Monthly Archives: May 2012


Do you know I hide a lot of things?  There is a large contingent of Internet information I cannot freely share.  This is not new to any of you, for it happens to you all.  But it is incredibly frustrating to lie or not tell whole truths, and I don’t much care for that.

I will not hide from you how blazing hot this apartment is right now and how much I wish to leave it.  Or that I wish I didn’t work in the morning – but there are only nine days left of school!

I am very excited about the starship people.  They have a 100 year plan, you see, and I think that’s awesome.


Staggered Enrollment

Yesterday, I complained about frustration due to technological literacy.  That’s something I can’t really do much about: it’s a flaw that will be exploited by the severe skewing of computer use and the technology gap created by the income gap.  Whatevs.  We should alter our assessment system from a computer based, standardized testing, to a more holistic, personal assessment system built around portfolio work and integrated, collaborative instruction.  That’s a complex bit of thinkery, right there, and more than I want to get into here – I’m preaching to the choir, surely.

But, I have a new idea I want to bring up.  It’s based on a problem.  The problem is student maturity and age.  Now, I am making a large assumption with this idea.  Maturity is not directly linked to age – but for the vast majority of students you can guess fairly well their psychomotor and emotional maturity based on their specific age.  My main argument here – and I am not linking any research, but I know there IS research on this – is that even by early elementary, student ages should be measured in months, not years.

Anecdotally, I can back this up.  There are students in my class more than a year older than others, and this shows.  This is not fair.  Two of my retentions are very young and could easily have waited one more year until Kindergarten – an act which may have kept them on track instead of being held back (Being held back IS NOT A BAD THING).  Another is old, gigantic, but still struggling with the material.  I have several students who aren’t at grade level, but aren’t low enough for a full year of retention.

That’s several problems, and they are all related:  Age/maturity gap, need for retention but not full year retention, and pushy parents.  What’s the solution?  Staggered enrollment.

(I am not so vain as to think I am the only one who has thought of this – but I haven’t found any information on this specifically)

Currently, staggered enrollment is used to describe students starting their school year a different day of the week.  It’s not what I mean.  What I mean is to describe a marking period/semester program within the early elementary school (and into later years) wherein classes are created same-age students based on six month periods instead of year-long periods.  What this means is that an elementary school with two first grades would have one group of first graders begin school in September.  Another would start in January/February (the second semester).  The two classes would be six months apart in curriculum – the system being similar to college in that you can begin any semester.

Which is silly.  There are plenty of differences between college students, but not many are developmentally crucial to the subjects being taught.  In Kindergarten and first grade, you can see the difference between a five year old and a five and half year old easily.  We aren’t helping students by cramming them all into one class with a stretch of a year between some.

Start the July-December birthdays in September.  Start the January-June birthdays in February.  With a staggered grade system, you open up several possibilities:

1)  Students will be more likely to have similar psychomotor skills, ideally limiting this as a basis for differentiation (not that you wouldn’t still use it).

2)  Emotional and physical maturity would be better matched as well, limiting older kids preying on the younger, plausibly lowering instances of bullying.

3)  A better retention system.  There are students who struggle with the first few months of a grade.  Yet, they can’t be moved backward at that point.  What if a student struggling in their first half of first grade was allowed to immediately repeat that half?  What if a student finishes first grade, is not ready for second, but is too far along to really need the full first year?  Creating a divided year with staggered classes addresses both these issues.  It certainly limits the age-maturity link I am arguing, but ideally, being more ready for your grade could reduce the need for retention anyway.  And parents would be far more willing, I believe, to retain for a half year instead of the whole grade.

Now, this is all based on anecdotal evidence, limited data, and supposition – but I think it is well worth considering.  Not that I know who to talk to.

Really? That’s Your Solution?

I’ve been partying with my Nook today as I sit with mom.  It has ruined me, frankly, for any non-electronic magazine experience and this is entirely Wired’s fault.  Embrace technology?  You’ve done it.  Tablet Wired is an amazing periodical.  It helps that I (in Wired’s words) know about computers.  You know who doesn’t?  My students.

My poor students have extremely limited technological literacy and this is dangerous.  The Common Core Standards are being phased in and a large chunk of them is a move toward computer-based standardized testing.  I am not going to waste discourse on the inherent flaws (and blatant laziness) of standardized testing.  That is a separate battle.  I’m disgusted by the technological wave.

I have a smartphone, a laptop, an ereader/tablet, video game system, DVD player, and HD TV.  This is not bragging.  Many of my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances either have these things or the capability to have them (I’d suspend the TV if I was alone) so there’s no need.  You know who doesn’t?  My students.

As challenging and lame as standardized testing can be, there’s a nice simpleness when using a number 2 pencil.  Computerized testing adds and entirely new issue.  Students who don’t use computers regularly won’t do as well – they just aren’t that good at using computers.

You think I’m crazy.

You think I’m being silly.


I have a, frankly, brilliant young man in my classroom.  He reads at a high second grade level.  He aces all the math quizzes.  He’s taking down two-digit addition and subtraction.  On pencil/paper tests he does okay – undone by the inherent flaws of such assessments, but he can focus and get them done.

(Inherent flaws such as removing any sense of application – tests with multiple choice questions remove any real-world necessity for the skills being assessed, thus deleting desire to understand what is being learned – but that’s speculation for another day)

Put him on a computer.  Watch him flounder.  Despite the accessibility options of having the question read to him, he makes many mistakes.  Buttons get clicked on accident.  Wrong answers are picked because of unfair wording (bringing up images of a handle-bar mustached proctor, creating unfair questions).  The boy just doesn’t have the time spent on the computer to help him – the very use of the grey box is undoing his knowledge.

And in a few years, he’ll be expected to type.

Another boy plays during computer free time and somehow (due to an inability to remain still and focus) manages to disrupt his own websites by opening code-editing screens and clicking links non-stop.  This is a problem.

Now, this problem can be addressed with more computer time.  But we don’t have that.  We just don’t.  Especially not at the first grade level.  Even then – the students are using computers sized for adults.  This is a larger issue than you think it is.

Technological literacy is a huge thing.  Thank goodness for tablets which are far more intuitive – but we don’t have those.  What are we going to do?

Now, my problem is that I have no solution.  I barely have a well-articulated problem.  I only have a frustration – a room of first-graders who need the technological solutions provided by the cloud and a physical incapability to access them.  We don’t have the computers.  The computers we do have are ancient hulks, their Windows XP infrastructures creaking beneath behemoth websites and programs designed with 32 bits in mind.

We’ve developed a world where you must have a Bachelor’s degree, a well-equipped knowledge of computers, and disposable income just to earn disposable income to be happy (we think).

And I’m just really frustrated.

I’ve Been Reading

I’ve introduced myself to John Scalzi recently.  This deal has worked out well for me.  Chances are quite high that if you are reading this, you already have heard the name.  Funnily enough, the first book I read by him was ‘Zoe’s Tale,’ which is the last book in his “Old Man’s War” series – which I finally have picked up.

The desire to pick up a Scalzi book has been slow-simmering since I read about his latest novel “Redshirts.”  This is a book about the dudes in red shirts in old Star Trek episodes – well, roughly.

I’ve read a few of his books now and I really enjoy them.  The man is well-deserving of his accolades.  I’m pretty jealous.  But what have I been doing?  Well, not writing.  That’s for sure.

But I do like reading, so I’ve go that going for me.