Children approach solving the problem differently than adults.

Problem Solving

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have found that 4- and 5-year-olds are smarter than college students when it comes to figuring out how toys and gadgets work …

Exploratory learning comes naturally to young children …  Adults, on the other hand, jump on the first, most obvious solution and doggedly stick to it, even if it’s not working. That’s inflexible, narrow thinking.

Or, is it possible, that schools encourage kids to “unlearn” their natural problem-solving abilities? After all, it doesn’t take much flexibility or expanded thinking to color in bubbles on a standardized test.

Read the article here. Access the study here.

End of the year reflection: what’s next for teacher evaluations?

Many teachers are participating in a higher-than-usual number of end-of-year in-service days, thanks to the need to make up a higher-than-usual number of snow days. Overheard at a recent workshop in which teachers were considering their first year with a new evaluation system:

“Whew, I’m sure glad that’s over! I guess we survived the year.”

“Yeah, it was pretty rough … I wonder if it will ramp up even more next year?”

“I don’t know, but I guess we should get ready. Maybe we should focus a little more on instruction …”

You think?

This is the stage many teachers and districts find themselves confronting — we’ve survived the first implementation year, we’re now getting pretty familiar with the evaluation model. Where do we go from here?

Focusing on instruction is exactly the right move, both from a practical and philosophical standpoint. For practical reasons, putting some energy into intentional design and improved instruction benefits teachers in terms of their evaluation ratings. More important is the impact it will have on students’ learning experiences.

A superb instructional model that pushes instruction to highly effective levels is the FIT Teaching™ model of gradual release of responsibility from Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey. Through an intentional process of focused instruction, guided instruction, collaborative learning and independent learning, teachers hand ownership of  learning  over to their students. In most evaluation models, this personalized and student-centered style of instruction results in effective and highly effective ratings.

So when reflecting on the school year, take a deep breath and think about getting FIT.*



*full disclosure: I am a member of the FIT Teaching expert cadre for ASCD.

Recently found … 06/18/2014

  • tags: higher education educational reform

    • Under the new plan, employees who complete their freshman and sophomore years at ASU Online would receive a major discount, and the remaining two years would be totally free.
    • Sounds great, right? Not according to Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who said she found it “incredibly problematic” that Starbucks has decided to limit its tuition assistance to a single online university.
    • “ASU Online is a profit venture,” said Goldrick-Rab. “And basically, these two businesses have gotten together and created a monopoly on college ventures for Starbucks employees.”
  • tags: Teacher evaluation

    • “Are the majority of the teachers satisfactory and acceptable? I think the answer yes,” said William Mathis, managing director of the National Education Policy Center at University of Colorado Boulder, which has been critical of test-based teacher evaluation. “Where I think it’s a waste of money is they’re trying to get a degree of precision that they cannot get with the measures they’ve got.”


      Proponents of the new evaluations have told Hechinger reporters that they were never meant to identify large numbers of bad teachers. Rather, the evaluations were intended to give teachers feedback and help them improve at their jobs.


      Pittsburgh School Superintendent Linda Lane told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that one of the goals of the evaluations was to “grow the practice of staff.”


      “In order for kids to grow, we have to grow,” she said.

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

You might want to reconsider that idea …

From Henry the Sixth, Part 2, Act 4, Scene 2, 71-78

All: God save your majesty!

Cade: I thank you, good people—there shall be no money; all shall eat
and drink on my score, and I will apparel them all in one livery,
that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord.

Dick: The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

Cade: Nay, that I mean to do.

A troubled, urban school district (that shall remain nameless) has been “taken over” by their state board of education (that shall remain unidentified). One of the “takeover” folks spent an entire morning in a workshop devoted to teacher effectiveness and all she could offer during the debrief was her belief that we needed to get rid of “all the bad teachers.”

I couldn’t help but think of the memorable Shakespeare quote which cited killing all the lawyers as the first critical move toward social revolution. So I turned to the education policy-maker, “Let’s suppose you get your wish, and tomorrow, all of the bad teachers are gone. What will you do now?”

She looked at me like and there was a long, long pause. She eventually offered, “Well, I guess we should be prepared to hire some new teachers.”

“And where will those teachers come from? Last I checked, there weren’t too many folks banging down the doors to work in this district.”

She mumbled something about getting together a marketing plan so I asked one more question, “Have you considered focusing on supporting the teachers who already work here?” She walked away.


Surprising news: Gates Foundation sees reason

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the country’s largest donors to educational causes and a strong backer of the academic guidelines known as the Common Core, has called for a two-year moratorium on states or school districts making any high-stakes decisions based on tests aligned with the new standards …

“No evaluation system will work unless teachers believe it is fair and reliable, and it’s very hard to be fair in a time of transition. The standards need time to work. Teachers need time to develop lessons, receive more training, get used to the new tests and offer their feedback.”

Although Diane Ravitch doesn’t think 2 years is enough:

“If the sanctions and punishments tied to test scores are wrong now — promoting teaching to the test, narrowing the curriculum, cheating and gaming the system — the sanctions and punishments will still be wrong two years from now,”

Full New York Times article here.

Of course there are implementation problems …


Frederick M. Hess:

Of course, there are implementation problems. What matters in education is what actually happens in 100,000 schools educating 50 million kids. That’s all implementation, and that means it matters a lot that some reforms are much more likely to suffer bumps, distortions, and problems than are others. The more complex they are, the further away they are from schools and families, the more dependent on intensive retraining–the more likely big ideas will suffer from “implementation problems.” Yet, I rarely find would-be reformers very interested in any of this, or what it portends. I find them much more intent on driving change from wherever they happen to be, using whatever levers they happen to control.

Reformers would do well to spend less time insisting “we’ve got this,” or that things will be okay if we embrace “good policy” or “smart implementation,” and more asking how to craft measures that are less susceptible to implementation problems. They’d do even better to ask whether some well-meaning ideas are best not pursued, at least in certain ways or at certain times, because the problems are likely to be so severe.

Read the whole post here.

The Condition of Education


Owen Phillips of EdCentral:

…when we take a step back and look at things on larger scale, it becomes clear that students in United States are, at least, making progress. Across all reported races and ethnicities, scores on the reading and math sections of the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) have increased since 1990. While there is still much room to improve, these small gains warrant some congratulations—and they give hope for what else is possible.

Full article here.

It’s Our Duty to Eat Donuts

We have a penchant in the US for “national” days celebrating everything from nylon stockings to limericks (hat tip to the brilliant John Oliver’s montage in Last Week Tonight, episode 4) … but today is National Donut Day. Despite the free donuts abounding, this one has a little more credibility. It was started by the Salvation Army to honor the women who served donuts to soldiers fighting in Europe during World War 1. This year marks the 77th National Donut Day in honor of the donut lassies:

So it appears to be our patriotic duty to eat a donut today!


Broken Kids


Brooke Powers:

When did we brainwash kids into thinking that math was about getting an answer?  My students truly believe for some reason that math is about combining whatever numbers you can in whatever method that seems about right to get one “answer” and then call it a day.  They rarely think about what they are doing as long as at the end of the day their answer is “correct” …

If we are to truly make progress in getting our students to understand the concepts presented in the Common Core to the depth intended we must help them learn to stop looking for a right answer and start looking for a right reason.  I still don’t know who broke my kids but I know it is up to me to fix them one argument at a time.

The entire post is here.