Education

The Bible & the Republic

One need not be Christian or Jewish to embrace America's founding principles, but there is no denying that those principles are rooted in the Old and New Testaments. So it's strange to see individuals or institutions that profess allegiance to the Bible but disallow its relevance to the way we govern ourselves. For those who say Scripture is authoritative, it should guide them not only in religion on Sundays, but also in politics, economics, and academics the other six days of the week. That's the premise of the Saint Louis Statement, a position paper issued by some friends of mine. They were concerned about the many Christian schools and churches that buy into relativist, collectivist, and leftist ideas in disregard of biblical teachings to the contrary. We can all think of examples. (Colorado Christian University, where I direct public policy programs, thankfully isn't one of them.)

The statement, entitled "The Bible, the Republic, the Economy, and the Academy," is posted here. Those of us already listed as signers welcome comments and discussion, as well as anyone wishing to add his or her signature.

Tough love for teachers: Listen 6/3 7pm

Bad teachers beware! Colorado now has a law that ties teacher tenure to student performance, finally. Thursday at 7:00 on 710 KNUS in Denver, I'll explore what it means with "Tough Love for Teachers," the latest in our monthly series of one-hour specials called Freedom University. Listen if you can, and catch up later with the podcast right here.click here

Parents, employers, citizens, and taxpayers can applaud the tenure reform on one hand, and ask on the other hand why it wasn’t done long ago. Public education is the most expensive item in our state and local budgets, and we’re not getting our money’s worth. Maybe this new approach is a step toward real value in the classroom at long last.

On "Tough Love for Teachers" I'll talk with two legislators who were instrumental in making it happen, Sen. Michael Johnston (D-Denver) and Rep. Murray (R-Highlands Ranch). Also joining me will be Dr. Bill Moloney, Centennial Institute fellow and former Colorado Education Commissioner, and a pair of education experts from the Independence Institute, Pam Benigno and Ben DeGrow.

Teacher's Desk: Cognitive Lightning Bolt

Much has been said about the dumbing down of America. One look at the “Let’s Make A Deal” health-care reform process in Washington shows we are not teaching problem-solving skills. Indeed, helping students learn to problem-solve and “learn to learn” is something almost all schools are failing to do, according to Jack Elliott and Larry Hargrave in a Denver Post opinion piece on Dec. 19. My jaw dropped when I read their article. They discussed how teaching our students cognitive skills will improve the capacity of students to learn the learning skills many of our students need to improve in order to provide higher level cognitive skills and help more students graduate instead being left behind. Rather than a curriculum-based philosophy, Elliott and Hargrave suggest student awareness and oriented philosophy that improves learning skills.

A few weeks ago, I spoke to our psychologist who gives the type of test that shows the skill sets our teen students have or not: short term memory, long term memory, reading comprehension, reading fluency, math fluency, and decoding to name a few. Her testing also shows how a student learns best: auditory, visually, or kinesthetically. I asked her what she would think about testing struggling students not on Individual Education Plans (IEPs) so we could differentiate classes by student weaknesses and needs instead of MAPs scores. (MAP is a computer based assessment that informs us as to where students’ skill levels fall. We place students with like MAPs scores into classes.) She was both supportive and intrigued.

My next visit was with our principal. She liked it and wanted to meet further on this. With the information from not only this editorial, but the authors’ website, www.cog1st.org, I hope that we can not only put this program in place through assessment, but provide staff development to assist our educators in implementation!

Kathleen Kullback is a licensed special educator at Colorado High School Charter with an MA in educational leadership and policy studies and a former candidate for the State Board of Education.

Teacher's Desk: Astroempires Winner

My loveable thug, the one I wrote about before, called me this week. When he left our school a month ago, I knew he had an upcoming trial. He called me to let me know he was okay, won his trial, and could I help him find a GED program? Working with the type of students I do, it is all about building relationships before any learning can take place. To gain the trust of a student not used to trusting adults made me feel like “Teacher of the Year.”

Our social worker announced she had coats, gloves and hats available. She asked me if I knew a student in need? I sure did! My astroempires teammate runs around all year with a t-shirt and thin hoodie. I suspected his mom couldn’t afford a new coat as she is on welfare. Now he has a nice warm coat, hat, and gloves.

I became his astroempires teammate after he overheard me discussing a different on-line game I play with a shy student. My teammate asked me to try astroempires. Since he’s had attendance issues and doesn’t make friends easily, I said sure! I thought our playing the game together could be the buy-in he needs. It has been.

A little over a week ago, we enrolled a student with autism spectrum disorder. I knew I would have my work cut out for me as his educational needs are also social, as well as, academic. Yesterday, he chatted with me, looking straight at me! He joined my school book club and really got into the nonfiction (his request) book I chose for him. Then, during our reading class, he was extremely participatory with great answers. Last period, I saw him hanging out in the lobby and I scooted him to his class, using our discipline coach as the bad guy, “It’s a good thing I caught you and not Mr. Burke. He’d call your mom and you’d be in a world of hurt this weekend.”

Helping these young people is why I love my job!

Kathleen Kullback is a licensed special educator with an MA in educational leadership and policy studies, and is a former candidate to the State Board of Education.