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Showing posts from October, 2015

PARCC Results are all about Learning

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       2010 - Common Core Standards go public
       2010 to 2014 - School systems throughout the country align courses to these updated standards
       2014 - PARCC Field Test takes place in all "PARCC" states
       2015 - First full administration of the PARCC assessments
       Fall 2015 - We get to see the results of the PARCC assessments


       I feel like I'm the only person who is happy to see the results from these new tests.  Once again, the press is constantly talking about bad results, bad tests, bad schools.  To me, these results are all about learning.  They tell us how well our students are learning based on the world-class standards that are being taught in our classrooms.  Isn't this what we really want???

       It doesn't help to compare our students to each other in their school or to the students in the school on the other side of town.  The comparison that matters is the comparison to the standards.  This comparison will help us to know if …

Teachers that Promote a Growth Mindset

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       Every teacher has had "the phone call" with parents in which the teacher says,  Your child has the ability, she just needs to apply herself.  And then the teacher and parent (typically) talk about school rules involving turing work in on time and not talking in class.  Essentially, we are saying to the child, We're the adults.  These are the rules.  If you don't follow the rules, then you will get a bad grade.  (Of course, if the student was concerned about her grade, we wouldn't have this discussion in the first place.)

       There are a lot of "old school" problems with that phone conversation.

The conversation emphasizes following rules and getting grades, and there is very little talk about actual learning.The first part of the famous teacher line is, Your child has the ability....  If the child already has the ability to do the work, then the solution to the problem should concentrate on why the child isn't doing what she is already capa…

Learning is a Social Activity

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       Learning is a social activity.

       A quick search of respected sources such as General Psychology, Psychology Today (article by Dr. Matthew J. Edlund, and one of my favorite education writers Annie Murphy Paul will help all of us to understand that the best learning requires active participation by the learner.  (View an excellent talk by Dr. Paul here.) The old days of "sit and get", don't-talk-in-class, teacher-in-the-front-of-the-room-doing-all-of-the-talking have been shown to be effective for an incredibly small percentage of our students.


     The problem is that most of our current teachers grew up in a school setting in which less student talk was the norm.  The teacher was the sole source of knowledge in the classroom and the students were discouraged from sharing their thoughts and ideas with each other.  Hence, many current classrooms engage in this same classroom structure that existed 20 and 40 and 60 years ago.  "It was good enough for me, an…

Five Steps to Effective Schools

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       I should have titled this post, Five Humongous Mountains to Traverse that Lead to Effective Schools.  But anyone who has ever worked within our public school system already knows that the best results only ever come from hard work and massive efforts.

       As I think about what is necessary for any school or school system to be truly effective, I keep coming down to these five propositions:

The purpose of school is learning.Teachers facilitate learning.#2 (above) requires a great understanding of how students learn.Teachers plan lessons that include strategies that are effective in helping students to learn based on the students' learning styles.  (That is, based on #3 above.)Students learn. The Purpose of School is Learning       Some people might have trouble accepting this first proposition.  The time and effort we put into sports and activities (and worrying about grades) may certainly lead some to believe that schools have other purposes or (at least) competing purpo…

Teaching Mathematics For Understanding

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       There has been a lot of debate in the U.S. about our student's ability in mathematics for the past decades--certainly for my entire career (which started in the 1980's). How do we compare with students in other countries? (see PISA results - 36th out of 70 for mathematics in 2012)  How do we compare with each other state-by-state?  (see NAEP results from 2013)

       What are the causes for these discrepancies?  What do other countries do differently compared to what we do in the U.S.?

       Ask a hundred people and (it seems) you would get a hundred answers.  Everything from "nothing's wrong" to "the system is broken".  Everyone has their point of view; there are experts on both sides of the every argument.

       Recently, I've read two sources on this issue that make a lot of sense to me.  The first is from Phil Daro.  He makes the point that many mathematics teachers in America have the goal of teaching students how to get the right answ…

Motivated to Learn

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       I often say to new teachers that it may not be your job to entertain your students, but it is certainly part of your job to motivate your students.
       We know that actual "teaching" is only a part of a teachers job.  The most major part of the job is ensuring that students are learning.  Our best teachers know that most students don't learn strictly by listening.  Learning requires doing, talking, asking questions, making mistakes, and doing some more.  Teachers plan lessons that keep their students engaged.

       Strategies to keep students motivated include lots of basic things such as:

Calling on students every class (preferably at least three times each class),Allowing opportunities for students to get out of their seats during every class,Playing games that require students to understand the objective for the day to do well in the game, Asking a lot of "Why" questions that require students to think and to explain their thinking,Allowing student…