Category Archives: Education

Cambridge Camp 2009 Registration

The everyday learning fun camp!

Host: The Cambridge School
Type: Education – Class
Network: Global
Start Time: Monday, April 20, 2009 at 9:30am
End Time: Friday, June 5, 2009 at 4:30pm
Location: The Cambridge School of Chicago
Street: 4611 South Ellis Avenue
City/Town: Chicago, IL

Phone: 7739241200


Are you beginning to think SUMMER? You should be! Now is the time to register your child for summer camp programs. Don’t you recall how difficult it was to get your child in that special summer program last year because you waited to the last minute thinking that a space was reserved for you? Consider Cambridge Camp 2009! (And don’t let the cost keep you away. We offer generous scholarships for families that qualify. Be certain to ask before assuming you don’t qualify. )

There are some very good reasons to choose CAMBRIDGE CAMPS for your child this summer. Here are just a few:

University Camp, our signature camp, combines academic enrichment curriculum (“university”) with fun activities (” camp “) throughout the entire summer. Your child is guaranteed to have fun and continue learning the guaranteed core knowledge curriculum that will prepare him/her for excellence in the next grade level. In addition, University Camp is now 9 weeks (expanded from eight last year). Wow! Cambridge Camp include weekly excursions (field trips), grade-level or above curriculum in five subjects (yours to take-home at the conclusion of the program), nature and science studies, many competitions, games, and plenty of sports, dance, and arts activities.

Academic component includes math, library, physical science and nature studies, language arts, reading, Spanish, Latin/Greek, music, and art;

Fun activities include tennis, basketball, miniature golf, dance, visual arts, crafts, field trips, kite flying, safe water activities, and so much more.

Girls Quest afternoon component, our latest addition to the CAMBRIDGE CAMPS, is a selective enrollment year-round enrichment program that is just-for-girls beginning at age 5, which combines mentoring and enrichment and takes girls to an all new level. Over time, Girls Quest will:

o teach etiquette and manners;
o instill self-respect and respect for others;
o teach confidence, poise, and determination;
o train girls to become entrepreneurs and excellent money managers;
o expose girls to fine dining and dinner dances;
o build social skills, sportsmanship, and public speaking;
o provide positive affirmations;
o give girls advice on dressing for success, modesty, and true beauty;
o cultivate culinary and home economic skills;
o monitor academic progress and tutor where necessary.

Sports Quest afternoon component is yet another new addition to the CAMBRIDGE CAMPS in 2009. Sports Quest will provide formal training in sports techniques for child ages 6-10 using the techniques the professional use. Summer 2009 will see the introduction of two (2) sports and 1 cheerleading class. Children will be trained by registered coaches from partner organizations. We’re bringing the best to you so you don’t have to travel throughout the city.

Check out last summer on our photo gallery, located at to get a glimpse of summer activities.

Call: 773-924-1200;


Visit: 4611 S. Ellis Ave.

Applications are available on home page!

IPS stuck in culture of apathy, inefficiency

Waste, bureaucracy, confusion get in the way of teaching

By Andy Gammill

When the superintendent brought in auditors to look at the Indianapolis Public Schools bus operation in December, the department couldn’t say how many routes it runs each day. Auditors had to guess.

When the school district tried to dismiss 14 administrators this year, it missed a deadline to notify the employees and now must pay their full salaries for another year.

Although the district struggles to hire teachers and is chronically short-staffed, it has 10,000 job applications that have never been reviewed.

That confusion and lack of oversight represent what may be the biggest challenge to the state’s largest school district as it continues efforts to reform.

Over the past three years, Superintendent Eugene White has tackled classroom shortcomings such as weak teaching and poor discipline. Now he has started to remake the crippling bureaucracy behind practices that are often inefficient, sometimes illegal and occasionally dangerous to children.

Others before him have tried, only to be defeated by a culture steeped in an attitude of “this, too, shall pass.”

“I’ve heard it ever since 1971 that I’ve been in IPS: ‘Just wait it out,’ ” said Jane Ajabu, the district’s personnel director. “Unfortunately, the people in the district have adopted the attitude of: ‘It’s mediocre, it’s ineffective, that’s just how it is.’ ”

Changing that kind of culture can be one of the hardest things any leader does, said Richard Cosier, dean of Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management and a scholar on organizational change. Because people have grown comfortable doing things the old way, reform is extremely difficult.

Large urban school districts are notoriously inefficient, and at least one measure suggests IPS may be worse than other Indiana districts. Its bureaucracy has an unusually high proportion of licensed educators working outside classrooms.

For every 53 students, IPS has one licensed educator working in a nonteaching job. Across the state, only Gary Public Schools has as high a ratio of administrators to students. Other Marion County districts have 86 to 156 students per licensed educator in a job outside the classroom.

Having so many teachers working as administrators, counselors, curriculum specialists, instructional coaches or assistant principals swells the bureaucracy even as student enrollment steadily drops.

White has called for a review of the number of teachers on special assignment. He also has overhauled the district’s computer security operation and has started to improve the human resources department. Soon, he plans to announce an overhaul of the bus program and a new organizational structure.

“We just can’t go on this way,” he said.

Several School Board members acknowledged the problems but said that inefficiency and waste were limited to certain departments and specific errors, and not a districtwide problem.

“They’re isolated incidents,” board member Clarke C. Campbell said. “Certainly they’re serious and need to be dealt with. But when you isolate four or five incidents, then you’re ignoring thousands of other opportunities for mistakes that weren’t made.”

Yet examples of bureaucratic problems abound at IPS, where 79 percent of its 35,000 students are poor and 9 percent are still learning English. Many of the problems hamper the basic functions of a district, including the hiring of good teachers, encouraging parental participation and wisely using money and educational tools.

The catalog of gaffes and missed opportunities is long and numbing.
Costly mistakes

A few months ago, the U.S. Department of Education reprimanded IPS for using Title I money designed to add programs for poor children to reimburse itself for what it would have done anyway.

The district shifted 17 administrators, teaching coaches and permanent substitute teachers into classroom jobs to comply with the federal order. Had it continued to violate federal law, the district would have had to forfeit about $1.4 million.

In the past, the district routinely had problems administering money under that federal law, White said, and often had to return money.

In February, the district moved to dismiss 15 administrators, some for poor performance and some because of budget cuts. The School Board approved White’s recommendation.

But 14 of the people affected (one has resigned) will keep their full administrative pay for another year because IPS did not notify them in time to cancel the contracts under state law.

“No one’s happy,” IPS spokeswoman Mary Louise Bewley said, “but these things happen.”

Other administrative gaffes have cost the district money.

In August, the Indiana Department of Education asked IPS to repay $274,000 after it discovered that its nine middle schools had held classes for 177 of the required 180 days.

A senior administrator had approved the calendar, mistakenly believing that the district could hold training for teachers on those extra three days.

“Someone should have known,” Purdue University education Professor James Auter said at the time, “and someone should have provided the leadership.”
A hiring quagmire

Despite a desperate need for qualified teachers, IPS had created a human resources system that defeated its hiring quest at every turn.

If a resume, college transcript or letter of recommendation arrived at the district office bearing a different name or Social Security number from the one on the application, it was set aside in a pile.

If an applicant missed filling out a part of the online application, it just sat there.

Human resources representatives did not review the files or call people for more information.

“It’s not lost,” human resources director Ajabu recently told the School Board. “We just don’t know what to do with it.”

She estimates that a backlog of at least 10,000 applications sits unreviewed in the district’s electronic human resources system. Some were started by people who stopped before filling out an entire form because they decided not to apply.

Others, though, were from job candidates who thought they had filled out the file but had left some blanks.

The hiring process ensures that the most persistent — not necessarily the best — candidates get jobs.

Ajabu, who took over as personnel chief in 2005, works hard to hire the best employees. But in the end, she was undermined by a “dysfunctional” system, Superintendent White said.

“Compared to three years ago, we have really improved a great deal,” he said. “But there are still things to do.”

Hiring is only one failure in the district’s HR department.

Ajabu was floored a few months ago when she read the list of IPS employees receiving sick pay.

On it was a teacher who had been dismissed months earlier. She had a signed settlement saying IPS owed her no more money. Yet the district had cut $3,600 in checks in her name after that.

Ajabu also found five teachers on leave from daytime teaching jobs because of illness who then took evening jobs in the district. They were being paid for both.

“Those are the kinds of loopholes, things that the past practices had allowed to happen . . . those type of things have been — I can’t say they’ve all been cleared up,” White said. “They’re unacceptable, and the ones we’ve found have been cleared up.”
Renegade system

A review of the district’s transportation system, commissioned by White last year, portrays the transportation department as a renegade operation so disorganized that it fails to respond to the superintendent’s directives, cuts into classroom teaching and wastes taxpayer money. A private contractor runs about 70 percent of the district’s routes; IPS owns buses and hires drivers to do the rest.

“Transportation always has been a place that had a lot of confusion,” said School Board member Michael D. Brown, a former IPS bus driver. “I just don’t really know how it got that way.”

For instance, the district buys 84-passenger buses and hasn’t considered 77-passenger buses, auditors said, although the smaller buses are cheaper and easier to maintain. Auditors never saw more than 50 students on a bus.

White questioned, though, whether auditors might have seen buses for special programs that had fewer students and not seen others with more children on them.

And the cost of the whole transportation operation raises questions of its own.

IPS spends $1,500 per year to transport one student on its buses. Each bus route run by the contractor costs half of what it would cost IPS to do the job itself. And the district could buy IndyGo passes for 13,000 middle- and high-schoolers. Each pass would cost $330 per year, auditors said.

That would add up to at least $5.4 million in savings.

“The first-blush reaction is it’s a no-brainer,” said Mike Terry, vice president of IndyGo. “This is an opportunity for IndyGo to pick up and support the school system. It would benefit the whole community.”

The transportation department’s problems go beyond financial issues.

When White announced a program this school year to open 21 new alternative schools — a key part of his plan to improve discipline and academics — auditors said the transportation department either didn’t or couldn’t plan adequately for the task.

They noted that “a general lack of planning, coordination and attention to detail has inhibited the Transportation Department’s ability to expand service.”

“We have to change the system,” White said. “We’re doing a better job right now than we ever had. . . . There are just some dysfunctional practices they’ve gotten into.”
Schools stumble, too

The central office problems have echoes in schools, sometimes in the misuse of public funds, according to a 2007 audit by the state.

The audit found several problems at Arlington High School on the Northeastside. The school was cheating students with two separate fees. In one, students were charged a $10 locker deposit to pay for repairs if needed. Auditors said few students received refunds, and no money was used for locker repairs.

In another policy error, Arlington charged a flat fee for textbooks and then didn’t offer refunds to some students whose books cost less than the fee.

Perhaps most illustrative of the lax accounting at the school was a candy sale to raise money for cheerleading. The sale was called off because the candy was lost or, in some cases, destroyed, but a year later the school hadn’t paid vendors for the candy. And when auditors went looking for the paper trail of who oversaw the candy sale, they found nothing.

Apparently, the effort had never been officially approved.

White, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on management of school-level funds, has said the problems are fixed and won’t happen again. The state has not filed a follow-up audit, but White said he had seen an advance copy that shows almost no problems at schools.
Students lose out

For those who want to help students, the mistakes at IPS can be insurmountable — and heartbreaking.

Kathy Cannon, a teacher at Shortridge Middle School, had been bugging her principal to buy a “Smart Board,” a kind of 21st-century blackboard that doubles as a giant computer screen.

Shortridge couldn’t find money to buy one of the boards, which typically cost more than $1,300.

Meanwhile, new administrators taking over a magnet program found tens of thousands of dollars worth of science gear and computers in a storage room at another school. Some of the equipment had been there for years. Some of it apparently had never reached a classroom.

Among the equipment were several Smart Boards.

Cannon got her wish when the unused gear was parceled out to schools, hers among them.

She came out better than many, especially those from outside the district who try to help.

Inspired to help by a newspaper article last year, Far-Eastside resident Cris Giddens called Marshall Middle School to volunteer, but no one at the school followed through. She called the district office for days only to get a busy signal.

Eventually, an administrator gave her contacts at three other schools near her that she was assured would want help. She called principals at all three and didn’t get a single call back.

Now she volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana.

Someone there returned her call.

“A lot of the problems IPS is having are self-imposed in that they’re not responsive,” she said. “It’s hard to have sympathy for the problems they have when numerous attempts are made to help them.”

Call Star reporter Andy Gammill at (317) 444-6494.

New Vision for Schools Proposes Broad Role


Randi Weingarten, the New Yorker who is rising to become president of the American Federation of Teachers, says she wants to replace President Bush’s focus on standardized testing with a vision of public schools as community centers that help poor students succeed by offering not only solid classroom lessons but also medical and other services.

Ms. Weingarten, 50, was elected Monday to the presidency of the national teachers union at the union’s annual convention. In a speech minutes later to the delegates gathered in Chicago, Ms. Weingarten criticized the No Child Left Behind law, President Bush’s signature domestic initiative, as “too badly broken to be fixed,” and outlined “a new vision of schools for the 21st century.”

“Can you imagine a federal law that promoted community schools — schools that serve the neediest children by bringing together under one roof all the services and activities they and their families need?” Ms. Weingarten asked in the speech.

“Imagine schools that are open all day and offer after-school and evening recreational activities and homework assistance,” she said. “And suppose the schools included child care and dental, medical and counseling clinics.”

By laying out that expansive vision of government’s role in the public schools, Ms. Weingarten waded into a fierce debate among Democrats seeking to influence the educational program of Senator Barack Obama, their party’s presumptive presidential nominee. In an interview last week, she said the ideas in the speech amounted to “what I’d like to see in a new federal education law.”

In her 10 years of service as president of the United Federation of Teachers, which represents New York City teachers, Ms. Weingarten has defended teachers’ economic interests, raising her members’ salaries by 43 percent in the last five years. But she has also proved willing to accommodate the city’s ideas on improving schools. She has embraced charter schools, and last year — even as teachers unions elsewhere were opposing performance pay plans — negotiated an arrangement in New York that gives bonuses to teachers in schools whose poor children show broad gains in test scores.

With her move to the presidency of the national union, with 1.4 million members, Ms. Weingarten gains a broader platform from which to influence the nation’s education debates. Although the federation is smaller than the country’s other teachers union, the National Education Association, with its 3.2 million members, A.F.T. presidents have had an equal or larger political profile because presidential tenures in the bigger union are restricted by term limits.

Two previous presidents of the United Federation of Teachers, Albert Shanker and Sandra Feldman, also rose to lead the A.F.T.

“My sense is that Randi Weingarten is continuing Al Shanker’s tradition, clearly standing up for the interests of teachers but also trying to engage in thoughtful education reform that will be good for students,” said Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation whose biography of Mr. Shanker, “Tough Liberal,” was published this year.

On Sunday, Mr. Obama spoke to the convention by satellite feed from California, and he mixed criticism of the No Child law with praise for teachers’ contributions and an exhortation to Americans to meet the nation’s responsibility to educate all children. He quoted a young Chicago teacher as telling him that she had been annoyed by a tendency “to explain away the shortcomings and failures of our education system by saying, ‘These kids can’t learn.’ ”

“These children are our children,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s time we understood that their education is our responsibility.

“I am running for president to guarantee that all of our children have the best possible chance in life,” he said, “and I am tired of hearing you, the teachers who work so hard, blamed for our problems.”

Convention delegates gave Mr. Obama a standing ovation.

Ms. Weingarten takes national office with robust support of the rank and file. “The last eight years of the Republican presidency have really been a threat to the middle class and to public education,” said William Gallagher, a high school social studies teacher in Philadelphia for 33 years. Ms. Weingarten, he said, would “work hard to make sure the new president, whoever he is, puts education on the forefront of issues in this country.”

In Ms. Weingarten’s speech, she praised the ideas of a group of Democrats led by Tom Payzant, the former schools superintendent in Boston, who have argued that schools alone cannot close achievement gaps rooted in larger economic inequalities, and that “broader, bolder” measures are needed, like publicly financed early childhood education and health services for the poor.

Another group, headed by the Rev. Al Sharpton and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein of New York, issued a manifesto last month urging the nation to redouble its efforts to close the achievement gap separating poor students from affluent ones and blaming “teachers’ contracts” for keeping ineffective teachers in classrooms.

Ms. Weingarten said the nation needs a new vision for schools “that truly commits America to closing the achievement gap once and for all.”

“Imagine if schools had the educational resources we have long advocated, like quality pre-K, smaller classes, up-to-date materials and technology and a nurturing atmosphere, so no child feels anonymous,” she said.

Ms. Weingarten, whose mother was a teacher in Nyack, N.Y., is a lawyer who was union counsel during the 1980s and 1990s. In the last decade, Ms. Weingarten taught high school history for six years in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

In the interview, she said: “We all have to work tenaciously to eliminate the achievement gap and to turn around low-performing schools. But the folks who believe that this can all be done on teachers’ shoulders, which is what No Child tries to do, are doing a huge disservice to America.”

Woman dies of Leptospirosis

Just received the following email from a friend:

This is Serious!

This incident happened recently in North Texas.

A woman went boating one Sunday taking with her some cans of coke which she put into the refrigerator of the boat. On Monday she was taken to the hospital and placed in the Intensive Care Unit. She died on Wednesday.

The autopsy concluded she died of Leptospirosis. This was traced to the can of coke she drank from, not using a glass. Tests showed that the can was infected by dried rat urine and hence the disease Leptospirosis.

Rat urine contains toxic and deathly substances. It is highly recommended to thoroughly wash the upper part of soda cans before drinking out of them. The cans are typically stocked in warehouses and transported straight to the shops without being cleaned.

A study at NYCU showed that the tops of soda cans are more contaminated than public toilets – full of germs and bacteria. So wash them with water before putting the m to the mouth to avoid any kind of fatal accident.

Please forward this message to all the people you care about.

And responded:

Yeah, I’ve died quite a few times from all those pops I drank when I was a kid and teenager and didn’t bother wiping off anything. Of course rat urine has gotten a lot stronger than it was back in the day.

I just get the shivers thinking about all the times I had my hands in my mouth after touching God knows what when I was a toddler. It is said, though, that God looks after babies and fools. Why do we pray over our food before we eat it?

Poor lady. Must have just been her time to go, huh? Maybe she could have saved herself if she would have read the information on the CDC site before she bought those cans of coke. Anyway its sad to think that she wasn’t alone. It seems other women have died under the same exact circumstances. Weird, huh?

Don’t take my word for it, check for yourself.

What does it mean when so many people get lured in and even propagate this kind of stuff?

Is it any different from the old woman who answers the door and lets herself get talked into signing on the dotted line for a second mortgage with astronomical interest rates? Any different from the college student who signs up for credit card after credit card without any kind of education about finances or debt? Any different that the Y2K scare? The Iraq war? Iran? Hmmm…

Teacher instills a love of words, but the lesson is about life

Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Phil Holmes has taught English for decades, first to the privileged but lately to the disadvantaged. His method and his intensity make a solid connection with both extremes.
By Mitchell Landsberg
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Phil Holmes, one of the great English teachers of his generation, is standing before a class of high school seniors, trampling all over their self-esteem.

It is a Thursday in October, not long into the school year. Holmes gazes out at his class, his proper prep school face set off by white hair and rimless spectacles, and tells his students, all of them black kids from South Los Angeles, that the first grading period is ending “and most of you will be getting Fs.”

The students stare, dead silent. For perhaps the first time today, he has their full attention.

“This is not a good start,” Holmes continues, his tone stern but even. “But on the other hand, it’s not unusual.”

Class dismissed.

Holmes spent 35 years building his reputation at Harvard School for Boys and its successor, Harvard-Westlake, which attracted some of the best, the brightest and the richest students in Los Angeles. His teaching methods, his curriculum, his empathy, his intensity, his relentless demand for clear, well-ordered thought, changed kids’ lives.

More than that, he shaped wave after wave of young teachers, many of them now working at some of the most influential educational institutions in America.

But when he and a colleague wrote a book describing their teaching method, publishers scoffed. Of course their method worked! Their classes were filled with bred-for-success overachievers! Who couldn’t teach them?

So in 2002, at a time when most people his age were sliding toward retirement, Holmes accepted a teaching job at View Park Preparatory High School, at Slauson and Crenshaw boulevards.

A public charter school founded by Mike Piscal, one of Holmes’ Harvard-Westlake colleagues, View Park wanted to find out if high-quality teaching could make a difference in the lives of underperforming black students.

Holmes offered the school a gold standard. If a View Park student got an A from him, Principal Robert Schwartz figured, it would mean they were ready to compete with the best of the best.

But what if they got only Fs?

Watching Holmes teach over the course of the school year — which would be the last in his 41-year career as a classroom teacher — the answer came slowly into focus.

That Thursday in October began with students filing into the 12th-grade English composition classroom that Holmes shares with a younger View Park colleague. He was dressed in a suit, green dress shirt and tie, black loafers, his hair neatly trimmed, his bearing attentive.

Just before the bell, one of his students poked her head in, hoping to get excused from class. “We’re taking a makeup test in AP history today,” she said. “Do you mind?”

“Yes, I do mind,” Holmes said. “We’re doing something very important in here.”

Read the story here.

National Teacher of the Year Michael Geisen honored at White House

The Prineville science teacher takes the opportunity to push — gently and politely — for creativity over testing


WASHINGTON — Moments after getting a slap on the back from President Bush, Oregon teacher Michael Geisen tactfully suggested that the president rethink his landmark No Child Left Behind Act.

With a disarming mix of confidence and humor that comes from facing a roomful of seventh graders every weekday, the 2008 national Teacher of the Year used the White House photo opportunity to make a case for classroom creativity over a testing regimen.

“So often in public education, though, we squander this creativity, we squander the entrepreneurial spirit of children because we place such a high value on being right all the time,” Geisen said during the event.

“They’re not conglomerations of hormones, they’re not animals to be trained, they’re not just numbers to be measured or future commodities to produce. They are our equals. They’re the here and the now.”

Geisen is concerned that No Child Left Behind can censor innovative teachers like himself because of its heavy reliance on tests to track achievement, rate schools and punish poor performers.

Bush apparently wasn’t offended. The president’s staff didn’t change Geisen’s remarks, which he had to submit in advance. And Bush was in a happy mood, joking with Geisen and hugging him afterward.

“He was a gracious host and a terrific guy. I think he liked me. He hugged me after my speech. It was a man hug,” Geisen said.

Bush was clearly at ease with Geisen as well, so much so that the two traded quips. In introducing Geisen, Bush mentioned that the teacher had casually remarked that he liked what the president had done with the Rose Garden, the highly manicured area just outside the Oval Office.

“All I did was mow the lawn,” Bush joked.

The Rose Garden event was the pinnacle of a whirlwind day for Geisen, a 35-year-old former forester who began teaching seven years ago. After the White House, he mixed with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and finished with a formal dinner in his honor.

Reading First Doesn’t Help Pupils ‘Get it’

Other factors skewing results of study, federal officials posit
By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

The $1 billion-a-year Reading First program has had no measurable effect on students’ reading comprehension, on average, although participating schools are spending significantly more time teaching the basic skills that researchers say children need to become proficient readers, a major
federal report finds.

The long-awaited interim report from the Reading First Impact Study Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader, released last week by the Institute of Education Sciences, says that students in schools receiving grants from the federal program have not fared any better than their counterparts in comparison schools in gaining meaning from print.

That central finding in the first national study of Reading First’s effect on student reading achievement, however, does not necessarily signal that the program, or the evidence-based instructional model it is based on, isn’t working, federal officials said.

Read more.

Education Week
Copyright: Editorial Projects in Education
Reading First Doesn’t Help Pupils ‘Get it’
Other factors skewing results of study, federal officials posit.
By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo