Attaching Teacher Pay/Tenure to Test Scores or The Next Survivor

I don’t usually post my personal opinions or political views because I would prefer to keep my blog to my professional expertise. However, I was cleaning out my hard drive and came across an oldie but goody and thought about the recent conversations and federal government initiatives that support attaching teacher pay or tenure to student test scores. I say to anyone who thinks that this is a good idea, don’t even give me the six weeks that this story suggests. Give me six days, one unit of study, then, give a test on the materials. Let’s attach your salary or part of it to that test.

Since the beginning of the school year, 16 weeks or almost one half of the school year, I have had to speak to guidance counselors, staff psychologists, social workers, parents, administrators and even made a call to the state child protective services about various students who might be suicidal, are on probation, going to court, hospitalized for mental illness, might be abused by a parent, abandoned by a parent, in rehab, need to be in rehab, caught stoned or drunk in my class or have violent behavior. Forget about having to track, monitor, or report on the number of students who just don’t come to class (cut) or the 17-year-old who can’t manage to be responsible enough to get to class on time. BTW- my take on why we have so much of this is because kids are stressed to the point of breaking partly because we test them too much. Tests are stressful, people! Don’t even get me started on giving homework over a vacation…

My school has about 2800 students. I see 175 students, grades 9 – 12, over a three-day cycle (we are on an 8 day block schedule and I mostly teach part-time classes, 3 classes per 8 day cycle). When the spring semester begins, 100 students will end their classes with me and I’ll get 100 new students. I teach five different preps in nine sections of classes. 13.4% of my current students are “identified” (translate that to SpEd). 21% of my students are African-American or Latino (in my district that’s a socioeconomic indicator and compare that to the 2-4% in the performance ensembles but that’s a subject for another post). My kids learn project management, system design, respect, responsibility, how to be thoughtful in communication, appreciation for cultures unknown to them, right brain thinking, 21st century skills and any number of edu-speak jargon you care to apply. Oh yeah, they also learn enough about the actual subject that on average, 33% of my seniors go to college to major in the subject I teach. This year, it’s up to 54% or 13  out of 24 students. (That’s right Mom & Dad, your kids can go to college for this stuff and make a good living but that’s subject for another post). One third of those kids never studied music before they came to my class and some of these kids would never have seen the inside of a college. Assess THAT and tell me my salary.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

NJMEA/TI:ME 2010 – No Passport Required!

The Technology Institute for Music Educators (TI:ME) National Conference is at the NJMEA Conference in New Brunswick, NJ February 18 – 20, 2010. That’s right, New Jersey and for all of us New Yorkers, there is still no passport required to get to New Jersey!

I’ll be making two presentations this year. One will be Teaching Music Through Composition With Technology: Beginning Lessons That Work and the other will be a performance by a group of my students, nanoBands: Live Performance And Demonstration By Greenwich High School Students Sponsored by SoundTree.  The band’s name is “Total Kaoss” and they will be performing on hand-held devices including Korg’s Kaossilator.

A  pdf file of NJMEA and TI:ME offerings at the conference can be downloaded here: TI:MEconfinfo

For more information about the NJMEA Conference, go to their conference website:

http://www.njmea.org/conference/

For more information about TI:ME, please visit their website:

http://www.ti-me.org/

Don’t forget to visit the CT Chapter website:

http://www.ti-me.org/CT/

Tips for Publishing or Distributing Student Music Digitally

I received a tweet from EdtechBC (http://elgg.openschool.bc.ca) about a blog post entitled 21st Century Educators Don’t Say, “Hand It In.” They say, “Publish It!” http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2009/11/21st-century-educators-dont-say-hand-it.html

Basically, it is a list of, as the subtitle says, “6 Ways Innovative Educators Can Move from “Hand It In” to “Publish it” Teaching. Included are tips for Writing, Reading, Math, ELL/TOSEL, Cooking (I don’t know about your schools but the cooking classes are THE most requested classes in my school!) & History/Social Studies. I was reminded of a portion of a presentation I did for the NYS School Music Association and Connecticut Music Educators Association conferences on “Digital Media In & Out of the Classroom”. In the presentation, I discussed how student music could be distributed, or in this context, published, digitally. So, to extend the blog above, here are some tips for publishing in the music classroom. I’d love to see the list continued by others in other subjects.

Making CDs or videos of school concerts or performances is not impossible to do, just a drag. Legally, you need permission to distribute or sell recordings of copyrighted material that you record or video at a school performance. Entire sessions can be had and entire books have been written on the process of getting permissions for use and resale of performed copyrighted music on a CD (mechanical license). Suffice it to say that legally, recording and distribution of school concerts in any format, video or audio, requires permissions and fees. For more information:

Guidelines for Educational Use of Music

http://www.utsystem.edu/ogc/intellectualproperty/musguid.htm

The United States Copyright Law – A Guide for Music Educators

http://www.menc.org/resources/view/united-states-copyright-law-a-guide-for-music-educators

A great resource for EVERY school library is the newly published book by James Frankel, The Teacher’s Guide to Music, Media and Copyright Law published by Hal Leonard. This book is not just for the music teacher but addresses concerns for all teachers and school districts looking to avoid the legal battles with owners of copyrights.

For more information or to purchase a copy, go to the link in my Blog Roll (right sidebar) for James Frankel. (Not now! AFTER you finish reading this blog!)

I do, however, recommend publishing original student music. If you are going to produce a CD of student music and simply hand it out or let students give them to family & friends (a great stocking stuffer I might add), you really won’t need student or parent permission. If, however, any kind of money were going to trade hands, I would recommend you obtain a few permissions, just in case.

Read the rest of this entry »

Student Music New CD Avaiable on iTunes

FINALLY! The 2008-2009 GHS Student Music CD is available on iTunes. Just go to the iTunes Store search box and type “Greenwich High School”. The CD includes Emily’s piece “Gothic Memory Land” that was the First Place winner in the NSBA/MENC Electronic Music Competition. Enjoy!

Interview in MENC Magazine

Many thanks to Chad Criswell of MusicEdMagic.com for interviewing me for his article in the October 2009 issue of Teaching Music, an MENC magazine for music educators.  The article, “The Computer in Your Student’s Pocket”, gives an overview of some hardware and software used by students to create and learn about music. Chris was kind enough to interview me and how I use hand held computing devices to create music with my students.  Thanks for a great article, Chris!

For more information on MENC publications, go to http://www.menc.org/resources/view/menc-journals

Presenter at NYSSMA/MENC

I am just back from NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association) Summer In-Service Conference in Albany, NY.  NYSSMA is considered one of the best MENC Chapters so I was honored to have been asked to present.  My presentation was bright and early Monday at 9AM and I managed to get a some what awake crowd of about 25 people.  Since this is the smaller of the two conferences NYSSMA does each year, I was happy to have the numbers.  My 1 hour and 15 min presentation was entitled, “Digital Media In & Out of the Classroom”.  My presentation covered two areas:

1 ) Keeping it safe and legal outside the classroom with regard to CD or video sales and posting student work on the Internet 2) How digital media can be used in the classroom to demonstrate an idea or concept or be used as materials for student projects

I used examples of student podcasts and compositions and also gave examples of how popular media, video, YouTube and contemporary songs can be used in the classroom.  Each participant left with a nice packet of information discussed in the presentation and several lesson plans that were discussed.  They seemed enthusiastic and appreciative of the presentation.

All in all, I had a good time and meet a few really nice people. Given I am a New Yorker at heart (I was raised in Brooklyn and have Permanent NYS Certification), it was nice meeting several people from Long Island with an accent I could easily recognize!

New Widget to Listen to Student Music

It seems obvious but… take a look at the left side bar.  There’s a new widget generated by Tunecore that let’s you listen to student music available for purchase.  Track 3 of the first CD listed is the winner of the MENC/NSBA 2009 Electronic Music Competition, Gothic Memory Land, by Emily.

PLEASE DO NOT STEAL THIS MUSIC! The proceeds from this music goes directly to the GHS Electronic Music Student Activities Fund to help us purchase equipment.  Well, that’s where it would go if we actually made money!  We barely make enough money each year to offset the the cost of using Tunecore’s service for their distribution to iTunes, Amazon, Lala, Napster and others.  It’s really cool that kids can tell their friends they are on iTunes!So, please, buy a tune and help us distribute student music.