"Right now, we are lost in terms of what's the purpose of education," said Zhao, addressing a crowd of nearly 5,000 in the packed San Diego Convention Center. "We are in the U.S. pushing for the idea of Race to the Top. But race to the top of what?"
Zhao pointed to results from PISA, an international exam that measures students' skills and knowledge in a variety of countries as a widely recognized yardstick for determining the quality of a country's education. However, many of the countries that rank highest in PISA results—China, South Korea, and Singapore, to name a few—rank lowest on entrepreneurial skills, which correspond to stronger economies, Zhao argued.
"We have to abandon the idea of reducing people's talents into employable skills," and instead foster an education system that "enhances human capacity" and cultivates each students' talents, said Zhao.
"Every talent is useful. Do not pre-judge it," he said, using pop culture icon Lady Gaga as an example. "Curriculum should follow the child. It's not about fixing someone's deficit; it's about enhancing their strength," he said.
What was interesting is that while I think most of us would believe this sounds good, as Ed Week points out, you would have to revamp our entire K-12 ed system to do it.
Again, from Ed Week, an interesting story about "flipping classrooms" which we briefly discussed here once. Basically, it's the idea of how teachers use their "face time" with students. (What I had heard about first was this idea of students having a computer or DVD with the lesson, listening at home and then doing the homework in class with the teacher.)
The flipped classroom has become somewhat synonymous with using videos to have students view lectures at home while in-class time is used for applied knowledge. However, as the educators on the panel talked about, not all flipped classrooms work quite that way. The conversation starts, said Jonathan Bergmann, by asking how your in-class, face-to-face time is best used. For some teachers, that is pre-recording lectures and doing hands-on activities in class. For others, it is presenting information and then supplementing the more difficult aspects of the lesson with videos.
Many of the educators talked about pre-recording certain topics that students consistently ask about, such as "How do I get to Google Docs?" and "What does MLA formatting look like?" Then, instead of having to answer the question over and over, teachers can simply point those students to a video. "It's a better use of time for the students to learn more efficiently and for us to all collaborate and learn in the class," said Eric Marcos, a math teacher from Santa Monica, Calif.
Should there be more on-line learning in SPS?
A disturbing trend in some state - expand school choice for students with disabilities as a backdoor way to allow vouchers for all. From Ed Week, a story about the state of Arizona creating a "scholarship" program for students with disabilities that they just expanded to other groups like students at "D-graded" schools, children of active military and children adopted out of foster care.
Earlier this year I wrote about how school choice programs, especially private school vouchers, often begin with students with disabilities. Those programs, largely unchallenged, are then expanded to include other groups of students.
Why? Generally, it comes across poorly to protest programs intended for students with special needs, several experts told me at the time.
I can't seem to find if I put this story up but it's kind of funny. It offers ideas about how to cut back on the severe teacher turnover at charters - it's about 25% versus 14% in traditional schools.
Charter school teachers, for instance, tend to be relatively young, and more susceptible to making quick exits from the profession, some studies suggest. Dissatisfaction with working conditions, and lack of administrative support have also been cited as reasons why charter teachers tend to head for the door.
The steps offered?
- Build a culture of "mutual feedback," in which administrators not only allow offer guidance and instruction to teachers, but also accept it from the educators on staff. Doing so is likely to improve student achievement, the authors argue, and strengthen teachers' belief in the school.
• Protect teachers' time for teaching. Charters should be "vigilant" in protecting teachers' planning time so they can improve their craft, and find creative ways to ease up on the other work they're asked to do—like lunch duty and study hall. Reducing those non-academic burdens will help reduce burnout, the paper says.
• Create career pathways for teachers. Too few charter schools today offer any room for advancement, the paper says. And when they do give teachers leadership duties, it doesn't come with relief from teaching duties, on their other end. Charter schools need to work harder to develop career ladders, based on what teachers say are the kinds of leadership roles they would want, the paper argues.
• Become more attuned to the personal needs of teachers. Charter schools' schedules and expectations "can wear down even the most idealistic and energetic hires," the paper says.
From the Birmingham News, Alabama's governor says he's not going to push lawmakers in the fall toward a charter school bill. It had been a priority for many senior GOP legislators.
Despite strong Republican majorities in both houses of the Legislature, last year's charter school legislation got almost nowhere. As expected, the influential Alabama Education Association mounted a vigorous fight against the bill. But, unexpected opposition from public school administrators and many public school systems, including many in GOP suburbs worried that they might lose students to charter schools, derailed the bill.
"There was just very little support for the charter school bill, including among Republicans," the governor said. "I think what we saw was a lot of attention and effort on only one way to address failing schools and that way just did not enjoy the support of lawmakers, and I don't think it will do much better next year."
Instead, Bentley said he thinks lawmakers should push to enhance laws already on the books that give state schools leaders and schools systems the power to attack the problem of failing schools, a problem that Bentley said is a top priority of his.
"My decision not to bring a charter school bill should not be seen as a decision not to do something about failing schools," said Bentley. "We are not going to allow some schools to continue to fail students. I think we have tools in the box to help us do a better job of addressing failing schools, such as reconstituting schools, putting in new principals, changing out teachers, the state coming in and taking over some schools like what is happening in Birmingham. We have things we can do without charters."
Interesting thoughts, Governor.