Recently found … 11/21/2010

  • tags: internet reform change

    • the Web is yours. It is a public resource on which you, your business, your community and your government depend. The Web is also vital to democracy, a communications channel that makes possible a continuous worldwide conversation. The Web is now more critical to free speech than any other medium. It brings principles established in the U.S. Constitution, the British Magna Carta and other important documents into the network age: freedom from being snooped on, filtered, censored and disconnected.
    • this process is completely under our control. We choose what properties we want it to have and not have. It is by no means finished (and it’s certainly not dead)

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

Recently found … 11/13/2010

  • tags: educational reform

    • For years, poor performance by students in America relative to those in other countries has been explained away as a consequence of our nationwide diversity. But what if you looked more closely, breaking down our results by state and searching not for an average, but for excellence?
    • Even if we treat each state as its own country, not a single one makes it into the top dozen contenders on the list.
    • our assumptions about what works are almost always wrong. More money does not tend to lead to better results; smaller class sizes do not tend to improve learning.
    • How would our states do if we looked just at the white kids performing at high levels—kids who are not, generally speaking, subject to language barriers or racial discrimination? Or if we looked just at kids with at least one college-educated parent?

      As it turned out, even these relatively privileged students do not compete favorably with average students in other well-off countries. On a percentage basis, New York state has fewer high performers among white kids than Poland has among kids overall. In Illinois, the percentage of kids with a college-educated parent who are highly skilled at math is lower than the percentage of such kids among all students in Iceland, France, Estonia, and Sweden.

    • “If all American fourth- and eighth-grade kids did as well in math and science as they do in Massachusetts,” writes the veteran education author Karin Chenoweth in her 2009 book, How It’s Being Done, “we still wouldn’t be in Singapore’s league but we’d be giving Japan and Chinese Taipei a run for their money.”
    • What did Massachusetts do?
    • made it harder to become a teacher
    • required students to pass a test before graduating from high school
    • Obvious though it may seem
    • we still fixate on inputs—such as how much money we are pouring into the system or how small our class sizes are—and wind up with little to show for it.
    • a 2010 study of teacher-prep programs in 16 countries found a striking correlation between how well students did on international exams and how their future teachers performed on a math test.

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

Cory & Cory

Isn’t it great when one of your heroes turns out to be a simply wonderful human being?

By now everyone who reads this blog must have heard my pleas about voting for Cory & The Tigermen who are semi-finalists in the SchoolJamUSA competition sponsored by NAMM. I’m very hopeful she’ll make it to the finals, but that depends on votes from all the good folks out there – every day for the month of November. It’s a pretty tall order for a 15-year-old to galvanize that kind of support, but she sure is trying!

And anyone who has visited Cory’s website knows that her next album (due out in December) is titled Reading in the Dark – every song was inspired by a book. As a parent (and shameless promoter), I am thrilled that she has undertaken such a creative challenge. As an educator, I am even more thrilled that she has chosen to build on her experiences reading literature ranging from Shakespeare sonnets to young adult novels that deal with issues of struggling identity.

One of the novels Cory read last year is Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. Sharing the same name is certainly a hook, but beyond that, the story is just dynamite and engaged my daughter Cory immediately. She also had the privilege of hearing him read from the book at a Philadelphia Free Library event – and she went home that night to write a song, she was so inspired.

Cory Doctorow published Little Brother under a Creative Commons license, meaning that anyone can download and read the book for free, and even use it to some extent. My Cory got very excited about that, and decided to use language from the book in a song. All her other songs have been written in her own words, drawing on inspiration after reading the authors’ works. In her Little Brother song, however, Cory Hite was able to use Cory Doctorow’s text in her lyrics. Due to some restrictions on the Creative Commons license, Cory contacted the author for explicit permission. It’s no surprise that he immediately granted her permission and wrote a very encouraging response.

It’s just so gratifying when one of your idols becomes a “real” person after you have some contact with them – and they turn out to be supportive, generous, and just plain nice. What an inspiration for a teenager struggling to find her own creative voice as a songwriter! Do yourself a favor and check out Little Brother, as well as Cory Doctorow’s other books. Yes, you can download them for free – but if you’re like us, you’ll love the books so much that you’ll be buying multiple copies to give as gifts.

And visit Cory’s website to hear the Little Brother song in its entirety; however, it will be much more meaningful if you’ve read the book.

Oh, and don’t forget to vote!

Keystone exam administration …

If schools are wondering about administering the keystone exams online, PDE has released some manuals for both paper/pencil and online administration:

Keystone Exams Handbook (Paper based testing) – FINAL 09.22.10

Keystone Exam Administration (Online)

The official word from PDE (as of this post): the test CAN be given with a break between modules and test coordinators can schedule it to be on one or two days. For more info, check the handouts (above).

National Common Core Standards – an interesting publication from Fordham

An interesting new publication from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute on the National Common Core Standards (and the coming national assessments). The major question this paper hopes to address: How does the adoption of common core affect curriculum and instructional implementation?

In brief, the paper suggests the creation of a coordinating council (made up of governors, legislators, and school officials) to keep track of Common Core implementation as it goes forward and facilitate inter-state communication, as well as monitor and report on progress.

A short video explaining the paper:

The paper itself: