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Nostalgic for factual recall

The memorize cassette

Two quotes from today’s article in The Des Moines Register, Iowa Poll: Common Core not so radioactive for Iowans:

Ah, the good old days

When Iowa Poll respondents opposed to Common Core standards were asked about their objections, some lamented the shift from traditional teaching methods such as rote memorization of facts and formulas to a focus on more critical thinking.

Because we’ve learned nothing about teaching math in 50 years

Civil engineer Jack Burnham Jr., a 40-year-old independent voter, also has a “very negative” view. “I’ve got a math primer from the 1960s,” he said. “That math worked just fine.”

Shifting the public’s conceptions about learning and teaching is an ongoing, uphill battle…

Image credit: the memorize cassette, Robert Oxford

Hiding data from the public

Mercedes Schneider said:

I think that any time you have a situation where information is as tightly controlled as it is by education officials in Louisiana, that should raise a real red flag. If you can’t find data that hasn’t been massaged or indexed or changed to the point where it no longer means much, that’s a red flag that there’s something going on that officials don’t want us to know. And if reporters aren’t going to ask those questions, somebody else is going to have to.

via http://edushyster.com/?p=6350

Corrosive to a teacher’s humanity

Ellie Herman said:

If teaching is an art and a science, I’m scared that in our national conversation about education, we are so intent on demanding accountability for mastering the ‘science’ part that we’re creating conditions that seem designed to crush teachers’ souls. When our system treats teachers with disdain, creating accountability measures whose underlying premise is that teachers are so incompetent and lazy that they need to be monitored rigidly, strictly and incessantly, at what point does that myth become corrosive to a teacher’s humanity? 

How do we nurture and encourage the qualities teachers need in order to use all these techniques in the first place, the faith, the compassion, the patience, the passion for a subject? Can we start by valuing those qualities – by which I do not mean putting a dollar value on them? Can we acknowledge and respect the individual lives and experiences that teachers are bringing to the classroom every day, without which none of what they’re teaching would be of any use to anyone? Can we balance our need for accountability with our equal need for inspiration?

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/02/02/what-makes-a-great-teacher

It’s about opening a door to someone I never knew I could be

Open door

Javier Guzman said:

For my students and the thousands like them, the options they are given are inadequate. The bar is set low and little is expected of them. Mostly they are taught to regurgitate information at breakneck speeds under the guise of equity and the achievement gap. We need to move away from that and build schools that consider the whole person, that understand that our students have passions and interests, and that give them the tools to transcend their environments.

It’s about being given the tools to truly reach one’s full potential. . . . as one of my students stated, “It’s about opening a door to someone I never knew I could be.”

via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lH1gxIT4nSE

Image credit: Open door, Martin Müller

What’s good about standardized tests?

Susan Berfield said:

Most standardized tests aren’t objective, don’t measure a student’s ability to think, and don’t reliably predict how well a kid will do in the workplace. So what’s good about them? They’re relatively cheap to create, easy to administer, and they yield data.

via http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-12-11/book-review-parents-can-band-together-to-end-standardized-testing

From data to wisdom

Image credit: From data to wisdom, Nick Webb

Iowa school start dates and Photoshop

Just having some fun… Feel free to use as desired!

Schools start late

Our liberties we prize

Tourists unite

A vote for the state fair

Reclaiming the language of educational reform

Have your say and make your voice heard

Arthur Camins said: 

The words accountability, no-excuses and choice have already been claimed and defined by currently powerful policy makers and associated with their values. Their accountability language evokes the authority of the powerful to direct others to improve education, but not shared responsibility. Their no excuses language evokes blaming teachers, administrators, students and their parents for disappointing outcomes, while deflecting attention from the need to address systemic issues, such as the burden of poverty on children’s lives and inequitable school funding. Their choice language evokes the individualism of “I am my brother’s competitor” rather than the shared responsibility of “I am my brother’s keeper.”

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/11/19/how-to-reframe-the-educational-reform-debate

Image credit: Speak up, make your voice heard, Howard Lake

Ineffective teachers

Front doors

Peter Greene said:

The new definition of “ineffective teacher” is “teacher whose students score poorly on test.”

Add to that the assumption that a student only scores low on a test because of the student had an ineffective teacher.

You have now created a perfect circular definition. And the beauty of this is that in order to generate the statistics tossed around in the poster above, you don’t even have to evaluate teachers!

As long as you don’t consider the possibility that low-income students do poorly on standardized tests because they go to schools with chaotic administrations, high staff turnover, crumbling facilities, lack of resources, dangerous neighborhoods, and backgrounds that do not fit them for culturally-biased standardized tests – as long as you don’t consider any of that, one thing remains certain…

Low-income students will always be taught by ineffective low-performing teachers.

If you define “bad teacher” as “whoever is standing in front of these low-testing students,” it doesn’t matter who stands there. Whoever it is, he’s ineffective.

via http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2014/06/ineffective-forever.html

Image credit: Front doors, ken fager

William’s pseudochoice: Obey or suffer

Beyond discipline

A teacher wrote to a parent:

William had several hours to complete an assignment but chose not to. He will be sent to the room of opportunity for 90 minutes tomorrow to complete it. If he chooses not to finish it, it will be a zero. Not the best way to start the semester…

Messages like this occur every day in schools: You chose to get a bad grade. You chose to be punished. You chose to be separated from your peers. Alfie Kohn reminds us that this is a ‘fundamentally dishonest, not to mention manipulative, attribution [whereby] … children are told, in effect, that they wanted to have something bad happen to them.’

There is no way that we can justify these ‘obey or suffer’ messages under the guise of ‘student choice.’ The only choice that William has here is to 1) do what the teacher wants, or 2) be punished. Neither is something he would freely choose on his own. The teacher’s language is a threat that hides under the cover of student free will and it is disingenuous (Kohn calls it a ‘pseudochoice’). If we are going to exercise our power and authority over students and force them to do our will, we should at least be honest about it.

Here’s how I might rephrase this teacher’s message:

William didn’t want to do something that I asked him to do, likely because he found it meaningless and boring. Rather than working with William to find a learning project that better aligns with his talents and interests, I am instead going to try and force William to do the perceived-as-worthless task by isolating him from his friends and peers. If social isolation doesn’t work, I am going to punish him further and will continue to do so until he modifies his behavior and is compliant with my wishes. I am letting you know so that you hopefully will help me vanquish his resistance.

Of course this message is much more difficult to send to a parent. Thus the masking language…

What are your thoughts on William’s ‘choice’ and the ‘room of opportunity?’

Schooling for compliance and conformity v. preparing students for a life of learning

Richard Elmore said:

I was trained, as a student, to value schooling primarily as a vehicle for gaining adult approval and control. I learned that lesson well. I also learned it in an environment that prepared me not at all for a life of learning.

I see these patterns reproducing themselves in many of the hundreds of classrooms I have observed over the past fifteen years in my professional work. Students are schooled for adult approval and conformity to highly standardized, institutionalized expectations, created by people in positions of public authority who have no knowledge whatsoever of how learning works as an individual and social activity.

via https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/higher-ed-beta/future-learning-what-about-schooling

Image credits: Personality set for life, wackystuff, and PS 98 First Grade Report Card, Herbert Maruska

Social development report card

First grade report card, 1951

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