Camp Greene Lake

by Robert Pondiscio
July 22nd, 2008

Jay Greene wonders if school should be more like camp. At camp, Jay’s kids learn an enormous amount, including a large amount of traditional academic content. “But unlike school, the kids love it,” he notes. “Don’t get me wrong, they like school quite a bit — but they love camp. They love it even though they are made to do all sorts of challenging or sometimes unpleasant things that they rarely do at home. They have to do all of the cleaning, they serve and clear all of the meals, and they fold their own clothes. It can be broiling during the day and freezing at night. They help tend farm animals. They climb to the top of a high tower. They go for long hikes.”

How are these camps able to teach kids a lot, get them to work hard, and get the kids to love it, while schools struggle to do any of these things, Greene wonders, at a lower cost than the average public school? For starters, it’s all those young energetic counselors.

They don’t get paid very much but tend to be enthusiastic, bright, and energetic. Some will later be doctors or lawyers, but they are happy to be counselors for a few summers in the meantime. It’s easier to get talented people for low pay for a short time than for an entire career.

Hmmmm..

College Admissions While-U-Wait!

by Robert Pondiscio
July 22nd, 2008

Mercy College in New York is creating an “Immediate Decision Week,” an instant, on-the-spot evaluation that allows students to learn whether they have been admitted 24 hours after showing their high school transcripts, the New York Sun reports. The paper says admissions officers will also be canvassing local beaches and malls in “roving vans” in the New Yorks five boroughs and Westchester in search of instant applicants.

The beach?? “Dude, you are, like, so totally accepted!”

The Sun’s ed reporter Elizabeth Green says appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, it’s not an act of desperation (Mercy’s enrollment numbers are up strongly) but attempt to improve customer service — and to make sure that everyone who is qualified for the college knows that it is available.

“For the sophisticated middle class, the dignified and genteel ways of higher education do not constitute a barrier,” notes Barmak Nassirian, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. “Now imagine the unsophisticated, low-income student who doesn’t have a cooperative adult in their life, for whom the very knowledge that you have to get admitted to go to college is news. What’s wrong with their running into a desk at a mall, where somebody grabs their best instincts and makes them act on it? That’s a fabulously good thing.”

Social Notworking

by Robert Pondiscio
July 22nd, 2008

Teachers texting or communicating with students through social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace has been prohibited by one Mississippi school district. 

The Lamar County school board approved the policy earlier this month after becoming concerned that casual contact between teachers and students would be unprofessional. “The only intent is to limit the personal communication between teachers and students,” Superintendent Ben Burnett told The Hattiesburg American newspaper. “We don’t need to let it cross the line between professional and personal communication.”

Few of my students had Internet access, but those that did had the ability to instant message or email me.  And I can see how a class Facebook page could be a powerful resource for communicating with students and families.  So while the point of this policy is obvious–to prevent inappropriate contact between teachers and students–it’s worth asking if broadly prohibiting a particular tool rather than looking at how it’s being used takes a potentially powerful resource away from teachers.

What’s In It For Me?

by Robert Pondiscio
July 22nd, 2008

Rewarding students for high performance has been discussed here and elsewhere, now a pending California bill would authorize and encourage school districts to provide nonmonetary incentives to middle and high school students.

“What we’re really looking at is recognition and motivation and incentive to achieve,” Sen. Elaine Alquist, a Santa Clara Democrat who proposed the measure, tells the Sacramento Bee.  Not everyone agrees. “At some point, students need to be taught that every good deed does not require reward,” said Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

I’m a pragmatist.  I favor whatever works.  But there will always be something that rubs me the wrong way about having to reward people for acting in their own self-interest.

Update:  The Gradebook, a really good edublog by the St. Petersburg Times’ Jeffrey Solochek, has more on this, including similar proposals in Florida and New York.