Saving Education(s) In Tacoma with Friendly New School Mascots

Imagining SAMI and SOTA School PEP! Also the DIY Science Fair Miracle of Thermite!
posted May 31, 2011
educations, tacoma, tacomic, sami, sota, mascots, school spirit, teens
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Recently the Weekly Volcano hosted a round table pizza discussion on EDUCATIONS IN TACOMA. Since I can't read the Volcano due to current BOYCOTT THE WEEKLY VOLCANO commitments (because of their advertising contract with Clear Channel Outdoor), I hosted a META round table pizza discussion on Fac3BOOK with some of the most political/educated fellows I could think of:  Professor Andrew Fry of UW Tacoma, Matt Driscoll's Wife Jennifer Driscoll, Tacoma Mama, Chris "The Wedge" Van Vechten, and Jessica Smeall. If you remember this venn diagram, educations played pretty hot and heavy in the last election. I opened the discussion pondering the best school mascots for Tacoma's new SAMI and SOTA schools.   Also here are some of my favorite Copy/Paste responses... 

Chris Van Vechten: Thought #1 - Tom L. Hilyard, either was misquoted or didn't answer question #2. To say that we need to allocate funding to the result we want, not the issue we recognize, is not an answer to the question "what get Tacoma School District do about the achievement gap." Citing a specific program for the district to invest in would be better.
Thought #2 - Patrick Erwin's Lincoln Center is both pragmatic and successful. Only problem with it as that it hasn't been replicated at the middle school and elementary school level. The focus needs to be on improving students reading and math skills though - not so much their GPAs. I'm in law school now, and we are graded on a murderous curve. There are 500 students in my class, only 25 of whom are allowed to get As on our curve. That means that the bulk of us are getting Bs and Cs. For students who have never gotten anything but As in their life (which is how most of them got into law school) the first semester's exam is a demoralize experience that convinces many students to give up. I too find that I do not try as hard in my 4th semester as I did in my first, because I know I cannot climb to the top like I used to. I therefore don't forth the effort I used to. It's no different for kids in middle or high school. They know that when it comes to math, they're not A students and so they quit. Grades do so much more harm than good, and viewing the achievement gap through the lens of grades sets most students - White and Black - up to fail. I do endorse testing students' individual aptitude and charting improvement, but using grades to assign value to a student's abilities is always a lose/lose move.
Thought #3 - Tom L. Hilyard Yes, tracking is horrible. I can't believe districts still do it.
Thought #4 - Catherine Ushka-Hall - nice observation on the opt-in phenomenon. Instead of developing alternative schools, why are we not 
implementing more alternative curriculums within the same schools. In other words, SAMI could have been an alternative curriculum housed at Stadium and SOTA could have been an alternative track at, say Lincoln or Mt. T.
Thought #5 - Tom L. Hilyard "I think every student in the K-12 experience ought to have an individualized education plan. There ought to be accountability to that plan that shows the plan has a reality - that it can be accomplished with the kinds of resources you devote to it and that you measure it to ensure that the resources are being used to do that." I had no idea you were a democratic education fan too?!? 
Thought #6 - Patrick Erwin - I truly believe that the best way to evaluate teachers is to implement a system of student evaluation similar to what goes on in college. This is not a radical idea. In our grandparents day, 13 year old boys and girls worked 50 hours a week in factories and mines where adults depended on their skill and maturity to ensure that everyone went home at the end of the night. Child soldiers have enlisted and and continue to enlist in countries across the globe. Students may not be adults, but they are not children either and they know better than anyone whether or not a teacher is effective. The fact that they do not play a role in the evaluation process is a HUGE mistake that Tacoma should take the lead in correcting. I never had a science teacher in my life that was worth keeping, all were eventually fired but only after years of incompetence. [sic]

Paul Schrag: I would like to contend that the most important present matter impacting the future of Tacoma is a grocery store downtown, which will act as a magnet for nice, suburban families that are desperately needed to change public perception that Tacoma is a poor community filled with crime and other kinds of ickiness. Other than that, great article. [sic]

Jessica Smeall: There's an important thing missing from this discussion--parents. fact is: parents are responsible for their kids' education. public schools are not an automatic "be lazy" card for parents. it's the parents responsibility for their children to grow up safe, healthy & educated. public schools are a terrific tool for parents, but there have been complaints about public school performance in Tacoma for decades & decades. it's time we have an academy for parents that shows them how to be the 3rd partner in the school--kid--parent partnership [sic]

RR Anderson: How do we make education interesting to the group of Mason teenagers that hang out in puget park every day smoking pot?

Professor Andrew Fry: My experience with K-12 has been through my four kids and my volunteer time with grade schools (and some times middle schools) teaching origami. The last ten years have been with the UWT at the Institute of Technology and with the continued education I pursue for myself. I have been impressed with the quality from Crescent Heights Elementary, Meeker and Stadium. In my opinion all of them are fine schools. I have a high regard for the classes I have taken at the University in the Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and have seen first hand the value that the Computer Science, Computer Engineering and Information Technology degrees bring to the graduates from those programs. Those entering the work force with CS, CE and IT degrees are being sought out by industry and being offered excellent starting salaries.
What I have found: 
  1. Parent involvement is a critical factor. When the parents take time with their kids it is a game changer. When the parents don't show interest or are in circumstances where it is difficult time wise, the teacher is the the life preserver for that child.
  2. As the kids get older, they need to want the education they are being provided. That means at the minimum, they have to have an understanding that it is an opportunity for them, not a burden. This needs to be communicated in the curriculum and in the everyday approach to class time.
  3. That an education takes effort, and that the effort has rewards that are more than just monetary must be understood. Education can and should be interesting and hopefully enjoyable, but there is no disguising that it is NOT something that is handed over.
  4. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. STEM. Not everyone will be drawn to these as their main focus, but everyone should be grounded in the fundamentals. If someone has a proclivity for success in math and science by all means encouragement and support should be given. 
  5. Support the arts. [sic]

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