Posts Tagged ‘
student achievement ’
New school year, new ChalkBloggers poll. In the righthand sidebar, we’d now love to hear from you about what concerns you most about education in Oregon (and if there’s an option we haven’t included, let us know in the comments and we’ll add it).
But in the meantime, as teachers and students head back to the classroom, it also seems an appropriate time to check out the results of our last poll: Which element of classroom instruction do you think is most important? 70 readers responded and told us:
- Positive, open learning environment (13 votes, 19%)
- Creative ideas and inspired techniques (11 votes, 13%)
- Rapport and relationship-building (10 votes, 14%)
- Individualized attention (8 votes, 11%)
- Classroom management and structure (8 votes, 11%)
- Utilizing new technologies (0 votes, 0%)
As I mentioned in last week’s post about the role of technology in education, not one person selected the use of new technologies as the most important factor in classroom learning. Instead, the interaction between students and teachers is at the top along with simply good ideas and teaching strategies. Of course, none of these elements of instruction exists in a vacuum, and they really all work their best when they are in concert with each other.
What do you think about these results? Is there another important factor that you think we missed? How can teachers use all of these qualities and skills to lead a dynamic classroom this year?
Here it comes…the first day of school! Walking through the doors, you can feel the exhilarating mixture of excitement and nervousness in the air. Kids will be meeting new teachers, seeing old friends, and showing off their stylin’ new clothes. It’s fantastic fun for some, but for students with high geographic mobility, the prospect of yet another new school, filled with unfamiliar faces isn’t exciting—it’s scary. How can teachers help these kids feel welcome, and make their transition into another new environment a little easier?
Students with high geographic mobility are those who have attended many schools during their K-12 years due to frequent moves. For some families, moving more than once in the course of a single school year is common. Usually these moves are associated with employment, housing, or relationship problems, and can be a contributing factor in low academic achievement (http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/student-mobility/).
Every child is different, and deals with change in his or her own way. I spoke with several friends who moved around a lot, attending as many as 11 schools during their K-12 years. They were all affected differently.
I may be revealing how much television I watch, but those K12.com Oregon Virtual Academy commercials are everywhere these days. Issues of school choice aside, their refrain of praises for online learning has me thinking more and more lately about the role of technology in education. How will new technologies help students’ learning? How will digital tools change the classroom? Will all these developments help create critical thinkers and global entrepreneurs (with “21st century skills”), or will they disconnect people from each other and create a generation of frenzied consumers of the overwhelming digital stream of information?
In our current ChalkBloggers poll, not one person has selected “Utilizing new technologies” as the most important element of classroom instruction. That’s a relief to me. I would never want a teacher to sacrifice real interactions (like providing constructive feedback and creating a positive and open learning environment, the two top answers) to let a computer do it for them. No one wants robotic teaching.
But certainly, lessons can be enhanced with new digital resources—and more and more, this and future generations of technology-steeped children will need to be reached with constructive interactive tools in the classroom. No one can completely shut off to new technologies and risk being left behind. The trick is finding a balance and carefully choosing the most effective tools that will enrich, not distract from, student learning.
But how to sort through the myriad options that seem to be growing and changing even faster everyday? It seems like a full-time job just to keep up. But I’ve found a few new online resources (of course) that look to do the work for you.
Over the last several years, critics of public education in the United States have regularly turned to data provided by the Europe-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) through its student assessment initiative, the Program of International Student Assessment (PISA). (Two other international assessment programs similar to PISA have also been implemented. Trends in International Mathematics and Science (TIMSS) is administered to a sample of 4th and 8th graders every 4 years, including 2011. Progress in International Reading (PIRLS) is administered to a sample of 4th graders every five years, including 2011. The methodologies employed in all three assessments are similar, so comments I make regarding PISA generally apply to the other assessment programs as well.)
Every three years, PISA administers a common assessment to a sample of 15-year-old students in participating countries. In the most recent 2009 cycle, PISA assessments were administered in 65 countries/economies. Each assessment surveys student achievement in three domains: (1) reading literacy, (2) mathematical literacy, and (3) science literacy, with one of these being the primary focus. For the 2009 cycle, the focus was reading literacy with questions in this domain comprising about 60 percent of the assessment.
From these assessment data, individual country profiles describing student achievement are prepared along with various reports seeking to compare achievement across participating countries/economies. The comparison reports have been popular within the United States as a basis for criticizing public education and justifying the call for education reform. Based on average test scores for 2009, the United States ranked 17th in reading literacy, 30th in mathematics literacy, and 23rd in science literacy. These “low” rankings must signal a problem, right? As we shall see, these ranking may or may not be correct, and even if they are, more analysis is needed to understand their significance. Simple rank order displays rarely reveal much about the complexities of student achievement.
My children are homeschooled. They also attend a fantastic “bricks-and-mortar” school during the standard school year, and prior to that they were in full-time daycare since they were infants. But when they are home with me, we read, count, explore science concepts, and look at the big map on the wall and talk about the world. I cut up little pieces of French toast and say, “How many do you have? If you eat one, how many will you have left?” This behavior does not make me special; my friends do this too. And they do it for the same reason I do—because this is what our mothers did for us.
I have some friends who officially homeschool their children. And in our demographic, the homeschooled kids are not just sitting around at home, as some people not familiar with modern homeschooling might imagine. They are exploring their world and experiencing an impressive array of enrichment activities that have cropped up to serve this growing market. OMSI, Trackers NW, and many others have programs now specifically geared towards homeschoolers, and there are dedicated support communities such as Village Home.
I view the private school that my sons attend as an incredible extended enrichment program. At their bricks-and-mortar school, they experience long, multi-discipline explorations that I personally wouldn’t have the time or creativity to put together, as well as music, art, foreign language, and the advantages of learning from other caring adults. From my perspective, the only difference between my family and an official homeschool family is the percentage of time allocated to parental teaching vs. paid enrichment—I get less homeschool time with my kids, but it is still crucial, valuable time.
I love reform. I’m excited that as a state and nation we are looking at making changes to public education. But sometimes in moving forward, it’s good to look back.
I’ve been moved to look back at my earlier career by the publicity around Jose Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and product of the California middle school where I taught. I’ve been thinking about the Jose days (mid-90s) and the staff and organization of that school. Of course, he is only one student, but there were many new immigrant kids who did quite well there. So what were we doing there that worked?
One thing that we did have was lots of faculty communication across the grade levels. I taught an intense and rigorous program partly because it was jointly developed by all the teachers on the 5th grade team. We met every Wednesday during prep, opened our plan books and shared. As a 5th grade teacher in a 5-8th grade school, I was reminded in staff meetings and in passing about where kids needed to be in order to be successful in later grades. There was a mindset that we were preparing kids for college. It helped that we were a Silicon Valley school sitting in the shadow of Yahoo, Netscape and SGI, where innovation and hard work were cultural norms in the neighborhood.
State Senator Mark Hass (D-Raleigh Hills) is currently the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. After teacher Jennifer Singleton discussed summer learning loss and pros and cons of year-round education on the ChalkBloggers last week, Hass further explores the topic and the pending national TIME Act.
In the dog days of summer, it’s great to be a kid. Lazy, sunny days. Family Trips. Summer camps. Not a care in the world.
Actually, this is a myth threatening America’s future in the global economy.
The truth is, more than half of the students in Oregon public schools (50.1 percent) come from “economically disadvantaged” homes, according to the Oregon Department of Education. These students are not spending their days at OMSI Camp. And without the kind of enrichment activities enjoyed by wealthy families, the “summer slide” is deeper.
The “summer slide” is how educators describe summertime months when students forget some of what they learned the previous school year. Research not only confirms this, but reveals that its takes its biggest toll on low-income students.
The summer weather has finally arrived in Oregon and summer vacation is in full swing. Some kids are camping, some are at summer camp. Many teachers are taking a much-needed break, while others are enrolled in summer courses.
Summer vacation has been a tradition in the United States since the mid-19th century, but as the students of the United States fall behind in reading, math and science, the trend towards year-round education is gaining momentum. Is it possible that summer vacation is a tradition that is doing more harm than good for our children? Could year-round school be the key to improving our struggling public education system?
Public schools in the United States haven’t always had a long summer vacation; in fact, in the 1800s different areas of our country had different school schedules. In the city schools were open as many as 48 weeks a year while rural areas had a summer and winter term for school and a fall and spring break allowing children to help with planting and harvesting on the family farm. In the 1840s, popular educational reformers like Horace Mann proposed a blending of the two schedules citing the belief that year-round school was over-stimulating to children’s minds, but that 2 semesters wasn’t enough. And so it was. The “traditional” calendar was born: a 9 month school year with a long summer break. (Source)
There are some very inspirational leaders in the education profession. These are the people who seem to have the capacity to view the big picture and articulate so clearly what they see and hear. Linda Nathan, headmaster of Boston Arts Academy, author, and Harvard instructor in democratic schools, is such a leader.
Linda came to Oregon in May as the keynote speaker at the Oregon Small Schools Leadership Institute in Ashland. The theme of the one day Institute, led by E3 Small Schools Director Kathy Campobasso, was “moving forward.” Linda spoke with rich and vivid examples on the importance of leadership with a strong and clear vision and about the complexities of sustaining the work of personalizing education through the power of small. Principals, teacher leaders, teachers, superintendents, and board members from 22 small high schools participated in a variety of break-out sessions. They shared outstanding practices that are happening in their schools and celebrated the positive results.
Students from southern Oregon small schools presented a panel on their small high school experiences. The concluding forum was presented by Duncan Wyse, Executive Director of E3, Barbara Gibbs of Meyer Memorial Trust, and Linda Nathan on the importance and challenges of moving forward with positive school change on the state and national level. All were inspirational!
It’s been a dramatic time for education in Oregon. We have seen lots of change, coming fast and furious from the Legislature, and much of it remains to be sorted out in terms of its actual impact on student achievement. But it certainly gives us hope—hope that Oregon can have a public school system among the best in the nation.
We give thanks to our state’s leaders for feeling the urgency we believe has been building all across this state for a higher quality system of K-12 schools. We give thanks to the teachers and leaders who are on the front lines of our schools every day, helping point the way to the supports children need to learn to their full capacity. We give thanks to the parents and citizens of this state who continue to send their children to public schools and have a collective will to make them strong. Together, we make up a community that has faith that every child can learn, and now, more commitment and momentum to make that goal a reality.
Our task ahead is perhaps harder than pushing these reforms through the legislative process—we must work together to implement them in a way that improves the learning experience for each child. We are delighted that among the reforms passed to do this are two of Chalkboard’s priorities to ensure we have an effective, quality teacher in every class, every school day.