Anything to Avoid the Facts

Teachers don’t teach; students don’t learn; illegal immigrant children clogging the public schools are dragging scores down. This can never be interpreted as factual so the obvious path is to change the rules! A town near here has decided to give the Emperor new clothes.
This is taken from the local rag, The Press Democrat.

Rohnert Park, Cotati schools rethink grading scale

October 21, 2015, 4:55PM

by Taboola
A new grading scale that redefines what constitutes an “A” or an “F” is causing strife and confusion in the Cotati-Rohnert Park school district. Some teachers and officials say it lowers the bar for student success, while others say it encourages students to succeed.
The new system is called the equal interval scale. Essentially, it makes it harder to get a failing grade. It departs from the traditional A to F scale in which students receive F’s for scores below 59 percent. Instead, the scale awards F’s only for scores below 20 percent.
“My mentor teacher, she’s not enjoying it. She’s got issues with it,” said Adam Green, a Rancho Cotate High School math teacher who likes the new system. “I respect her and I respectfully disagree.”
Under the new policy, grades rise in 20-point increments. For example, scores of 20 to 40 percentage points earn D- through D+ grades — and so on, up the ladder. Students get an A- for scoring between 80 and 85, which traditionally is low B territory.
Some teachers have tried to hang on to the traditional grading system but have been tripped up by a blanket new policy that students, even if they do not hand in homework or take a test, get 50 percent. Under the new rule, it’s possible for a student who skips a test to receive a better grade than a student who takes the test and does poorly.
“This is just incomprehensible. I don’t have words,” said Lanny Lowery, who has taught English at Rancho Cotate High since 1980.
To her knowledge, said Jessica Progulske, curriculum coordinator for student engagement with the Sonoma County Office of Education, Rohnert Park is the only district in the county to have implemented such a system. Some departments at Elsie Allen High School have a somewhat similar system, said Chris White, director of the Santa Rosa City Schools district office of curriculum and instruction.
Cotati-Rohnert Park school administrators say the change reflects a national movement to encourage students to strive rather than demoralizing them with low grades that make success seem out of reach.
“They’ve still flunked, but they don’t have as much to do mathematically to climb out of the F range,” Superintendent Robert Haley said. “It doesn’t eliminate the F; it doesn’t lower the bar.”
But opponents of the new policy say it does exactly that.
“Anytime you lower the bar, it hurts. You just let people do a more mediocre job,” said school board member Leffler Brown, the only trustee to vote against the change in June, when it was adopted over vociferous teacher objections.
“When you don’t set expectations higher, you get lesser results,” Brown said.
The issue also has become a labor dispute. The Rohnert Park teachers union, saying the changes weren’t negotiated, as their contract requires, and teachers weren’t properly notified that they would be implemented, pressed the district to negotiate the changes.
The district last week agreed to sit down at the bargaining table, said Maha Gregoretti, a sixth-grade math teacher and president of the Rohnert Park Cotati Educators Association.
Meanwhile, some teachers at Rancho Cotate High, both supporters and opponents of the new policy, have been meeting to see if the new system can be refined to address some of the concerns.
“We don’t all have the exact same opinion about the scale, but we do all agree that we want to find a way to support kids to make sure that they’re always able to get support to pass their classes,” said Valerie Ganzler, an English teacher at the high school who favors the new system.
The new grading structure reflects an honest desire to help the district’s students, said Ganzler, who acknowledges that initially she was not sure about it either.
“Absolutely, I had concerns,” she said. She overcame those doubts in informational meetings organized by the district with staff, administrators and other teachers, she said.
She has noticed a difference already, she said.
“I would see students in my classroom who for whatever reason, they would see themselves get further and further behind and at some point you would see some give up and check out,” Ganzler said. “Having grades that are equal intervals, it is always possible for those kids to catch up.”
But other teachers say they have seen the downside of the new system.
Lowery, who has tried to retain the traditional grading system, said he has a student who early in the semester had a grade in the 80s range and another in the 25 percent range, but then stopped coming to class. Because his missed assignments all received a 50 percent, the student has a 49 percent average, instead of the 3 percent average he would have under the previous grading system, Lowery said.
“It’s a lie, that’s all it is,” he said.
Tech Middle school math and science teacher James Gregoretti, who is Maha Gregoretti’s husband, said he has math students who normally would be failing earning C’s. He has a science student with a 23 percent grade getting a D-, he said.
“This isn’t giving a student hope,” he told the board in September, “it is lowering standards in order to raise grades.”
Haley shows little patience for such complaints, or for stories about students whose grades don’t reflect their dismal performance.
“I think those teachers are picking out extreme examples,” he said. “There are a minority of teachers who seem to find a way to flunk students who have demonstrated that they have achieved at least a certain level of passing — I don’t subscribe to that.”
And Green, the Rancho Cotate High math teacher, says the new system allows students to concentrate more on what they are learning than what their marks are at any one point in time.
“I found a lot under the old system that they were worried about the grades and less worried about the material,” Green said. “Within the new system, it gives more of an opportunity for them to work their way toward an understanding of the material.”
But Peter Dudik, a Lawrence Jones Middle School math and science teacher, says students are wise to the difference and, as well, parents used to the traditional system are baffled.
“Most of the kids that I talk to, who know of the new inflated grading scale, think that it would make a lot of students not try as hard because they know they don’t have to,” he said.
“And parents are confused as to why scores around 50 percent are getting C’s and above.”
Ganzler said one refinement to the system that teachers may propose is that instead of receiving a 50 percent for work that isn’t done or turned in, students would receive an incomplete and be required to work with their teacher to achieve a passing grade.
“Instead of just being an ostrich and sticking your head in the sand and getting 50 percent, you have to go check in with your teacher and your teacher will help you catch up,” she said. “It’ll be a better skill for our students, and it’ll feel better as a teacher.”
Staff Writer Jeremy Hay blogs about education You can reach him at 521-5212 On Twitter @jeremyhay.

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I Forgot to Mention Something………

w Jeep Rubicon

Oh yes, baby. Mama got a new toy! The old Jeep gave us 10 wonderful years of boondocking but got a hitch in its gasket. Trust was broken. Since I’m not getting younger and big clunky necklaces are sooooo yesterday for trying to look like a cool grandma, I “forced” myself to visit the local Jeep dealership. Well, well, well……what have we here? A!!!!! I believe this is something I’ve always needed but just didn’t quite realize it.

I know those first desert pinstripes will hurt me to the quick but then it’s over and we can get on with more exploring. Beatty Wash and Area 51(thereabouts) need much more exploring. Ol’ Ruby looks just like the right gal to have along to do it up right.

Just one problem:  Number 3 grandson is doing the math to figure out how many years he has to wait before he can drive it! (Thanks to the Jeep ad for the idea)

w Jeep ad and grandson

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It’s That Time of Year Again


I said it better then. Or, as my tshirt says “The desert is calling and I must go”


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Grandma vs. Microsoft


Oh Windows–late have I loved thee–very late.

My dear readers will remember my shock of finding myself in the middle of Death Valley with a brand new laptop that came with NO INSTRUCTIONS and we were so remote we had no access to the Internet. Over the course of a month I actually figured out what I needed with Windows 8. I cursed it, I cursed its children, I cursed its creators. But, in the end, I found a game to replace 15 YEARS OF FREECELL SCORES and settled into a very addictive game called Master of Words. I was up to Master class with over 7 million points to my favor and a global ranking of 661. And then, I fell for it. I decided to upgrade to Windows 10. Oh my……all that hard-earned knowledge was wiped out. Again, there were no instructions. All I knew was that 9 of my games failed to jump the time/space barrier and were gone. Of course, Master of Words(and my 7 million points) were gone. Alas, so was my cursor and my desktop and those garish boxes that I had finally reduced in size and mastered. The charms were gone.

I kept Windows 10 on my laptop for almost 48 hours–without a cursor or pointer it is very difficult to use one’s device. My guess is that Microsoft has boosted Apple’s stock more than any bailout could hope to do. I set a restore point–probably a useless gesture–and went back to Windows 8.1. I was warned I only had 29 days left to keep my backsies to 8.1 and then my chance to upgrade would be lost forever.

Apparently Microsoft loves that ‘lost forever’ concept because when I returned to 8.1 my 7 million points, game moniker and the game itself were gone–never to return. At least my cursor/pointer was back.

I give up. And now, my Kindle has quit charging. All my free indie books–leaning heavily towards dystopian fiction–has quit charging. I went to Youtube to see how to change the battery and was mentally battered by the most favored video. Even Mr T got lost at the soldering wires after removing 14 very tiny screws.

So where is all this going? No place. I used to love my computer toys. I was first on the block for any new upgrade, version or device. But no longer. I have received warnings to hold no private conversations in front of the smart TV or the new refrigerator. I had to give up my flip phone. I have 3 laptops, 1 netbook, 2 Kindles, 1 desktop and a semi-smart phone. I do not like them Spam I am. I think you are just one big spy-cam.

A more cheerful topic next time: A NEW JEEP RUBICON!!!! Of course it will autotrack us anywhere we go so I’ll skip the camo upgrade. Now give me a desert wash to put it through its paces!


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All Thumb

king john

Two months post-thumb joint reconstruction I have a small amount of motion in the assaulted hand. Things have been complicated by a big-time arthritis flare–my hand’s way of saying “you and the horse you rode in on” for what you did to me! Anyway, none of this is any excuse for failing to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. (June 15)

Here is a poem I learned in elementary school that sums it up as well as any more scholastic tome. Years later when I read it more closely, I sensed that the barons came out with a lot more rights than ol’ Piers Peasant but still, it was a start. Thank you Eleanor–the one who wrote the poem, not King John’s mother.

John, John, bad King John
Shamed the throne that he sat on;
Not a scruple, not a straw,
Cared this monarch for the law;
Promises he daily broke;
None could trust a word he spoke;
So the Barons brought a Deed;
Down to rushy Runnymede,
Magna Carta was it hight,
Charter of the People’s Right,
Framed and fashioned to correct
Kings who act with disrespect –
And with stern and solemn air,
Pointing to the parchment there,
“Sign! Sign! Sign!” they said
“Sign, King John, or resign instead!”

John, John, turning pale,
Ground his teeth and bit his nail;
Chewed his long moustache; and then
Ground and bit and chewed again.
“Plague upon the People!” he
Muttered, “What are they to me?
Plague upon the Barons, too!”
(Here he had another chew,)
But the Barons, standing by,
Eyed him with a baleful eye;
Not a finger did they lift;
Not an eyelash did they shift;
But with one tremendous roar,
Even louder than before,
“Sign! Sign! Sign!” they said,

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Reflections On My Small(for now) World

View From Command Central–taken with old point and shoot. Our patio is caged so we are protected from golf balls.

w patio cage

w baby quail



w flowers w hummer

The weather is too nice to stay under the covers.  But what is a person to do with just one working hand? Dear Readers–have you ever tried to open a long-necked Bud with only one hand??? It doesn’t work! Since blog pecking is so difficult I wandered back through my early posts–back in 2007 when I was still with Blogspot. ( I was struck by how many of my posts involved  church observations. No longer.

Since moving to SeniorLand in the middle of Lib Wine Country I have dragged my 12 Faithful Readers through my attempts to play golf, spending our children’s inheritance on camera gear and overcoming my irrational fear of firearms. All those things require two hands. So, I will go back to church stories.

Byrdie died just before western Easter and I was in despair so I decided to slip in the back of the church for the Holy Thursday liturgy. (Readers will remember this church, famous for its Bolshoi Jesus– The lovely custom of decorating the church with loads of flowers appears to have fallen by the wayside. Sigh. The priest began with the obligatory joke from the back of the church. A faux 60ies song was attempted. And then came the foot washing.

The chairs were placed in the front of the pews in a triangle. The plan is that the priest will sit in the top chair and two parishioners will face each other in the lower two chairs. The priest washed the first two pairs of feet then just stood up and walked off and went to his seat behind the altar. He had not bothered to turn off his mic so we all got to hear him mutter, “I feel like a bartender!” as he snapped the drying towel off his shoulders.

What is the proper liturgical response to that?  “And with your spirits?” Nervous laughter spouted from various pews. The rest of the volunteer feet weren’t quite sure what to do so they ended up washing each other’s feet and hurrying away. I slipped away back into the welcome darkness that let me hide a fresh rush of tears.

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Shadow Blogger

There won’t be much blogging from SeniorLand. When the ankle tumor on Byrdie got 10″ around, we made that hard decision and had her put down. She wasn’t moving around much and then she just stopped eating. Those beautiful brown eyes gazed up at us and we knew. We took her to the parking lot of a vet we didn’t know(another story too painful to recount) and held her while the life slipped away from her body. The vet came out to the Jeep so that was a blessing. I remember the day we rescued her from the hell hole caged prison she was in outside of Bakersfield–the thought ran through my mind that this last day would come. Ten years of the best dog to ever come down the pike was over too quickly.

How can there be a water shortage when so many tears have been shed? Mr. T wishes I’d quit referring to the Jeep as the Death Wagon but that last ride left a scar.

Two weeks ago I had thumb joint reconstruction surgery. Typing with one finger on my left hand requires more dedication than I can manage right now. Since the string of bad luck seems to be continuing, I think I’ll just hunker down and hold real still. So, I’m going to pull these camo sheets up over my head and whisper “See you on the flip side for now.”

byrdiehug oldpaper

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