Now we are 6. Ready for college!

Things that make you go hmmmm.

It wasn’t so long ago in our history that kids were expected to go to work at a young age to help support their families. It has been considered a hallmark of an enlightened and progressive culture that we provide schooling as a time for childhood.

Is it no longer okay to just be a kid?

Check out this video from the NY Times

Recently found … 03/05/2015

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Recently found … 03/03/2015

  • from David L. Kirp in the NY Times

    tags: educational reform assessment teaching learning

    • During the past four decades, this school — and thousands like it — have adopted what’s called the Escuela Nueva (New School) model.

      A 1992 World Bank evaluation of Colombia’s schools concluded that poor youngsters educated this way — learning by doing, rather than being endlessly drilled for national exams — generally outperformed their better-off peers in traditional schools. A 2000 Unesco study found that, next to Cuba, Colombia did the best job in Latin America of educating children in rural areas, where most of the schools operate with this model.

    • this is how children — not just poor children — ought to be educated.
    • Escuela Nueva turns the schoolhouse into a laboratory for democracy. Rather than being run as a mini-dictatorship, with the principal as its unquestioned leader, the school operates as a self-governing community, where teachers, parents and students have a real say in how it is run. When teachers unfamiliar with this approach are assigned to these schools, it’s often the students themselves who teach them how to apply the method. “In these schools, citizenship isn’t abstract theory,” Ms. Colbert told me. “It’s daily practice.”
    • Decades ago, John Dewey, America’s foremost education philosopher, asserted that students learned best through experience and that democracy “cannot go forward unless the intelligence of the mass of people is educated to understand the social realities of their own time.” Escuela Nueva puts that belief into practice.
    • Rachel Lotan, a professor emeritus at Stanford, added, “Doing well on the high-stakes test scores is what drives the public schools, and administrators fear that giving students more control of their own education will bring down those scores.” Officials, and those who set the policies they follow, would do well to visit Colombia, where Escuela Nueva has much to teach us about how best to educate our children.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Recently found … 02/25/2015

  • See Stephen Krashen’s response: 

    Many college professors are now independent contractors, known as “adjuncts.” They are paid separately for each course they teach, and are not paid very much, and get no benefits. As budgets at universities get tighter, departments are gradually moving toward adjuncts.

    Will public school teachers become independent contractors? This is, I think, one of the goals of school “reformers,” whose reforms are all dedicated to more profit for the .01%. Eliminating retirement and benefits, and making teaching a part-time profession would release billions for more unnecessary technology in the schools (of course some technology is great, but much of it is being imposed on schools in a great hurry without proper testing).

    tags: leadership teaching

    • The rise of “independent contractors” is the most significant legal trend in the American workforce – contributing directly to low pay, irregular hours, and job insecurity.


      What makes them “independent contractors” is mainly that the companies they work for say they are. So those companies don’t have to pick up the costs of having full-time employees.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Recently found … 02/21/2015

  • A thinking mindset vs a doing mindset

    tags: listening coaching leadership conversation

    • Listening is a skill that can make you a better colleague and a more effective leader. When people feel as though they have been heard, they trust you more. In addition, there are a lot of problems that arise through miscommunication. A lot of miscommunication isn’t because someone fails to express themselves clearly, it happens because the other person doesn’t listen carefully.
    • When you listen, you put yourself in a thinking mindset. It gives you a chance to really try to understand what is going on around you. When you focus on planning your next contribution to the conversation, you enter a doing mindset, and you don’t think through the events carefully. Give yourself that chance to think.
  • Studies suggest that handwriting supports cognition in a way that keyboarding does not.

    tags: cognition handwriting learning brain

    • Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.
    • printing, cursive writing, and typing on a keyboard are all associated with distinct and separate brain patterns — and each results in a distinct end product. When the children composed text by hand, they not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on a keyboard, but expressed more ideas.
    • connection between writing and idea generation went even further. When these children were asked to come up with ideas for a composition, the ones with better handwriting exhibited greater neural activation in areas associated with working memory — and increased overall activation in the reading and writing networks.
    • For adults, typing may be a fast and efficient alternative to longhand, but that very efficiency may diminish our ability to process new information. Not only do we learn letters better when we commit them to memory through writing, memory and learning ability in general may benefit.
    • both laboratory settings and real-world classrooms, students learn better when they take notes by hand than when they type on a keyboard. Contrary to earlier studies attributing the difference to the distracting effects of computers, the new research suggests that writing by hand allows the student to process a lecture’s contents and reframe it — a process of reflection and manipulation that can lead to better understanding and memory encoding.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Funny, It Doesn’t Feel Like June

Sure it’s cold outside and the end of the year feels far, far away. But believe it or not, it’s time to be thinking about your summative evaluation.

No matter which teacher practice evaluation model your district is using, there is a standard or domain that deals with professional responsibilities (Standard 1 in McREL, Domain 4 in Danielson, Domains 3 and 4 in Marzano, Standard 6 in Stronge, Standard F in Marshall).

This is the “backstage” work of teaching — very little of it can be seen when visiting a classroom to conduct walk-throughs or observations. This is an evaluation area dealing with participation in the professional community, leading and collaborating, and practicing in an ethical manner. For many years, teachers have been evaluated on these criteria in a binary fashion: satisfactory or not. Now part of the teacher evaluation process, professional responsibilities criteria must be examined and rated on (minimally) a four-level rubric.

Most of the evaluation models are rather generic when it comes to describing a teacher’s professional responsibilities. In school districts where the rubrics have not been further developed to provide concrete local exemplars of effective and highly effective practice, both supervisors and teachers are understandably perplexed about what constitutes enough data for analysis and exactly what those data represent.

This has resulted in something I like to call “Shopping Bag Syndrome.” Just prior to the summative evaluation conference, teachers frantically grab documents that represent their professional practice throughout the school year. They haul reams of documentation into their evaluation conference. It’s time to change this practice: the issue is not quantity, but quality.

Consider the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. It houses millions of works of art spanning all of human history. It can’t possibly display everything! Instead, the curators choose a small percentage of its available artwork to exhibit in order to tell a specific story.

If you gathered every piece of paper or digital artifact that represents the work you do all year, it might fill a museum gallery as well! But this is both impractical and burdensome. Instead, you should curate — just as the Metropolitan Museum does — and carefully select a few items that represent the high quality of your professional responsibilities throughout the year.

If a supervisor tells you it’s not enough “stuff,” ask for a specific description of what is needed. If it’s just about collecting paper, you can easily do that. But how does that translate into effective and highly effective practice? Insist on clear exemplars for each of the professional responsibilities.

Why think about this in February? To avoid frantically scrambling through your files in June. This work is too important to be reduced to dumping reams of paper in shopping bags. Allow plenty of time to curate and gather a few exceptional examples of your practice that demonstrate your highly effective professionalism.

This article appeared in the February issue of the NJEA Review.


Accidentally On Purpose

As a traveling educational consultant, I plan learning sessions for adults who (for the most part) I’ve never met and develop learning goals for teams based on (for the most part) a phone conversation or two. It’s challenging and results in frequent surprises when I actually meet groups face-to-face.

I recently worked with teams in a large county-wide district where the charge was to work with K-6 curriculum developers on the UbD process of identifying learning goals and developing transfer tasks. This is a group that has received significant PD on Understanding by Design and have already spent months identifying priority standards and considering next steps.

A departing administrator decided at the last minute to include a group of secondary folks who had zero PD on the process and little information about why they were sitting in on the elementary work sessions. After Day 1, I quickly realized the need for a re-design to provide a purpose for their attendance (as well as accomplish the original goal for the elementary team). The sessions became a modified fishbowl so that the newcomers could learn from the working teams.

The original sessions were structured for learning and working — and fortunately, this enabled a quick redesign. In the end, feedback from the secondary folks  indicated that there was, indeed, high value in their sitting in with the elementary teams:

  • I used to think that my content was all I needed to teach, now I think I need to use everyone’s content
  • I used to think outside of the box inside of my classroom, now I know I need to think beyond my classroom
  • I used to think good assessments assessed many standards, now I think good assessments assess many contents
  • I used to think my secondary assessments were more difficult to create, now I think that pre-K assessments are incredibly difficult to create
  • I used to think the work I did was more important than elementary school, now I know how deep the elementary teachers build the foundation of learning
  • I used to think that we were doing an adequate job, now I think we need a whole new mindset
  • I used to think that in order to assess my students I had to be an expert in my content, now I think I need to be an expert in all contents
  • I used to think my ELA content was most important (if they don’t know what a simile is, where are they going in life?), but now I know that we are really supporting all the other content areas
  • I used to think that I was preparing my students for the next level, now I think I am so narrow minded
  • I used to think that our system prepared students for their future, now I think we can do so much better with a more global view
  • I used to think middle schools had to teach foundational skills, now I wonder why we aren’t raising the bar
  • I used to think it was a really bad idea to bring secondary folks in with the elementary teachers, now I think it was a really good idea (based on the feedback you gave/asking challenging questions) and the vision of the process

To quote Eisenhower: Plans are useless, but planning is essential.