Category Archives: music

Listen to this – 2020 #1 – Wearing a Mask Edition

Meaningful quotes…

KIDS LIVING IN POVERTY DON’T HAVE ANY LOBBYISTS

Schools have closed for the coronavirus pandemic and most will likely not open again this school year. Many school systems have gone to online learning, but because a significant percentage of students have little or no access to the internet, some students are not being served.

How can schools best serve all students (including students with special learning or physical needs) and what happens next year when some students have had the benefit of online learning experiences and others have not? Do we test all the kids to see where they are? Do we retain kids? (answer: NO!) The coronavirus pandemic, like other disasters and disruptions, hurt most, the kids who need school the most and have the least.

From Steven Singer
in Virtual Learning Through Quarantine Will Leave Poor and Disabled Students Behind

This just underlines the importance of legislation. Special education students have IDEA. Poor students have nothing. There is no right to education for them at all.

From Steve Hinnefeld and Pedro Noguera
in Time for ‘educational recovery planning’

…the massive and sudden shift to online learning is exposing huge gaps in opportunity. Some communities lack reliable internet service. Many families are on the wrong side of the digital divide. As Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said, a parent and three school-age children may share a single device, often a smartphone.

“The kids who have the least are getting the least now,” UCLA education professor Pedro Noguera told Hechinger Report. “They will, in fact, be behind the kids who are learning still.”

From Peter Greene
in Should We Just Hold Students Back Next Year?

Retention in grade doesn’t help — even in the face of nation-wide disruption.

…We have been suffering for years now under the notion that kindergarten should be the new first grade; next fall, we could give students room to breathe by making first grade the new first grade. In other words, instead of moving the students back a grade to fit the structure of the school, we could shift the structure of the school to meet the actual needs of the students.

From Nancy Flanagan
in If Technology Can’t Save Us, What Will?

Most important of all…kids need their teachers. They need human interaction which improves learning — and positive teacher/student relationships, even more. See also A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP, below.

It turns out that technology cannot, will not replace the human touch, when it comes to learning that is worthwhile and sticks in our students’ brains and hearts. We already knew that, of course. But it’s gratifying to know that school—bricks and mortar, white paste and whiteboards, textbooks and senior proms—is deeply missed.

Public education is part of who we are, as a representative democracy. We’ve never gotten it right—we’ve let down millions of kids over the past century or two and done lots of flailing. There are curriculum wars that never end and bitter battles over equity, the teacher pipeline and funding streams.

But still. We need school.

IT’S TRUE WHETHER OR NOT YOU BELIEVE IN IT

From Rob Boston
in The Religious Right’s Disdain For Science Is Exactly What We Don’t Need Right Now

Science is a process, not an outcome. We must improve our science education so students understand science. We ignore science at our peril.

The rejection of science and refusal to see facts as the non-partisan things that they are have consequences, as Jerry Falwell Jr. – and his students at Liberty University in Virginia – are painfully learning. Put simply, viruses don’t care whether you believe in them or not. They will wreak their havoc either way. 

REMOVE TESTING FROM THE HANDS OF PROFIT

From Diane Ravitch
in Noted education scholar says parents now more aware of vital role of schools, by Maureen Downey.

The profit motive won’t create better tests. Teachers who know their students will.

If federal and state leaders gave any thought to change, they would drop the federal mandate for annual testing because it is useless and pointless. Students should be tested by their teachers, who know what they taught. If we can’t trust teachers to know their students, why should we trust distant corporations whose sole motive is profit and whose products undermine the joy of teaching and learning?

IT’S POVERTY — STILL

From Jitu Brown, National Director for the Journey for Justice Alliance
in One Question: What Policy Change Would Have the Biggest Impact on Alleviating Poverty?

The fact that poor children are suffering more during the current world crisis than wealthy students should not be surprising. We have always neglected our poor children.

According to the United Nations, America ranks twenty-first in education globally among high-income nations. When you remove poverty, the United States is number two. This tells me that America knows how to educate children, but refuses to educate the poor, the black, brown, and Native American.

NO MATTER WHAT THEY CALL IT, IT’S NOT PRESCHOOL

From Rhian Evans Allvin, CEO of NAEYC,
in Making Connections. There’s No Such Thing as Online Preschool

Using public dollars intended for early childhood education to give children access to a 15-minute-per-day online program does not expand access to preschool. It doesn’t address the crisis in the supply of quality, affordable child care. It doesn’t help parents participate in the workforce. And it doesn’t help families choose an “alternative” option for or version of pre-K because it is something else entirely. To what extent we want to encourage parents to access online literacy and math curricula to help their 3- and 4-year-olds prepare for school is a conversation for another column. In this one, the only question is whether these technology-based programs can be “preschool”—and the answer is no.

ACCESS TO BOOKS

From P.L. Thomas
in Misreading the Reading Wars Again (and Again)

Proponents of whole language and balanced literacy have never said that phonics wasn’t important. What they do say, however, is that other things are important, too.

Test reading is reductive (and lends itself to direct phonics instruction, hint-hint), but it is a pale measure of deep and authentic reading, much less any student’s eagerness to read.

Because of the accountability movement, then, and because of high-pressure textbook reading programs, we have for decades ignored a simple fact of research: the strongest indicator of reading growth in students is access to books in the home (not phonics programs).

A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP

From Russ Walsh
in Hula Dancing, Singing and a Teacher’s Impact

Over the years I’ve had several former students relate to me what they remembered from my class. I had a student tell me how important an art project was as a connection to his father. Another student thanked me for helping her during a difficult time in her family. A student who grew up to be a teacher and taught in my district told me that she was reading the same book to her students that I read to her class. Many students, in fact, talked about my reading aloud to them as the most important thing they remember. And a student remembered how I had trusted her to clean off the top of my desk every day after school.

I never had a student come to me and thank me for teaching them how to multiply…or spell “terrible”…or take a standardized test…or count syllables in a word. I take that as a compliment.

The messages we send to kids last a lifetime and they are not often about the times table or coordinating conjunctions or how many planets are in the skies. It is the personal messages and connections that are remembered. It is the belief a teacher instills that we can do that resonates through the years. It is that one book that made a special impression that we remember. That is a lesson we all must take into every interaction we have with a child.

SAY HELLO

From John Prine
in Hello in There

Thanks, and good night, JP.

So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello.”

🎧🎤🎧

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Filed under EdTech, music, OnlineLearning, PositiveRelationships, poverty, Preschool, Quotes, reading, retention, Science, Testing

Musical Interlude: Bags Meets Wes

Today would have been Milt Jackson’s 97th birthday.

Jackson, who died in 1999, was a jazz vibraphonist and one of my teenage musical heroes. He was the reason that, in the mid-sixties, I bought myself a set of vibes…which I never learned to play well and finally sold.

Jackson, nicknamed “Bags” by a friend, was born in Detroit in 1923 and grew up surrounded by music. He was a singer but switched to the vibes when he heard Lionel Hampton. He was “discovered” by Dizzy Gillespie, and worked his way up the ranks playing with notables such as Woody Herman, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Parker.

He founded the Modern Jazz Quartet in the early 1950s with drummer Kenny Clarke (who you may not have heard of but who was a jazz percussion innovator), pianist John Lewis, and bassist Ray Brown.

One of my favorite Milt Jackson albums was the one he did with another of my youthful heroes, Wes Montgomery.

Here are two of my favorite tracks from the album Bags Meets Wes — Stairway to the Stars, and Delilah. Enjoy.

Stairway to the Stars:

Delilah:

For both tracks…

Milt Jackson — vibraphone
Wes Montgomery — guitar
Philly Joe Jones — drums
Sam Jones – bass
Wynton Kelly — piano

More on YouTube.

🎼🎸🎧

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Sunday Music Interlude – Bach

From the website of Helene Schulthess

Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 for Organ by J. S. Bach.

Composition date unknown. There are some suggestions that the piece wasn’t written for organ…and that it wasn’t written by Bach at all. No original manuscripts have been found.

See Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565

🎵🎶🎵

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It’s All About Growth

LOSING

One of my favorite bloggers, Peter Greene, is on his second set of children…his older children are in their thirties and he is the father of twin babies. It’s normal, I think, that we look back at our lives with a certain amount of nostalgia and Greene does this in a beautiful and thoughtful way in his post, Parenting Is All About Losing.

My wife asked me the other day, “Is it always like this?” We had turned around and had one of those moments when you realize that your baby looks like a small child, an undersized person, but not an infant any more. It’s a truly mixed moment emotionally, one part pride and joy at how big your child has grown, and one part sadness and loss because there was an infant just here a moment ago and now that tiniest person is gone forever.

There are conflicting emotions accompanying our children’s growth…

Not that it’s all loss and sadness. Every stage of my older children’s lives was the best so far, the best until the next new stage revealed itself to be even better. They get stronger and wiser and more terribly beautiful each time. It would never be enough to try to hold them back, to trade the unnatural prolonging of one stage for an unrealized better stage to come. Not that some parents don’t panic and try some emotional equivalent of binding their children’s legs so they won’t learn to walk or run. It never works. Children were born to grow, and grow they will, with or without our help.

So, he acknowledges that the emotions are conflicted and there are some good aspects to those changes, yet he titles his piece Parenting Is All About Losing, perhaps unconsciously emphasizing the negative.

I’d like to, respectfully, turn that around, and focus on the positive. Parenting is all about growing…for the parent and the child.

GROWING AND THE CIRCLE

My first thoughts on reading his post brought me to Joni Mitchell’s The Circle Game.

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

We can’t go back, but we can watch our children grow. One stage is over and the next one appears without fanfare until we realize we’re seeing a new version of our child (and, I would add, ourselves). We never noticed the change until it was upon us.

There’s some comfort that we’re repeating the growth that our own parents experienced as we watch our children grow from childhood to adulthood. Greene recognizes this when he thinks about his own adult children.

…it is an unspeakably great big warm ball of blasting sunshine to experience your children as grown humans, fully themselves and making their way in the world.

At this point, however, he returns to “the losing.”

I wouldn’t. As I have seen my own children become “grown humans, fully themselves and making their way in the world” I would prefer to reflect on the ways we have grown together. They have, without doubt, taught me as much as I have taught them. I have grown as much as they have. There’s nostalgia in the past, but as Joni Mitchell put it,

There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through

The positive side is that things can get better and there are plenty of new dreams, no matter how old I get. Some of those new dreams are trivial, like seeing the latest season of Star Trek, and hoping that the Cubs will win another World Series in less than 108 years. Other dreams, though, are profound…and remarkable, like hearing my great-grandchild learn to talk, and seeing my children and grandchildren work to make a better world.

GROWING AS TEACHERS

As educators, we see the same pattern. Greene writes,

Teachers go through the cycle of loss, too…

I always experienced a sense of sadness at the end of the school year and I had to say goodbye to my students — even the difficult-to-teach ones. When teachers look back at a year filled with 20 – 30 human children we see the growth they made and feel that same sort of nostalgic joy and sorrow. We see a different version in June of the child who entered our class the previous fall.

Spending six-plus hours a day together, for five days a week, and thirty-six weeks is an intense experience that non-teachers might not be aware of. The relationship between a teacher and her students is more than just an adult exchanging information with a child. It’s more than just teach and test. There’s a relationship which develops that goes both ways…a deep understanding of who the person is on the other end of the pencil. (If you don’t understand this relationship or have never experienced it, read through Beverly Cleary’s classic Ramona the Pest. The relationship between Ramona and her teacher, Miss Binney, should be explanation enough.)

Our growth as teachers, though, should be positive, too. Yes, it’s sometimes sad and hard to watch students move on with their lives…and often we never know how their lives progressed. Still, we have to trust that the growth is positive…for us and for them.

A few years ago I wrote a post about meeting a former student. We talked about the experiences we shared when she was eight and nine years old. I wrote,

She didn’t thank me for helping her learn to read. She didn’t thank me for helping her pass the achievement test. She didn’t thank me for helping her learn her math facts. She thanked me for being a kind and caring adult who helped her during a difficult time.

There is so much more to education than tests and standards. Children learn much more than can ever be put on a standardized test. Teachers – living, breathing, actual human beings – make the learning process part of life. One of the most important aspects of the education of our children is the relationship between teacher and child.

No test can ever measure that.

Teachers don’t always know how they affect a student’s life. I have been lucky to meet a few former students and learn that I had a positive impact on their lives, but that doesn’t always happen. We have to do our best and hope that we provide more positive than negative. Building good relationships helps ensure that the balance will lean more toward the positive. In the process of building those relationships, the positive impact will land upon the teacher as well. Teachers and their students, both, are part of each other’s circle game…

⚾️🌎🍩

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Musical Interlude: A Concert of Mozart Concertos

(Edited and reposted from last year)

Today is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 262nd birthday.

Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria in 1756. In past years, I showcased some of his early works…a piano piece he wrote when he was five, his first symphony written at age eight, and his first opera written when he was eleven!

Aside from being precocious, he was also versatile. Mozart wrote more than two dozen piano concertos, five violin concertos, four horn concertos, as well as concertos for bassoon, flute, clarinet, trumpet, cello, and various combinations of instruments. In all, Mozart wrote more than 600 pieces of music in his short life of 35 years…

Here are five of his concertos (some complete, some excerpts)…for Horn, Bassoon, Oboe, Clarinet, and Flute. The definition of “concerto” has changed over the centuries and continues to be loosely defined, but generally, a concerto has three movements in which one solo instrument is featured. Accompaniment is usually with an orchestra or chamber orchestra. [FYI, a symphony can resemble a concerto in style and format, however, usually a concerto highlights one solo instrument throughout.]

The nice thing about these videos is that they are of live performances. Enjoy watching the musicians – soloists, orchestra members, and conductors – dance in their own special ways to the music. Most are “head dancers” but quite a few of them move their arms or sway at the waist. Very few, if any, keep still while they play.

Mozart’s four horn concertos rank among my favorites pieces of music…

Here is Horn Concerto #1 (here is a link to all four)

…the complete Bassoon Concerto.

The first movement of the Oboe Concerto…

…the first movement of the Clarinet Concerto…

…and the first Flute Concerto.

🎼🎼🎼

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Musical Interlude: Mozart, #261

Today is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 261st birthday.

He was born in Salzburg, Austria in 1756. Mozart composed his first symphony at age 8…his first opera at 11. Last year, I showcased some of his early works…a piano piece he wrote when he was five and his first symphony.

Aside from being precocious, he was also versatile. Mozart wrote more than two dozen piano concertos, five violin concertos, four horn concertos, as well as concertos for bassoon, flute, clarinet, trumpet, cello, and various combinations of instruments. In all, Mozart wrote more than 600 pieces of music in his short life of 35 years…

Here are five of his concertos (some complete, some excerpts)…for Horn, Bassoon, Oboe, Clarinet, and Flute. The definition of “concerto” has changed over the centuries and continues to be loosely defined, but generally, a concerto has three movements in which one solo instrument is featured. Accompaniment is usually with an orchestra or chamber orchestra. [FYI, a symphony can resemble a concerto in style and format, however, usually a concerto highlights one solo instrument throughout.]

The nice thing about these videos is that they are of live performances. Enjoy watching the musicians – soloists, orchestra members, and conductors – dance in their own special ways to the music. Most are “head dancers” but quite a few of them move their arms or sway at the waist. Very few, if any, are still while they play.

Mozart’s four horn concertos rank among my favorites pieces of music…

Here is Horn Concerto #1 (here is a link to all four)

…the complete Bassoon Concerto.

The first movement of the Oboe Concerto…

…the first movement of the Clarinet Concerto…

…and the first Flute Concerto.

🎼🎼🎼

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2017 Medley #2

Retention in Grade, Poverty, Lead Poisoning, Testing, DeVos, Read Aloud, Musical Interlude

END RETENTION IN GRADE LAWS

Time to Eliminate 3rd Grade Retention

States continue to adopt third grade retention laws. They do it based on the erroneous reasoning that since kids who don’t learn to read by third grade have the most trouble in school, it makes sense to retain the ones who can’t read by third grade. This is another case of confusing correlation with causation. Promoting third graders with reading problems to fourth grade is not the cause of poor reading skills. The problem begins much earlier than third grade.

The answer to the “reading problem” is twofold First, we need to spend enough money to catch children with problems early in their school career, pre-school, if possible. Intensive intervention, when started early enough, can help most children. Second, many school failures are caused by the conditions of poverty…emotional or physical trauma, lead poisoning (see Lead Exposure and Racial Disparities in Test Scores, below), etc. Dealing with the high rate of childhood poverty in the U.S. will go a long way to solving our low achievement problems.

Rob Miller discusses the issue on his blog…

Please don’t tell me that “third grade retention is working” because state reading scores in 3rd or 4th grade have increased slightly. One or two years of data based on a multiple choice test with constantly changing standards is not convincing.

As I’ve shared before, recent short-term increases in fourth grade state or national reading scores are thoroughly predictable, given the fact that most of the lower scoring readers have been removed from the sample, or are tested a full year later than normal.

Who will be around eight to ten years from now to talk with these same students about the long-term effects of grade retention? Will they come back to share with us the number of dropouts in the class of 2025 who were subjected to retention in third grade?

Long term studies show that short term gains drop away after three or four years, and by the time a child is four years past his “retention year” he is just as far behind – or further – than before.

Miller says that he has misgivings about social promotion, but in my experience, there are very few cases where retaining a child is the best option. The best option is usually intensive intervention.

Retaining students is a shortcut answer to a problem that actually works against our goals as educators. We would do better to attend to struggling students with programmatic changes than with this mean-spirited “hold them back” approach.

Don’t misread what I am saying. I also have misgivings relative to blanket practices of social promotion. There are children for whom grade retention is the best option to address the unique social and academic needs of a child.

This issue simply illustrates the problems associated with bureaucrats at the state and national level establishing mandates that strip local teachers and administrators from making the best decisions for individual children.

POVERTY MATTERS

The Long Shadow of Poverty and School Segregation by Income

Teachers struggle daily to help children learn. We could help them by focusing on the high level of child poverty in America.

Family background is of great importance for school achievement; the influence of the family does not appear to diminish over the child’s school years. Neither the impact of one school or another nor the impact of facilities nor the impact of curriculum is as great as the impact of the student’s family background. Of in-school factors that matter to children, the teacher is the most important. Finally, “the social composition of the student body is more highly related to achievement, independent of the student’s own social background, than is any school factor.”

Lead Exposure and Racial Disparities in Test Scores

If we were serious about helping our children learn, we would be dealing with the causes of low achievement, child poverty and its concomitant problems.

One major issue facing children who live in poverty is environmental toxins in general, and lead poisoning in particular. It’s expensive to clean up, but which of our children aren’t worth some expense to ensure healthy brain development?

We find that since 1997, when the state of RI instituted measures to reduce lead hazards in the homes of RI families, lead levels fell across the state, but significantly more so for African American children. This is likely because their lead levels were considerably higher than other children in the state in 1997, including other low income children, and African American families were disproportionately located in high concentration poverty areas where outreach efforts were focused. We find that this translated into reductions in the black-white test score gap in RI witnessed over this period.

“REFORM”

7 Educational Reforms Needed in 2017

“Standardized tests shold only be used to track student progress, not to indicate teacher accountability.” Exactly.

1. Decrease the Number of Standardized Tests
Notice I suggest fewer standardized tests as opposed to no standardized tests. Standardized tests do have their place in education, but like with anything else, too much is overkill. Perhaps student progress can be tracked every 3 years as opposed to every year. This would save many states a great deal of money and students a great deal of stress. Furthermore, standardized tests should only be used to track student progress, not to indicate teacher accountability. There are other, more effective means to measure a teacher’s worth, such as observations, lesson plan reviews, and student surveys.

Op-Ed Forget charter schools and vouchers — here are five business ideas school reformers should adopt

“Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality,” Deming wrote. “Routine inspection becomes unreliable through boredom and fatigue.” That recommendation should be applied to the annual testing of students in reading and math mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 and reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015.

Instead of “routine inspection,” Deming urged detailed analysis of small samples. Bucking widespread practice, the Finns do exactly that, with high-quality exams administered to small groups of students. Teachers consequently feel no pressure to “teach to the test,” students get a well-rounded education and administrators gain superior understanding of student progress. Finnish teens score at or near the top of international educational assessments.

MORE ON DEVOS

The Red Queen

One of the most complete exposés of the oligarchy in Michigan led by the DeVos’s. This is a long article…worth spending the time it takes to read!

By the measures that are supposed to matter, Betsy DeVos’ experiment in disrupting public education in Michigan has been a colossal failure. In its 2016 report on the state of the state’s schools, Education Trust Midwest painted a picture of an education system in freefall. *Michigan is witnessing systematic decline across the K-12 spectrum…White, black, brown, higher-income, low-income—it doesn’t matter who they are or where they live.* But as I heard repeatedly during the week I recently spent crisscrossing the state, speaking with dozens of Michiganders, including state and local officials, the radical experiment that’s playing out here has little to do with education, and even less to do with kids. The real goal of the DeVos family is to crush the state’s teachers unions as a means of undermining the Democratic party, weakening Michigan’s democratic structures along the way. And on this front, our likely next Secretary of Education has enjoyed measurable, even dazzling success.

More Baloney in Support of DeVos

The Finnish philosophy of education is that you may choose whatever public school you want for your child, but because they are all excellent you can be assured that choosing your local school will be a good choice.

Instead of closing schools, wasting money on vouchers and charters, and disrupting children’s education, we need to invest in all our public schools. If children are struggling to achieve, then we need to give their school more resources, not strip it of funding.

All children should NOT have “access” to high performing schools. Every passenger on the Titanic had “access” to a lifeboat, but only a few got to ride in one (or on a door). All children should have a good school. All children should be in a good school. Why the hell is the formulation always, “We think this school si failing, and that’s unfair to the students in it, so we’re going to rescue 5% of those children and do nothing to help the rest, including doing nothing to improve the school we’re leaving them in.” How is that a solution??!!

READING ALOUD

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

For your encouragement.

Bob Dylan wrote “The Times They Are a Changin'” in 1963.  I think that after fifty-three years we need it again…

“This song was written at a moment in our country’s history when people’s yearning for a more open and just society exploded. Bob Dylan had the courage to stand in that fire and he caught the sound of that explosion. This song remains as a beautiful call to arms…” – Bruce Springsteen, 1997

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