Sad news out of Palm Coast, Florida…
Over 500 students at Flagler-Palm Coast High School protested the state’s anti-LGBTQ ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill yesterday by walking out of school for 20 minutes or so. The main organizer of the event was suspended ‘until further notice’ (which is illegal under U.S. Supreme Court precedent) by the high school principal for bringing and distributing pride flags to students. The principal told the student that he was ‘disrespectful and openly advocating against staff.’ Before the protest, the principal pulled the student aside and ‘voiced his opposition’ to the pride flags.
As the article in the Daytona Beach News-Journal notes, “students who showed up to the stadium with flags and other pride-related merchandise were blocked by administrators attempting to confiscate them.” Additionally, “students at the event said administrators circled protesters in the stadium, threatening them with discipline if they didn’t turn in their pride and LGBTQ+ flags.”
The school district spokesperson said that student leaders were told no flags prior to and at the beginning of the event “so as to avoid undue safety concerns and campus disruptions.” Here are the flags in question that apparently were a disruptive safety concern:
The school district superintendent also has banned the book, All Boys Aren’t Blue, from school libraries so there appear to be ongoing issues in the community regarding equity, acceptance, and inclusion.
As student bodies continue to become more diverse – and as LGBTQIA+ students and their families continue to advocate for greater acceptance of their human rights and dignity – it is imperative that school administrators figure out ways to move their school systems forward, not backward.
We need to do better than this.
Hechinger Report just published an article on how having teachers study student data doesn’t actually result in better student learning outcomes.
Think about that for a minute. That finding is pretty counterintuitive, right? For at least two decades now we have been asking teachers to take summative and formative data and analyze the heck out of them. We create data teams and data walls. We implement benchmarking assessments and professional learning communities (PLCs). We make graphs and charts and tables. We sort and rank students and we flag and color code their data… And yet, research study after research study confirms that all of it has no positive impact on student learning:
[Heather Hill, professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education] “reviewed 23 student outcomes from 10 different data programs used in schools and found that the majority showed no benefits for students” . . . . Similarly, “another pair of researchers also reviewed studies on the use of data analysis in schools, much of which is produced by assessments throughout the school year, and reached the same conclusion. ‘Research does not show that using interim assessments improves student learning,’ said Susan Brookhart, professor emerita at Duquesne University and associate editor of the journal Applied Measurement in Education.”
All of that time. All of that energy. All of that effort. Most of it for nothing. NOTHING.
No wonder the long-term reviews of standards-, testing-, and data-oriented educational policy and reform efforts have concluded that they are mostly a complete waste. We’re not closing gaps with other countries on international assessments. Instead, our own country’s achievement gaps are widening. The same patterns are occurring with our own national assessments here in the United States. Similarly, our efforts to ‘toughen’ teacher evaluations also show no positive impact on students. It’s all pointless. POINTLESS.
The past two decades have been incredibly maddening and demoralizing for millions of educators and students. And for what? NOTHING.
Are school administrators even paying attention? Or are they still leaning into outdated, unproductive paradigms of school reform?
This was the line in the article that really stood out for me:
Most commonly, teachers review or re-teach the topic the way they did the first time or they give a student a worksheet for more practice drills.
In other words, in school after school, across all of these different studies, our response to students who are struggling is to… do the same thing again. Good grief.
Make school different.
MARCH 8 ADDENDUM
Here are some additional paragraphs from the Hill article:
Goertz and colleagues also observed that rather than dig into student misunderstandings, teachers often proposed non-mathematical reasons for students’ failure, then moved on. In other words, the teachers mostly didn’t seem to use student test-score data to deepen their understanding of how students learn, to think about what drives student misconceptions, or to modify instructional techniques.
Field notes from teacher data-team meetings suggest a heavy focus on “watch list” students—those predicted to barely pass or to fail the annual state reading assessment. Teachers reported on each student, celebrating learning gains or giving reasons for poor performance—a bad week at home, students’ failure to study, or poor test-taking skills. Occasionally, other teachers chimed in with advice about how to help a student over a reading trouble spot—for instance, helping students develop reading fluency by breaking down words or sorting words by long or short vowel sounds. But this focus on instruction proved fleeting, more about suggesting short-term tasks or activities than improving instruction as a whole.
Common goals for improving reading instruction, such as how to ask more complex questions or encourage students to use more evidence in their explanations, did not surface in these meetings. Rather, teachers focused on students’ progress or lack of it. That could result in extra attention for a watch-list student, to the individual student’s benefit, but it was unlikely to improve instruction or boost learning for the class as a whole.
I think my takeaways from all of this are that:
- As would be expected, analyzing student data alone doesn’t do much for us. We also need to have effective interventions.
- Despite our best intentions and rhetoric, the research indicates that most schools don’t actually engage in effective interventions.
So all of our data-driven, PLC, RTI, etc. work isn’t actually doing much for us, at least in terms of student learning outcomes. Learning gaps continue to persist. Teacher instruction isn’t changing. And so on…
Image credit: Wincing, Frédéric Poirot
Kelisa Wing said:
What kind of world do you want to leave for those who come after us? Who cares if my students know how to make their subjects and verbs agree if they use language to promulgate hate? Who cares if my students know the Pythagorean Theorem if they use numbers and statistics to minimize others? Who cares if my students know the stories in their history books if they do not use the past to ensure that we create a new equitable future?
Is your school preparing students to help create an equitable future?
Following up on my previous post, I’m going to share a fantastic blog post from Michael Kaechele:
I have grown weary of the call to avoid controversial topics and stay neutral. Silence is compliance. There are many things in history that do not have two equal opposing sides: slavery, genocide, imperialism, colonialism, segregation, etc. There is only one side to these events that is fair, just, and equitable. Educators should help students understand how oppressors justified their actions in history without giving credit to their arguments. Done properly it would be a warning against similar tactics used today.
Educators don’t take stock in conspiracy theories. We stand up for truth, justice, and decency. Please do not let students defend positions based on speculation and hearsay. It is our job to present truth to students even if they and their parents don’t want to hear it. We can not necessarily change their hearts and minds, but we can force them to confront the truth. Teachers should interrupt and challenge any student who presents conspiracy theories and false information with questions of its source and legitimacy. We can not allow bigotry, racism, sexism, or any other discrimination in our classroom.
I would add administrators and students to this list. We shouldn’t let them defend those positions either, and we surely shouldn’t pretend neutrality in the face of injustice. Nicely said, Michael.
How are the conversations going in your school system?
There is some incredible work happening right now related to women in P-12 educational leadership. Below are four initiatives that have caught my attention over the past few months…
- Women Who Lead. The first initiative is Women Who Lead, which is led by the always awesome Kim Cofino and her team at Eduro Learning. Women Who Lead has more than 500 curated video conversations with over 70 women who hold leadership positions in education. There are 8 different learning modules, customized pathway options, protocols, scholarship opportunities, a private discussion forum, a curated Twitter list, and much, much more.
- SheLeadsEdu. The second initiative is SheLeadsEdu, which is led by the phenomenal Jody Britten and Missy Emler and their team of ‘hell raisers.’ SheLeadsEdu hosts frequent Twitter chats, online video meetups, and book clubs. There also is a private community for participants as well as a SheLeadsEdu directory of women leaders around the world.
- WomenEd. The third initiative is WomenEd, a ‘global grassroots movement’ that brings together both existing and aspiring women leaders in education across the globe. WomenEd boasts a community of over 35,000 participants and has hosted hundreds of events. The leaders of WomenEd have a new book out, titled 10% Braver: Inspiring Women to Lead Education, as well as an active blog, mailing list, and a variety of networks that you can join.
- Women’s Leadership Incubator. The fourth initiative is the upcoming Women’s Leadership Incubator, sponsored by the Office of Professional Learning and Community Education (PLACE) in the University of Wisconsin School of Education. The incubator experience begins in July 2021 and will feature ongoing coaching, regular meetings with experts, community action projects, and access to relevant research from one of the best colleges of education in the world.
If you’re a woman in educational leadership – or another school administrator who wishes to be an ally in this work – be sure to check out the amazing work happening in these communities. In addition to the initiatives featured above, tune in to the #SheLeadsEdu, #WomenEd, #WomenEdLeaders, and #WomenWhoLead Twitter hashtags for some great discussions.
If you know of other initiatives that bring together awesome woman leaders in education, let me know!