Friday, March 26, 2010

Quoted in AJC article: ‘Undercover Boss’ on CBS

CBS hasn’t had a new reality show hit in several years so when it green-lit “Undercover Boss,” the network only ordered nine episodes, a dutiful sign of caution.
“I think most workers think executives are aloof and don’t understand their problems,” said Perry Binder, an assistant professor for legal studies at the Robinson School of Business at Georgia State University. “They get a kick seeing them get down and dirty and hope if they see what they do each day, they can improve things.”

Continue reading:
Undercover Boss’ on CBS spotlights Stone Mountain Park & the Norcross company that runs it
March 25, 2010, by Rodney Ho

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Move Elementary School out of Harm's Way

This is a follow up to my Saturday, January 23, 2010 post

I follow the Marsh Fork/Massey coal issue very closely -- in April, there will be a school board vote on needed funds to move this school.

In West Virginia, the Marsh Fork elementary school sits 400 yards downstream from a dam holding back billions of gallons of water/coal sludge. The West Virginia government has refused to build a new elementary school in a safer location. The community, afraid for its children's lives, began the organization Pennies of Promise to raise the funds themselves. In April 2010, the school board will vote on funding for a new school. Are you willing to lend your voice to support these kids?

My students have joined the Facebook page below, and I am reaching out to other schools in an effort to elevate media awareness and the importance of a new school.
The "Pennies of Promise" Facebook group:

Please pass this post on to others.


Our prayers go out to all of the miners' families -- The Upper Big Branch mine near Whitesville, W. Va. is just 9 miles from Marsh Fork Elementary in Sundial, W. Va.

Marsh Fork Elementary School is the Media Staging Area for broadcast and print journalists for the latest information on the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster. Video on this link.

WVU is collecting condolences for families of mine disaster

Friday, March 19, 2010

Keep Them Laughing to Keep Them Learning

Below is my university's Center for Teaching & Learning Newsletter (pdf)


New technologies spark student-teacher symbiosis

Teaching Today’s Students - Is it harder or just different?

Keep Them Laughing to Keep Them Learning - my article, originally in Atlanta Journal Constitution

I never dreamed of being a college professor.
Does anybody?
When my third grade teacher asked us about our dream job, Molly said, “Astronaut.” Evan, “An actor.” Perry: “Obtain a terminal degree and lecture on legal morasses.”

Whether you teach third grade or nuclear physics, every student wants a
good laugh. As teacher accountability objectives collide with shorter attention
spans, laughter is the secret ingredient to keep everyone on task.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Students found their hearts in Joe Fran’s classroom

I enjoy reading these stories and passing them on:

By Cate Murway, Correspondent, Bristol Pilot News
We all have favorite teachers. Whether they taught us how to read, write or do arithmetic, encouraged us, challenged us or gave sound advice in times of confusion, all of us have one or two educators in mind when we are asked: “What is the best thing you learned, so far?”


“Teaching was a wonderful career for me and I loved it. The student taught me as much as I taught them. I taught them to love and be passionate.”

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lured Into Trade School and Debt - A Recurring Story

Many years ago, I taught at a trade school and found that the teachers were as passionate about their craft as any teachers I have met. However, I also found that the administration had pressure to recruit students in a way that public institutions do not. I have taught classes at all levels of higher education - from graduate schools, to four year universities, to community colleges. While there must be some proprietary schools with time-tested success, simply put - our two-year colleges (which face budget cuts) are the ticket for people to obtain specific job training, and avoid the massive debts discussed in this New York Times article (March 13, 2010) - In Hard Times, Lured Into Trade School and Debt.

It would be unfair to make a sweeping allegation against all trade schools. However, there are many schools which still employ the practices referenced in the article. As a way to help students and attorneys, I wrote a 50+ page book chapter on how a student can confront a trade school in court, if that student believes s/he is the victim of unscrupulous practices.

My piece, written in the mid-1990's, "Liability of Private Trade School To Student" is not available online - you need to visit a law school library or access it from a Lexis or Westlaw database (Cite: 22 Am. Jur. Proof of Facts 3d 411).

The NY Times article makes it crystal clear that fifteen-plus years after my article, abuses in the trade school sector are the same or worse in 2010. (even after legislation was passed, e.g., barring incentives for admissions representatives based on the number of students they enroll)

Here is the Introduction to Liability of Private Trade School To Student (much of which is excerpted from the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs (United States Senate, May 1991)

In the state of Texas, a truck-driving school arranged a $5,000 loan for a student who was eventually denied a state operator's license. The reason for denial of the license was that the student was unable to operate a truck's clutch because she only had one foot. Unfortunately, such tales are not unusual in the private education sector. [Footnote]

Today, as the federal government scrutinizes the default rates on loans offered to students at private trade schools, [FN] these schools have created a public perception of greed at the expense of education. Testifying before the U.S. Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, one trade school owner recently admitted: "I'm a businessman out to make a profit. Truly, I don't care about the well-being of the students." [FN]

The proprietary school sector [FN] has become a big business due, in part, to the accessibility of financial aid to trade schools and the lack of credible regulatory bodies to police such schools. As one school president stated before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 1991, "there is no way to escape being a slave to the quarterly report. Quality education and higher earnings are two masters. You can't serve both." [FN] The Subcommittee found that such attitudes are prevalent at many proprietary schools. For example, the former financial aid administrator for one school testified that contests were held whereby sales representatives earned incentive awards for enrolling the largest number of students during a given period. Likewise, receptionists with the largest number of student phone contacts were given time off, and loan counselors received cash, color televisions, or other such awards for the largest number of applicants processed. The former financial aid administrator remarked that he "always felt a little strange that the instructors never had a contest, or that the placement office never was rewarded if they placed a high number of graduates." [FN]

Unfortunately, the prospect of regulating the trade school industry has become bleaker in recent times. For example, in Florida, the state licensing agency for trade schools recently cut its staff from five to three investigators for a total of 550 schools. [FN] As economic times get tougher, many college admissions representatives, earning commissions on each student they enroll, often do not have the student's best interests at heart. As a former school owner, convicted of defrauding a guaranteed student loan program, testified:
In the proprietary school business, what you sell is 'dreams,' and so ninety-nine percent of the sales were made in…poor, black areas…at welfare offices and unemployment lines, and in housing projects. My approach…was that 'if [a prospect] could breath, scribble his name, had a driver's license, and was over eighteen years of age,' he was qualified for [the school's] program. My tactics…, [which] were approved, and even encouraged, by the school's owners included making the down payment for the prospect (the amount of which would be reimbursed to me out of the financial aid proceeds) and…going so far as to accompany the prospect to a pawn shop in order for him to obtain enough money for it. [

The purpose of this article is two-fold. First, it attempts to briefly educate the general practitioner about the "tricks of the trade" in the proprietary school business, the laws relating to financial aid for students, and the process of enrolling students in trade schools. Second, the article discusses the causes of action that can be filed against trade schools, the defenses to those causes of action, and the elements of proof that are necessary for a plaintiff student to successfully prosecute a civil claim of intentional misrepresentation against a trade school. [

Monday, March 8, 2010

Thoughts on Building a Better Teacher

Follow up to March 7 posting:

I think when it comes to learning a subject like algebra, a teacher can put in 20 hours of work, and be 20 hours more prepared- however, for communicating information or motivating students --this is an intangible skill.

The best way for teachers to work on these skills --- watch other teachers or seminar presenters in action. Not to emulate other teachers, but to add to the teachers' repertoire. Most important thing to me -- never try to be anyone else but yourself, and lean on your own strengths. The great comics borrow material from each other, but they are true to their own gifts.

My measure of a great teacher -- if s/he wakes up every morning looking forward to class and believes that it is a privilege to inspire young minds -- if it's not a job, but a passion, that's the teacher I want in my k-5 class (and I had few or none!). To me, teaching is a job only when I am under the weather or in a bad mood --other than that, it's a total joy. And a class can lift me out of any mood!

When I was in 9th grade, we had an amazing social studies teacher who was the victim of the budget cuts. He went on to succeed in the private sector, but likely would've been the greatest 30-year teacher around. Think of all of the lives he could've positively impacted. State legislatures nationwide needs to be dream builders, not bottom line slashers.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Building a Better Teacher

Today's NY Times Magazine has an interesting article with a presumptuous title.

Published: March 2, 2010

Excerpt: [w]hen it came to actual teaching, the daily task of getting students to learn, the school floundered. Students disobeyed teachers’ instructions, and class discussions veered away from the lesson plans. In one class Lemov observed, the teacher spent several minutes debating a student about why he didn’t have a pencil. Another divided her students into two groups to practice multiplication together, only to watch them turn to the more interesting work of chatting. A single quiet student soldiered on with the problems. As Lemov drove from Syracuse back to his home in Albany, he tried to figure out what he could do to help. He knew how to advise schools to adopt a better curriculum or raise standards or develop better communication channels between teachers and principals. But he realized that he had no clue how to advise schools about their main event: how to teach.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Michigan teacher recognized for inspiring his students

A decade ago, high school student Jeremy Warner sat in a science classroom in this school district, excited about learning. Fast forward to 2010, and Ubly science teacher Jeremy Warner is being rewarded for his efforts to excite his students about learning. Warner will receive the Science Teacher of Promise award at the Michigan Science Teacher Association (MSTA) conference this weekend in Lansing. He is the only teacher in the state receiving this award.