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Washington State University
College of Education

January 2010

On growing grapes … and kids

Drew Bledsoe at the 2009 Scholarship and Excellence event, where he introduced his award-winning dad.

You remember Drew Bledsoe, right? He’s the son of that fellow, Mac, who won an Advocate for Education Award last fall from the College of Education. Well, the younger Bledsoe (and NFL great) is the owner of a new winery in Walla Walla. In a recent Washington State Magazine article, he talks about caring for vines in his vineyard. “If you starve them for water, make the roots really dig, and then thin them out, the grapes that are left really develop some nice complexity and depth.”   So a plant, he says, is like a little kid.  Given everything it wants, “it grows up spoiled with no depth to it.”

Sounds like something his dad would say.

Whose news? Sorting out the WSU media scene
Speaking of Washington State Magazine, you probably know the publication, in its glossy and Web-based forms, is geared toward alumni readers. And you know the Daily Evergreen (and its West Side counterpart, the VanCougar) is a student newspaper.

But for some College of Education folks, the role of campus information sources gets a little fuzzy after that.  So here’s the scoop.

WSU Today is a weekday online newsletter that reports on news about and of interest to faculty, staff and graduate students.  The WSU News Service targets off-campus audiences by providing press releases, feature stories and news tips. The two enterprises often repurpose and  link to each other’s articles, however. And each relies heavily on submissions from communications and marketing staffers who work for WSU’s various colleges, units and campuses.

An education adventurer

Forrest Parkay at the Education Abroad Fair

Professor Forrest Parkay is eager to introduce students to the friends and faculty he’s met off the beaten path in China’s mountainous southwestern Yunnan Province.  But first, he’s been getting lessons of his own in the complexities of setting up what would be the College of Education’s first study abroad course, Education in China.

At this week’s Education Abroad Fair in Pullman, Forrest spoke excitedly about the opportunity, which would start with a five-day stay in Beijing Normal University and even include a visit to Shangri-La.  But one of the most compelling attractions for any student would be the experience that Forrest would pack along on the May 15-June 18 adventure.  His connections to Asia began in 1996 as a Fulbright scholar in Thailand, where he has traveled two dozen times.

“My collaborative activities in China began in earnest around 2005,” he says. “I’ve been there about 10-12 times. One of my doctoral students, Vincent Nix, actually lives and works in Kunming, the location for most of our Education in China program this summer. About two months ago, he defended his dissertation here. Another one of my WSU doctoral students, Qi Li, is now a full professor at Beijing Normal University.”

Forrest’s many publications include co-authoring the  textbook Becoming a Teacher, now in its eight printing and being translated into Chinese. He’ll be talking about the study-abroad course (and offering free pizza) during the noon hour Friday, January 22,  in Room 202 of Pullman’s Education Addition.

Reading matter
We really do know what makes great teaching
. Teach for America allows an Atlantic author access to 20 years of experimentation, studded by trial and error. The results, she reports, are specific and surprising. “Things that you might think would help a new teacher achieve success in a poor school—like prior experience working in a low-income neighborhood—don’t seem to matter. Other things that may sound trifling—like a teacher’s extracurricular accomplishments in college—tend to predict greatness.”


The Legislature and K-12 Education 101


Lt. Gov. Brad Owen (at lectern) and some of the WSU students and faculty he welcomed to the Washington Senate chamber.

Understanding politics is, arguably, as important to a school superintendent as understanding education.  So students in WSU’s Superintendent Certification Program travel to Olympia before each legislative session for a primer on the making of laws that affect K-12 education.

The annual field trip is greatly aided by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, a friend of program director Gene Sharratt. Owen opens up the Senate chamber (the lieutenant governor is president of the Senate when it is in session) and welcomes the WSU students. Last Friday’s packed agenda included policy updates from representatives of top education organizations, as well as state education officials.

The 54 students and four WSU faculty members heard about an upcoming legislative session that could hardly be more stressful. Education is one of many vital state services threatened by deep budget cuts.

The day’s take-home message? Gene summarized it this way:  “Solutions are possible if elected leaders work together to resolve short-term needs, while not losing sight of the long-term priorities.”

The value of the learning experience? Here’s what two of the students had to say:

“The Olympia seminar opened my eyes to new opportunities, future relationships, and how to impact political change.  I will be work on getting to know my legislative representatives and becoming more involved in my own professional organizations.” — Don Francis, elementary principal from the Quincy area.

“The seminar was packed with information regarding funding issues.  The opportunity to hear from practitioners and the difficult dilemma that they are in as we face a huge budget shortfall makes me rethink the political passion one must have for this work.” — Krestin Bahr, middle school principal from Tacoma.

Reading matter, politics edition
Legislature weighs giving up control over university tuition hikes. The Seattle Times reports that a proposal to allow the state’s public universities to raise tuition without legislative approval is gaining momentum in Olympia.

Publications to have and to hold

Online publications are inexpensive, simple to update, and never clog up the recycle bin.

Janet in classroom
From the brochure cover: Assistant Professor Janet Frost, right, with her research assistant Talitha Anderson. (Jeff Green photo)

But quality printed materials provide a presence and tactile pleasure that digital publications lack.  Take the College of Education’s new research brochure, for instance.  The eight-page pamphlet provides a snapshot of our scholarly landscape.  And it does serve a digital function by directing readers to our research Web pages, which include searchable rosters of topics and faculty members.

The brochures will arrive on all campuses this week.  If you need more copies for recruiting, conferences and such, a limited supply is available in the dean’s office.

Reading matter, re: research
Matching teaching style to learning style may not help students.
Four psychologists argue that teaching methods should jibe with the subject, not the students. Others beg to differ.
Experience matters for new principals, says new study. Having graduated from a highly selective university or spending time as a classroom teacher seemed to be less important for the principals in this analysis quoted on the blog Inside Education Research.
Reading practice can strengthen ‘brain highways.’ Intensive reading programs can produce measurable changes in the structure of a child’s brain, according to a study in the journal Neuron.
Studying young minds, and how to teach them. For much of the last century, educators and many scientists believed that children could not learn math before the age of 5 because their brains were not ready. Recent research has turned that assumption on its head.