How to free your mind from schooling

Free your mind of the seven “horizon-limiting mindsets” learned in school, writes Isaac Morehouse and Dan Sanchez on the Foundation for Economic Education site.

School is a conveyor belt that moves everyone at the same pace as everyone else, they write. This “lures you into assuming, so long as you obey the rules, you’ll get handed the next piece of paper, promotion, or quality of life enhancement. Get off the conveyor belt.”

School also teaches people to ask permission.

“Raise your hand and wait to be called upon.  Get in single file lines.  Even your basic biological needs cannot be met without permission.  You get a hall pass to go to the bathroom.  You eat only when scheduled.”

“The supplicant mindset is poison,” write Morehouse and Sanchez.

And that’s just the first two.

Survey: Students feel challenged

Most U.S. students say they feel challenged in school and must work hard to earn good grades, according to a new YouthTruth survey on academic rigor. However, as students get older, they’re less likely to say they learn a lot in class

Across all grade levels, only about 60 percent of students agree that their assignments help them understand the subject.

How the rich ensure their kids will stay ahead

Tutors, museum trips, piano lessons and gymnastics are all very well, but there’s “one thing rich parents do for their kids that makes all the difference,”, writes Emily Badger in the Washington Post.

Hint: location, location, location.

Yes, well-to-do parents buy homes in “nice neighborhoods with good schools.” They bid up the prices on homes near high-performing schools. Middle-class parents settle for second-best school districts and low-income families are out of luck. (Badger doesn’t mention charter schools, which do provide an out-of-neighborhood choice.)

“Forty to fifty years of social-science research tells us what an important context neighborhoods are, so buying a neighborhood is probably one of the most important things you can do for your kid,” says Ann Owens, a sociologist at the University of Southern California. “There’s mixed evidence on whether buying all this other stuff matters, too. But buying a neighborhood basically provides huge advantages.”

Increasingly, college-educated professionals marry other professionals, increasing income segregation. There’s more income to invest in little Aidan and Amelia. The gaps keep widening.

Integrating schools could integrate neighborhoods, writes Badger. Two years ago, District Mayor Vincent C. Gray proposed ending neighborhood schools. It was wildly controversial and was dropped.

TFA drops social justice training


Michael Darmas, a Teach for America corps member, “high fives” a student at Holmes Elementary School in Miami. Photo: AP

Teach for America‘s Education for Justice pilot, which trained would-be teachers in social justice and cultural competency, has been canceled, writes Stephen Sawchuk in Ed Week. College students took courses for a year to prepare to teach in low-income, minority communities.

TFA is cutting 150 positions, including its national diversity office, notes Sawchuk. “Still, this is somewhat surprising news. After all, the pilot was one that TFA CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard announced in 2014 to great fanfare.”

After nearly a year of E4J, Kailee Lewis, a future TFA corps member, believes telling teachers they’ll show low-income students “what’s possible when they work hard and dream big” is a false and dangerous lie.

This idea that ‘hard work’ can create something out of nothing neglects the fact that often in low-income communities there are multiple forms of oppression stacked against a child even before birth.

Education 4 Justice was teaching future teachers . . . to recognize their privilege and their oppressions.

I don’t see how this prepares someone to teach. If you think your students can’t succeed, even if they “work hard and dream big,” then what’s the point? Give the pobrecitos hugs and recess, but don’t bother them with fractions, grammar and photosynthesis.

TFA is expanding recruitment efforts among college juniors, rather than waiting till students are about to graduate. It will offer training for future teachers that takes “the best practices from E4J and other pre-corps pilots,” said an official statement.

Teachers may raise scores, but not happiness

Teachers who raise students’ test scores may lower their spirits, concludes a new working paper.

Harvard and Brown researchers looked at upper-elementary teachers’ “influence on math test scores and students’ self-reported behavior, self-efficacy, and happiness in math class,” reports Teacher Quality Bulletin.

More than a quarter of the most effective teachers (based on test scores) were among the least effective when evaluated using student non-tested outcomes.

To further complicate matters, the non-academic outcomes don’t always correlate. For example, teacher scores on classroom organization had a positive correlation with student behavior but a negative correlation with happiness in class.

Do we prefer teachers with happy, low-scoring students to teachers with high-scoring but unhappy students?

College students don’t think they’re smart enough


Once chancellor of New York City schools, Rudy Crew now runs Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

Rudy Crew, New York City schools chancellor in the late 1990s, now runs Medgar Evers College, a four-year City University of New York campus where fewer than one in five students graduates in six years. Crew talks about college readiness with Chalkbeat’s Patrick Wall.

Students come to institutions with a question in their mind. The question is, Do I deserve to be here? Am I prepared to be here? And if I’m not, Who will find me out and when? There is a certain sort of lost confidence that manifests itself in their questions about their own efficacy. They’re quiet about it.

They don’t think they’re smart enough, capable enough.

Students have taken low-level classes, says Crew.

They don’t read well. They don’t read very much. They are conflicted about math. They don’t think of themselves as good analytical minds.

More and more, the real question is not if they can learn it; the question is, can we teach it? They have not been exposed [to learning] at a higher-order level.

Crew started the “Pipeline” program in 2014 to reach students before they enroll, writes Wall. “Partnered with 80 public schools in central Brooklyn, the college offers enrichment classes for elementary and middle school students, early-college courses for high school students, training for teachers, a lecture series for principals, and workshops for parents.”

The percentage of Medgar Evers freshmen who need remediation is down from 85 percent to 68 percent.

Getting grit: Balance challenge, support

In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Penn psychologist Angela Duckworth tells stories about exceptionally gritty people, including NFL football players, West Point cadets and successful business leaders.

The book includes Duckworth’s personal story, writes Evie Blad in Education Week.  When she was a child, her father would say: “You know, you’re no genius!”

After earning a Harvard degree and a “genius” award, Duckworth dreams of traveling back in time to confront her father.  “I’m going to grow up to love my work as much as you love yours. I won’t just have a job; I’ll have a calling. I’ll challenge myself every day. When I get knocked down, I’ll get back up. I may not be the smartest person in the room, but I’ll strive to be the grittiest.”

Educators have “embraced the grit concept in recent years along with a wave of research and policy centered on a variety of non cognitive traits and social-emotional skills, like growth mindset, self control, empathy, and healthy relationship skills,” writes Blad. Stanford’s Carol Dweck gives similar advice on promoting a “growth mindset,” the belief that struggle is a sign you’re learning — not a marker of inevitable failure.

The question is whether schools can “teach” these skills.  Duckworth thinks a mix of challenging assignments and support will enable students to strengthen their ability to overcome obstacles.

Teachers should ask themselves: “Is there a clear learning goal that’s very specific and do my students really know it? Do they have a clear strategy to remove distractions so they can focus 100 percent?” Duckworth said.

And they should offer frequent feedback, she said.

“They should ask themselves, ‘Am I encouraging repetition and refinement, or, as when I hand back your term paper or your test, is it over?’ “

At the Education Writers Association conference last week, Duckworth said schools shouldn’t blame students for lacking grit when they fail. “The whole point of the grownups in the room is that it’s our responsibility to get kids where they need to be,” she said.

In the New York Times, Judith Shulevitz wants grit to be less individualistic and macho.

U.S. teachers feel undervalued

From National Center on Education and the Economy:

How Society Values Teachers

Teachers: We have no say in policy

Teachers’ voices are ignored at the district, state and national level, say public school teachers interviewed for Center on Education Policy survey. At the school level,  53 percent of teachers said their opinions are considered most of the time.

A majority of teachers believe they spend too much time preparing students for state and district tests and 81 percent said students spend too much time taking required tests.  Most math and English teachers said they’re using data from tests to improve their teaching.

While most teachers received a performance evaluation in 2014-15, only about half found the feedback they received helpful.

Black, brown boys need change — not grit

Schools are pushing “soft skills” such as “grit,” compassion and a “growth mindset” to prepare students for college and careers. Black and Brown Boys Don’t Need to Learn Grit; They Need Schools to Stop Being Racist, writes Andre Perry, an education consultant and writer, in The Root.

Soft-skills training is disguised bootstrapping, which insidiously blames youths for failing in racist systems designed to block their success, and it absolves the middle class of any responsibility to uproot inequality. It is racism that really keeps students out of college and careers, not a child’s lack of resilience. Students are ready for college and jobs. Postsecondary institutions and employers are not ready for black and brown youths.

“Men and boys of color need to learn how to deconstruct systems rather than adapt to broken ones,” writes Perry.

Louisiana students called for the state to stop prosecuting 17-year-olds as adults in an April 6 protest at the State Capitol.

Students called for juvenile-justice reform on April 6 at the Louisiana Capitol in Baton Rouge.

For example, the Louisiana Youth Justice Coalition organized teens to call for juvenile-justice reform at the State Capitol. They urged legislators and the governor to support a bill that would end the practice of prosecuting 17-year-olds as adults.

“Saying that a kid from Baltimore, St. Louis or New Orleans needs grit is like saying a mountain climber needs to get rid of her fear of falling,” Perry concludes.

That’s a good line. But is it really true that black and brown youths are ready for college and jobs, blocked only by racism? Do they already have the academic skills — and grit — needed to succeed?