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Summer is here. That’s when millions of teachers hit the beach! Well, not really. Actually, many of us hit the keyboard or sign up to take classes about technology. I took an iPad class with 31 other teachers last week. As my husband said, “What is so hard about using an iPad that you need to take a class?” We don’t take the class because the tool is hard; we take it because the technology is so easy that we need to learn how to best use the tool in the classroom. It’s too easy to put an iPad in the hands of a kid and let them dink around in the unfocused tech world.
We teachers are scrambling to use time wisely since we have fewer instructional days and more to cover. New technologies are likely to change our teaching emphasis from passively taking in information to actively producing evidence of newfound knowledge. iPads are like covering broccoli with cheese sauce; they are a sneaky way to lure kids into doing what is best for them. The focus of technology in the classroom should be to raise education to a higher intellectual endeavor: that of using knowledge to experiment and create. Creative citizens who can focus on problems and devise ways to solve them are key to our economic health. Using iPads is an itty-bitty step to achieving a broader goal. (more…)
Two recent events provide the opportunity to revisit a couple of recurrent themes in my blogs. The first of these events was the release of the NAEP science results from the 2011 administration. The results were predictable – no significant growth in the number of students achieving at the proficient level. Only about a third of all students tested performed at this level or better. Sound familiar?
The same general pattern was apparent when I reviewed the results from the last NAEP reading and mathematics assessments. And the reasons are also the same. There are no “breakthroughs” in NAEP results because this snapshot assessment program tells us as much about student ability as it does about student achievement. Not all students of a given chronological age will reach the same achievement levels at the same time – particularly when the resources invested per student are essentially uniform. The number of hours of instruction per day, week and year are broadly equivalent across the United States and students are focused on the same relatively narrow curriculum. (more…)
The recent release of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) provides results that should give all Oregonians cause for great concern. Most NAEP measures for Oregon students are disheartening. Oregon is now one of five states where the overall achievement gap widened between 2003 and 2011. Additionally, low-income students in Oregon rank among the lowest performing in the nation and have lost ground since 2003. This information invites questions that should be in the forefront of Oregon’s attempt to restructure educational delivery. What will it take to declare a statewide breakdown? What is Oregon’s commitment to close the achievement gap?
NAEP Report Overview
Also known as the Nation’s Report Card, NAEP is the only tool we have to assess which states appear to be making progress in academic achievement. While we recognize the limits of NAEP, simultaneously the results should not be ignored. One advantage of this national assessment is the opportunity to assess progress over time. Another dimension of interest is the opportunity to disaggregate results and examine how different student subgroups fare compared to others across the country.
Colleges of Education are being challenged to “prove” that their graduates can improve student learning. At Pacific University in Eugene, our students (called candidates) student teach for 18 weeks. During that time they work with the classroom teacher (called the mentor teacher) during the first few weeks and then ease into the full planning for and teaching of the children. In some cases, the mentor feels they need to give the student teacher his or her plans and tests to ensure the reliability of the lessons. (In fact, this decision is being made more frequently as the mentor is being held to test results.) Some teachers feel comfortable allowing complete independence; however, some are always in the classroom and will make changes or intervene. In all cases, our candidates are expected to create units and lessons that assess their students’ learning.
This background information should raise some questions about the ways Pacific can actually prove that it is our candidate who is making the difference in student learning. Given the present collaborating system, we need ways to identify what the candidate actually knows and has done him or herself to improve learning. Certainly each teacher (candidate or mentor) should be held accountable for improvement in learning while in his or her class. The devil, as always, is in the details: the measurements we use.
The following was emailed to Oregon’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Susan Castillo, on 11/07/2011:
Hi Susan – I know you’ve reviewed the most recent NAEP results as have I. The distribution of reading achievement scores for grades four and eight remained essentially unchanged as they have for roughly the last two decades. How can this be? For the last decade, in particular, on a nationwide basis we have spent billions of dollars trying to improve reading achievement. We have spent lavishly on special education, the latest curriculum programs, response to intervention strategies, early childhood literacy programs, staff development programs, technology-based remedial programs – and yet achievement has not improved. Again, how can this be?
The answer is surprisingly straightforward.
In the NEAP results we are seeing the intersection of two controlling variables, differences in cognitive ability among students and the standardization of access to learning.
If you administered a high quality cognitive ability assessment to the same students who took the NAEP reading exam, you would see that the results map to each other to a very high degree. Lower ability students present lower reading achievement and higher ability students present just the opposite.
But if you also overlaid the time provided for learning to these same students you would find it almost identical for all levels of ability – about 6 hours per day for about 180 days per year.
Ability varies (as it always has), yet instruction time is about the same (as it has been for decades). More than three quarters of the variance in test scores can be explained by these factors alone. (more…)
This week, the 2011 NAEP scores were released. The National Assessment of Educational Progress is the only assessment of student learning that is given to students across the nation- making it a significant tool for comparisons across states. A representative sample of 4th and 8th graders take the exam in reading and math every two years.
On the whole compared to 2009, the new data showed small improvements in math and relatively flat scores in reading. In Oregon, scores held steady compared to 2009 with no significant improvements or declines.
State Superintendent Susan Castillo said of the results, “While we didn’t see drastic changes from the previous NAEP results, we are not seeing the improvements in student performance that we know Oregon needs in order to compete nationally and internationally.”
Indeed, looking further back to 2003 some states have made substantial progress, particularly for their low income students, while Oregon has not. (more…)