Posted in Article Medleys, Choice, Gates, NeilGaiman, Ravitch, Teaching Career

2013 Medley #22

Reign of Error, Choice, Neil Gaiman,
Bill Gates, Teaching Profession.

REIGN OF ERROR BOOK TOUR

On her book tour Diane Ravitch is pounding home the facts.

  • America’s Schools are not failing.
  • The achievement problem with America’s schools is rooted in poverty, not bad teaching.

Here she is on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

CHOICE…

…is for private and charter schools, not students or parents. Public schools work with whoever enters their doors. There are no requirements to pass “the test.” Private and charter schools, on the other hand, get to “choose” whether or not to keep students who are difficult to teach.

Florida Charter school, get your kid FCAT tutoring or we will kick them out!

From the Cornerstone Charter Academy in Orlando Florida.

DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE PRACTICE

The Cost of Ignoring Developmentally Appropriate Practice

Humans, like all other animals on the earth, need time to develop. Trying to teach children things before their brains and/or bodies are ready is like expecting a butterfly to fly while it’s still a caterpillar.

We understand that concept when it comes to talking and walking. Rarely do parents try to hurry up their children in those areas…most of us are content to let our children’s physical development with talking and walking develop at it’s own rate. Learning should be the same…

When we ignore or interrupt healthy development, we tend to have problems. Exposing kids over the long term to environments, programs, and expectations that are not appropriate to their development has some clear effects…an increase in behavior problems…it often overlooks the foundational skills that are typically developed in early childhood.

…If we look at other countries that top the US in the international metric (PISA scores), it seems we’re trying to catch up to them by doing the opposite of what they’re doing.

…If we are indeed so anxious about our children becoming academically successful, why would we push increasingly for models that seem to directly contradict the programs that have been proven to yield the results we desire?

NEIL GAIMAN SPEAKS UP FOR LIBRARIES

Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.

Gaiman’s thoughts are reinforced by Stephen Krashen in The Case For Libraries and Librarians.

Research shows that better public and school libraries are related to better reading achievement. The reason for this is obvious: Children become better readers by reading more (Krashen, 2004), and the library is a major source of books for children.

BILL GATES: WHAT’S GOOD FOR “ORDINARY STUDENTS”

Bill Gates tells us why *his* high school was a great learning environment

Bill Gates loves the opportunities he had at Lakeside school…

  • average class size of 16
  • nearly 80% of the faculty with advanced degrees
  • drama, chorus, jazz band, chamber orchestra, as well as other bands and arts
  • 24 varsity sports

Bill says Lakeside was great because the teachers pushed the students to achieve…
Bill says Lakeside was great because the education was relevant to real life…
Bill says Lakeside was great because of relationships…
Bill says: I want as many students as possible, from as many different backgrounds as possible, to enjoy a Lakeside education…

Gates believes everyone should get the same benefits…except for public school students, that is.

Bill says for ordinary students, class size doesn’t matter.
Bill is funding Teach for America, because for ordinary students, teacher training and advanced degrees don’t matter, 5 weeks of training and a BA is plenty.
Bill is funding high-stakes testing…
Bill is also funding Common Core…
Bill thinks when schools and teachers fail his tests, the school should be dissolved, the teachers should be fired…
Bill Gates wants to keep a central database of all student information.
Bill is going to make a lot of money on all the things he’s imposing on ordinary students…

ANYONE CAN TEACH

Teaching is so easy, anyone can do it!

Forget college teacher training programs. We don’t need to require students to spend 4 (or more) years learning about and practicing teaching.

Training teachers is a waste of time. So says Anthony Seldon in Teaching is like parenting: you don’t need to have a qualification. He tells us that all you need to be a fantastic teacher is on the job training because, after all, it isn’t a profession like being a doctor or a veterinarian. It’s more like being a parent…you learn it by doing it. No special training required.

A college professor in Minnesota disagrees…

…teaching itself is a skill. It requires constant work and adjustment. In my introductory classes, I’m comfortable with the content and it requires only a little attention to keep up to date on the science, but I’m constantly fretting over how to communicate concepts better this time around. There actually is a teaching literature, you know, perhaps Mr Seldon is unaware of it. There are always new and better ways to instruct coming out and being tested, and there is academic knowledge behind it.

Another view from across the pond

Do teachers need to be qualified? Don’t ask such silly questions

Teaching is hard, students can be challenging, the job can affect you in ways you never expected. Working towards a qualification prepares you for this.

I trained alongside some incredible people at university; people that ran their own tech companies, computer programmers, some trainees with first-class degrees – people who, on paper, would be far better teachers than me…The problem is, many of them did not cope well. They found it hard to deal with behaviour and students’ social problems. They struggled to communicate their vast knowledge to students. Lots of people drop out. If they had been employed by a school straight away rather than starting a PGCE they would have quit, leaving students without a teacher.

Is it not fair on the unqualified teacher, their colleagues or students to employ them without having proof that they can meet a national minimum standard. We should not be experimenting with this.

GUIDELINES FOR EDUCATORS

A dozen basic guidelines for educators

Alfie Kohn provides us with a sample list of guidelines for educators, parents and students. Numbers 11 and 12 are at the top of my wish list…

  1. Learning should be organized around problems, projects, and (students’) questions — not around lists of facts or skills, or separate disciplines.
  2. Thinking is messy; deep thinking is really messy. Therefore beware prescriptive standards and outcomes that are too specific and orderly.
  3. The primary criterion for what we do in schools: How will this affect kids’ interest in the topic (and their excitement about learning more generally)?
  4. If students are “off task,” the problem may be with the task, not with the kids.
  5. In outstanding classrooms, teachers do more listening than talking, and students do more talking than listening. Terrific teachers often have teeth marks on their tongues.
  6. Children learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions.
  7. When we aren’t sure how to solve a problem relating to curriculum, pedagogy, or classroom conflict, the best response is often to ask the kids.
  8. The more focused we are on kids’ “behaviors,” the more we end up missing the kids themselves — along with the needs, motives, and reasons that underlie their actions.
  9. If students are rewarded or praised for doing something (e.g., reading, solving problems, being kind), they’ll likely lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward.
  10. The more that students are led to focus on how well they’re doing in school, the less engaged they’ll tend to be with what they’re doing in school.
  11. All learning can be assessed, but the most important kinds of learning are very difficult to measure — and the quality of that learning may diminish if we try to reduce it to numbers.
  12. Standardized tests assess the proficiencies that matter least. Such tests serve mostly to make unimpressive forms of instruction appear successful.
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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Author:

Retired after 35 years in public education.