Monthly Archives: August 2012

Back to school Reiki

Okay, this entry is not going to be my traditional research based commentary on education; it may actually be a little more practical! With staff going back to work in many locations these next couple of weeks I thought I would share Back to school Reiki. I’m not sure I buy into reiki but the suggestions of taking a few minutes out of your day to center yourself as you transition from home to work to home seems imminently useful. It is very easy to get caught up in the minutiae of everyday teaching. Attention to detail can be good but so is a little distance when the time is right to prioritize and reflect. So take some time for yourself and sharpen you saw.

The Effect of Government on Education

Over the last two decades we have seen a significant increase in the amount of influence that the Federal government is willing to exercise in public schools. Some may argue that Federal intrusion goes back over 45 years with the passage of ESEA with the Department of education established in 1980 by Congress. Other countries with out the system of federalism established in the U.S. might consider the idea of federal “intrusion” as an odd notion. Historically, and on the Department of Educations own website,

Education is primarily a State and local responsibility in the United States. It is States and communities, as well as public and private organizations of all kinds, that establish schools and colleges, develop curricula, and determine requirements for enrollment and graduation.

However, with the passage of NCLB in 2001 we have the federal government taking a much more active role through legislation and using Title I funds for leverage. With NCLB, all states were given the task of having all students attain proficiency.

The ripple effects of this expectation continues to be felt through out the educational system over a decade later. Perhaps, according to plan, this has restructured many of the organizational routines in schools with a greater focus upon standardization, in many senses of that word. J. Spillane, L Parise and J. Sherer (2011) examine the impact upon organizational routines in schools of laws such as NCLB. Currently, routines have moved from being hindrance to such change to a mechanism which is currently making the standardization of curriculum, expectations, and instructional practices the new norm. Fifteen years ago the sort of standardization currently underway may have been seen as an anathema to meeting the needs of students. While some may still hold this view current expectations and accountability measures are used as the definition of meeting student needs. Accordingly, schools and school districts across the country have re-tooled there systems, missions, and visions to include the sort of standardization set forth by the Federal government.

The future holds even greater standardization as states move towards implementing a “Common Core”. States will, in the short future, work to align content standards. Some have said that this is a step towards adopting a national curriculum. Those who value the federalist ideal in the separation of powers and duties between states and the Federal government object to such a notion.

What are your thoughts? What should the role of government be in education? What are your thoughts on the changing reforms and standardization of schools?

Content vs Pedagogy

Content of Pedagogical knowledge, what’s more important? Is it more important to know what your talking about or to be able to deliver what you know so that others (students) understand? I’ve been in classrooms where the delivery was so poor I couldn’t understand what was being said or so boring I struggled to stay awake. I’ve also been in rooms where I seriously questioned if the person who was talking knew what they were talking about. Both situations are poor so the answer, of course, is that both are important. It’s not an “either/or”; it’a an “and”. Bausmith, JM and Barry, C. examine the question and suggest that because the level of content knowledge required can be very deep that schools may consider creating video libraries of lessons around some content area. Such a library would not only provide content knowledge but alignment of expectations and vocabulary across schools.

Effective Practices for English Learners

Addressing the needs of English Learners can be a challenge for some schools. However, there is a substantial amount of research around what are effective practices in meeting the needs of English Learners. Interestingly, the research is in line with my own research around highly effective schools. For example, K. Hakuta found that schools that used assessment data, had a clear focus on standards based instruction, and had high expectation of students were successful in meeting the needs of English Learners. Hakuta also adds important findings such as an explicit curriculum for English Learners and support to access core academic programs.