Category Archives: Education Trends

Data use is world wide

It’s great to see practices you believe in being used in far off areas. Case in point: Wales, England. Sandfield Comprehensive School in southern Wales serves students in a high poverty area and was under threat of being closed because of it’s performance. While many practices were implemented to address the needs of the students, one of the key strategies was the use of data. Large swaths of  data was generated and viewable by relevant staff in real time. Attendance, assessment, disciplinary action, all in real time and meaningful to front line and relevant support staff. Over time, as teachers and staff entered more data about each students, the data became richer and deeper providing a comprehensive view of each student. Accordingly over time, this provided for more informed decision making when it came time to address the needs of students from an individual or system wide basis. Because this database is locally constructed and maintained it can also be adjusted to meet the needs of the entire system. For more information about how this school made the turn around go to http://bit.ly/1zpDm60

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A sense of urgency vs a sense of crisis?

Do you work in a culture with a sense of urgency or a sense of crisis? What is the difference? Jim Collins, author of

    Good to Great

, briefly describes the negative impact of working with a sense of crisis. In a sense of crisis, organizations run from one solution to the next wildly grasping at “silver bullets” to “save” the organization. A sense of crisis focuses upon avoiding impending doom. Over time this creates cynicism rather than purpose of action. A sense of urgency emphasizes the need to get things done to be the best.

The Answer to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle in teaching: Virtual Coaching

ASCD had a thought provoking article on virtual coaching. The idea is basically that the coach would use technology do “drop in” to a classroom to conduct classroom observations. It suggest the following equipment for teachers a) wide angle webcam b)bluetooth adapter c) bluetooth headset and for the coach a)external HD b)headset with microphone c) webcam and microphone. The idea being that the teacher could recieve real time feedback as the coach watches the classroom in action. I like this idea because it addresses one of the basic problems with current classroom observations i.e., that the observer can often change the behavior of the classroom by the simple fact of being in the room. With a Virtual Coach the drops in via a webcam the visit becomes truly unobtrusive. I think this would also lead to increased productivity by the coach and teachers as the coach can easily visit multiple classrooms in the same time it would take the coach to visit one classroom and then walk to the next classroom.

However, I would not advocate dropping in without the teachers prior knowledge. If this were to be used to “spy” on teachers, I think that the program would be counter-productive as any advantage would be eliminated by creating an unhealthy school environment.

Study suggests grad rates will dip with A-G completion requirements

SI&A Cabinet Report that a study suggests grad rates will dip with A-G completion requirements. However, I do not believe that has to be the case. I believe in the A-G requirement for graduation because it sets a bar that says when you graduate, you will be ready for college. Many students and parents are surprised to learn that graduating from high school has/had no such assertion. Will it be more difficult? Absolutely. It will be more difficult because there will not be a track for students that aren’t “going to college”; this track has historically been populated by the poor and children of color. Many school systems have shown themselves poorly prepared to deal with students that are outside the “mainstream”. However, simply because it is difficult does not mean we should not do it; in this case it is the right thing to do. The work becomes how do we assure that students can meet this benchmark. It will take a shift in entire education communities which includes teachers, administrators, parents, students, and politicians. Teachers will need to develop and learn new instructional strategies, administrators will need to allocate resources for interventions, parents will need to actively support student participation in interventions, students will need to participate in additional interventions, and politicians will need to prioritize resource allocation for schools. It can be done but it will take a concerted effort and imagine the pay off: every student graduating college ready! Go make a difference.

Time for a statewide database to better serve foster youth | EdSource Today

Time for a statewide database to better serve foster youth | EdSource Today. Having worked with children in foster care I can attest data sharing is needed. While I understand that welfare workers want academic information about children, schools need to know which kids are in foster care to provide them adequate support. To date, the means by which the District learns which students are in foster care is practically non-existent. There is no way to get an a comprehensive accurate list of what student is in foster care. This data is updated annually at most. It is well know that the population of children in and out of foster can vary greatly in one year. I hope that this data sharing grows into something so that those professionals working with this group of children can get the accurate data to best meed the needs of these students.

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.

Dual Enrollment Not Just for High Achievers Early College Improves Outcomes for Disadvantaged Students Too | California Progress Report

My research focused around high performing secondary schools. In my initial identification of schools I noted that many of the best schools in California were “Middle College” schools. Middle college schools are typically high schools that are housed on a college campus and allow students to take college classes as part of their regular course load. Now the College Progress report seems to provide some data to support my casual observation in Dual Enrollment Not Just for High Achievers Early College Improves Outcomes for Disadvantaged Students Too. Moreover, tying into my post yesterday, one suggestion is that having all students be part of the college expectations supports all students.

Tracking

Tracking is a dirty word in education. Most commonly it refers to the practice to placing students on a “track” towards college or on a track that doesn’t go to college sometime referred to as “work ready”. Historically in the United States this has had racial implication with White students being on the college track and non-White students on a non-college track. Today, many people hold that this practice through a variety of court decisions, laws, and change in social mores has been addressed and that all students now have the opportunity to go to college if they want.

As any social issue with a long history in any society the problem is much more complicated than simply having a policy place that is supposed to solve the problem. The question of what student gets to go to college touches upon issues of expectations as well as practices both de facto and de jure.

Kelly and Price (2011) tackle this issue and find that current tracking policies vary from school to school. In fact they find that “…the choice is not whether a school will track students but how it will.” Many schools today still have “college” tracks that are not explicitly for White students but end up up under representing non-white students. Some schools attempt to address the issue of under-representation by having academic criteria but when schools that under-perform are schools with a predominantly minority population these students of color become “ineligible” for the college track classes. Some schools allow students to sign-up for the college tack if they desire. However, Kelly (2009) and Broaded (1997) found that this practice may make the racial tracking worse as “…White students and thier parents more readily capitalize on electivity…”

To me the issue folds into the issue of expectations. All students should graduate from high school prepared for college. This eliminates the issue of tracking. Some critics suggest that not all students want to go to college or  are not college “material”; society needs plumbers and mechanics just as much as doctors and lawyers. Society needs a wide variety of people; what it doesn’t need to do is limit the potential of it’s children.

Thoughts?

Going digital

Getting access to textbooks and instructional materials should become standard. Now with new legislation online access to textbooks may be in California. I would love to send kids home with an e-reader instead of 25 pounds of books.

Partnerships That Improve Education

A school that practices distributed leadership is one of the key characteristics of high performing schools. I traveled through out southern California to visit top performing schools  and found that, among other things, they all shared distributed leadership. ASCD Express 7.19 – Partnerships That Improve Education discusses not only the importance of collaboration but also some of the norms involved then working toward a collaborative culture. It takes everyone from teachers, administrators, district offices, students to parents to create a high functioning schools. Not until people stop saying, “it their job” and start saying “it’s my job” will a school be able to sustain high levels of performance.