#ThankATeacher

matt

“…I had incredible teachers. And as I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself — my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity — all of these things came from the way that I was parented and taught.

And none of these qualities that I’ve just mentioned — none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have made me so successful  professionally — none of these qualities that make me who I am … can be tested.

I said before that I had incredible teachers. And that’s true. But it’s more than that. My teachers were EMPOWERED to teach me. Their time was not taken up with a bunch of silly test prep — a bunch of drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn’t promote real learning. No, my teachers were free to approach me and every other kid in that classroom like an individual puzzle. They took so much care in figuring out who we were and how to best make the lessons resonate with each of us. They were empowered to unlock our potential. In other words, they were allowed to be teachers.

Now don’t get me wrong. I did have a brush with standardized tests at one point. I remember because my mom went to the principal’s office and said, ‘My kid ain’t taking that.’ Actually, I have it in quotes cause she said, ‘It’s stupid, it won’t tell you anything and it will just make him nervous.’ Yes, it was the late 70’s…I guess we could get away with it back then.

Well, I shudder to think that these tests are being used today to control where funding goes.

I don’t know where I would be today if my teachers’ job security was based on how I performed on some standardized test. If their very survival as teachers was based not on whether I actually fell in love with the process of learning but rather if I could fill in the right bubble on a test. If they had to spend most of their time desperately drilling us and less time encouraging creativity and original ideas; less time knowing who we were, seeing our strengths and helping us realize our talents.

I honestly don’t know where I would be today if that was the type of education I had. I sure as hell wouldn’t be here. I do know that.

This has been a horrible decade for teachers. I can’t imagine how demoralized you guys must feel. But I came here today to deliver an important message to you: As I get older, I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up. And I’m not alone. There are millions of people just like me.

So, the next time you’re feeling down, or exhausted, or unappreciated, or at the end of your rope; the next time you turn on the TV and see yourself being called “overpaid;” the next time you encounter some simple-minded, punitive policy that’s been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything. … Please know that there are millions of us behind you. You have an army of regular people standing right behind you, and our appreciation for what you do is so deeply felt. We love you, we thank you and we will always have your back.”

~ Matt Damon, Save Our Schools March 7/30/2011

10330272_763263193705512_8667411638269069194_n

Advertisements

Every Picture Tells A Story

28D84496771BEAC04D36FC64D4C94D

The Common Core “promises” to prepare our students for the 21st century but fails to deliver on this promise when the standards claim that students will learn more from close reading text rather than skyping or tweeting with a historian, researcher, writer, explorer, artist, poet, musician, etc.

In particular, if students cannot read complex expository text to gain information, they will likely turn to text-free or text-light sources, such as video, podcasts, and tweets.

These sources, while not without value, cannot capture the nuance, subtlety, depth, or breadth of ideas developed through complex text.

As Adams (2009) puts it, “There may one day be modes and methods of information delivery that are as efficient and powerful as text, but for now there is no contest.”

CCSS Appendix A ( p4 ) Research Supporting Key Elements of the Standards

Demanding that students stay “connected’ to a reading and think critically about informational text will not cultivate transferable and work-based creative thinking skills, just as spending hours solving Common Core math word problems will not cultivate real life problem solving skills.

In reality, career success in the 21st century is more about establishing close business relationships and connecting with clients rather than close reading skills and connecting with informational text.

The Common Core claim that text is a more “powerful” medium to convey information and express ideas than a painting, sculpture…

559908_702562786442220_321449751_n

or

or

…is absurd and reveals a lack of understanding and appreciation for, Multiple Intelligences, differentiated instruction, and the multimedia demands and expectations of 21st century jobs.

Even though Common Core enthusiasts claim the Standards don’t tell teachers how to teach, the Standards dictate that teachers “Shift” their instruction so…

Students build knowledge about the world (domains/ content areas) through TEXT rather than the teacher or activities.

Pedagogical Shifts demanded by the Common Core State Standards

The “Shifts” also include declarations such as…

Students must get smart in Science and Social Studies through reading…Get smarter through text …What is written is much more complex than what we say

Common Core State Standards: Shifts for Students and Parents

If Common Core enthusiasts were truly interested in preparing students for the 21st century workforce, the Common Core Standards would be more closely aligned with the 6 Drivers of Change and 10 Skills for the Future Workforce that have been identified by The Institute for the Future

Driver of Change #4 New Media Ecology: New communication tools require new media literacies beyond text…New multimedia technologies are bringing about a transformation in the way we communicate.

Skill #3 Novel and Adaptive Thinkingproficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based.

Skill #6 New Media Literacy: ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication.

Skill #10 Virtual Collaboration: ability to work productively, drive engagement, and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team. Connective technologies make it easier than ever to work, share ideas and be productive despite physical separation. But the virtual work environment also demands a new set of competencies.

Institute for the Future:  Future Work Skills 2020

Thanks to David Coleman, students across the United States are working to increase their global competitiveness by learning how to “dive in” and stay connected to text, while their counterparts around the world are acquiring transferable workforce skills and powerful new literacies that will enable them to collaborate and virtually connect with people.

The Common Core bias and emphasis on text-based and text-centric learning ignores the multimedia realities of a 21st century classroom/workplace and will leave our students ill-prepared to meaningfully and effectively participate in a company teleconference, video conference, or webinar. 

When I think back on the crap I learned in high school

It’s a wonder I can think at all…

I got a Nikon camera

I love to take a photograph

So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away…

Education Is A Journey, Not A Destination

Image

Children learn by testing their limits, not taking tests. If students are going to discover their talents, explore their interests, and pursue their passions they should spend more time looking up and beyond the classroom and much less time looking down at standardized tests.

A standardized test cannot measure and predict who will be successful in college, career, and life just as a driver’s test can’t tell who will speed, text, or drink and drive as an adult.

Learning is a lifelong process, it is a self-directed and self-paced journey of discovery…not a forced march and “race” to a learning standard or data point.

The purpose of learning is not to “arrive” at a particular level of proficiency “on time”. As long as we are alive, most people are continually learning, and the “journey” never ends. Education should be focused more on preparing students for lifelong learning, rather than high stakes testing.

1912_710582905640208_1815584499_n

What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge,

and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.

~ George Bernard Shaw

School programs should be broadly focused and developed with the academic, social, and emotional needs of each child in mind. Non-routine and content-rich classroom activities should be passion driven and student-centered rather than data driven and test-centered.

Learning unfolds in a vibrant and vigorous environment where student growth is cultivated and regularly nurtured not standardized and repeatedly measured.

brook

What does education do?

It makes a straight-cut ditch out of a free, meandering brook.

~ Henry D. Thoreau

What if the college and career readiness mandate of the Common Core is too narrow and consequently the standards that were written to support this mandate are misdirected and insufficient?

We should consider how the Common Core State Standards and classroom instruction would be different if the mandate was instead to prepare all students for the challenges and responsibilities of adulthood and employment?

Perhaps Common Core learning activities would be more likely to cultivate transferable academic, social, and emotional skills, while helping students to acquire work-based behaviors that will support student growth and learning regardless of the academic or vocational path they choose to follow in life.

twain

Democracy and Education

Image

“How one person’s abilities compare in quantity with those of another is none of the teacher’s business. It is irrelevant to his work. What is required is that every individual shall have opportunities to employ his own powers in activities that have meaning. Mind, individual method, originality (these are convertible terms) signify the quality of purposive or directed action…

Democracy cannot flourish where the chief influences in selecting subject matter of instruction are utilitarian ends narrowly conceived for the masses, and, for the higher education of the few, the traditions of a specialized cultivated class. The notion that the “essentials” of elementary education are the three R’s mechanically treated, is based upon ignorance of the essentials needed for realization of democratic ideals.

Unconsciously it assumes that these ideals are unrealizable; it assumes that in the future, as in the past, getting a livelihood, “making a living,” must signify for most men and women doing things which are not significant, freely chosen, and ennobling to those who do them; doing things which serve ends unrecognized by those engaged in them, carried on under the direction of others for the sake of pecuniary reward…”

~ John Dewey, “Democracy and Education”, 1916

When You Assume…

Image

When education reformers insist that the Common Core “diet” of close readings, math worksheets, and standardized tests will better prepare our students for college and careers one would assume they have compiled data from reliable studies to support this claim.

One would also assume that recent studies regarding college drop out and low completion rates, including a report prepared for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, identified poor academic skills as the primary cause or reason for students who enroll, but fail to graduate college.

As Tony Randall warned us, when you assume…

“…This study is designed to test the assumptions many of us make about college students today and why so many of them fail to graduate. It also helps to identify solutions that young people themselves say would help most…

As background to the survey findings, it may be helpful to begin with a clearer picture of “college students” today. Many of us envision young people living in college dorms, going to school full-time, attending ball games and fraternity parties, maybe working a few hours a week or in the summer to bring in a little spare cash…

The facts, though, show quite a different picture:

Among students in four-year schools, 45 percent work more than 20 hours a week.

Among those attending community colleges, 6 in 10 work more than 20 hours a week, and more than a quarter work more than 35 hours a week.

Just 25 percent of students attend the sort of residential college we often envision.

23 percent of college students have dependent children.

…If we truly aim to help this new group of nontraditional students fulfill their aspirations, college and university officials, state and federal policy-makers, employers, foundations and other advocates trying to ramp up college completion need to take a fresh, clear-eyed look at their current assumptions and practices.

The findings here reveal gaps in the higher education system that serve to undercut the efforts of students who need to work and go to school at the same time. They raise serious questions about long-standing policies that seem profoundly ill suited to students who simply cannot afford to go to school full-time for several years…”

Source: “With Their Whole Lives Ahead of Them” – Myths & Realities About Why So Many Students Fail to Finish College / Research by Public Agenda, Prepared for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. December, 2009

“…In addition to the diverse pathways students take while working toward their educational goals, students who enroll in college full time immediately after high school no longer represent the majority among post secondary college students (Choy, 2002; Horn & Carroll, 1997; Reeves, Miller, & Rouse, 2011). Rather, many students delay college enrollment, enroll in college part time, and/or have a full-time job while enrolled.

To balance the responsibilities of family, work, and school, these students often take educational routes that require a longer time to a post secondary credential, such as enrolling part time, attending institutions with shorter terms, and occasionally stopping out…

Moreover, institutional accountability measures based on conventional graduation rates may underestimate the complexity and cost associated with improving outcomes and may disadvantage institutions, such as many community colleges, that enroll large numbers of students following nontraditional pathways (Belfield, Crosta, & Jenkins, 2013)…”

Source: Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates – Fall 2007 Cohort / National Student ClearingHouse Research Center 

Square Peg, Round Hole…Take Two

Image

As the Common Core “promise” of critical thinking, deeper learning, and college readiness meets the reality of test-centric instruction supporters of the Core may be experiencing a change of heart and buyer’s remorse.

The “emergency response” timeline for implementation imposed by Common Core’s data-driven and accountability evangelists has resulted in misguided test prep that provides a double portion of rigor and not a trace of vigor.

Fortunately, there are a growing number of business leaders, employers, college leaders, and economists, who are questioning the efficacy of the Common Core’s emphasis on standardized testing, and this chorus of voices grows louder every day …

“After 10 years of federal education policies based on test-based accountability, there has been no perceptible improvement in student performance among high school students…There is little doubt—whether test-based accountability is being used to hold schools accountable or individual teachers—that it has failed to improve student performance…

Test-based accountability and teacher evaluation systems are not neutral in their effect. It is not simply that they fail to improve student performance. Their pernicious effect is to create an environment that could not be better calculated to drive the best practitioners out of teaching and to prevent the most promising young people from entering it.

If we want broad improvement in student performance and we want to close the gap between disadvantaged students and the majority of our students, then we will abandon test-based accountability and teacher evaluation as key drivers of our education reform program…”

~ Marc Tucker, President of the National Center on Education and the Economy, “The Failure of Test-Based Accountability”

“Our first realization was that test scores add relatively little to our ability to predict the success of our students…In addition, we know that some potential students are deterred from applying to colleges that require a test score because they are not comfortable taking standardized tests…. ”

~ Thomas Rochon, President, Ithaca College and former executive director of the GRE testing program, “The Case Against the SAT”

“The current focus on testing has tended to make test results the goal of the system, rather than a measure. The change in goal means recognizing that a test is only measure. Using tests as the goal infringes Goodhart’s Law: when measure becomes the goal, it ceases to be an effective measure.”

~ Steve Denning, Program Director, Knowledge Management at the World Bank, “The Single Best Idea for Reforming K-12 Education”

“One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation…We found that they don’t predict anything…”

~ Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, “In Head-Hunting, Big Data May Not Be Such A Big Deal”

Our task as facilitators should be to design non-routine and content-rich learning activities that stimulate the hearts as well as the minds of students while cultivating social and emotional skills that are essential for creative, meaningful, productive, and rewarding lives.

College and career readiness is not simply about understanding a Pearson textbook or filling in the right bubble on a standardized test, but knowing how to behave and collaborate with people in the classroom and on the job.

Weapons of Mass Instruction

Image

One of the underlying premises of the Common Core is that students who cannot independently read and write on an advanced college level are destined to be unsuccessful in life.

Do proponents of CCSS really believe that the 15 to 20% (NICHD) of our population with language-based disabilities are doomed to failure in life?

Thomas Edison, Richard Branson, Winston Churchill, Henry Ford, Erin Brockovich, Pablo Picasso, Magic Johnson, Anderson Cooper, Albert Einstein, John Lennon, Steve Jobs and other dyslexics were fortunate CCSS wasn’t around when they were in school as they might still be serving time in AIS class trying to pass a tier two vocabulary word quiz rather than testing a new theory, creating a new work of art, or discovering new principles that actually generated brand new vocabulary words.

These individuals and many others like them did not allow limited reading and literacy skills or a low score on a standardized test to define them and curtail their goals and achievements in life.

Instead, they relied upon their own unique gifts, talents, personality, and learning strategies to overcome obstacles and compensate for any academic deficiencies.

The heck with art, film, music, sports, vocational, trade, and alternative education programs…force feeding complex informational texts 70% of the time is the key to success in college and careers for all students… why not 38%, 55%, or 61.25%?

We expect our students to question the accuracy and reliability of any data they may collect from resources. We encourage them to consider the source of information and look for any possible bias or conflict of interest.

This same degree of scrutiny and skepticism should be applied vigorously to the data and claims of the Common Core sales team.

While Common Core advocates may decry the plight of college students who don’t read closely, many students actually enjoy the challenge and mystery of a puzzle and will refrain from reading the instructions for a newly purchased electronic device as they prefer to learn through discovery, experimentation, play, and trial and error.

Rather than focusing our efforts on teaching students how to learn we should be creating vigorous learning activities and experiences that capture students’ interest and stimulates their own desire to learn, also known as “flow”.

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, students achieve flow when they find a challenge or task so enjoyable they will pursue it as a reward in itself.

When a person experiences flow they want to do more of an activity leading to advanced skill development and mastery of the task.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi further explains in, ”Thoughts About Education” …

“…Yet it seems increasingly clear that the chief impediments to learning are not cognitive in nature. It is not that students cannot learn, it is that they do not wish to…

 Of the two main forms of motivation — extrinsic and intrinsic — I focus primarily on the second kind. Although both are needed to induce people to invest energy in learning, intrinsic motivation, which is operative when we learn something primarily because we find the task enjoyable and not because it is useful, is a more effective and more satisfying way to learn…”

Image

There are some things of value in life, like the dynamic relationship between a teacher and student, that are not easily quantified and measured.

A teacher may wear many “hats” during the day; educator, counselor, mentor, role model, referee, parent, advisor, and friend.

It is fanciful to suggest that a single score on a standardized test is somehow going to assess the overall effectiveness and quality of a teacher or even begin to measure the impact a teacher has had on his or her students and how that will be manifested and revealed in their future achievements and accomplishments.

Working with teenagers for more than two decades, the most important lesson I have learned is to never give up on a student as the fruits of my labor are not always immediate and very often will become apparent over time.

Education should be about preparing future artists, caregivers, citizens, leaders, problem solvers, decision makers, innovators, teachers, and volunteers….not test takers.

Back in 2011, David T. Conley warned in his essay, “Building on the Common Core” about the potential for misuse and misapplication of assessments…

“Implemented correctly, the common standards and assessments can vault education over the barrier of low-level test preparation and toward the goal of world-class learning outcomes for all students. Implemented poorly, however, the standards and assessments could result in accountability on steroids, stifling meaningful school improvement nationwide.”

Assessments should measure multiple performance indicators and be administered over an extended period of time to assure that accurate, comprehensive, and reliable data is collected.

Attempting to determine a student’s overall level of achievement for an entire school year (180 days) by measuring his or her performance during a very narrow and limited period of time (3 to 4 hours) will most certainly produce inaccurate and incomplete data.

This data is further compromised and corrupted whenever the student’s performance is hindered by extraneous factors such as; carelessness, anxiety, sleep deprivation, hunger, stress, apathy, depression, fear, illness, anger, etc…

Scores on a standardized test do not differentiate between students who answered a question wrong because they lack the requisite knowledge and skills, and those students who are sufficiently skilled but suffered from diminished performance the day of the test.

Therein lies a critical flaw and weakness of standardized assessments…while the results may identify specific questions a student failed to answer correctly, they do not provide a definitive reason or explanation as to why this occurred?

Project-based and performance assessments provide a more reliable, robust, and comprehensive means of documenting student achievement because they assess student performance over an extended period of time.

Most importantly, an extended task generates valuable data regarding student character development and soft skills.

Projects and presentations help students to develop essential college and career skills including; time management, public speaking, problem solving, creativity, decision making, resilience, collaboration, communication, persistence, resourcefulness, risk-taking, and self-reliance.

Image

 The most vigorous and vibrant qualities of the Common Core… constructivism, media literacy, technology integration, project-based and student-centered learning are de-emphasized in the classroom because these standards don’t easily adapt or conform to the boilerplate format of a standardized test.

“Rigor Redefined” and other research based writings by Tony Wagner offer great insights into career readiness and the expectations of employers…

“…He’s an engineer by training and the head of a technical business, so when I asked him about the skills he looks for when he hires young people, I was taken aback by his answer.

“First and foremost, I look for someone who asks good questions,” Parker responded. “We can teach them the technical stuff, but we can’t teach them how to ask good questions—how to think.”

 “What other skills are you looking for?” I asked, expecting that he’d jump quickly to content expertise.

 “I want people who can engage in good discussion—who can look me in the eye and have a give and take. All of our work is done in teams. You have to know how to work well with others. But you also have to know how to engage customers—to find out what their needs are. If you can’t engage others, then you won’t learn what you need to know.”

A bachelor’s degree is not a requirement for every occupation in the 21st century. Advising and encouraging all our students to attend college and accumulate a considerable amount of debt, is both thoughtless and irresponsible.

The headline of this 4/23/12 AP article says it all “1 in 2 new graduates are jobless or underemployed”

“According to government projections released last month, only three of the 30 occupations with the largest projected number of job openings by 2020 will require a bachelor’s degree or higher to fill the position — teachers, college professors and accountants. Most job openings are in professions such as retail sales, fast food and truck driving, jobs which aren’t easily replaced by computers…

…Any job gains are going mostly to workers at the top and bottom of the wage scale, at the expense of middle-income jobs commonly held by bachelor’s degree holders. By some studies, up to 95 percent of positions lost during the economic recovery occurred in middle-income occupations such as bank tellers, the type of job not expected to return in a more high-tech age.”

Schools should be in the business of creating diverse and stimulating learning environments and experiences where a child’s athletic, artistic and creative talents are free to flourish and thrive.

Education should always be focused on helping each student to discover his or her unique gifts and abilities while providing numerous opportunities for students to pursue their passions.

With the new testing regime, the whole school experience has been diminished and transformed into a forced march toward a “designated performance level.” Under this system students are actually learning more about what they can’t do, than what they can do.

Matthew B. Crawford’s 2006 essay, “Shop Class as Soulcraft” discusses the importance of vocational education programs along with the inherent value and rewards of manual competence.

Crawford’s essay may lead readers to consider the possibility that readiness for college and career might be mutually exclusive endeavors for some students, and our noble efforts to prepare every student for the academic rigors of higher education could be negatively impacting the career readiness of those students who wish to obtain employment in the manual trades.

In 2009 the essay was expanded into a book; “Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work”. This excerpt from the book jacket explains…

On both economic and psychological grounds, Crawford questions the educational imperative of turning everyone into a “knowledge worker,” based on a misguided separation of thinking from doing, the work of the hand from that of the mind. Crawford shows us how such a partition, which began a century ago with the assembly line, degrades work for those on both sides of the divide.

 But Crawford offers good news as well: the manual trades are very different from the assembly line, and from dumbed-down white collar work as well. They require careful thinking and are punctuated by moments of genuine pleasure. Based on his own experience as an electrician and mechanic, Crawford makes a case for the intrinsic satisfactions and cognitive challenges of manual work…”

In Tara Tiger Brown’s 2012 commentary; “The Death of Shop Class And America’s Skilled Workforce” she laments the decline of shop class…

“During my freshman year of high school I was required to take home economics and shop class where I learned basics skills in sewing, cooking, woodwork and metal work… 

I have continued to use those skills throughout my life both professionally and when needed around the house…

75% of the students in California are not going to attend university yet they are taking classes that will help them get into UC and CA State schools. Just like there are people who are not inclined to become welders or machinists, not everyone can be a rocket scientist or a football star. 

Students take physical education class in elementary school and with that opportunity they discover their abilities and their like or dislike for various sports. The schools breed our pro football and basketball stars. What would it be like if as adults we didn’t have exposure to sports in school?…

Without early exposure to shop class many kids are going to lose out on the opportunity to discover whether or not they like making things, and the inclination to pursue a career as a drafter, carpenter, welder or auto mechanic.

As shop teachers around California retire, high schools aren’t replacing them and shop classes are closing. There is no training for teachers going through university to learn how to teach shop…

What is America going to do without skilled workers who can build and fix things?”

image009 (1)

If education leaders and proponents of the Common Core want to be taken seriously regarding their campaign to improve college and career readiness for all students perhaps they should consider if accounting, athletics, character education, civics, community service, culinary arts, foreign language, geography, health, history, home economics, humanities, driver education, marketing, media literacy, political science, psychology, sociology, speech and debate, sign language, trade and vocational skills and visual and performing arts, are being adequately addressed in our schools today, or have they been left behind in a Race To The Top?