Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Marion Brady: Education Reform: An Ignored Problem, and a Proposal

"The most useful thing Congress and state departments of education can do is abandon authoritarian, centralizing initiatives and legislation that dictate what’s taught. By propping up an obsolete, dysfunctional curriculum, they’re making a very bad situation much worse.  ~ Marion Brady, Truthout, June 25, 2010
"The 'standards and accountability' education reform effort began in the 1980s at the urging of leaders of business and industry. The reform message preached by Democrats, Republicans, and the mainstream media is simple. 1. America's schools are, at best, mediocre. 2. Teachers deserve most of the blame. 3. As a corrective, rigorous subject-matter standards and tests are essential. 4. Bringing market forces to bear will pressure teachers to meet the standards or choose some other line of work.
Competition - student against student, teacher against teacher, school against school, state against state, nation against nation - will yield the improvement necessary for the United States to finish in first place internationally."  ~ Marion Brady, Truthout. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Institute Reminder!

Take a break from the pressures of summer chores and recreation for a professional recharge in Castine at the 2010 MLTI Summer Institute July 28th through the 30th at Maine Maritime Academy. The popular professional development event is expanding, adding a fourth half-day session this year and featuring an eight hour Pre-Institute, Learn about Google Tools, with Maine's own Google Certified Teachers (sponsored by ACTEM).

Sessions emphasize hands-on, imaginative professional development opportunities in all content areas. Educators in all grade levels including adult education are welcome with focus on grades 7 through 12.

This year the presentations will encourage activities and resources to help answer to the question: “How can we model and promote ethical, responsible, and productive behavior among all members of our digital society?” The goal - connect to one or more elements of digital citizenship: etiquette, ethics, safety, savvy, presence, and productivity.

Please visit http://maine.gov/mlti/events/institutes/ for a listing of sessions and a link to online registration.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Two Stories - Two Pictures

by Robert V. Keteyian

Ned is a very active seven year old boy—tireless and constantly in motion.  His continuous imaginative play is captivating, both to himself and to anyone watching him. Within a minute of seeing a stick and a piece of crumpled up paper, for example, he has combined them with other objects to form a spaceship that he weaves in and out of many worlds.

Often, though, it is difficult to get Ned’s attention because he is so absorbed in play/thought/imagination. If you ask him a question or give him direction, he’ll respond as though he’s heard you but he doesn’t follow through…or so it seems. When his parents try to talk to Ned about listening and following through, he seems distracted and uncomfortable, and the session often accomplishes little except giving all involved a not-so-healthy level of frustration. Mary and Kevin, Ned’s parents, are concerned that his level of absorption will cause big problems for him, especially as he gets older.

Mary especially is tireless in her attempts to engage him and help him focus better. As she explored the communication styles framework, she recognized that Ned has a strong visual-spatial and kinesthetic world. He tends to think in pictures and focuses his attention on creating and experiencing. Therefore, using words to connect with him would likely be ineffective.

One day when Ned and Mary were at the park, they watched as two boys, some distance away, played with a ball. When the ball bounced toward them, Ned picked it up and began bouncing it in a pattern relating to the cracks in the pavement. Mary instructed him to return the ball to the boys. Ned replied, “I am.” His mother retorted, “No, you’re not. Give it back now.” The conversation went back and forth like this, and eventually Ned rolled the ball back to the boys.

Then Mary asked him to go sit in a nearby hammock and picture two scenes: the one that just occurred and another where he simply handed the ball back to the boys. Ned sat dreamily in the hammock for about five minutes and then said, “Oh, I get it. I should have given the ball back right away because they were playing a game with it.” Mary saw this as a breakthrough moment, and it was. 

Typically in a follow-up discussion of this sort, Ned would defensively explain that he was giving the ball back because, in fact, he was, but it was in a manner that suited him and was not congruent with anyone else’s reality. This time it was different. As Ned tuned into his imaginative world to reflect, he observed his creative process for returning the ball (which he fully intended to do) and observed the scene from the perspective of the two boys. Once he visualized both pictures, he realized what was most important—the right thing to do in this situation. Tapping into Ned’s natural language in the visual-spatial realm gave him an opportunity to connect to a bigger picture and understand what was important to others. 

As Mary and I talked about this, we explored the possibility of helping Ned use an imaginary pause button when she’s trying to get his attention. Because the compelling pictures he constantly visualizes makes it hard for him to focus on input from others, learning to press the pause button might help Ned focus on what Mary is saying. It’s an experiment worth trying. Using the communication styles lens often can help us creatively and specifically solve problems.

Follow the Money . . .

"This group of very rich people ignored this body of research that shows that the single most powerful factor in education gaps is poverty and not standardized testing.

Did they forget that the United States has the second highest rate of children in poverty of any industrialized country in the world?" ~  Cindy Lutenbacher, ajc . . .  READ MORE

Poverty and Test Scores: A Critical Analysis ~ Orlich & Gifford, Phi Delta Kappan 10/20/06

Poverty and Education: Overview

Poverty and Learning Wiki

USAToday: More Than 1 in 5 Kids Live in Poverty

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Educational Publishing Oligopoly

In  case you might not have noticed, a handful of major educational publishers now dominate the education market, being led by McGraw-Hill and Pearson.  These same publishers had great influence in creating the Common Core State Standards.

What are the implications of this concentration of power?

An introduction to Robert Gagne's Instructional Design Model

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

We Want Kids to Think, Right?

By Pam Kenney

Diane Ravitch is a distinguished scholar, a professor at NYU, the author of the recently released The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, and part of a two-member team that writes the blog “Bridging Differences.” I love reading “Bridging Differences”, and my views on education frequently align with those of Ravitch. Lately her focus has been on testing and teacher accountability.

In her June 15, 2010 post, Ravitch chides elected officials and education honchos for creating accountability policies that are so unrealistic they generate teaching to the test, circumscribed curricula, lowered standards, and outright cheating. Yes, I’m thinking as I read, that’s certainly true. She goes on to discuss and disparage how states have improved their students’ results on standardized tests by lowering the tests’ “cut” scores. For example, in New York in 2006, a seventh grader was rated “proficient” if he got 59.6% of the points correct on the annual state mathematics test. By 2009, the cut score for proficiency on the test by a seventh grader was 44%. In other words, “proficient” has been manipulated to such as extent that it has become meaningless. Yep, that’s a problem all right.

Next she cites and praises “some whistle-blowing teachers” who alerted the New York Post that the scoring method for this year’s standardized math test had been changed. Lo and behold students were given partial credit for some answers when they were incorrect and for some questions where no answer was supplied at all. Two of the examples that Ravitch gives the reader are from the fourth grade scoring guide:

  • “A miscalculation that 28 divided by 14 equals 4 instead of 2 is ‘partially correct’ if the student uses the right method to verify the wrong answer.”
  • “A child who subtracts 57 cents from three quarters for the right change and comes up with 15 cents instead of 18 cents still gets half credit.”
Ms. Ravitch says she hopes the children taking tests with this type of scoring never become engineers or choose other careers that require mathematical accuracy.


Accustomed as I am to nodding my head when I read Diane Ravitch, I was dumbfounded by her criticism of awarding students partial credit for understanding a math concept. Isn’t that what educators have been working toward for 25 years or more? Aren’t we trying to deemphasize rote learning and replace it with strong problem-solving skills? Of course, accuracy is an important skill, but I want my students to be able to analyze a problem, understand the math concepts that elucidate it, and choose the strategies and steps needed to solve it. If they make a careless computation error or forget how many inches are in a foot, so what? I can accept it and am thrilled to give them partial credit for their answers because they’ve earned it. It’s clear to me that they understand what they’re doing, they're building on previous knowledge, they’re thinking. Isn’t that what we want?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


The Common Core State Standards have been released today.

What do you think?