College degree = higher level skills

According to PIAAC, 3/4 of US unemployed workers had either a high-school diploma or less; roughly 1/2 of those adults placed in the two lowest score levels for numeracy. Among unemployed college-educated adults, 13% scored in the two lowest levels.

The study is one of the first to show that a college degree confers core knowledge that adults without degrees are less likely to possess.

“This allows us for the first time to be able to compare what it is that someone knows with what sort of degree they have,” said Stephen Provasnik, a researcher for NCES and a technical advisor on PIAAC. “That allows us to make distinctions that we haven’t been able to make in the past. Economists have always used level of education as a proxy for the skills that one has. Now what PIAAC does is allows us to measure directly those skills, without having to use the education certification as a proxy.”

Read the article here.

The End of Average

Reading The End of Average by Todd Rose, a fascinating book that argues that standards and standardized assessments are radically outdated.

“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)

Leading in Complex Times

Spent the past three days overlooking Independence Hall in Philadelphia with an incredible group of leaders working on techniques to support change. What an appropriate site—a place where divergent thinkers gathered to imagine the possibility of self-governance.

The weather matched our agendas: on Monday, it snowed heavily, just as we were blanketed with new information and learning. On Tuesday, the snow gave way to torrential rain and high winds, as we wrestled to process techniques and approaches. For our final session today, the sun arrived and bathed our group with a warm glow, in time to send us out to do the important work of organizational and systemic change. 

Star Wars Guide to Professional Learning

How can we resist professional learning based on Star Wars philosophy? My favorite is lesson 3, Collaborate and Connect:

“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” — Obi-Wan Kenobi

Read the rest of Star Wars-based PL on Learning Forward’s site here.

Under Pressure

Vicke Abeles writes:

Expectations surrounding education have spun out of control. On top of a seven-hour school day, our kids march through hours of nightly homework, daily sports practices and band rehearsals, and weekend-consuming assignments and tournaments. Each activity is seen as a step on the ladder to a top college, an enviable job and a successful life…

Yet instead of empowering them to thrive, this drive for success is eroding children’s health and undermining their potential. Modern education is actually making them sick.

Nearly one in three teenagers told the American Psychological Association that stress drove them to sadness or depression — and their single biggest source of stress was school. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a vast majority of American teenagers get at least two hours less sleep each night than recommended — and research shows the more homework they do, the fewer hours they sleep. At the university level, 94 percent of college counseling directors in a survey from last year said they were seeing rising numbers of students with severe psychological problems.

Read the entire NY Times op-ed piece here.

Connecting Kids Now More Important Than Ever

Yesterday I rode a yellow school bus to Newark airport to meet students and teachers visiting from Konstanz. This marks the 12th year since Gary and I began running student exchange programs between a US middle school and schools in the UK and Germany. We had considered ourselves “retired” from this enterprise, but were convinced to host one more exchange this year to stave off many disappointed young travelers.

It’s a challenge — working with nervous school boards, negotiating the least expensive airfare, handling paperwork, making reservations — Gary and I have noted that there’s a reason we leave this to younger teachers nowadays! But seeing 50 ecstatic exchange partners greet each other last night for the first leg of their exchange visit reminds me why we do this: it’s an experience most students never forget and a critical foundation to cultural understanding.

In light of recent events, it’s more important than ever to help our kids feel connected to other cultures.

First US experience -- riding the big yellow school bus!

First US experience — riding the big yellow school bus!

 

Change Story

I am currently working on a MOOC through MIT: U.Lab: Transforming Business, Society, and Self. It’s been an incredible learning journey that I am determined to focus on, despite the craziness of my fall work and travel schedule.

Today in week 4, Otto Scharmer shared a change story about a time in his life when his family home burned to the ground. While I can’t point to such a dramatic even in my own life, I can remember a similar moment when I realized that I needed to take a leap forward without safety nets in place.

I had the good fortune to work at ACS Cobham in England as the deputy head of a preK-12 school. It was an amazing experience but for various reasons I could not move my family across the ocean with me. Sadly, I resigned myself to returning home, leaving a job I loved and with no work prospects ahead of me.

Shortly before I left England I had the pleasure of meeting Clay Shirky for coffee. We were discussing changes in educational systems as a result of technology and the internet. After a while, he asked for my story.

I told him my tale of woe and mentioned my nervousness about returning to the US without a job. His response has stayed with me ever since that conversation 6 years ago over coffee in Paddington Station. “Listen,” he told me, “everybody’s deck is being reshuffled over the next few years. Look at all the cards you’re dealt and something will emerge.”

Easy for you, I thought. Clay Shirky is an internationally-acclaimed speaker and professor at NYU. But he was right. I returned to the US and began to consult with K-12 schools across the country and around the world. Now I work with schools on all sorts of topics, ultimately all focusing on how we can make learning better for students. Not a bad hand to be dealt.

The Ultimate License Plate Game

An 8th grader was sharing during social studies class that her family has spent the last few years playing the License Plate Game, attempting to find all 50 states. “So a few months ago, we were down to 10 states,” she explained, “and my dad said that whatever state was the last one, we would go visit over spring break.”

“Last month it was down to two states: Hawaii and South Dakota. We got really excited because we figured that there was no way we’d see a Hawaii plate.”

“So …” asked the teacher, “what happened?”

“So in March, we’re visiting South Dakota.”

aloha