Some things just get better…… #Smokey is a miracle……

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Are they Students or are they Learners? #TwoCentsWorth

FROM the blog: 2¢ Worth


A while back I spent the day working with a group of about 150 educators who’d been brought together by one of their state’s regional service centers. I fine it a particularly cruel thing to do, forcing a group of adults to spend six-hours paying attention to one person. So on this day, I decided to break things up a bit — and model an element of one of my ongoing messages, teaching in order to make yourself obsolete. I decided to by facilitating a discussion activity that I’d seen once and recently read about, but can’t recall the name of right now. The activity involved a continually shifting panel of experts from the audience, who could only answer questions, and members of the audience, who could only ask questions. I inserted my two cents worth only when I simply couldn’t help myself.

Out of that conversation came a goodly and completely predictable amount of push back. It was along the lines of, “I agree with everything that David is saying, and believe that this is where we need to be, but…” The buts were the regular barriers to retooling, including, but not limited to government testing, government testing, and government testing. But another area of concern that surfaced more than once was a reluctance to trust their students to take advantage of the tools and opportunities for learning that I was suggesting and demonstrating. There was a belief that their students are lazy and will only use these empowerments for shortcuts.

I’ve been noodling over this, trying to figure out the nature of this reluctance that the teachers and principals were referring to and the nature of their perceptions. Equally important is coming up with a language to describe the problem. What surfaced in my own thinking was that educators continue to think of their charges as students, rather than thinking of them as learners.

I spend a lot of time, these days, talking and writing about how we are asking teachers to redefine what it means to be a teacher — and, in all fairness, how difficult that is. I try to present myself as a master learner, suggesting that part of what teachers should be, today, is constant and resourceful learners — master learners. But perhaps a significant part of this exercise in redefinition should involve our students — an explicit remolding of perceptions of these youngsters, in order to fully shift the relationship between student and teacher, learner and master learner.

So let me see if I can distinguish between these notions of students and learners.

Relationship with educators
Students are employees, required to obediently follow instructions.
Learners are citizens with a vested interest in the learning society.
Relationship with other “Students”
Students are competitors
Learners are collaborators
Obligation: Students are culturally obliged to work for the teacher & for compensation (below)
Responsibility: Learners are motivated by an understood and realized “value” in their work, especially when it is valuable to others.
Institution defined grades and gateways to college (another institution) and a good job (another institution)
A sense of ongoing accomplishment that is not delivered but earned, and not symbolic but tangible and valuable — an investment.
Mode of Operation
Compliant, group-disciplined, objective-oriented, and trainable
Persevering, self-disciplined, group- and goal-oriented, resourceful, and learning in order to achieve rather than achieving learning.
..with packaged knowledge and tools for recording packaged knowledge — prescribed and paced learning
..with tools for exploring a networked variety of content, experimenting with that content, and discovering, concluding, and constructing knowledge — invented learning
Measuring what the student has learned.
Measuring what the learner can do with what has been learned.

One of the problems that I struggled with, as I was writing and ordering these qualities was that I wanted to put assessment, for the student, at the top of the list — and assessment, for the learner, at the bottom. For the student, assessment is king, in very much the same way that quality control is such a critical part of the manufacturing processes. But assessment, for learners, is much less obvious, and at the same time, it is much more integral to the learning. Assessment for classrooms of learners is the enormous amounts of qualitative data that is collected by the teacher (and other students) on a minute-by-minute bases.

Assessment is also, and this is what I find most interesting, not a “right” or a “wrong” — a check (?) or an X. It is a simple self-asked question, “Did that work?”


AFT Letter to Press on WFS #NotWaiting

Is America ready to settle for a good education—for the few? That’s the unfortunate takeaway from a soon-to-be released documentary film, “Waiting for ‘Superman.’” The film, by Davis Guggenheim, shows how tragically far we are from the great American ideal of providing all
children with the excellent education they need and deserve. Yet, despite Guggenheim’s unquestionably good intentions, “Waiting for ‘Superman’” is inaccurate, inconsistent and incomplete—and misses what could have been a unique opportunity to portray the full and
accurate story of our public schools.
“Waiting for ‘Superman’” has been screened by private audiences throughout the country and will be released for the general public on Sept. 24. In the event that you write about the film, I wanted to share my thoughts directly with you about it. One can’t help but be moved by the stories of the five children and their families Guggenheim
follows as they encounter a lottery system for admission to the schools upon which they are pinning their hopes for a good education. Their stories, in a very real and emotional way, drive home the point that the opportunity for a great public education should come not by chance, but by right.
But the filmmaker’s storytelling falters in other key areas. The film casts several outliers in starring roles—for example, “bad” teachers and teachers unions as the villains, and charter schools as heroes ready to save the day. The problem is that these caricatures are more fictional than factual.

Full note: HERE.

The Answer Sheet – The bankrupt ‘school reform manifesto’ of Rhee, Klein, etc. #ValerieStrauss #WAPO

The Answer Sheet – The bankrupt ‘school reform manifesto’ of Rhee, Klein, etc.


The bankrupt ‘school reform manifesto’ of Rhee, Klein, etc.

There are so many things wrong with the new “school reform manifesto” signed by 16 school district chiefs — including New York’s Joel Klein and Washington’s Michelle Rhee — and published in The Washington Post that it is hard to know where to start.

There’s the intellectual dishonesty and scapegoating: It starts by saying that everybody is responsible for improving schools but then proceeds to bash teachers, and doesn’t say a single thing about the responsibility of superintendents.

After eight years as the czar of New York City’s public schools, Klein might want to stop blaming other people for his failures.

There’s historical myopia: The document says kids are just sitting around waiting for adults to do something, without noting that adults have been pushing eight years for test-centric reform favored by many of these superintendents with disastrous results.

There’s misinformation:

As President Obama has emphasized, the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is not the color of their skin or their ZIP code or even their parents’ income — it is the quality of their teacher.

Wrong. Research actually shows that the home life of students is the single biggest determinant of school achievement. School chiefs can ignore it all they want, but that doesn’t change the facts. (Of course this is no excuse for leaving lousy teachers in schools, but there is equally no excuse for ignoring outside factors and blaming good teachers for things beyond their control.)

The document, published in The Post’s Outlook section and available here, makes the same tired call for more charter schools, the end of teacher tenure, etc., etc. — all change initiatives guaranteed not to work.

We’ve heard it before, but, apparently, these superintendents felt the need to repeat it now, apparently to piggyback on the publicity of the wrong-headed education film “Waiting for Superman,” and the defeat in D.C.’s primary of Rhee’s political patron, Mayor Adrian Fenty.

The manifesto was initiated by Klein and Rhee, who gave it to Michael Casserly, executive director of the nonprofit Council of the Great City Schools. He then worked to persuade other schools bosses to sign on, according to a knowledgeable source.

The Washington-based council is a coalition of 65 of the nation’s largest urban public school systems and the only national organization exclusively representing the needs of these schools. Its mission, according to the Web site, is to promote the cause of urban schools and to advocate for inner-city students through legislation, research and media relations.

The organization also provides a network for school districts sharing common problems to exchange information, and to collectively address new challenges as they emerge in order to deliver the best possible education for urban youths.

Casserly, who has led the organization since 1992, is well-known in school reform circles, if not to the general public. I asked Casserly why he helped Klein win support for the document, and he responded by e-mail: “Part of the job.”

The document uses jargon that effectively calls for linking standardized test scores to teacher evaluation, a scheme that several recent studies concluded is ineffective in improving student achievement.

That doesn’t stop today’s reformers, who are obsessed with “data” and with using business practices to run schools, which are really civic institutions that should be operated on a civic model. Says the document:

“Let’s stop ignoring basic economic principles of supply and demand and focus on how we can establish a performance-driven culture in every American school.”

Um, don’t most businesses fail?

One of the signatories, Andres Alonso, the chief executive of the Baltimore City Public Schools, just signed an important agreement with the teachers union that calls for multiple measures to evaluate teachers, though this wasn’t acknowledged in the manifesto, leaving it a mystery as to why Alonso signed on.

You can read the rest of the nonsense here and come to your own conclusion.