Dec 17, 2012

A Teachable Moment #31

Giving teachers more power helps in turnaround of Boston schools
"Six low-performing Boston schools participating in a pilot program that gives teachers more training, support, and leadership roles are showing higher growth on state tests than other low-performing city schools according to a report released Monday by the non-profit Teach Plus... In addition to training and hiring new teachers, the six schools in the T3 Initiative, provided health and wellness services for students, and intensive teacher professional development over the summer. "
"Six other Boston turnaround schools did not participate in the T3 pilot, but did experiment with longer school days and staffing changes. A report by The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education found that state-wide, less successful turnaround schools, including those not part of the T3 program, tended to provide more generic professional development, infrequent coaching and teacher support, and struggled to create a safe school environments. Test scores at those turnaround schools have remained relatively stagnant."
And, yet, offering teachers more training, support, and leadership roles is avoided (because we lack advanced degrees, or good decision-making skills, or experience, or six-figure salaries, or...)
"Research has shown that teachers are the most important in-school factor that influences student achievement[.]"
Unfortunately, if teachers are treated with that level of respect, it's no longer possible to criticize them for everything that goes wrong, including the decisions of others.
An Introduction to Technology Integration

From Sal Khan (Khan's Academy):
"The traditional academic model, you know, that we've inherited from the Prussians 200 years ago is: We have a set amount of time to learn something, and then there's an exam. You get a B; I get a C. Even though the exam identified that you have some basic weaknesses, I have even more weaknesses, we'll then move on to the next concept. So instead of doing that traditional, everyone move together in lock-step model, with technology, you have the potential to everyone learn at their own pace, and master concepts before they move on. Have the teacher get real-time dashboards to see who's stuck on what. Now something like that is a fundamental transformation of what a classroom is."

From the end of the video:

Research has shown that technology integration improves:
  • K-12 achievement when digital and face-to-face instruction are integrated
  • Science learning over text-book instruction by allowing students to collect, analyze, and model data
  • Student writing skills and engagement when 1:1 laptop programs are in place
  • Student understanding of math concepts and attitudes towards math when they use virtual manipulatives
Wrong Focus: Teacher-Centered Classrooms and Technology
"Look at the front of the classroom from the students’ perspective What do they see? In schools where it is feasible, they see a tech rich experience for the teacher: a computing device, an IWB, a projection device pointing at the front. Perhaps we see a teacher with an iPad, an iPod, or a doc camera. Regardless, we see a very tech rich experience for the teacher – a teacher-centered technology environment.
Now flip it. What do educators see when looking at students?
Paper. Pencils. Print texts. Notebooks. Pens.
What an absolute disconnect!"

I think we're still stuck in the Time of Computer Labs. If a teacher doesn't have time to go to the computer lab, s/he cancels the trip and waits a week. In Texas, we have Technology objectives right along with our Common Core objectives. I guess we just tend to ignore those.

I look forward to the day that students are expected to demonstrate all understanding through technology. An interesting challenge. To head that direction, we would have to change (or burn) our beloved standardized tests and thoroughly adjust our teacher prep programs. Keep your fingers cr--nevermind.
Wes DeWeese, Georgia Father Of 18-Year-Old Student With Disabilities, Questions Son's High Grades

I'm not going to address Mr. DeWeese and his son--I think there are questions that never came up. Therefore, several of the comments are unfair.

However, I want to address this...

"In Dallas, Field Elementary School, an "exemplary" school noted for academic achievement, was found to have only taught its third graders reading and math last year, as teachers fabricated scores for every student in other subjects, like social studies and science."

Wha-- That can't... Are you sure?

Don't we have a ridiculously long list of objectives that TEA have, in their infinite wisdom, shoved down... uh, rather... passed down to us?

Absolutely ridiculous. I hope that everyone was fired. Principal. Third grade teachers. Parents. Yep, parents. Didn't they notice the Science and Social Studies assignments that never came home?

While Mr. DeWeese complains about high grades, those parents just turned a blind eye.
Harrold, Texas School Gun Policy Defended After Newtown Shooting
"In August 2008, Harrold Independent School District Superintendent David Thweatt made waves announcing an unprecedented move: Teachers and staff would be allowed to carry guns in schools."

Comment from Dropthedh:
In a country where so many people blame teachers for the demise of education, we then turn to them to be armed protectors of our children. Amazing!
It's not enough they are accused of being glorified babysitters, now they are considered to be the police. Let's just place all of society's problems on the shoulders of our educators and then we can blame them for everything that goes wrong. Brilliant! 

Schools are full of children. Our babies. Surely, our Education Departments, administrators, local police departments, parents, etc. can put their minds together and come up with something that leaves the teachers to teach and the students to learn.
Oregon State Rep. Dennis Richardson: Teachers With Guns Could Have Stopped Connecticut Shooting

I can't believe that people have to say this to Representative Richardson... Teachers aren't cowboys. Without the proper research, I'll still wager that most teachers don't want to carry firearms while teaching fractions, monarch butterflies, and objective pronouns.

While the folks of Newtown are burying loved ones and trying to face the next day, this yahoo wants guns in the schools. Not tasers or pepper spray or a security guard. Guns.