Showing posts from May, 2015

We Should Value Good Thinking More Than We Value Good Memorizing

Stanford professor, Dr. Jo Boaler, recently published an article titled, "Memorizers are the lowest achievers...".  In it she makes the point that some students are really good at memorizing math facts and memorizing math procedures, but (sometimes) these same students are very poor at understanding the concepts connected to these math procedures.  To those who believe that "mathematics" is nothing more than adding and multiplying, it may seem odd that we (educators) view this issue of memorizing as a bad thing.  It may also seem untrue that these memorizers are low achievers.

       Dr. Boaler goes on say that here in the United States, we (often times) reward students for being good at memorizing math facts, but offer very few compliments and rewards for being good thinkers and reasoners.  She says that, "We need students who can ask good questions, map out pathways, reason about complex solutions, set up models, and communicate in different forms.&qu…

Parents Like Their Children's Schools More Than They Like Education in America--Huh???

Question #1:  How satisfied are you with the quality of education of our your oldest child?
Question #2:  How satisfied are you with the quality of K-12 education that students receive in the United States today?

       How would you answer these two questions?  Gallup has asked these questions to Americans for years and the answers are always the same; paradoxical, but the same:

Answer #1: I like my child's school.  I think he/she is getting a good education.
Answer #2: I don't like education in America as much as I like the education in my child's school.

       What???  How can this be?  How is it that most parents are satisfied with their child's education, but not (generally) satisfied with the nation's schools?

       One possible reason is that parents live in the community that their child's school is located and they like their community.  Another reason could be that parents know their child's teachers; they've met them, talked to them, maybe …

Graduation and Austin Cincotta

A recent report from America's Promise Alliance on high school graduation rates reports that the United States High School Graduation Rate rose to 81.4% in 2013.  This represents a steady increase over the two prior years--a promising trend toward the (albeit, lofty) goal of a 90% high school graduation rate by 2020.  Ninety percent?? Maybe.   By 2020??  Not likely.
       About 3.3 million students are expected to graduate from high school this year according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. When we talk about millions of high school graduates and their collective prospects in the working world and the college world, it's easy to look at broad trends and predict likely outcomes.  But when we look at individuals, we move to the realm of real people with real concerns, real emotions, and real dreams for the their future.
       One of this year's high school graduates is my son, Austin Cincotta.  He was born in the waning years of the 20th century …

How Much Assessment is Too Much Assessment?

So, here is how education is supposed to work...

The teacher teaches something.The student learns it.The teacher verifies that it has been learned.
Step #3 (above) is a very important step.  In the art of teaching, the actual "teaching" part is (indeed) only a part of what we do.  The far more important part is ensuring that learning is taking place.  If students aren't learning anything, then (one might say) we are not really teaching.  (Maybe we are just "presenting".)
       Sometimes we think that learning has taken place when it hasn't taken place.  Students nod their heads and smile and don't seem to have any questions; and it "looks like" they are understanding.  But unless our teachers are also psychics and are able to actually know what their students are thinking; some form of assessment is necessary for teachers and students (and parents) to verify that the "learning" really happened.  (After all, the goal of educat…

Attitude Trumps Ability

Remember when you left for school as a child and your mother said, "Do your best"?  It turns out, that was pretty good advice.

       Most students who don't succeed in their school subjects have plenty of ability but instead lack the desire to do their best.  Maybe they believe that they don't have the natural, genetic, brainpower to succeed (read Mindsets by Carol Dweck).  Maybe they have problems at home that make their schoolwork seem very unimportant.  Maybe they have a fear of failure.  I contend that most of the time, it isn't ability that is holding them back.

     Here is the most common teacher phone call to parents:

Teacher: Hello Ms. Thompson.
Parent: Hello Ms. Salero.  Is there a problem with my son, Donald, in your class?
Teacher: Donald has lots of ability; he just needs to put in the effort.

       Every teacher knows that their job is two-fold:

       (1) Teach
       (2) Encourage students to learn  
If learning isn't taking place, the …