Archive for the ‘education system’ Tag

Resignation Hesitation

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

In the beginning I was a teacher, I grew to be an educator and now find myself seeking to be respected as a professional. The following represents the motivating factors that influenced my decision to resign my role as a public servant and begin the transition into the private sector.

Oh Education, how I have loved being intertwined with your pedagogy, respected by your admirers, growing with each swing of the initiative paradigms, and experiencing the numerous, exuberant characters that entered my classroom each and every period of each and every single day. Education has provided for me the opportunity to coach sports teams to championships, guide Science Fair participants to record breaking gold medals and placements,  mentor youth at risk and aid in their finding a focus and purpose in life.

Parallel to serving the needs of students, Education as a career presented an opportunity to assist fellow educators become more efficient in their respective disciplines through various Professional Development sessions I was able to facilitate; Science Ideas that Motivate, Social Media in the Classroom, Web 2.0 Services for Educators, and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). To top this all off lets go ahead and add in a Masters in Educational Administration degree and that my teacher evaluation holds me as a “Distinguished Educator” as measured by the diagnostic tool for my State.

I share all of this with you not to brag, but rather set the context for the remainder of this post so you may know that what is shared from this point forward is not from a jaded, do nothing, leech on the system individual just biding my time until tenure. I am not a teacher who was only in education for the “summers-off”.

Where to begin…?

Wages – I make less now then I did 6 years ago and have not received a raise in that same amount of time. Sorry, one caveat to that as there was a 1% raise that was accompanied by a 2% increase in Social Security deductions.  This reflects the statistic that being ranked 46th in teacher pay with the average NC teacher making $10,000 less then their cohorts in other states.

But wait, “teaching is not about the money!” and you’re right IT’S NOT!

Parents – Yes, parents can be stressful at times but when one takes into consideration that a parent’s most important job is to ensure the success of their child, one can appreciate the vigorous approach parents take towards education.

Students – No complaints here about the students. Yes, a few tend to annoy a person, but to complain about this a person would have to be a total jerk. They’re kids; get over yourself. I have had amazing students who provided constant checks and balances of ego, kept me up to date on the lingo/music/movies/dress etc… I will miss our daily interactions and professional dynamic the most.

Colleagues – Those with whom I work on a day to day basis have been some of the most innovative, respectful, caring, dedicated individuals I have ever met and tears will be shed for this loss. If you have a moment give the Lunch Crew a read and you’ll know what I mean.

What, then? What can be left…?

Leadership – Well, we have finally arrived to the heart of this post.

Bossvsleader

http://www.lolwall.co/lol/264722

During the past four years the leadership that governed my day to day existence was one of a Leader, not that of a Boss (see above image for clarification). Now, we all have issues or disagreements in one area or another with coworkers and Leaders; there are people few and far between that may agree 100% with our thoughts and pedagogy, and that’s okay; we all should not think the same. I had freedom to create, innovate, expand, and push the limits of creativity in the classroom.  Because of this freedom and trust, I was willing to accept those things I didn’t agree with, and any discontent was marginalized through this filter of reciprocity.

If trust in the teachers is removed, innovation will be stifled. If the creative freedoms of educators are actively suppressed, the climate of engagement at a school will drastically change. The preceding examples correspond with a Boss mentality:

 Do as I say not as I do. Do it because I said so. I don’t have to explain my actions. Loyalty that is to rise but seldom does it trickle down and pleasantries are feigned only when a specialized skill set service is required and arbitrary decisions of restructuring are implemented.

All of the above qualifications are symptoms rather than the sickness. That which is lacking, the true sickness, is that of a mission, vision, purpose, focus; what is lacking, to bring it all under one concise term, is a Philosophy.

In a profession like education there are two distinct sides to the profession: instructional and administrative. Although in the past I may have vehemently disagreed with my next comment, I have come to see some truth in it. An Administrator is better off having classroom experience. The obvious caveat to this is in respect to those duties that tend to focus solely on the business side of education, those duties being strictly administrative in scope. However; when instruction and the overall vision of the school is at stake having a background in the classroom is essential. It is always quite apparent when a Boss lacks an Educational Philosophy because lacking, too, are viable explanations for decisions perpetrated on their staff.

It is really easy to create an environment where teachers feel undervalued, under-appreciated, underpaid, and under the bus: when teachers are met with over-zealous, over-reaching,  overt retributive actions by a Boss. I know; I’ve lived it and seen others around me drown in it as well. A Boss can count for only so long on the philanthropic nature of the classroom teacher until the stark malevolent reality must be addressed.

So what do teachers do in this situation? THEY LEAVE. A teacher may choose to transfer to a new school or they may even leave education altogether. Teachers with any years of experience know that, at heart, there is little deviation between school aged children of similar socio-economic status regardless of City, State, and yes even Country and having taught in another country I know this to be true.

I know what you’re all wondering, and the answer is YES, I too have now left Education after defining myself as an Educator for thirteen years. For me, it is about Leadership. It is about seeing the same traits in administrative Bosses time and time again and realizing that no matter how I could try to shoe horn myself into a Boss role, my philosophy will never match the foot print. Boundaries are self imposed limits to which one can choose to duck under the orange safety ribbon and abound in the pleasantry of freedom and innovation afforded by such an act. Or one could choose not to transcend into an unknown and stay on the beaten path or beaten on the path.

I choose to duck under that ribbon and I cannot wait to see what awaits. How about you?

The following are related articles and content that I just did not have the ability to address in this post. Please take the time to read what these Educators had to say about their experiences:

A Warning to Young People: Don’t Become a Teacher

Teacher’s resignation letter: ‘My profession … no longer exists’

A letter from a disgusted teacher: I QUIT

Reciprocity

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

This is entry 3 in a series. If you would like to read the preceding posts in the series follow the links: I did what now?! and Compliance

Simply said: I do for you and you do for me. On the surface one may feel that the only reason why someone would act within the guide of reciprocity is the expectation of return action. Reciprocity goes much deeper than that. Give and take elements govern the majority of our relationships whether or not you may recognize the subtle exchanges that take place. Exchanges can range from; an emotional fulfillment from a caring friend, assisting in moving, sharing responsibilities, assisting in the completion of errands/tasks, intellectual support and the like.

Although many of the exchanges listed may lend themselves in retrospection, to our more personal relationships they are present in our work life. Ever have a coworker ask for your help in completing a task? Reading over their report? Making those last few copies? Covering for them (insert reason here)? Recovering that lost document? These, along with a myriad of examples bouncing around in your thoughts, are reciprocal actions. We help because we know that at some point we are going to need help.

No man is an Isand, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the belltolls; It tolls for thee.

– A famous line from “Meditation XVII,” by the English poet John Donne

 

If, as individuals, we could handle all that is placed upon us there would never have been ingrained in humanity the division of labor and communal living that has led to our survival as a species. This holds true for the workplace as well. As a community in the workplace we rely on one another’s assistance in both task completion and emotional wellbeing. Harm to either one of these safeties will have far reaching effects. As I discussed in Compliance the repercussions can run deep through an institution where reciprocity is replaced by demand.

 

So what needs to happen?

Be nice!

Communication before action.

Allocate resources to ensure success.

Always help those who need you.

Don’t act with the sole intention of reciprocal action.

Be nice! oh wait did I mention that?

Set personal agendas aside and do what is best in the situation that will have positive long lasting effects (if you don’t know the best course of action then talk with your cohorts).

Realize that people have sought you out because they think you are capable of helping them. Help them!

Make sure that within whatever role you play that you have afforded those you work with every possible opportunity for success.

Lastly… BE NICE! (I guess we just cannot get away from that one).

Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking when Stakes are High

Monday, June 4th, 2012

“Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking when Stakes are High” by Kerry Patterson delves into a world of high stakes conversations bringing to the readers attention assumptions and narratives that often drive not only our engagement into situations but also our reactions within situations.
A conversation tips into the crucial when two or more people are engaged in high stake, opinionated and emotionally taxing conversation. According to Patterson people respond to these critical situations in one of three ways: avoidance, face the issue and handle it poorly, or face the issue and handle it well. Throughout the remainder of the post I will discuss influences, areas of focus and ways to combat our hardwired reactions.
One of the first steps in reducing the negative impact crucial conversations can have on our relationships is create a shared understanding of the context definition rooted in the act of conversation… dialogue. Patterson defines dialogue as the free flow meaning between two or more individuals (Patterson, p.44) and within this dialogue there lies the potential for conflict. More often than not people tend to avoid stressful conversations, however; no solutions nor growth can be derived from a lack of conversation. In chapter 3 Patterson posits that individuals who excel during high stakes conversations are those who start with heart (Patterson, p.54). Starting with heart requires an individual to be self reflective and examine the motivations they bring to the conversation as they work to remain focused on the facts of the conversation no matter the emerging increases to stress levels. Within this reflection and focused approach participants in the conversation must stay clear from making a suckers choice (Patterson, p. 54).

A Suckers Choice is a limitation of action as imposed upon by the individual narrowing one’s thoughts to winning or losing, or the either or choice. In order to avoid the suckers choice one must clarify what one wants and does not want to be able to find the pathway back to dialogue. More often than not individuals make a suckers choice when a quick easy descison with high emotional connections is made. When all parties needs are not taken into consideration the intellectual and emotional safety of the participants is compromised. If during a conversation a person believes their safety has been compromised their reactions may manifest in several ways with the first being silence. “Silence consists of any act to purposefully withhold information from the pool of meaning. It’s almost always done as a means of avoiding potential problems, and it always restricts the flow of meaning” (Patterson p. 75). The second tactic a person may employ is masking. “Masking consists of understating or selectively showing our true opinions” (Patterson p. 75). Masking can be delivered via sarcasm, sugarcoating or couching. Thirdly a person may simply avoid the situation or other party altogether thereby never having to address the issue. Finally a person may opt out of the conversation and exit the conversation or the room itself.

One can see that feelings of safety are essential to discussions, however; as safety is compromised and people move to silence others are compelled to cognitive violence. “Violence consists of any verbal strategy that attempts to convince, control, or compel others to your point of view. It violates safety by trying to force meaning into the pool” (Patterson p. 77). Individuals may engage in conversational violence via actions of controlling the tempo and flow of the conversation, labelling the other party as a means of dismissal, or a person will approach others by attacking with the intent to belittle and/or threaten the other person into agreement.

Becoming a vigilant self-monitor is key to breaking the silence or violence reaction in crucial conversations. Individuals are pre loaded with emotional reactions and unless one takes the time to reflect on what triggers this default reaction one may never be able to restructure their response. Pausing during the conversation and taking a moment to be aware of one’s emotional state is essential as it can allow a person time to refocus and scan the conversation for mutual purpose in an attempt to further dialogue. Mutual purpose is simply the common goal of all parties involved and the investment they carry into the outcome of the decision. Through sharing a mutual purpose tension in dialogue may be reduced as all parties are invested in success. While engaged in establishing or reestablishing mutual purpose one should always make sure that the other party knows that their concerns are being acknowledged and no hidden motives underlie the decision. Patterson suggests employing the CRIB strategy: Commit to seek mutual purpose, Recognize the purpose behind the strategy, Invent a mutual purpose if one is not currently present in the dialogue, and Brainstorm new strategies.

Patterson also suggests to utilize in concurrence with CRIB a listening strategy of Ask, Mirror, Paraphrase, and Prime or AMPP to ensure individuals stories, a person’s narrative which drives their reactions, do not break down dialogue. When individuals Ask they should be looking to see if they understand the context of the other person as it has been presented as this is where mirroring comes in to help a person truly understand the other’s point of view or concern. As a means to further the dialogue within the mutual purpose framework paraphrasing is essential as it allows for the generation of continuity in the conversation. Finally with all other connectivity elements in place it is time to prime the conversation with mutual purpose as an endpoint to achieve the shared goal of all parties.

It is also important to establish clear decision making policies. Patterson cites four ways decisions can be made: command, consult, vote and consensus. All of these pathways reflect the level of involvement of parties connected to the issue or concern in discussion. Each of the decision making approaches carry with them benefits and detriments to the decision making process. It is important to choose which individual or combination of approaches best suits the situation. Command in decision making reflects the least amount of contribution from third party stakeholders and has its place in the deployment of initiative or problem solving. One must take into account the greater the pool of contributions via consultation or voting the longer the decision making process may take and comprises from both sides are an essential element. Consensus contains the most involved dynamics in crucial conversation. Consensus is going to be more laborious in time dedicated to sharing concerns and establishing mutual purpose and the possibility that this in turn may generate more crucial conversations is an element to be aware of.

We all have the ability to keep our emotions in check when stakes are high and chemicals start to run our thoughts as it takes effort and commitment to understanding roles, purpose, expected outcomes and group dynamics that work in times of easier decisions and especially during more difficult decision events. Always remember you have the ability to effect any discussion in a positive way and help stakeholders reach mutually beneficial results.

Perception is everything…

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Rory Sutherland’s TEDx presentation on perception lays a framework and explores the circumstances of our lives in relation to the meaning we impart about those situations. Rory states that the event itself may matter less than how we see the event.  Rory makes a compelling case for how reframing is the key to happiness. Watch the video below…

Perception is Everything

North Carolina Association of Educators v. Political establishment (paper)

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

The following was composed as a final assignment for my Master’s in Educational Administration. Its focus is on the NCAE and its presence in education in North Carolina. Feedback and comments are encouraged. Thanks.

Introduction
The current educational climate in the United States is one of severe budget cuts, thousands of teacher and support staff layoffs, increased class sizes, cuts to school programs and extracurricular activities compounded by reductions in program funding. The lack of union representation in North Carolina is a mitigating factor allowing the House to pass draconian cuts to education facing limited opposition. The teacher workforce has a voice through the North Carolina Association of Teachers but have limited legal recourse outside of waiting for the general elections on House representatives. Similar events have transpired across the USA even in states where unions do speak with a collective voice for educators. At the time this paper was written Ohio voters rejected a bill that would have stripped collective bargaining rights, eliminated binding arbitration as well as remove the ability of public sector union members to strike. In the midst of all of the labor events, rallies and discussions, my focus turned towards events and discussions taking place in North Carolina as these events have a direct impact on my career. Throughout this paper I am going to explore the relationship North Carolina legislators have had with the education field paying particular attention to the North Carolina Association of Educators and the role they have played in support of education.
North Carolina started with two distinct education associations in the mid and later 1800’s. The North Carolina Association of Teachers was organized in 1857 followed twenty three years later by the formation of The North Carolina Teachers Association organized in 1880. These two associations existed independently until 1970 when The North Carolina Association of Educators was formed on July 1, 1970, by the merger of the North Carolina Education Association and the North Carolina Teachers Association. Documents merging the two associations were signed at the National Educators Association Convention in San Francisco, California. The amalgamation of the two education entities resulted in the NCAE being one of the larger state affiliates of the NEA ranking 14th of the 53 NEA affiliates(NCAE, 2011). NCAE adopted an amendment to their Constitution requiring unified membership with the National Education Association in 1974, effective with the 1974-1975 membership year. Today NCAE is an all-inclusive association with specific categories including teaching and non teaching school personnel eligible for membership. Teacher assistants are eligible for membership in the North Carolina Educational Support Personnel Association which is directly affiliated with NEA. The total membership, including all types of memberships; active, associate, student, retired, and staff is approximately 70,000 (NCAE, 2011). NCAE also has the largest Representative Assembly among the 53 NEA affiliates. The ratio of delegates to active members is 1 to 20 with NCAE’s 131 local units in public school districts, special State schools, and institution of higher education. There are also members in local units too small to qualify as official local units as at least 10 members are required. NCAE is governed by an annual Representative Assembly and a Board of Directors with the Board meeting about six times a year. NCAE employs 74 support and professional staff including 34 employees in regional offices across the state with its headquarters in Raleigh. The state president serves as the full time chief executive officer of the Association with the vice president-president elect also serving full time along with the executive director serving as the chief administrative officer of the Association.

As cited on NCAE’s web page under core values, mission and vision the following are listed as NCAE’s core values: 1) Equal Access – NCAE values equal access to a quality public education that is adequately and equitably funded. 2) Diversity – NCAE values a just society that respects the worth, dignity and equality of every individual. 3) Collective Action – NCAE values an informed membership that works collectively to advance and protect the rights, benefits and interests of education professionals and promote quality public education. 4) Partnerships – NCAE values partnerships with parents, families and communities, as well as coalitions with other stakeholders because they are essential to quality public education and student success. 5) Professionalism – NCAE values the expertise and judgment of educational professionals and believes it is critical for student success. NCAE maintains the highest professional standards and expect the status, compensation and respect due all professionals. 6) Shared Responsibility – NCAE values a collaborative community of members and staff who share the responsibility of achieving NCAE’s goals. Aligned with NCAE’s core values is its mission statement to be the voice of educators in North Carolina that unites, organizes and empowers members to be advocates for education professionals, public education and children which is further supported by NCAE’s vision of an equitable, quality public education for every child (NCAE, 2011).

In chapter 7 Godard presents union formation at a theoretical level focusing on the Orthodox Pluralist perspective which places workers at a disadvantage in the workplace and unions as a means to level the playing field. Godard discusses how workers rights increase as she/he joins a union they are now part of a larger group that has a voice to management as well as this being a natural response to the powerlessness of workers. Unions are seen to give rise to the workers as a collective voice to protect and advance their interests given their place within the industrial capitalist economies. Godard also draws attention to weak or non existent labor movements going hand in hand with authoritarian governments and vice versa. The authoritarian government element of Godard’s view of labor management relations is evident in North Carolina’s right to work ideology as manifest through legislation effectively removing the ability of labor to unionize.

One of the major hurdles for NCAE to overcome is the right to work ideology governing North Carolina law. Right to work laws are statutes enforced in twenty-two U.S. states as allowed under the provisions of the federal Taft-Hartley Act. The statue’s prohibits agreements between labor unions and employers that make membership, payment of union dues, or fees a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. Implementation of the statue’s would require the workplace to be a closed shop.

Prior to the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act by Congress over President Harry S Truman’s veto in 1947, unions and employers covered by the National Labor Relations Act could lawfully agree to a closed shop, in which employees at unionized workplaces must be members of the union as a condition of employment. Under the law in effect before the Taft-Hartley amendments an employee who ceased being a member of the union for reasons ranging from failure to pay dues to expulsion from the union as an internal disciplinary punishment, could also be fired even if the employee did not violate any of the employer’s rules. The Taft-Hartley Act outlawed closed shop unions as they existed prior to the right to work legislation as the law changed the dynamics of workers rights in relation to the union shop rule no longer requiring all new employees to join a union after a minimum period after her/his hire and making such requirements illegal as it was also illegal for any employer to force an employee to join a union. A similar arrangement to the union shop is the agency shop, under which employees must pay the equivalent of union dues, but need not formally join said union. Section 14 (b) of the Taft-Hartley Act goes further by authorizing individual states, not local governments such as cities or counties, to outlaw the union shop and agency shop for employees working in their jurisdictions. Under the open shop rule an employee cannot be compelled to join or pay the equivalent of dues to a union, nor can the employee be fired if she/he joins the union. In other words, the employee has the right to work, regardless of whether or not she/he is a member or financial contributor to a union (Right to work, 2011).

North Carolina was in support of the right to work ideology as Department  of Labor and Labor Regulations Article 10 Declaration of Policy as to Labor Organizations. N.C. General Statute §§ 95 declares…


§ 95-78. Declaration of public policy.

The right to live includes the right to work. The exercise of the right to work must be protected and maintained free from undue restraints and coercion. It is hereby declared to be the public policy of North Carolina that the right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in any labor union or labor organization or association. (Enacted March 18, 1947.)

(National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, 2010)


In N.C an individual is free to work regardless of their affiliation with a union however Article 12 of the N.C Gen. Stat. covering the assembly of members and collective rights of workers states…

§ 95-98. Contracts between units of government and labor unions,trade unions or labor organizations concerning public employees declared to be illegal.

Any agreement, or contract, between the governing authority of any city, town, county, or other municipality, or between any agency, unit, or instrumentality thereof, or between any agency, instrumentality, or institution of the State of North Carolina, and any labor union, trade union, or labor organization, as bargaining agent for any public employees of such city, town, county or other municipality, or agency or instrumentality of government, is hereby declared to be against the public policy of the State, illegal, unlawful, void and of no effect.(Enacted 1959.)

(National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, 2010)


Adding to the state’s power under the right to work N.C Gen. Stat. Article 12 subsection 95-100.

No provisions of Article 10 of Chapter 95 applicable to units of government or their employees. The provisions of Article 10 of Chapter 95 of the General Statutes shall not apply to the State of North Carolina or any agency, institution, or instrumentality thereof or the employees of same nor shall the provisions of Article 10 of Chapter 95 of the General Statutes apply to any public employees or any employees of any town, city, county or other municipality or the agencies or instrumentalities thereof, nor shall said Article apply to employees of the State or any agencies, instrumentalities or institutions thereof or to any public employees whatsoever. (Enacted 1959.)

(National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, 2010)

 

The right to work concept of labor governance is in stark contrast to the democratization function unions are to bring to the working environment. According to Godard the democratizing function of unions is to introduce the aspect of democracy into workplace relationships. Godard describes the democratizing function as; providing workers with legal representation, collective representation, regulating the exercise of managerial authority, reverse authority to work from bottom up via a collective voice of workers, and over all allows workers to participate in a democratic workplace environment (Godard 2011, p184-6). Worker frustrations as a result of management’s removal of labors voice can only increase tensions between management and labor. As Godard states in chapter 13,


As is the case in authoritarian states, workers cannot elect or appoint their rulers, and they have little or no legal rights to participate in the legal governance of the organization for which they work. This, coupled with the conflicts which underlie labor-management relations, means that distrust and resentment almost always pervade the workplace, albeit in varying degrees (Godard 2011, p. 333).


Even though NCAE is prevented from acting as a bargaining agent the organization states in article 3 section 12 in reference to collective bargaining that the NCAE believes the passage of collective bargaining should be a priority of the Association, and that the Association should seek support from NEA in this effort. Although NCAE is restricted from forming a collective voice the organization does attempt to support its members in other areas in much the same manner a union would. As NCAE tax documents detail the purpose of its mission includes, [Tax] Exempt status under 501(c) 6 with a purpose to advance the interests of educators and the promotion and protection of welfare of the association’s members along with advancing the interests of the teaching profession (Luebke, 2011). The NCAE Constitution cites within its Articles support structures at various levels. Article VI Section 2 discusses the role of Local Affiliates in that the Association shall support its local affiliates in their efforts to negotiate contracts and/or improve personnel policies with their local boards of education, and shall support its locals in their efforts to be recognized as the exclusive agent and initiate the bargaining process (NCAE, 2011) Expanding outward in the structural dynamics of NCAE the next level of representation as covered in Article VII Section 1 outlining the functions of the Representative Assembly shall be the statewide representative body of the Association and shall have the following functions: a) to serve as a policy-making body on behalf of the membership in carrying out the purposes of the Association, b) to review the work of the commissions and committees of the Association, and c) to receive, to review, and to take action on proposed amendments to the constitution, according to the procedures set forth in Article XIV. In this capacity the NCAE’s members role at the local level is similar to a union local with the local members being based on geographical ties and having voting rights within the organization. NCAE also has within its organizational structure a Parent level which has approximately 113 locals that are affiliated under the same name and are subject to constitutional guidelines and structures (NCAE, 2011).

The NCAE’s guidelines and structures are outlined in the organizations platforms and resolutions. In chapter 8 Godard cites several union functions being; to take wages out of competition, organize the unorganized, provide expertise in grievance handling, provide strike support, and represent the members inside and outside the labor force (Godard, 2011 p. 203-9). The following are NCAE Platforms and Resolutions from 2011 highlighting specific areas that are connected to union based functions. Paragraph 10 discusses the Fair Employment and Dismissal Act…


NCAE believes in the principles established by the Fair Employment and Dismissal Act and will oppose any weakening of this important legislation. NCAE affirms its belief that all professional educators, including those who are probationary (1992), should be covered by the Act. (1984) (2008) (p. 2)


covered in Paragraph 11 Professional Rights and Responsibilities…

NCAE believes in the fundamental right of educators to organize in their own self-interest and to speak out in defense of educators, students and parents. NCAE strongly supports the right and responsibility of each educator to be actively involved in all levels of a professional organization. NCAE further believes that these rights should be respected to the extent that there will never be any fear of reprisal or limitation. (1984) (2008) (p. 3)


Also highlighted in the NCAE document are current resolution goals working to further the organization’s support of educators:

Goal 1: -Develop a strong program of professional advocacy for education.
Goal 2: -Strengthen the Association and increase service to members.
Goal 3: -Intensify the drive to protect and secure human, civil and professional rights.
Goal 4: -Improve the economic well-being of educators.
Goal 5: -Promote excellence in education.

The function of the goals listed above align with the roles and functions of a union in their support of educators however, lurking within the legislation framework of North Carolina is the work to rule law as cited in Article 12 subsection 95-98 which severely restricts the collective voice of NCAE preventing the organization from acting as a bargaining agent in contract negotiations and teachers would be ill advised to take job action particularly strike.
With severely limited means by which to effect educational legislation without retribution the NCAE has to incorporate various tactics to inform its members and create a collective voice outside the scope of traditional union roles. In this aspect the NCAE plays the role of a lobbying group. The NCAE encourages political involvement via their legislative alerts# section link on their web page which contain ‘Action Alerts’ that outline educational issues, provide an article for background information, talking points for the particular issue and the contact information, including email and phone number, of the House representative asking educators to ‘Take Action’. The most recent listing on the ‘Action Alerts’ page highlights Tom Tillis, the House Speaker, and the 27% pay raises several of his staffers have received in contrast to teachers wages remaining frozen. NCAE offers the following talking points to share with House Speaker Tillis; 1. educators have not gotten a raise or step increase in 3 years, 2. NC teacher pay is at 45th nationally, and declining, educators have administered & met expectations of the ABC testing program & the General Assembly has not paid up in 3 years, 3. the Tillis budget will take NC to last in almost every educational category yet he finds the resources to give pay raises to advisers within months of their employment (NCAE, 20). The NCAE also encourages direct political action as stated in Article 2 Section 13 of the NCAE Political Action Committee,

NCAE believes that the NCAE Political Action Committee should be involved in the election of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, State Superintendent of Public Instruction and all other political races which affect education. State and local PAC funds should be used to support those candidates who support legislation guaranteeing equal treatment of men and women. Support of this concept should be used as a determining factor when deciding between two equally qualified and education-oriented candidates.

(NCAE, 2011)


Evidence of this type of political action is reflected in NCAE’s active steps in support of political candidates as the NCAE and NEA contributed $1.8 million dollars to Gov. Perdue’s 2008 campaign (Bejan, 2011). Another example of political involvement was the NCAE took a stand this past June in reaction to the Legislative House overriding Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of the budget which placed education funding on the chopping block as the Republican-authored budget would lead to the elimination of 6,000 teacher and teacher assistant jobs and drop North Carolina to 49th in the nation in funding per pupil (Perez, 2011). Frustrated but not defeated, hundreds of educators organized by the NCAE stood out front of the state capitol in Raleigh for a lobby day and to deliver 10,000 pennies and copies of the state constitution (Perez, 2011). The symbolism of the penny reflected the cut of a penny tax which resulted in a loss of one billion dollars in education funding for the state. NCAE president Sheri Strickland spoke to the public assuring educators, parents and students that NCAE is going to continue this battle. Strickland said,


It is unfortunate that today legislators have decided they do not want to listen and they have chosen to turn their backs on our future. . . But our efforts will continue.  We may have not been able to save the one cent tax today but the fight to save our schools will continue.


The battle continued several weeks later when another NCAE lobby for education funding drew a crowd of approximately three thousand in support. However, the Republican majority House took retributive actions towards NCAE by passing legislation removing the ability of NCAE members to have NCAE fees drafted from their paychecks and require a one time payment of $415, for a full time educator, or monthly payments via checks to be mailed to NCAE headquarters (Bejan, 2011). Perhaps if NCAE was granted union status the inequity of political power could be leveled as well as an established voice of the education profession could speak on behalf of labor.

Assuring the political power of NCAE and the organizations ability to back candidates the NCAE is classified as a 501(c) 6 tax exempt organization. This tax status affords NCAE the ability to lobby and contribute to political campaigns. The NCAE along with its parent organization the NEA are able to influence political campaigns by spending PAC money endorsing political candidates. Since the NCAE Constitution requires NCAE members to be members of NEA it helps to create the largest teacher union in the nation, although with the right to work laws as they are in NC the membership carries little weight here. As a part of any political game the NCAE frequently criticizes the influence of powerful corporate interests in American politics while at the same time making contributions to electoral favorites. NEA and local affiliates like NCAE do represent a large political influence on American politics as indicated below the NEA and NCAE spent the following on political influences in the past three years:

  • In 2008, NEA spent $56.3 million on political campaign contributions.
  • In 2009 NCAE made $710,716 in nondeductible lobbying and political expenditures

2010 Contributions:

  • NCAE contributed $172,950 to candidates. Democrats received $170,650 in contributions (98.6 percent); Republicans received $2,300 in contributions (1.3 percent).

2008 Contributions

  • NEA and NCAE contributed $1.8 million to help Bev Perdue win the 2008 Governor’s race.
  • NEA spent another $1.7 million on campaign ads for Bev Perdue.

(Luebke, 2011)

NCAE holds as one of its core beliefs standing up for the rights of educators and educational causes and exercises this right through donating to education friendly candidates. The NCAE is performing duties in support of education within the confines of an authoritarian right to work state. If not for the attention NCAE draws when it organizes lobby days education issues may not be on the forefront as they are now. It is unfortunate that as NC law currently dictates the NCAE having a limited voice in management – workforce relations, at least NCAE can continue to be active within the political scene. Hopefully NCAE can work towards further legitimacy and gain status as a full fledged union once the political climate migrates more in favor of labor rights. It’s time NC realized its public employees should not be treated so poorly. If teachers were all given fair consideration by lawmakers instead of being looked upon as a taxation burden there would be such a need for unionization. Until attitudes change via the removal or retirement of leadership, it looks like union representation is a teacher’s best chance at gaining respect and a collective voice in the workplace. One must remember although the taxpayers cough up the money for education, the politicians decide how to spend it and don’t always follow the will of the people. Also, even though I work for the state that does not mean I do not have legitimate grievances and concerns. I refuse to simply roll over and allow the state to do what they will. A better education system with high morale among teachers helps the state.

In fact, I am a proponent of a state employees union with different sections for various public sector professions but it seems as though the only obstacle in NC unionizing is the antiquated right to work law. The state is already balancing pay and benefits against other areas while some of those other areas often have a great amount of pull while teachers get the short end of the stick. Having a union does not mean that you get what you want but rather it means that you have some leverage to balance the power dynamics between management and labor. As some may suggest, teachers who are in favor of unionization are simply being selfish, greedy and are more focused on self preservation than educating children. Nobody goes into teaching for selfish reasons or because the pay and benefits are so great. The reality is that until North Carolina affords union rights to public sector workers, teacher will continue to be pawns pushed around by politicians and by some members of the public who have no experience or reference for what is like to be a teacher and think teachers already have an overpaid and cushy job.

References


Bejan, W. (2011, July 05). Wisconsin union battle: framing the debate in north carolina?. Retrieved from http://www.nccivitas.org/2011/wisconsin-union-battle-framing-the-debate-in-north-carolina/

Godard, John (2011).  Industrial Relations, the econo Ontario: Captus Press Inc.

my, and society. (4th. ed.). Concord,

Luebke, B. (2011, May 03). Ncae: Looking out for children, members, or itself?. Retrieved from http://www.nccivitas.org/2011/ncae-looking-out-for-children-members-or-itself/

National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. (2010). Right to work states: north carolina . Retrieved from http://www.nrtw.org/c/ncrtwlaw.htm


NCAE. (2011). Core value, mission and vision. Retrieved from http://www.ncae.org/cms/Who We Are/2.htm


NCAE. (2011). Ncae take action. Retrieved from http://capwiz.com/nea/nc/issues/alert/?alertid=50551501&type=CU&show_alert=1


Perez, F. (2011, June 16). North carolina legislators vote to override gov perdue’s budget veto. Retrieved from http://www.educationvotes.nea.org/2011/06/16/north-carolina-legislators-vote-to-override-gov-purdues-budget-veto/


Right-to-work law. (2011, November 10). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23:26, November 17, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Right-to-work_law&oldid=460023487

Shifting the Paradigm

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

Here is another great animated short from RSA animating the shift in educational paradigm as seen by Sir Ken Robinson.

Kahn Acadamy

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Great Video to generate some conversations about the ever changing approach to education.

Communal Tensions

Monday, January 24th, 2011

As a follow up to my last post here is the paper I was wanting to share. Again it is a reflection piece about tensions between schools and communities taking into consideration the community school approach. Make sure to leave your thoughts after you’ve finished reading. Enjoy.
I believe there are two tensions in our education system that are embedded as deeply as the founding educational philosophies that help to shape the evolving nature of education itself; family (parent verse school perception) and community engagement. Neither issues is of more or less importance as each play a distinct role in education and the school setting. Parents and community members have social constructs that guide their assumptions of a school setting and in some cases their perceptions of how a school decision is made is contrary to what they believe should be taking place.
The reality of a parent verse school mentality became evident during my first year as a teacher. The first year of teaching I participated in the lost communication practice of the fifteen-minute one on one student-parent-teacher conference. During these encounters parents are granted an open forum in which to share their educational concerns and most often backing their concern is a story of a past teacher and how their concerns went unattended. Any breakdown in communication between school and parent can have disastrous effects on the working relationship between parent, teacher and school. Anytime a parent gets the feeling that their child’s teacher or school is not serving the best interest of their child, that parent will follow though in various ways. A parent will most often start with the teacher, as the teacher is the immediate connection between parent and school, however; many parents don’t understand the limited ability of classroom teachers to affect a school climate or institutional perspective change. This act carrying an assumed inaction can work to further the divide between parent and teacher as the parent expects the teacher to act and affect change. The parent, if not satisfied with the actions or perceived inaction of the teacher, may continue conversations with school administration or school board members depending on how well they can navigate the educational political landscape. I am of the opinion community schools are designed with the ability to engage this type of parent based concern at an earlier point. Community school parents are allowed a voice during decision-making processes and several positive outcomes may emerge from this collaboration. The first step is to address parent and family needs within the community setting. Parents need to feel connected to the school setting and through the acknowledgement of parent concerns school administration can reduce the quantity of negative reaction based concerns. The second step is to support parents by way of partnership programs offered at the school. Programs such as; tutoring, nutrition, health care, dental, and parent education classes can gain parent support for the school. As schools foster a greater investment from parents the school and the community will develop a shared perspective created through the support. Most often collaboration helps parents to feel more connected and valued by the school and therefore can reduce the amount of parent verse school conversations.
If its not broke why fix it? Someone ought to say something. Engaging people to take action is difficult when those whom we wish to inspire into action may not see a motivating factor from which to rationalize their action. The field of education is in constant growth, we are life long learners and to change an educational approach or philosophy can be nearly impossible. Educational decisions can be quite difficult to make, as they require a multitude of perspectives to be considered before a decision is made. To get community involvement during decision-making is one of two aspects to consider while planning on a decision-making timeline. For the most part if a school is performing at an appropriate level in relation to community standards parents and other members of the community may have no desire to revamp or initiate new programs at the school level. Nevertheless schools can always perform better through the adjustment in perception of the needs of the students. The issue is how does a school attain greater community involvement? The process of engagement through perspective aggregation involves community members in the problem solving and decision making process. Using the gathered information from the community to make clearly defined decisions that will impact those members living in the community requires for projects to be clearly articulated as well as the engagement goals set and allocate resources confirmed. Engagement is more than meetings and consultations with the public, as it should work to illicit an emotional reaction that can translate into direct action from the community. Common barriers to community participation are visibility of the organizational leaders and time. An ongoing engagement process with community members will improve transparency and increase participation through ownership and accountability. If the education system wants action from community members it needs to engage motivating factors within the individual in order to gain access to the masses. Educational leaders should work to extinguish the excuses and justifications spouted by community members about their lack of involvement. As time is the most prevalent concern shared school leaders need to acknowledge all people have personal wants, needs and draws in their lives that act to remove the communal focus and replace it with the extrinsic concept of individualism. The projection of the each to their own attitude as echoed in “If I can just take care of my own children then my family will be okay” does not fit with community school philosophies and initiatives. The community school approach to education is a holistic perspective looking at what is best for the greater community. Community support mechanism need to be established in order for community members to see benefits. Essential services like health and educational support programs for both students and parents need to be addressed first before focus can be placed on abstract concepts covered in classrooms. The bulk of the community must be invested in the community school concept if it is going to survive. Participants also must commit to long-term service as the benefits of community schools are not easily measured nor are they immediate in observance. Community involvement in respect to time is a difficult balance. Teacher workdays, if properly planned and implemented as a community outreach day may offer an opportunity for community engagement as well as data gathering opportunities. Schools can also set up social media discussion forums on various issues and by doing so engage the busy 21st century parent.
The educational tensions discussed here are only two of many concerns in education today. I believe the tensions are a natural part of the relationship that exists between school and community. Parents want only the best for their child and schools want to serve their students with the best possible pedagogy. Communication and a positive working relationship between school and community members can reduce the impact of philosophical differences and ensure a more positive and engaging working relationship between parent, school and community members.

Collaboration 2.0 Action Research

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

As a part of fulfilling a requirement for my research class I was to design a research proposal in an area of my choosing. Since I tend to you a lot of technology in my own classroom I am interested in the exploration of Collaboration using social media and the possible benefits of its use. Included in this post is the entire content of the research proposal. I hav not yet conducted the research as I was hoping to recieve some feedback and adjust as needed. I am hoping to carry through with this study and will keep you updated as progression happens.

Action Research Proposal
Context
The progression of my professional growth as an educator has always been intertwined with technology. My role with technology has ranged from student facilitator to school consultant with responsibilities of hardware maintenance. Throughout the varying roles that technology had played within my career I had often wondered how technology would impact education at a classroom level. From my early experiences I quite often saw computer use as a reward and the subsequent game playing used as extrinsic motivation for assignment completion. Further along office applications took center stage as processing programs took root. All of this was great for productivity but besides having neatly typed assignments there seemed little academic benefit could be derived from the use of computers and education waited until the next emergence of education application programs. With the growth of web 2.0 technologies I began to see a connection emerging as to the use of these tools for collaboration and a shared learning experience. I took measures to alter one of my research assignments for a group of my students to allow for online sharing of research resources and any written material the students would like to share. Ten days and eighty two discussion posts resulted and while grading the paper of the students who posted the most often a perceived pattern emerged. It seemed students who were further into the discussions and sharing of content were scoring higher on the grading rubric than those students who did not utilize the online discussion forum. I wondered if there was a causal effect to the perceived pattern or whether it was corollary evidence observations. Were the students who utilized the online forum just displaying a higher level of familiarity with the content or was something more happening? I then turned my focus on the standardized tests given at the end of each school year and thought; Does a student using web 2.0 tools for collaboration translate into higher scores for the individual student on the states standardized science test?

Hypothesis:
When stating a hypotheses one must formulate a prediction and then formulate a second hypothesis that is mutually exclusive of the first and incorporates all possible alternative outcomes for that case. In research projects designs H0 refers to the null hypothesis and it describes all the remaining possible outcomes in opposition to the H1 or the research project hypothesis statement. (Shuttleworth, 2009) “The ‘null’ often refers to the common view of something, while the alternative hypothesis is what the researcher really thinks is the cause of a phenomenon” (Shutteworth, 2009).

In this research project the H1 is the examination of the impact of the current use of social media (web 2.0 technology) in a 7th grade middle school science classroom and its impact on Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals as measured by the state end of grade test. The H0

or null hypothesis for this study would be cited as; there will be no measurable impact on student end of grade test scores after having used social media (web 2.0 technology) in the classroom. In working to examine the research question one must remember that although a failure to prove the hypothesis (H1 ) can be observed as a failure of the whole research project it actually is a success. With every successive H0 or null hypothesis that is proven it brings research one step closer to an accurate portrayal or the factors producing the results that first drew interest (Shuttleworth, 2009).

Contextual Framework
My current teaching assignment is a seventh grade science class at a magnet middle school for Math, Science and Technology. My classroom has been outfitted with a Promethean Board for interactive technology use as well as the room being outfitted with six computers, one for each collaborative student group, which sets the stage for heavy use of technology in my classroom. I wanted to make sure student use of technology in the classroom was not superficial and the students could be provided with an opportunity for attaining measurable academic gains. End of grade tests are common practice in my current state of employment and part and parcel to this practice is quarterly summative assessments which are based on similar composition to the end of grade tests. As a conscientious educator I could not breakdown and teach to test questions in hopes of higher student test scores. I needed to find a way to engage students in the content and generate the same amount or greater familiarity with the course content. Social media is very much a part of middle school life outside of school so I wanted to explore the effect of this particular mode of communication as utilized in the classroom for the purpose of generating the familiarity needed by students to do well on end of grade tests or their quarterly equivalents.

In their book, “Turning Learning Right Side Up: Putting Education Back on Track”, authors Russell L. Ackoff and Daniel Greenberg acknowledge the serious flaws in the education system. They state that education focuses on teaching rather than learning (Ackoff, R., Greenberg, D., 2008). Ackoff and Greenberg challenge the education system and ask “Why should children — or adults, for that matter — be asked to do something computers and related equipment can do much better than they can? Why doesn’t education focus on what humans can do better than the machines and instruments they create?” (Ackoff, R., Greenberg, D., 2008). In approaching education in this manner they want to transform the education system to better reflect the intent of a wide variety of approaches being utilized to reach a far greater number of students learning styles. They write that the breakdown in education came when a generalized mass delivery of content needed to be established. In establishing such a class based industrial model for education it removed in part the focus education should have as a student based concept and created a expert based model of teacher delivered content. “Every word — teacher, student, school, discipline, and so on — took on meanings diametrically opposed to what they had originally meant” (Ackoff, R., Greenberg, D., 2008). Ackoff and Greenberg finish with placing education into two categories:
…one world consists of the schools and colleges (and even graduate schools) of our education complex, in which standardization prevails. In that world, an industrial training mega-structure strives to turn out identical replicas of a product called “people educated for the twenty-first century”; the second is the world of information, knowledge, and wisdom, in which the real population of the world resides when not incarcerated in schools. In that world, learning takes place like it always did, and teaching consists of imparting one’s wisdom, among other things, to voluntary listeners (Ackoff, R., Greenberg, D., 2008).
Education needs to be about the empowerment of the student and providing various routes to the attainment of knowledge and technology may be a twenty-first century tool that can achieve this lofty goal. Technology has the ability to transform the classroom back to a teacher facilitated environment where student collaboration is at the center and the technology tools supply the forum for this educational transition.

Emerging questions for continued exploration
The primary focus of this study is on the impact of the current use of social media (web 2.0 technology) in a 7th grade middle school science classroom and its impact on Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals as measured by the state end of grade test. However, upon examination several questions emerged:

1. Does the use of social media in a classroom generate increased familiarity with content areas of study and therefore impact student scores on standardized end of grade tests?

2. Does collaboration via web 2.0 tools translate into higher test scores on state generated end of year exams?

3. Can the use of online course materials provide curricular differentiation to various levels of student ability groups and in doing so translate into higher test scores on state generated end of year exams?

4. What effect does the digital divide have on lower socio-economic groups with limited access to computer use?

5. Does cultural legacies effect demographic groups posting certain content on social media sites?

Literature Review

Michael Wesch thought the creation of a platform for participation that allows students to realize and leverage the emerging media environment that students see as tools not just playful programs is an important change in perspective. Within the platform that Michael presents there is an element of collaborating embedded in his presented use of technology. Michael sets the traditional classroom in opposition to web 2.0 learning theories in that traditional classrooms are designed to be a setting where; to learn is to acquire something, information is scarce and hard to find, students should trust authority for good information, authorized information is beyond discussion, obey the authority and follow along. Michael continues his presentation with how the educational assumptions of the past no longer provide an adequate education today. Critique and evaluation of content needs to be a part of the new learning environment and student generated collective intelligence is the ultimate aim in the web 2.0 classroom. Micheal puts forth a multi step approach to using technology in the classroom. The first being creating a grand narrative to provide relevance and context of learning. In doing so it allows students and teachers to address semantic meaning within learning. This approach also creates a learning environment that values and allows leverage of the newly formed understanding to the learner themselves as this addresses the personal meaning in education and creates value in learning. In addressing both the semantic and personal aspects of education in a way that realizes and leverages the existing media environment Micheal envisions students who can leverage the existing media environment for their learning needs and by doing so making the educational experience more personal and valuable. (wesch)

In contrary to Micheal Weschs’ exploration of technology a significant segment of the education community is currently exploring the use of web 2.0 tools in classrooms as a part of inquiry based learning. Researchers do not anticipate students attaining gains which can be translated into significant achievement in student growth. Along with the ability for students to conduct purposeful searches educators may believe they are providing an enriched working environment for their students. In a technology and media rich environment students can instantly scan, clip notes, save and post anything they find will in mid search. Educators and students may begin to feel somewhat like an authority in certain disciplines; however, this perception is not what some research is telling us. The article “The web shatters focus, rewires brain” by Nicholas Carr, a note worthy Dartmouth and Harvard grad and author of numerous articles such as “Is Google Making us Stupid and his book “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains” shares neurological research done by psychiatrist and author Gary Small detailing specifically brain area reaction while individuals conduct Internet searches. Dr. Small’s research in the area of mapping brain response in the prefrontal cortex as subjects interact with google based searches works by measuring the blood flow to certain areas of the brain. Although there is a lot of brain activity, as measured by Whole Brain MRI machines, this does not mean that more is better. The current explosion of digital technology is not only changing the way we live and communicate,” Small concluded, “but is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains.” (Carr, 2010) Small contends that since the Internet allows us easy access to copious amounts of information and working through the vast reaches of cyberspace requires a different skill set. A skill set that tends to be more cursory and therefore turning its users into shallower thinkers. (Carr, 2010) Educators and students may be making new connections and it is important that research examines whether the new connections are beneficial to the learning process. As an educator contemplating in class use of technology this reading selection proved there is a need for further research on student achievement within web-based content inquiry.

A description of how data or artifacts are gathered
A quantitative approach to data gathering will be used to explore emerging trends in student achievement with a specific focus on increased standardized test scores in relation to time spent using social media or web 2.0 collaboration tools. The state generated Blue Diamond test is a system measure that shares similar attributes to the end of grade test being used as a year end measure. This test is given to all students and percentile comparison data is created that can be used to track student concept attainment in relation to state generated standard course of study. The data will be fed into the algorithm program that will compare student answers and provide a percentile comparison of each students concept attainment for the particular unit of study. Since the use of social media technology can be applied to an array of topics in the curriculum no one particular topic would provide more accurate data than another.
As student use of computers will be tracked at school using a daily log filled in by each student it is also important to gain an understanding as to computer use outside of the school setting. Surveys will be sent home to gather data on the availability of computers in students homes as this will allow researchers to assessing how often a student is on a social media site away from school. The more opportunities a student has to interact with the technology the more proficient they will become. In this case practice definitely makes perfect. The survey will include data gathering on time spent on the site, type of content added to the site, if the students main focus was image and/or video based, or if students were adding to the blog (written) section of the site. The variation in the content interaction is important as each require varying skill sets in visual, linguistic and critical thinking. Survey data can be interpreted through the use of graphs/data table comparing correlations between the survey data and test score achievement data gathered via the Blue Diamond assessments. A more in depth analysis of the data may include comparing the demographic subsets to the variations of content posted as to look for any trends between demographic groups and content interaction. The data may provide an insight into cultural legacies that draw particular demographic groups to post a particular content type and allows researchers to examine levels of content familiarity gained by various demographic subsets of the study.
When a study is designed to determine whether one or more variables of a program or treatment variable has a measurable cause and/or affect there may be one or more outcome variables (Smith, 2009). For this study I would focus on comparing the students in two similar classroom settings based on their ability groupings and achievement scores. In this research project the unit to be studied would be the individual child as you are able to generate test scores for each student. There would be an associated focus on the demographic group scores as an aggregate of classroom climate as a means to look at the whole picture. One must account for the variance of teacher approach to facilitating content delivery.

The time frame for the research would need to be long term. In using a longitudinal study that would take place over at least one school year this would allow the tracking of students through several topics as well as multiple variances of the Blue Diamond assessment. However, if time permitted a study over the course of the three years of middle would provide more complete data sets and therefore provide a more accurate measure of the impact social media use has on student achievement and raising standardized test scores. In utilizing a longitudinal approach for this study we have at least two waves of measurement. The first focus for measurement would be to examine the relationship within the variables being studied. In this project the relationship between the use of social media and student academic growth. The second wave of measurement would be in examining the causal focus. Looking at causality would allow the examination of the relationship between the event, use of social media and a second event, the achievement of higher standardized test scores, where the second event would be examined as a consequence of the first.

Within the data gathered one could look for a positive relationships emerging among the selected subject pools. In a positive relationship high values on one variable are associated with high values on the other. In this research the high value placed on gathering data on the effects of social media is correlated to the use of standardized test score data as both contain potential measures of student concept attainment. However, researchers may find a negative relationship connected to the data. A negative relationship implies that high values on one variable are associated with low values on the other. This is also sometimes termed an inverse relationship. In this study researchers may find more value being placed on the standardized test score data rather then the use of the social media as a means of increasing test scores.

Avoiding Fallacies
When conducting this research the research team must be aware of fallacies that may skew the results. The first such fallacy is an ecological fallacy where researchers make conclusions about individuals based only on the analyses of group data. For example one must be aware that a good class average on the standardized test does not translate into a broad finding of all individual students gaining an advantage from the use of social media. Secondly researchers need to acknowledge the exception fallacy. Exception fallacy occurs when a researcher makes a conclusion on the basis of an exceptional case. In the study of using social media to increase test scores there may be some outliers of exceptional gains in student test scores however, that may not be correlated to the use of technology as the student may have prior knowledge that skewed the results.

Variables to be considered:

Student groups to be explored: Black, Hispanic, White, Asian and other with both males and females in previously cited demographic categories. This allows a broader cross section of the student population to be explored with focus on the cultural legacies, which may effect research data. In examining the various demographic groups a more focused consideration can be given to the digital divide and its effect within the scope of this study. Also in an effort to avoid omitted variable bias in the research, researchers should look at the teacher effective index as data permits from the school districts Evaluation and Research site to explore various classroom teachers pedagogical approach in order to factor in its effect on the research data.

Research framework the experimental narrative
In this section, if I was to actually proceed with the research one would find the real world research examples of the process of answering the main focus being an examination of the impact of the current use of social media (web 2.0 technology) in a 7th grade middle school science classroom and its impact on Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals.

Included in this section would also be a description of the actual process of gathering the data including survey results, examples of student work, and snap shots of the summative assessments used to measure student growth. Along with the data I would include the data tables which highlight the correlated data sets from the research.
Provide evidence from research
In this section I would begin to discuss the emerging evidence from the gathered data in support of the research hypothesis. I would also tie into my research related research done in this field. In showing the parallel findings from various studies and my own I would hope to establish credibility through correlating the results from the various studies.
Conclusion and reflection of research
In the final section of reflection on the research performed I would seek to draw conclusions about the research and my findings. I would discuss the patterns in the data that work to support or refocus the original research question and examine the null hypothesis in relation to the data. In this section I would also discuss any unforeseen bias that may have emerged as a result of asking emerging questions from the literature review content. I would also explore ways to improve research in this field and offer suggestions for further research.
Acknowledgement of bias and precautions taken
I am a heavy user of technology in my own education so I believe there is value to the use of web 2.0 tools. I do see a cursory correlation of evidence that students do better in a classroom setting where they have access to computer use with a specific focus on standard course of study content. However, at this time my opinion comes without much tested data to support this belief. I am also cognizant of the digital divide separating segments of my demographic groupings allowing the more affluent students greater access to computer time out side of the school setting. In hoping to close the digital divide gap within the school setting I would set up class time in the computer lab at minimum of one day a week during the study to ensure at least a moderate level of balanced computer exposure. Although one day per week may not fully balance the digital divide inequality it would serve as a means to attempt a balance of computer exposure. Remember practice does make perfect.
End result
In this section I would draw a conclusion about whether the examination of the impact of the current use of social media (web 2.0 technology) in a 7th grade middle school science classroom has a positive impact on Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals in particular the summative state generated tests that measure student growth.

References
Carr, N. (2010, May 24). The web shatters focus, rewires brain. Retrieved from
http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/05/ff_nicholas_carr/all/1

Ackoff, D., Greenberg, D., (2008, August 20). Knowledge at Wharton, Retrieved from http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=2032

Shuttleworth, Martyn (2009). How to Write a Hypothesis. Retrieved [October, 2010] from Experiment Resources:
http://www.experiment-resources.com/how-to-write-a-hypothesis.html

Smith, M. (2009). Common mistakes in using statistics: spotting and avoinding them. Retrieved from http://www.ma.utexas.edu/users/mks/statmistakes/Outcomevariables.html

Politics in Education

Monday, October 11th, 2010

The following is an excerpt from a discussion about the role of politics in educational research. If allowed I hope to post my fellow classmates responses as they further this conversation.
In the political system “what counts as worthwhile knowledge is determined by the social and positional power of the advocates of that knowledge. The link here between objects of study and communities of scholars echoes Kuhn’s (1962) notions of paradigms and paradigm shifts” (Cohen, 2000). Governments place a lot of focus on the education system however, it seems the political swings of new pedagogy that govern our educational system tend to fluctuate to extremes as a means of distracting those attempting to draw attention to greater issues in education like a lack of authentic funding for public school programs. Many of the misguided reformations in education stem from third party research findings whose data is used for guidance in policy reform. Perhaps the style of research taking place in education is more of an ongoing evaluation of the system rather than the diagnosis that lager systemic changes are needed. Morrison provides one definition of evaluation as: “the provision of information about specified issues upon which judgments are based and from which decisions for action are taken”(Cohen, 2000). There is currently a large movement to connect educational research to policy making, which also brings into play the funding connected to educational research. Policy makers believe if research is kept separate from politics it loses much of its intended purpose and becomes a frivolous evaluation of a new set of programs.
On both a macro and micro level education is tied into the political system. On a micro-political level Usher and Scott argue that micro-politics, influence the commissioning of research, the kind of field-work and field relations that are possible, funding issues, and the control of dissemination of the research findings. Morrison suggests that this is particularly the case in evaluative research, where an evaluation might influence prestige, status, promotion, credibility, or funding (Cohen, 2000). In a profession where community opinions weigh heavily one must give the utmost consideration to the politics of the system. All decisions in education can and will have longer lasting, further reaching consequences than we can currently predict with any accurate measure. A continual evaluation of the system and the persistent reinvention of the system can only work to provide thoughtful feedback and hopefully some guidance in assessing academically sound teaching practices.

Source

Cohen, Louis, Manion, Lawrence & Morrison, Keith. Research methods in education.
London; New York: Routledge/Falmer, 2000