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Old 09-16-2010, 07:54 PM  
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I enjoyed this little slideshare. Might provoke a little discussion:

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Old 09-16-2010, 09:17 PM   #2
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I'm ignorant about a lot of this stuff. When they say national standards want to standardize everything, I don't know exactly what that means. For instance, when I was in high school we (being that we were in NY State) studied the Iroquois Indians for a good portion of one year. Is this slideshow saying that things like that would be intentionally pushed aside?
Or, for instance, in English when we took our final exam it was what was called a Regents Exam, which was the state test. That, as far as I remember, was a little reading comprehension and also an essay. The essay wouldn't be about the books we read during the year. It would be like, "Write an essay about one of these things: My school year; Diversity" etc. During the year the teacher would mostly have us read novels or plays of her choosing and discuss them in class. So really, the Regents wasn't necessarily about what we were specifically taught during the year, and even the Regents didn't constitute your whole grade. It was the Regents combined with all the tests and assignment grades the teacher gave you during the year. What I'm saying is that the teacher had quite a bit of freedom to teach during the year, and we did have a standardized Regents exam at the end, but I don't feel it infringed on how we learned during the year.
This slideshow seems to say that would change. It seems to be saying that the Federal standards won't just be trying to test students to make sure they're at least learning the minimum. It seems to be saying that the Federal guidelines will be so strict and time consuming that teachers will basically have no freedom to inject their own individual assignments or styles. Is that the case? Do they really plan to say, "You must teach this, this, this, this and this" and that ends up being 95% of the teacher's available time?
Or is this a thing where they want every student to be on the same level so the smarter kids sit there bored while the lazier or dumber kids are coddled during class?
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Old 09-16-2010, 09:22 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by blaise View Post
I'm ignorant about a lot of this stuff. When they say national standards want to standardize everything, I don't know exactly what that means. For instance, when I was in high school we (being that we were in NY State) studied the Iroquois Indians for a good portion of one year. Is this slideshow saying that things like that would be intentionally pushed aside?
Or, for instance, in English when we took our final exam it was what was called a Regents Exam, which was the state test. That, as far as I remember, was a little reading comprehension and also an essay. The essay wouldn't be about the books we read during the year. It would be like, "Write an essay about one of these things: My school year; Diversity" etc. During the year the teacher would mostly have us read novels or plays of her choosing and discuss them in class. So really, the Regents wasn't necessarily about what we were specifically taught during the year, and even the Regents didn't constitute your whole grade. It was the Regents combined with all the tests and assignment grades the teacher gave you during the year. What I'm saying is that the teacher had quite a bit of freedom to teach during the year, and we did have a standardized Regents exam at the end, but I don't feel it infringed on how we learned during the year.
This slideshow seems to say that would change. It seems to be saying that the Federal standards won't just be trying to test students to make sure they're at least learning the minimum. It seems to be saying that the Federal guidelines will be so strict and time consuming that teachers will basically have no freedom to inject their own individual assignments or styles. Is that the case? Do they really plan to say, "You must teach this, this, this, this and this" and that ends up being 95% of the teacher's available time?
Or is this a thing where they want every student to be on the same level so the smarter kids sit there bored while the lazier or dumber kids are coddled during class?
A little bit of both. The difference now is that the testing isn't just testing. It's high stakes testing. So yeah... you -can- still spend some time doing your own lessons... as long as you have students who are performing well on the tests. If I teach in a school system where my kids can pretty much pass the tests regardless of what I do, then I can teach whatever the hell I want. If, on the other hand, you're from a school that is underperforming, the pressure is on to teach to the test. What ends up happening is that test preparation replaces curriculum. Which is really sad, because test preparation isn't a curriculum and it's does the kids a disservice in that it doesn't truly teach them what they need to succeed in life.
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Old 09-16-2010, 10:30 PM   #4
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That is a nifty little piece of propaganda. Most of it misses the point, and some parts of it are just simply stupid. This will be a long response.

What we are seeing is part of a holy war between the existing teaching establishment, and a demand for accountability in the profession.

One side is driven largely by teacher unions and secondarily by a profession defending its turf, thinking only they can judge teaching effectiveness and the government should butt out. The other side is driven by statistics, rigorous objective studies on teaching effectiveness, and the simple realization that compared to their peers in other nations, our teachers have had it their way for over a generation and have failed.

One side believes that with a few exceptions from bad apples and superstars, presuming proper experience, college, and continuing ed, almost all teachers are pretty much equally effective and good at what they do. The other side believes that while all that stuff is still important, some teachers are fundamentally good at their jobs, some are average, and some teachers are just bad at their jobs and should be counselled into a new career or ruthlessly fired.

If you cant tell, I obviously believe in that latter "other" side. These slides are figuratively the last gasps of a side which has just about lost this policy argument. Specific comments on the slides below.
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Old 09-16-2010, 10:31 PM   #5
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Slides 1-4 ("National standards for the content that should be taught are bad") - ok, whatever. Lets get to the reasons.

Slide 5 - This is the single worst slide in the whole presentation. Seriously, it is very f***ing stupid. It is so stupid I need a punching bag when I write my response, so I'll address it to the guy who supposedly created it. (some college instructor named Marion) I have a lot to write on just that slide and the assumptions behind it, so this will probably need its own reply just by itself.

Marion, you twit, your first argument is embarassing. We are not trying to stuff the data contained in freaking Wikipedia into the heads of all grade-school kids. "Who's qualified to say what that 0.00000001% (of all known information we have time to teach) should be?" Really? You really just typed that as your first argument?

I'll answer that question with a few of my own, Marion. What is more important for a third-grade kid to know: how to spell most of the common English words in simple kid-level vocabulary, or who is the presiding officer of the Parliament of North Ossetia-Alania? What is more important for a 5th-grader to know: the ability to read early middle-school stories and short books at a reasonable speed and retention, or the basic census data of the population in Wood County, Wisconsin? What is more important for an 8th-grader to know: all the basics of arithmetic and some of the really easy early concepts of algebra, or the description and ability to cultivate Acer campestre, otherwise known as the Field Maple?

This incredibly stupid slide seems to presume that in each of those 3 cases, one piece of knowledge is not inherently more important to know than the other. That is obviously false. At this point we should remind ourselves what the goal of school is, generally (in my opinion anyway), at each level. In the early grades, especially 1 through 5, critical thinking is strictly optional, squarely in the "it would be nice if you have time" category. There is limited capability for that at that age anyway. What we need at those early ages is to teach the basic tools of learning.

You have to read and be able to understand what you just read. That is not optional, it is mandatory to succeed. This skill can be objectively measured in a standardized test. (Proper grammar and writing is also slightly less important but closely related and can be objectively measured) You also must know basic math. That is not optional, it is mandatory to succeed. This skill can also be measured in a standardized test.

Both of these skills are also very difficult and take many, many, many years to become just even basically proficient. This isn't something you take care of in grade 3 and move on to bigger and better things. With a few exceptions, a kid really isn't worth a damn at either of these very basic tools of learning until maybe grade 7 or 8. These skills, all of which can be objectively measured, require a lot of hours every single week.

Even after that, many kids (maybe not all, but many) need additional training and advanced levels of skill in reading, writing, and math in high school and college to succeed in specialized careers they might want to go into someday. We also should touch on other stuff like basic science, history, and civics in those really early grades just to lay the groundwork for later classes in middle and high school, but you have to have the basic tools first.

You can always learn critical thinking and the ability to research later (or on your own as an adult if all your teachers sucked), but if you dont have reading, writing, and math nailed down at a proficient level by high school, you are doomed to fail. These skills, which are so important and so closely related to success or failure must be taught, and we can not have any patience or excessive forgiveness with a grade school or middle school teacher who consistently proves they cant do it.
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Old 09-16-2010, 10:31 PM   #6
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Slide 6 - cool, right after the worst slide in the presentation we come to the best (or least bad) slide in the presentation. There's actually a point to be made here that is not completely stupid.

Every kid, community, sets of parents, etc are different and the kids born into those situations will come into the picture in the early grades with different capabilities through no fault of their own. Standardized testing is good, but it can be used in unfair ways.

To the extent we use standardized tests at all now, we currently set a uniform standard and tell all schools they must meet this standard or be punished. This can be good in that it pushes the schools with the worst kids to fight hard to meet those standards, but it is not the best way to go about it. It is not reasonable to judge a teacher in an urban poor school to the same standard as a teacher in a wealthier suburban school with white picket fences and concerned moms stretching as far as the eye can see.

Just because "no child left behind" has problems does not mean standardized testing is bad, there's a better way which is rapidly gaining popularity and acceptance all across the political spectrum: value added evaluations.

Yes, we get it that kids in that first urban school mentioned above might come in scoring low because the kids have home problems and less motivated parents. Test them when they come in, and then test them again when they are done with the level. Over a period of many cohorts of classes over several years, you have a statistically significant sample to look at. If you see that a teacher is handed a pile of struggling kids who can only manage to score in the bottom 10th percentile in the state and over the course of a year those kids improve to about the 30th percentile (so from "really terrible" to just "kinda crappy") we can probably conclude that the teacher was very effective in helping those kids even though they still left his or her class scoring below average. There are rigorous studies showing that, given enough years of data to work out the outliers, these value-added methods of evaluating teachers are highly predictive of how well that teacher will do with the next class they get. Likewise, we have also found that many teachers in "good" schools with rich parents may get a class full of brains and then, knowing they are going to score way above average no matter what, they can get lazy. If you are a teacher who consistently takes in kids scoring in the 90th percentile and you send them to the next grade scoring in the 70th percentile, you are bad at your job and should be flipping burgers or going back to college to train for something else even though your kids are still above average.

The rest of the presentation - a lot of silly nonsense about how instead of teaching to standards, we should instead teach kids to "think for themselves", and other vague buzzwords that we are conveniently unable to objectively measure. We have to take your word for it that all the teachers in your school are good at their job.

Again, this misses the point. WHEN do we have standardized testing? Generally not in high school or college. (SAT's are basically just so colleges can weed out a lot of demand for limited slots) At those levels you should have the tools mastered. You arent even able to learn until you have what I ranted about above in slide 5 down cold. You aren't supposed to spend a ton of time on how to think critically and research solutions to vague problems in primary and middle school. (though its a nice extra if you can fit it in) In those grades you are learning how to learn. You cant build a house without aquiring tools. When you have the ability to learn, then all those silly feel-good clipart pics of kids exploring, doing science projects, and looking through magnifying glasses make more sense. We aren't asking for standardized testing in high school, we are asking for them on those subjects and in those grades when they are useful and needed!

Bottom line: kids must learn the basic tools in the early grades. If they dont, they are doomed. Critical thinking, research ability, and everything else can be figured out in later grades or on your own. These basic required skills (reading, writing, math) can be objectively measured. Some teachers suck at teaching those subjects, and therefore they are harming their students. Some might get better with mentoring, and brand-new teachers need a few years to improve, but many of those older teachers can not improve with training or more education, they are just bad teachers, period. Those teachers who chronically suck at teaching the basic skills of learning must be uncovered and sent out. If not directly, then through economic pressure. That is why standardized testing exists, and why it is necessary.
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Old 09-17-2010, 04:59 AM   #7
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Again, this misses the point. WHEN do we have standardized testing? Generally not in high school or college. (SAT's are basically just so colleges can weed out a lot of demand for limited slots) At those levels you should have the tools mastered. You arent even able to learn until you have what I ranted about above in slide 5 down cold. You aren't supposed to spend a ton of time on how to think critically and research solutions to vague problems in primary and middle school. (though its a nice extra if you can fit it in) In those grades you are learning how to learn.

You present some interesting points, but this is just dead, dead wrong. We currently do lots and lots of standardized testing in high school. My students take an EOC (end of course) Biology test, EOC Algebra, EOC Geometry, EOC Literacy, and they have EOCs coming in all their core courses in the future. These are standardized tests that they have to pass in order to graduate from high school and earn credit in that course. Compound that with the fact that if they don't pass, they must be remediated until they can pass (for no credit), and high school is basically becoming a standardized test factory (or at least there are those pushing it in that direction) where you spend all your time either preparing for standardized tests or recovering from failing one.

While I think you have some good points about the theories behind standardized testing and the accountability movement, you don't really seem to understand the way it's played out on the ground. You should read Yong Zhao's book "Catching up or leading the way" if you want a good look at what a huge standardized testing movement does to your country (he examines his native country of China). There's a reason they come to America in order to find creative thinkers and that they're trying to parrot our education system now. The irony is that we're now trying to parrot theirs.
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Old 09-19-2010, 01:26 AM   #8
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What is purpose of an individual's education?

Is it ONLY to make that person a productive member of the national economic engine?

To what extent should an education contribute to 1) citizenship, 2) appreciation of one's own culture and 3) appreciation of other cultures? If you optimized these to the needs of the economic engine, would they necessarily be optimized with respect to a) national interests, b) personal contentment and happiness, c) ones relation to the external world and d) survival of the human species?

Should one's education include components that help a person have an enjoyable life regardless of it's direct contributions to the economic engine?

What is the balance between skills (reading, writing, math, and critical thinking) and base knowledge (facts about government, history, science, etc.)?

Why does the current education system ignore relationships with others, effective intra-personal communication, understanding of self, emotions and their regulations, etc?

In my opinion the balance of education should be:

1. Skills (foundations of learning and knowledge)
Reading
Writing
Math and basic quantitative reasoning
Critical thinking
Formal oral/visual presentations
etc.

2. Base knowledge (i.e., what others have already discovered, done)
History
Geography
Literature
Government
Art and music appreciation
Scientific facts
etc.

3. Life skills (don't fail this)
Relationships
Effective interpersonal communication
Emotions and their regulations
Understanding of self
Personal Health and recreation
Teamwork
Goal setting and achievement
Budgeting (financial and time)

4. Passion (you have to get out of bed every ****ing day, better have a reason)
What makes you happy? Acting? Music? Sports? Writing? Science? More math? Computers? Using your hands? More literature? More history?

5. Anti-Passion (you'll be a better person for it)
Everything from the passion list that falls outside your comfort zone.

Distribution of the five groups by year in my next post.
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Old 09-19-2010, 01:58 AM   #9
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Here is how the effort should be distributed by year.

Note: through grade 5, the passion and non-passion categories are merged, such that students spend 20% of their time in various activities that will expose them to a broad spectrum of topics that could blossom into life-long passions. After grade 5, they can start specializing by emphasizing certain activities and de-emphasizing others.

I think passion for one's vocation is the biggest driver of innovation, which in turn is the driver of economic growth. The current system over emphasizes knowledge, and under emphasizes passion and life skills.
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Old 09-19-2010, 02:15 AM   #10
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Another thing:

Within each category there is individual student flexibility.

For example, if you are a Junior in HS and you're reading at a college level, and can write a five paragraph essay in your sleep, but are struggling to understand the geometry, you are going to be spending most of your skills time in math. If you want to read War and Peace, you can invest some of your passion time into that.

Within knowledge, if you better be able to recite the central dogma of biology and name the three branches of government and how they relate to the laws of the land. Each discipline has certain levels of knowledge that you need to know before your go walking around and screwing things up for everyone else. If you don't know a few basic things, you can't function in this society or contribute as a citizen.
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Old 09-19-2010, 02:25 PM   #11
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I think passion for one's vocation is the biggest driver of innovation, which in turn is the driver of economic growth. The current system over emphasizes knowledge, and under emphasizes passion and life skills.
A lot of your ideas are really interesting. I couldn't agree more with this one, though. Just spot on.

BTW, have you read Daniel Pink's Drive?
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Old 09-19-2010, 07:26 PM   #12
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A lot of your ideas are really interesting. I couldn't agree more with this one, though. Just spot on.

BTW, have you read Daniel Pink's Drive?
Nope. I don't read as much as I would like to.
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Old 09-19-2010, 07:59 PM   #13
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I'm really interested to see how Kansas City Public School District's new standards-based initiative will turn out.
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Old 09-19-2010, 08:35 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by alnorth View Post

Just because "no child left behind" has problems does not mean standardized testing is bad, there's a better way which is rapidly gaining popularity and acceptance all across the political spectrum: value added evaluations.

Yes, we get it that kids in that first urban school mentioned above might come in scoring low because the kids have home problems and less motivated parents. Test them when they come in, and then test them again when they are done with the level. Over a period of many cohorts of classes over several years, you have a statistically significant sample to look at. If you see that a teacher is handed a pile of struggling kids who can only manage to score in the bottom 10th percentile in the state and over the course of a year those kids improve to about the 30th percentile (so from "really terrible" to just "kinda crappy") we can probably conclude that the teacher was very effective in helping those kids even though they still left his or her class scoring below average. There are rigorous studies showing that, given enough years of data to work out the outliers, these value-added methods of evaluating teachers are highly predictive of how well that teacher will do with the next class they get. Likewise, we have also found that many teachers in "good" schools with rich parents may get a class full of brains and then, knowing they are going to score way above average no matter what, they can get lazy. If you are a teacher who consistently takes in kids scoring in the 90th percentile and you send them to the next grade scoring in the 70th percentile, you are bad at your job and should be flipping burgers or going back to college to train for something else even though your kids are still above average.
Al, you raise some interesting points.

I get the concept of "value added" scoring, but I have a question. Won't the new "game" just to be to have the students score as low as possible on the first test, so that it will be easy to get to the second test improvement? (perhaps by having the students take it during a rock concert and telling them not to worry much about it, e.g.).
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Old 09-19-2010, 08:40 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cdcox View Post
What is purpose of an individual's education?

Is it ONLY to make that person a productive member of the national economic engine?

To what extent should an education contribute to 1) citizenship, 2) appreciation of one's own culture and 3) appreciation of other cultures? If you optimized these to the needs of the economic engine, would they necessarily be optimized with respect to a) national interests, b) personal contentment and happiness, c) ones relation to the external world and d) survival of the human species?

Should one's education include components that help a person have an enjoyable life regardless of it's direct contributions to the economic engine?

What is the balance between skills (reading, writing, math, and critical thinking) and base knowledge (facts about government, history, science, etc.)?

Why does the current education system ignore relationships with others, effective intra-personal communication, understanding of self, emotions and their regulations, etc?

In my opinion the balance of education should be:

1. Skills (foundations of learning and knowledge)
Reading
Writing
Math and basic quantitative reasoning
Critical thinking
Formal oral/visual presentations
etc.

2. Base knowledge (i.e., what others have already discovered, done)
History
Geography
Literature
Government
Art and music appreciation
Scientific facts
etc.

3. Life skills (don't fail this)
Relationships
Effective interpersonal communication
Emotions and their regulations
Understanding of self
Personal Health and recreation
Teamwork
Goal setting and achievement
Budgeting (financial and time)

4. Passion (you have to get out of bed every ****ing day, better have a reason)
What makes you happy? Acting? Music? Sports? Writing? Science? More math? Computers? Using your hands? More literature? More history?

5. Anti-Passion (you'll be a better person for it)
Everything from the passion list that falls outside your comfort zone.

Distribution of the five groups by year in my next post.
This is pretty close to my view.

A core curriculum, with some room for elective interests the further along you are (unless you need remedial help).
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