Our Mascots

Our Mascots
These are the happy people

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Here we go again

Always amazes me that people think they can make education better by just pronouncing that things will change.  The latest notion is to evaluate teachers based on the test scores of the students.  This approach ignores are the other major variables that go into achievement on the part of children.  Sure teachers are important.  Does anyone notice that kids from higher socio-economic areas do better on tests and in school.  Does that mean they have better teachers?  Possibly, but it also means they have parents who are involved in the child's education because the parents value education themselves.  These kids have parents who spend time with children doing homework or who hire someone who will.  These are parents who take children places and expose them to travel, theatre and good music.  How can a teacher replace that?

Then there are the variables that are within the child him or herself.   Children are human beings and carry some of the same traits as all human beings.  Some are highly motivated to succeed, others not so much.  Some children are just smarter than others!  I know we are not supposed to notice that.  We are supposed to think that all children can achieve at the same level at the same time.  Anyone who believes this myth has clearly not spent much time with kids.  Any parent with multiple children can tell you how different they are from one another.

Children's abilities vary just like adults.  Some children are better in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math.  Others are better in the arts of English, other languages or social studies.  Naturally they will do better in their areas of preference.  Then how are we going to measure teachers who teach subjects for which there are no standardized tests.  There are objective observable behaviors that measure good teaching.  But we are afraid of doing the hard work to use those.

The bigger issue is that teachers have become blue collar workers who are afraid of any assessment.  They want to get a raise every year for living and staying around.  Teachers are no longer poorly paid.  Someone should notice that.  Teachers need to be willing to act like professionals and to earn their salaries based on how well they do their jobs.  I do not think test scores measure that.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

More Standards, more magical thinking

Looks like we are going to have  Core Standards with different testing to go with them.  Somehow or other someone got the notion that if we make a standard and insist that every child reach it they will.  Doesn't matter that the pronouncement makes no logical sense.  Probably the same thing will happen with these standards as with others.  Either we will discover ALL kids can't make the grade so we lower the standard or, at the very least, make the test that measures the standard easier.  Then we can say, look all the children have reached the standard.  Never mind that teachers are only teaching to that test standard to the exclusion of all the other important meaningful things that children need to learn.  If we don't lower the measuring stick standard, the alternative will be for us to decry how awful public education is and its teachers because the children have not met the standard.  Whichever party is out of power at the time will blame the other party for allowing public education to go to hell in a hand basket.
Why can't we realize that democracy or not, all humans are not created equally when it comes to academic prowess.  We are not created equally when it comes to other abilities either but we seem to have an easier time accepting unequal athletic ability or unequal artistic ability.
I used to love the story The Emperor's New Clothes.  Now I am waiting for someone to have the courage of the child in the story and say all this standard stuff is as unreal as the Emperor's New Clothes.   We need a leader in education who will stand up and say, we need to teach children based on their needs not ours.  Not everyone SHOULD go to college.  Not everyone NEEDS higher order math achievement.  There are multiple futures for our children and we should respect them enough to teach and prepare them for their individual skill set.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What makes a good teacher?

One sometimes wonders if good teaching is anything like pornography.  As the good Supreme Court Justice said many years ago, I can't define it but I know it when I see it.  Most kids can tell you they know good teaching when they experience it and so can their parents.
How much does good teaching have to do with test scores-- not much.  Sure good teachers often, but not always, have students with good standardized test scores.  But it is also true that some of the finest teachers also have students with terrible test scores.
Good teaching is first of all caring.  It is being knowledgeable of the content and knowing how to convey that content in as many ways as it takes until the student learns it.  Good teaching is also taking time to notice that a child is upset and needs some listening.  Good teaching is making the content meaningful to the child's world.

Most people know these things.  And if they do why the huge emphasis on test scores.  First of all test scores are measurable.  Americans have a great fascination with things that can be measured.  Even though we know full well that the most important things in our lives do not have a calculus.  So we decide that if the test scores are good, good teaching must have happened and if they are not good, then good teaching didn't happen.  That is an over simplification in the extreme.  There are just too many other variable effecting good test scores besides good teaching.

Unions don't like it when test scores are used to measure good teaching.  But they dislike using test scores for this purpose for all the wrong reasons.  Fifty years ago teachers' associations were professional organizations that cared about the profession and the children being served.  Today unions only care about protecting the health and welfare of the teachers they represent.  They are not different from any blue collar union and that is all the greater loss for the profession and for the children.  So unions don't like test scores because they want to protect their membership, even members who do not deserve to be in the profession.

It is most unfortunate that we educators do not have a professional association today because we are in desperate need of coming up with a model to evaluate good teaching and that model needs to be developed by educators who understand the process of education.  It should not be done by politicians or union organizers.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

have a great night of fun

The Harbour School is sponsoring a great auction.  Great dinner, open bar and the opportunity to win silent and live auction items.

April 17 at the Renaissance Hotel.  Want to come?  go to the Harbour School website.  Come along and have a great time.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Our kids are being ripped off

Our kids are being ripped off. First no IDEA sold us the story that our children with special needs would be better off in general education classes with teachers who had no idea how to teach them and really didn't want to teach them. Now No Child Left Behind is telling us that we can measure the progress our kids are making by giving them test after test.

Our children know they are not doing well on these tests. Plus much of the information on which they are being tested is totally irrelevant to their lives but no one seems to care. The Emperor has no clothes and we have all been sold a bill of goods to believe that students with disabilities will do well in adult life if they can pass these tests.

When will the professionals stand up and tell the truth.