On the advice of blogging experts, I am making an effort to make the blog more vibrant by including an image or video (or both) to every post. I dabble in photography and often use my own images, but I refer to some stock photo sites for images as well. Since I have no budget for this, I choose only photos licensed for free distribution. As a courtesy, I email the photographer to let them know when I use an image and say thank you. I usually get a response “Thanks for letting me know! Cool blog.” and that is about it. I did the same thing for my post of December 9, documenting the fact that my son was not selected in the Wissahickon Charter lottery.
The response that I got back was amazing.
The photographer, Kristine Kisky, is a Seattle parent who started her son (whose image was featured in my blog post) in Kindergarten at a Seattle Public School and then pulled him out and began homeschooling. It sounds like her experience is similar to many Philadelphia parents who are conflicted about sending their kids to city public schools. Unfortunately, Washington State doesn’t have a charter school program, so there are fewer options for her than we have here. Anyway, she is documenting her adventures on her own blog, Magnolia Preparatory Academy which is well worth reading.
That was all just a way too long introduction to this great video that she shared with me. It is an insightful lecture which would make this video compelling to watch in and of itself. However, the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts (RSA) that produced the video, takes audio from lectures and adds highly entertaining animations that actually contribute to the lecture’s impact. This particular video is on the topic of education reform was adapted from a talk given in the UK at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA’s Benjamin Franklin award. This video is well worth the ten minute investment, if only to put our current educational system in its proper historical context. Thanks for sharing Kristine!
I have written numerous times about my strong feeling about language immersion programs for children at a young age. Even though I have never written about it, I feel equally strongly about music being a part of an elementary school curriculum. Research suggests that music instruction in the form of learning to play and music theory has a huge benefit to cognitive development of children, even at a very young age. I have tended to write more about language immersion because the understanding of its benefits are less well understood and the practice is less widespread than music education.
Despite the relatively widespread acceptance of the benefits of music instruction, elementary school music programs are not ubiquitous. Some schools teach all students on the recorder. Others on percussion instruments. Most have ensemble groups (orchestras, jazz bands, etc) but the age at which children can start varies widely.
The Notebook reports that recent budgetary changes in the School District of Philadelphia will put music education programs in jeopardy. Let’s hope that is not the case. Our kids need the arts!
Forgive the nerdy Trek reference. So it turns out that there is this guy, Salman Khan, who created a bunch of You Tube videos to help tutor his cousin in math from across the country. From this humble beginning blossomed the Khan Academy, a non-profit organization that hosts thousands of videos covering a huge range of topics at all skill levels. They have won awards from Microsoft and Google, among others. Check out the Wikipedia article on the Khan Academy if you want to hear more about their mission, history, and awards.
Khan Academy can be a great resource if you are considering homeschooling, obviously, but it can also be a great resource to supplement a kid’s education when a little extra help is needed. I really could have used Khan’s help in high school chemistry.
I just got my first charter school lottery results from Wissahickon Charter. My son’s name was selected randomly as number 131 out of 165 applicants. Seats were offered only to the first 22 names drawn (the rest of the seats were offered to younger siblings of current students). So that is a rejection and more or less a zero chance of a spot opening up and being offered to us at that high number. Disappointing. But at least that will be one less school to have to consider. bleh.
One of the obvious differences I have noticed when visiting charter schools has been the presence of CEOs. Yes, apparently an elementary school can have a CEO. Who knew? Chalk it up as to one more thing I never would have expected to learn as a part of this process. A charter school employee explained it to me this way: Charter schools tend to split responsibilities between academic and administrative staff within a school. Where school districts have superintendents who oversee the administration of multiple schools, the charters have “CEOs” that serve as the chief administrative officer for just that school. The charter school CEOs manage the operations and public relations for the school. While the presence of a CEO in and of itself does not make much difference to me for my child, the contrasting public school model is enlightening. Charter schools also tend to employ a chief academic officer–generally called a “principal” or a “dean” who crafts and implements the pedagogical vision for the school. In contrast, public schools have a single person, the principal, who oversees both the administrative and academic worlds of the school. By separating the roles out, the charter schools free up the academic folks to concentrate on a broad educational vision for the school and leave the budgets and operational work to the CEO. Perhaps because of this emphasis, it has struck me that the academic vision of the charter schools is much more obvious than the public schools. Whether my perception is due to an actual academic vision or the result of a CEOs who can articulate vision better than a principal is a matter up for debate.
Sounds like a big job when I put it that way, right? In defense of public schools, charter schools have to work to maintain their charter and improve their “brand” across the city–tasks that traditional public schools do not have to contend with. These extra responsibilities alone make the need for a CEO in a charter much more obvious. My first instinct when writing this article was to advocate for CEO’s in public schools, I’m not really sure that that is the right approach given the different needs of a charter. Plus, the number of schools in a district means that it makes sense for the administrative responsibilities to be centralized.