Friday, July 8, 2011

We Can Have Teachers Without Borders Part 3

Location! Location! Location!
What Does Location, Location, Location Mean?
It means identical homes can increase or decrease in value due to location. It's repeated three times for emphasis, and so you will remember the phrase. It's the number one rule in real estate, and it's often the most overlooked rule. The best locations are those in prime spots such as:
·           Within Top-Rated School Districts
·           Close to Outdoor Recreation and Nature

·           Homes with a View

·           Near Entertainment and Shopping

·           In Conforming Areas

·           In Economically Stable Neighborhoods

·           Near Public Transportation, Health Care and Jobs

·           In the Center of the Block
Elizabeth Weintraub – about.com


This is the last in a three part series.

Real estate agents know more about public education than politicians.  Elizabeth Weintraub in an article for about .com states, “Home buyers with children are concerned about their children's education and often will pay more for a home that is located in a highly desirable school district.”

Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to buy a home in neighborhoods with top-rated schools.  Tanya McDowell, not the best poster parent for school reform, was recently arrested again, but now for drug charges.  She first received media coverage when she was arrested for stealing a $15,000 kindergarten education by using a fraudulent address to enroll her son in a school in a more affluent neighborhood.

Kelly Williams-Bolar spent nine days in jail for fraudulently using her father’s address to enroll two of her children in a school in a more affluent neighborhood.

What is it about schools in more affluent neighborhoods that seem to make them better than other schools?  That is besides having parents with more education.  And besides being in a more economically stable neighborhood.  They are better funded.

In California, schools are funded from three sources:  state, federal, and local.  On average for the past ten years school districts receive 79% of their funding from the state, 13% from the federal government, and 8% locally.  The percentages change according to neighborhoods.  For example, a school district in an affluent neighborhood, such as, Beverly Hills Unified may receive 70% of their funding from the state, 4% from the federal government, and 26% locally.  A school district in a much less affluent area, such as, Adelanto Elementary School District, may receive 86% of their funding from the state, 10% from the federal government, and only 4% locally.

Now consider this, approximately 30% of California’s budget is for K-12 education.  There is a $9.4 billion dollar deficit that has been deferred for a later date.  However, when the state eventually deals with its huge budget deficit with cuts to services – the schools more dependent on state funding will get hurt the most.  The districts that can raise more money locally can better maintain services and keep enrichment classes in the curriculum.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights gathered information from 72,000 schools across the nation to gain insight on how equitable or inequitable schools are within districts and across states. Not all of the information has been released yet.  But the new federal data shared last week showed that not all schools and districts offer an equivalent high quality rigorous education. 

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated, “These data show that far too many students are still not getting access to the kinds of classes, resources and opportunities they need to be successful.”

Nirvi Shah, in an article for Education Week, broke down the data. 

·           3, 000 schools serving 500,000 high school students did not offer Algebra II classes.

·           7,300 schools serving 2 million high school students did not offer calculus.

·           At schools where the majority of students were African-American, teachers were twice as likely to have only one or two years of experience compared with schools within the same district that had a majority-white student body.

Is it little wonder that parents are willing to pay more for a house in a top-rated school district?  Is it any wonder that parents unable to buy homes within a top-rated school district are willing to lie to enroll their children there anyway?

A 21st century education, if not tied to a location, doesn’t have that problem.  New and creative ways to provide an education online are being developed all the time.

Sophia.org, for example, is a free social learning community focused on education.  Founded by CEO Don Smithmier, Sophia is built on the belief that it can be the place where you teach what you know and learn what you don’t know. 

The ambition is clear when the search bar on Sophia asks, what do you want to learn?  The categories offered include applied sciences, English/literature, humanities, mathematics, and more.  The categories are then broken down to more specific subjects.

Registering on Sophia is like joining any other online social network. One creates an account and customizes their profile by uploading a picture and sharing a short bio.  You then have access to create learning packets, create groups, provide ratings and reviews, and follow others.

Learning packets are multimedia created tutorials with a learning objective using tools such as text, images, video, audio, and slideshows.  They can be shared privately with a group or made public.  Sophia provides a dual rating and review system for users to evaluate the packets for quality control.

Groups are invitation only.  They can be used to coordinate a study group, organize a class, or evolve around an interest.  A “bookshelf” of learning packets can be created or adopted by the group. 

Sophia recently acquired Guaranteach, a web-based service that provides customized short-form mathematics video tutorials along with assessment tools.  Guarantech has nearly 23,000 videos from counting to calculus developed by 200 teachers and experts in mathematics.  They also provide quizzes and other assessment tools to match tutorials to learning styles and provide student progress reports.  Prior to the acquisition, this service was provided solely on a pay per use basis to schools.  The videos will be available for free on Sophia.org.

Sophia.org plan to expand the Guarantech model to include a full range of English and science tutorials.   And create a new platform that may be licensed by colleges and schools.

Don Smithmier states that the acquisition will provide students and instructors a free resource of math tutorials ranging from basic math to college algebra.  For colleges and schools the combination of Guaranteach’s adaptive learning model and Sophia’s social learning capabilities will provide a powerful platform for differentiated instruction and blended learning.

Sophia.org is not an accredited school.  It is, however, an example of how learning can be re-imagined online away from the brick and mortar of traditional schooling.
Online, teachers can teach without physical borders and boundaries. 


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Used by U.S. Department of Education:  Civil Rights Office Data Collection


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