Books I read in April 2022

Equity Centered Trauma Informed EducationBooks I finished reading (or rereading) in April 2022…

I finished all 15 books of The Wheel of Time series (again). Whew!

Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education is another incredibly strong contender for best book I’ll read in 2022. I learned a LOT.

Hope you’re reading something fun too!

2022 Play ball!

2022 Play ball!

If you didn’t know, I’m a huge baseball fan (Go Twins!). This year I’m particularly excited because I have not one but TWO fantasy baseball leagues. Woo hoo!

The first season of BlogBall started way back in 2008. All educators, all ‘edubloggers’ (thus the league name). We added a second league in 2009, and then a third league in 2010. That turned out to be too many, so we consolidated back to one league and have been going strong ever since. Most of the managers in BlogBall22 have been around since those early days. I’m grateful for their loyalty and dedication. They’re an awesome bunch of humans and baseball fans!

BlogBall22

  • Bayou Buffalos, Vinnie Vrotny
  • Buckeye Ballers, Toby Fischer
  • CAM Cougars, Dominic Giegerich
  • Dutch’s Detroiters, Rick Heitmeyer
  • Good Trouble, Jon Becker (last year’s champ)
  • Greyhounds, John Spencer
  • Let’s Play Two, Bob Dillon
  • Maineiacs, Harold Shaw
  • Optimistic Mets Fan, Reshan Richards
  • Technauts, Joe Bires
  • TheBrewz, Jeremy Brueck
  • Twinkies, Scott McLeod

This year I thought it might be fun to try a second league again. I started reaching out to folks and… voila!

Rounding for Home 22

  • All 4 Shifts, Guy Ryan
  • Chad’s Crazy Crew, Chad Lehman
  • Eephus Pitch, Aaron Hogan
  • Impossible Dreamers, Patrick Larkin
  • Juuuust a Bit Outside, Scott McLeod
  • The Moonlight Grahams, Donnie Piercey
  • Nesi’s Quicks, Chris Nesi
  • Papi’s Green Monsters, Cale Birk
  • Sandlot Success, AJ Bianco
  • Who Needs Pants?, Dean Shareski
  • Windfield Wants Noise, Jason Buccheri
  • You Down With CBT?, Dave Quinn

We don’t play for money. Just bragging rights… You’re forewarned: I probably will post occasional updates here throughout the season.

Today is Opening Day. Play ball!

Books I read in March 2022

Changing the SubjectBooks I finished reading (or rereading) in March 2022…

Changing the Subject is my early contender for best book I’ll read in 2022. I love it so much!

Hope you’re reading something fun too!

Activity: High Tech High and ‘Why PBL?’

Here’s an activity to do with your educators…

  1. Watch this video (maybe 3 times?)

  1. Try to answer the following questions about the video (one focal question per viewing?)

What are students doing? (e.g., they’re building something, they’re cooking, they’re designing)

Where are the settings in which they’re doing it? (e.g., they’re at the beach, they’re in an art room, they’re out in a field)

How are they doing their work? (e.g., they’re collaborating around a screen, they’re talking to people on the street, they’re cutting boards)

  1. How is this learning similar to or different from the learning that our students experience locally? How often do our students get to learn this way and in which classes and settings?
  2. What are the benefits of this kind of learning for students and do we want more of this locally? Why or why not?

Thanks for the resource, High Tech High!

Sad news out of Palm Coast, Florida

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:

Gay Pride Flags

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.

Doing the same thing over and over again…

WincingHechinger 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:

  1. As would be expected, analyzing student data alone doesn’t do much for us. We also need to have effective interventions.
  2. 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