“Contemporary pundits, politicians, and activists continually suggest that our educational system is broken, when in reality the opposite is true. Over the past century, we have perfected our educational system so that it runs like a well-oiled Taylorist machine, squeezing out every possible drop of efficiency in the service of the goal its architecture was originally designed to fulfill: efficiently ranking students in order to assign them to their proper place in society… (p. 56)
How can a society predicated on the conviction that individuals can only be evaluated in reference to the average ever create the conditions for understanding and harnessing individuality? (p. 58)
… but once you free yourself from averagarian thinking, what previously seemed impossible will start to become intuitive, and then obvious.” (p. 72)
Over the past 6 months, I’ve had the opportunity to co-facilitate a truly great professional learning program. It’s a partnership between the NJEA (teacher’s association) and NJPSA (principal’s association) to offer a series of collaborative opportunities for teachers and administrators to work together to refine evaluation practices. Too often, evaluation systems pit educators against each other: teachers vs principals. When true collaboration occurs, the system is refined, made productive, and ultimately reaches the intended goal: improving instruction for students.
We’re building on the idea shared by Randy Nelson: that collaboration is not just souped-up cooperation, but something altogether different. True collaboration amplifies the abilities of those involved, resulting in a better product than individuals can accomplish alone.
Last Monday, the first cohort came together to consider their current practices, unpack their expectations and belief, and commit to changes both teachers and supervisors can make to improve the system. They will meet again in December to review their work and continue planning. The second cohort is scheduled to meet at the end of October and begin their journey.
Based on the success of the first session, additional cohorts will be added for next year. If you are a NJ educator, you’ll want to check this out and consider signing up a team from your district: Collaborating to Strengthen Your Educator Evaluation System.
…in New York City, 65,000 4-year-olds will attend free pre-kindergarten — the largest expansion of public school of its kind in the country…
It also serves as a model for cities and states across the country that are looking to expand preschool in an effort to narrow the achievement gap between poor children and their more affluent peers…
Across the country, districts are struggling with shortages of teachers, particularly in math, science and special education — a result of the layoffs of the recession years combined with an improving economy in which fewer people are training to be teachers …
In California, the number of people entering teacher preparation programs dropped by more than 55 percent between 2008 and 2012, according to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Nationally, the drop was 30 percent between 2010 and 2014, according to federal data. Alternative programs like Teach for America, which will place about 4,000 teachers in schools across the country this fall, have also experienced recruitment problems …
“There are not enough people who will look at teacher education or being a teacher as a job that they want to pursue,” said Carlos Ayala, dean of the school of education at Sonoma State University.
Fewer than 1 in 5 middle and high schools in the U.S. began the school day at the recommended 8:30 AM start time or later during the 2011-2012 school year, according to data published today in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Too-early start times can keep students from getting the sleep they need for health, safety, and academic success, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Read the CDC press release here.
20 years ago, I was interviewed by a local news station. They wanted a Kindergarten teacher’s perspective on what kids should best do over the summer. Camp? Summer School? Activities? While I described an ideal childhood summer — reading, activities, outdoor time — I also cautioned against too much structure. Young children need time to simply BE … run, play, do nothing, be bored, figure out how not to be bored.
According to a recent NY Times article, it appears as if everything old is new again:
As American classrooms have focused on raising test scores in math and reading, an outgrowth of the federal No Child Left Behind law and interpretations of the new Common Core standards, even the youngest students have been affected, with more formal lessons and less time in sandboxes. But these days, states like Vermont, Minnesota and Washington are again embracing play as a bedrock of kindergarten …
Using play to develop academic knowledge — as well as social skills — in young children is the backbone of alternative educational philosophies like those of Maria Montessori or Reggio Emilia. And many veteran kindergarten teachers, as well as most academic researchers, say they have long known that children learn best when they are allowed ample time to go shopping at a pretend grocery store or figure out how to build bridges with wooden blocks. Even the Common Core standards state that play is a “valuable activity.”
But it’s still controversial. Read the entire article here.
…technology’s “Law of Amplification”: Technology’s primary effect is to amplify human forces, so in education, technologies amplify whatever pedagogical capacity is already there. Amplification seems like an obvious idea—all it says is that technology is a tool that augments human power. But, if it’s obvious, it nevertheless has profound consequences that are routinely overlooked …
If a private company is failing to make a profit, no one expects that state-of-the-art data centers, better productivity software, and new laptops for all of the employees will turn things around. Yet, that is exactly the logic of so many attempts to fix education with technology … At a talk Secretary of Education Arne Duncan gave at the South by Southwest conference, he pressed the case for more technology in education (mentioning “technology” forty-three times, and “teachers” only twenty-five). He claimed, “Technology can level the playing field instead of tilting it against low-income, minority and rural students—who may not have laptops and iPhones at home.” But this is wishful thinking; it’s misleading and misguided. Technology amplifies preexisting differences in wealth and achievement …
…what the U.S. education system needs above all isn’t more technology, but a deliberate allocation of high-quality adult supervision focused on those who need it most. The specifics are daunting and complex, but inequity in educational opportunity isn’t a problem that technology can fix. Without addressing the underlying socio-economic chasm, technology by itself doesn’t bridge the gap, it only jacks it further apart.
Read the entire article here.
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial international survey which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. Try your hand at some of the questions here. Some of them might surprise you. Are we preparing our students for these kinds of tests?
So what does it mean to complain about what politicians do? We should complain about what the electorate does. I’m an educator, so I see it as one of my duties, especially as a science educator, to alert people of what science is and how it works. About what it means for there to be an objective truth that we would then act upon.
Yes! Read the entire interview.