Thursday, February 17, 2011
I have mixed feelings about this as I realize that students have to be placed somewhere, but a conversation with a friend of mine whose high school daughter is being pushed to take advanced math courses has given me second thoughts about the wisdom of such a strategy.
First, my friend argued, why should his daughter who has no interest in a math or science related career take advanced math courses? Why shouldn't she take the standard math courses and do well and concentrate on the areas in which she is really interested?
Of course, the Washington school allows students to opt out, but places these students into courses and forces parents to opt their students out. Perhaps it would be better to allow parents to opt their students out of such a scheduling model in advance. For example, in my friend's case, he could opt out of this model when enrolling his daughter in high school.
I also wonder what this says to students who don't score quite as well on those standardized tests, but are bright or determined and really enjoy certain subjects. I wonder if this program might actually discourage students who don't score well by sending an unintended message that if you don't score well on the standardized tests, you can't take these courses or that we think that you won't succeed in those courses.
Students who have good parental support and high self-esteem are already enrolling in the appropriate level of course work in high school. The students who need the support are those on the border line or who do not have good support systems at home. Perhaps all students should be enrolled in IB, AP or honors courses unless their parent opt out of the program. In other words, perhaps we should assume that all students can perform at high levels. Enroll them in advanced courses and encourage them to try. This is especially true if students have expressed an interest in specific subjects or they are determined to go to college.
We currently do students a disservice by barely preparing them for college, then allowing them the shock of finding out what real college course work is like when they get to college.
All in all, I like the idea of automatically enrolling students in tougher courses, but I wonder why we just don't make all courses tougher. Make all students try to succeed in advance studies, unless their parent opt them out. Wouldn't you rather have your kid get a C in calculus, than to never have tried it? It seems to me that if we made the assumption that all students would take calculus in high school, then they would. It's that simple. It doesn't meant that everyone will get an A or excel in it. It doesn't mean that some won't opt out, but if we rule out the interest and perseverance factors ahead of time and only base enrollment on aptitude, then we are doing students a disservice.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
I hope to see all you Coloradans there.
Monday, February 14, 2011
In other words, they are not taking any action on a parent vote that took place in accordance with the new law. It appears that this new board, which has been revamped by new Governor Jerry Brown, is stalling and disobeying a law that they do not like.
Brown revamped the board with members who oppose charter schools and other such education reform actions that allow more parent choice.
Friday, February 11, 2011
A recent study of a New York bonus program determined that the bonuses didn't work. The program has since been suspended.
The study found:
• Schoolwide bonus pay didn't seem to affect student achievement, teacher instructional technique or absenteeism, or the quality of the teaching pool for the majority of schools. In year two, eligibility for the program actually seems to have slightly depressed math achievement in general.
• The authors found evidence of "freeloading." Participating schools with the fewest math teachers showed some slight but significant achievement growth in that subject. In plain English, these teachers appear to have stepped up to the plate, causing achievement to rise. But in schools with more math and reading teachers, where the pressure to exert an effort was weakened and where there were more obstacles to collaboration, did not see such gains and may even have seen some declines.
• An interesting caveat: Schools with high degrees of teacher collaboration (as measured by a "cohesion index" based on teacher survey reports) also exerted a slight upward pressure on math scores.
In reading a few other blogs and comments about the Ed Week article, it seems that people are drawing many conclusions. One of those conclusions is that alternative pay methods don't work.
I'd like to suggest some alternative conclusions.
- Bonuses cannot be expected to increase teacher performance, especially in the short run. For the most part teachers cannot improve their performance just by trying harder. They have to work smarter, which may be why the schools with collaboration had better performance.
- The way alternative (strategic) pay structures can work is over a period of time that allows for both additional teacher training, teachers to sort out whether they really belong in teaching, and for school leaders to develop structures that allow great teachers to really succeed.
- Alternative pay structures work best when the pay differences are clear and promised for specific attributes that are within a teacher's control and when the pay differences are great enough to attract better candidates and leaders encourage consistently poor teachers to leave the field.
Bonus pay alone won't work. Even a strategically derived pay model may not work if the system doesn't support it.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Bure Valley Junior School has done that and claims to have great results. The school teams two teachers in one large class room. The school, in Norfolk, Virginia has tested this and seems ready to implement the plan in the rest of the school.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Organizers tried to defend themselves stating that some of the participants obviously knew that it was a fundraiser. However, it seems odd that some key people didn't realize that it was a fundraiser. It raises a question about how transparent that information was.
I don't have all the facts, so I'm posting this mostly because it's interesting and worth people thinking about. As always, see for yourselves.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
However, the NBA has chosen to open up the draft to high school players as well as college graduates. I wonder, and I'm not certain about this, what a similar approach might look like in education, specifically teaching.
In public education, the evidence clearly shows that certification does not make a better teacher. It's not clear even that attending most teacher training programs improves one's ability to teach. However, all districts that I know of require a credential. NCLB requires that all teachers have a bachelor's degree.
Because I've seen a couple of very talented teachers either laid off or refused work because of these laws, I've wondered for a while about how we could address this issue in a way that allows everyone a shot at teaching, but still maintains, or better yet improves, the quality of teachers.
So, what does the NBA do that allows someone like a Kobe Bryant or a LeBron James to be successful, even if they have not been to college?
First, teams have scouting programs and professionals who know what they are looking for. They have the ability to sort out the stronger players from the weaker players. Do schools have leaders who are able to do that? How are potential teachers evaluated?
Second, while the assumption is that a player needs the college years to develop, an NBA scout also knows when the player is ready or coachable enough to be successful in the NBA. Isn't it possible to develop a program in which potential teachers, perhaps through a series of exams and evaluations, could be credentialed or licensed without having to go back through another program?
Third, let's say an athlete goes and plays in Europe for five years because the NBA didn't think he was ready, but after those five years, he signs an NBA contract. He isn't penalized. In fact, he can step right in and start. Another player may be asked to sit the bench or be traded because of it. The NBA is always looking for the best talent, where ever it comes from. What happens now if a teacher doesn't have a credential, but has taught for five years in a private school? In most districts that teacher cannot teach or must go back to school, even if that teacher is a great teacher.
There is a lot for me not to like about the NBA. I'm not actually even a fan. I do wonder as we look at the sports world, if we can't learn some thing that could be particularly valuable to education. I also wonder if we aren't missing some great teachers by putting up road blocks that aren't necessary. Why don't we know how to discover good teachers, wherever they are? And if we do, why don't we set up the systems necessary to let them in? I don't know how many there might be, perhaps no one does. Perhaps it's not as many as I think it is. On the other hand, if we don't have a natural path for them to explore and a system that welcomes them, then we may never know what we are missing or what our kids are missing.
Friday, February 4, 2011
- Accelerated programs
- Online classes
- Use of social media
I won't say that all of my teaching experience online has been great. Especially in the early years, some students tried to use online as an easy way of getting their degree. It was obvious that they were putting in minimal effort and had no tolerance for any grading criteria that required them to actually learn or think. However, that has largely changed over time.
I've also taught in the classroom in accelerated programs. Having taught in three different accelerated programs, I can say that there is a mixed bag of students there as well. However, what has been phenomenal about my eighteen years of teaching in accelerated programs is seeing the student who is exceptionally bright and working hard to be the best that he or she could be.
While I use social media for networking, I have to admit that I'm not the best at using it in/for the classroom, although way back when, I was one who used the internet to post assignments and notes from class. In other words, this is an area that I need to grow as an instructor.
So, to my point (the long way, I suppose), why aren't we using more of these methods in the younger age groups?
We joke about kids being able to figure out things on the computer that we can't. My twelve year old boys amaze me with the way they can pick up almost any new piece of technology and have it figured out within minutes. They've been able to do that for years.
My theory (or guess as I have only anecdotal evidence, perhaps even less than Shawn Spencer often has) is that we are simply afraid. We are afraid:
- Teachers won't be able to handle the changes
- The whole nature of teaching will change
- Some students might not adapt
- Parents won't be able to adapt their schedules
Let's face it, our definitions of elementary, middle and high school are mostly artificial. There is nothing magic about our educational structure.
Online learning is the wave of the future, if not completely online, then hybrid or blended learning is. With the need to be more efficient with resources, online and blended learning can be part of that change.
I understand why there are fears about social media and its use for younger students. The number of cases of cyber bullying are scary. I am amazed not only about the number of cases, but by the cruelty of some of the posts by students. I share the concern that some may not be mature enough to handle social media as part of the educational system. However, I also believe that we can figure out ways to use social media in constructive ways. Those who choose to use social media in immature and cruel ways are already doing it. Using it for educational purposes could serve to reduce cyber bullying rather than increase it.
In an age of change, those of us in the "older" generation need to acknowledge that change. Technological changes never cease to amaze me, but I have to get use to them, to learn to use the new technology. We can find ways to adapt to the changes in K-12 just as colleges are learning to use them. Our students want and need those options.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
You can read it for yourself, but I found a few things striking. First, I was a teaching assistant at a major university. I had some football players in some of my classes, one of which went on to the NFL to have a great career. He made a lot more money than any teacher and a lot more money than I'm likely to make. We can all complain about that or laugh about that or we can look at just how hard those players work.
I have to admit, as a life long learner with multiple degrees, I tend to value education above a lot of other things. However, reading the interview led me to think about my assumptions of value and about the field of education, specifically.
As an overarching theme, the interview focuses on the fact that players, coaches, general managers are being evaluated all of the time. The teams use all of the tools available. They use film, they use photographs during the game. They constantly make adjustments. If a player or a coach doesn't measure up, he is gone. There are no fuzzy evaluations of performance. You are the best person for the job, or you aren't. If you aren't, you don't play. You may not play the whole season or you may be off the team.
That's not the way we manage educators. I'm not suggesting that the same intensity be applied to education. However, at this point, it seems that education is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Evaluations rarely happen. When they do, they are weak. Few teachers receive poor evaluations. When they do, it doesn't seem to matter.
The same might be said of principals and other school leaders. Do they know how to coach teachers? In the NFL, players are driven because they know that they have to learn and get better. Coaches constantly assist them in improving technique. Coaches try to find ways to motivate their players to play better as individuals and as a team.
We can laugh at NFL salaries. We can say that people's priorities are out of place. We can say a lot of things about football, but we can't say that the people involved don't work their tails off to get better and to do their best, and risk a lot in the process. Winning a Super Bowl may be a meaningless victory in the grand scheme of things, but the people who pursue it, pursue it with all they have because they know that they might not get a second chance. When will we believe that education is worth that kind of commitment? When will we believe that education is too precious to protect bad teachers and not reward good teachers? When will we believe that education is so important that administrators who don't coach their teachers and give them the right tools need to go and be replaced with those who can?
Read the interview over at Time, then I'd love to hear your comments.
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Strategic Teacher Compensation Part #1
Strategic Teacher Compensation Part #2
Avoiding the Ratchet Effect of Merit Pay
Presentation from the National Charter School Conference
With technology continuing to expand, and people asking if iPads are the next textbooks, models of school need to change.
Read this from NJSpotlight.com for fun.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
In an age in which we still provide excuses for poor education and poor educators, this seems especially absurd. Why not have the same punishments for schools, principals and teachers who do a poor job?
If we are going to have "zero tolerance," let's have zero tolerance for those who don't do their jobs in the educational system.