SCHOOL FOR THOUGHT
Click here for an interesting article about the test score scandal in Atlanta. The article was posted to Facebook by an Ontario school board director with the inevitable caution about what happens when governments bring in high-stakes testing.
To me, the big irony is that the profiled school could have legitimately raised its test scores (and student achievement) to the desired levels by adopting Direct Instruction, but instead chose to secretly alter the students' answers. H/T CC
There's a new book out (and we will be reviewing it later), but I was struck by its finding of a "deep, broad divide between the opinions held by citizens and those who teach in the public schools".
Although the book concerns the American situation, I suspect that the situation is the same in Canada, and one of the reasons for my thinking this is the deep, broad divide manifested in our comments section. Our educators continually are astonished (and in some cases offended) by the hard line taken by us non-educators, and of course Stephen is trying hard to understand their intransigence. Here is the situation as I see it.
We non-educators think that the basic mission of schools is to ensure that all students emerge with the skills and knowledge they need to to thrive in today's complex and challenging society. Because we non-educators believe that this is not happening - far from it - we are unimpressed by the many dedicated teachers, the luxurious trappings, the apparently busy and happy students, the spurious test scores and graduation rates, and so forth. It's like going to see a movie in a cinema where the staff are working hard to please, the place is spotless, the food at the concessions is delicious, the sound system is fabulous..... but the movie is lousy.
The educators among us, correct me if I'm wrong, see the many good things that the schools are doing, and either play down the importance of the academic skills and knowledge sought by us non-educators, or have lower standards than our non-educators, or think that most students are acquiring adequate skills and knowledge. I'd be interested in our educators' take on this.
BTW, I am classifying myself as a non-educator even though I am a teacher through and through.
Here is the first of a four-part series on the war against charter schools being waged by New York's new mayor - and its impact on students. H/T TB
A new study suggests that disadvantaged high school students who win the lottery and gain admission to high-performing schools engage in less risky behaviours (like taking drugs, unsafe sex, and binge drinking) - compared to similar high school students who lose the lottery. This raises the education stakes even higher, in that underperforming schools are blighting their students' lives in more than just one way. H/T TH
Time to lighten up a bit. This video presents two different pedagogical approaches. Clearly the feline method is far more efficient and gets the job done in short order.
This article about the Tory leadership race in Alberta is not all that interesting, but there are a couple of paragraphs buried deep in the article that I found very illuminating. Can you find them? Here they are.
"A related issue is that massive U.S. publishing and technology companies such as Pearson International, Apple and Microsoft are involved in the earliest stages of Alberta’s curriculum rewrite. Prentice says teachers, parents and educational experts should lead the process, not companies.
“'Clearly, I don’t feel the curricula in our province should be driven by any business interests,” Prentice says.
"These huge U.S. interests are pushing a digital discovery learning model. That same style of learning, where each student learns at his or her own pace on subjects of personal interest, is cherished by many Alberta Education officials."
This nugget adds to my growing suspicion that education leaders' susceptibility to flawed teaching methods is being fueled by giant corporate interests, and that education leaders are either dupes or complicit. H/T TH
Shortchanged: The hidden costs of lockstep teacher pay is a new report that shows how "lockstep pay hampers recruitment, creates perverse incentives for retention, and ignores the urgency of bringing top talent to the schools that most need great teachers". The report recommends compensation systems that are "based on three core principles: make early-career teacher salaries competitive with those in other fields; offer raises for strong classroom performance; create incentives to teach in high-needs schools". There are already a few dozen US systems that are trying to find smarter ways to pay their teachers. Here is an excerpt from the case study of Achievement First, a network of 29 high-achieving charter schools located in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
"The model is composed primairly of base salary increases based on the individual teacher's performance and experience, as well as school-wide bonuses based on the overall success of the school. Newly hired teachers are generally placed in Stage 1, 2, or 3 based on their previous teaching experience. As teachers progress up the stages, they receive increased compensation, stipends for independent professional development, school-based and network-wide recognition and greater input into school and network decisions.
"A teacher must satisfy rigorous criteria to be called a 'distinguished' or 'master' teacher, including multiple years of data showing strong performance in classroom instruction, student achievement, and peer, student and family relationships. Accordingly, Stage 4 and 5 teachers in Achievement First's schools earn dramatically more through base salary alone than they would on the standard district salary schedule.
"Emily Spine is a Stage 3 teacher who relocated to New York City from Milwaukee this year specifically to teach first grade at Achievement First Aspire Elementary School, after experiencing one of the network's professional development sessions in her previous district. The Teacher Career Pathway was a major influence on her decision to move. 'In my second year of teaching, I was in the building from seven until seven, and I was looking at my paycheck andd that was not being reflected at all,' she says of her experience under a traditional steps and lanes system. 'That's not right. I wanted to find a place that compensated its teachers in a way that's commensurate with the impact they are having on their kids and their commitment to their schools.
"For Greta Gartman, a fifth-grade science teacher at Achievement First Bridgeport Academy Middle School in Connecticut, the focus on teacher leadership was a huge draw to the network. 'I was very excited to hear that Achievement First was valuing great teachers staying in the classroom, rather than pushing great teachers into administration,' she says. 'Having less contact with students because you're great doesn't really make sense to me.' As a Stage 4 teacher, Gartman says she feels inspired to be a role model for other teachers. 'My lessons should be examples,' she says. 'Other people are looking at me to know what great teaching looks like, so I'm always trying to do my best."
The Sesame Street Foundation has released an excellent Framework for School Readiness that outlines the skills and knowledge young children need in order to succeed in school. As you cast your eye over the framework, I suggest you think about how effective a play-based preschool program, especially one with 25 children to a class, will be in bringing disadvantaged children up to speed.
Click here for an interesting column by an American Democrat and former union leader who is troubled by the unwillingness of the teachers' unions to work together with education reformers to make things better. His last two paragraphs may be of interest to Canadian teachers' unions, as they sum up what has happened in the US as a result of the intransigence of the teachers' unions there.
"Meanwhile, parents are voting with their feet. Today, nearly 10 million students have opted out of the traditional public-school system, attending private schools or public charter schools, or they are home-schooled. Another million parents are on charter-school waiting lists and surveys show overwhelming support for vouchers among minorities.
"Parents will not tolerate resistance to common-sense changes that are necessary for preparing our children for the future. We can do the right thing for our children and for our teachers. We can hold ourselves accountable without demonizing one another and we can all be honest about our shortcomings. Let's cool the rhetoric, find common ground and get to work." H/T JC
Here's a very light, suitable-for-summer, video that was sent to me by two readers. Great graphics and 8,379,549 views! H/T TB & LDA