Most Children Left Behind?

29 06 2011

When I was in school, teachers had curriculum to follow, and much of what I was forced to learn I felt at the time was not important. I believe those teachers understood that it was not what I learned but that I learned how to learn. The things I found boring and useless were interesting and fascinating to other students. Those educational interests are what will lead you to different places in your life. You should be able to think for yourself, find the values in what you know and believe, develop self-esteem, and work in an industry where you can always learn, grow, and prosper. This line of thought led me to examine the pros and cons of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). It is more complicated than I would have guessed, but I hope to cover many of the salient points of the topic.

PROS: If all tests are carefully designed to be consistent with the learning expected in every classroom, there should be a distinct connection between curriculum, assessment, activities in the classroom, and most importantly, cognitive learning.
2.) Common standards are important because it is difficult to compare grades across schools and teachers because of local “norms”. A level playing field in education would be the ideal situation – unfortunately this situation does not exist.
3.) Decades of study now show that the quality of teachers’ tests are very weak compared with rigorously developed long-term tests.
4.) One reason the American educational system is failing is because there have not been high stakes for failure. A number of studies have indicated a strong positive relation between high stakes consequences and performance on assessments.

CONS: Standardized tests oversimplify knowledge and do not test higher-order thinking skills. SAT scores between the 1970s and 1980s declined. Why? More students decided to attend college than ever before and they took the SAT tests. This does not indicate a scoring decline, but rather a skewing of the numbers. In fact, SAT scores have been on an upward trend from the early 1990s through the 2000s.
2.) Standardized tests do not take into account the interaction between teachers and their students in the complex social system in todays classrooms. The largest single factor in the problem with our education system appears to be the instability of both families and communities.
3.) Important learning outcomes are simply not measured by standards testing. Standardized tests measure little more than socioeconomic status – administrators and teachers should not be held responsible for scores reflecting what has happened to their charges before. These tests fail to differentiate instruction for different kinds of children, and condemn low-achieving students to learning in an unproductive and boring system.
4.) High-stakes accountability systems create negative consequences: higher dropout rates and lower retention skills, not to mention unethical test preparation/teaching to the test.

My point is simply that the cons outweigh the pros by a very large margin. It is time for No Child Left Behind to go away or change drastically. Maybe this time our teachers and educators can work together to devise a better model for a system. Politicians are obviously not where we should look for this type of direction. One of the principal authors of “No Child Left Behind” was Margaret Spellings, who served in many capacities under George Bush, mostly in the field of education. Ms Spellings has never worked in a school system, and has no formal training in education. In fact, she appears to have less qualifications than I have discussing this very topic.



20 06 2011

A great friend recently had open heart surgery to remove something he accidentally placed on his aorta. He has been instructed to remove salt from his diet, with the added stipulation that he increase his protein (meat) intake. I am an avid smoker (not just cigars, but bbq items as well). One of my biggest complaints and challenges have always been the amount of salt in both prepared products and most recipes found published. And so with my good buddy in mind, I set out to create a recipe for a salt free dry rub. it is a little bit on the spicy side (the way I like it), but can easily be toned down to suit your taste. Enjoy and live well – less bloated – and maybe even a little longer.

Salt Free Meat Rub

Just mix all ingredients well and rub into Brisket or Pork (probably works well on Turkey, Chicken, Lamb – whatever.)
6 Tbls. Smoked Spanish Paprika
9 Tbls. Granulated Suger
9 Tbls. Dark Brown Sugar
3 Tbls. Toasted Cumin Seeds
3 Tbls. Chili Powder
3 Tbls. Chipotle Powder
3 Tbls. Fresh Ground Pepper
3 Tbls. Cayenne Pepper
3 Tbls. Onion Powder
3 Tbls. Garlic Powder
2 Cups Salt Free Italian Seasoning
6 Tbls. Ground Jalapeno Powder

Makes enough for two flats of brisket and 6 pork tenderloins.

Fun New Pork Tenderloin Recipe

16 06 2011

Pork Tenderloin Florentine

2 – 2.5# Pork Tenderloins
1 bunch fresh spinach
8 oz. cream cheese
3 Tbls. fresh ginger root
1 cup craisins
1 cup hot pepper jelly (see June 9 blog for perfect recipe, or store bought)
½# Prosciutto
3 eggs, lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water
2 cups Panko (Japanese Breading Flakes)
Garlic Powder, Salt, Pepper, freshly grated parmesan, all to taste

Wash, rinse, and pat dry spinach

Filet, flay, and pound out two pork tenderloins

Mix cream cheese, fresh ginger, craisins, and pepper jelly – spread on one side of each tenderloin. Follow with a thin layer of prosciutto. Follow with a thin layer of fresh spinach. Roll as tightly as possible, tie.

Make egg wash and dip each rolled tenderloin until thoroughly covered. Dredge each tenderloin in Panko/Italian Seasoning/Garlic Powder/Fresh Parmesan mixture (with a little salt/pepper to taste). Sauté in butter until browned on four sides, then bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Slice in ringlets and serve with roasted root vegetables.

Serrano Raspberry Jelly

9 06 2011

4 pounds Raspberries, carefully sorted, unrinsed
1 1/2 pounds Sugar
8 Red Serrano Peppers, chopped

1. Place the berries and peppers in a large, heavy stockpot and place them over medium heat. Cook, shaking the pan, until the mixture begins to boil, which will take 10 to 15 minutes. Remove them from the heat and put them through a food mill, to extract the juice. You should have about 1/2 gallon of juice. You can choose to cheat (and make the recipe year round) using whole cranberry juice from a bottle – just assure the main ingredient is not water, and if there is a lot of sugar in the processed product, you will want to cut down the amount of sugar you use in the recipe).

2. Place the juice and the sugar in the stockpot and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is boiling gently. Skim off any impurities (there aren’t likely to be many), and cook until the mixture falls thickly from the spoon, which should take between 20 and 30 minutes.

3. Remove from the heat and seal according to the jar manufacturer’s instructions.

This is great on cream cheese, served over pork or chicken, or my personal favorite – peanut butter and raspberry pepper jelly sandwiches.

And don’t forget this is perfect KCRiverFest celebration food. It just feels like Fourth of July food (red and hot as a firecracker)- and since KCRiverFest is actually celebrated this year on the 2nd and 3rd of July – you are free to use this great concoction with your family on the actual Fourth of July this year! Had to find some kind of a plug for the KCRiverFest event somewhere in here – it’s right around the corner!