Thursday, July 23, 2015

Why I want to be . . .

My father was the first of his family to go to college. He completed 2 years at a junior college then entered the military. Mom graduated high school and worked before meeting Dad and quickly became an Army wife. Growing up, schooling in my house was not central to the discussions in our family. Often moving every 2 or 3 years, my parents – more my mo
m – excused our mediocre performance to this and the destructive cliché of “boys will be boys.”

The common theme in my early academic travels after school was rushing home with book bag in tow busting through the door slinging the bag into a corner and turning on the TV. Mom would have a snack ready, which would be received thanklessly, and in all earnestness she would ask, “How was your day at school?”

“Fine.” my brother and I would retort as we fought to pick which channel of the 10 we would watch until Dad would come home and we would surrender our dominion of the living room.

Fast  forward to high school – senior year. As the weeks turned into months, all of my friends were making plans for college. I didn’t have a clue. After 12 years of mediocrity, in the room of opportunity there weren’t many doors left for me. In a panic, I remember a conversation with my father.

 He was sitting in his chair. I said in all shaky confidence, “Dad, I want to go to college.”

He took a drink, turned the TV off, placed his drink on the TV tray where the leftovers of his dinner remained. He cleared his throat then rolled to his left and removed his wallet from his back pocket. He slowly opened it to the center billfold.

“Boy, I don’t have money to throw away on you for college. I’m not a fool. ”

I was stunned.

He continued, “Your not ready for college. You have no idea what you want to do or the discipline to make it happen.”

He went on for about 30 minutes, but I my 17 year old mind had tuned out after that.

I ended up spending 4 years in the Air Force behaving very badly. Spending my money carelessly and coming very close to a dishonorable discharge. Luckily I figured it out, but in all, he was right. I was not ready.  

Chelsea, Darby, London
Thankfully, early in my life I met a smart, driven women who didn’t see mediocrity in me and demanded growth in our relationship, family, and our careers. Education was and still is the foundation and driving force in our lives. I have taught for 18 years. Between us we have one associate, two bachelors, two masters, one EdS and one EDd. My daughters are all in the top 5% of their class and each have an immense room of opportunity with many many doors waiting for them. Now, two are in college on scholarship and the other on her way.

Nearly 1% of the world’s population holds a terminal degree.   That young man in my father’s basement has come a long way. I want to continue my journey in scholarship because that is where I found opportunity, love, family, and myself. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Waxing Nostalgic: NCLB

As a teacher who began his career in 1998, I can attest to the damage NCLB did to the teaching profession, education overall, and to the children left behind in the wake of a demanding, unyielding, bulwark of state and federal accountability. Informed by experience and the listed research, NCLB was a program that pressurized standardized testing unilaterally and redirected funding at the cost of educating our children.
The ideal of school accountability systems are designed to:
encourage educators to  align their instruction with important learning standards, foster the adoption of instructional techniques that produce measurable results in student learning, improve the quality of educators entering and remaining in schools, and inform educators and the public about how well students are learning various subjects and skills (Davidson, Reback, Rockoff, & Schwartz, 2013).
With this in mind, NCLB accomplished some of these, however, the pressure placed on schools and districts by federal mandates and state directives lined the pockets of test designing companies as schools and districts scrambled to create tests. This pressure forced schools to manipulate data and subgroup reporting to appear accountable, when in fact vast populations of students were underperforming and underserved (Davidson, et al., 2013).
            Funding also left vast amounts of students behind. At the risks of losing accreditation and students, underperforming schools in low-economic and urban areas ran the risk of losing Title I monies if AYP targets were not met. These monies would then be redirected to school outside the district to more affluent districts as school choice came in to play leaving the urban school under funded for the remaining students (Sanders, 2008). Moreover, school decisions to redirect funds away from non-assessed courses like the arts, physical education, history, and many other programs depleted these programs and sacrificed a future for those students within those programs to grow and flourish (Pederson, 2007).
            The impact of NCLB remains in question. While some research suggest positive impacts such as teacher quality and student performance (Davidson, et al, 2013), other research stress the negative effects on the schools and students left behind with a lack of funds, closings, cauterization to charter schools and more affluent schools (Sanders, 2008). Personally, “teaching to the test” effect was apparent in PLC, faculty meetings, and district professional development. Although always denied, the riptide of the accountability always held the noose of school closing above our heads. This looming doom impacted our teaching and relationships with our students.


Davidson, E., Reback, R., Rockoff, J. E., & Schwartz, H. L. (2013). Fifty ways to leave a child behind: Idiosyncrasies and discrepancies in states' implementation of NCLB. Cambridge: National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc. doi:
Pederson, P. (2007). What Is Measured Is Treasured: The Impact of the No Child Left Behind Act on Nonassessed Subjects. Clearing House, 80(6), 287–291. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database

Sanders, A. (2008). Left behind: Low-income students under the no child left behind act (NCLB). Journal of Law and Education,37(4), 589-596. Retrieved from

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Jumping in the Deep End

I like the mental activity involved in writing a poem. I write poetry. It is something that I have been toying with the past 10 years. I performed my poetry aloud for the first time last month. Since then the writing has flourished. I bought a journal and I discovered a poetry community in Erie and online. I even think I may have a book in me.

Shortly after the release of The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, my wife and I joined the movement and made our own bucket list. I found our lists earlier this year in some boxes I was unpacking from our move to Erie. The third entry on my list was to share my poems – CHECK.  Move up two entries and at number one - “Earn a doctorate”

When we made our lists, we shared them. We kept it to 10 things. As we moved alternating between each from the last to the first, we were pleased to see many items of similar or exact interest. When my wife shared the number one item on her list it too was “Earn my doctorate”.  We both laughed.

“It’s my turn.” She said, and it was. I had just finished my Master’s at George Mason University. And as our life pattern moves, it was her turn. That was 3 years ago; she defended in July and graduated in August.

Now I know through our discussion at the open house, you frown on having candidates suggest that their only reason to enter the program is to earn a doctorate for the sake of a doctorate. I would be remiss to say that this is a little part of why I am doing this. To qualify this: it is on the top of my list and it is my turn.

That said, you must understand my marriage. We are both educators who firmly believe in the 10,000 hours idea of expertise. I am a master teacher with 10,000 hours of sought after expertise in technology integrations. I presented throughout Virginia and now in Pennsylvania. However, this expertise does not translate in the field I hope to enter. This past summer, there was a slue of university job opportunities throughout the state looking for Instructional Technologists, Instructional Technology Specialists, and Online Technology Integrators, to each my resume failed to translate my ability to train adults, create online content, and integrate technologies in the classroom. This both angered and frustrated me. I considered becoming certified in software platforms and or seeking accreditation from the state.

My wife and I discussed this over weeks and it came down to this:
“What do you want to do?” she pushed.
“I want to be noticed and respected.” I returned.

We unpacked what this meant and in short, I don’t want to settle now for specialist’s positions. I want to have influence to change things structurally on an institutional level. Whether it is at the university level or in a public school district as a Director of Technology.  I am seeking a larger sphere of influence.

So as I continue to write and share my poetry and save for my motorcycle, my focus is here - focused on my number one – my doctorate. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sputnik Responsible for Standardized Testing?

Image result for sputnik 1957One of the most significant historical and scientific changes to directly impact and shift the field of education and thus its thought and philosophy was the space race of the 1950’s and 60’s.

Prior to the 1950’s the schools of idealism and realism permeated. John Dewey’s work in Progressivism marked a current into the pragmatic. However, when the Russians launched Sputnik, and the blips of the satellite could be heard over American radio, America felt exposed, threatened, and deficient. The fear of falling further behind in math, science, and engineering, Sputnik set a purpose to education.

Congress acted quickly and established the National Defense Education Act of 1958. “This funded new science education equipment for primary and secondary schools, as well as loans to college students in science and related fields. The budget of the National Science Foundation, formed in 1955, tripled the year after Sputnik's launch” (Rissing, 2007). Accompanied by duck and cover rehearsals, the emergence of bomb shelters, and daily air raid sirens, the Space Race had begun. New realist curricula focused on math and science sprouted up to the meet the needs of the country.

However rationale or irrational, this Cold War atmosphere did not celebrate the individual or the individuals experience. The Realist curriculum emphasized the physical world to now include that, which was far beyond the clouds – the stars and beyond. Schools focused on a mastery of facts and basic skills. Content was organized systematically within a discipline, demonstrating use of criteria in making decisions (Cohen, 1999). Not far off was the ebbing of standardization – thanks Sputnik! (Kidding, sort of)

Cohen, L. (1999). Four General or World Philosophies. Oregon State University, Education. OSU.
Rissing, S. (2007, October 2). Launch changed U.S. science, math education. The Columbus Dispatch.