Future teachers

Digital learning will change teachers’ jobs, but we’ll still need teachers, writes Michael Horn in Forbes.

As blended learning grows in K–12 education, it is not eliminating teachers, but eliminating certain traditional job functions of teachers. This change in the role of the teacher is, as others and I have noted, in part about allowing computers to do what computers do well to free up teachers to do what only humans can do.

. . . It appears likely that there will be more room for teachers to focus on deeper learning by working with students on higher-order skills and the application of knowledge in rich projects. Teachers should spend less time handling mundane administrative tasks that suck up time and less time delivering one-size-fits-none lesson plans. Teachers will have far more time to work with students one-on-one and in small groups and target their interactions in more meaningful ways.

Many blended-learning schools are unbundling teachers’ roles, Horn writes.

Some teachers serve as content experts and others as mentors and learning coaches. Some focus on tutoring, whereas others specialize in small-group projects or on making the learning relevant to the outside world. Still others act as case workers or counselors (but actually spend the majority of their day in the learning environment with students) to focus on the non-academic problems—like food, health, or emotional issues—that too often trip up students (and sadly receive short shrift in many schools today).

Unbundling has enabled Rocketship Education to pay teachers more. At Summit Public Schools, a team of teachers works with students in a large learning environment.

Flipping the factory model

Despite national honors, long wait lists and a feature spot in Waiting for Superman, California’s Summit charter schools needed radical change, CEO Diane Tavenner decided.

. . . “we took the factory model high school and did it significantly better,” Tavenner explains. “We made it smaller, more personal, with no tracking, longer hours, more support for kids. We recruited very talented teachers and fully developed them. But it’s still a factory model and kids are moving through that system.”

In Learning Optimized on Education Next, I explain Summit’s experimental “optimized learning environment” at its two new San Jose charter high schools.

 Two hundred 9th and 10th graders at a time spend two hours a day studying math and brushing up on basic skills. They start at a work station by opening their personal guide, reading e-mail from the math teachers, and setting goals. Students can choose from a “playlist” of online learning resources, seek help at the “tutoring bar,” participate in teacher-led discussions in breakout rooms, or work on group projects, such as designing a water fountain.

When they’re ready, students take an online test to see if they’ve reached their goals. The math team, five teachers and two coaches, keeps students on track.

Nearly all Summit graduates go on to college, but Tavenner was disappointed with graduation rates for the first graduating class. Taking AP classes isn’t enough, she decided. Students need to be “self-directed learners” to handle the challenges of college. Summit is opening new schools and expanding its “optimized” experiment.

Michael Horn writes about The Transformational Potential of Flipped Classrooms, also on Education Next.

Beyond blended learning

After trying blended learning for a year, two San Jose charter high schools redesigned the math program, writes Diane Tavenner, CEO of Summit Public Schools, on Getting Smart.

In our pilot this year, we have five math instructors and two learning coaches who work as a team to support 200 students at one time. . . . Our math team serves as coaches and mentors, curriculum curators, developers and intervention specialists.

. . .  students are not in ninth or 10th grade and are not taking a defined math course such as Algebra or Geometry. Instead, they are progressing through a competency-based curriculum dependent on their own path and pace.

Each student has a personalized Math Guide that details what they already know (highlighted in green), what they should be focused on today (highlighted in yellow), and what they are not quite ready yet to tackle (highlighted in red). Students use their guides to set daily and weekly goals.

Our students begin math each day at their individual workstation.  They first log into their email to read a daily message from the math team, including a schedule of learning opportunities offered that day, along with available projects and seminars. Depending on their learning goal, our students can choose whether to remain at their workstation for individual, or with their peers, learning and practice using a host of online resources available to them as ‘Playlists,’ or participate in a seminar and other small-group projects taking place in the four learning spaces off of the main room. For those students who struggle with this autonomy, our math team provides mentorship and coaching to ensure students are on the right path.

Summit is collecting data to see how well the new system works.

Khan Academy goes to school

Salman Khan’s free math and science videos have moved from YouTube to classrooms, reports the New York Times, which looks at a San Jose charter school that’s using Khan’s lessons — and student-tracking software to teach ninth-grade math to students at very different levels.

(Teacher Jesse Roe) can see that a girl sitting against the wall is zipping through geometry exercises; that a boy with long curls over his eyes is stuck on a lesson on long equations; and that another boy in the front row is getting a handle on probability.

Each student’s math journey shows up instantly on the laptop Mr. Roe carries as he wanders the room. He stops at each desk, cajoles, offers tips, reassures.

The Khan-enabled classroom makes it possible to target instruction to each student’s level, while mapping each student’s math comprehension for the teacher. While some see Khan’s mini-lectures as too “sage on the stage,” the net effect is to turn the teacher into a “guide on the side.”

Diane Tavenner, chief of the Summit chain of four charter schools, turned to Khan to teach the fundamentals after small-group problem-solving proved  slow and unreliable.

Khan Academy remains free, thanks to foundation support.

 

Biden: Here’s how to graduate more

States must set ambitious college-completion goals to help make the U.S. first in the world in college graduates by 2020, said Vice President Joe Biden at the Building a Grad Nation summit in Washington. Biden announced a 23-page “College Completion Tool Kit” with recommended strategies.

Also on Community College SpotlightJob training is the focus of today’s regional community college summit at Indiana’s Ivy Tech, a leader in college-industry partnerships.

New ways to build skills, careers

On Community College Spotlight: Rethinking career education.

Also, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis are in Philadelphia today for the first regional community college summit.

And NBC News will feature advanced manufacturing training at Gateway Community and Technical College in Northern Kentucky on tonight’s newscast. There are jobs for skilled manufacturing workers in the area.

Finally, Superman

I finally got around to seeing Waiting for Superman.  The scenes of parents and children waiting for the lottery results were tear jerkers, but the movie was very simplistic in its depiction of education problems and solutions.  It assumed that the children of involved parents would be doomed by going to neighborhood schools but saved by going to charters. Maybe so, but reciting the statistics for all students doesn’t make that case. I wanted to see a lot more on how successful schools teach: What’s replicable? What depends on finding brilliant principals or young teachers willing to work  insanely long hours?

The depiction of Woodside High in California, the alternative for the girl who gets into Summit Preparatory Charter School, implies that the school serves middle-class and upper-middle-class whites, some of whom are tracked into low-level classes that don’t prepare them to go college.  A majority of Woodside High students are Hispanic or black; 43 percent qualify for a subsidized lunch.  All non-disabled students are placed in college-prep classes, says the principal.  The movie’s statistics on the number of students who go to college include only California state universities, not private or out-of-state colleges or universities or community colleges.

What they said at the summit

On Community College Spotlight: What they said at the Community College Summit.

For-profit career colleges fight back with an attack on community college recruiting, graduation rates.

Community colleges and jobs, jobs, jobs

Today’s White House Summit on Community Colleges will focus on job training.

Blue-collar jobs should get more respect, says Mike Rowe, host of the Discovery Channel’s  ‘Dirty Jobs’ show.

Tech colleges are training apprentices for local manufacturers.

A college summit with no instructors?

The Oct. 5 White House Community College Summit is “designed to miss the point,” writes a blogger known as Community College Dean.

Host Jill Biden, the vice-president’s wife and a community college professor, didn’t invite any college instructors, though she did ask the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CEO of Accenture, the dean complains. And that’s just the first problem . . .

And there’s more on Community College Spotlight.