Category Archives

18 Articles

Education Reform

The Right Conditions for Cheating

Posted on
The Right Conditions for Cheating

Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

By now many of you have heard about the recent reports of rampant teacher cheating and unethical practices in the Atlanta public school system.  What kind of world are we living in when the adults responsible for shaping the minds of our future leaders resort to cheating of this magnitude?  Since the reports surfaced, I have been trying to understand why or how this could happen.  Now, I’m not saying that it is implausible for anyone to cheat, after all, it is an element of human nature to cheat.  I also realize that cheating takes place every day in different forms, but isn’t there a line somewhere?  Actually, there isn’t.

You better believe that this is not the first time the teachers in Atlanta, or teachers all over America for that matter, have cheated.  I believe this cheating is a symptom of a more substantial problem.  So much of our educational system encourages this kind of behavior.  Since the advent of the era of high stakes testing, many school systems have felt the pressure to meet standards with limited or no additional resources including highly qualified teachers. I have personally seen teachers succumb to the pressure to get students to pass the test that they simply “teach the test” in an effort to get higher scores.  This only creates an even bigger problem for the school system in subsequent years which leads to more pressure to cheat. Some public school systems fall in line with similar behavior by constantly manipulating data to satisfy the ever-growing political pressures to meet or exceed standards (often self-imposed standards).  Together, these behaviors seem to suggest that the accountability system, which includes the high stakes testing, data reporting, and a whole host of other political constraints, is what drives public education today and produces the right conditions for cheating on all levels.

Well, that is what I think about this scandal, but I would like to know what you think about the sad state of affairs in the Atlanta Public School System.

Report: Widespread Cheating in Atlanta Schools — by Teachers.

Check out this Get Schooled blog post by Maureen Downey on the cheating scandal in Atlanta Public Schools. I would like to know if you agree.  Set unrealistic test score quotas and people will either fail or cheat | Get Schooled.

 

Education Reform

Conditions for Change

Posted on
blackboard business chalkboard concept

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There have been many books and articles written on the theory of change but since we live a result oriented world, how do we practically get through it?  The world of education is not immune to the ever-growing pressure to change.  In fact, we may be at the very heart of it.  According to the latest Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rankings, American students scored 32nd in math ability and 23rd in science achievement.  With more and more rankings, reports, and achievement data pointing to the fact that America’s educational system is in decline, one has to ask how can we turn it around.  Currently, the debate is center on education reform.  Some experts speak of the need for broad sweeping reform, while others lean toward shifting the focus to more economic growth and development.  Regardless of where you stand on reform, one thing rings true.  We have to change.  That is not to simplify the magnitude of the needed change.  After all, we have data supporting the need for change in our teacher recruitment & retention, curriculum focus, instructional practice, teacher evaluation, and assessment & accountability.  My goal with this blog post is to begin taking a look at the conditions needed for changing our instructional practices in the classroom.

We have to educate our way to a better economy. We have a 25 percent drop out rate in this country. We’re losing about a million children each year from our schools to the streets. That’s just economically unsustainable and morally unacceptable and we all have to work together and challenge the status quo.— Arne Duncan

When I am working with teachers to help them improve their effectiveness in the classroom it is easy to underestimate what conditions are necessary for change to take place.  In Jim Knights book Instructional Coaching, he describes two conditions necessary for ideas introduced to survive and be implemented. He states that  (1) the teacher must see that the new choice is more powerful than their current practice; and (2) the new choice must be easier for the teacher to implement.  In addition, I have noticed that when I have been successful at motivating a teacher to try a new practice, I was deliberate about how I demonstrated my support for them while provided implementation the new practice.   After ensuring the conditions for change are in place I had to have a realistic expectation about the time it takes for this process to take place.  Nothing can be taken for granted about the different backgrounds, experiences, and understanding of each individual teacher being asked to change.  Now, this is where the fun begins. 

 

Education Reform

Black Science Teachers’ Motivation on Black Students-Part 1

Posted on

boywithbooks

African-Americans have made many advances socially in the 20th century, from segregated schools to an African-American president of the United States.  Through all of the great accomplishments of African-Americans over the years remain a vast educational and professional chasm to the field of science.

Here, in the 21st century, we continue to see a shortage of African-American science teachers, and consequently an extreme shortage of African-American students going into the hard science courses or science careers. Smaller proportions of African-American students tend to complete advanced science course compared with whites and Asians/Pacific Islanders. (National Science Board 2004)  As a concerned educator, I desired to change the status of black students in the field of science.

The first years of my professional experience as an educator were spent teaching physics and mathematics in the inner city with predominately low socioeconomic, African-American students.  My motivation for teaching in that environment came from my desire to make a difference in black students’ achievement in the hard sciences and to give them exposure without turning them away from careers in science or engineering.  Mostly, I wanted to let them know that it was okay to be an African-American and like science. From my personal accounts, I recognized an elevation in student attention but no significant increase in achievement.  I began to wonder if I was making any significant impact. This intrigued me deeply and inspired a study to examine the part a science teacher’s ethnicity impacts the motivation of African-American students to take courses in the hard sciences.  My intentions were to identify specific areas of influence African-American science teachers have on African-American science students.  In a future blog entry, I will share some of my findings and their implications.

Curriculum & Instruction/Education Reform

What are Real Math Textbooks?

Posted on
What are Real Math Textbooks?

Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

 

Do you have a great math textbook? What makes it great? How does it address problem-solving?

In the video, Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover, Dan highlights an ingenious way to add rigor to a typical math textbook based transforming key problem solving and critical thinking strategies from what is presented in your textbook. Actually, the principle behind Meyer’s methodology could be utilized in different courses to bolster a teacher’s classroom instruction. It is truly amazing what you can do with a little technology and carefully placed ambiguity.

Meyer’s video presents us with a bigger challenge. How can we change the learning culture of our students? If you are like me, you are getting pretty tired of lazy learners and dare I say, lazy teachers. Now I am not trying to point fingers or downplay the challenges many teachers experience when preparing for their students.  More than ever before, teachers have limited time and resources, and they have to prepare for students with diverse instructional needs.  Instead, Meyer’s video should be viewed as a challenge to how we approach problem-solving with our students.

Education Reform

Does race matter in education?

Posted on
chairs classroom college desks

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Color Blindness
In today’s politically correct world, it is hard to call it like it is.  This is especially true when it comes to race and culture. The term “color blind” or the statement ” I don’t see race” is actually contributing to many of our racial problems today. We have to rise above the fear of ignorance and start becoming racially aware or culturally educated. This would allow us to recognize the God designed difference in the races as a good thing, not something of shame and regret.

So what does this have to do with reverse racism in schools? Well if we can not have the right perspective on who and what we are, how will we ever be able to recognize the hypocrisy and racial ignorance we perpetuate in our educational system today.  Far too often we simply let racial injustices go uncontested in the spirit of tolerance (often times this is code for fearfulness). I never realized how this way of thinking was actually a perversion of the true perspective of race. We also have to stop acting like racism is the same as prejudice. Every human being has prejudices, it is a part of human nature to make inferences or to develop beliefs before knowing. In fact, we have to learn how to go against the tendency to prejudge.  Racism, on the other hand, is totally different.  To develop racism takes a cocktail of ignorance, pain & frustration, confusion, and perversion.  No one race or ethnic group is immune to the destructive influence of racism. As long as we are human, there will be someone hating and trying to bring down another.  Let’s strive to truly open our minds to the pervasiveness of racist views throughout this world and seek real tolerance by asking God for the courage to confront the roots of these unjust views wherever they occur.

Curriculum & Instruction/Education Reform

Assessment to Death

Posted on

High Stakes Testing Culture

In an age of accountability and high stakes testing, we have accomplished a lot. We have managed to learn how to analyze assessment data to determine trends. We have also learned how to break down objectives or learning standards into their most intricate parts. Most of all we have learned how to make ourselves feel good about our data.

Everybody is “data-driven” these days. But what does that really mean? There still exists a culture of assessment “I got ya”. Frankly, we are so focused on assessments that we have missed the whole boat on instruction. If we put the same energy and intensity that we have invested in assessments into quality instruction, we might actually have more accurate assessments. Now I realize having quality assessments can and should drive instruction, we just need to vary it a little.

Fundamental Questions

How can we, as school systems, transition from a culture assessment for accountability to one focused on students learning?  any of you may have experienced an educational system that has figured how the “game” of high stakes state testing.  The more intimately involved you are with teaching and learning the more repulsive the idea of playing with what state standards are taught and tested to merely make a school district look good.

I am ready to buck the system by actually teaching and assessing for student learning first.  I am not saying we should do away with summative assessments of learning.  I realize how necessary it is for every school system.  I would just like to see the focus put in the proper balance. Maybe we could even move toward looking at project-based work or performance-based assessments. In future posts, I will share some different strategies for assessing for learning.  In the meantime, I guess we will keep plowing away at making more new tests.

Assessment for Learning vs. Assessment of Learning

.