The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

No more daily PE in Illinois

For my entire school life, from Kindergarten to 12th grade, I had daily gym class. In 1957, Illinois became the first state to require all kids to have daily PE. This was the case until this school year:

The law cuts daily PE to a minimum of three days per week and, starting in seventh grade, students involved in interscholastic or extracurricular athletic programs could skip PE. Those moves and more were touted as a way to save money, but some fear the changes will push PE to the back burner of the curriculum lineup, even as physical education has been supported by public officials, including former first lady Michelle Obama, as a way to combat childhood obesity.

In the Illinois Report Card data released each year, the Illinois State Board of Education notes that 60 minutes of physical activity per day can improve academics and prevent childhood obesity, diabetes and heart disease. “For students of all ages, physical education provides opportunities to learn motor skills, develop fitness, build team skills, strengthen problem solving abilities, and learn about healthy lifestyles,” ISBE said.

In fact, there has been confusion in various districts about aspects of the new law and whether districts are pursuing waivers correctly.

This fall, Champaign Community Unit School District 4 was moving to get a new five-year waiver to allow ninth- and 10th-graders to skip PE during the time they were involved in an interscholastic sport.

The waiver was withdrawn because it was no longer necessary based on a new provision in the PE law: Now, seventh- through 12th-graders may be excused from PE if they participate in interscholastic or extracurricular athletic programs. The law previously allowed only high school juniors and seniors to be excused under those circumstances.

Meanwhile, administrators in several high school districts told the Tribune they don’t plan to reduce their usual five days of PE, in part because of the complicated scheduling of high school classes as well as the potential difficulties of eliminating full-time PE teachers.

It seems like this change to the law wasn't well thought-out, wasn't well publicized, and wasn't particularly effective. Welcome to Illinois. I'm going to try to find out how my state rep and senator voted on this thing.

The Angriest Librarian

An MLS student in Portland, Ore., wants you to understand that even though you don't personally use them, libraries are thriving:

Today, depending on the community they serve, a public librarian is part educator, part social worker, and part Human Google. What they aren’t is a living anachronism, an out-of-touch holdout in a dying job who’s consigned to a desk, scolding kids for returning books a few days late.

An urban librarian in a struggling neighborhood, like Chera Kowalski in Philadelphia’s Kensington, is just as likely to be saving lives by giving Narcan to overdosed patrons as she is to be recommending a new Young Adult series. The new model of librarianship is about embracing more than just books—it’s about making a positive impact on the lives of patrons. My liberal use of the word “motherfucker” may have been the most popular aspect of my Twitter rant, but the most important was my message to LGBT teens, and to immigrants, and to the homeless and poor: The library is a safe place for you to come and get what you need.

Someone asked me why I got into libraries. My answer—though I’ve been “into” libraries my whole life—was simple: I believe in reducing barriers to better outcomes for marginalized and underserved populations, motherfucker.

Mazel tov.

The Mindset List, class of 2021

Today is my birthday, which makes this year's Beloit College Mindset List even harder to read:

Students heading into their first year of college this year are mostly 18 and were born in 1999.

2. They are the last class to be born in the 1900s, the last of the Millennials --  enter next year, on cue, Generation Z!

11. The Panama Canal has always belonged to Panama and Macau has been part of China.

12. It is doubtful that they have ever used or heard the high-pitched whine of a dial-up modem.

16. They are the first generation to grow up with Watson outperforming Sherlock.

25. By the time they entered school, laptops were outselling desktops.

38. They have only seen a Checker Cab in a museum.

47. The BBC has always had a network in the U.S. where they speak American.

59. Bill Clinton has always been Hillary Clinton’s aging husband.

Ouch.

Dev Bootcamp shutting down

The Tribune reported yesterday that Dev Bootcamp, an immersive software-development school, is shutting down after their next class graduates in December:

Dev Bootcamp’s final cohort will start classes this month and graduate in December. Campuses officially close on Dec. 8, according to the email, signed by Dev Bootcamp President Tarlin Ray. Graduating students will also get “at least six months of career support,” the letter said.

“(D)espite tremendous efforts from a lot of talented people, we’ve determined that we simply can’t achieve a sustainable business model without compromising our mission of delivering a high-quality coding education that is accessible to a diverse population of students,” the letter said.

Dev Bootcamp was never profitable, Nishimura said. The Kaplan acquisition [in 2014] gave Dev Bootcamp flexibility, but ultimately, faced with the prospect of cutting back full-time instructors and raising tuition, the company decided to shut down.

I have four co-workers who have ties to Dev Bootcamp, including one who wrote parts of the curriculum. They report that Kaplan's aggressive expansion into markets outside Chicago and San Francisco drew resources away from existing programs, driving students and faculty away. For example, one intriguing offering, "Engineering Empathy," which sought to teach budding coders how to work on teams and with clients, got cut during the rapid-expansion phase.

The three alumni in my office are some of the best coders I've ever met. So I'm sorry to see Dev Bootcamp go. I hope that in future someone creates a program as effective as theirs.

Narcissist in chief

President Trump met with the 2017 state Teachers of the Year yesterday, and, as usual, made the event all about himself:

Usually, the National Teacher of the Year speaks. This year, that didn’t happen. Usually, the president spends some time talking with the teachers, giving many of them individual attention. That barely happened Wednesday, according to several participants who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because they said they fear Trump addressing them on Twitter or press secretary Sean Spicer bringing them up at a daily briefing. Usually family members join the winners to meet the president. This time few were allowed — and relatives of the teachers, some who had traveled at their own expense for many hours to attend, were left to wait in a building near the White House, with, as one said, “no water in the hot rooms.”

Rather than a ceremony in the East Room or the Rose Garden, as past presidents have done, Trump invited the teachers into the Oval Office, where he asked them all to gather around him, standing, while he sat at his desk. In the crowd were first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Pence, second lady Karen Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. It was the first lady’s birthday, and the teachers sang “Happy Birthday” to her.

In the Oval Office, with the teachers and others standing around him, Trump spoke about the teachers and engaged with a few of them (see video above), and briefly singled out the 2017 National Teacher of the Year, Sydney Chaffee, from Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester, Mass. A ninth-grade teacher, she is the first national winner from a charter school in the program’s 65-year history....

How interesting that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has financial stakes in charter schools, oversaw an event where a charter-school teacher won a major honor from her boss? And Trump still couldn't be gracious about it.

Read the rest of the article for how Presidents Obama and G.W. Bush honored the teachers, and ponder how often Trump will, over the next 1,362 days

Betsy DeVos behaving as predicted

When you have someone with the background, education, and beliefs of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, you know you're not going to get any policies that benefit education. Sure enough, yesterday she started rolling back reforms begun under the Obama administration that tried to correct the abuses of the student loan industry:

The former president's administration issued a pair of memorandums last year requiring that the government's Federal Student Aid office, which services $1.1 trillion in government-owned student loans, do more to help borrowers manage, or even discharge, their debt.

But in a memorandum to the department's student aid office, DeVos formally withdrew the two Obama memos. The Obama administration's approach, DeVos said, was inconsistent and full of shortcomings. She didn't detail how the moves fell short, and her spokesmen, Jim Bradshaw and Matthew Frendewey, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

DeVos' move "will certainly increase the likelihood of default," said David Bergeron, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank with close ties to Democrats, who previously worked under Democratic and Republican administrations during his more than 30 years at the Education Department before retiring as the head of postsecondary education.

It's an absolute scandal that student loans, which are some of the safest investments a bank can make because they can't be discharged in bankruptcy, have high interest rates and a history of predatory collection practices. DeVos has investments in the for-profit education companies that benefit directly from this situation. And people wonder why the Republican Party has a reputation for screwing the disadvantaged in favor of rich businesses.

Long day...

The last two days, I've been in meetings more than 7 hours each. I'm a little fried. Meanwhile, the following have popped up for me to read over the weekend:

I'm now off to the opera. Thence, perhaps, to sleep.

Stuff to read later today

It's fascinating how working from home doesn't seem to give me more time to, you know, work. So these have backed up on me, and I hope to read them...someday:

OK, so, that's going to take a few minutes...

Banning PowerPoint at universities

Amen:

Overreliance on slides has contributed to the absurd belief that expecting and requiring students to read books, attend classes, take notes and do homework is unreasonable.

Courses designed around slides therefore propagate the myth that students can become skilled and knowledgeable without working through dozens of books, hundreds of articles and thousands of problems.

If slide shows are so bad, why are they so popular?

Universities measure student satisfaction but they do not measure learning. Since organisations focus on what they measure and students like PowerPoint, it stays, regardless of its educational effectiveness.

On the other hand, when I see something pervasive that exists counter to my own values, I wonder (a) are my values out of step and (b) what are the incentives? I think more research is needed.