. Back in the day, it was called the one-room school house. Is it an idea whose time has come around again? At Pajamas Media (hat tip: Joanne Jacobs), Charlie Martin costs out what it would take to bring back the one-room school house…in midtown Manhattan. Martin built his scenario using the average cost of about $14,000 per year that it costs to educate a New York City public school student.

We assume 24 students in Manhattan, and a one-room school built in quality office space in midtown. I laid out a floor plan and discovered we could fit it nicely into 1,050 square feet; equip it with good quality desks and chairs and with one iMac computer for every two students, plus one for the teacher and a Mac Pro as a classroom server; and add Internet connections and $1,000 per student for books and supplies. How much remained to hire a teacher? $230,000. Almost a quarter of a million dollars.

“I think we’ve solved the problem of recruiting good teachers,” Martin dryly comments. “For $230,000 a year, it would be the rejects from elementary teaching who would go to Harvard.”

Martin concludes of his own thought experiement that we spend amazing amounts of money per student, struggle to pay teachers well enough to keep them, while outcomes decline. “We’ve seen that we could go back to the model of a hundred years ago. It’s not only possible, it would make teaching into one of the most well-paid jobs in the country, even the world, and still save money,” Martin concludes. “As a close friend put it, ‘where is the money going?’”

Lovesick and Brain Dead

by Robert Pondiscio
June 3rd, 2008

Say what you will about due process rules that make it difficult to dismiss incompetent teachers, but stories like this are what shape public perceptions. A 39-year old tenured teacher at a New York City high school developed a crush on a 15-year old student in 2005, emailed him repeatedly, and then—I’m not making this up—blogged about it. Her penalty? A 90-day unpaid suspension.

Adult supervision has taken the form of a ruling by State Supreme Court Justice who said the arbitrator’s recommendation of a 90-day unpaid suspension was “irrational” and “violates a strong public policy” to protect children. The judge sent the case back for a new penalty.

NY Daily News logoA New York Daily News editorial this morning titled “Lovesick and Brain Dead” sums it up. “Three years. Endless proceedings. All over a loony individual who, as anybody can see, has absolutely no business in a classroom. But who is tenured. And thus undislodgeable.”