Archive for December 2006

Remaking Education   Leave a comment

This is a good day for signs about the winds of education shifting ……

Recently, National Public Radio (NPR) posted an interview/review of a study completed by a nonpartisan group in assessing high school graduation and the trends of continuing education. One thing I learned by listening is that only 18 of 100 graduating high school students in USA will complete a college or university degree within 6 years. Another learned item is that higher educated people in other countries will work for less money that their peers in the USA. Put those together and down the road … 20-25 years … the USA won’t have a skilled work force, which translates into jobs requiring higher educated folks headed to folks over seas, while our economy gets turned upside down. That left me with something to chew on….. check it out … Education Study: Remake the Public Schools at

Lisa Suben knows what works and has the guts to do it. She surprised everyone with higher student achievement results when she didn’t follow the school lesson plans

Another reminder … we do know what works in education…. but are we doing it?

The Learning Cone is so simple ….so relevant to effective teaching. To see an articulated illustration visit Last time I talked about Project Based Learning and that is exactly what active learning is. Why isn’t there a mandate to use only teaching methods that are effective? Starting in June, 2007 no lesson can be taught without using a proven method that works. The content at school is easy enough to figure out … just look at the curriculum standards laid out by any school district; they will tell you what content teachers will teach.

Why don’t more teachers use effective teaching methods to teach? Am I over simplifying this issue about teaching methods? I don’t think so. There are always best practices for what is being undertaken. We will reach consensus on the best driving methods or best methods to maintain an individual’s health … the best way to plant a garden or the most efficient way to get a rocket into space. Why not identify and mandate specific teaching methods, like those shown in the Learning Cone, that are proven to be most effective?


Posted December 20, 2006 by Jack in Instruction

Education Refresh   Leave a comment

It’s hard for me to imagine that government intervention, like NCLB, will produce much good. I tend to think that good old fashion common sense will prevail. In the classroom Project Based Learning (PBL) is an excellent teaching strategy. I have used it and know that to be the case. The PBL approach creates, enables, and supports students to be and act as a community of learners. When you combine that community with a passionate teacher you have learning in action. PBL means students are naturally helping other students, you have a synchronicity that doesn’t have the opportunity to show up in teacher led instruction.

The proof is in the pudding. PBL provides an ongoing performance based assessment, contrasting with the usual paper (multiple choice, fill in the blank) exam this is a more accurate measure of what students are learning. PBL is a teacher dream … so cool … since the learning and assessment occur naturally. Students are genuinely learning.

The robotics team in Phoenix, AZ at Carl Hayden Community High School … these mostly immigrant students form one of the poorest neighborhoods in the state beat MIT, yes that is Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in a robotics competition. How could the poorest kids beat the well-to-do kids … who are also older and wiser?

Public schools need to change. Everyone knows it.

How To Build a Student For the 21st Century,9171,1568480,00.html

Commission pushes for overhaul of school system

Education needs to be reinvented. I think two successful examples of using out-of-the-box education strategies and/or methods are that robotics team and the Sudbury Valley School at I have talked to the teachers of that robotic team. They use PBL. Their class is a room without desks. The kids manage what needs to be done and the teachers are there to support and direct. The older kids on the team teach the newer kids the skills they need. It’s a natural environment; students learn what they want to learn. In other words, natural curiosity is positively at work. That same curiosity is at play in the Sudbury Valley School; they call it a “Individuality with Democracy.” Schools need to take advantage of community learning and the natural curiosity that motivates students, which is going to require schools getting out-of-their-box.

Posted December 17, 2006 by Jack in Instruction

Not a fan of NCLB   Leave a comment

Let’s face it…. Politicians cannot even balance the budget. How can they realistically expect to understand what the requirements are to reform education? What would happen if parents raising children taught them to balance their budget like politicians balance the budget by print more money. Education is complicated and dynamic… much more so than the annual budget. The budget deals with dollars and programs and education deals with people lives and providing opportunities fore learning and developing life skills. We need a fresh approach to make education more successful in America and politicians aren’t going to cut it. We need the voice of students, parents and teachers to be heard and taken into consideration.
Seriously, a recent report just concluded we aren’t really sure how to define student proficiency in achievement given the recognized number of biases that openly exist.

Here is a snippet from Education Weekly ….. response, the U.S. Department of Education commissioned yet another study, this one by the National Academy of Education. The panel concluded that procedures for defining proficiency were “subject to large biases,” and that levels by which American students had been judged deficient were “unreasonably high.” Continued use of NAEP proficiency definitions could set back the cause of education reform because it would harm the credibility of NAEP itself, the panel warned.

“Proficiency for all, implying the elimination of variation within socioeconomic groups, is inconceivable. Closing achievement gaps, implying the elimination of variation between socioeconomic groups, is daunting but worth striving for.”

Posted December 11, 2006 by Jack in Instruction

Is education working in high schools and middle schools?   Leave a comment

Today is a beautiful day to renew education.

Education isn’t meeting the needs of students today. The class schedule used by the majority of schools was put in place a long time ago …. so long ago ….. but does that mean it fits the needs of 21st students. I don’t think so. Do you? Most of the students I talk to today say they would do better academically, be able to focus more, and concentrate better if school began later in the day and went longer in the afternoon. Studies show that teenagers need sleep due to the tremendous changes happening in their bodies. Geez, some Administrators I have talked to also indicate they wouldn’t mind the school day starting later …..

What would happen to the misbehaving students in class, a constant source of irritation to teachers and other students, maybe they too could focus better later in the day and then cause less disruptions. Yeah, that’s far fetched I know. Usually, there are other issues bothering them that are causing them to act out and be disruptive…. but you never know.

Maybe schools start so early to accommodate parents working schedules? I think many parents have to be at work in the early morning, when I was working for a business I know I had too. Ummm, maybe students learning is held hostage to parents work – the art of earning an income. Is that right? … I think most parents want their kids to be successful at school and will do whatever it takes to have them attend whenever classes are taking place.

We need to make student learning – the very foundation of young people establishing initial work behaviors and attitudes – as the very first priority. Without those students setting those fundamental skills in place – what are we doing in regards to creating the future of this society?

Maybe I have it wrong, but I am thinking that education is supposed to provide students with the basic life skills to move forward and be successful in life. But, come to think of it, I have never seen a purpose of education in the USA so I will have to do some searching to see if I can find an explanation …..

Posted December 10, 2006 by Jack in Instruction