Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reflections on The Global Achievement Gap

The Global Achievement Gap provided great exposure to several topics: how students are living their lives outside school, what schools need to do to educate them more effectively, America's education system in comparison with other countries, and how we can (and must) become more competitive in the global market. I will reference a few points in the book that I thought were exceptional.

First of all, America's present-day youth are spending the majority of their time involved in structured activities: soccer practice, music lessons, organizations, and the like consume their "free time". When they are faced with "free time", many children (and adults alike) spend it engaged in some kind of electronic device. The most common, of course, is the computer. The Global Achievement Gap discusses how educators must harness these technological devices and put them to use in their classrooms. On page 173, it discusses how the stereotype of a "computer geek" is long gone. Eighty percent of preteens and teens use MySpace weekly. Children are great at multitasking, but there is considerable concern when they are faced with digging deeper into one topic.

The problem, according to The Global Achievement Gap, is not that our country is filled with poor teachers or low quality schools. The problem is that our schools and teachers are outdated. We must update our systems. Currently, our students are excellent at memorizing facts and data and the ability to regurgitate it. The issue that they face is that the global market and economy are requiring people to have skills that are not being taught in schools; skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and communication.

Other countries around the world are preparing students by teaching them these skills. Japan has long been known for its teamwork mentality. They are expected to work as a team and solve problems as a team. The Global Achievement Gap suggests that America needs to do something similar. One vice president from Talent Management at Cisco System actually suggests that American schools need to throw out textbooks altogether because the answers to tomorrow's problems are not in yesterday's solutions (p.15-16). This is somewhat extreme, in my opinion.

Overall, the book did a great job of exposing me to new ideas that exist globally. I would suggest this book as a launching point for anyone interested in how America is competing with other countries globally. However, I did not feel that many solutions were presented. It was mostly pointing out problems but not offering much in the way of solutions.

Meagan's Final Reflection

The Global Achievement Gap focused on the 7 survival skills and what schools aren't doing to prepare students for the global world. The author talks a lot about project based learning and student centered instruction. The book also emphasizes that our schools are teaching to the test and knowledge based information, rather than focusing on using information to solve problems and create possible solutions. He discusses several charter schools who focus on these things and how successful they have been. (I would love to teach at one of these!)

I personally appreciated the flame this book lit under me. However, I feel a little bit like I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. I would love to use project based, individualized learning with each of my 100 science students, but I also need my students to know the state standards so they can do well on the test. If they don't do well, society looks at me as a poor educator and at the students as incompetent.

In conclusion, change needs to happen at the top before I can really grab hold of the 7 survival skills. Right now, I am teaching the standards to my students, because this is what has been required of me. Hopefully, in the near future, we can change our standards to accommodate the global world we live in, and we can do what's best for our students. Until then, I'll incorporate the survival skills as much as I can into my teaching.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Closing the Gap-Super Summary

This chapter is all about new and innovative schools. The schools which are showcased teach skills that are almost identical to the seven survival skills listed in the text. Some common themes of these schools that I noticed are:

1) Project-based learning
2) Smaller class sizes
3) Cross-curricular units of study
4) Field experience (internships)
5) Consistent student conferencing with EACH student
6) Individualized programs of study based on student interest
7) Community involvement and support
8) AND financial stability

I have to admit I started out quite skeptical of this book. However, I really feel that it has opened my eyes and made me really look at the way I teach. This chapter especially hit home for me. I often feel that students miss out on a lot of the experiences they SHOULD be getting because of the large emphasis on test taking and knowledge based standards. I am really finding that when students are most motivated I have to cut them off because we just have so much content to cover and not enough time for the things that really matter.

The quote that I picked is actually on the very last page of the conclusion chapter:

"If not you, then who? If not now, then when?"

We should all take a minute to reflect on this quote and then, just as I tell my students, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, or at least try! :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Motivating Today's Students

The chapter begins with a concern by some business leaders and educators of the decline of a work ethic of today’s youth. However, it was noted that this view may be due to how one defines work ethic – it may not be that there is less of a work ethic, but just a different type. The internet has changed how students learn, work, and live. The internet has evolved the process of how students learn; allowing them to multitask (or “continuous partial attention”) with research, entertainment and socially instantly.
The chapter focus deals with the concept many teachers have of their students – that of having unmotivated students in the classroom. The author has discovered in his interviews and studies that it may not be that our students are not motivated, but that students nowadays are motivated in different ways in we ourselves were. With the coming of age of the internet and all the related technology, students have come to be used to instant results and discovering results through various types of inquiries. They have also evolved into using various resources, not just the web, but other networks including social.
All this basically boils down to teachers having to become aware of students’ competence and self-assuredness of using ‘different’ tools in the classroom. The chapter also made the connection to making the learning in the classroom real-world in order to motivate students. As one of the interviewees stated, “school is boring for kids today because it hasn’t caught up with what kids can do outside of school”.

My quote comes from the Singapore educators on page 192. "Their new mantra is 'teach less, learn more. Schools need to focus more on projects and the inquiry method. They need to engage students with passion."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Reinventing the Education Profession

I could not believe the beginning of this chapter. A day in the life of "Greg," a high school principal, could have easily been a description in a day in the life of "Sheridan," a rural school teacher in South Dakota. As educators, we are constantly being shown the newest "priority," and that is stacked on top of the last five "priorities." Someone needs to look up the definition of priority, and submit it to the right person.

The author has done extensive research in classrooms across the USA. I especially found his descriptions of different "learning walks" to be very effective. It was interesting how he stated that when a group of teachers would look at a classroom's lesson, they would grade it anywhere from an F to an A -- looking at the same lesson. This held true in public and private schools across the USA. I think what all educators need to sit down and do -- principals, superintendents, teachers, school board members, even students -- is look at this question, look at the research, and make some careful considerations:

"What is the real problem you're trying to solve, and how do you know it's the most important problem you should be working on?"

Overall, I agree that the teaching education as a whole needs to be addressed. It is unfortunate that over half of all new teachers will leave the profession within the first five years. However, I can understand why. I recently heard the question posed on television, "Is the presidency too much for one individual to handle?" and I would have to apply the same question to teaching. If I did not have the close-knit connection with the paraprofessionals and the other certified teacher in my building, it would be too much. On a daily basis, I have to reevaluate and ask myself, "What are the most important things we will accomplish today?" I wish we did have more time to collaborate with each other and get useful feedback in order to improve our instruction.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chapter 2 Summary

Chapter 2: The Old World of School
Quick Summary of 7 Survival Skills
1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
2. Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence
3. Agility and Adaptability
4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
5. Effective Oral and Written Communication
6. Accessing and Analyzing Information
7. Curiosity and Imagination
Question: Are our most successful schools and students actually learning the 7 survival skills?
How did the author answer this question?
• He visited classrooms and takes us (the readers) along with him.
What types of schools did he visit?
• He visited 2 suburban schools and 1 Department of Defense School
o Suburban Schools are considered ‘high performing’ and are ranked among the best in the state that they are located.
o DoDEA school high graduation rate with high percentage of minority and low income students and showed a lowering of the achievement gap between low-income and middle class students with testing.
• Schools represent the teaching and learning experiences that college-bound students are receiving.
• Leaders of these schools (superintendents and principals) want to address any short-comings found and improve teaching and learning in their schools.
How did he evaluate what types of teaching and learning was happening in the classrooms?
• He did what he calls ‘Learning Walks’ through the classes.
o Spends ~10 minutes in 8 to 10 classrooms over a couple of hours.
o Gains a ‘snapshot’ view of the learning occurring in the school.
o Using class observations, homework assigned and student written work allows assessment of purpose of the lesson and skills students are learning.
o Observes a wide variety of grades and subject areas but all classes observed are considered to be ‘advanced’, ‘Honors’, AP or ‘college track’ classes.
o Tries to answer 2 questions during the Learning Walk:
 What is the difference between what I saw in this high school class versus what I’d see being taught in a 6th grade class? Are the students being progressively intellectually more challenged in the higher grades?
 What is my level of confidence that with the type of classes seen in the Learning Walk, the students will be adequately prepared for college or today’s workplace?
Learning Walk Conclusions:
o Students in all 3 schools being taught ‘subject content standards’ or ‘test-prep’ standards.
o For the most part students not being taught skills needed to succeed after high school whether in college or the work force.
• Summation:
o All 3 schools had school leaders that wanted to improve teaching and learning in their schools, yet none of them had any idea of how to make the weaker teachers better and help the stronger teachers to continue to improve.
 Why? Neither teachers nor principals are trained in this area.
 Need new ways, other than student test scores, to evaluate teaching and learning in schools.
What about the lower grade levels?
Instead of doing his Learning Walks in elementary and middle schools he summarized findings from University of Virginia’s study of elementary (1-5) classrooms. Even though the 7 survival skills should be introduced and taught at these lower levels they are not. Due to NCLB, time spent on ELA and Math basics has increased, while time for other subjects and reasoning and problem solving skills has decreased. In short, they have the same curriculum as the high schools…test prep.
What type of curriculum are global schools teaching?
• The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) sponsors the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA develops and administers assessments of reading, math and scientific literacy to 15 year olds in countries that participate in the program. In 2003 a new test was administered in 41 countries involved in the testing. This test measured the problem solving abilities in 3 areas: making decisions under constraints, evaluating and designing systems for a particular situation and trouble-shooting a malfunctioning device or system based on a set of symptoms. How did the US score compare to other OECD countries? Not well. The US scored below 28 other countries. Our students are not learning to be reflective, communicative problem solvers. What is the US good at in terms of the 7 survival skills? Innovation; a skill that involve curiosity and imagination. Probably due to the fact that we allow free speech and exchange of ideas. But as more countries move towards free expression will our advantage in this area last? US schools must move towards curriculums that develop problem-solving skills as well as contribute more towards our students capacity for creativity, imagination and innovation. This is the direction that other countries are taking while the US is pushing standard-based curriculum and basic knowledge. This is threatening America’s students from being able to compete on a global level.
“The most significant impact of NCLB may be its contribution to the growing gap between what’s being taught and tested in even our better schools versus what today’s students will need to succeed and be productive citizens in the twenty-first century- the global achievement gap.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Life is not a Multiple-choice test! Section 3 Summary

Testing 1,2,3! Standardized tests are placed under the microscope in this chapter. The author discusses the widespread use of standardized testing in all the various content areas. The view under the microscope continually reveals that the testing is a ineffectual tool in determining student achievement, based on evidence stated from colleges and businesses. Students who are successful on the standardized tests are not necessarily as successful in life. Even in advanced placement classes, students are learning the content and to "test" but are unable to use what they know in life. The author discusses the importance of using authentic assessments that will determine a student's ability to write, reason, and problem-solve. The effect of NCLB was an increased push toward the old-style standardized testing, so it will be increasingly difficult for states to move toward a newer-type of authentic assessment. According to the author, that is exactly what needs to occur.

"In today's world, it's no longer how much you know that matters, it's what you can do with what you know."

In my opinion, this is the most challenging aspect of teaching. Even though what is best for students is glaringly clear, we are still held accountable for how students score on a test that is completely worthess. It is important for students to learn facts so they can think; however, the standardized test fails to assess what is really important. Until the individuals who dictate education understand that concept, we are stuck "teaching to the test."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Jumping the Gap

When I looked at the original cover of the book, I immediately thought of how quaint and old school the student desks looked. It made me realize that a lot of education is still in that simplier time and its no wonder that there is a gap between our students achievement and the rest of the world. My new cover shows American educators and students 'Jumping the Gap' to achieve the skills needed to work and think critically in this new truely global world.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Growing Gap

The Earth is a dynamic, changing planet, capable of supporting life, and adjusting regularly to its inhabitants. The Earth is synonomous with our "Digital Natives," they were born into this world that changes rapidly, whether from human interaction or just because she is Mother Earth.

Other inhabitants, non-"Digital Natives" run the risk of becoming cold, stagnant, and unchanging like our Moon. It has never supported life, the surface is covered by scars that were caused by events that it could not defend against (unlike our Mother Earth, which has an atmosphere, the Moon is unprotected). The non-"Digital Natives" of the Moon are also slowly orbiting further and further away from Mother Earth.

It's time for the Moon to catch up with Mother Earth... and time for the non-Natives to catch up with the Natives.

Summary of 1st Reading

Global Awareness summary- the author has done a tremendous amount of research/interviewing business leaders and asking them what they want in an employee. The leaders have said they want individuals to be able to ask questions, solve problems, improve the business, and communicate with the world. They also want the students to be able to address global issues.

My Quote: page 26- Mike Summers, vp of Global Talent Management at Dell Computers- "Students have a naivete about how work gets done in the corporate environment. They have a predisposition toward believing that everything is clearly outlined, and then people give directions, and then other people execute until there's a new set of directions. They don't understand the complexities of an organization."

My thoughts- This book was not my first choice (not even my third - but Borders had it) so I probably came in with a bad attitude. But I wanted to get started right away. Then when the second page referred to the book "The World is Flat" I rolled my eyes. I have heard one too many speeches about how we are compared to Japan, India, China etc. Japan students go to school literally year round, Germany places their students into tracks and test the best ones. We are accountable for every child every time. Which we should be- but don't compare us to those who don't. My other thought on this book. Where is the question to the business people- what are you doing to help the schools. Do you have mentoring programs,volunteer at our schools, or aid in the financial way? What are they doing? The teachers today have a very hard job. We are the first generation to be responsible for global awareness/world communication. How do we do it with budget cuts, computers that do not work, and NCLB scores threatening us? When does the "real world" step in and say how can we help?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book Cover

This image struck me on various levels when looking for something that would signify the 'achievement gap'. First, as a teacher, I see my role as a balancing act when preparing lessons for my students. I need to be able to instruct in a way that the standards our not only met but mastered by the students. I also need to make my lessons relevant to the students of today.
Finally, I see my students, as far as their achievement, balancing between creating a bridge one way, and slipping farther away from others if it falls the other.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New Cover

I chose this image to represent the frustration that many students face when trying to acquire new knowledge with the old way of teaching. They see a mountain of knowledge in front of them, and they may feel overwhelmed and lost in the information-no connections are there. Our job is to try and use technology, along with meaningful information, to try and get them to take that step. I also chose this image because it demonstrates the importance of using problem solving, and it represents individuality. Not all students are going to reach the top of the mountain the same way. Some may build a ladder, and others may fly.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

'Bridge' the Gap Book Cover

I chose this image to represent the global achievement gap. The river represents the obstacles that students and teachers both experience. The bridge is the voice of optimism in the picture, that we will be able to find a solution to the problems we currently face and will be able to 'bridge' the gap.
The picture on the book cover is depictive of an old fashioned classroom. I believe the publisher chose this picture because the gap exists because the students we teach today are out of place in this type of classroom. The picture appealed to me because of the old fashioned desks and the papers flying off the desks. I imagine the students being frustrated with this style of learning, feeling out of place, yet unable to remedy their situation. As educators we have the challenge of transforming the way we teach in this age.

Posting Covers

Oh boy- once again I am lost in this class. Does anyone know where to post my cover? Here it is I am sorry if it is not in the correct spot. I am also apolgizing in advance for being the first super summary post and I do not know what I am doing. thanks Danielle Hunt.

Welcome to Literature Circle Fifteen!

Your Super Summarizer schedule is as follows:

Section One--Due October 28, Danielle Hunt
Section Two--Due November 4, Susan Roth
Section Three--Due November 11, Wendy Larson
Section Four--Due November 18, Sheridan Hansen
Section Five--Due December 2, Dave Schmidt
Section Six--Due December 9, Meagan Schlecht