FunnyMonkey Blog

Bill Fitzgerald | March 1, 2014

Until proponents of Value Added teacher ratings can explain how Mark Berndt was a solid educator, the use of Value Added rankings as part of any teacher evaluation plan is pathetically, harmfully myopic.

According to the logic of Value Added, Mark Berndt was actually improving - look at how his Value Add in math climbed from 2009.

On a related note, Mark Berndt created a data trail on the students in his classroom. How much of that data trail is still intact? What would a FERPA review (pdf download) of that data look like? What recourse does a family have when a teacher...

Bill Fitzgerald | February 18, 2014

This post is a collaborative effort from a group of people for teaching about the Jordan Davis murder.

[This post represents the work of a group of educators and education activists who wanted to help educators help students process the verdict in the Jordan Davis murder trial. Many of us wrote from our experiences both in and out of the classroom, and as such, many of us used “I” statements in talking about these ideas. The writers are Melinda Anderson, Joshua Block, Zac Chase, Alexa Dunn, Bill Fitzgerald, Matt Kay, Diana Laufenberg, me, Luz Maria Rojas, John Spencer, Mike Thayer, Jose Vilson and Audrey Watters. You can also link to the Google Doc or the whole thing as a PDF. Everything written below is collaborative. This document is...

Bill Fitzgerald | February 11, 2014

NOTE: This is a long piece. I won't be (too) offended if you skip right to the conclusion. END NOTE

When people write about the story of inBloom, they generally note that Louisiana was the first state to stop using inBloom. The story is usually told with the exit as Louisiana's decision, made in response to parental outrage over data sharing.

The question of whether or not inBloom was storing Social Security numbers (SSNs) of students raised many initial questions, and the initial responses did little to address these concerns.

From looking at how inBloom's language around SSNs evolved over time, it seems like they started from a place of "we...

Bill Fitzgerald | February 9, 2014

I am not with you if you co-opt past horrors to score rhetorical points.

I am not with you if you use gendered stereotypes.

I am not with you if you whitewash discussions of privilege.

I am not with you if you amplify voices doing any of the above things.

I will never stop advocating for schools that are in the best interests of kids and teachers. I care about ensuring that public education remains public, and that people get the resources they need - inside and outside schools. I also realize that my voice is just one of many, and that we...

Bill Fitzgerald | February 5, 2014

If organizations collecting and advocating for student data use want to make a difference in helping students transition to college, there are two things they could do pretty immediately that would have an immediate impact on reducing barriers to attending and transitioning into college:

  • Pre-seed the Common Application with information from the district and/or state level datastores; and
  • Pre-seed the Federal Student Aid form with data from district and/or state level datastores.

I suspect that some vendors are already doing this, especially with products that are marketed to the independent school world.

There are practical hurdles around privacy that need to be considered, as well as details like the PIN required to use federal education web sites. But the process of applying to college is pretty...

Bill Fitzgerald | February 3, 2014

Dr. Alan Singer put out a piece on Huffington Post Education today ostensibly about how New York State education officials don't want to hear about objections to the Common Core standards. However, the piece goes off the rails into a criticism of a single person, and any point gets lost in the process.

The first seven paragraphs rehash New York education politics, including a summary of the New York Regents Research Fellows. In the eighth paragraph, things get messy.

On the EngageNY website and for the Regents Research Fund the chief salesperson for Common Core is Kate Gerson, a very attractive woman who appears to have minimal teaching experience. Although she is not an actual employ of the State Education Department, Gerson represents them at Common Core meetings across the state and is the featured Common...

Bill Fitzgerald | January 30, 2014

In discussions about student privacy and data collection, it's easy to remain stuck on small pieces of the larger picture. In the interest of showing a more complete picture, it's worth looking at the data trail that could be created from a single day of learning. To guide us on this journey, we will work with Sondra*, a sixteen year old high school student. Sondra is enrolled in her local public school. She plays basketball, and takes a regular courseload.

1. The Day

A. Waking Up

Sondra wakes up at 6:30. She has left her school-issued iPad (part of the schools 1:1 iPad initiative) on and charging all night. Her school has Google Apps; she messages Amy, her girfriend, and says a quick "hello" via hangout.

B. Homeroom

On her way to school, Sondra stops off and gets coffee. She had been up late the night before, and mornings are always difficult. The caffeine...

Bill Fitzgerald | January 25, 2014

In preparing for my Educon session, I've spent a fair amount of time reviewing the existing open content repositories, as well as sites dedicated to sharing individual lessons. Leaving the licensing terms of some lesson sharing sites aside for the moment, this review showed that if you are looking for either a complete openly licensed text or an individual lesson, you will have plenty - really, an almost overwhelming amount - of options.

What's largely missing, though, are any comparable sites supporting the work of teachers looking to create and share coherent sets of resources and activities that can be used to support learning. In working on the details of the Ancient Civilizations project, I found myself creating exactly that: a set of resources that hold...

Bill Fitzgerald | January 22, 2014

This Saturday, I will be facilitating a conversation at Educon focused on building the structure to support an openly licensed Ancient Civilizations course. The planned conversation is really one small piece of a longer process - during the session, we will split our time between working, identifying useful sources to incorporate into the course, identifying potential projects to help ground the work in interdisciplinary project-based learning, and identifying other people who might be interested in working on the course. At the risk of stating the obvious, the work required to do this right has started well before this event, and will continue well past. The conversation at Educon is somewhere in the middle of the process.

It's worth noting at the outset: using the term "course" for this work doesn't feel accurate. It's probably more accurate to say that we are...

Bill Fitzgerald | January 17, 2014

As discussed yesterday, the terms of use on BetterLesson are confusing to the point of hostile to end users. The issues on BetterLesson could easily be the result of oversight, and they also have said that they are looking into it.

Both sites are partnered with a teacher's union: the American Federation of Teachers partners with ShareMyLesson, while the National Education Association partners with BetterLesson.

While the terms on ShareMyLesson are more direct, they still do not respect the choices of content authors. ShareMyLesson claims full rights to do whatever it wants with any content in the site; this is defined in the "Rights In Posted Content" section of ShareMyLesson's Terms of Service:

With respect to all Content you...


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