“Better policy would focus on school and teacher inputs. For example, we should agree on a set of clear and specific best teaching practices (with the caveat that they’d have to be sufficiently flexible to allow for different teaching styles) on which to base teacher evaluations. Similarly, college counselors should provide college applicants with guidance about the components of good applications. Football coaches should likewise focus on their players’ decision-making and execution of blocking, tackling, route-running, and other techniques.”

From a recent post by Ben Spielberg (hat tip to Larry Ferlazzo for sharing it) in which he uses quotes from Nate Silver’s “The Signal and The Noise” to destroy the idea that teacher evaluation should be based on short-term data like test scores.  I loved Silver’s book and I enjoyed the connection here.

Sexism, brought to you by traditional grading practices

So, thanks to a recent article in The Atlantic, we can add another item to our list of reasons that traditional grading practices don’t serve students well.  From the article,

“The testing situation may underestimate girls’ abilities, but the classroom may underestimate boys’ abilities.”

The author, Enrico Gnaulati, goes on to describe situations in which schools are removing the work habits information from what they call “knowledge grades” to make them a better representation of mastery by students of all sexes.

Sounds familiar, huh?

Why is Scientific Literacy important?

“So that you can dismiss information that is untrue and potentially harmful. Being science literate means that you can examine the evidence behind a claim like “vaccines cause autism” or “GMOs cause cancer” or “evolution is a lie from the pit of hell” and not be fooled by psuedoscience, opinions, logical fallacies, and fear mongering masquerading as fact.”

A comment from user raiju on an open discussion on the tech site io9 about why being knowledgeable in science is so important.

Why do you think that this is a critical issue?

How do I get started with fixing my grading system?

It’s no secret that I get pretty passionate about grading systems and the ways in which we evaluate student learning.  When I recently joined the faculty at a new school, I found myself in an awkward position with a choice to make:

  • Do I push forward with my own strongly-held convictions?
  • Do I stick with the status quo for now and bide my time?
  • Or, do I try to forge a compromise that makes some progress but prevents me from becoming a pariah?

I decided that compromise was the best first step for me.  But, what is the first step for helping my colleagues recognize the need for change and begin to make that change?

Continue reading

Suppose for a moment that we lived in a world where our education system cared more about grit than GPAs. About resourcefulness than parents’ resources. About ability to create rather than ability to cram. About whether a young person is passionate about making the world better, or is simply seeking to follow his parent’s footsteps into the 1 percent? In that world, we might look at a prep school graduate at Harvard and say, ‘Gee, I wonder if he got here through the school’s ‘rich kid’ affirmative action initiative? Does he really have the grit to belong here?'”

from Linda Darling-Hammond in a recent Huffington Post Education piece

A science teacher’s truth about the Common Core

commoncorelogoIt’s always interesting to be a fly on the wall when non-educators discuss public education policy.  Whether I’m sitting in the “parent room” at my daughter’s gymnastics practice or standing in line at the grocery store, I find it enlightening to hear what regular folks think about what’s going on in education.

What is less enjoyable is holding my tongue when I hear half-truths and misinformation being shared.  Sometimes I just avoid the situation, but at other times I can’t resist the urge to set the record straight.  These days it’s frequently about the Common Core.  I’ve come to realize that, as this issue has become politicized, more and more people have ridiculously strong opinions about a subject that they know very little about.  I won’t pretend to be an expert on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), but here are three ideas that I try to correct when I hear others misstate them: Continue reading

Dear Principal: Read My Blog, Please

Note: This post is part of Scott McLeod’s annual Digital Leadership Day (#leadershipday14) that he celebrates on the anniversary of this blog.  To learn more, visit his blog Dangerously Irrelevant.

woman and man hands with smartphone and tablet pcSometimes being a classroom teacher who blogs feels a bit like being a rebel.  I’m not normally known for my rebellious behavior, but when I write openly about the problems that I see in education I sometimes feel like I’m shaking my first at the same people that control my long-term employment.  Of course, I try to be careful to draw a clear line between the problems and the people, but I have to admit to occasionally clicking the Publish button with some trepidation.

While I would love for my colleagues and my (amazing) principal to read what I craft and share in this space, I get nervous about mixing my “day job” and my blogging work.  I don’t want others to be offended, but I also fear the image of being arrogant and judgmental about the profession.  That conflict motivates some to use pseudonyms when they blog, which I can certainly understand even I don’t choose to hide my own identity.

When I consider this apprehension about inviting the professionals in my building to read Scripted Spontaneity, I feel a little guilty.  I mean, after all, I’ve been known to preach about the importance of students publishing online (blogging, podcasting, etc.) as both a motivational force and a critical one.  How hypocritical am I to shy away from that same criticism?  If I think that writing for the web is a powerful experience for 14-year-olds, why don’t I feel the same way about 38-year-olds?

And that is when it occurs to me that my thinking and my writing need the feedback that comes from being read and judged by those I see every day.  My work online would be so much better if I knew that my principal read what I choose to write about here.  Motivated by either a fear of embarrassment or a desire to impress (maybe both?), I know that my blogging would benefit from the pushback that I could get from those who actually see me teach.

Perhaps the most powerful feedback could come from my principal.  She is an experienced and wise educator who inspires those around her to do better for their students.  I respect her and admire her greatly.  I can only imagine the conversations that we could have around the issues that I write about on Scripted Spontaneity.

Moreover, I think that reading my blog would benefit her.  Staying in touch with the needs and concerns of classroom teachers is important to her, but it must be difficult to do.  What if teachers (or groups of teachers, PLTs, departments) blogged about what they care about?  Wouldn’t both teachers and administrations gain value from a public interaction around the issues that matter?

For that matter, why shouldn’t my writing here be a part of my state-mandated Professional Development Plan?  As many have said before (and I mentioned previously), the criticism that I receive about my blogging has affected my teaching in countless ways.  I have no doubt that maintaining this blog has developed me more as a professional educator than 90% of the PD that has been force-fed to me and my colleagues.

It’s clear to me that administrators who read the blogs of their teachers are better informed and more aware of the needs/dreams/ideas/challenges of those whom they supervise.  And it would not surprise me if a rise in the number of principals who read teachers blogs led to an increase in the number of teachers willing to join the edublogosphere.  And that’s just plain good for education.

So, why don’t more principals read their teachers’ blogs?  Why don’t more principals blog?