Monday, January 31, 2011

Teach like a Champion looks like a good book

From the Huffington Post...

"The first is Doug Lemov's 2010 debut, Teach Like a Champion, a groundbreaking, controversial catalogue of 49 techniques "that put students on the path to college." Based primarily on thousands of hours of video and in-person observations of teachers who have helped their students dramatically raise scores on standardized tests (a metric Lemov calls "necessary but not sufficient"), the book is the most concrete, specific, and immediately actionable set of recommendations I've ever encountered as an educator. Those recommendations are also, often, shockingly simple and unglamorous -- from standing still while giving students directions (Technique 28: "Entry Routine") to ensuring that all students begin each class period with their materials out, ready to learn (Technique 33: "On Your Mark")."

Really interesting book, and I love that it's based on video and in person observations, rather than some writers idea of what worked in their own classroom. Very good looking book, and I have it reserved from my library.

How to Really Teach Like a Champion

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Raising an Interracial Family

From the Huffington Post:

There are real struggles with being in an interracial family. This mother writes about some of her issues, and some suggestions for families dealing with the same issues.

Number one? "Do not underestimate your child's need to connect with and affirm their identity, especially as he or she begins to approach adulthood."

Great Advice, and something we teachers need to be aware of every day as well.

Christine A. Scheller: Education In Color: A White Mother Reflects on the Challenges of Raising an Interracial Family

Arts = Great Kids?

From an article by

"According to UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Sciences professor Dr. James Catterall, participation in the arts makes kids more likely to do well and do good, in school and into adulthood. The arts support children's development of empathy, increase their engagement in school, and teach the essential skills needed to be successful in a creative 21st Century workforce. In an interview with P.S. ARTS, a Los Angeles arts education nonprofit, Dr. Catterall puts it this way, "The arts, in opposition to what passes for school curriculum these days, brings personal values and beliefs into things we want to know about."

I know my collaborator Rachel Haen on this blog loves to see this kind of report. She knows that the arts improves students, she lives it. But it's nice to be validated by the research.

Arts Education = Safer Schools and More Prosperous Communities

Finns keep at it

from Will Richardson's blog:

"At any rate, from Robert Greco’s most excellent Delicious feed I snagged this link to “Oivallus-A Project on Future Education.” Here we have some Finns, already basking in all of their educational excellence glory, trying to figure out what teaching and learning are going to look like in a “networked economy.” (What a concept.) Not that there is anything earth shattering here, but the idea that Finnish Industries, the European Union, and The Finnish National Board of Education are seeking to “explore and outline progressive operating and learning environments” shows they’re not just resting on their laurels. And the outlines they’re sketching also show that they’re not just thinking about doing what they currently do better. They get that things are changing."

I'm a big proponent of studying what other countries are doing well. Very interesting that the Finnish National Board of Education is continuing to study how they can best meet the needs of students. Our education system can sometimes seem stuck in the 1950's or earlier. We were great then, but we can't just rely on the same system to continually churn out educated graduates when the world keeps changing.

Finns Keep Looking Forward

Blame Game

From the Huffington Post article by John Merrow: Blame the Teacher!

"I conclude that we need higher standards and a more challenging environment. Not a more 'rigorous' one, but a more challenging and interesting one. Unfortunately, and for reasons I don't understand, many powerful people are defining public education's problem as 'bad teachers.' That's simplistic and dangerous."

A number of people have been writing in the last couple of days about the need to reduce the amount of teacher bashing and most teacher bashing imply that teachers aren't providing rigorous environments. I like the idea of challenging environments. The subtle difference between challenging and rigorous is small, but important.

This is a pretty good article that goes into some of the ways to actually fix education instead of blaming the teachers.

Great tale of a foster kid done good and the laws that protected him

A great tale from the Huffington Post by Daniel Heimpel: Staring at Superman:

"For 23-year-old former foster youth Sokhom Mao, a California law proved the lynchpin to his educational success and entrance into the workforce.

In 2004, Sokhom was a sophomore at Oakland High School in California. He and his five siblings had entered foster care when he was just a boy, after the death of his mother. After years spent in group homes, Sokhom had finally landed under the roof of family again, living with his aunt. But she was prone to fits of anger, a reminder of the abuse the entire family had endured at the hands of the Mao children's estranged father. So Sokhom and older brother Sokha moved to a transitional housing program in Hayward.

While the living arrangement was better, being in Hayward meant a new school district, putting Sokhom's ability to remain at Oakland High, a school he loved, into question. Fearful that he would have to change schools, Sokhom asked his residential social worker what he should do. 'She said, 'you know what Sokhom, they have got to let you stay there. There is a new law signed by the Governor and if the counselors say anything you tell them to call me,'' Sokhom recalls.


Senator Al Franken (D-MN) set out to fill this gap in 2009 when he authored the Fostering Success in Education Act, which would impose mandates on the Department of Education that mirror those already imposed on public child welfare administrations. Further, the law frees up federal Education dollars to create a cadre of liaisons charged with ensuring that children experiencing foster care receive all the educational benefits they are due."

With all the negativity surrounding education right now, it's great to see positive stories such as this, and to see my Senator pushing for a federal law to help foster kids in public education.

What's the purpose of High Education?

Interesting article about higher education at MPR:Is higher education losing its meaning?

"A new book on higher education shows more than a third of college students showed no significant improvements in learning over four years of schooling, while 45 percent showed little statistical improvement in performance by their sophomore year. Are easy course loads and active social lives degrading higher education?"

I have a number of ideas that correspond to the lack of growth with college students, including some that were suggested above. I think though the expectation that college students will learn the material without good teaching is most at fault here. Colleges have traditional just relied of presenting the information, and expecting the student to synthesis and comprehend it. That will work for your self-motivated, top students. But most students will struggle, and be drawn to other pursuits during college.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Arne Duncan proposes that cuts to education can cut waste

Arne Duncan recently spoke to the American Enterprise Institute, and JD Hoyle at The Huffington Post had a reaction to it.

Here's a part of his post:

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan proposed that the impending school budget cuts be an opportunity to reform wasteful practices. One item Secretary Duncan listed was prescriptive seat time. He pointed out that defining education by how much time is spent learning instead of how much is learned has never made instructional sense. The idea represents a factory model that no longer applies to the modern world and has more to do with issues of accounting and custodial care.

It's interesting this idea of removing prescriptive seat time, which is something that our high school is working towards. I'd love to see more examples of schools going towards this. If anyone has any examples, feel free to post them in the comments below!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

What Can Schools Do to Promote Civil Dialogue?

From a post on Rick Hess straight up by Meira Levinson called What Can Schools Do to Promote Civil Dialogue?:

She asked the question:

"What role might--or must--schools play in helping young people develop and habitually enact these capacities? What would it take for kids to learn how to integrate empathy and discernment while engaging in meaningful, often partisan, civil political discourse and action?"

I think it's a really great question. Her answer was to teach more civics, and to teach it better. Absolutely. As a student fascinated by politics, it wasn't until 12th grade that I really took a course dedicated to civics. However, this is also a problem with how the school system is set up. We teach American History in up to 8 of our 12 grades. We need to move beyond calling a class American History and then expecting civics and debate to be a part of the curriculum. I think this comes down to the same issues that we grapple with in curriculum design all the time, that of do we teach content or do we teach concepts. I would say that civics tends to be a more concept based. However, many of our state standards are content based, and it's a lot easy to assess content than it is to assess concepts. And as education has shifted towards a more research and scientific basis for what is taught, we are moving away from what is hard to assess.

Appeals Court Upholds Use of Race in Texas Admissions

From the School Law Blog - Appeals Court Upholds Use of Race in Texas Admissions:

"In a case that has been watched closely in education and legal circles, a federal appeals court has upheld the consideration of race in undergraduate admissions to the University of Texas at Austin.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, on Tuesday upheld a program in which the university considers race as one factor for admission after Texas students from the top 10 percent of their high school classes claim places guaranteed by a state law."

Interesting ruling about race based acceptance programs at state colleges. Until colleges and universities look like the population as a whole, I think these sorts of programs have a place in admissions.

Is it a school's responsibility to promote diversity?

By the title of this blog, you might know where we fall on that question, but this post I read on reminded me of a conversations and comments I've heard recently.

First, the important bit of the post. (The first paragraph is from a story from the washington post)

"The new school board has won applause from parents who blame the old policy - which sought to avoid high-poverty, racially isolated schools - for an array of problems in the district and who say that promoting diversity is no longer a proper or necessary goal for public schools. (emphasis added)

I find that a bold statement. I personally believe that one mission of public schools is a civic one. We have public schools, in part, to produce good citizens. And I think that, particularly given the changing demographics of our nation, good citizens are those able to thrive in a diverse environment. So public school seems a logical place to address the growing segregation of our citizenry."

So, Anne O'Brien believes that public schools' mission is a civic one. I think ultimately that I agree with that. I was talking with Ann Jurewicz, an excellent teacher at the high school here in St. Louis Park, and she mentioned that people in the education debate begin thinking too much about how we are doing compared to the rest of the world rather than on how we can prepare well rounded human beings. I apologize to Ann if I didn't get that quite right, but that was the jist of it.

However, on the other side of it, is a statement I read recently that stated that people need to start viewing education as a economic service rather than a social service, because a social service can get cut, but an economic service is vital to the functioning of our economy. I think Anne O'Brien would agree with my colleague in saying that we must help to shape well-rounded human beings, which would include providing a diverse learning environment.

However, perhaps that statement I had read recently is right, and this washington post article is just another example of how when we make it a social issue, it can be cut, but if we argue it in economic terms it becomes harder to cut.

Perhaps we need to show that by learning in a diverse learning environment a student will earn more in their lifetime than a student who is a segregated learning environment. That's a big project, but perhaps that would convince some of our government officials who are less inclined to support social services.

Why Good Teachers Quit looks like a good book about an important topic

From a review at Education Policy Blog of the book Why good Teachers Quit by Katy Farber.

From the article:

"This book is something you can choose to sit down and read through, but the design makes it clear that there are other approaches you can take. After the various introductory materials, there are eight chapters, followed by a brief set of Final Thoughts by the author, a list of references, and an index. Each of the eight chapters focuses on a specific area that is a source of tension and possible disillusionment for teachers. In order, these are

1. Standardized Testing
2. Working Conditions in Today's Schools
3. Ever-Higher Expectations
4. Bureaucracy
5. Respect and Compensation
6. Parents
7. Administrators
8. School Boards"

This sounds like a great book that I haven't had the chance to read, and I am very concerned about how to attract and retain quality teachers. Go read the well written review!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Great Video on how to tell someone what they said is racist

It really focuses on the difference between calling someone out on what they said, rather than calling them out on what they are, i.e. a racist.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Kate Fridkis: The Students Who Become Teachers

Kate Fridkis: The Students Who Become Teachers

"There are probably several dissertations in this. They've probably already been written and published. I'm not going to pretend to come within a mile of comprehensiveness here. Here's my armchair summary:
  • Teaching isn't that respected, as professions go. This is ridiculous. Teaching is incredibly important. I think it's one of the most important things anyone can do with their lives. But for some reason, working with children sounds to a lot of people like, 'Not doing much important.'

  • Teaching is really, really stressful. The college grads who manage somehow to get into Teach for America often crawl back, whimpering and defeated. They went in bright and idealistic and fabulous. But it's just so astoundingly hard.

  • Teaching isn't the best-paid thing you can be doing if you're very, very smart. Someone I'm close with had considered going the professorial route (albeit a different thing from teaching high school) before he realized that Wall Street was an option.

  • Teaching means dealing with a ton of bureaucracy. Even if you have great ideas, there's no guarantee that you'll be allowed to implement them."

I can't agree with these statements more. I love my job as a teacher, but I've seen why so few people stay in teaching for the long haul, and the reasons are exactly what is listed above. How do we change this?

Homeless College Students On The Rise, Advocates Say

Homeless College Students On The Rise, Advocates Say:

"As The Star Tribune reports, Sparks is facing a growing challenge for college students: homelessness.

Sparks, who is majoring in computer support and network administration, told the Star Tribune:
'I hate it, but I have to survive,' he said. 'I wouldn't wish this situation on my worst enemy.
Statistics and assistance aimed specifically at homeless college students are scarce. Students, afraid of being stigmatized for their situation, often keep their housing situation a secret. "

It's great to higher education become more available to homeless students, but I hope that the schools do begin to find ways to support these students.

Seniority-Based Layoffs, Can't We Do Better?

From the article Seniority-Based Layoffs, Can't We Do Better? on Rick Hess Straight Up

"Few recent issues in education have garnered more mainstream calls for reform than teacher layoffs. This is partly a matter of timing. The recent economic crisis has forced the education community to revisit an issue it was largely able to ignore for the better part of three decades. But layoffs also bring home to the public the consequences of seniority-provisions in a very tangible way. It's personal when a favorite teacher loses a job. Seniority-driven layoffs--the system that exists in most districts--also strike a nerve as they exemplify for many observers the prioritization of 'what's good for adults' over 'what's good for students.' Calls to reform the seniority-based system are becoming commonplace in the mainstream press, national centers, and even class-action lawsuits.

Seniority as a factor in determining layoffs is, of course, not unique to public education. As a system it has some virtues, being both transparent to employees and easy to administer. But the calls for reform focus on four main problems with the seniority-driven layoff system. First, since less-senior teachers make less money, the seniority-based system necessitates more layoffs to achieve the same budgetary savings. Second, the seniority-based system is by definition quality-blind, so districts are forced to let go of some promising young teachers before at least some less effective teachers who have greater seniority. Third, since less-senior teachers are more likely to teach high-demand subjects like math and special education, a strict seniority-based system would results in more layoffs in the very areas that are hardest to staff. Finally, since less-senior teachers within many districts are disproportionately in low-income, high-minority schools, the seniority-based system results in an inequitable distribution of layoffs across a district."

I am not necessarily a fan of seniority based hiring and firing practices. New people entering the profession often get fired at least once in their teaching career, and it can be a very demeaning experience. However, when people begin speaking about ending tenure forget the reason why tenure was put into in the first place. It was a replacement for increases in pay. If you look at teachers pay in relation to the amount of schooling they are required to have, there is a very large difference between education and other fields. If you remove tenure, teachers are going to be expecting to get a appropriate pay raise.

Monday, January 3, 2011

PISA: interesting posts about the International Test

Larry Ferlazzo has compiled a whole host of links to articles debunking some of the assumed facts about the PISA results.

SpeEdChange: A Middle School that Works

SpeEdChange: A Middle School that Works: "Matt Groening, of The Simpsons and School Is Hell, describes middle school as 'the lowest circle of hell.' And that is generally true. No, m..."

Interesting blog post about changing middle schools. A lot of great ideas, although it might be harder to implement than the writer thinks.