Tag Archives: edreform

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

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

It would be hard to imagine an institutional structure less suited for the future

Public School 6, New York City

Richard Elmore said:

While learning has largely escaped the boundaries of institutionalized schooling, educational reformers have for the past thirty years or so deliberately and systematically engaged in public policy choices that make schools less and less capable of responding to the movement of learning into society at large.

Standards and expectations have become more and more literal and highly prescriptive in an age where human beings will be exercising more and more choice over what and how they will learn.

Testing and assessment practices have become more and more conventional and narrow as the range of competencies  required to negotiate digital culture has become more complex and highly variegated.

Teacher preparation, hiring, induction, and evaluation practices have become more and more rigid and hierarchical in an age where the teaching function is migrating out into a more individualized and tailored set of learning environments.

We are continuing to invest massively in hard-boundary physical structures in an age where learning is moving into mobile, flexible, and networked relationships. In other words, it would be hard to imagine an institutional structure for learning that is less suited for the future than the heavily institutionalized, hierarchical world that education reformers have constructed.

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

Image credit: New York: Public School 6, Matt_Weibo

I liked this post so much I split it into two quotes. Here is the other one. Oh, and Will Richardson liked it too.

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

Higher-level thinkers don’t just magically emerge from low-level thinking spaces [SLIDE]

Higher-level thinkers don’t just magically emerge from low-level thinking spaces

Higher-level thinkers don’t just magically emerge from low-level thinking spaces

Download this file: png pptx key

Image credit: When did you last see Bobo?, Matt

See also my other slides, my Pinterest collection, and the Great Quotes About Learning and Change Flickr pool.

How brave will we be this year?

Fight for your world

It’s a new year. And it takes 5 minutes to set up a blog, Twitter account, Facebook page, or Google+ community… 

How brave will we be this year?

Will we speak out against injustices? Will we champion reciprocal accountability from leaders and policymakers? Will we rally the voices of others to advocate for necessary supports? Will we facilitate the actions of others to make necessary changes? Will we highlight exemplary, forward-thinking practices while simultaneously calling out those that need to be different? Will we speak up for those who are underrepresented and underserved?

Probably not. Despite living in a time of unprecedented communication opportunities, we’ll probably do nothing and hope that others say the things that need to be said. Because we’re scared. Or apathetic. Or don’t think we have value to add to the conversation.

We live in an era in which EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US can have a voice and can reach others around the globe at the speed of light. Will we just post family pictures and cat videos or will we leverage our new powers to make a dent in the universe? Will we share – transparently and openly – our hopes and dreams, needs and desires, expertise and experiences so that we may inspire others? Will we model for our children what it means to be participatory citizens? Will we create opportunities for students to actually be participatory citizens? Will we use our voices to make a difference in the world?

Probably not. But we could.

How brave will we be this year?

Image credit: Children in Fort Smith are Learning That Protecting the Environment Will Take More Than Awareness, U.S. National Archives

We need schools to be different

iPad magic

As Clay Shirky has noted, we currently are living through ‘the largest expansion in expressive capability in human history.’ We no longer live in a world where we passively receive information that is broadcast out to us by large, centralized entities. Instead, we now live within multidirectional conversation spaces in which 12-year-olds can reach audiences at scales that previously were reserved for major media companies, large corporations, and governments. We all now can have a voice. We all now can be publishers. We all now can find each other’s thoughts and ideas and can share, cooperate, collaborate, and take collective action. Time and geography are no longer barriers to communicating and working together. 

In this new information landscape, formerly-dominant institutions are being forced to rethink all previously-held assumptions. For example, music companies are struggling to survive in a market where the model of wholesale album purchases and top-down advertising and dissemination is replaced by a granular system of individual song sales and peer-to-peer marketing and distribution. Similarly, the emergence of digital, multimedia, hyperlinked texts – and accompanying e-readers, tablet computers, and smartphones – is challenging our very definition of what constitutes ‘a book’ and is destroying traditional publishers’ and distributors’ revenue streams. Television, radio, magazine, newspaper, and movie/video companies are seeing their market share erode year after year as we increasingly turn to online – and often user-generated – information channels to learn and be entertained. Our entire information landscape – which is what schools are purportedly teaching students to master – has been changed irrevocably.  

We also are witnessing the early adolescence of a vastly different global economy. For instance, the rapid growth of the Internet and other communication technologies has accelerated the offshoring of jobs from the developed world. Complex corporate global supply chains locate manufacturing work wherever costs are lowest, expertise is highest, or necessary talent resides. Geographic or product niche monopolies disappear in the face of Internet search engines. Micro-, small-batch, and on-demand manufacturing techniques facilitate personalized and custom-order production. Whatever manufacturing work remains in developed countries is high skill, is high tech, and, more often than not, requires greater education than a secondary diploma. The low-skill industrial system that was the backbone of the developed world’s economies in the previous century is increasingly a bygone memory.

Like manual work that is non-location-dependent, knowledge work also is frequently done cheaper elsewhere. Service jobs are increasingly fungible, able to be located anywhere in the world that has an Internet connection. Ongoing workflow and final products are exchanged at the speed of light via e-mail, instant messaging, and other corporate networking tools. The same technologies that facilitate our personal social conversations also facilitate interconnected global commerce. As was done in previous decades for manufacturing work, the next two decades will see many complex service jobs broken up into component parts. Once these tasks are disaggregated, they will be done by lower-skilled workers who can do these discrete components of the overall work, facilitated by software. In other words, many high-paying service jobs will turn into globalized piece work. Since the service professions represent over three-fifths of America’s economy, the impacts of this are going to be quite significant.

We’re also realizing that work that previously required humans now regularly can be done by software. If the Industrial Revolution was about replacing humans’ physical labor with machines, the Information Revolution often is about replacing humans’ cognitive labor with computers. A large number of workers are discovering that their work, their skills, and their jobs are not as indispensable as they thought in a technological, hyperconnected, hypercompetitive global economy. Radical transformations are everywhere we turn.

Of course these changes also have resulted in dramatic impacts on learning. Students and educators now have access to all of the information in their textbooks – and an incredible wealth of primary documents – for free. They have access to robust, low cost or no-cost, and often multimedia and interactive learning resources (texts, images, audio, video, games, simulations) that can supplement, extend, or even replace what is being taught in their classrooms. Via collaborative Internet-based tools such as blogs, wikis, videoconferencing, and social networks, they can learn from and with students and teachers in other states or countries. They also can quickly and easily connect with authors, artists, business professionals, entrepreneurs, physicians, craftsmen, professors, and other experts.

Students and teachers now can more authentically replicate (and actually do) real-world work through the use of the same tools and resources used by engineers, designers, scientists, accountants, and a multitude of other professionals and artisans. They can share their own knowledge, skills, and expertise with people all over the world. They can find or form communities of interest around topics for which they are passionate and they can be active (and valued) contributors to the world’s information commons, both individually and collaboratively with others.

Essentially, we now have the ability to learn about whatever we want, from whomever we want, whenever and wherever we want, and we also can contribute to this learning environment for the benefit of others. The possibilities for learning and teaching in this information space are both amazing and nearly limitless, but right now this learning often is disconnected from our formal education institutions.

If it is difficult to overstate the technological disruptions that are occurring around us, it is equally difficult to understate the lack of progress that most schools have made in response to these overarching societal transformations. The reluctance of school systems to significantly alter existing pedagogical and organizational practices has long been catalogued. Unfortunately, these trends continue today. For instance, while students increasingly are self-directed learners and active technology users outside of school, their learning work inside of school – particularly for independent, technology-suffused, higher-level cognitive activities – has not changed much. As the Consortium for School Networking has noted, “educational mindsets and school cultures do not yet align learning to the realities of the 21st century.

This is true even in our numerous 1:1 computing environments that now exist. Although we have pockets of success here and there, for the most part we still are implementing a 20th (and sometimes 19th) century model of education despite the demands of our 21st century society. If you look at the basic learning and teaching work that occurs in most of our classrooms, it is still primarily transmissive: students passively receive information from the teacher or textbook or Internet or software and then regurgitate it back to show that they have ‘learned’ (and the teacher has ‘covered’) the required low-level facts or procedures. While this may have been fine for an industrial society, this model of schooling is woefully inadequate to prepare graduates for the more complex demands of our new information and economic landscapes. If every other societal sector is finding that transformative reinvention is necessary in our current climate, schools shouldn’t expect that they somehow will be immune from these changes. We shouldn’t pretend that these revolutions aren’t going to affect us too, in compelling and often as yet unknown ways. And, yet, if you look at what is happening in most classrooms on most days, the learning and teaching work that is occurring looks incredibly similar to that done many decades ago.

All of this has been a long run up to basically say that – if we truly care about preparing kids for life and work success – we need schools to be different. If economic success increasingly means moving away from routine cognitive work, schools need to also move in that direction. If our analog, ink-on-paper information landscapes outside of school have been superseded by environments that are digital and online and hyperconnected and mobile, our information landscapes inside of school also should reflect those shifts. If our students’ extracurricular learning opportunities often are richer and deeper than what they experience in their formal educational settings, it is time for us to catch up. In other words, schools’ knowledge work and workforce preparation should match the needs and demands of our time.

As you can imagine, these changes are incredibly complex and the challenges that face us today as school leaders are tremendous. Somehow we have to reinvent learning and teaching and schooling, often in direct opposition to parent and community mindsets about what school should look like (hint: like it did when they were kids). Somehow we have to shift our schools’ overwhelming emphasis on low-level knowledge work into something that better meets our graduates’ needs to navigate vastly different information and economic spaces. Somehow we have to balance creating schools of the future with policymakers’ attempts to further reify schools of the past. And the toughest part of all of this is that we don’t even know what many of the answers should be. But we at least should be having the right conversations and asking the right questions. 

There are a lot of different things going on in schools and they’re all important. But remedying the relevance disconnect between school and society is the most important educational and equity work of all. We have a moral imperative as school leaders and policymakers to face these challenges head-on and try and create new futures and possibilities for the children and adolescents that we serve.

Image credit: iPad magic, Aikawa Ke

Questions for student retention advocates

question mark cuff links

Here are a few questions that we can ask folks who advocate for student retention…

  • In John Hattie’s highly-influential research compilation, Visible Learning, retention is one of the few factors – along with summer learning loss, student mobility, and excessive TV watching – that actually negatively impacts student learning. Why should we implement a practice that we know sends students’ learning in the wrong direction?
  • Why should a very small handful of reports from ideologically-biased think tanks outweigh the hundreds of peer-reviewed scholarly studies over 4+ decades that unanimously show how detrimental the effects of student retention are?
  • Do the reports that are cited in favor of student retention show actual long-term impacts (thus rebutting the 4+ decades of scholarly research) or just expected shorter-term achievement bumps that, as in previous studies, likely will wash out in the upper grades?
  • Do you believe that children learn at different rates?
  • Would hiring a private tutor for the next year cost less than paying for a retained student’s additional year of schooling?
  • Why should 8-year-old children bear the academic and life burden of others’ desires to hold their teachers or parents ‘accountable?’
  • Retention advocates mention all of the supports that will be put into place to help kids learn to read. Those are fantastic ideas and are much-needed. Couldn’t we do all of those without also implementing the harmful practice of retention?

What would you add to this list?

Image credit: Questions, Tim O’Brien

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