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Jul. 13 2010 — 11:44 pm | 69 views | 0 recommendations | 6 comments

Signing off: The final Report Card

As many of you probably know from visiting True/Slant over the past couple of months, the site recently was purchased by Forbes. Lots of changes are in store, one of them being that the services of many current T/S writers (myself included) will no longer be needed as of August 1. Since I begin a new job next week and am redoubling my efforts to (finally) complete my dissertation, I’m saying goodbye a little early.

I’d like to thank True/Slant for providing me with a wonderful opportunity over the past 11 months. A year ago, I never would have imagined having a blog to my name, sharing my ideas and opinions with strangers across the Internet. I’m grateful to Katie Drummond, who was open to my pitch for The Report Card and helped me get on my feet early on, never getting annoyed despite my barrage of questions. Thanks also to Coates Bateman and Michael Roston, who provided me with feedback, story ideas, and encouragement.

Most of all, thanks to everyone who took time to read this page, especially family members, friends, and other T/S contributors who came regularly to the page in the beginning when I didn’t know what I was doing. I also appreciate those readers who took the time to add their comments at the end of my posts, helping me and other readers deepen our understanding of issues.

I’m not sure what exactly happens on August 1–if this page ceases to exist entirely, or if my posts will still be available–so if you’re interested in revisiting any favorite columns I’ve included an index below. Enjoy, and au revoir!


Week of October 12, 2009

Week of October 19, 2009

Week of October 26, 2009

Week of November 2, 2009

Week of November 11, 2009

Week of November 22, 2009

February 9, 2010

The education quotation of the year (seven months early)

My Reading List

September Edition

February Edition

Education Reform

Just released: 2009 PDK/Gallup Poll

Wanted: Education reform…Reward: $$$

In defense of No Child Left Behind

Why Obama and Arne will get their way with teachers’ unions

The NCLB limbo: How low can states go?

Blow the whole thing up and start from scratch! (Or not)

National education standards are here, and it’s about time

The continued vilification of No Child Left Behind

How should Obama fix No Child Left Behind?

Urban Education

Update on the Harlem Children’s Zone

Vexing questions about math scores in Detroit

Kansas City’s cutbacks are a warning to the entire country

Urban education as you’ve never seen it

High school hell, from a student’s perspective


What Chicago gangs and Al-Qaeda have in common

Can anything be done about gang violence in Chicago?

Preventing violence in Chicago schools: A video update

Literacy/Early Childhood Education

Lunches and literacy: America’s stubborn insistence on paying to fix problems rather than prevent them

The latest national security threat? Inadequate early childhood education

The lesson Haiti should teach us about funding preschool

Why our future national security depends on funding Yemeni and American schools

Elementary School

Is elementary school what America does best?

Are America’s elementary schools getting it wrong?

Putting recess before lunch (How did we manage to do this backward for so long?)


Convincing high school students to give it the old college try

What the heck are these kids thinking?

A Florida State University scandal that actually matters

Do U.S. colleges lack confidence in the country’s K-12 students and teachers?

The Harvard you don’t know

The conversation you and your 18-year-old need to have over the holidays

17 things high school grads need to consider before leaving for college

What’s the point of our universities?

Hail to the Victors Valiant!

The promise and pitfalls of community colleges

Should college students be allowed to carry guns on campus?

High school seniors, cell phones, and the art of waiting

Was Chris Rock wrong about community college?

Wait a second…Now kids don’t need to go to college?

What should happen to college kids who are illegal immigrants?

Should plumbers and hairdressers go to college?


Can NFL film study help teachers improve?

The illogical argument against teacher merit pay

Why too many unsuccessful students become teachers

Why teachers will never make as much money as lawyers

Who has the tougher job–teachers or lawyers?

NYC decides paying teachers to not teach is a bad idea

A few words from Dennis Miller on teacher-student sex

Letter to an unemployed teacher


Obama talks about Malia’s test scores

A program for better parenting (and why conservatives oppose it)

Who’s responsible–parents or schools?

There’s no compromising with Obama on this issue

The young parents’ guide to teaching kids to read

Is it good parenting to encourage your kid to drop out of high school?


A short history of the term “achievement gap” (or is it “gaps”?)

Parenting, race, and student performance in school

College degrees don’t prevent racial discrimination

Is affirmative action making a comeback in California?


Should we expect schools to equalize our society?

Should schools mix rich and poor kids for the greater good? (part 2)

Should schools mix rich and poor kids for the greater good? (part 4)

Columns for GOOD (the website “for people who give a damn”)

Sandra Bullock’s new movie and a call to volunteerism

The ABCs of struggling schools

A tutor for every child–pipe dream or possibility?

When is it too early to say, “Your child is failing”?


PBS airing special on school principals

Building a windmill in Africa, MacGyver style

The Simpsons takes on education

A “Supreme” (and educational!) new computer game

Arne Duncan on The Colbert Report

Google for Educators: Free stuff for students, teachers, and parents

How did everything about the world change in 6 years?

PBS news resource for teens

A last-minute Christmas gift that will help teachers, kids, and your karma

Should college professors be allowed to digitally rewrite textbooks?

Why every parent should watch Adam Sandler’s new movie

The Report Card

Introduction to The Report Card

The Report Card: 100 Days In

The Report Card’s best month yet!

Personal Favorites

Pink is for boys, blue is for girls

Your child’s test scores aren’t as good as they look

Can 36 hours on campus change a high schooler’s life?

The real reason Americans complain about taxes

Rush Limbaugh mocks, demeans NJ students protesting teacher cuts


Could charter schools use a little bureaucracy?

England’s education bureaucracy

My wish for 2010: That we get our facts straight!

Why home schooling may harm our democracy

Do schools teach a “true” version of American history?

Is it possible to teach non-partisan, non-ideological history?

Does volunteering mean you care about your community?

Teach For America versus bad journalism

Coming soon: computer engineer Barbie

The best investment in education: A class of one

Mad at Texas? No worries…it’s California to the rescue!

Do America’s students deserve a bailout?

Jul. 10 2010 — 12:26 am | 200 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

What should happen to college kids who are illegal immigrants?

In recent weeks, debate has heated up around the issue of immigration–from proposed legislation in Arizona to deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants who are born on U.S. soil, to a small Nebraska town voting to approve a ban on hiring or renting property to illegal immigrants, to well-reasoned ideas about how to help recent immigrants integrate into American society. And, of course, there is the partisan rancor over comprehensive immigration reform, as well as over Arizona’s new law concerning illegal immigration.

But what I find most interesting is the issue of students who are illegal immigrants. Recent stories in the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, and Boston Globe have focused on this group of children–brought to the United States by their parents, successfully integrating into American society, in part through attending grade school and/or high school here, and preparing for, attending, or graduating from college.

Below is an interview with Eric Balderas, the nearly-deported Harvard student who was profiled in the Boston Globe story mentioned above:

So, what should be done about children who are here illegally but want to take advantage of America’s higher education system? Call me simplistic, but I don’t think you can blame–or punish–kids for their parents’ actions. Imagine that an eight-year-old child is taken by his parents across the border illegally, a thousand miles away from the place where he grew up, and then spends the next ten years of his life living in North Carolina. He attends school, learns English, makes friends, and eventually graduates near the top of his high school class. Is it fair to prevent him from attending the country’s colleges and universities, or to withhold financial aid from that student? We need talented, driven people to become leaders and innovators in our country, and we cannot afford to turn away young people who have those qualities just because their parents made an illegal decision.

Jun. 30 2010 — 2:12 pm | 871 views | 1 recommendations | 5 comments

Why every parent should watch Adam Sandler’s new movie

I recently saw the movie Grown Ups, in which Adam Sandler’s character reunites at a lake cabin with some childhood friends. As a comedy, it’s a decent flick. But I think its real value lies in its message about parenting.

Sandler and the rest of his crew–Chris Rock, Kevin James, David Spade, and Rob Schneider–are in their mid-40s, which means they grew up in the 1970s and were full-fledged adults before ever coming into contact with cell phones, e-mail, and digital cable. This is reflected in their characters, who reminisce about playing outdoors as kids–as opposed to their own children, who seem happy only when viewing some kind of entertainment on a screen.

One of the friends with whom I saw Grown Ups blamed this on the fictional parents in the movie. If they saw so much value in being outdoors and playing with friends, she reasoned, they should have just raised their children with that in mind.

I agree with her, but I think that’s going to require a shift in how parents operate. My mom and dad are about a decade older than Sandler and company, and I’ve spoken quite a bit with them and their parents about what life was like when they grew up in the 1960s. The message I’ve gotten is that parents of that time basically threw their kids outside after school and during the summer, telling them to be home for dinner. This meant that groups of kids spent hours and hours playing outside in the park or the woods, making up games, and otherwise filling time creatively. There was little thought among parents about the positive or negative effects of doing this; it simply was how things were done across American society. There were tons of kids around most neighborhoods, most moms were home all day, parents didn’t fear that their children would be kidnapped if unsupervised, and children didn’t have that many competing entertainment options inside of their homes. In retrospect, it seems that this type of parenting worked out pretty well, but it wasn’t necessarily done because adults spent time considering if it was the best way to raise kids.

Today, technology is ubiquitous, and children spend about eight hours per day engaged with various forms of entertainment media. That is the new norm across society, which means that if adults take the same approach as their parents and grandparents–going with the flow and doing what other parents are doing, without much thought about the effects of how kids are spending their time–they likely will end up like the characters in Grown Ups: wondering why their children reject non-technology-driven activities.

Many parents I’ve spoken with over the years don’t have a particular plan for parenting as their children grow up, saying, “Kids will be kids.” That’s true to some extent, but a more complete version probably would be, “Kids will be certain types of kids based on the society/time period in which they grow up, the other kids with whom they spend time, and how parents mediate these two influences.” If one accepts this premise, then it is clear that parents today have to put in a lot more effort if they want their kids to grow up (at least to some extent) like they did–engaging with friends, exercising, and seeing sunlight, grass, and trees more than sitting in front of entertainment media. The plot of Grown Ups is a good starting point for this potential parenting shift, asking moms and dads:

1) What kind of kids do you want your kids to be?

2) What are you going to do about it?

Jun. 25 2010 — 9:15 am | 733 views | 1 recommendations | 3 comments

Letter to an unemployed teacher

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a reader, a young woman in New York City who went to an excellent university and has a master’s degree in teaching, but is currently unemployed. She asked if I had any advice that might help her secure a job in this tough economy. Following are excerpts from the message she sent to me, as well as my reply to her.

Dear Mr. Salmonowicz,

… After two semesters spent student teaching I was able to graduate and receive New York State Certification. Now, I’ve been on the job market for almost a year and I’m coming up empty everywhere I turn. I know that there are many budget problems facing schools across the country and I understand how many schools have their hands tied with hiring freezes. But I want to be a teacher. It’s what I want to dedicate my life to and I won’t stop until I’m able to get in a classroom.

Currently, I’ve been pouring over the job hunt boards (monster, indeed.com, idealist, craigslist) as well as registering with the NYC New Teacher Finder and CharterSchools.com, but from all those I’ve only received the nibble of a single phone interview. I was wondering if, in your experience, you’ve found it best to seek out the jobs before the schools post them. Would a principal find it beneficial or annoying for a new teacher to show up unexpectedly, cover letter and resume in hand? I know that as a previously certified teacher I am unable to apply for programs like NYC Teaching Fellows, but do you think it would be prudent to apply for Teach for America to try and jumpstart my teaching career?

I understand that these questions might seem irrelevent and individual, but there are hundreds of new teachers across the country who are certified but unable to work (I know dozens in my area alone). And, while I can only speak for myself, I’m starting to feel the end of my rope coming up mighty fast. I would throughly appreciate any advice you could give.”

I wrote back…

In response to your question, I’ll offer a few suggestions:

1) Your idea of joining Teach For America is a good one. Make sure you apply at the first deadline (the new aplication goes up in August, I believe), and spend a lot of time reading about TFA. Reading Wendy Kopp’s book, One Day, All Children, as well as Donna Foote’s book, Relentless Pursuit, will give you great insight into TFA’s history and what corps members go through during the experience.

2) Try KIPP (kipp.org/careers), as its charter schools have some openings in New York City. Also, this is a good site with job postings for all 125 NYC charter schools:  http://nyccharterschools.org/meet/work-in-a-charter-school. And, of course, make sure you’re on the substitute teacher lists for NYC public schools, NYC charter schools, and any private schools in the area (my guess is a top-notch private school would love to have someone with your educational background available as a sub).
3) Although this might not be a preferred option, you might consider moving to another state where the budget isn’t so bad and teaching opportunities exist. This may require taking new tests in that state, and moving far from New York, but it’s something to think about. You’re young, so this is a great time to explore other areas of the country–before marriage, a mortgage, kids, etc. Also, many people your age spend a year or two teaching English in South Korea or South America. I know a number of people who have done it and have had great experiences. You build your resume, you don’t take on any debt (which is a more cheerful way of saying you basically break even in terms of money), and you have a fun life experience.
4) If there’s a school that you really like, but they say they can’t hire you solely because of budget reasons (i.e., they’d hire you if they could), then volunteer there. Develop relationships with the administration and English teachers, and set yourself up for a position next year. I’ve never done this, and I don’t know anyone else who has done this, but it’s an idea. Similarly, your idea about just showing up at a school is a good one. It might not lead to a job right away, but you could make contacts, get advice from principals, and maybe even get connected to a job at another school.
5) If worse comes to worse, figure out a way to translate your skills into a job (or jobs) that might not involve classroom teaching this year. You could work for Kaplan doing test prep for the ACT, SAT, or GRE; work at a tutoring company set up to assist kids whose schools are low performing (these companies are called Supplemental Education Services, or SES: http://www2.ed.gov/nclb/choice/help/ses/index.html); tutor wealthy high school kids in the Hamptons for $50/hour, or help them with college and scholarship essays (and if you’re like me and feel like this gives rich kids even more of an advantage than they already have, then make sure you spend an equal amount of time volunteering your services to students at a high school in a low-income area); or spend a year working for an education non-profit like TFA or KIPP in their New York offices.

You’re obviously very talented if you went to such a great university, and you sound like you’re very committed to the profession, so I’m sure something will open up for you eventually. Just remember, in this economy volume matters a lot when applying for jobs. A good friend of mine graduated from law school last year, and in the months leading up to his graduation he sent out cover letters and resumes to 400 law firms. He got 25 interviews, and one job offer. This is probably the worst job market for new teachers in decades, so don’t get discouraged. Find ways to make yourself more marketable–by volunteering, doing education-related work, reading tons of education books, and enhancing your repertoire (e.g., creating differentiated lessons for books/units you know you’d teach under NY standards).
Good luck!”

If any readers have ideas for this talented young woman (as well as the thousands of other teachers who are searching for jobs right now), or if you disagree with the advice that I gave her, please post a comment below.

Jun. 25 2010 — 1:55 am | 37 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

When is it too early to say, “Your child is failing”?

In my experience, most people tend to believe that, in their early years, children should grow and develop at their own pace. Even the No Child Left Behind Act, often criticized for putting too much emphasis on standardization in teaching and learning, does not require students to be tested until the third grade. Yet the years from 0-8 are exactly when many children fall behind their peers, never again to catch up. So when should schools (and parents) intervene with young students who are behind their classmates academically? This question is the focus of my most recent column for GOOD, the website “for people who give a damn.” You can read it here.

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    About Me

    I'm a Teach For America alum and spent three years as a high school teacher on the west and south sides of Chicago. I've conducted research on turnaround schools with a team from the University of Virginia, consulted for school districts across the country, and done work with New Leaders for New Schools, the Consortium on Chicago School Research, and DonorsChoose.org. Currently I'm finishing my PhD from UVa's Curry School of Education.

    My work has been published in Education Week, the Phi Delta Kappan, and a number of academic journals, and I'm a co-author of the book Teachers' Guide to School Turnarounds. I also contribute monthly to GOOD, the website "for people who give a damn": www.good.is/community/MichaelSalmonowicz

    Learn more about my writing: http://sites.google.com/site/salmonowiczpubs

    E-mail: michael.salmonowicz@gmail.com

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    Contributor Since: September 2009
    Location:Chicago, IL

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    I am a contributor for GOOD, the website “for people who give a damn.” You can read my June column here. Past columns can be found here.