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Thursday, October 04, 2007

From Bob Herbert of the NY Times

Bob Herbert, a columnist for the NY Times, wrote his column this week and it was simply titled,"Our Schools Must Do Better". His point is that the U.S. is not thinking of it in terms of nationwide progress.

"What’s needed is a wholesale transformation of the public school system from the broken-down postwar model of the past 50 or 60 years. The U.S. has not yet faced up to the fact that it needs a school system capable of fulfilling the educational needs of children growing up in an era that will be at least as different from the 20th century as the 20th was from the 19th.“We’re not good at thinking about magnitudes,” said Thomas Kane, a professor of education and economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “We’ve got a bunch of little things that we think are moving in the right direction, but we haven’t stepped back and thought, ‘O.K., how big an improvement are we really talking about?’ ”

Then he gets to a tough subject, teacher quality, but with an interesting idea:

"Concerned about raising the quality of teachers, states and local school districts have consistently focused on the credentials, rather than the demonstrated effectiveness — or ineffectiveness — of teachers in the classroom.

New forms of identifying good teachers and weeding out poor ones — by carefully assessing their on-the-job performance — have to be established before any transformation of American schools can occur.

This can be done without turning the traditional system of teacher tenure on its head. Studies have clearly shown that the good teachers and the not-so-good ones can usually be identified, if they are carefully observed in their first two or three years on the job — in other words, before tenure is granted.

Developing such a system would be difficult. But it’s both doable and essential. Getting serious about teacher quality as opposed to harping on tiny variations in test scores would be like moving from a jalopy to a jet."

He also continues into the minefield with this idea:

"The second area to be mined for potentially transformative effects is the wide and varied field of alternative school models. We should be rigorously studying those schools that appear to be having the biggest positive effects on student achievement. Are the effects real? If so, what accounts for them?

The Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), to cite one example, is a charter school network that has consistently gotten extraordinary academic results from low-income students. It has worked in cities big and small, and in rural areas. Like other successful models, it has adopted a longer school day and places great demands on its teachers and students."

I'm not for charters but it is worth the idea of looking in all directions for ideas to reach challenging children. I think KIPP may work well because, as a charter school, parents have to buy into and want their program. Desperate parents who want to escape failing schools may be parents willing to put the extra effort in a longer school day and more expectations.

As as been both alluded to and said outloud on this blog, parents are a key component. If the follow-thru isn't happening at home, it is just that much harder for a student to find academic success unless there strong mentorship at the school.

7 comments:

Dan Dempsey said...

A decent curriculum would help also. I just finished running my latest WASL analysis spreadsheet comparing Seattle Black and Hispanic populations with Bellevue over the last 10 years.

Care to take a guess at 2007 WASL Math pass rates for grades 4, 7, and 10.

Black at 4th 7th & 10th

Seattle 32% 24.1% 19.6%

Bellevue 25% 27.3% 17.9%



Hispanics 4th 7th & 10th

Seattle 43.4% 32.6% 31.3%

Bellevue 44.2% 34.7% 32.0%



White 4th 7th & 10th

Seattle 79.7% 73.2% 70.8%

Bellevue 83.9% 80.7% 73.0%


Interested in improvement check out some information on the International Curriculum used by the top performing nations in the world, compared with the defective Reform Math used in most of the USA. Thanks to over $100 million dollars of NSF funding to push this stuff on us and make publishers rich in the process.

Remember that Dr. G-J has us headed in the current fad direction of one size fits all. Uniformity of instruction. This has been in use in Bellevue for a while. Check the data above Bellevue used TERC Investigations and CMP just like Seattle. In Seattle we have seen an every widening achievement gap for children of color over the last decade. It is even larger in Bellevue over the last decade.

Project Follow Through found Direct Instruction far and away the superior method of instruction for disadvantaged learners k-3.

From AIR ( the American Institutes for Research ) –
Only three of the approaches examined--Direct Instruction, High Schools That Work, and Success for All--provide strong evidence that they positively impact student achievement.

So what does the SPS do?
Exploration and Inquiry the most ineffective instructional model available. The achievement gap continues to grow wider. Ms. Santorno's solution a different reform math program, with millions (annually) in coaching rather than smaller class sizes.

Here are the definitions:

The “international” faction curriculum is derived from research and practice in the Soviet Union in the 1930’s and 1940’s. These ideas first spread to Poland and Israel, and eventually to parts of Europe and to Asia, including Singapore, Japan, Korea, etc. It features a greatly reduced number of topics taught in each grade, the integration of algebra with arithmetic starting in the 1st grade, early memorization of the multiplication tables aided by algebra methods, traditional algorithms for multi-digit operations, and lots of drill. Also fairly sophisticated algebraic concepts introduced starting in the 4th grade, demanding topics taught by the 6th grade, mostly direct instruction by the teacher, and no calculators (Schmidt et al. 2002). This is now the dominant curriculum of the six leading TIMSS countries. California is the only state incorporating an international curriculum into their math standards (Hook et al. 2007).

The “reform” faction may be characterized as aligned with methods first set forth by the National Council of Teachers of Math (NCTM) in 1989. This approach features self-directed learning, group learning, many topics taught each year but never mastered and repeated annually until learned (Bruner’s concept of spiraling), and a greatly reduced emphasis on drill. Also greatly reduced use of traditional algorithms for multi-digit operations, use of calculators through the early grades, and algebra first introduced in the 9th grade. This latter model was the dominant curriculum in the U.S. during the 1990’s, and still is. Some early algebra was added to each grade in 2007, but it was not as aggressive as the algebra in the international curriculum. Also the added algebra further increased the large number of topics to be taught each year.

The Seattle answer is to ignore what is working at the top performing nations in the world and spend lots of money and resources on a program that has proven to be a failure for many elsewhere.

I thought it was a statutory responsibility to provide each child the opportunity for an adequate education. What do you think a court would find given Seattle's practices?

Dan

Anonymous said...

... which is why WASL will be abandoned sooner or later. Note, the math portion already has been. (postponed???, yeah right) California is very close to being sued into abandoing it's state test which yields even more disparate results.

Anonymous said...

"Direct Instruction" is something that worked? It works great getting kids to about the first grade level. What about after that? There's no emphasis on any comprehension, deep understanding (or even moderate), or appreciation of any literature or language, no native ability or curiosity fostered. A number of low performing, minority, schools have used it here in Seattle.... but dropped it. Did you ever wonder why? And no private school would ever use something so impoverished. BTW. My kids have both done "Direct Instruction"... so it's something I know about firsthand as a parent, and it does have SOME value.

Exclusive use of these impoverished curriculums on minority commumities is one of Kozol's key points against various school districts in the nation. He claims they have done nothing to resolve any acheivement gap. Fostering inquiry IS important.... and so is a balanced approach.

Dan Dempsey said...

Anon at 12:53,

I certainly believe as do you that exclusive use of direct instruction at most levels is not advised.

I believed that balance is needed. That is exactly what you will find in Singapore Math.

I do not know anyone who advocates against understanding. How to create deep understanding? is the question.

There is a reason the international standards have given rise to the incredible contributions in computer science and other technical fields. The rise of Samsung etc. is not due to direct instruction exclusively.

India is now working cooperatively with Singapore on further refinements to Singapore Math.

You will find many of the elite private schools in America - miles away from Core-Plus and IMP at the High School level.

Dan

Anonymous said...

The thing about Singapore and India (the nations) is that they either have incredibly low diversity.... or incredibly low education rates. People that we educate here in the USA... eg. EVERYONE... would never be considered in India to even be EDUCABLE. In India, they educate some tiny percentage of their population. So, while it sounds like a great idea to do whatever they're doing in India, it really isn't. Because in India, it's perfectly fine to have a caste society. It's perfectly fine if TONS of people never get educated. Sure, they have lots of people coming to colleges in the USA that Bill Gates can oggle (and point at for his foundation)... but that's because they have lots of people period. There are hordes more, that never go ANYWHERE, have low life expectancies, low literacy, and low education rates at even a very fundamental level. And for Singapore... it's basically a just a mono-cultural CITY. And that isn't a the very hard problem we are facing.... especially if you fail to educate anyone who is different or disabled. As good as any "international" curriculum may be.... they simply do not stand up to our standards or levels of universal education.

Anonymous said...

PS. I'd love to hear Bill Gates comment on the myriads of uneducated Indians (from India) and their future prospects.... rather than always lamment the elite few that compete in the USA, which has been great for him and great for the rest of us. The fact that many foreigners come here for college is a testament to our American universities and it isn't some kind of slam against our k12 system. What k12 system is universally better?

Dan Dempsey said...

Who is better???

From The Kapio Newspress, 2004

The United States is falling when it comes to international education rankings, as recent studies show that other nations in the developed world have more effective education systems.

In a 2003 study conducted by UNICEF that took the averages from five different international education studies, the researchers ranked the United States No. 18 out of 24 nations in terms of the relative effectiveness of its educational system.

Another prominent 2003 study, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, shows a steady decline in the performance of American students from grades 4 to 12 in comparison to their peers in other countries.

In both studies, Finland, Australia, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, Netherlands and the United Kingdom beat the United States, while the Asian nations of South Korea, Japan and Singapore ranked first through third, respectively.

“But the state of education in the United States is a serious situation that demands our attention.”