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Even more important than interpreting text

Marion Brady said:

Common sense says we educate to help learners make better sense of experience – themselves, others, the world. Those Common Core Standards above say something very different, that we educate to help learners make more sense of text – words on a page. There’s no acknowledgement of the myriad other ways humans learn, no apparent recognition of the inadequacies of text in preparing the young for an unknown future, no apparent appreciation of the superior power of firsthand knowledge compared to secondhand knowledge, no provision for adopting ways of learning yet to be discovered.

Yes, it’s important for learners to know what others have to say, but facing a complex and unknown future, it’s far more important that the young learn how to figure things out for themselves, more important that they know how to create new knowledge as it’s needed, more important that they be able to imagine the as-yet-unimagined.

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/11/07/the-biggest-weakness-of-the-common-core-standards

The idea of the superior power of firsthand knowledge compared to secondhand knowledge particularly resonates with me. Problem-based learning approaches combined with digital technologies can be a powerful mechanism for fostering students’ firsthand acquisition of knowledge, skills, and experiences…

Romanticizing the blackboard

Lewis Buzbee said:

It’s true that in the pods-and-pinwheel design students can more easily work in smaller groups, but such pods, of course, also offer more opportunity for subterfuge and mutiny.

The blackboard-centered classroom offers more than pedagogical efficiency; it also offers an effective set of teaching possibilities. In such a classroom students are focused on the teacher (on a good day), but most importantly, they are focused. The teacher is not the focus of the class but rather a lens through which the lesson is created and clarified. The teacher draws the class toward her, but she projects the lessons onto the blackboard behind her, a blank surface upon which smaller ideas may be gathered into larger ones. The blackboard is the surface of thought.

The physical dramatics of the classroom – all those bodies and brains ritually focused – can create a new and singular mind, and foster in the individual student an urgent hunger to learn. A good teacher … can, with a nod or a wink, or by simply repeating a key phrase slowly and with certain emphasis, maybe leaning toward her student body, deliver a chapter’s worth of information instantly and unforgettably. Otherwise, we might as well stay home and read to ourselves. The teacher commands her audience, conducts them.

via http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2014/10/a_history_of_the_blackboard_how_the_blackboard_became_an_effective_and_ubiquitous.single.html

So, basically, the blackboard is desirable because it’s an instrument for teacher control over mutinous students…

The results of educational inequity

Michael Roth said:

America has some of the best schools on the planet and one of the worst systems of education in the developed world.

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/book-review-building-a-better-teacher-on-secrets-of-good-teaching-by-elizabeth-green/2014/09/05/7a993056-2307-11e4-8593-da634b334390_story.html

Grading and assessment as an opportunity

Greg Jouriles said:

We have the grade problem at my high school. In the same course or department, a B in one classroom might be an A, or even a C, in another. It’s a problem for us, and, likely, a problem in most schools.

But it has also been an opportunity. Recognizing our grading differences, we opted to create a common conception of achievement, our graduate profile, and department learning outcomes with rubrics. Our standards now align closely with the Common Core State Standards. Second, we created common performance tasks that measure these standards and formative assessments that scaffold to them. Third, we look together at student work. Fourth, we have begun to grade each other’s students on these common tasks.

We could publish the results of these performance tasks, and the public would have a good idea of what we’re good at and what we’re not. For example, our students effectively employ reading strategies to comprehend a text, but are often stymied by a lack of vocabulary or complex syntax. We’ve also learned most of our students can coherently develop a claim, citing the appropriate evidence to support it when choosing from a restricted universe of data. They aren’t as good when the universe of data is broadened. They are mediocre at analysis, counter-arguments, rebuttals, and evaluation of sources, though they have recently gotten better at evaluating sources as we have improved our instruction and formative assessments. A small percentage of our students do not show even basic competency in reading and writing.

That’s better information than we’ve ever received from standardized testing. What’s also started to happen is that teachers who use the same standards and rubrics, assign the same performance tasks, and grade each other’s work are finding their letter grades starting to align.

And, this approach has led to a lot of frank discussions. For example, why are grades different? Where we have looked, different conceptions of achievement and rigor seem most important. So we have to talk about it. The more we do, the more aligned we will become, and the more honest picture of achievement we can create. It has been fantastic professional development – done without external mandates. We have a long way to go, but we can understand the value of our efforts and see improvement in student work.

via http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/07/09/36jouriles.h33.html

Suppressing students’ creativity and inquiry

Jeff Herzberg said:

What are we doing that suppresses students’ natural creativity and inquiry? And what are we doing to try and stop those things?

via https://twitter.com/mcleod/status/514074648531984384

The lack of evidence supporting the use of student test scores to rank teachers is staggering

Jason Glass said:

For a policy that practically every public school system in the nation is pursuing, the lack of evidence to support [the] effectiveness [of using student test scores to rank and evaluate teachers] is staggering. The number of high-performing education systems that use such an approach: zero. The number of peer-reviewed scientific studies that support this approach: zero.

via http://www.vaildaily.com/opinion/12964448-113/education-quality-system-systems

Thinking about charter schools

Stephen Dyer says:

I get and am sympathetic to the argument that kids need opportunities to escape struggling schools. And I have little problem with the few really excellent school choice options that are out there that genuinely do give kids opportunities to achieve their potential.

But when the vast majority of those opportunities aren’t any better (and are usually much worse) than the struggling school, and paying for these mostly worse options means the kids who remain in the struggling public school have far fewer resources with which to achieve, or the school to improve?

Well, I’m sorry. I just don’t get that.

via http://10thperiod.blogspot.com/2014/01/ohios-school-choice-funding-scheme.html

What kind of learning environments do high-poverty minority students deserve?

Paul Thomas says:

The public narrative around KIPP is based on embracing an authoritarian and highly structured model for high-poverty and minority students. Public schools have failed high-poverty and minority students in terms of disproportionate discipline and academic policies, including expulsion, suspension, failure, and retention; it appears by the evidence that KIPP and other “no excuses” charter schools mirror those failures instead of alleviating them. The school-to-prison pipeline and the school-as-prison dynamic are key elements of the larger mass incarceration era; KIPP’s association with strict discipline, high attrition, and selectivity are problematic for those of us who wish to break those cycles.

Public and charter schools are experiencing an increase in segregation of students by race and class; KIPP appears to be a part of that troubling pattern, again not a solution.

[In] Sarah Carr’s Hope Against Hope, … she details how KIPP and the other “no excuses” charters do in fact practice the sort of discipline policies about which I am critical: (1) a strict discipline code that includes SPARK (Carr, p. 11) and SLANT (making and maintaining eye contact, shaking hands, and other highly regimented behavior demands on students), (2) the Bench as as shaming discipline technique (Carr, p. 23), (3) a demanding culture that stresses “no excuses” for teachers and students (Carr, pp. 42-43), focusing almost exclusively on minority students from poverty (and not being implemented in white or affluent schools), and (4) depending so heavily on structure and external rewards that students falter once they enter college and have those elements removed (Carr, p. 188).

KIPP, specifically in its relationship with Teach for America (see Waiting for “Superman” and Carr), contributes directly and indirectly to several harmful and inaccurate claims about teaching and education: teaching quality is primarily a function of being demanding and not of experience or expertise (although this appears true only when dealing with high-poverty minority students since white and affluent students tend to have experienced and certified teachers).

via http://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/criticizing-kipp-critics

What would be your reasoning NOT to connect your students to the world?

Laura Gilchrist said:

Twitter allows educators to connect and interact with resources, ideas, and people from around the world. Twitter allows educators to share their stories – positive stories included. We need more positive stories because, I’m telling you, there’s a lot of good going on in our schools – good that doesn’t get shared. Those walls you see around you do not have the power to isolate you and your kids any longer.

My question to you: If you have in your hands a tool (phone, computer, tablet + Twitter) that, by just moving your fingers, can connect you, your students, and your communities to resources, ideas, and people from around the world – a tool that can empower kids and educators to learn, create, grow – why would you choose NOT to start using it? What would be your reasoning?

via https://www.facebook.com/lgilchrist/posts/10203253927407020

For our students, how often are academics and enjoyment the same thing?

Daniel Ching said:

Somewhere along the way, someone convinced American society that breadth is far more important than depth. That same person also convinced everyone that academics and enjoyment are two different things. In their minds, students should have their nose in the books, cramming for a big test, and praying that nothing weird happens to throw them off on the test day. This has come to be known as rigor. . . .

There is nothing wrong with research, reading a crazy amount of books (one of my favorite past times), and studying all night for a test. But when this kind of activity arbitrarily takes the place of hands on, practical, experience based learning, there is something wrong. It is no wonder our drop out rates are high in both high school and college. Kids have at least 13 years of the same thing over and over. We are still functioning on an industrial education model and an agrarian calendar that says, all students learn the same, curriculum should be separated into subjects that don’t intersect, and everyday should be broken up into periods that end and being with a bell. This model makes it extremely difficult to foster creativity, cross curricular work, hands on learning, and spontaneity.

via http://leadingisteaching.blogspot.com/2014/08/groundhog-day.html

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