Saturday, April 28, 2012

Plains Pops: The Best Education Reads Of The Week

*This Steven Lazar post points out some of the flawed assumptions about tying teacher pay to tests.  The post has a couple of key takeaways.  First,
In New York, as Aaron Pallas, a professor at Columbia University, showed, having students answer just one more multiple-choice question correctly would lead to a 20-percentile-point jump in a teacher’s rating. That is insane!
Any teacher knows that an individual student’s test score will vary tremendously based on mood, time of day and what is happening in that student’s personal life. But to think that access to teacher-leadership positions could rest on a one-point swing in test scores makes me gravely concerned for the future of my profession.
Second,
In school, I have been an instructional coach, department chair, grade team leader, union representative and tech guy. Out of school, I have led professional development, developed curriculums and assessments, and facilitated a critical friends group. I excelled in a couple of roles immediately, grew into most once I got the necessary training, and just got by in a couple.
My key takeaway from these experiences was that the skills, knowledge and disposition that made me an effective teacher had little connection to what determined my success in working with adults.
That second point ought to give the corporate reformers, especially those who believe that education is merely another business, pause.  It probably won't.

*This Bruce Baker post about "the toxic trifecta" and Cory's analysis that shows how Governor Daugaard used the noxious mix to brew up his education policy are both must reads.

*Writing in Time, Annie Murphy Paul reports on a "learning paradox" that shows that floundering a bit helps one learn.
Call it the “learning paradox”: the more you struggle and even fail while you’re trying to master new information, the better you’re likely to recall and apply that information later.
The learning paradox is at the heart of “productive failure,” a phenomenon identified by Manu Kapur, a researcher at the Learning Sciences Lab at the National Institute of Education of Singapore. Kapur points out that while the model adopted by many teachers and employers when introducing others to new knowledge — providing lots of structure and guidance early on, until the students or workers show that they can do it on their own — makes intuitive sense, it may not be the best way to promote learning. Rather, it’s better to let the neophytes wrestle with the material on their own for a while, refraining from giving them any assistance at the start. In a paper published earlier this year in the Journal of the Learning Sciences, Kapur and a co-author, Katerine Bielaczyc, applied the principle of productive failure to mathematical problem solving in three schools in Singapore.
*Lifehacker gives some important advice about how to get more time to read.

*Gail Collins looks at the big picture behind Pearson's talking pineapple.
Now — finally — we have tumbled into my central point. We have turned school testing into a huge corporate profit center, led by Pearson, for whom $32 million is actually pretty small potatoes. Pearson has a five-year testing contract with Texas that’s costing the state taxpayers nearly half-a-billion dollars.
This is the part of education reform nobody told you about. You heard about accountability, and choice, and innovation. But when No Child Left Behind was passed 11 years ago, do you recall anybody mentioning that it would provide monster profits for the private business sector?
Add a some prosciutto to the potatoes and pineapples and one could have a good meal and discuss alliteration at the same time.

*Finally, everyone should read this Mark Edumundson opinion piece in the New York Times.  Edmundson begins,
“EVERYBODY’S got a hungry heart,” Bruce Springsteen sings. Really? Is that so? At the risk of offending the Boss, I want to register some doubts.
Granted my human sample is not large — but it’s not so small either. I’ve been teaching now for 35 years and in that time have had about 4,000 students pass my desk. I’m willing to testify: Not all students have hungry hearts. Some do, some don’t, and having a hungry heart (or not) is what makes all the difference for a young person seeking an education.
Edmundson's experience about teaching college students matches my experience teaching high school juniors and seniors.
Thirty-five years of teaching has taught me this: The best students and the ones who get the most out of their educations are the ones who come to school with the most energy to learn. And — here’s an important corollary — those students are not always the most intellectually gifted. They’re not always the best prepared or the most cultured. Sometimes they think slowly. Sometimes they don’t write terribly well, at least at the start. What distinguishes them is that they take their lives seriously and they want to figure out how to live them better. These are the kids for whom one is bought and sold. These are the ones who make you smile when they walk into your office.
In a year that featured an assault on education at the national, state, and local level, it's affirming to be reminded about the students who make the job worthwhile.

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