Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Information Text: Golden Books & Common Core

The Common Core makes a big point that students should become better readers not just of literature but also of informational text. It seems that students, as they look for work, are generally not hired to read stories with plots, themes, characters, foreshadow, and other literary devices.  They are hired to work on non-fictional issues and so they need to be able to read articles about the real world. For instance, in the last week, I've had people read articles about new trends in search engine algorithms, social media marketing platforms, technologies, and markets.

This sort of reading is about informational texts and it's considered to be a very modern idea.  Many of the people who oppose things, like conservatives and high school English teachers, seem to feel that this is a bad change.

I myself was brought up in my early years on Little Golden Books.   This back cover of a Golden Book is the one used on informational text, not a story.  I've tried to find out what percent of hte books were informational versus story and so far, no answer.

I did discover that the Pokey Little Puppy was by far the best selling Golden Book of all time. I remember it well. In fact, I had the record of it and I remember it very well.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Wings & Roots, Baby

Wings and Roots, Baby....

Sometimes I ask my cousin for guidance on parenting. He's a good parent and full of advice. I always thinks about it and rarely follow it.  I do remember asking him once about how much responsibility should I be placing on my teenage daughter.  It had something to do with high school or a high school summer. What I do remember is his answer: "Wings and Roots, Baby."

"Huh?" I said.

He points me towards a famous poem that said that the two most valuable things that a parent can give to their children are wings and roots. Roots of basic values, knowing that they are loved no matter what, that they have people who will do anything for them, and all that a family can give to a child to make them feel grounded and know from whence they come.

Wings is the freedom and aspiration to move beyond their heritage.  To have the courage and vision to know that they are an individual with a life that can be lived in so many ways.  They should be free to soar.

This complements one of my other favorite ideas about parenting. It's the idea that the best gifts a parent can give to children are the ones that they can swim away from a shipwreck with.

Here's the poem.

Wings & Roots, By Denis Waitley
If I had two wishes, I know what they would be

I'd wish for Roots to cling to, and Wings to set me free;
Roots of inner values, like rings within a tree;

and Wings of independence to seek my destiny.
Roots to hold forever to keep me safe and strong,

To let me know you love me, when I've done something wrong;
To show me by example, and helps me learn to choose,

To take those actions every day to win instead of lose.
Just be there when I need you, to tell me it's all right,

To face my fear of falling when I test my wings in  flight;
Don't make my life too easy, it's better if I try,

And fail and get back up myself, so I can learn to fly.
If I had two wishes, and two were all I had,

And they could just be granted, by my Mom and Dad;
I wouldn't ask for money or any store-bought things.

The greatest gifts I'd ask for are simply Roots and Wings.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

British Education and Press Also Have Problems

I'm overseas for a few weeks so I've been watching the BBC.  They've been running a story this week that is disappointing to me in that I think it's a little dumb and sensational.  It makes me feel a little better about the US press and their lousy coverage of education issues.

The BBC reporting of a Sutton Trust Research Study is this:

Teachers who give struggling pupils "lavish praise" could make them even less likely to succeed, research into classroom tactics has suggested.

The Sutton Trust education charity has warned that many strategies used by teachers have no evidence to show that they really work.

Listening to this story, one is inclined to think of a country full of well-intentioned but naive teachers that are lavishing praise on students that don't deserve it.  This cheapens the praise, convinces the kids that the teachers are clueless, and has all sorts of other counterproductive side effects.  

 But, the story never says that teachers are actually lavishing praise inappropriately.  And, every teacher guide or textbook that I've read over the last 30 years makes the point that student feedback is important and should be done strategically. For instance, students effort and actual successes should be praised, the student himself (or herself) should not be over-praised. It's the effort or achievement which gets the note. Feedback should be specific and constructive. etc etc.

Now I haven't reach the original study so I don't know if the study suggests that teachers need retraining or not. My suspicion is that most educational researchers are pretty smart and so what they were studying were some nuances of feedback and praise in certain circumstances to see what worked better.  But, I'm guessing, the BBC prefers to stay away from such technicalities and prefers the somewhat sensational story that the teachers need to stop handing our unwarranted praise. Since there is no basis for saying that, they just infer.

As I'm doing. I am infering about what they did but then, I'm a private American blogger writing primarily for my own amusement, not the British Broadcasting System. If I was, I'd be better.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Common Core - Lets Get Real

There is much to argue about in the Common Core but my least  favorite approach to the discussion is when people focus on where it came from as if that was the big issue. It's not, it should be a question of what the standards should be.  

There is endless discussion as to whether the states themselves really initiated the development completely on their own or were the private foundations involved in concept development. The Federal Gov't became supportive of the effort which in my view, is great. Did they push it too hard? Too late? Too early?   Some people see the Feds as more involved than they were.  At the end of the day, who cares? I don't.

 Irrespective of its exact process of creation, the Common Core is the best efforts by the some of the best people to formalize what our students need to be learning to succeed.  As the world changes, we are all competing in national and international markets so the old arguments for regional and state approaches is increasingly less valid.  Also, in the modern streamlined world where cost and waste are no longer tolerated, it is crazy to have independent groups in each state developing standards and having so many versions of textbooks. Crazy!

There are states that are fiercely independent (ie Texas) which will continue to call their standards the TEKS but the TEKS too will probably be updated to be very "Common Core-ish" since this is currently the best approach.

The Common Core is not perfect and there's plenty to argue about.  I personally would have put algorithms and computer science and data analysis and statistics into high school math and perhaps not included Alg 2 and Calculus. My rationale is that high school math should develop advanced analytical reasoning in areas that are most likely to be useful for further study and careers. With 30 years of professional experience, I've never professionally encountered an "X squared" or had to take a derivative or an integral but I sure wish that I was more prepared to deal with probability and understand my digital world.  

I also would have a complete set of standards including science and social studies. Politically, very difficult but in terms of education, it would obviously be the best to have a coherent set of standards.

My point is the Common Core is today's best effort but it's not the be-all and end-all. The people fighting the Common Core are using its origin mostly as an excuse.  They generally have a political agenda which is counter to the economic realities of what our students need to compete in today's world and they focus not on the issue of what is in the Common Core but the trends that it represents.  It recognizes that the future belongs to the highly educated who can deal with technology and communication in much better ways.  This is a very painful reality to those who think the future belongs to the US as some sort of exceptional destiny. While most of today's technology is US born, this could and probably will look very different in 50 years. Fifty years ago, it was unthinkable that any Americans would buy "foreign" cars.  The lax US car and steel industries and some global economic trends go us to where we are today.

The analogy is that we are not destined to be world leaders. The opportunity that we have is to compete. The Common Core and the increasing rigor of education is part of this effort.

 I think entering into the debate of exactly how the CC came to be obscures the point of how important it is that we deal with increasing the 3Rs (rigor, relevance, and relationships) to our educational system for our country's future.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Education TED Talks

This ones about politics by MG Wheeler:

Another TED talk, this one about health (not healthcare):


Monday, May 5, 2014

Grading Systems: What they should be!

I wish I read Larry Ferlazzo's blog more often. Everytime I do, I feel enlightened.

I'll quote some of my favorite parts, paraphrased, of his second post on grading. His post is mostly written by Rick Wormeli. 

Grades are first and foremost communication; they are information, nothing more. The moment we make them something more, we corrupt their constructive use. A reporting system built merely to sort humans in order to provide sports eligibility or grant scholarships is destined to be abused and unhelpful in the long term. 

It's helpful to think of grades as the colored dot posted at our intended destination on a GPS system. (This analogy is thanks to Stan Williams and Emily Rinkema  @CVULearns).

When we want to drive someplace, we insert the address into our GPS and start driving. Our progress towards the address, the colored dot moving across a map, is the grade: it's pure information, a statement of fact for where we are at the given moment in relation to our goal. It is nothing more than this. It is not a reward, affirmation, validation, or compensation.
Our reward for arriving at our destination is...arriving at the destination. 
The grade is NOT the reward, nor can it ever be considered such.
The article goes on to list eight vital elements of a good grading system.  Read it: