Tag: Education News
On March 16, I sat down with Finland’s Minister of Education, Ms. Henna Virkunnen, for a discussion of the Finnish educational system — and what lessons it might hold for the U.S. educational system.
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The Hechinger Report: It’s well-known that Finland’s teachers are an elite bunch, with only top students offered the chance to become teachers. It’s also no secret that they are well-trained (continue reading…)
It’s really hard to recycle.
Because it’s never enough. No matter what you do, there always seems to be someone there to tell you how you could’ve done more and how, I guess in comparison, they’re doing everything… and doing everything effortlessly, I might add.
People love to give out unsolicited criticism (continue reading…)
So my nephew Malik, a fabulous renaissance man who has taught sixth grade math, science, and Spanish as well as coaching basketball and baseball for the last six years, was given a pink slip. Again. It’s a March ritual around here. School districts are dealing with slashed budgets and are not certain of enrollment (continue reading…)
President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are on the stump again, armed with terrifying statistics about school failure as they nudge Congress toward the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (a.k.a No Child Left Behind). Under the current law, 82 percent of schools may be at risk. “This law has created a thousand ways for schools to fail,” warns a wan and weary-looking Duncan, “and very few ways to help them succeed.” The talk is of annual achievement benchmarks; improvements in measuring student progress, rewarding good teachers and purging the system of bad ones; and ensuring that creativity and critical thinking are not lost in the focus on math and literacy.
The accent, however, is on the wrong syllable (continue reading…)
Profound truths are often so unsettling that people lose themselves in lengthy explanations that ultimately confuse, rather than clarify.
This is a very human trait which starts as the youngest children begin to form straightforward explanations as to how they see ideas fitting together. But unless they replace such earlier ‘naive’ explanations as they grow older, youngsters can’t develop the more robust frameworks needed to handle complex thinking. It has been well noted that, “it is not people’s ignorance you need to fear, it’s what they know which darned well ain’t true any longer that causes all the difficulties.”
How humans learn, and consequently how children should be brought up, has long troubled our ancestors (continue reading…)
There is hope for all of us when people and organizations view actions for what they really are, and do not offer support or aid based primarily on skin color, culture, ethnicity or sex.
Such hope is being illustrated by a bittersweet saga now unfolding in my hometown, Philadelphia.
Why is it sweet? The Philadelphia chapter of NAACP has come out strongly in support of a 25-year-old, white, third-year English teacher whose name is Hope — Hope Moffett. Hope gave tokens to her students so that they could attend a rally protesting placing their school on a list of “failing schools” and turning it into a charter school. Hope has questioned the findings that have led to the school’s condemnation.
What makes this a head turner is that Jerry Mondesire, head of Philly’s NAACP, has broken his usually strong ranks with Philly’s African-American School Superintendent, Arlene Ackerman, labeling her treatment of Hope Moffett “royal vengeance” and calling it “overkill” (continue reading…)
One thing we’ve learned from working with teenagers at Environmental Charter High School (ECHS) is that they have a strong desire to understand why they should learn something. “Is this going to be on the test?” “Is this going to be graded?” Or on a deeper level, “Does this have any impact on me (or something I care about) at all?” Addressing that question has been at the crux of our educational model.
We realized that we had to get our students to care — to care about themselves, their future, their family, their community, their environment and the environment that their kids and grandkids will inherit. Then, we had to show them how what we were teaching them in school had to do with these things that they cared about. We have found that the two tasks actually form a virtuous circle — the more they learn, the more they care and the more they care, the more they want to learn (continue reading…)
There is no test that looms larger in the lives of young Americans than the SAT. Even though over 700 colleges no longer require the SAT for admission, it still plays a major role in the college admissions process and looms large over the lives of millions of anxious American teenagers — and even pre-teenagers.
There are obviously huge incentives to cheat on the SAT, since test scores can have a major impact on one’s professional and economic future. Still, cheating on the SAT does not seem to be very common, in part because it is difficult to do. The tests are well-proctored and the stakes are high (continue reading…)
American public education remains front and center, which is mostly good news. Let me start this “news summary” in Washington, DC, where President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are calling for fundamental changes in the law known as No Child Left Behind, the Bush Administration’s version of Title One of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
No Child Left Behind
I doubt you could find more than a handful of educators who like NCLB these days, but whether anyone in the nation’s capital will be able to agree on what a new version should call for is highly questionable.
To recap the law’s flaws would take a long time; Learning Matters produced an award-winning series on it a few years ago, which you can see here. In my view, the best thing about NCLB was its insistence on ‘disaggregating’ data so that high scores from one group can no longer mask low performance by other groups. I also admire one phrase from the run-up to the law, “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”
But the law’s many loopholes allow and encourage districts, schools and individual teachers to cheat (continue reading…)
Much of the conventional wisdom today about the difficulty of elevating the teaching profession is mistaken or exaggerated. Many people believe that the challenges facing the teaching profession are largely unique to each nation. Others contend that the status of the teaching profession in America and other countries is largely immutable, fixed by economic and social tradition. Or they believe that teachers unions are inevitable roadblocks to reform, rather than potential sources of knowledge and expertise.
We disagree with all three of these popular assumptions — which is one reason why we have convened the first-ever international summit on the teaching profession for high-performing nations and rapidly-improving countries on March 16 and 17 in New York City (continue reading…)
When people hear that I taught language arts for 10 years in a New York county penitentiary, they assume it was a tough job because kids in jail are uninterested in learning. If that were the case, it would be easier to explain the tragedy of their lives. The majority of the teenage boys I taught — mostly poor and minority — didn’t lack ability. They lacked focus and old-fashioned seat time, but most had an aptitude for learning (continue reading…)
Congress and our policy makers have their priorities wrong.
Nothing new, but now the impact is even greater because it hits everyone where it really hurts—-our teachers– again. It isn’t though policy makers are ignorant that the key to better education is the teacher. Having a good teacher can make a huge difference for kids.
Knowing that they still have cut funding to some of the most important educational support programs for teachers in the nation—the National Writing Project that supports thousands of classroom teachers in the teaching of writing; the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards that recognizes outstanding teachers ; and Teach for America program that brings in new teachers from America’s top universities (continue reading…)
In 1992, when Kaya Henderson began her brief Teach for America classroom career, she could not have wanted to condemn poor children to a soulless regime of standardized test prep. As recently as last November, she said, “People understand that tests are a benchmark, not the goal. The goal is to educate children. And I think the swing of the pendulum from absolutely no accountability to what I might call data craziness is starting to hurt.”
I remain hopeful that the new chancellor of the D.C (continue reading…)
In what follows, please be advised that pseudonyms are used throughout this blog. If these pseudonyms are actually real people, I apologize.
A 5th grader named William scored “below basic” this year. How did this happen? Simple. William’s teacher is, as Michelle Rhee has been known to say, “crappy.” Let me explain the cause and effect relationship (continue reading…)
According to the New York Times, participation in science fairs has declined over the past decade.
This may be due in part to increasing demands on teachers’ time, but it’s also well worth exploring the link between students’ declining interest in science and the lack of science teachers who bring strong content and pedagogy to the classroom — especially in low income schools.
President Obama recently spoke to our country’s “Sputnik moment” as a way to illustrate how important science is to our lives and our future. Science teachers need to do the same — make a clear and compelling case for how science enhances our lives in the real world to spark their students’ curiosity in pursuing science as a career.
No doubt, in a time of decreasing resources and increasing demands, it can be challenging for science teachers to bring science to life in the classroom. As the Times reported:
“Some time-strapped teachers seek out scientists in industry and at universities to work with science fair students, but such connections are difficult to make (continue reading…)
For a long time, I tried to fight it.
Whenever someone had the temerity to criticize public schools and schoolteachers, I stood staunchly in the corner of those who practice my profession. I noted that in my 12 years as a teacher, I have had the privilege of serving with hard-working, skilled professionals.
Prior to becoming a teacher, I spent the previous 22 years as a newspaper reporter and had the opportunity to observe dozens of schools doing outstanding jobs of serving their communities.
Sadly, I have finally had my blinders removed and I no longer have the same glowing view of public education.
It has nothing to do with test scores, considering most of the schools are taking poorly-worded tests from companies that are making a mint off selling tests and practice tests. After all, if the tests are any good, there would be no need for these practice tests, which have turned out to be a lucrative sideline for the companies.
It has nothing to do with lazy, incompetent teachers who received tenure and cannot be fired. On the contrary, that is a phenomenon of some large, suburban schools whose failures are then exploited by those who wish to see public education destroyed (continue reading…)
The movie, Waiting for “Superman”, laid blame for our broken K-12 public school system with teacher unions. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan suggested teachers should come from the top third of their graduating classes. President Obama in a recent speech at TechBoston called for more reform and more money. Theories abound for fixing our schools, but the debate ignores an underlying current (continue reading…)
Predicating education financing on California’s legislators busy posturing on the budget for re-election or on voter emotions in June of 2011 is looking more and more like a bad bet. In Sacramento Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to extend tax hikes for another five years that state lawmakers approved last year as temporary in order to hold K-12 education and public safety somewhat “harmless” has been met by delaying and dodging tactics. So, even if the proposal makes it to the statewide ballot, the bet is hedged by pinning the survival of California’s schools on a public that feels its pocketbooks have run dry. Californians do not have a history of voting for tax hikes — any tax hikes (continue reading…)
Governor Scott Walker thinks that Wisconsin’s a giant domino that’s going to tumble over into Illinois, as evidenced by my state’s proposed Performance Counts legislation; um, don’t bet on it. While my state’s legislation would tweak collective bargaining process, it does not eliminate the teachers’ right to bargain or even strike. So, comparing what’s happening in here to what’s going on up north is like comparing apples to oranges. Vilifying teachers will not build better schools; keeping kids at the forefront will.
In Illinois, Performance Counts legislation links tenure to student academic growth, streamlines the dismissal process of ineffective teachers, and also makes the contract negotiation process more transparent and focused on what’s best for children (continue reading…)
Over the last three weeks, Gov. Scott Walker and his allies in the Wisconsin Legislature made a mockery of representative government. Rather than listen to the citizens of Wisconsin, who are strongly opposed to stripping teachers, nurses and other workers of their rights, Walker rammed through a bill that was a blatant political payback to his out-of-state major campaign donors and cronies, who have sought for years to crush the aspirations of workers who dare to demand a voice in the workplace. This charade culminated when Walker shredded 50 years of labor peace, built through bipartisanship and a democratic process, and signed a bill into law against the wishes of a majority of the voters in Wisconsin.
The governor may have won a short-term political victory, but history and Wisconsin voters won’t be so kind (continue reading…)
Whenever President Barack Obama addresses the need to improve American education, he invariably mentions a vitally important ingredient that is missing from most school reform recipes. That is the role of parents and communities in motivating youngsters to achieve.
As recently as this winter’s State of the Union address, he reiterated this point. “We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl that deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair.” I urge President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to use their matchless bully pulpits and convening power to transform exhortation into action (continue reading…)
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An editorial on March 7 in The New York Times, titled “Fairness in Firing Teachers,” has me wondering whether the Times editors understand much about how teachers — in New York City and elsewhere — are evaluated. The editorial makes some stunning statements that simply don’t comport with reality.
First, there’s this: “Most reasonable people would agree that, when layoffs become necessary, teachers should be let go through objective evaluations of how well they improve student performance, and not merely on the basis of seniority. The problem throughout most of the country is that evaluation systems are not in place. In New York City, only about 12,000 of 80,000 teachers have been evaluated, based on their students’ grades on standardized tests.”
This, the opening paragraph of the editorial, is factually incorrect (continue reading…)
Last week the teachers of New York City came thisclose to losing our seniority rights. Thanks to alleged Bloomberg ally New York State Senator John Flanagan (R), Suffolk County, who just happens to be chairman of the senate education committee, the bill squeaked through the State Senate, 33-27. However, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is not letting the bill see the light of day in the assembly and with Governor Cuomo saying that he wants to see a more objective method of evaluating teachers in place before the bill becomes law all that is left is a game of chicken between the state, Mayor Bloomberg, and the teachers.
The entire bill, officially known as “S3501-2011: Relates to retaining quality teachers when teaching positions are eliminated in city school districts in cities with a population of one million or more; repealer,” annoys me but there are several provisions that are particularly annoying, in fact, not just illogical, but mean spirited, and shows the true intention of the bill.
So let’s all pull up a chair and let’s examine the most draconian measures of this bill.
So if I am to read this right, any teacher receiving a rating of unsatisfactory within five years of announced layoffs will go to the top of the que (continue reading…)