Tag Archives: paradigm shift in education

Vol.#78: Never The Destination

accountableI read Karl Fisch’s great post over at The Fischbowl about the word “accountability” and how too many in education erroneously equate it with using standardized testing to justify educational actions and decisions.

It got me to thinking how this current phenomenon often has educators, sometimes myself included, pinned in the corner of “all standardized testing is bad.” This is an understandable reaction to the ridiculous, high-stakes, over-emphasized testing of today. When one feels they are under attack, they take a defensive stance. Testing gives a snapshot of a narrow facet of skills, and while it shouldn’t be the focus nor the be-all-end-all… it isn’t completely useless.

After writing recently about my frustrations of the frequent pre-screening before the pretesting before the big test, it must sound like I’m completely backtracking. However, it’s the way the data is used that is important to examine.

Testing should be small, incremental, low-stakes, and personalized. If  I have a student who is struggling, as a language arts teacher I should be able to request testing to indicate issues of fluency vs. comprehension to know how best to help him/her.  It should be targeted and prescriptive, but this would require trusting educational decisions of professional educations, which is not what’s happening in the political scope of education right now.

Even the larger tests that level students in achievement ranges could be helpful if it were early in the year so teachers could use it to help inform their instruction for the year. However, it’s used at the end of the as a  summary of what the student and teacher have “done right”. This, again, is a misuse of the data. It’s an autopsy when only a biopsy can help a teacher help a student. Also, inferences are being drawn from the data which does not measure what it’s being assumed to measure. (ie: “teacher effectiveness.”)

Therefore, high-stakes testing becomes the “goal”. Schools can’t test to see what they need to teach, they are too busy scrambling to teach what’s on the test that contains what someone else decided was important and another said it would carry serious consequences for the student, teacher, and school if some bubbles aren’t colored as well as last year.  And consider what that these tests could never measure for just a moment…

Your doctor does not decide your heath on a BMI score or triglyceride reading alone.  However, that small piece of data can inform a medical professional if its part of a larger picture. The problem is when non-educators in charge of education (which is a problem in and of itself) decide to measure the doctor’s competence by his/her patients’ BMI average (teacher’s test scores). This is a misuse of the data, and a ridiculous way to measure the doctor. 

TL; DR:

Education Haiku

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Vol.#77: Early Adaptation

One of my earliest posts (Volume #7) was about how to use technology to its maximum advantage in the classroom.  I’ve sometimes been referred to an “early adopter” (one who starts using a product or technology as soon as it becomes available) because I like trying new tools as soon as I hear about them. However, the term “Early Adoption” seemed antiquated to me when talking about EdTech. I looked it up, and in fact the term originates from the technology adoption life-cycle originally published in 1957.

I think a better term might be “Early Adaptation” as one is”adapting” to how things will  eventually be for all, rather than “adopting” something unusual, different, or foreign. Adoption is a concise process, where adaptation is ongoing. Am I just debating semantics here, or does someone else see my point?

Via: http://dcamd.com

And what even  is technology? Both Alan Kay and Sir Ken Robinson have been quoted as saying technology is: “Nothing invented before you were born.”

So, to my current sixth grade students, that would be nothing invented before 2004. This means they see laptops, hybrid cars, iPods, camera phones, DVR or Tivo, and the internet as just regular normalcy, not technology. Our using them in the classroom would be analogous to when your teachers used television in the ’70s or ’80s:  flashy and fun, but not novel or new.

The other day, I read that TRON  was disqualified from receiving an Academy Award nomination for special effects. The reason? The Academy felt that the use of computers was cheating.  No, really.

First of all, I can’t imagine the technology available in 1982 wasn’t more of a handicap than a shortcut. But anyway…

If you asked the students in your classroom about movies and special effects (or FX as they may spell it) they would think it synonymous with computers, CGI, and so on. There wouldn’t even be a line of distinction.

My point?

Education, like Hollywood, is an establishment. While we are not funded or respected like Hollywood (Vol.#45: Why Doesn’t George Clooney Have to Deal With This Crap?) there’s one important similarity this TRON trivia fact clearly elucidates:

The establishment often does not support or even understand a major industry change when it first arrives.

Vol.#71: #TeachingInNC, A Snapshot

Sure. My humble submission follows.

To be read in the slam poetry style of Marshall Davis Jones’s Touchscreen.

#TeachingInNC

Not enough copies
Not enough books
Teachers spending their own thin dime
It’s a crime.
Not enough time
Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 12.45.26 PMNot enough technology
There is simply not enough me…
to go around
to these 42 students in this one class
Because class size limits…are gone.
Education is a pawn
in their reelection game.
But the more they talk of change,
the more things stay the same.

Instead of the blame, they should find the funding instead.
But their friends get deep tax cuts so it puts our schools in the red.

They vilify those that they should empower.
But those making the choices refuse to hear the experienced voices.

IEP, PEP, ADHD, EBD, AIG
OMG

This student’s a “two”, this one’s a “four”
No. A child something more
than a score.

integrity, creativity, ingenuity, responsibility,
curiosity, humility, reliability, empathy…

These are not on their test
So teaching them is not part of my “effectiveness index”.

They tell us to individualize our instruction
But they standardize the tests.
It’s impossible. It’s a mess.
But NC kids are the state’s future…so as we wait for November we’ll  keep trying our best.

Vol.#69: An Open Discussion on Race and Ethnicity in Teaching

A couple weeks ago, Bill Ferriter posted an interesting and heart-felt piece on race and teaching in America. It was poignant  due to its rarity as much as its honesty.  Considering this particular discussion’s prevalence in our nation’s dialogue on our culture at large, it should logically be occupy space in the landscape of our discussions about classroom culture.

And yet it doesn’t.

The #edchats on Tuesday nights at 7 pm cover many topics, but whenever race in the classroom was a choice in the weekly vote, it was never selected. That was, Tom Whitby says, until all five choices were on the topic and it forced the issue.

I discussed the resulting chat and topic with #edchat hostsTom Whitby and Nancy Blair further in the #edchat Radio episode:

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Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 9.43.44 AM

 

 

 

We all came away with this question: How do we ensure we continue to have this important discussion, with both peers and students?

 

Vol.#53: Ten Ways Teachers are Soooo Not Doctors OR Surgeons

So, a colleague wrote this really insightful piece last week about whether educators are more like:

  • Doctors: trying to cure things that have societal causes of which most are out of their control

~or~

  • Surgeons: acting with precision and purpose to achieve an end and required to review outcome data to better inform future practices.

I can’t recap it and do it justice, so please read it.

Go on. I’ll wait.

 

Good stuff, right?

Anyway, usually I’d eat this kind of comparative metaphorical analysis up with a spoon. As some who follow this blog may know, I’ve discussed similar concepts myself.

However, I surprised myself by reacting in an entirely different, non-serious way. Perhaps it’s due to the current state of education, particularly in my own state of North Carolina, where we have to laugh or we’d cry, but my husband and I just kept riffing (and laughing) on all the ways teachers are soooo not either of these professions.

I thought others may also get a chuckle from what we came up with…and maybe add a few more in the comments.

So, I present to you:

Ten Ways Teachers are Soooo NOT Doctors or Surgeons

  • Our. Paychecks.

You knew it was coming. Let’s just get it out of the way, shall we? I made an infographic on easel.ly to see what the difference was in my own city.

I was curious.

  • Credibility. Even in the face of death of a loved one, “I did everything I could.” actually means something coming from a surgeon.
  • Concrete data. A heart attack presents like a heart attack and cancer is treated like cancer, regardless of a patient’s ability, motivation, or intelligence. This makes quite a difference if you are expected to act on the information with the certainty and confidence demanded of all three professions.
  • Help. Doctors and surgeons have nurses. Physician’s assistants.  EMTs. Those people that check you in and out. Orderlies…etc.  A very small, ever-shrinking percentage of teachers have teachers’ assistants. (And anyone who thinks they don’t desperately need them should come teach a class of 24 kindergarteners solo.)
  • Teachers can’t excise a tumor of laziness or ignorance…though a girl can dream, can’t she?
  • Doctors don’t have to write plans for a substitute doctor to try to see all the patients in their care in a day. They can simply reschedule their appointments for the day if they’re out. (Actually, someone else probably does that for them.)
  • Please show me the surgeon who has 35 people on operating tables…at once.
  • Rarely is a patient unconscious on the table and still able to hurl obscenities at the surgeon or threaten them with bodily harm. (Of course, I’m just guessing.)
  • I’m pretty sure there are very few doctors  buying their own tongue depressors out-of-pocket.
  • No one ever criticizes a doctor or surgeon for the appointment not being engaging or entertaining enough.

What’d I miss?

Volume #44: Literacy Data, Part Deux

In my last post, I argued against the use of the current practices for gathering data for measuring growth and proficiency in literacy.

I suggested that for math, formative standardized test data is a biopsy. For literacy, it’s more like an autopsy.

And while the data indicates strong versus sickly readers, this information is usually no surprise to the professional educator, and more importantly it offers no treatment plan: advice on which medicine to administer.

With the release of my state’s scores re-renormed to the Common Core, there’s lots of focus on all the new data. What it all means. Why the scores are lower. How it will be improved.

And while the politics rage on, I have to explain to parents that their child simply went from twelve centimeters to five inches, and yes the number may actually be smaller, but I believe it to show growth in his/her reading ability.

And I need to take this new information and figure out how it should inform my instruction. I need the data to indicate a treatment plan for the literacy health of my students.

During my participation in VoiceThread titled “Formative Assessment and Grading” in October 2011, Dylan Wiliam said something that has always really stuck with me:

“One of the problems we have with formative assessment is a paradigm that is often called, “data-driven decision making”. This leads to a focus on the data, rather than on the decisions. So, people collect data, hoping it might come in useful, and then figure out sometime later what kinds of decisions they might use the data to inform.  I’m thinking that we ought to perhaps reverse the ideas in data-driven decision-making and instead focus on decision-driven data collection. Let’s first figure out the decisions we need to make, and then figure out the data that would help us make that decision in a smarter way.”

~Dylan Wiliam   “Formative Assessment and Grading”,  Slide 5   [My emphasis]

I’ve pondered this at great length. If my goal is decision-driven data collection, what would I want out of a standardized literacy assessment? What do I want the data to tell me?

What else? What other information (as a teacher or as a parent) do you believe the data should provide about students’ literacy abilities?

Vol.#41: The White Flag [Guest Post]

Image credit: Pixabay user Goemedien

This week, four more teachers on my school’s staff announced that they are leaving the classroom for greener pastures. These losses are in addition to the language arts department chair’s letter to Governor McCrory, a colleague from another school, and my PLT-mate of almost a decade who has already left.

These opportunities are well-deserved and no one who remains in the classroom could fault anyone for taking them. However, each one is the loss of an educator who daily and directly touched the lives of students. Those of us left in the pragmatic and emotional wake of their departure feel stretched and strained. They each will be missed dearly.

One of these fallen fellow classroom warriors, Trishia Joy Lowe, wrote the following of her classroom departure and has graciously allowed me to share it here with you.

~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~          ~

Today, I leave what I have loved doing for nearly twenty years – teaching, NOT education, TEACHING. I put in my papers and am moving forward to a career in business as a Director in Growth and Public Relations.

It is bitter-sweet.

I loved the classroom when it was just My students, THEIR love of learning, and ME. That’s REAL, that’s AUTHENTIC, THAT IS ALIVE. I had an obligation to impart a passion for learning, not just grades. I took seriously my responsibility to build skills, ignite curiosity, and grow my students intellectually – to hold my students as accountable to their progress as I held myself – not merely to answer A-B-C-D or None of the Above.

However, too many outside factors have faded that beautiful reality, that “life all its own”, that love of learning in my students and in me. (Yes, I learned so much from those beautiful, honest little people).

Too many influences have robbed us of our ability to share freely, teach openly, assess each other honestly, and grow. Too many factors stand between me and my students as I teach – they have polluted what was once a pure process.

So, I’m waving the “White Flag”.
I surrender.
I leave.

white flag

As I tendered my own resignation, I learned two more outstanding North Carolina teachers are leaving the classroom in my building. How many more teachers need to leave NC schools before parents understand there are highly trained, highly educated, highly intelligent, highly committed professionals who stand before their children each day, pouring everything THEY’VE got into THEIR children?

How many more skilled teachers need to leave before administrators “get it” and allow the truly “best and brightest” the autonomy to teach passionately without fear? To assess honestly for the sake of a child’s REAL growth without questioning from administrators as to our “judgement”?

How many more NC teachers need to leave before legislators just leave the professionals alone to do what they do best—TEACH?

(And by the way: a pay raise commensurate with that professionalism might be nice.)

Teachers have and continue to “fight the good fight” despite legislators, who, in many instances, are less educated, and less committed to people than their own pockets. Teachers’ pockets were emptied long ago, but they continue to teach passionately and courageously while digging deeper into their emptying pockets to buy supplies for their students and their classrooms.

However, the camel’s back is breaking.
What happens when the camel finally wanders off for a better oasis?

I wonder, what our children will be left with?

Vol.#39: Dedication is not Delusion

I’ve taken the last few weeks off from blogging to reflect on teaching, the state of education, and my role in it. I wish I’d reflected more “publicly” in the way of more posts, but I doubt it to have made for good reading. I’ve been feeling all muddled up with the departure of colleagues and things feeling so grim.

My reflection came down to this simple question: Why do I teach?

I’ve decided to stop being so lost in my own thoughts and let this reflection be a public one as the subject of today’s post. It’s time.

That, and the band director at my school has vowed to not read any more of my posts until I have something positive to report…but I digress.

Five years ago, our staff completed Six-Word Memoirs on our experience as teachers. They were complied by the incomparable Paul Cancellieri who pens Scripted Spontaneity.  I couldn’t think of a more succinct yet powerful way to remember and summarize why we teach. Why we stay dedicated in the face of increasing adversity. Therefore, I revisited it recently and share it here in hopes it also resonates with you:

One of them (a colleague’s, not my own) inspired me to write the following, another window into my five-year-ago teacher-self:

Screen Shot 2013-01-10 at 11.14.10 AM

And then I realized something: one of the reasons I am so hurt is that it’s this dedication on which they are counting. Using. These people in power, whether simply clueless as to the damage they are doing or with insidious intentions, who are undermining our profession at every turn. Defunding it. Devaluing it. The ones forever saying “do more with less.” Who are essentially challenging: “What’ya gonna do…leave? Well, then you weren’t a dedicated teacher to start with, were you?”

The dedication is what they counted on to get away with it.

Let me be clear: They are unequivocally wrong. Yes, they will chase some amazingly talented educators out of the classroom. They already have. However, please don’t let them mistake our kindness for weakness, nor our dedication to teaching as acceptance of their poor treatment.

We must be as dedicated to teaching as a profession as we are to teaching as an act.

My Six-Word Memoir nowadays?

Fighting for students…outside classrooms, too.

What is YOUR Six-Word Memoir?

Vol.#36: My Letter to Pat McCrory [Guest Post]

Monday, our State Superintendent June Atkinson released this statement with this opening line:

“For the first time in my career of more than 30 years in public education, I am truly worried about students in our care.”

Image Credit: Garry KnightWednesday, the NC House and Senate approved the budget and sent it to Governor McCrory.

NCAE has a list of Top 10 Things Every Educator Should Know About the Budget and created and released this video about tomorrow’s final Moral Monday rally. Important stuff.

However, since the big picture data and powers-that-be have not seemed to slow our legislature, I thought this week’s post needed a different tactic. My department chair and colleague, Emily Blake, has written a brilliant letter to the Governor and is allowing me to share it here as a guest post on TSVI’d hoped hearing from one teacher and constituent who voted for him twice would at least give the Governor pause. However, he already signed the budget into law Friday.

Governor McCrory,

Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a teacher, and I have dedicated my entire life to realize that dream. I graduated top of my class in high school and summa cum laude at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I am a fourth year teacher, a NC Teaching Fellow, and a technology contact and the language arts department chair for my school. I love the students I teach, have high growth in my EOG test scores, and work with some of the most dedicated and intelligent people in our state.

When I was first hired and was told my salary, I made grandiose plans to save $500 a month. After the first month of teaching, I had less than $20 in my bank account, and needless to say, nothing in my savings account. After purchasing supplies for my classroom, paying my student loan bills, and paying rent, I realized how little I actually made. Not to mention, my first year of teaching I did not leave school until the janitor set the alarm at 8:30 at night (which means that I was working 12 hour days). I justified putting my personal life and savings plan on hold because I felt like I was making a difference in my students’ lives.

While I still believe that I positively impact our future generation on a daily basis, I refuse to remain in a profession that is demonized by lawmakers. Two years ago we began using an evaluation system that logs in with our paystub numbers. On the evaluation, there are absurd standards that require me to care about my students and teach my curriculum. I would not have gone into the profession if I did not have students’ best interest in mind; I want my students to succeed and learn everything I can possibly teach them in 180 days. The budget that is likely to be passed eradicates my chance of tenure at the end of this school year which means I would have to prove every year that I care about my students and adequately teach them. I also have no hope of a raise, despite the rate of inflation. As a “professional”, that is a slap in the face.

I have watched my colleagues who are close to retirement break down and cry about how they cannot afford to retire with how little they make due to the lack of raises in the past several years. I can no longer rationalize the sacrifices I have made as a teacher in the state of North Carolina. I do not want to end up like my older colleagues who are burnt out, overworked, and vastly underpaid. At the end of this school year, I plan on leaving the profession in order to avoid that fate. Access to effective public education starts with qualified teachers, which will be difficult to find if these legislative trends continue.

In both the 2008 and 2012 elections, I voted for you as a result of your record and success as Charlotte’s mayor. I urge you to veto the budget and any other legislation that would once again make us the “Rip Van Winkle State”.

Sincerely,

Emily Blake

Vol.#33: A Fresh Year, A Fresh Perspective

bud
Image Credit: Pixabay user JamesDeMers

A new school year is budding: I teach in a multi-track year round school, and our students’ first day of school is tomorrow.  We both have wonderful staff members returning and are welcoming a large number of new staff members to our building. The faculty kick-off last week was truly exciting.

We have a very large staff, and we learned from a clicker session by our media specialist that we are almost exactly divided into thirds between Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y.

We viewed some funny & informative clips from speakers on generations in the workplace like Jason Dorsey and Cam Marlston like this and this, as well as looked at other information. Teachers were asked to reflect and discuss which parts pertained to them and which did not.  It all led to a really rich discussion of our staff, the strengths of each generation, and led to what it means in terms of technology and instruction.

We then shifted focus from who we are …to who we teach. 

Continue reading Vol.#33: A Fresh Year, A Fresh Perspective