Entries Tagged 'Teacher Reads' ↓

Public school educators are played for chumps

I just watched Diane Feinstein during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. She may be right, and she may have strong arguments for what she says; but it is futile. We are in this situation because democracy does not work without an educated electorate.

Of course, “educated” is different from “schooled.” Eighty percent of us are schooled for at least twelve years, 180 days per year, 5 hours per day. Since we have adopted the social science paradigm for improving schools, however, our purposes have been hijacked. Educators now focus on value-added scores, correct answers on multiple-choice tests and closing test-score gaps.

Instead, we should model and teach the six virtues of the educated person. Educators’ responses?

Update on “chumps:”

This morning’s headline in the Asheville Citizen-Times was,

Showing signs of improvement: After all-time low, Buncombe schools boost grades on annual report card.

30-minutes later, I read former governor Bev Perdue’s “NC Spin” headline describing scores across the state:

School performance grades down – listen to our teachers!

The second headline explains some of the good news in the first headline, but you have to understand norm-referenced testing to see the causal relationship. The poorer test performance reported by Perdue moved the bell-shaped curve to the left. As a result, some Buncombe County students percentile scores were higher than they would have been, if the curve had not moved.

Twenty minutes later, I read another “NC Spin” column. This one was by Phil Kirk, former State School Board chairperson, legislator and cabinet secretary. He made the following claims about the principal salary scale in NC:

For as long as we can remember, principals were paid primarily based on how many years they had served as principals, degrees and the size of their school.  It didn’t matter in terms of pay as to whether the principal was outstanding, mediocre, or weak…..hard to believe but that was the tradition even though it makes no sense and is not supported by any credible research.

Just as the legislature is wisely moving away from paying teachers based solely on how long they have lasted in the profession and how many advanced degrees they have, pay for principals is now based partially on growth in student performance.  What a novel idea to reward effectiveness!

He then described one of his definitions of “effectiveness:”

Because Governors Hunt and Easley gave me the opportunity to serve as Chairman of the State Board of Education for six and one-half years, I visited 750 schools in all 115 local school districts. While I don’t claim to be an expert in educational leadership, I could generally size up the effectiveness of the principal after about 15 minutes of touring the school with him or her and listening and talking about their daily challenges, successes, and disappointments.

Then he described his other definition of “effectiveness:”

As BEST NC says, “Research suggests that a full quarter of a school’s impact on student learning can be directly attributed to the school leader. . . “

Of course a principal might have an effect on students’ standardized test scores (which is what BEST NC means by “student learning.” In some schools it might be strong; in others it might be weak–just as longevity and graduate studies might improve a principal’s effectiveness, and in other cases it might not. This is why the social science paradigm for improving schools and making policy is a dead end — it all depends on your definition of “effectiveness.”

In this example Phil Kirk cites two conflicting definitions. He uses the definition that supports one set of biases to make one argument (“Effective” principals can describe their work during a 15-minute walk-around.) And then he uses another definition to support his other biases (“Effective principals are those serving in schools with high standardized test scores.)

There’s not much “science” in that.

 

 

Right or wrong? It depends on the question

The questions we ask determine the answers we get about what is right or wrong.  For example, in the news right now is the situation of a special needs student who wants to play football at Asheville High School next year.  His Individualized Education Plan (IEP) calls for a fifth year of high school, but the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) says he can’t play football next fall because he has already completed eight semesters in high school. His mother is appealing the ruling.

How should her appeal should be decided?

The fundamental premise of the NCHSAA is that playing interscholastic sports is a privilege, not a right. All their rules are based on that idea. If someone does not like the rules, too bad. Playing is a privilege that is afforded only to those who obey the rules. End of story.

On the other hand, the fundamental premise of American public education is that all children deserve, as much as possible, an equal educational opportunity. The newspaper article quotes the mother as saying the NCHSAA’s rule “. . . only serves the kids at the top of the bell curve. This is a rule trying to stop a star athlete from playing another year, not for a kid like Noah (her son, who just wants to a member of the team).”

If the question is whether an exception to the 8-semester rule should be given to Noah, the NCHSAA is right. Playing is a privilege that he had until this fall. According to the rules, he no longer has that privilege.

If the question is whether Noah should be afforded, as much as possible, an equal opportunity, his mother is right. The rule discriminates against students who are not able to complete high school in fours years. That was why the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association made an exception to the eight-semester rule in 2013.

Instead of asking which decision is the right one. We might know better how to decide, if we ask, “Which is the more important question?”

The learning style myth — again

This is for all those “learning styles” and research-based advocates.

“Another nail in the coffin for learning styles” – students did not benefit from studying according to their supposed learning style

Here is an older one:

Why learning styles don’t exist, by Daniel Willingham

Do you consider yourself a fool to believe? Or do you continue to believe because it is one of those things you “just believe.”

The problem is deeper than this myth about teaching and learning. I am still waiting for research-based advocates to come here and describe situations where learning improved through the application of what research found to be effective. Simply answer four questions:

  1. What was the research finding?
  2. What was done to apply the finding?
  3. What were the results?
  4. How do you know that applying the research caused the results?

When answering the first question, be sure to describe the understanding that was deepened by the research finding. When answering the second question, be sure to describe the imagination, strength, courage, humility, and generosity that were needed to apply the finding. When describing the results, be sure to explain how they reflect your definition of what it means to be educated. And finally, answer the last question by admitting that you have no idea if the results were caused by the application of findings or any number of factors.

 

25 years later, it’s still the same.

According to this article,

http://inservice.ascd.org/the-stark-realities-of-teacher-evaluation-with-hope-for-the-future/?utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=Social-Organic&utm_medium=social

Most observers and teachers would agree upon three consistent points of contention around traditional teacher evaluation: 1) perceived inequities in the system, 2) models that are too complex for teachers to understand, and 3) lack of meaningful feedback to support teacher growth. How can our next generation of evaluation systems address these issues?

These are not the main points of contention, but #2 reflects the primary point of contention — that traditional teacher evaluation is an insult to teachers and the art of teaching. It is right there, in the claim that teachers are too stupid to understand complex models. Is more proof needed for the insulting nature of teacher evaluation? It is not surprising that the publishing organization is the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development – an educational organization that has always set itself apart from all those stupid teachers.

If you want to understand the real issues, read “Undervision” (1993) at:

http://paws.wcu.edu/churley/articles612.html

Twenty-five years later, the answer to the question at the end of the italicized paragraph is the same. The next generation of evaluation systems can address the real issues by adopting “undervision” instead of supervision.

BTW — prior to publication, the repeated objection of reviewers was that I should find a better term than “undervision.” Evidently, those who write about teacher evaluation, do not like a term that reverses the relative positions of teachers and supervisors. I kept “undervision,” so they would know and feel exactly how teachers feel about “supervision.”

Why can’t teachers improve public education?

The elephant in the room of school improvement discussions is the educatedness of the teaching force. During their own school-going days, teachers were taught to be understanding, strong, and generous. Unfortunately, they were also taught to be unimaginative, fearful of truth, and proud. Therefore, even with new technologies, teaching materials and opportunities, teachers lack the imagination, courage, and humility needed to create richer classroom experiences.

You can’t see this, however, if your definition of “educated” is being knowledgeable and skillful, or having college degrees. All recommendations for improving education are rooted in the definition of “educated.” Are teachers asking what it means to be educated in their public school or school of choice? Are parents asking what it means to be educated when they choose a school?

Oh — I forgot — that would require imagination, strength and humility. If we mix metaphors here, we have a Catch-22. Those who want to improve America’s public schools lack the virtues needed to improve them because they attended them.

Science that really matters

When educators make sure the “science” part of STEM focuses on building a healthier, more physically fit society, I will be its biggest proponent. Here is the plan:

  1. School boards establish standards for the improvement of health and fitness of its middle and high school graduates.
  2. Schools, teachers and students are rewarded for meeting or exceeding the health and fitness standards set for them. And, of course, they are punished for failing to meet them.

Students are taught the science behind all aspects of healthy living — diet, exercise, leisure, bio-metrics, and fitness. And their learning is evaluated by their health and fitness results. Naturally, everybody would work with Physical Education teachers to improve student health and fitness; which is, by far, the most important science related to the science portion of STEM.

Until then, public education’s emphasis on ScienceTEM is just more learning of unimportant facts. We teach enough of those already.

 

Losing the war? It’s our own fault. Part 2

If you want more proof that privatizers are winning the school reform war, just look at this paragraph from an article in the New York Times about a criminal investigation of school district employees in Montclair, New Jersey (the nature of the investigation is not pertinent to this blog):

Many battles have been fought in recent years between education reformers — who generally favor high-stakes testing and the data-based evaluation of teachers — and those with a more progressive approach to schooling. But nowhere, it seems, is the fight more pitched than in this liberal, diverse township of nearly 38,000 about 20 miles from New York City.

Look at the first sentence. The position of privatizers is clear — they “generally favor high-stakes testing and the data-based evaluation of teachers.” Who can argue with that? Privatizers win because their argument is simple and clear.

Hey Progressives! What is our succinct, clear explanation of, “a more progressive approach to schooling?”

For more on this topic, go to Losing the War, Part 1.

It’s social science, not science

The internet headline reads:

Science says parents of successful kids have these 11 things in common

Let’s go over this one more time:

  1. “Science says” does not mean a study found cause and effect. It means a social scientific study found correlations.
  2. “successful kids” means what the study says it means – nothing more, nothing less. Therefore, the findings (11 things) depend 100% on the study’s definition of “successful.” We don’t know how much they pertain to your personal definition of “successful.”
  3. “these 11 things in common” – If you have worldly experience, you don’t need to read them. If you have no worldly experience, you don’t need to read them either. You need to get some worldly experience.

Update

In case the point about social science research is not obvious, here is the first paragraph from Does Your Child’s Name Influence Whether They Grow Up to Be Smart?

Want to give your baby a head start on becoming a genius? You might want to consider nixing those unique, hipster baby names from your list. Genealogy research website MooseRoots compiled the names of nearly 15,000 philosophers, writers, mathematicians, scientists, inventors, artists, composers, Nobel laureates and MacArthur fellows to make up a list of the most common names of geniuses — and none were the kind of trendy names celeb babies have been given recently.
Of course the answer to the headline question is, “No.” As I finished reading, however, the real purpose of this “research” was clear. The last paragraph has links to websites (which I removed).
If these names don’t exactly appeal to your sensibilities, you could always look at new baby-naming trends, most popular baby names around the world, most popular baby names by decade or baby names inspired by global cities for more ideas!
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Just follow the money.

Charters and REAL public schools

Ms. Mamie Hall is a former North Carolina public school teacher, now teaching in a North Carolina charter school. Her commentary was published November 5, 2015.

Dear Ms. Hall:

The last paragraph of your News and Observer commentary said, “My hope is that we can break down the current barriers that exist between large district(s) and charters, learn from each other . . .”

As you wrote earlier in your commentary, charter schools are incubators of innovation, so we know public schools are supposed to learn from charters. That is why I was intrigued by your other idea–that charter schools should learn from public school districts. Since you offered no suggestions for what that learning might be, here are mine:

  1. Charters should learn that REAL American public schools stand for equal educational opportunity (EEO). The history of American public education is the story of the struggle to provide EEO to all students, including African Americans (Brown V. Board of Education), females (Title IX), and students with disabilities (Public Law 94-142). The equal educational opportunity ideal is expressed in the North Carolina constitution, and the constitutions of most states. North Carolina public schools are beautiful places for young people because of the educators committed to that ideal. So, charters should learn that, if they want to be REAL public schools, and if they want to join the ranks of beautiful North Carolina public schools, they must also stand for EEO.
  2. Luckily, there is an easy and productive way for charters to do that. Let’s just pick a number — let’s say for every 20 students a charter takes from a public school district’s attendance area, the public school gets to identify one student to be enrolled in the charter school.

School districts and charters can negotiate whether the ratio should be one public school student for every 10, 20, 30, or 40 public school transfers. Whatever number triggers a charter school enrollment for a public school student, we know the public school district will send the student most in need of the community structure that makes charter schools special.

Everybody wins. Charter schools becomes REAL public schools. A public school student in need of a community of educators and learners gets to enroll in a charter school. And public schools learn they should be more communitarian and less bureaucratic.

Our best public school districts already know that, which your commentary described when you recalled working in one of North Carolina’s REAL public schools.

Vouchers in North Carolina

In summer, 1978, I was studying educational administration at the University of Wisconsin. I was the only student in my law class who had grown up in Catholic schools, so I wrote my term paper on the emerging idea of vouchers for parents of parochial school children. I made a case against vouchers for two reasons.

First, vouchers would entangle church and state. Giving tax payer money for a special purpose requires state oversight, so church-state entanglement was unavoidable.

Second, I wrote that parochial schools wanting vouchers did not understand what they wished for. Their schools are the education arms of their communities. No matter how minimal the strings attached to vouchers, anything that got in the way of community control violated the essence of a parochial education, which is community control.

In summary, my paper pointed to two principles of American democratic governance: (1) stay out of religious matters, (2) oversee use of public funds. At that time I could not see 35 years into the future, when the North Carolina legislature would toss aside both principles without debate.