Monday, September 28, 2009

Vote for Teacher Scholarship

Thanks to everyone who entered the ABCTE scholarship contest on Twitter. We asked aspiring teachers to tell us why they want to teach--the catch was, they had to do it on Twitter, which limits you to 140 characters. We have narrowed it down to three finalists.


Liberating Learning book review in Heartland's School Reform News

I was so impressed with the Politics of Blocking outlined in Chubb and Moe's book - Liberating Learning that Heartland asked me to do a book review. You can find it here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jay Matthews on Alternative Teacher Certification

Jay Matthews has a quick ABCTE plug in the Washington Post this morning. If you have not been following it, he told the story a few weeks back about a gifted teacher who was frustrated by the bureaucracy involved with becoming a licensed teacher. To be blunt, if Jay had not inquired, this man would still be battling the powers that be.

Today’s post mentions ABCTE as a way for more Maryland teachers to get into teaching. We came very close to applying in Maryland before but they had a 4-6 week internship that was not possible for the mid career professionals that come into our program. So we went to work with other states.

It is a sad part of state teacher certification rules. States try to become more innovative but always get in their own way. They end up creating more rules that make it impossible for anything but the current processes to be able to apply. Case in point is Louisiana which spent the last 16 months trying to craft new rules and this supposedly innovative process requires alternative certification programs to have 32 hours of course work. That is just 2 classes shy of a master’s. Wow – so innovative I can hardly stand it.

So we appreciate education reporters like Jay Matthews ensuring that the public take a good hard look at a process that just doesn’t make sense.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Best School

Last night I was invited by the Education Equality Project to a screening of 2 Million Minutes, The 21st Century Solution and it was a really great night.

First, the film is about The Basis Schools. I have blogged about Basis before and had the honor of touring this school and meeting with the founders. These schools are so amazing and deliver such incredible curriculum that we should have a thousand more of these schools. If we did, we would regain our position amongst the educational leaders of the world – and that is not an exaggeration. Sadly, the don't fit the "foundation" mold for receiving funding (not unlike ABCTE), so they cannot expand. Which is odd, because I thought the point of funding education innovation was to fund groups that don't fit the mold. Irony - pretty ironic sometimes.

It was great so see so many education reform groups out to support this great work. The capstone was pretty great as well. We had the Reverand Al Sharpton and Speaker Newt Gingrich speak after the film. They are traveling the country, at the request of President Obama, raising awareness of how bad the achievement gap really is in this country. It is humorous and moving to see two people so diametrically opposed in opinion come together for such a great cause.

If you have a chance to see the movie and see Sharpton and Gingrich together, it will make you work harder for educational reform in this country.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Let the Debunking Continue: Learning Styles

Our founding president at ABCTE, Kathy Madigan, used to bristle (to put it mildly) at the mention of “learning styles” telling us the research just did not support trying to teach to different learning styles. Now one of my favorite cognitive scientists, Dr. Dan Willingham from UVA is in the Post to discuss the issue and tell us that the research doesn’t support the fact that kids learn in different ways.

Love the money quotes from this article:

“Some lessons click with one child and not with another, but not because of an enduring bias or predisposition in the way the child learns. The lesson clicks or doesn’t because of the knowledge the child brought to the lesson, his interests, or other factors.”

“When you think about it, the theory of learning styles doesn’t really celebrate the differences among children: On the contrary, the point is to categorize kids.”

“Learning styles has become unquestioned dogma among many educators, despite the utter lack of evidence to support it.”

Huh. That never happened in K12 education before has it?? This is perhaps the most difficult part of education reform – tradition and unquestioned dogma always win over actual evidence.

Also a great quote from one of the comments at the end of the article:

“If I present the material three different ways, people assume that the kid got it the third way, instead of getting it because they got the same information three times.”

As comedian Dane Cook says – it’s funny, cause it’s true.

Monday, September 14, 2009

21st Century Skills - debunked yet again

Jay Greene does it again with a great link to Sandra Stotsky's review of the latest in the 21st Century Skills push. From Jay's Blog - -

"Sandra Stotsky has an excellent review in the current issue of The Weekly Standard of Tony Wagner’s book, The Global Achievement Gap.

Here’s the money quote:
It is disingenuous to imply that the development of analytical thinking and effective oral and written communication (goals of the lyceum in ancient Greece) are new to the 21st century. American education schools and their satellite networks of professional development providers heavily promoted such “21st-century skills” as critical thinking, problem solving, and small group work throughout the 20th century.

If our teaching corps hasn’t yet been able to figure out how to translate these buzzwords into effective classroom lessons, what does this tell us about the teaching skills of our very expensive standing army of teacher-educators, either to prepare teachers properly in the first place or to get them up to snuff after they’ve failed in the field?…

Evidence-free rhetoric in support of reducing academic content in the schools, diluting academic standards for K-12, and eliminating large-scale academic testing, has found a receptive audience across the country among those who don’t want any form of real accountability. Unfortunately, the valuable skills misidentified as 21st-century skills cannot be taught and assessed without a strong emphasis on academic substance, standards, and objective assessments–as academic researchers know.

Wagner is the latest in a long line of educational pied pipers leading an uncritical and growing mass of school administrators and teachers into a curricular wilderness. And this latest book is just the current manifestation of the goal driving most of our education schools and professional development providers–how to reduce the academic content of the curriculum while claiming to enhance it–this time in the name of closing the “gap,” or providing worker bees for this century’s employers."

So very true.

Inspired Teaching

Trying to change education when people cling to ancient rituals (like current teacher certification rules) can be discouraging. What we look for to keep us going is adults in the system who aren’t focused on what they want but are truly focused on the. So it was great to sit down with the Washington Post on Sunday morning with a great cup of coffee and enjoy this piece in the opinion section. It is not written by a think tank or someone representing the many opposing groups in education or a researcher who once again found no statistical difference between policy A or policy B. It is written by Nancy Schnog who is an English teacher finding the inspiration to continue teaching even when adults in the system make it so hard for her to keep going.

The two money quotes from the article are:
“We’re inspired and inspiring teachers. Schools don’t let us teach”
“That’s what reaches them. Caring Enough. Caring.”

It baffles the mind that people spend so much time and money looking for the hidden holy grail of teacher preparation and what works in teaching and trying to tie it to some mysterious equations involving complex statistical analysis when all we need to do is really find a way to see if people truly care about students. It is especially annoying that we keep a complex maze of restrictions to limit what groups can certify teachers when we just need to make sure caring people have the right tools to succeed.

As long as people like Nancy Schnog are in the system, we will keep fighting to find more people like her to ensure our future generations can properly communicate with the rest of the world.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mentoring - strike 2

Mentoring and induction are one of the ‘knowns’ in education. You just know it works and the more you give the better teachers will perform and the longer they will stay in the classroom. A given – just like child psychology, the history of teaching, student teaching and other courses that are absolutely required to ensure you get a great teacher.

Except they don’t really seem to help

IES with the second year of a study on extensive mentoring and once again it shows that there is no real difference for student achievement and no impact on retention. Wow.

A while back I wrote about the first year of this study and the flaws of the study were pointed out by Liam Goldrick from The New Teacher Center. He points out that the mentoring was not the pure New Teacher Center program and it was the first year. So the first flaw still applies – but the second, not so much.

To us the headline is that big, formal, costly programs do no better then the informal, helping each other out stuff that is happening in more and more schools. However – there are still too many schools where teachers are still very much on their own.

The conclusion is: no conclusion. Generalizing from one study is not going to help anyone. Each school must look at the culture and if they have a very collaborative approach to teaching, no need for spending huge amounts on mentoring. If it is every man, woman and child for themselves – then get them some formal mentoring.

Unfortunately with the ARRA spending bubble soon to burst, mentoring will be one of the very first casualties

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Top 10 Annoying Travel Issues

Top 10 annoyances while traveling:

  1. Amateur hours: any busy travel time brings the people who last took a plane trip on Pan Am and have no clue what to do totally clogging up the lines
  2. United’s hub in Chicago – worst weather and the most annoying issue ever: the ongoing announcement every 10 minutes telling me what I cant bring through security – I AM ALREADY THROUGH SECURITY YOU MORONS
  3. When I say thank you in a voice obviously ending the call and you ask me if there is anything else they can do for me – yeah – end the damn call you just wasted more of my life
  4. The idiots with humongous bags trying to jam them in the overhead – check the damn bag you cheap bastard
  5. The women who cannot lift their bag into the overhead and look around helpless for someone else to put it up there for them setting women’s equality back another ten years and further delaying the boarding process
  6. People who can’t read the large number 5 on their ticket and get in line with all their bags jamming things up when they are told they cannot get on the plane with the number 1’s
  7. Thanking me for my patience – anyone that knows me knows I have know patience and assuming I am going to give it to morons who don’t know how to run an airline is dead wrong – apologize for the delay and ask me to be patient. Never assume
  8. Why do the maids leave the stupid tub plugged?
  9. The now constant announcements during the flight – really – do we really care or do we want to sleep because the walls of our hotel are paper thin??
  10. Pikes Place in airport Starbucks – why do you think only that serving this 7-11 crap Maxwell house blend is somehow going to gain you market share by appealing to more coffee drinkers? All you do is annoy your base and I, for one am switching to water in protest.

Because obviously the Pikes Piss coffee made me cranky this morning.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Negative negativity

If you have never seen Sherman Dorn’s blog, then you are missing a great perspective on education. I wish that I could write as well as he does and create such well though out ideas. But I guess that is why he is a college professor.

He is also a member of the NEA and he is not pleased with the NEA response to Race to the Top. As I pointed out before, it is a shame that some movement on reforms from the NEA are masked by such negative language.

In any argument, when one side goes so extremely negative, it undermines their point and marginalizes the organization. Sad.

Blog Carnival of Education innovation!!

The new Blog Carnival of Education Innovation is up at ABCTE - - give it a read and find out what is going on in the blogosphere.