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.