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Bryan Goodwin
Denver, Colorado
Vice President for Communications and Marketing at McREL.
Recent Activity
Trevor, Without a doubt, student input is crucial to school improvement success. Moreover, a directive approach to leadership is bound to fail if it's pushing the wrong agenda, one that doesn't respond to student needs. Thanks for your comments! Bryan Goodwin
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Often, schools mired in low performance feel as if they could just hit upon some new insight, strategy, or approach that has been eluding them, they could be more successful. Yet when my McREL colleagues and I visit schools, we often find ourselves telling them something quite different: “The answers are in the room.” Most schools don’t need someone to parachute in with a bold new idea or insight; the things that research says works are usually already being done by someone, somewhere in the building. What schools really need to do is simply find their own bright spots, share them, and encourage others to do what great educators know works well. I was reminded of that when earlier this month when I had the privilege of speaking to teachers from Madison City Schools in Alabama. My talk was preceded (and admittedly, upstaged) by presentations from the district’s teachers of the year, Cindy Rhodes and Amy Thaxton. Ms. Rhodes, a 25-year veteran teacher, offered a top 10 list of tips for new teachers, which included such sage advice as “Always have a plan – and just in case that plan doesn’t work, have a backup,” “Greet your kids every day at the door,” and “Tell [your students] you have faith in them and they will learn to have faith in themselves.” Ms. Thaxton was introduced by a former student who praised her ability to connect with students. She showed a short excerpt from a TED talk given recently by teacher... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2013 at McREL Blog
According to a recent analysis, compared to an average teacher, a good teacher (in the 84th percentile) generates as much as $400,000 in increased future earnings for her class of 20 students. So if we define the benefits of teachers in financial terms alone, it would appear that paying six figures to attract and retain great teachers in the classroom might be defensible given the three- to four-fold return on that investment for society. So why don’t we pay teachers more? One might assume it’s because we invest too little in public education. The reality, though, is quite the opposite. As I note in my latest column in Educational Leadership, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that in the last 40 years the United States has more than doubled its spending on K–12 education and now outspends almost every other country in the world—devoting 4 percent of GDP to K–12 education compared with, for example, Japan’s 2.6 percent. Strangely, though, while more dollars were funneled to education, average teacher salaries actually declined about 2 percent per year since 1970 when calculated in terms of per capita GDP. U.S. teacher salaries now rank fourth from the bottom among 34 competitor countries in terms of teachers’ relative spending power. It’s probably no coincidence that this decline in salaries occurred at the same time that U.S. schools went on a hiring spree. Between 1980 and 2007, the number of teachers increased by 46 percent, more than twice the rate of student... Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2011 at McREL Blog
As I wrote recently in Educational Leadership, grade inflation appears to be a real phenomenon with costly consequences for students. From 1992–2006, the percentage of American high school students who reported earning an A or A-minus average nearly doubled (from 18.3%–32.8%). An analysis of student work in Oregon concluded that most high school students receiving Bs (and many receiving As) are not doing work on par with college expectations for entry-level students. Perhaps as a result, more than 30 percent of freshmen drop out of college each year, costing taxpayers in excess of $1 billion per year in wasted grants and state appropriations to colleges. Is there any way to stop grade inflation? One solution, some offer, is to open up the “black box” of teacher grades, which can be as carefully guarded as secret recipes, making it difficult to determine what actually goes into a student grade. As a result, one teachers’ A can be another’s C grade. More than 20 years ago, in Spain’s Basque Country, a small high school stumbled onto what appears to be a simple antidote to grade inflation. In 1990, a small school in the Gipuzkoa province purchased new software that began automatically placing on report cards, with little apparent forethought from school officials, information about where students stood relative to the average grade in their class. Immediately, student grades shot up 5 percent (an increase, according to researchers who later analyzed the school’s data, on par with lowering class sizes from 22 to... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2011 at McREL Blog
For as long as letter grades have been around, so too, have fears of grade inflation. As far back as the 1890s, Harvard University professors were wringing their hands about students earning “sham” grades that would “seriously cheapen” the university’s reputation if the outside world were to learn of them. That so many people could worry about the same phenomenon for so long begs the question of whether such concerns are merely successive generations of curmudgeons grumbling about the declining standards of youth or grounded in reality. As I write in my latest column in Educational Leadership, recent data suggests that such concerns today may be indeed have some basis in fact. Here are but two data points: Nearly twice as many high school students reported earning an A or A-minus average in 2006 than in 1992 (32.8 percent versus 18.3 percent). In 2007, two federal reports found that the performance of U.S. high school students on the reading portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) had declined between 1992 and 2005, even as average student GPA rose from 2.68 to 2.98. Some critics dismiss these data because they rely on student self-reports of their grades, which, itself could suggest an equally troubling conclusion: that today’s students are more “truth challenged” than in the past. Test companies which collect these data, however, say their analyses suggest that self-reports are sufficiently reliable to use for research purposes. The real question, though, may well be whether today’s grades accurately assess... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2011 at McREL Blog
Nelson Munz. His image may come to mind for many of us when we think about bullies. (For those of you who don’t watch, or are too high-brow to admit to watching, The Simpsons, Nelson is the quintessential bully on the show, known for his mocking, doorbell-chime hah-hah laugh.) That’s how many of us may think of bullies—as a social outcast waiting in the back hallway to extort lunch money from wimps. Sure, we’ve probably all known (and perhaps even handed over milk money to) a Nelson Munz or two, but the reality is that most bullies aren’t like him at all. As I report in the September 2011 issue of Educational Leadership, most bullying is psychological, not physical. And it’s often popular kids who do the bullying—including girls. Not only is the popular perception of bullying off the mark, so too, researchers note, are our common responses to it. Often, we tend to focus on the victims, encouraging them to stick up for themselves or find adults to help. But that appears to be the exact wrong approach—and a key reason that so many anti-bullying programs are ineffective. Rather than seeing bullying as a psychological aberrance, we must see and treat it as a natural social phenomenon. To combat bullying, adults enlist the support of the entire school community, including teachers, parents, and student bystanders, who witness an estimated 85 percent of bullying cases, to create a school culture in which bullying is no longer socially beneficial, but rather... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2011 at McREL Blog
In my latest “research says” column in Educational Leadership, I report that a new slew of “gold-standard” studies has unearthed (somewhat inadvertently) that in a lot of cases, educators really aren’t very good at the whole implementation thing. The studies, commissioned by the Institute for Education Sciences within the U.S. Department of Education, were carefully constructed with impressive sample sizes and rigorous statistical analyses. They found little or no effects for several popular education programs, such as Odyseey Math and Rick Stiggins’ Classroom Assessment for Student Learning. Yet, almost without exception, the programs in question were so poorly implemented that it’s difficult to determine if they—or the poor implementation—were the reason for the weak results. In other words, the programs might have actually worked had they only been implemented with fidelity.' This may be true of many education approaches and reforms, which ultimately get thrown on the trash heap because we believe they don’t work, when in reality, they may work just fine when they’re implemented well. On the upside, we have seen a lot of improvements in education (for example, great teaching and curricula that challenge and engage students, to name just two) that can have a tremendous impact on student success … when done well. In fact, most of the big impact approaches aren’t new at all. For decades, we’ve known that teachers setting high expectations, being a “warm demander,” and intentionally matching instructional strategies to learning goals really do work. We just need to do these things... Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2011 at McREL Blog
In a new documentary film, Joe Cross, an affable Aussie, who after tipping the scales at 310 pounds and contracting a rare auto-immune disorder, decides to spend 60 days drinking only fruit and vegetable juices. The film follows Cross as he traverses America, Johnny Appleseed style, to inform patrons of truck stops and small town diners about the wonders of an all-juice diet. At first, Cross seems to be hocking yet another fad diet (unsuccessfully, judging by the puckered faces of juice drinkers) that’s based, like many fad diets, on a reductio ad absurdum: fruits and vegetables are good, so cut everything else from your diet. Other diets, of course, proclaim that protein is good, so eat as much meat as you want, just cut out carbs. Some food producers would have us believe that fat is the enemy, so eat what you want, as long as it’s fat-free (Voila! Guiltless cookies!). The truth, we know, lies somewhere between: with a balanced diet and exercise. Like the diet industry, education has had its fair share of fads, past and present, which similarly, have taken good ideas to their illogical extremes. Here are but a few: Too much lecturing is bad; therefore, no lecturing is good. Self-guided learning is good; therefore, classrooms should be completely open—free of uniform curricula, grade-level expectations, doors, and even walls. Good teachers help most kids learn more, so better teachers alone will ensure all kids succeed. Simply Better: What Matters Most to Change the Odds for... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2011 at McREL Blog
The classroom lecture. It’s been criticized, despised, even lampooned. An entire generation can probably recite the lines to Ben Stein’s dead-pan, droning lecture in the 1986 film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. (“Anyone?... Anyone?”) But lectures aren’t necessarily bad. In fact , they can be an efficient way to help students acquire new knowledge. The problem with lectures, though, is often a matter of pacing. For some students, the information may come too slowly or repeat information they already know. Result: boredom. For others, a lecture may provide too much information too rapidly or presume prior knowledge students don’t have. If students zone out for a moment, they may miss important content and be lost for the rest of the lecture. Result: confusion. After a hit-or-miss lecture, teachers often give homework assignments, which students perform in what may be a private hell of frustration and confusion. What did my teacher said about cross-multiplying? Comma use in compound sentences? The Laffer Curve? A new generation of enterprising teachers is beginning to turn this classroom model on its head, creating what are called “flipped” or “inverted" classrooms. Using simple web software, they record and post their lectures online, creating mini-lectures similar to what Salman Khan has created with his Khan Academy collection of more than 2,000 online lessons. (Click here to view Khan’s recent TED talk). In these inverted classrooms, students watch the lectures at home, where they’re able to speed up content they already understand or stop and review content they don’t... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2011 at McREL Blog
Dave Orphal, over at the Learning 2030 blog, offers this nice review of McREL's latest book, The Future of Schooling, available from Solution Tree Press. In his review, Orphal praises the book for its timeliness. He notes, for example, that one of the critical uncertainties identified in the book---whether the outcomes of education will be standardized or differentiated---is currently playing out in the "movement to national common core standards" being countered by critiques from "Sir Ken Robinson and Daniel Pink who argue that standardization is exactly the wrong direction to go." Orphal also praises the book for its balanced view on these issues, noting that the authors take "great pains to not reveal where they stand in some of the hottest educational debates raging the country." He adds, "Neither pro-Rhee nor pro-union; neither pro-testing nor pro-authentic assessment; neither pro-charter nor anti-charter, there is plenty in this book to anger every side of our overly partisan educational reform circles." Our intent is not to anger anyone. Rather, it's to provoke thinking about what the future may hold, to move people out of their comfort zones so that they can begin to prepare themselves for what may lie ahead. As we write in the book, "Some of these potential futures may capitvate and energize you; others may dishearten and frigthen you. Some may do all of the above. That's the point." Read Orphal's entire review here. Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2011 at McREL Blog
As a growing number of cash-strapped districts face staffing cuts, district leaders are pondering the potentially negative impact of “first in, first out” rules for layoffs. The concern, of course, as highlighted in a recent study by Dan Goldhaber at the Center for Education Data and Research is that letting teachers go based solely on seniority will likely result in some good teachers losing their jobs while less effective ones remain in the classroom. And as Marguerite Roza at the Center on Reinventing Public Education has determined, laying off teachers at the bottom of the pay scale requires larger job cuts to balance budgets. The impact on students of letting go the newest teachers instead of lowest-performing ones, according to Goldhaber, could be an estimated 2.5 to 3.5 months of learning per year. So why don’t districts take teacher performance into account when making difficult reduction-in-force decisions? One reason is collective bargaining rules—those hundred page documents that dictate all sorts of rules and procedures about hiring and firing teachers. Another is that many districts, even if they could dismiss ineffective teachers, often don’t know who they are. For starters, as The New Teacher Project has noted, many teachers are not evaluated every year. On top of that, when teachers are evaluated, a sort of “grade inflation” exists with many current teacher performance evaluations. An examination of teacher evaluations in Colorado, found for example, that nearly 100 percent of teachers receive favorable ratings on their performance reviews. To cut through the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2011 at McREL Blog
@Lynda Brenckle Lynda, that's a good question and one of concern to us as well. In fact, the Colorado Department of Education, which sponsored this work, stated from the outset that they didn't want the gaps to be closed at the expense of top performers. Fortunately, the data collected by the state show that is NOT occurring: scores of both top and low performers have been improving in Summit; the low performers have just been improving by more. A simple explanation for this is that thoughtful, intentional instruction benefits all students, raising their achievement across the board. But it's particularly beneficial for those students who have traditionally been low perfomers. High performers often bring a lot of "learning capital"---such as background knowledge, supportive learning environments at home and a strong sense of self-efficacy to the classroom---so they may tend to learn even when instruction is inadequate (e.g., they may already understand much of what's being taught, be willing to work through their confusion, or have someone at home to ask for an explanation of what wasn't taught well in the classroom). Lower performing students, on the other hand, may not always have all those benefits. So when teachers become more intentional about articulating objectives, matching instructional strategies with those objectives, encouraging a "growth mindset" among students, checking for understanding, and re-teaching content or providing additional learning supports as needed, those strategies can help to make up for deficits low-performing students bring to the classroom. That said, what we've seen in Summit and elsewhere is that high-performers also benefit from better instruction. Bryan
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Want to hear a simple, surefire way to get kids interested in what you're teaching? First, think back to your childhood. For kids, the world can be a wonderful, mysterious place. That's why, as any parent knows, children are naturally full of questions. Why is the sky blue? Why do I dream? Why do birds fly south for the winter? The list goes on and on. As we grow up, we solve these mysteries and fill our heads with facts. Over time, we start to forget what made things so interesting to us in the first place. As teachers, it's easy for us to take a Joe Friday "just-the-facts, ma'am" approach to teaching. As a result, we blow the suspense for children. We come right out and tell them the answers to the mystery, rather than building their interest by posing questions such as, "Have you ever seen a shooting star? What do you suppose that is?" A few years ago, Robert Cialdini, a psychologist at Arizona State University, wrote an article titled, "What's the secret device for engaging student interest? Hint: The answer is in the title." After sifting through dozens of dry science articles, Cialdini found that engaging science writers take a different approach: they pose a question, for example, "What are the rings of Saturn made of? Rock or ice?" Then they build suspense and mystery before finally resolving the mystery. The answer, in this case (spoiler alert!), is both. Teachers, can, of course, do the same... Continue reading
Posted Jan 11, 2011 at McREL Blog
In his This Week in Education blog today, Alexander Russo wonders if the education community will finally "move off its duff" and begin conducting more scientifically based research. His point is well taken: unfortunately, there's still not a lot of top-quality, "gold standard" research out there to help educators answer important questions about which programs or approaches work and which don't. The good news, though, is that's beginning to change. We are on the verge of seeing a deluge of new randomized control trials emerging in the coming months from the Institute of Education Sciences regional laboratory program (for which McREL adminsters the laboratory for the Central region of the U.S.). To see a list of these studies (23 in all, three from the REL Central at McREL), go here. And stay tuned. Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2010 at McREL Blog
Alexander, Thanks for bringing light to the need for rigorous research in education. The good news is that there has been a shift toward more randomized control trials in our field. To wit: the regional educational laboratory program (a network of 10 labs funded by the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education) is supporting many large-scale, carefully conducted scientifically based research studies. Over the next year or so, findings will be released from these studies (23 in all). Collectively, they should add a lot to the body of scientific education research. Learn more here: Bryan Goodwin McREL
Thanks to everyone who posted here recently. I wish I could take credit for the insights, but they really belong to two great educators who work here at McREL, Jane Hill and Cynthia Bjork. I'd encourage you all to add Classroom Instruction that Works with English Language Learners to your reading list. It has a lot of great insights, especially for mainstream teachers who have limited English proficient students in their classes.
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Nicely stated, Heather. By the way, your sentiment echoes the underlying message of our report, Changing the Odds for Student Success ( Research points to many powerful ways that teachers and schools CAN influence student achievement without waiting for Superman, some new innovation, or a new policy to save the day.
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Smaller isn’t better; personalized is better An MDRC study that came out in June reporting on the impact of New York City’s small schools of choice initiative has recently appeared in the spotlight again, thanks to a September 27 commentary in Education Week from Michelle Cahill of the Carnegie Corporation and Robert Hughes of New Visions, a public education network affiliate in New York City. It was also picked up in this morning’s Public Education Network newsletter. The title of the Ed Week commentary, “Small Schools, Big Difference,” may raise some eyebrows, though, especially for those who remember the Gates Foundation’s $1 billion misadventure with small schools. The disappointing results of this effort eventually prompted then-director of the Foundation’s education programs, Tom Vander Ark, to tell Education Week that, “I visited 100 great schools and made the observation that they were all small, autonomous, and assumed that was a path to school improvement. It turns out that giving a failing school autonomy is a bad idea.” Yes, the small schools in New York City are showing promise—their students (the vast majority of whom are poor and minority) have a 6.8 percent higher graduation rate than a similar group of students in the city’s mostly large, comprehensive high schools. All of that is good news and worthy of further examination and, probably, replication. The headline given to Cahill and Hughes’ Ed Week commentary, however, is only partially correct. The authors of the MDRC report actually caution against concluding simply that small... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2010 at McREL Blog
Kim, My understanding is that while the core of the staff development focused on the nine strategies in Classroom Instruction that Works that Candy Hyatt, the McREL consultant who led the sessions, also focused on helping teachers understand the stages of language acquistion (as presented in another book, Classroom Instruction that Works with English Language Learners). She also helped teachers examine their own mindsets, drawing on the work of Carol Dweck, which is cited in the Changing the Odds report. As to how teachers could squeeze in the PD with everything else they need to do, I believe that Candy's approach was to ask them to immediately apply what they were learning in their own classrooms, so that it didn't feel like an extra add-on or something disconnected from the realities of the classrooms, but rather, support for what they need to do. If you want to learn more, I'd recommend you contact Candy directly. I'm sure she'd be happy to speak with you. Here's a link to her contact info online:
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Imagine a big ball of rock and ice hurtling through space that grows a tail as it approaches the sun. Can you picture that? Well, maybe not. You might wonder, what kind of tail? Is it long like a monkey’s, curled like a pig’s, or bobbed like a poodle’s? Well, none of those, I might tell you. It’s more like a jet condensation trail, only a little wider and not as long—relatively speaking, that is. But what if you’d never actually seen a con trail—or a monkey or poodle tail for that matter. We could go on like this forever, playing a sort of 20 questions game, each of us becoming more exasperated. Obviously, if I could just show you the image of a comet, you would quickly understand what I’m describing. That’s the challenge science teachers face, though, when trying to help students with visual impairments grasp difficult science concepts: They can’t rely on simple images from textbooks. They must help students use manipulative and tactile tools to “see” what they’re learning. For the past three years, McREL has been working with Edinboro University, Tactile Learning Adventures, and the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind to develop an intervention to help teachers create tactile graphics and written descriptions for visually impaired students. The project, titled ACE (for Adapted Curriculum Enhancements) and funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, has created and studied the effectiveness of materials and lessons designed to help grades 6–12 mainstream... Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2010 at McREL Blog
I appreciate the insights of everyone who has responded to this blog. As many of you mentioned technology, let me touch on it briefly. Technology is a key driver of change in all four of the scenarios we present in the book. We found it difficult, if not impossible, to imagine a future in which technology has not changed education in some fairly dramatic ways. That said, the key question that remains is for what purpose technology will be used? In one scenario, for example, we envision students using technology to customize their own learning experiences. In another, we imagine a world in learning is very standardized and technology is used to rank and compare students---not just in their states, but across the world. In other words, while we tend to think of technology as changing our world and society, the reality may be more that technology tends to accelerate trends already in place.
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Susan, I agree with your perspective. In fact, one of the researchers interviewed for the article, Michael Thompson, makes the comment in the article that there's no such thing as "violent play"---that is, play should never involve physically hurting someone else. So letting boys be boys doesn't mean giving them permission to hurt each other. To the contrary, it should help them understand how to impose their own limits on their behavior. Bryan
Toggle Commented Oct 13, 2010 on Should educators let boys be boys? at McREL Blog
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Linda, Certainly, with a small percentage of disadvantaged students, it's easier to target resources for them. However, I can tell you that the focus of Summit's approach was really to improve instruction in every classroom for all students. In other words, they weren't necessarily targeting their low-performing kids, but rather the overall quality of instruction across the entire district. If you'd like more information, feel free to contact Candy Hyatt (303.632.5616) at McREL. She's the one who has been working with Summit and would be happy to give you more details about the approach Summit has been taking. Here's a link to her contact info online: Bryan
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“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” ~ Yogi Berra. Clearly, change is in the air these days in education, whether we’re Waiting for Superman, racing to the top, dotting our three i’s, or wondering how tea party politics may change the face of Washington. In light of all these changes and uncertainties, the question on many minds is likely, where is it all leading? The most truthful answer anyone can give to that question is this one: nobody knows for sure. It’s simply not possible to predict how all of these various trends will come together to shape a new future. That doesn’t mean, though, that we can’t prepare ourselves for it. The trick is to consider multiple, alternative futures and begin to envision how we—or our districts, schools, or students—might flourish in each. In a new book from McREL to be released this month by Solution Tree Press, we analyze current and emerging trends in a wide array of areas, including politics, the economy, technology, and society. After analyzing these trends, we offer, not a prediction of the future, but four, very different scenarios for what the future may hold. The scenarios in the book, titled The Future of Schooling: Educating America in 2020, are designed to provoke readers to ponder many “what if,” questions, including: What if the current, multibillion-dollar federal investment in education succeeds in identifying and scaling up numerous innovations that transform schooling as we know it? What if, on the other hand,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2010 at McREL Blog
Linda, According to the Summit website ( 26.7% of the district's students are Hispanic, 30.7% receive free and reduced lunch, 24.3% are English language learners, and 10.6% have special needs. Those are the district-wide numbers---some schools have greater concentrations of disadvantaged students than others, of course. Bryan
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