The “problem” of replicability in science

Even relatively straightforward questions cannot be definitively answered in a single study, and the scientific literature is riddled with results that won’t stand up. This is the way science works — it’s a process of becoming less wrong over time.

From Christie Auschwaden’s article in FiveThirtyEight

Guess what, America? It’s not our fault.

Despite years of conversations and research studies, so many Americans believe that the problem with student achievement is that schools are not doing their jobs.  Any classroom teacher, on the other hand, will tell you that the difference between students that succeed and those that don’t takes hold long before they enter our classes.

The achievement gap begins before the age of 4, as discussed in a new study from Paul Morgan at Penn State,

“First, we found that very large gaps in general knowledge were already evident among children entering kindergarten classrooms in the U.S. For example, about 60 percent of black children scored in the bottom 25 percent on the general knowledge measure. The contrasting percentage for white children was 15 percent.”

So, the real question for America is not “How do we improve education?”, but “How do we fix poverty?”.

A Year of Writing

11195936364_e08371174dPrepare for the return of Scripted Spontaneity in your feedreader, inbox, and–most importantly–your mind!

It’s been a long few months of managing the multiple hats that I wear, but one of my personal goals for 2016 is to focus more on my writing.  As a result, I will be adding more original content here, but also posting excerpts on the blog from some of my other writing adventures.  These projects include:

  • The publication of my first book, co-authored with my friend, mentor, and drinking buddy Bill Ferriter.  Bill did most of the hard work, but I chose all of the unicorns-jumping-over-rainbows photos for the jacket.  Look for this one on your physical and virtual book shelves this summer.
  • The renewal of my National Board certification, which leads to hours of reflection and metacognition about what I do in the classroom.  This will be sure to elicit a chuckle and a tear or two.
  • Some columns for the Fusion Yearbooks blog.  Covering a wide range of educational issues, I plan to post the supplemental materials and clippings from the cutting room floor in this space.

I’m sure that other bits and bytes will find their way to this blog, so I hope that you will check back in regularly.

photo credit: Typebars II via photopin (license)

“The 2015 scores for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are out, and the news isn’t good for those who think standardized test scores tell us something significant about student achievement.

-Valerie Strauss (emphasis mine) from her recent article in the Washington Post

Keeping Formative Assessment Formative

One of the biggest problems that I have when it comes to formative assessment is ensuring that my students receive meaningful feedback AND that they act on it.  I think that I do a pretty good job of assessing my students regularly, and I capture these data in my gradebook (without affecting their average).  But, I’ve been forced to admit lately that I’m not very effective at giving students information that can help them learn more/better.





As Bill Ferriter recently wrote (and quoted from Dylan Wiliam), feedback needs to be work for the student.  If the information that I provide to students doesn’t ask/require/beg them to change, it isn’t really formative assessment.  I’ve owned a copy of Wiliam’s book “Embedded Formative Assessment” for some time, but I don’t think that I’ve ever really recognized the thread about student effort.  I’ve decided to read through this practical (and short) guide again with an eye for ways to make my formative feedback more impactful.  Stay tuned for updates on how this process is going…


  • Treat educators as the professionals they are
  • Aim to end the practice of teaching being viewed a solitary endeavor; like other professionals teachers improve when they are engaged in collaborative learning, identifying best practices and critiquing one another.
  • Acknowledge that context matters. A practice that works in one classroom most likely will need to be adapted or significantly altered to be effective in another.
  • Strive to develop the dispositions in teachers that we also want to cultivate in children: curiosity, flexibility in thinking, open-mindedness, empathy, and an ability to reason with evidence.
  • Make learning relevant and meaningful. We know it is vital for children; it is just as important for teachers.”

From a piece by Howard Gardner, Clayton Lewis & Jim Reese of Harvard’s Project Zero about what makes Professional Development effective.

The most interesting people you will ever meet are also the most interested.”

From Regie O’Hare Gibson’s piece in Medium about what he learned from one of his teachers about the importance of boredom.