Archives for category: Teachers and Teaching

Mary Holden was thinking of starting her own blog. She had plenty to say. But she want ready. Then she retired as a teacher, and she realized there is no time like the present.

This is how she started.

This is where resistance begins. Standing up, speaking out, informing others, sharing what you know.

Gary Rubinstein found that Success Academy posted hundreds of short videos that demonstrate their methods. Their test scores are higher than any other charter school in the state of New York.

Watch a couple of videos and see what you can learn.

I can’t promise that the videos are still online. After Gary’s first post appeared, the videos were taken down. Then they were put back online. As of yesterday afternoon, after Gary posted another video, they were all taken down again. Cat and mouse. A curious way to react to those who view SA’s best practices.

Karin Klein wrote education editorials for the Los Angeles Times for years. She now writes freelance, and she wrote this sensible article for the LA Times.

So-called reformers have advocated their view that the way to improve schools is to fire “bad” teachers. The way they would identify “bad” teachers is by whether the test scores of students went up or down or stayed flat. Reformers seldom acknowledged that test scores reflect family income far more than teacher quality.

This hunt for bad teachers has proved fruitless, as scores have misidentified good and bad teachers, good teachers are demoralized by an idiotic way of evaluating their work, and there are teacher shortages now in many districts, as good teachers leave and the pipeline of new teachers has diminishing numbers.

Linda Darling-Hammond once memorably said, “You can’t fire your way to Finland.”

Karin Klein agrees.

One day, when the current era of test-based evaluation is evaluated, reformers will be held accountable for the damage they have done to teachers, students, and public education. That day will come.

Teachers need help and support to become better teachers.

There is no waiting line of great teachers searching for a job.

School districts must work with the teachers they have, making sure they are encouraged and mentored. And paid well.

Alan Singer reports that ETS is adapting its teacher certification. It will replace students with avatars. Computer representations of real students.

Why? Pearson is doing it. That’s competition for you. A race to the bottom. Like network television.

There are many reasons to object to th idea of teaching avatars. One is that the essence of teaching is interaction. The teacher and students connecting, responding, reacting. Teaching avatars is like acting without a audience. It can be done, but the actors are at their best when they feel the audience response.

Peter Greene analyzes the Vergara case, now case closed after the California Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from its billionaire backers.

Reformers say that getting rid of teacher tenure will spur innovation. Peter says, “What?” What teacher will dare to be different when they may be fired at any time for any reason.

Reformers say that getting rid of teacher tenure will attract more bright young people to teaching. Peter says, “What?” More people will be drawn to teachers if there are no job protections?

Peter refers to a mass email by Jeanne Allen at the pro-choice, pro-charter, pro-voucher Center for Education Reform in D.C., and he writes: :

“Yes, being able to hire and fire teachers at will would totally drive innovation because… reasons? It’s the Dread Pirate Roberts School of Management (“I’ll probably kill you today.”) But then, Allen also assumes that hiring and firing are only based on years of experience– wait– hiring is based on years in the classroom??!! In fact, firing is pretty much always on turning out to be bad at teaching. Now, maybe she means layoffs based on years of experience, but as we see in places like Chicago, that’s not even true everywhere. At any rate, we know that the traditional system promotes stability and protects the district’s investment in teaching staff.”

Be sure to read the comments, where Jeaane Allen responds and Peter parries.

The Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., has published a major paper that describes a new vision for American education.

Instead of focusing on goals like raising test scores, which narrows the curriculum and produces perverse results (like cheating, excessive test prep, and gaming the system), educators should be encouraged to emphasize the development of the whole child. This is not a new idea; its roots go back to the early twentieth century. But it is a research-based idea that promises to change the direction of education and to align teaching and learning with what is in the best interests of students and society.

The report was written by Elaine Weiss and Emma Garcia of EPI.

Here is the introduction.

Traits and skills such as critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, persistence, and self-control—which are often collectively called noncognitive skills, or social and emotional skills—are vitally important to children’s full development. They are linked to academic achievement, productivity and collegiality at work, positive health indicators, and civic participation, and are nurtured through life and school experiences. Developing these skills should thus be an explicit goal of public education. This can be achieved through research and policy initiatives involving better defining and measuring these skills; designing broader curricula to promote these skills; ensuring that teachers’ preparation and professional support are geared toward developing these skills in their students; revisiting school disciplinary policies, which are often at odds with the nurturing of these skills; and broadening assessment and accountability practices to make the development of the whole child central to education policy.

Introduction and key points

The importance of so-called noncognitive skills—which include abilities and traits such as critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, social skills, persistence, creativity, and self-control—manifests itself in multiple ways throughout our lives. For example, having greater focus as a student improves the acquisition of skills, and creativity is widely associated with artistic abilities. Persistence and communication skills are critical to success at work, and respect and tolerance contribute to strong social and civic relationships.

But support for noncognitive skills—also commonly referred to as social and emotional skills—extends far beyond this casual recognition of their impact. Empirical research finds clear connections between various noncognitive skills and positive life outcomes. Indeed, researchers have focused on assessing which skills matter and why, how they are measured, and how and when these skills are developed, including the mutually reinforcing development of noncognitive and cognitive abilities during students’ years in school.1

At the same time, there are clear challenges inherent in this work, including those associated with data availability (in terms of measurement, validity, and reliability), the difficulty of establishing causality, and the need to bridge gaps across various areas of research. This points to the need to exercise caution when designing education policies and practices that aim to nurture noncognitive skills. Nonetheless, given the crucial role that noncognitive skills play in supporting the development of cognitive skills—as well as the importance of noncognitive skills in their own right—this is an issue of great importance for policymakers.

Moreover, there is increased recognition, both domestically and internationally, that noncognitive skills are integral to a wider conceptualization of what it means to be an educated person. Indeed, UNESCO’s Incheon Declaration for Education 2030, which sets forth an international consensus on the new vision for education for the next 15 years, states, “Relevant learning outcomes must be well defined in cognitive and non-cognitive domains, and continually assessed as an integral part of the teaching and learning process. Quality education includes the development of those skills, values, attitudes and knowledge that enable citizens to lead healthy and fulfilled lives, make informed decisions and respond to local and global challenges.”2

This policy brief, which focuses on a set of skills that can and should be taught in schools, is based on a body of scholarly literature that tends to use the term “noncognitive skills” over others. James Heckman, a prominent, Nobel Prize–winning economist, has dubbed these skills “dark matter” in recognition of their varied nature and the challenge of accurately labeling them. Various fields and experts call them social and emotional skills, behavioral skills, inter- and intra-personal skills, and life skills, among other terms, but this brief does not aim to settle this issue. We therefore use noncognitive throughout in many places, as well as social and emotional skills and other terms.

This brief explains why it is so important that we incorporate these skills into the goals and components of public education, and lays out the steps necessary to make that happen.

This is a report that will gladden the hearts of most educators. It calls for a paradigm shift at a time when policymakers are realizing that the past fifteen years of testing, carrots and sticks, and other efforts to raise test scores, has produced negative consequences. It is time to take another look at our goals and our vision. This is indeed a worthy project.

This is an unusual political campaign. Matthew Fitzpatrick, an educator in Orange County, Florida, is running for a seat on the district school board on a platform opposed to the evaluation methods of Robert Marzano. Now, I have no views for or against Mr. Marzano since I am not a classroom teacher and I am not familiar with his method, but I have seen remarkable pushback on this blog from teachers. Since I too oppose the reduction of teaching to numerical measurements, I am sympathetic to his arguments.

He gives 40 reasons to oppose the Marzano method. I am posting only four of them. Read his post if you want to see the other 36.

My name is Matthew J. Fitzpatrick, and I am running for the District 7 Seat on the Orange County School Board. I am currently an Assistant Director at Orange Technical College, Westside Campus in Winter Garden. I’ve been in education for 23 years — 12 years as a teacher, and 11 years as a school and district administrator. In all my years of being involved in education, in my opinion, I have never seen a more demoralizing and destructive system than the OCPS implementation of the Marzano Teacher Evaluation system. I believe the Marzano system, more than anything else, is driving teachers out of education…and thus, OCPS has long lists of teacher vacancies. I believe this enough that I am willing to set aside my own administrative career and take a 50% pay cut in order to bring common sense back to the classroom. We must turn things around now.

Here are my first 40 Reasons to Replace the Marzano Teacher Evaluation System…splitting hairs on a system designed to split hairs on the art of teaching…

1. Dr. Marzano himself said on page 4 of his famous book, The Art and Science of Teaching, that, “It is certainly true that research provides us with guidance as to the nature of effective teaching, and yet I strongly believe that there is not (nor will there ever be) a formula for effective teaching.” If Dr. Robert J. Marzano says there is not a formula for effective instruction, who am I to argue with him? Why have we settle for a cookie-cutter approach to teaching?

2. Non-educators may not completely understand all of this “teacherese” jargon about teacher evaluations, but simply mention the name Marzano to an Orange County Public School teacher and take note of how they react…watch what happens to their face…feel the emotions of their words. Anything that causes such disdain among the very lifeblood of education–the teachers–surely is not good for education…no matter how much the sanitized research is quoted in support of it.

3. Where are the amazing results from using the “research-proven” Marzano strategies? Our District’s test scores and grades went down in many areas and schools. Why haven’t 6 years of Marzano transformed our District? If something is not delivering results, and at the same time it is driving great teachers out of the profession, we must make a data-driven decision and move in another direction…for the sake of our students and teachers.

4. Teaching should not be reduced to the numerical measurements of individual instructional strategies. Just as Mr. Keating (Robin Williams), in Dead Poets Society instructed his students to resist the armies of academics who want to reduce poetry to a passionless score that misses its true beauty and purpose, so, too, must students, parents, teachers and administrators stand against such a heartless, nitpicking view of the art of instruction. We must “Rip It Out” as an evaluation tool in our District.

In a bold move to address the state’s teacher shortage (caused by low salaries), the state board of education removed all requirements for new teachers other than a college degree and passing a test in subject matter.

Will Utah soon allow barefoot doctors too, you know, the doctors without training or experience?

“Times have changed” — not everyone wants to return to school for a teaching degree, said Superintendent Sydnee Dickson.

An existing path gives permits to school district employees after one to three years of practice teaching and college classes. The new license, heavily criticized since being approved by the state board in June, is available immediately to applicants with bachelor’s degrees who pass a subject test.

The elected panel over Utah’s school districts and charter schools voted unanimously in favor of the measure at its monthly meeting Friday, but will consider tweaks to the policy that several Utah teachers and their unions have decried as an insult to their profession.

Vice chairman Dave Thomas said the move was made in part to address a teacher shortage and has largely been misunderstood.

“I don’t view this as an attack on traditional teachers,” Thomas said.

Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews urged the board to reconsider, saying the state’s affluent districts could benefit, but low-income students would lose out. The rule could overburden schools without enough time or money to hire more mentor teachers to train the novice instructors, she said.

“It’s a human-rights issue.”

Board member Joel Wright said schools aren’t on the hook to grant the new licenses if they don’t want to. Under the new policy, administrators are allowed to tailor requirements for a license.

“This is a critical step,” Wright said, in giving individual districts control.

The board rejected a proposal from board member Brittney Cummins, of West Valley City, who sought to require that teachers-in-training be hired at a district or charter before receiving a license.

Mercedes Schneider points out that veteran teachers are expected to mentor the newbies for three years, but this may drive the veterans out of the classroom by giving them additional responsibilities without pay.

Utah is on a downward trajectory.

John Ewing, mathematician, is CEO of Math for America, an organization that supports teachers of mathematics.

In this post, he reviews some of the recent ill-considered efforts to “respect” teachers and offers advice about the minimum conditions necessary to assure that teachers have the respect, autonomy, and trust that professionals deserve.

You will also enjoy reading John Ewing’s brilliant takedown of teacher evaluation by test scores, which he called “Mathematical Intimidation.”

I recently heard from a teacher who taught in a charter middle school in Detroit. He is a certified social studies teacher, who has taught in both public and charter schools. The school he describes here is one of Michigan’s many for-profit schools (80% of charters in Michigan are run for profit). I asked him if he could write about his experience, and he sent the following:

“You are there to produce results, specifically test results; you are there to provide structure; you are not there to think; you are there to obey; you shall follow the curriculum; you shall train students for future careers and colleges; you need to enforce the rules and procedures; if students do not follow the rules and procedures, they need to go.

“White men in suits will watch your classes and nitpick your every move; every mistake and negative outcome is your fault. There is no excuse- there are never any excuses. Arrive earlier, stay later, care more, think less; others will go, maybe you will go; students will go; others will take your places. More structure- more discipline- take away recess- make the students sit in classrooms silently at lunch. Force students to march on the blue line all through the school- they need to obey. But don’t ask why all of this happens- never ask.

“Math and reading; reading and math; reading and more math” is what a student told me when I asked him what he worked on during summer school. These are taught because they are tested. Your job and the school’s charter depend on test score results. So, you teach math and reading test questions, even in classes named “Leadership,” “Workshop,” and “Computer Science.” History is the subject that doesn’t matter, science is the subject that doesn’t matter but gets computers. Gym, recess, art, and music are frivolous- there’s no time for that. Drill students more on test questions. Use the internet more- don’t reinvent the wheel- let your dean and principal do the thinking.
Stop the students from talking, from talking to one another; don’t let them talk using that hood talk, that’s not correct; they are not living correctly. You need to correct them, so put them in front of the computer and let the computer teach. Let the student’s mind go- they need to pass the test- THEY NEED TO PASS THE STANDARDIZED TEST OR ELSE WE FAIL.

“Let the curriculum do the thinking- your thoughts aren’t valued here. Your values aren’t valued here- that’s for JC Huizinga and Clark Durant (look them up). That’s for rich white men who didn’t go to charter schools or urban schools, who never taught in charter schools, who have no training in how to educate young minds. These are the same men who skim a buck off of broken down buildings and communities and who make $300k per year as figureheads but want to tell YOU how to uplift the poor and vulnerable on an at-will contract and a $40k/year salary.

“Let’s do something” Durant and Huizinga and the others must have said; they cared; they really did. But they asked the wrong questions; they didn’t learn their history. They created their own history; they want to take a giant eraser and erase the painful moments for those who are in pain; but you can’t erase pain. Pain and suffering and exclusion caused by systemic racism and lead poisoning and drug addiction and unstable home lives cannot be simply erased with business practices, more structure, and fancy gimmicks. These gimmicks, procedures, and pressures will not bring the jobs back to Detroit nor will it erase the poverty that causes shame and despair for the Black people that remain in the ashes. The charter schools rob the already crumbling public schools of money and students, rob the community from knowing what’s really going on, and pin full responsibility for uplifting students out of poverty on teachers.

“The true solutions require messy answers, holistic and complex answers, and they require the rich white men to give back some of their money, not just using their money to tell other people how to live- people that they don’t know, black faces in black spaces, places that these men would themselves never step foot in.

“So if you want to know what it’s like to teach in a charter middle school in Detroit, it devalues your life as a teacher, takes away your power and values just like it takes away the students’ power and values, substitutes them with gimmicks and buzzwords, and tells you that it’s your sole responsibility to uplift students out of poverty.”