Entries Tagged 'Teacher Reads' ↓
May 5th, 2013 — Book Thoughts, Cut the Crap, Teacher Reads
This morning’s newspaper has an advertisement that shows bored business people in a conference room. The man on the left is looking down; the man in the center has his head on the table; and the woman on the right looks disgusted.
Beneath the picture the text reads:
Don’t let an outdated conference room limit the impact your organization can have on all of its audiences.
Cut the Crap
Nobody in a boring meeting says, “This meeting needs modern technology to have a greater impact on me and our audiences.” But that is the “pitch” in the ad.
And that is the same “pitch” educators make when they argue that disinterested students become interested, when teachers use smart boards instead of chalkboards, when students read ipads instead of books, or when computer-based simulations replace role plays.
Just like business people who want a shared purpose for their meeting, students want a shared purpose for their learning. Purpose makes learning relevant and important, not the tools that are used.
When educators say schools need modern technology to generate student interest, they really mean students who are interested in the purpose of a lesson benefit from using modern technology. Those who are not interested won’t care what tools are used — just like the people in the newspaper ad.
If modern technology improves the interest of those who are already interested in learning, what educational problem does it solve?
March 31st, 2013 — Book Thoughts, Media Reviews, Teacher Reads
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 ones. School boards that adopt the six-virtue definition of the educated person can advertise like this:
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 absolutely 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.
March 16th, 2013 — Book Thoughts, Cut the Crap, Teacher Reads
Data-driven decision making is the latest silly idea in the education improvement cycle, which goes like this:
1. Education entrepreneurs, researchers and policy makers come up with a silly idea.
2. Teachers resist it.
3. Teachers are blamed for resisting change.
4. Education does not improve, so everything goes back to Step #1.
At this very moment, someone is saying teachers and schools should be data-driven.
Cut the Crap
Yes, we have more data than ever before. And yes, this is a good thing — if we understand the limitations of that data. But the phrase “data-driven decision making” signals the failure to understand those limitations. Education decisions are driven by judgment. Good decisions come from good judgments. Bad decisions come from bad judgments.
Researchers, test companies, and publishing houses promote the data-driven idea so they can sell data to schools. And educational administrators and policy makers are so unimaginative they fall for it, proving once again that bad decisions are driven by poor judgment, not poor data.
No matter how much data are collected and analyzed, schools improve when teachers and administrators use good judgment. They can start by rejecting “data-driven decision making.”
February 7th, 2013 — Book Thoughts, Cut the Crap, Media Reviews, Teacher Reads
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.
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.
February 5th, 2013 — Book Thoughts, Cut the Crap, Media Reviews, Teacher Reads
According to PBS’s American Graduate project, this is a “simple question at the center of almost any discussion on education reform.” Hari Sreenivasan does not answer the question, presumably because:
. . . the answers are many and often complex, and the question can lead to highly polarizing debates over exactly how and how often teachers should be evaluated on their job performance.
Cut the Crap
The answer is simple, if you know the six virtues of the educated person.
PBS doesn’t know the six virtues, so they broadcast a program about teacher evaluations at a charter school in Connecticut that goes through extensive evaluation procedures. The school has a 360 degree evaluation process and a five-stage career path. Does anybody else think it strange that they go through so much, but they don’t know “What makes a good teacher?”
Maybe I shouldn’t pick. So what if the question was posed and never answered? So what if they broadcast a story about a charter school that does not answer the question?
At the end Jeffrey Brown invites us to go online:
There’s much more online, including a video about Bridgeport Academy’s strict rules, uniforms and college expectations. Plus, tell us what you think makes a great teacher.
Good teachers are understanding, imaginative, strong, courageous, humble and generous. But don’t take my word for it. Remember your own “good teachers.” Did they bring the six virtues into their classrooms, or were they ignorant, unimaginative, weak, fearful of truth, proud or selfish? Why don’t you come to this website and answer that simple question. I love irony.
February 4th, 2013 — Book Thoughts, I Love Irony, Politics Blogs, Teacher Reads
I love these stories about bad teachers (story available but not video). This one is especially juicy because it involves the waste of more than $1 million over thirteen years. Teachers have the right to what lawyers call “due process.” In states with teacher bargaining rights, all the technicalities of this process are spelled out in the Master Contract, which is agreed to by the school board and the teacher union.
So, let’s be clear about who is responsible for this person receiving more than $1 million in salary. It is the school administration and the school boards that agreed to the Master Contract language.
Have we learned anything from this gross misuse of resources? Apparently not. The last statement in the video is, “No major plans to change the policy have been announced.”
If you don’t need to know more than (1) we have this situation that needs to be changed, but (2) nothing is being done to change it, you can stop reading here. But if you want to know how we got to this point, here is the short story:
Collective bargaining involves lawyers in crafting language and strategies aimed at getting what they want for their side — either the school board or the teacher union. For many years school boards sought to hold down teacher salaries, so they gave teachers what they wanted in the “language” part of the Master Contract, which includes procedures for supervising and evaluating teachers. Board members agreed to many unwise language provisions so they could say to taxpayers, “I kept salaries low; teachers didn’t strike; re-elect me.”
So — to all who revere the democratic process, how is that working? Do you like that we are paying this person more than $1 million to not teach? Do you like that we have no plans to change the policy? If not, why do you like the democratic governance of public education that created this situation?
Or is there somebody out there who wants to replace democratic governance with educational governance — governance that models the six virtues of the educated person? If not, we will continue to have uneducated school board members elected by uneducated citizens. Of course some of our most “uneducated” board members and citizens have multiple college degrees. I love irony.
February 1st, 2013 — Book Thoughts, I Love Irony, Teacher Reads
Educators don’t believe in the six-virtue definition of the educated person. It’s not that they evaluated it and found it wanting; it’s that they believe an “educated” person is one who earns degrees by scoring high on tests. That’s what I call, “schooled.”
Professors of education know the importance of precise definitions. They know that studying a teaching method’s “effectiveness” starts with an operational definition of “effective.” The word has no meaning, until they give it one. That’s why definitions are important. Even social scientists start with the inductive thinking that asks, “What is the meaning of ‘effectiveness’ in this study?”
The most common way to define “effectiveness” is in terms of higher test scores. Educators realize the shallowness of higher test scores, however, so they report their findings and rationales by saying, “The data show increases in student achievement (or performance, or success, or learning).
They don’t say, “Data show increases in student test scores,” because then we would ask:
- How much of an increase?
- How many more correct answers did students get?
When the answer to the second question is that a class of 25 students averaged fewer than two more correct answers on a 50-item test, the shallowness of higher test scores is apparent.
- Educators believe “schooled” is the same as “educated.”
- “Schooled” is measured with test scores.
- The shallowness of higher test scores is hidden by saying, “The data indicate that students increased their achievement, performance, success, or learning.”
- Achievement, performance, success, and learning are multi-dimensional concepts that defy measurement by tests.
Educators choose a shallow, impoverished definition of “educated” over a deep, rich one. I love irony.
January 9th, 2013 — Book Thoughts, Media Reviews, Teacher Reads
“The Common Core: Educational Redeemer or Rainmaker?” (Teachers College Record (TCR), 2012) argues that common core advocates profit from its implementation. We should not be surprised. Just like other American institutions, public education is now driven by the buying and selling of goods and services. Some say this is good because capitalistic principles and practices are positive social forces.
But we need to ask how the ideal of equal educational opportunity (EEO) mixes with capitalism. Ten years ago, while teaching a graduate course at a for-profit, family-owned school in Nicaragua, I discovered they are oil and water. Continue reading →
January 2nd, 2013 — Book Thoughts, Teacher Reads
When New Jersey high school basketball coach Bob Hurley was featured on a nightly news broadcast last year, they showed him roaming the court during a shooting drill. Over and over, he said, “Eyes on the basket. Head up. Look at the target.”
I never heard basketball coaches tell shooters to look at the basket, but I often heard baseball coaches tell batters to “keep your eye on the ball.” Of course, looking at the basket is just as basic to becoming a good shooter as “keeping your eye on the ball” is to becoming a good hitter. Coach Hurley was teaching his players to develop the habit that is common to all good shooters. Without that habit, no matter what else players do, they will not become good shooters.
Similarly, The Six Virtues of the Educated Person explains that a person is not educated, no matter what knowledge and skills they have, if they don’t have understanding, imagination, strength, courage, humility and generosity — the fundamentals of “educated.”
December 28th, 2012 — Book Thoughts, I Love Irony, Teacher Reads
Americans agree on what it means to be “schooled” because of our common school experiences. We agree that highly “schooled” people are those with academic knowledge, academic skills, diplomas and degrees. If those same school experiences had been educational, we would also agree on what it means to be “educated.” Since we don’t, evidently we weren’t. I love irony.