Archives for February 2009

Too many do-overs

Flub the SATs? Try it again and again, erasing all but your best scores.  There are too many do-overs and not enough acknowledged failure in our culture, argues James Bowman, scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, in The Wall Street Journal.

On her most recent album, the popular chanteuse Joni Mitchell rewrote Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem, “If . . . ,” changing his words,

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run . . .

to her own,

If you can fill the journey of a minute

With sixty seconds worth of wonder

and delight.

Of course, there are no more unforgiving minutes in the wonder and delight of Ms. Mitchell’s imaginary land of endless do-overs — which gives the lie to her subsequent promise: “Then the Earth is yours and everything that’s in it, / But more than that I know you’ll be all right.”

No you won’t. If you fail, sooner or later that failure will have to be recognized, confronted and put to rights. Not to do so in a timely fashion is only to spread the consequences of failure much more widely — to the whole educational system in the case of the SATs and the ordinary taxpayer in the case of the bailouts. Both deserve better.

Compare Kipling’s poem to Mitchell’s version. Of course, Kipling’s ends with: “You’ll be a man, my son.” Very un-PC.

Don’t mess with Massachusetts

Beware of requiring soft, vague 21st century skills, such as “media literacy, critical thinking and working in groups,” editorializes the Boston Globe. The state school board is considering a proposal by a task force which concluded that “straight academic content is no longer enough” for student success. The Globe warns:

The 21st-century skills movement could return Massachusetts to an era of low academic standards.

Massachusetts’ “15-year track record of successful education reform” is at risk, write Charles D. Chieppo and James T. Gass in Education Next.

Despite the clear success of more than a decade of education reform in Massachusetts, Governor Patrick’s administration has turned its back on the very forces behind that success: it is wavering on standards, choice is under continual fire, and the board of education has been stripped of the independence that for 170 years was Horace Mann’s legacy and had allowed the board to implement reform with a singular focus on improving student achievement.

. . . Results released in September 2008 showed a sharp drop in MCAS pass rates and flat or declining scores in the elementary and middle school grades and in many urban districts.

Massachusetts probably has the best education system in the nation. Why mess it up?

Where do you want to teach?

Check out the Certification Map for information on how to qualify as a teacher in various states, average pay and how teacher pay compares to the average salary in the state.

Good-bye text, hello ‘media collage’

Literacy 2.0 requires a “shift from text centrism to media collage,” writes Jason Ohler in Educational Leadership.

General literacy means being able to read and write the media forms of the day, which currently means being able to construct an articulate, meaningful, navigable media collage. The most common media collage is the Web page, but a number of other media constructs also qualify, including videos, digital stories, mashups, stand-and-deliver PowerPoint presentations, and games and virtual environments, to name a few.

Reading and writing will be more valuable than ever, writes Ohler, who describes himself as a “digital humanist.” And art is the “fourth R.”

KitchenTableMath is dubious.

From The Onion: Are video games adequately preparing our youth for the post-apocalyptic future?

Reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic and recess

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, say researchers. And Jack will concentrate better with some down time in the natural world. A Pediatrics study found children 8 and 9 years old behaved better in class if they had more than 15 minutes of recess a day. From the New York Times:

Although disadvantaged children were more likely to be denied recess, the association between better behavior and recess time held up even after researchers controlled for a number of variables, including sex, ethnicity, public or private school and class size.

Thirty percent of elementary students have little or no daily recess time, the study found.

A small study of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder last year found that walks outdoors appeared to improve scores on tests of attention and concentration. Notably, children who took walks in natural settings did better than those who walked in urban areas, according to the report, published online in August in The Journal of Attention Disorders. The researchers found that a dose of nature worked as well as a dose of medication to improve concentration, or even better.

I visited two schools that let children with autism or hyperactivity issues take an exercise break to calm themselves.

Training teachers on the job

In Education Next, Katherine Newman looks at innovative models of teacher training that feature “rigorous selection processes, practical coursework and tremendous field-based support.”

(Boston Teacher Residency) is implementing a model that emphasizes training teachers on-site in actual classrooms with students and lead teachers, similar to the way medical residents grow into effective doctors by working directly with patients under the guidance of veterans. Instead of following a typical list of course and credit-hour requirements, the organization sponsoring the internship or residency-style program tailors coursework to meet the needs of the particular school or type of school in which the teacher will be employed.

Newman also looks at San Diego–based High Tech High (HTH), which trains and certifies its own teachers, and Alliance for Catholic Education’s Teacher Formation program, “the Teach For America of parochial schools.”

Traditional teacher-training programs teach “few skills applicable to real classrooms” writes Newman. But many alternative certification programs, which now prepare one fifth of new teachers, aren’t any better.

Of the alternative certification programs the NCTQ (National Council on Teacher Quality) surveyed for a 2007 report, only one-third require a summer teaching practicum and one-quarter provide weekly mentoring for teachers once the school year starts.

One-quarter take nearly all applicants, says NCTQ.

Math Expressions, Saxon Math show results

First graders taught with Math Expressions or Saxon Math learned significantly more than students taught with Number, Data, and Space (Investigations) and Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley Mathematics (SFAW)  in a Mathematica-SRI study for the U.S. Education Department.

An average-performing student’s percentile rank would improve by 9 to 12 points if the school used Math Expressions or Saxon instead of Investigations or SFAW, the randomized study found.  The high-performing programs improved math results in high-poverty schools and in schools with low math scores.

Obama on education

Education was the “third challenge” in Barack Obama’s speech last night. He’s for it.

There was the usual nod to the global knowledge economy: “We know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow.” He promised “access to a complete and competitive education” to every child from birth to first job. Then there was the one-two punch: More money for programs and more money for reforms.

We’ve dramatically expanded early childhood education and will continue to improve its quality, because we know that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life. We’ve made college affordable for nearly seven million more students — seven million. (Applause.) And we have provided the resources necessary to prevent painful cuts and teacher layoffs that would set back our children’s progress.

But we know that our schools don’t just need more resources. They need more reform. (Applause.) That is why this budget creates new teachers — new incentives for teacher performance; pathways for advancement, and rewards for success. We’ll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools. (Applause.)

(Applause was not universal: Check out Edspresso’s How do I react? for the photo of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi.)

Obama asked young Americans to commit to at least one year of college or career training after high school.  He offered tuition aid to those who “volunteer in your neighborhood” or in the military. If the Kennedy-Hatch bill, which he touted, is the guide, that doesn’t mean the feds will offer college aid only to those who’ve served in some way.

Education stimulus money won’t be distributed based on need, reports Education Week.

Carnival of Education

The Carnival of Education is in full swing at Rayray’s Writing.

At Elbows, Knees and Dreams, Kiri shares four minutes inside a preK teacher’s brain.

Sit on your bottom, fold your legs, hands in your lap, eyes on the teacher.

Why doesn’t this work anymore?  Why are my students ignoring me?  Why is Duck lying down on top of Ferdinand?

I notice she’s teaching letters and sounds in preK.

Dems divide on education windfall

The $100 billion windfall for education in the stimulus bill may divide Democrats, writes Richard Lee Colvin in Education Next.

One side (of the party) backs strong accountability through reforms such as performance pay for teachers and more support for model charter schools that practice longer school days and longer school years. The other side looks to augment the current system with more support programs such pre-kindergarten, afterschool and summer programs.

Obama thinks there’s enough money to “do it all,” as he promised in a September speech. But there’s enough money.