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Frank Noschese
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Modeling Physics has been taking this approach for a long time. You can watch a class in action: Also read my students reaction to how this type of learning blooms when standardized tests are eliminated:
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Or you could buy 9,000 $2 interactive whiteboards -- one for each pair of students in your district. Great post, as always!
Thanks to Don for inviting me to contribute! Since my experience is limited to HS science, I hope more teachers will leave comments on the blog. Dialogue among all K-L stakeholders is essential for the continued success of our students and our schools.
Bob says, "I would like to hear what folks think about [NCLB's] success or failure when it comes to the 12% of our children who are special needs students. When I was a Board member I heard it was a major success." I cannot address that, but if I recall, there are several parents who read this blog that might be willing to give you their perspective. Regarding metrics, I don't think Ms. Ravitch wants absolutely no testing. Ironically, the tests are typically high-stakes for the adults involved, not the children taking them. No wonder it has lead to some of the cheating and scandals that Ms. Ravitch writes about in an article Brent posted earlier. If society truly regards teachers as professionals, then it shouldn't be scary to leave it to educators to devise a plan. True professionals are self-regulating and self-policing. There are standards for what each student should know/be able to do as they progress through school. Educational professionals ensure that those standards are taught, and measure their students' progress toward achieving those standards. Measurement doesn't have to be a paper-and-pencil test. It could be as elaborate as a presentation, performance, or portfolio by the student. It could be as simple as an observation by the teacher while students are engaged in an activity. It could be an interview with the student. In fact, multiple measures are necessary to truly measure the impact of teachers and schools on their students. Granted, some people will feel the need for external evaluation. But, in my opinion, there is no need to test every student in every school every year in every subject. In Finland, I believe testing is done as a sampling, thus allowing more time for instruction. About the Smartboards: I thought we did can be a useful tool if used properly. KL students perform extremely well on all their exams, so I don't think NCLB is a problem for us (except for the time spent on reviewing and testing instead of on new instruction). All these exams really measure is economic privilege. Further reading: Stephen Raudenbush: How NCLB Testing Can Leave Some Schools Behind Measure for measures: What do standardized tests really tell us about students and schools? Why Obama, Duncan should read Linda Darling-Hammond’s new education book PS regarding colleges: Your example about colleges actually proves my point. Colleges do not rely solely on one metric (test scores). They use multiple meausures -- transcripts (which courses were taken as well as grades), SAT/ACT scores, teacher recommendations, student essays, portfolios and performances (art/music schools), interviews, etc. As far as I know, colleges do NOT get the results of HS level NCLB tests, except in the states that use them for final exams (like the Regents in NY). And how will parents know how things are going? They can talk to their children, their teachers, and their principals!
Frank Noschese is now following Don Scott
Jun 10, 2010
Jill: I am glad we agree on the need for inquiry and field work rather than memorization of facts out of context, which is what research supports as well. I asked because some people believe the opposite and I wanted to find out your perspective first. Where do we go from here? I don't know. A one day workshop will not do. I know from my own experience that changing paradigms requires sustained effort and support. Embarrassingly, I've never been to an elementary classroom. And as a parent, you only have seen what happens in certain rooms at one school. Perhaps Tri-State will set something in motion. Perhaps things aren't as bad as perceived. Alice Cronin, are you out there? Maybe there are teachers out there reading this and looking for support. A book highly recommended by several people is: Ready, Set, SCIENCE!: Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms. It is free to read online, or you can purchase a hardcopy. From the book: Four Strands of Science Learning: Strand 1: Understanding Scientific Explanations Strand 2: Generating Scientific Evidence Strand 3: Reflecting on Scientific Knowledge Strand 4: Participating Productively in Science Strand 1 "focuses on concepts and the links between them rather than on discrete facts. It also includes the ability to use this knowledge. ... Part of this strand involves learning the facts, concepts, principles, laws, theories, and models of science." Strand 2 encompasses the knowledge and skills needed to build and refine models and explanations, design and analyze investigations, and construct and defend arguments with evidence. ..." Strand 3 "focuses more on how scientific knowledge is constructed. That is, how evidence and arguments based on that evidence are generated. It also includes students' ability to reflect on the status of their own knowledge." "Students recognize that predictions or explanations can be revised on the basis of seeing new evidence, learning new facts, or developing a new model." Strand 4 "calls for students to understand the appropriate norms for presenting scientific arguments and evidence and to practice productive social interactions with peers in the context of classroom science investigations. It also includes the motivation and attitudes that provide a foundation for students to be actively and productively involved in science classrooms. ... Strand 4 is often completely overlooked by educators, yet research indicates that it is a critical component of science learning, particularly for students from populations that are underrepresented in science. ..." More support can be found from the National Science Teacher's Association. They have a peer reviewed journal specifically for elementary science education called Science & Children The NSTA Bookstore also has great resources. The top selling book right now is Using Science Notebooks in Elementary Classrooms! For elementary teachers who seek National Board Certification, they must submit (as part of a larger portfolio) a video of them teaching a combined math/science lesson. There is to be evidence of inquiry, intellectual engagement, discussion, and content in the video and the use of appropriate science and mathematical instructional materials. So I could see the NB process as way to focus instruction on inquiry. And I know the HS and MS people want to help. Like I said before, we all have much to learn from each other! A more extreme option: some schools have an elementary science specialist (district-wide and/or building-wide). Sometimes the specialist "pushes into" the classroom. At other schools, there is a dedicated science lab for the specialist. I don't foresee that happening here in this economy anytime soon. And one final caveat: Hands-on activities are not necessarily inquiry activities. And, inquiry activities do not have to be hands-on. Here are three video snippets of different ES/MS science lessons: (1) Watersheds (2) Life Cycle of a Plant (3) Magnetism Can anyone identify the "weak" lesson(s)? Support your choice(s) with evidence.
FIRST Robotics is an incredible program and requires massive amounts of time and money (through sponsorships). I applaud all the teachers, students, parents, and community members who are able to participate. I know a teacher in Minnesota who leads his school's FIRST team. I don't know how he has time to do it with 2 small kids at home and 3 teaching preps. After the competition is over, they immediately start planning for next year! You gotta watch these two YouTube videos: FIRST Robotics Competition Student Voices 2010 FIRST Championship Wrap Video Absolutely inspiring!
Toggle Commented Jun 10, 2010 on at KL Board Buzz
@Jill: Unfortunately, we are isolated here at the high school. There have been requests for HS and MS teachers to meet during staff development time. Denied. There have been requests for ES and MS teachers to meet. Denied. Which doesn't make any sense, since the district is up for a K-12 Tri-State evaluation in Science this year into next year. There was one ray of hope recently -- two HS teachers each went to an ES during a staff day to meet with teachers. Hopefully, this is the beginning of increased collaboration ... we all have a lot to learn from each other, which will in turn benefit students. Jill, you say the ES and MS curriculum is weak. I can't make any comments b/c I don't know what goes on outside the HS. Can you share why you feel that way? (Please focus on curricular issues, not individual teachers.) Jill, regarding teachers: I think a focus on "substandard" teachers is a short term solution to a much bigger problem. Let's say you can identify all the "doozies" in a school (which is another topic for discussion altogether). Let's say you can get rid of them all tomorrow. Who's going to fill their places? In math and science, the pool of talented and qualified teachers is really small. I know, having been on both sides of the interview table. Focus not on bad teachers, but rather on uplifting the profession to a higher status, so more talent would consider teaching a viable option. Those in the public who feel "teaching is a calling" really just excuse the poor working conditions and support many teachers nationwide receive. So first, (science) teaching must be elevated to a profession that is as respected (and reimbursed) as other science careers. That's how you increase the number and the quality of applicants. But what happens after these talented teachers are in the classroom? Did you know that 50% of teachers change professions within the first 5 years? Now we need have to have support systems in place to retain teachers (which in turn raises professionalism and would attract more talent). Part of that support needs to come in the form collaboration. A previous posting about the Bedford contract worried me: the district wanted to assign teachers different #s of periods based on workloads. Unfortunately it seemed the focus was on INCREASING periods, with no mention of the possibility of decreasing them as well. In my opinion, brand new teachers need a lighter schedule and time to meet with a mentor in the same subject. The mentor should also have a reduced schedule. (Extra money for mentoring is nice, but I'd rather have time.) And remember Dan Meyer, the math teacher/blogger who gave a TED talk that was posted a while ago? He has taught for five years at the same school in California. He has only taught remedial students (also unfair for new teachers, IMHO). This past year he had one foot out the classroom door -- he worked part-time at school and part-time for Google in curriculum development. Next year he moves on to graduate school at Stanford -- another talented teacher has left the classroom. Anyway, if you've made it this far, thanks. I don't think I've answered your question, but I hope I have illustrated that the solution isn't so black-and-white as other people think it is.
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Jun 10, 2010