Entries Tagged 'Media Reviews' ↓

Defining “effective” teachers

For three reasons I was drawn to the article, “For better North Carolina schools, link teacher pay to effectiveness.

  1. I want better NC schools.
  2. Paying higher salaries to “effective” teachers is a good idea (if it can be done).
  3. It can be done only if we define “effective” teaching.

We all want #s 1 & 2. The hard part is #3. It is not enough to describe “effective” teaching. Paying higher salaries for all those descriptions would increase spending, not keep it the same or lower it. Continue reading →

Are the six virtues ever vices?

Naturally, I was drawn to the September/October, 2013, Psychology Today article entitled, “When Virtue Becomes Vice” (by Mary Loftus). The author should have read my book, where I explained that the greatest of all social science truths is, “In all situations, it depends on the situation.” That was her main point, although she didn’t state it in the article. Continue reading →

Are they smart or not smart?

A school board member wrote an email to his friend about taking the Florida tenth grade standardized test:

I won’t beat around the bush. The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62%. In our system, that’s a “D”, and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.

The friend is Marion Brady, who wrote the blog (updated by Valerie Strauss). Continue reading →

Poll: “Parents back standardized tests”

When pollsters question people who know very little about the topic of the poll, we say they are polling an “uninformed population.” This poll is an example.  Although parents don’t know the difference between norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests, and they don’t know why we give the first and not the second, they “back standardized tests.”

From hearing policy makers talk about test scores, I already know uninformed people back standardized tests. I love irony.

 

Letter to teacher (also my student)

Dear Mary,

You mentioned a highly successful program in your school (brain-based ways to teach letter patterns and phonics). I believe you say it was successful because student reading scores went up. Is that right? Continue reading →

“Abstinence” and the six virtues

An old friend of mine used to warn about analogies: “They can both clarify and distort relationships.”

I thought of that as I read the Asheville Citizen-Times column headlined, “Abstinence is the answer” (July 20, 2013, p. A6). The author is a woman who periodically argues against abortion in our local paper. In this column she quoted Reverend Dahl B. Seckinger:

There is an alternative for the unmarried, and that is through the practice of chastity. It is foolproof, it is not hazardous to your health, parental permission is not needed, it is nondiscriminatory between the sexes, as either can practice this form of birth control, it is cheaper than any other form of birth control. It is energy-saving, it is tax-free and does not require billions in federal spending, nor is any red tape involved. I might add that it eliminates much of the danger of contracting venereal disease. Is this too simplistic an answer to the problem? It is medically sound and safe in its practice. There is no question about its moral implications. It is biblical. Why not deal with the cause rather than effects?

Reverend Dahl’s answer to the abortion question is like my answer to the school improvement question. We both want to address the cause of the problem — he wants to eliminate unwanted pregnancies, I want to improve education. Refraining from sex (chastity) does, in fact, prevent unwanted pregnancies, just like bringing the six virtues to a learning situation does, in fact, improve education.

But neither is a viable solution to the problem. People often fail to be chaste and teachers can’t model virtues they don’t have. Opponents of these solutions don’t say we should not be chaste, or that teachers should not model the six virtues.  They say we sometimes fail to be chaste and teachers sometimes fail to be virtuous.

In other words, my argument for the six virtues is like the chastity argument because it does not solve the problem, even though it is based on what is true. Reverend Seckinger lists the truths of the chastity argument. And the six-virtue argument is based on the truth that all virtues are combinations of these six. But neither set of truths solves the problem because the problems are caused by another truth — people fail to be chaste, and teachers can’t model and teach the virtues they lack.

But let’s be careful with analogies.  The chastity and six-virtue solutions are not analogous in one important way. Chastity is only one thing. It is the absence of the act that causes pregnancy. That is why “abstinence” is in the headline. But bringing virtues to learning situations takes many forms. Education improves whenever teachers bring any of the virtues, even if they can’t always bring all six.

It’s all in the definition, what’s yours?

The headline about the George Zimmerman verdict read: “Jury instructions at center of verdict: Reasonable doubt, justifiable force definitions played part in decision.” (Asheville Citizen-Times, July 15, 2013, p. A4)

Later that day I opened the July 8/July 15 TIME cover story on happiness. The author wrote:

Part of the solution, however, may lie not in a product or a program but simply in a better understanding of the particular way Americans define happiness in the first place. (p. 27)

There you have it.  Every discussion related to the Zimmerman case depends on your definition of reasonable doubt and justifiable force. And every discussion related to happiness depends on your definition of happiness.  Of course they do, just like every discussion related to education depends on your definition of “educated.”

What’s yours?

How to hire “educated” teachers

According to an elementary school principal in Cherry Hill, NJ:

For those coming out of college, getting a full-time position immediately is not going to happen. (Asheville Citizen-Times, 2/19/2013, p. 2)

This might be an exaggeration because a few new teachers are hired every year, but the point is important. A glut of teachers has been created by recent staff reductions.

From the perspective of school boards trying to hire the best teachers, this is an unprecedented opportunity to hire the most highly educated people. School boards that adopt the six-virtue definition of the educated person can advertise like this:

Teaching Vacancies

Independent School District is hiring elementary, middle and high schools teachers. We define the educated person as one whose intellect is understanding and imaginative, whose character is strong and courageous, and whose spirit is humble and generous.  Applicants should possess a bachelor’s degree in education and complete an application in which they describe how they model and teach those virtues.

If new hires modeled and taught the six virtues, school communities would see:

1. Test scores go up.

2. Bullying go down. (Each incident would be an opportunity to teach U, I, S, C, H & G.)

3. Second language learners welcomed into the school community.

4. Struggling students with more opportunities for success.

5. Parents feel welcome.

6. High morale — those who aren’t six-virtue teachers would leave, affording more opportunities to hire six-virtue ones.

7. Teacher & student leadership grow.

The list could go on and on. The six-virtue definition of the educated person is the key to hiring “educated” teachers.  Without it, school districts will miss this opportunity, and tomorrow’s teaching force will be just as uneducated as today’s.

All school boards have to do is believe in the six-virtue definition of the educated person. It costs nothing, which makes it the holy grail of school reform — improvement at no extra cost.

If you are a school board member who believes in a different definition of the educated person, please share it in a “comment.” Or nominate a virtue that is not a combination of these six. Or describe a knowledge or skill that can be learned without the six virtues.

Dear Dr. Amy:

According to the Huffington Post, you were unhappy that one of your patients did not show up on time for her appointments:

An OB-GYN in St. Louis is under fire after posting a Facebook status about one of her patients. According to KMOV, Amy Dunbar, a physician at Mercy Hospital, was so frustrated with an expecting mother’s lateness that she ranted about it online.

Did you really “rant” about a patient being late? Surely you realize we “regular” people have to wait 40-80 minutes in uncomfortable waiting areas every time we have a medical appointment. Surely your medical school taught you to schedule your days so you never wait for patients, even if that means they have to wait for you — 20 minutes in the lobby and 30 minutes or more in the exam room.

Cut the Crap

I love the irony of an MD being unhappy because someone was late.

Dear MDs:

It’s simple, if you want your patients to be on time, be on time!  And don’t give me that “we are short of doctors” crap.  If we are short of doctors it’s because your medical schools limit enrollments so we ARE short of doctors. And the AMA keeps it that way, not because it is difficult to become a doctor, but so you can charge ridiculous prices for the marginal services you provide.

Or if you did more to educate the public about prevention, your patient load might decrease enough that you could be on time once in a while. But that would blow your cover — the great myth of the busy, devoted MD, whose time is more important than everyone else’s.

What a crock!  If you want veneration, be on time once in a while.

Stating the obvious — again

The six virtues are sometimes criticized for stating the obvious. But educators state the obvious all the time.  Some even get paid to state the obvious to large audiences. Bill Daggett has been getting paid to state the obvious for more than 20 years.

According to him, students are more likely to respond positively to math problems that are relevant to their lives. He gave two examples:

Calculate percentages of advertising in a newspaper. Tour the school building and identify examples of parallel and perpendicular lines, planes and angles.

And district superintendent Dr. Beth Everitt said,

That’s a framework that’s interesting and relevant to students. It’s important to put their work into a context that they can understand.

Really?

Cut the Crap

Thirty-five years ago I “tricked” students into learning by assigning activities relevant to their lives. Does Daggett know why educators don’t “trick” students  more often with relevant lessons? It’s not because they disagree. It’s because they lack the imagination, courage, and humility to develop meaningful, relevant lessons within the constraints of a K-12 school.

It’s because today’s educators dutifully learned three vices in their own K-16 experiences:

A. As they sat still, kept their mouths shut, and didn’t ask too many questions; they learned intellectual incompetence.

B. They learned to fear truths like these: (1) Nineteenth century U.S. history is about the government stealing land from native tribes.  (2) States legislate unequal educational opportunity. (3) Our economic system would collapse if citizens stopped making unnecessary, unhealthy purchases.

C. And they learned to be proud — proud to be an American, Texan, Minnesotan, Floridian, etc.

Of course not all K-12 teachers demonstrate these vices, but these are norms among public school educators.

Instead of adopting the six-virtue definition of the educated person, public school policy makers hire people like Bill Daggett and district superintendent Everitt to state the obvious — “It’s important to put their work into a context that they can understand.”  Brilliant.