Saturday, April 26, 2008

This being away from camp can be addicting!

Art Camp in Davis has been way cool! Hope the campers back home are doing OK without me. Tonight is the Camp Nickleby Junior/Senior Prom down at the Grange Hall. Can't wait to hear the stories when I get back. I understand that Marjean's Prom Gown Rental in Cedarville did a helluva business this year! Glad somebody is making money during the current economic 'downturn'. I heard through the grapevine that Camp Nick might being going into foreclosure! Of course, this might be some ugly rumor started by those smart-alecky kids over at Camp Grenada. More details as I get them.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

On a little vacation!

Taking a few days off. Going up to a ceramic sculpture conference in Davis! I hope the little campers will be OK without me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Camp Nick celebrates Earth Day

Campers are getting ready to celebrate Earth Day at The Nick. Many events have been planned by the Camp Nickleby Friends of the Earth club. President of the club, Flower Rainbow Light is very excited. “We have been waiting all year for our big day,” she proclaimed. Some of the events include a tree hugging competition, a giant pin-the-tail-on-Secretary Kempthorne game, and a recycling scavenger hunt. Campers will be scouring the woods, within a two-mile radius, for plastic bottles and aluminum cans.

Ms. Light plans to end the day with the creation of a giant sculpture of wingnut writer, Ann Coulter! Flower Rainbow says she got the idea for this sculpture after talking to one of our newer students, Chastity Young-Smith. Fifteen-year-old Chastity’s father (or is he her husband) spoke up in Mr. Pythagoras’s science class yesterday and said that recycling is ‘for retards’. Chastity said that she read in Ann Coulter’s book Godless, that Coulter questions why children must be taught that recycling is the only answer? “Why aren't we teaching children "safe littering"?” Ms. Coulter said. Ms. Coulter apparently believes that recycling is just another facet of the greater communist-liberal-homosexual agenda that is ruining America today. Chastity believes that God will eventually just pick up after us, because He loves us so much.

Once the giant sculpture was completed, Flower Rainbow intended to set fire to the masterpiece, and create a Burning Ann Festival, but without the requisite public nudity. The captain of the Cedarville Volunteer Fire Department got wind of this and let Ms. Light and the rest of the campers know that this just wasn’t a good idea. Ms. Light was very disappointed but, being a good lover of Mother Earth, will instead take the bottle and cans to the local recycling center and use the money to purchase festive Friends of the Earth Club doo-rags.

Monday, April 21, 2008

How do we get ourselves out of this mess?

This came to me over the weekend in an e-mail. It was submitted to the local newspaper, but was never published. Not sure why, but I have my suspicions. I feel it should be read by all who are stuck in this insanity but primarily by those who have no idea what is happening to public education in these times.

Does what is best for kids = What is best for test scores?

CITIES GRAPPLE WITH LOW GRAD RATES….STRENGTH OF SCIENCE… TEACHERS: FUSD HOPES TO BOOST TEST SCORES - These headlines have grabbed readers' attention over the past few weeks. As a subtitle to the first- according to a study by America's Promise Alliance, Fresno graduated only 57.4% in 2004. To the second, despite the District claim for students to be scientifically literate, FUSD has eliminated its district science and social science coordinator positions — this was not reported in the Bee nor in Board minutes. To the third, boosting test scores does not mean boosting learning. Rather it condemns students to a narrowed curriculum and low-level thinking skills. In the best of all worlds, students want to learn, teachers want to teach, administrators want to support. Districts strive to provide the necessary resources. How is it that the good intentions and noble dreams of so many become corrupted?

All children do not begin school with equal advantages. Some come healthy and prepared to be successful. Others enter hobbled by limited or even negative experiences: poor nutrition, language skills and vocabulary. Some come from families just struggling to make ends meet. Some wake up each morning wondering if they can walk to and from school without encountering gang entanglements. Learning takes a back seat to survival. According to researcher Robert Marzano, over 80% of the variance in student academic success is determined by outside of school experiences. Only ten to twenty percent of their success is impacted by what is done in the classroom. So how are we taking advantage of this precious classroom time?

Student brains are wired for learning. The brain is a pattern seeker. In short, it wants to know. Parents want their children to love learning. Teachers want them to be lifelong learners. How do our current school policies and practices undermine this? They place the quest for higher test scores above the real goal of education: the development of our children into knowledgeable, responsible, productive adults. The role of parents has been redefined. They are now pressured to prepare their children to be tested while teachers are required to narrow their focus to what will be on the math and Language Arts tests. And worst of all, students see learning as a score and themselves as a proficiency level.

Testing companies, psychological organizations, state and national educational offices declare that the only valid conclusions about what students know and can do must come from multiple sources of evidence- the very types that are found in healthy classrooms like: projects, presentations, reports, experiments, classroom designed assessments, assignments, portfolios, discussions. Many are operating under the illusion that high test scores mean high learning. They don't. There is no corroborating evidence. But, there is significant evidence, most notably the recent study High-Stakes Accountability and the Dropout Crisis that high-stakes tests increase the drop out rate and reduce graduations.

There is nothing in California or NCLB testing requirements that says that you must have additional district testing. We do. Nothing that says that lessons must be scripted so that it is read line by line rather than thoughtfully taught. We do. Nothing that says that lessons must be paced using a chart which directs by minute, hour and day regardless of the rate at which each child learns. We do. No evidence that says that teacher coaches should be hired to attempt to improve student score production. We do. Nothing that says eliminate and/or reduce support for, non-essential, untested, subjects such as science and social studies. We do.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Darwin? Darwin? Bueller?

Trouble is a-brewin’ up here in the woods. Our math and science teacher, Mr. Aristotle Pythagoras, is pissed and might quit teaching altogether. The national downhill slide towards 100% stupidity has finally hit The Nick.

Apparently, about a month a go, a large group of people from Texas bought the old Johnson place, just down the road apiece. They have enrolled their thirty-two children (32) , ages 6 thru 17, here at Camp Nickleby.

First, let me describe this group, because something is just not quite right. All of the men, about six of them, are over 50 years of age. All of the women are, well, I haven’t seen one that’s older than 22! And most of them are pregnant! And the children, the children. They all look like escapees from a casting call for a Steven King movie.

Don’t get me wrong. We welcome the children, and the chargeable dollars they will generate. The downside is, these people don’t want their children to learn about Darwin’s theory of evolution in science class! They demand that we teach Intelligent Design only! And to add insult to injury, their leader, a man by the name of Ezekiel Jeremiah Young-Smith is running for our school board in the upcoming election! And he just might win! Some of our staffers are checking into his background, hoping to find something we can use against him before the election. He constantly wears a flag lapel pin, so that’s out. Hopefully, we can use some out-of-context material from one of his former pastor’s sermons, or if he ever flew to Bosnia. We can’t go after the multitude of young, pregnant wives, because we all love families.

Ironically, the Bijou theatre in nearby Cedarville, is showing that new movie, Expelled, dealing with the teaching of creationism in United States colleges and universities. The movie is by the seemingly-rational actor and former Nixon lawyer and speech writer, Ben Stein. A few of us went Friday night to take a peak. Afterwards, we gathered in Spellings Hall for a glass (or two) of sherry and discussed the issue of teaching 'Intelligent Design' in a public school setting. The discussion started with the book of Genesis, of course. Charmaine, whose daddy was a Pentecostal preacher back in Boca Raton, tried to explain the story of Adam and Eve to us. She explained that the human race originated from the first parents, and their two sons, Cain and Able. Of course, the boys needed mates to procreate with and ‘go forth and multiply’, but the only female on earth was their mom, Eve. After we heard this, there was much gnashing of teeth. We all looked around at each other uncomfortably, let out a collective “eeeeoooooooooo”, put down our sherry and went to our rooms.

“After all, religion has been around a lot longer than Darwinism.” George W. Bush, September 2000

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Don't be misconscrewed!

I, walking dictionary.

I know that most of my students have been exposed to a dictionary at least a few times in their school careers by now, but most find it much easier to just skip over a word they don’t know or ask a teacher what a word means. Sometimes this does have its plus side.

Yesterday, Edgar (not his real name. OK, yeah, it is) came up to me and asked me for some clarification on the pronunciation of a word. He was certain that he had it right. I assured him, after much debate, that the word was not pronounced misconscrew. He still isn’t convinced. However, when one looking over the nonsensical AYP and API numbers, it is fitting that we sometimes feel they are misconSCREWED by the folks up on the hill. Or wherever.

Here is a shot of the Camp Nickleby Webster’s New World Dictionary, Concise Edition. It has a 1958 copyright and features a lovely duct tape binding. If you’re looking for a word coined after the Eisenhower administration, you’re SOL. I don’t think that’s in there either! But it is CONCISE!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Chasing Our Tails!

Pssssst! What did you get for No. 17?

Well, that glorious day has arrived! Let the high-stakes testing begin. All the kids at Camp Nickleby are fired up, ready to show the California Department of Education and President George W. Bush how much they learned this past year. Some even brought their own No. 2 pencils to school!

Early word from some teachers indicates there might be some problems in our journey to that magical score of 800. Many kids are totally mystified by just filling in the information required on the cover of the test booklet. According to one teacher, about 20% of her class had difficulty writing in their own names. Some were unable to bubble in the version number of the test booklet they had, which is very important when it comes to scoring. Many confused the test version number with their grade level. A good number needed help in deciding which ethnicity they were. This, of course, is extremely important when the government ascertains whether or not a school is closing the ‘achievement gap’, or when they need to decide which criteria to use when invading and occupying a school.

Oddly enough, one young lady started answering question 100 first, and worked backwards to question 1. Quite puzzling, until the teacher realized this student recently transferred in from Tel Aviv. Apparently she confused the test with the Torah.

Being of the bubble-filling generation, many got a tad carried away and created some great masterpieces with the answer sheets. So far, there have been two Jasper Johns, three Andy Warhols, seven Frank Stellas, and four Jackson Pollocks, which ain’t an easy thing to do with bubbles!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A must read . . .

This came my way yesterday and I think it is worthy of a read. For those of you don’t understand the real intent of NCLB, this should make it crystal clear. All of us in public education are faced with impossible, unattainable goals, even those of us at Camp Nickleby. Thank you Mr. Bush!

Check this link out.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Olympic Torch Misses The Camp!

Wow, it’s been awhile. We have so much catching up to do. First things first.

Camp Nickleby has just been informed that the Olympic Torch will not be threading its way through the camp! We much glee, we were notified last week by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom that he would like to reroute the torch through our mountain hideaway. Unfortunately, he had a change of heart. Most disappointed was our neighbor and part-time spiritual adviser, Tibetan Monk Ahm Naht Hōm. He was planning something ‘special’ when the torch bearer and accompanying entourage made their way through. He said he wanted to celebrate his brother’s employment as a javelin catcher at the Beijing Olympics this summer. His brother, Awei Phrom Hōm, is still back in Tibet and is a monk-in-training at the local Buddhist monastery. All of the campers, as well as the staff, are very disappointed in this latest development. We made wonderful signs and practiced clever songs and slogans until 3:00 a.m. this morning.

TESTING, TESTING, is this mike on?

Well it’s springtime at ‘The Nick’, and that can mean only one thing . . . STANDARDIZED TESTING!!! Make-or-break-it testing starts next Tuesday and we can hardly wait! All of the test materials are here, under lock and key, just waiting to measure how well our kids learned during the previous year. Luckily, we met our API goal for 2007, which means the barbarians will be kept outside the gate for another 12 months. Or at least we hope so. The kids have been subjected to hours of test-taking strategy lessons and even a motivational speaker to get them pumped up. I’m not sure if he ‘lives in a van down by the river’, but the ghost of Chris Farley could be felt hovering over the campus.

We also received some good news from last February’s CAHSEE test. A great majority of our sophomores passed the test! Unfortunately, not enough passed with a high enough score to keep El Jefe Spellings and her Federales at the Department of Education happy. It's just never good enough for them. Curiously, we only have the sophomores for a year and a half before they are tested with the CAHSEE. We are expected to work wonders in that time. If they do not reach that magical 380 score, we get clobbered. Ironic.


Last month’s waterboarding championships against Camp Grenada had to be canceled at the last minute. Apparently officials from the county health department found low-levels of DDT and other ‘chemicals known to the State of California to be harmful to humans’, to be in the lake. Lake Mukasey not only has a No Lifeguard sign, but a Proposition 65 sign too! On the bright side, the Camp’s Young Entrepreneurs Club has decided to bottle the stuff and sell it on eBay as a cure-all home remedy for everything from Lyme disease to gout. Any proceeds will go to the Douglas Feif’s Prosecution for War Crimes fund. Please purchase a bottle today, won’t you?

And for some sobering reading, check out this site.