Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Minnesota Schools Receive Praise
Recently, my kindergarten class completed a portion of our IB (International Baccalaureate) Planner called All About Me. The unit focused around student driven inquiry and was guided under the central idea that students can learn more about themselves by learning about other people. A very basic, yet developmentally appropriate concept for this age group. Near the end of the inquiry, which lasted several weeks, the students chose a partner to interview. Each child had their own paper and was to record their partner's eye color, hair color, skin color and an ability that they had. Later they would present it to the larger group. As I circled around the pairs as a silent observer I came upon one very frustrated child who was making a loud proclamation that his crayon was broken. I watched him impatiently and audibly scrub the white crayon on the white paper in the square meant to record his partners skin color. I held back to see if his partner would offer any suggestions. Moments later he said, "No, no, no, you are choosing from the wrong bin, go get the people colors. See, I am not like a white crayon (he stuck out his hand next to the crayon). You are not black like the black crayon either." The child went across the room to obtain one of the people color bins. When he returned the conversation continued. "Oh, you are like this one," said the frustrated partner. He asked me the name of color on the crayon. "This one is called toast," I said. "Okay, toast color, but really I am not toast I am Mexican and Black, but there is no crayon that says Mexican and Black but that one looks just like my hand."
In my classroom the people color crayons are among the favorite items to use. Each table has their own specially assigned bin and there are additional sets of colored pencils always out and available. If you have ever looked at the standard box of 24 crayons used in most classrooms across the country, you will find a black, brown, white and peach colored crayon that millions of children (if they are lucky enough to even have this) must use each day to depict themselves in their stories, illustrations and artworks. However, most don't fall exactly within this color range. Even my own skin falls neither on just quite the white crayon or the peach crayon. Race, of course is more than just color or the way others see your skin, it may not define you as a person, or it may completely define you as a person. What does your box of 24 afford your students?
Note: Crayola makes a set of what they call multi-cultural colors, but I like the people colors in the jumbo crayons and colored pencils from Lakeshorelearning.com
Monday, November 29, 2010
from an article at minnpost...
"The statistical argument we'd hide behind was that our kids of color weren't doing so much worse than kids of color in other states, but rather the gap was mostly a function of our white kids doing so much better than white kids in other states.
I was wrong. That argument is simply not true, according to the latest evidence."
Minnesota's stubborn and scary reading achievement gap
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
There is a former kindergartner of mine, we'll call him Lyle (not his real name) who is now a second grader. When Lyle first arrived mid-year in my classroom, he was an expert in pushing the limits of both my patience and the boundaries of what our class had decided was socially acceptable in our classroom. He was an extremely friendly kid, very easily engaged but academically low compared to his classmates and one of only three children of color in the class. His response to work when things became difficult would be to visit with another kid and get them off track, thus diverting the attention from himself (tricky, right? quite brilliant) or become defiant. It took me several weeks to see the patterns. It took me the same amount of time to learn his mother, Gayle's (not her real name), cell phone number by heart.
Sometimes, I would march him over to the phone and we would call her together. She would give him a good talking to and remind him that Mrs. Haen wanted just what she wanted, for him to do his best. We both cared about him. There were other times when I would call Gayle out of Lyle's presence just to check in on things and update her on his progress or struggles.
We got to be a team. She called often to ask questions about her other three children or just to talk.
It became the secret magical tool that I could pull out. The caring and compassionate tool. "I care about you, I care that you learn, I care that you expect the best from yourself just like your mom does." Lyle knew these words. He knew them well.
So well that I'll never forget one day while he was sitting at his table and he saw me walk towards my desk and said, "What you gonna do call my momma?" In fact I was, it was a perfectly normal day, nothing extraordinary, nothing rotten just a kid sitting at his table doing the work that his teacher had given him. I called him mom to report day and she teared up in responding to my consistent caring and compassion in being Lyle's teacher. She said that she had a teacher just like me when she was in school and she never forgot her. She was the reason that she even graduated.
Lyle is a second grader now and has had a string of excellent and compassionate teachers. He still struggles with academics, but not for want of his teacher's caring, he is making the necessary growth. I see him at least once a month and talk on the phone to both he and his two older sisters and mom once a week.
Gayle and I were a team during Lyle's kindergarten year. One of many teams I have been on. Gayle new my expectations were high not because I wanted the smartest kids in my class, but because I cared about his future, his well being and his positive choices. These were the same things she cared about. We should all be so lucky should it be our choice, to be a parent know the deepest depths of wanting the best for our children. This can translate into the depths of caring that we want for our students.
What team are you on? Do you know the names of all of your parents? Give yourself a little quiz and see if you are at grade level with the score. How can the simplicity of caring cross racial, economic and social lines in your school and classroom?
Monday, November 22, 2010
Over the past decade, the elementary and high schools that make the list of the worst— those in the bottom 25 percent on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test — have changed. One of every three schools — 47 of 155 — managed to make it off the list. The worst schools now are arguably better than the worst schools were 10 years ago. Their test scores have gone up (though much has been made about changes to the ISAT that made the test easier), attendance is up slightly in the elementary schools and the dropout rate in the worst high schools has improved by 10 percentage points, though it remains at a troubling 54 percent.
It's great to see that schools in Chicago have been improving, and that attendance is up and dropout rates are down. Although this article was about closing struggling schools, something my district just had to go through, and something Minnesota has had to deal with, I thought it was nice to highlight that Illinois schools are getting better. As a former teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, I'm happy for my former colleagues.
"Two Minnesota elementary school teachers received the prestigious Milken Award. They join Midday to talk about what makes an effective teacher."
I listened to this radio broadcast today, and one of the best points raised was how they use the QCOMP, which is an alternative teacher pay system in Minnesota. I have appreciated what ATPPS (which is our version of QCOMP in St. Louis Park) has brought to our district. We now have professional learning communities, and have 3 observations every year. It has definitely improved our teaching, our collaboration and our professional development. However, in this school, Sojourner Truth Charter School, they use the QCOMP funds to pay for two staff development teachers, 1 hour a week to meet for professional development, and then co-teaching with the staff development teachers using the strategies discussed in professional development. I love how they have connected staff development with the actually training, and provide the support necessary to see that happen. Too often I've gone to trainings, and then been unable to use the training we learned, not because I didn't want to, but because I didn't have the support structure in place to ensure that I could implement the training.
Absolutely not. I would love to see how experienced teachers are at non-AYP and AYP schools, as in the current system, more experienced teachers earn more money. At most of the schools I've been at that were struggling, the teaching staff was predominantly young and less experienced.
What role do charter schools play in driving public school transformation?
This is an area that makes me sad. I wish public schools and the unions would drive the school transformation process. I am a huge proponent of public education and unions, but too often we are preventing reform, instead of suggesting and empowering it. Public education needs more funding, and that is something we just don't have. We have to figure out how to more with less.
I think charter schools have some powerful things we can learn, but it's not the only way that can reform the schools, and it's not going to solve things for all students.
What state and federal policies have driven the students in your school to success?
I think there have been some good policies, however too many of these good policies are underfunded. I personally don't see much good in the federal programs, it's too remote from the local schools. However, there have been many important reforms in schools that would have been impossible without the federal government (title IX, special education, de-segregation), but for every positive, you have something like NCLB, which, while forcing us to focus on the failings of our school system, has created a school grading system that will have every school eventually fail.
Our state in Minnesota has historically had very strong support of education. The state funding model is one that should be copied throughout the country, as I have never seen inner city schools as well funded as the one's in Minneapolis. Hopefully, with a Democratic Governor, there can be some increases in funding, as well as improvements in how certain programs are funded.
There's a lot of these maps around the internet. Here's one from Mint. It looks at the poverty rate in every US County. Interesting, although as educators can attest, you can live in a "weathy" county, and teach students who live in poverty.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
"American leaders have been concerned to improve education since the 1950s, when the Soviet launching of Sputnik in 1957 prompted endless soul-searching about deficiencies in American scientific education. It is now hard to recall the political and social turmoil Sputnik spawned. James Rutherford, a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, compared two seismic events that focused Americans on the country's unpreparedness in an overseas enemy -- Pearl Harbor and Sputnik: "
It's my belief the current arguments between child centered 21st century technology-based schools and the traditional school model go back not just to Sputnik, but to Dewey, and the education reformers of the early 20th century. This article does a good job though of tying the current reforms and arguments for reforms in schools and the issues after the launching of Sputnik.
Yes Please! Wish I wasn't teaching so I could listen to it this morning. I'll be listening to this tonight afterschool. It'll be interesting to hear what these charter schools are doing and how we can apply their changes in the public school setting.
To expand student understanding of where the numbers used in the United States came from.
Most people in the USA are comfortable using the Arabic Numbering system. However, we rarely think about the history of the Arabic Numbering System.
When you teach number sense with your students, you can help celebrate the mathematicians of India and Persia by discussing the history and development of the
Here is a brief history from wikipedia:
"Arabic numerals or Hindu numerals or Hindu-Arabic numerals are the ten digits (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). They are descended from the Hindu-Arabic numeral system by Indian mathematicians, by which a sequence of numerals such as "975" is read as a whole number. The Indian numerals were adopted by the Persian mathematicians in India, and passed on to the Arabs further west. From there they were transmitted to Europe in the Middle Ages. The use of Arabic numerals spread around the world through European trade, books and colonialism. Today they are the most common symbolic representation of numbers in the world."
link to the rest of the article.
1. Invented around 500 CE in India, which is why many people call them the Hindu-Arabic Numerals.
2. One of first to use 0(zero), which directly leads to the next fact.
3. It uses a positional notation - This means that it uses ones, tens, hundreds and so on. Most number systems didn't at that time (for example Roman numerals)
4. Europe became aware of the system from On the Calculation with Hindu Numerals by Al-Khwarizmi, a persian Mathematician.
5. Al-Kwarizmi's name was latinized to Algorithmi, which is where the word algorithm comes from.
6. Was adopted in Europe in part because of it's usefulness in managing accounts in commerce and trade.
7. Fibonacci, who was trained in part in Algeria which was at that time part of the Almohad dynasty, popularized Hindu-Arabic Numerals in his book Liber Abaci.
Evolution of the glyphs: link
A Genealogy of Counting Systems: link
Lesson on ancient number systems: link
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Sam Chaltain: Education's Blockbuster Moment
Are educators indirectly and unethically damaging students?
Gloria Ladson-Billings, in a speech to the National Wriitng Project on unethical education:
"I do spend a fair amount of my time in schools. I get to hear many things about what's quote "wrong with our students." And one of the things I hear is that children lack exposure or experiences. I hear this really at the early level a lot. So as a consequence, many of their classroom days are filled with day after day after day of experiences, but little, if any, teaching. Now I do believe that schools can and should offer students some interesting and new experiences, but those experiences have to be tied to student learning. . . . To take kids to the zoo or to the amusement park without some learning link to it, particularly when none of these high-stakes tests are going to ask them or hold them accountable for whether or not they've been to Six Flags, it's not only unfair, it's unethical."
Let's talk more about what is wrong with the teachers. Most of us, work hard. We get to school early, we stay later than we should. There is the daily lugging of a notoriously heavy bag of work home with us in the evening. We are educators because our strengths and passions fuel us to teach. We are all fallible in more than a few ways, our innate humanness make us so. We all have off-days and moments we'd rather the world not see, but the students entrusted to us in our classrooms see it all.
What regular practices are we continuing in our classrooms just because we have always done it that way?
What damage are we doing to our students?
What amount of time, not including that for community building such as in a Responsive Classroom model and social curriculum are we wasting on any given day?
What is the difference in your classroom between busy work and productive engagement leading to skill acquisition?
Looking with a critical eye, what are the unethical practices you could let go of?
Check-out more of Gloria Ladson-Billings speech to the National Writing Project:
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
"The federal drive to improve the nation's lowest-performing schools has created a surge in demand for principals trained and experienced in leading long-struggling schools to success. The scarcity of the so-called 'turnaround principal' has led more urban districts to get involved directly with local colleges of education and other training programs, according to a study released Wednesday by the Wallace Foundation.
Researchers from the Boston-based Education Development Center, Inc. analyzed leadership training in eight cities which had received Wallace Foundation grants to experiment with principal preparation: Boston; Chicago; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Jefferson County, Ky.; Providence, R.I.; St. Louis; Springfield, Ill.; and Springfield, Mass.
At minimum, most of the districts changed their hiring criteria for school leaders assigned to work in struggling schools. Districts required these principals to have more explicit understanding of school and district systems and procedures, as well as internships in difficult schools.
'I don't think districts realized how big a contribution they make just by having those positions become transparent,' said Cheryl L. King, a co-author and the EDC's director of leadership for learning innovation. 'The more we can know about that job and what it entails, the better we will be at preparing candidates to step into those shoes.'Districts Take Bigger Role in Preparing New School Leaders
"But it's wrong to blame teachers, who overall are a) underpaid, and b) striving to do the best with the limited resources they are given. Nor does the research show that charter schools achieve better outcomes.
The root of the malaise in our schools is the outmoded model of pedagogy. Teachers and text books are assumed to be the source of knowledge. Teachers 'teach' -- they impart knowledge to their students, who through practice and assignments learn how to perform well on tests.
This is the very best model of pedagogy that 18th century technology can provide. It's teacher-centered model that is one way, one-size-fits-all and the student is isolated in the learning process. It's time for a rethinking of the entire model of learning. We need to move to a customized and collaborative model that embraces 21st century learning technology and techniques. This is not about technology per se -- it's about a change in the relationship between the student and teacher in the learning process."
Don Tapscott is a writer of a book called Macrowikinomics and has written a series of articles that hit home with the issues facing education. Every time people complain about poor education and then blame teachers don't realize that teachers can only work with the materials at hand. I taught in a Chicago Public School with excellent teachers, but we had terrible resources. The reading curriculum in particular was strikingly bad, and did nothing to develop a love of reading.
Now that my job is to be the tech trainer in St. Louis Park Public Schools, it's my job to train the teachers to move beyond the 18th century pedagogy that we have traditionally used.
Don Tapscott: Macrowikinomics : Beyond Superman to a New Model of Education
"Despite the tragic circumstances that cripple so many of our potentially productive youth, the academic failures of millions of our Black boys isn't the core problem. The core problem is the failure of the adult Black population to effectively address underlying issues that have led to an overwhelming crisis situation. Dr. Ferguson alludes to it when he says we need to have conversations we don't want to have. And without actively engaging in those conversations, we watch millions of Black children arrive on their first day at the gates of public schools ill-prepared for a system of education, which they experience as foreign to the environment in which they are raised.
Were it not for the insightful wisdom of my mother, I, too, would've been added to the statistical data that have continued to tell the story of a national tragedy long ignored.
Heretofore, we have held symposiums, conferences, summits and academic conventions that have resulted in the multiple crises we face today. We cannot afford more of the same. We need something altogether different. But that requires us to come together and discuss this issue honestly. It requires that we work together. And if we cannot, we must clearly identify the divergence in thoughts, ideals and paths. "
It is a very long article and interesting, written from the perspective of a black man and his own personal struggles and the struggles of black boys in general. His point about symposiums is absolutely correct. We have to stop talking about it, we need to start doing something about it.
Mike Green: National Crisis: Black boys failing
Monday, November 15, 2010
Give it a read!
Which supermemes currently prevent progress in education? The Watchman's Rattle describes five universal behaviors that inhibit solving the problem once and for all:
1) Irrational Opposition: This occurs when people are more comfortable rejecting remedies rather than advocating solutions. If every solution that is proposed can be found to be flawed, then none will be adopted. Simply put, across-the-board opposition results in gridlock.
I completely agree with this. Too many solutions are rejected because there isn't any proof that it works. Although it's hard to justify trying something that hasn't been shown to work when your job, your school and the children you teach rely on you to meet certain standards.
2) Counterfeit Correlation: When we hastily determine the relationship between a cause and effect(s), this leads to an incorrect diagnosis of our problems. We are left to pursue one ineffective remedy after another, all the while wasting precious time and resources as the problem continues to grow in magnitude. In the case of education, we have sited everything from outdated textbooks, the eradication of physical education, poor school lunch programs and low teacher salaries as the culprit -- but how many of these quick fixes are based on valid scientific studies?
I feel that this is in direct conflict with the previous statement, although I do agree with it as well. There are countless "solutions" that are suggested that have been proven to have no correlation with student performance.
3) Personalization of Blame: As soon as we hold each individual accountable for debt, obesity, and depression, and other such issues, society is off the hook. Blame the parents for the fact that they aren't more involved in their children's education and the systemic problem doesn't have to be addressed.
Isn't there also a problem when we blame systems, as in, I don't have to take personal responsibility for debt, obesity and depression. I think there needs to be a balance in how much the system and how much the person is blamed.
4) Silo Thinking: In tackling complex, multi-dimensional problems, it is crucial that nations, organizations, and individuals work in tandem. Adopting a territorial mindset greatly impedes progress. In the case of education, why aren't neuroscientists who understand how the human brain learns part of the discussion? Does it make sense to fix education without first understanding how the brain loads content, solves problems and retains information?
Absolutely. I'd love to hear what other resources could be used to improve education.
5) Extreme Economics: The financial bottom line becomes the unilateral litmus test in determining which solutions are valid. Economic considerations drive decisions for everything, from hospital care, immigration policy, to whether each child needs a locker, computer or physical education. We begin to speak in economic terms such as 'investing in our children's education.' Really? Since when was education an investment? It was supposed to be a 'right.'
Yep! Although, wouldn't an economist be another great resource in looking at how to reform schools?
Read the rest of the article here: Rebecca Costa: Superman Versus The Supermemes
"WASHINGTON -- The California Supreme Court on Monday unanimously upheld AB 540, a law allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition -- rather than the more expensive out-of-state tuition -- at public colleges and universities. The decision overturned a lower court's ruling and will likely have a wider impact as 10 other states have a law similar to AB 540.
The plaintiffs in the case were out-of-state students and their families, who argued that they should not have to pay higher tuition while undocumented immigrants were granted the lower in-state rate. 'U.S. citizens should have at least the same rights as undocumented immigrants,' said plaintiff Aaron Dallek, an Illinois native who graduated from UC Berkeley in 2006."
California Supreme Court Upholds Law Granting Undocumented Students In-State Tuition
Sunday, November 14, 2010
"The district is seeing signs of success in some student populations. For instance, the number of blacks and Hispanics enrolled in AP classes has tripled in three years.
In 2007-08, a total of 526 students enrolled in AP classes. Approximately 10 percent of those students were non-white.
In 2010-11, 694 students enrolled in AP classes, with the number of non-white students growing to nearly 14 percent.
Still, honors and AP classes still do not reflect the proportion of minority students enrolled in the district."
Schools work to enroll minority students in AP classes
Saturday, November 13, 2010
His goal with this blog is to help teachers create lessons where cultural awareness is a part of the lesson, rather than the lesson. These posts will hopefully allow teachers to easily integrate cultural aware information into already established curriculum. It will go beyond the "celebrate diversity" and
Thursday, November 11, 2010
black boys lagging badly in school