Practice, even with failure, more important than talent – update

October 25, 2012

WordCrafter.net links to this story from an excellent page on picking a topic for an essay — English teachers, social studies teachers, you should probably make this page a part of your syllabus for essays, really.  A few teachers use the page, and when they assign essays this post starts rising in the hit count.

But that was five years ago.  There’s more information, and even an update at Stanford Magazine.  So, we’ll update here, too:

Carol Dweck, author of Mindset

Carol Dweck, Stanford University

Every teacher needs to get familiar with the work of Carol Dweck. She’s a Stanford psychologist who is advising the Blackburn Rovers from England’s Premier League, on how to win, and how to develop winning ways.

Your students need you to have this stuff.

A 60-year-old academic psychologist might seem an unlikely sports motivation guru. But Dweck’s expertise—and her recent book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success—bear directly on the sort of problem facing the Rovers. Through more than three decades of systematic research, she has been figuring out answers to why some people achieve their potential while equally talented others don’t—why some become Muhammad Ali and others Mike Tyson. The key, she found, isn’t ability; it’s whether you look at ability as something inherent that needs to be demonstrated or as something that can be developed.

What’s more, Dweck has shown that people can learn to adopt the latter belief and make dramatic strides in performance. These days, she’s sought out wherever motivation and achievement matter, from education and parenting to business management and personal development. [emphasis added]

I can’t do justice here, in short form, to Dweck’s work described by Marina Krakovsky.  See this story in Stanford Magazine [2007].

Update from Stanford Magazine:

Psychology professor Carol Dweck has spent her career figuring out why some people give up in the face of failure while others are motivated to learn from their mistakes and improve. It’s all about fixed mindsets versus growth mindsets (“The Effort Effect,” March/April 2007)

Now Dweck has formed Mindset Works, which “helps human beings reach their full potential.” Its signature product is Brainology, software developed by Dweck and educational researcher Lisa S. Blackwell and now available at www.brainology.us following successful pilots in the United States and abroad. The program aims to motivate middle school and high school students to do better in all their subjects by teaching them how the brain works and how to boost their intelligence.

Also, no discussion of this topic can be complete without at least a mention of Malcolm Gladwell‘s work.  In a recent book, Outliers, Gladwell notes what has come to be called the “10,000 hour rule.”  Gladwell observed that most experts were made by practice at a skill, rather than talent — and that mastery was achieved after about 10,000 hours of practice.  Wikipedia describes the idea Gladwell outlines:

A common theme that appears throughout Outliers is the “10,000-Hour Rule”, based on a study by Anders Ericsson. Gladwell claims that greatness requires enormous time, using the source of The Beatles’ musical talents and Gates’ computer savvy as examples.[3] The Beatles performed live in Hamburg, Germany over 1,200 times from 1960 to 1964, amassing more than 10,000 hours of playing time, therefore meeting the 10,000-Hour Rule. Gladwell asserts that all of the time The Beatles spent performing shaped their talent, and quotes Beatles’ biographer Philip Norman as saying, “So by the time they returned to England from Hamburg, Germany, ‘they sounded like no one else. It was the making of them.’”[3] Gates met the 10,000-Hour Rule when he gained access to a high school computer in 1968 at the age of 13, and spent 10,000 hours programming on it.[3]

Does Gladwell mention Dweck’s work?  Is Dweck’s work confirmed by Ericsson’s?  There’s a lot of room for discussion there, especially in an essay.

For writing, for writing essays, practice provides dramatic improvement for students — that much is certain.

More:


. . . and one test to rule them all . . .

October 18, 2012

The fundamental problem with standardized testing is that kids don’t come “standard.”  A teacher friend sent me this cartoon, summarizing the problem nicely:

One test fits all cartoon

If we use tests to cheat teachers out of a job, and to cheat students out of their futures, should we be surprised when students and teachers cheat on the tests?  Is that a mark of their innate sanity, if they do?

I wonder who the cartoonist was, and what other gems may be lurking out there by the same person?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Daniel Rhee.


Test “priming”: Malcolm Gladwell on how to push test results, and why tests might not work

July 31, 2012

Who is the interviewer, Allan Gregg?

From the YouTube site:

Malcolm Gladwell in an interview about Blink explains priming, and re-states some of the examples of priming from Blink with CC (closed captions)

Here’s a longer excerpt of the interview; from TVO (TVOntario)?

Discussion:  Gladwell appears to confirm, for testing results, the old aphorism attributed to Henry Ford:  “If you think you can, or if you think you can’t, you’re right.”  Gladwell seems to be saying that the student’s view of his or her abilities at the moment the test starts rules in a significant way how the student performs — worse, for teachers, it’s the student’s unconscious view of his or her abilities.  As a final shot in class, I have often had students predict their performance on state tests.   I have them write what they think they will scores.  Then I ask them to predict what they would have scored, had they applied themselves seriously to study of history — and of course, almost always the students have a fit of honesty and predict their scores would have been higher.  Then I ask them to pretend they had studied, and cross out the lower predicted score and replace it with the higher predicted score.  At the schools where I’ve taught, we do not administer the tests to our own students, and such exercises are prohibited on the day of the test.  Too bad, you think?

Another exercise I’ve found useful for boosting scores is to give the students one class period, just over an hour, to take the entire day-long TAKS social studies test, in the on-line version offered by the Texas Education Agency.  Originally I wanted students to get scared about what they didn’t know, and to get attuned to the questions they had no clue about so they’d pick it up in class.  What I discovered was that, in an hour, clearly with the pressure off (we weren’t taking it all that seriously, after all, allowing just an hour), students perform better than they expected.  So I ask them to pass a judgment on how difficult the test is, and what they should be scoring — almost unanimously they say they find the test not too difficult on the whole, and definitely conquerable by them.

What else could we do with students, if we knew how to prime them for tests, or for writing papers, or for any other piece of performance on which they would be graded?

With one exception, my administrators in Dallas ISD have been wholly inuninterested in such ideas, and such results — there is no checkbox on the teacher evaluation form for using online learning tools to advance test scores, and administrators do not regard that as teaching.  The one exception was Dorothy Gomez, our principal for two years, who had what I regarded as a bad habit of getting on the intercom almost every morning to cheer on students for learning what they would be tested on.  My post-test surveys of students showed those pep talks had been taken to heart, and we got much better performance out of lower-performing groups and entire classes during Gomez’s tenure (she has since left the district).

Also, if psychological tricks can significantly affect test scores, surely that invalidates the idea that we can use any test score to evaluate teacher effectiveness, unless immediate testing results is all we want teachers to achieve.  Gladwell said in this clip:

To me that completely undermines this notion, this naive notion that many educators have that you can reduce someone’s intelligence to a score on a test.  You can’t.

More:


Colorado’s Mike Miles named “sole finalist” for Dallas ISD Superintendent job

April 5, 2012

Four teachers mentioned to me last week their fear that Michelle Rhee might get the top education job in Dallas.  She didn’t, but is Mike Miles enough different to make them breathe easier?  Probably not.

Here’s the DISD video of his press conference, at which he was named sole finalist.  Under Texas law and regulation, a district must name a sole finalist, and then wait a period before confirming the appointment.

Miles, a former Army Ranger and Foreign Service officer, leads a school district serving part of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Harrison District #2.  He’s led the 11,000 student district since 2006; Dallas has 157,000 students.

Dallas ISD sent a notice to employees late Tuesday afternoon about Miles’s designation as superintendent-to-be:

Dallas Independent School District’s Board of Trustees have named Mike Miles as the lone finalist for the district’s superintendent position.

Trustees have been conducting a nationwide search for a new superintendent that included receiving input from several stakeholder groups.

Miles, 55, has served as Superintendent for the Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs since fall 2006. He is known as an innovator and reformer who is changing the face of public education. His ideas and innovations around systems thinking, measuring teacher and principal effectiveness and building an adaptive organization have been recognized by national education institutes and have been adopted by numerous districts around the country.

Under his leadership, Harrison County District Two has experienced increased graduation rates and improved student achievement.

“The Dallas ISD Board of Trustees is thrilled with our selection of Mike Miles as the lone finalist for Superintendent of Schools,” said Lew Blackburn, President of the Board. “Mr. Miles has spent his entire life serving the public and has a proven track record of success. Not only will his life story serve as an inspiration to our students, he is a recognized leader who is focused on student results. Today is a great day for the Dallas Independent School District.”

Mike Miles is a former Army Ranger who graduated from West Point in 1978. He then entered the ranks of the officer corps at Ft. Lewis, Washington, where he served in the Army’s elite Ranger Battalion and commanded an Infantry Rifle Company.

After the Army, Miles studied Slavic languages and literature at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Leningrad in Russia. Miles then pursued advanced study of Soviet affairs and public policy at Columbia University and earned a master’s degree in 1989. The same year, he joined the U. S. Department of State as a policy analyst at the Soviet desk, and then from 1990 to 1995 as diplomat in Moscow and Warsaw at the end of the Cold War.

Miles and his family returned home to Colorado Springs in 1995 where he started as a high school teacher in his alma mater school district – Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8. Miles continued to grow professionally and held other positions such as middle school principal, coordinator of administration services and from 2003 to 2006 served as Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, in the same school district.

Currently, Miles also serves as an educational consultant and motivational speaker for school districts and other public organizations around the state of Colorado. He is recognized as an accomplished practitioner of curriculum alignment, organizational effectiveness, and systems thinking.

Miles is married to Karen Miles, and they have three children.

The Dallas ISD School Board plans to officially approve hiring Miles on Thursday, April 26. If approved, Miles is slated to begin work Monday, July 2.

Miles’s experience at the Soviet desk may prove useful in his work to understand various bureaucracies inside DISD (I hope I’m being overly, cynically sarcastic).  One might wonder how a leader could come from an Army Ranger background, but turn around to advocate pay-for-performance for teachers, as he did in Colorado.  Miles said he has no plans to do anything like that in Dallas, at least not without studying Dallas’s situation more.

Maybe more comments here, later.  Still have too much in the in box to write a lot here.

More:


“Is our media learning?” Test scores require raises for public school teachers, don’t they?

September 10, 2011

Mike the Mad Biologist makes the case succinctly and clearly (teachers, observe his methods):

That shudder you felt was the Earth wobbling as an . . .

. . . education story actually covered U.S. students’ academic achievement during the last few decades accurately. I’ve made the point before that the claim of stagnating test scores for U.S. students is demonstrably false–in every demographic group, there has been a rise in achievement (and the minority-white achievement gap is closing to boot). Shockingly, in a Slate report on Steven Brill’s new book Class Warfare, Richard Rothstein sets up Brill with this:

The case they make for their cause by now enjoys the status of conventional wisdom. Student achievement has been stagnant or declining for decades, even as money poured into public schools to improve teacher salaries, pensions, and working conditions (reducing class sizes, or hiring aides to give teachers more free time). Teachers typically have abysmally low standards, especially for minorities and other disadvantaged students, who predictably fall to the level of their teachers’ expectations. Although teachers’ quality can be estimated by the annual growth of their students’ scores on standardized tests of basic math and reading skills, teachers have not been held accountable for performance. Instead, they get lifetime job security even if students don’t learn. Brill observes a union-protected teacher in a Harlem public school bellowing “how many days in a week?,” caring little that students pay him no heed and wrestle on the floor instead.

Protecting this incompetence are teacher unions, whose contracts prevent principals from firing inadequate (and worse) teachers. The contracts also permit senior teachers to choose their schools, which further undermines principals’ authority. Union negotiations have produced perpetually rising salaries, guaranteed even to teachers who sleep through their careers. Breaking unions’ grip on public education is “the civil rights issue of this generation,” and some hard-working, idealistic Ivy Leaguers and their allies have shown how.

And then knocks him down with:

Central to the reformers’ argument is the claim that radical change is essential because student achievement (especially for minority and disadvantaged children) has been flat or declining for decades. This is, however, false. The only consistent data on student achievement come from a federal sample, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Though you would never know it from the state of public alarm about education, the numbers show that regular public school performance has skyrocketed in the last two decades to the point that, for example, black elementary school students now have better math skills than whites had only 20 years ago. (There has also been progress for middle schoolers, and in reading; and less, but not insubstantial, progress for high schoolers.) The reason test score gaps have barely narrowed is that white students have also improved, at least at the elementary and middle school levels. The causes of these truly spectacular gains are unknown, but they are probably inconsistent with the idea that typical inner-city teachers are content to watch students wrestle on the classroom floor instead of learning.

The question we need to ask is “Is our media learning?” (to steal a phrase from Little Lord Pontchartrain).

Maybe they are . . .

Brill, God bless him, proposed to shake up public schools in America a few weeks ago in a long article in the Weekend Wall Street Journal.  His solution?  Make AFT local leader Randi Weingarten superintendent of New York’s public schools.

Actually, his story was much better than his advocacy.  But I hope to get more commentary on that proposal, and this continuing War on Education and War on Americans, soon.


Bill Adkins: Art education boosts achievement, but needs administrator support to work

June 24, 2011

One of our very good art teachers at Moises Molina High School, William Adkins,  works with a group called Big  Thoughts.  Big Thoughts interviews teachers who work with the program about how arts education boosts student achievement in core areas, and how to leverage arts to improve the boost.  Adkins had some thoughts about how art really is a core part of education , and on the role of administrators in helping teachers:

You can view 74 videos from about 30 different people on the Big Thoughts menu at Vimeo.

Adkins’ students regularly win awards, often outperforming the many more students at our district’s arts magnets.  One of his students, Moses Ochieng, too the top prize at the state art meet this year for a brilliant sculpture he did.  Moses was my student in U.S. history, too — a great adventure, since he emigrated from Kenya just a few years ago, and he lacks the familiarity with so many American things that we, and the textbooks, and the state tests, take for granted that students know.  Ochieng’s art helped focus him on history.  It supplemented his studies so that he picked up two years of history work in just one year.

More:


Can public schools work? Texas Tribune’s interview with Michael Marder, Part II

June 11, 2011

From my earlier post on the Texas Tribune interview with Michael Marder, in which he questioned the assumptions that monkeying with teacher discipline, accountability, pay, training, vacations, or anything else, can produce better results in educating students, especially students from impoverished backgrounds.

Marder is the director of the University of Texas’s program to encourage much better prepared teachers, UTeach.

Michael Marder’s numbers show that it’s not the teachers’ fault that so many students are not ready for college, and not learning the stuff we think they should know.

Texas Tribune said:

In the popular 2010 documentary Waiting for Superman, former DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee said, “But even in the toughest of neighborhoods and circumstances, children excel when the right adults are doing the right things for them.”

After looking at the data, Marder has yet to be convinced that any teaching solution has been found that can overcome the detrimental effects of poverty on a large scale — and that we may be looking for solutions in the wrong place.

[Reeve] Hamilton’s interview of Marder takes up three YouTube segments — you should watch all three.

Here’s Part 2:

Read the original introductory article at Texas Tribune.

For the record, Michelle Rhee is probably right:  In the toughest neighborhoods, children excel when the right adults do the right things for them.  But the right adults usually are parents, and the right things include reading to the children from about 12 months on, and pushing them to love learning and love books.  Teachers get the kids too late, generally, to bend those no-longer-twigs back to a proper inclination.  The government interventions required to boost school performance must come outside the classroom.  Michelle Rhee’s great failure — still — is in her tendency not to recognize that classroom performance of a student has its foundations and live roots in the homes and neighborhoods who send the children to school every day.


Education reforms working? Poverty, poor test results correlate in national study. What could it mean?

February 27, 2011

More from Greg Laden’s blog that deserves your attention, and a much wider audience.

The Science component of “The Nation’s Report Card” was released today and clearly indicates that we have moved one step closer as a nation in two of our most important goals: Building a large and complacent poorly educated low-pay labor class, and increasing the size of our science-illiterate populace in order to allow the advance of medieval morality and Iron Age Christian values.

The plan to sabotage the middle class, kill teachers unions and keep most Americans stupid, is working.

That was the plan, right?

Pay no attention to that teapot tempest in Wisconsin.  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.  You are getting sleepy, very, very sleepy . . .

Get the facts:

Teachers, compare your class results:


Broad Prize, for best urban schools, to Gwinnett County, Georgia

October 20, 2010

It’s a million-dollar gold star for the administrators and board of the school system in Gwinnett County, Georgia: They won the 2010 Broad Prize for Urban Education.

The trophy for the Broad Prize for Urban Education

The trophy for the Broad Prize for Urban Education

(It’s pronounced with a long “o” as in “road.”)

NPR reported:

Gwinnett County beat out Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina, Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, and Socorro Independent School District and Ysleta Independent School District in El Paso, Texas, for the award.

The prize, created in 2002 by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation in Los Angeles, is the nation’s largest education award given to school districts. It is designed to reward schools for increasing graduation rates, improving low-income students’ performance, and reducing differences in achievement rates between minority and white students. Winners are chosen from the country’s 100 largest school systems serving a large percentage of low-income and minority students.

This is big news to a select few in Dallas.  Dallas Superintendent Michael Hinojosa urged Dallas teachers on to win the Broad Prize by 2010.  Dallas ISD did not count among the finalists this year, nor in any previous year.

News in many places is about the districts who gained the finalist list, but did not win.  Interesting prize.

Next year.  Next year.

More:


Inspiration for the first day of school, part 2 – Taylor Mali, and “What do you make?”

August 23, 2010

It ain’t easy being a teacher.  Newsweek puts you on the cover, saying you need to be fired.  Texas Gov. Rick Perry says you don’t need job security, as if getting additional money for teacher salaries would make teachers secure in places like Dallas, where mid-year RIFs are a too-recent, bitter memory.  Heck, just looking at the curriculum in Texas can depress a teacher.  Parents think you don’t call them enough, or too much — but never the Goldilocks optimum.  Students?  Even the best student is surly in the last period of the first day back at school.

Taylor Mali knows all about that.  He taught for several years — but he struck out as a professional slam poet.  His work there remains among the best tributes to teaching of the past 50 years, at least.  You probably heard this poem, or somebody sent it to you in an e-mail (especially if you’re a teacher) — but attributed to “Anonymous.”

Well, here is Anonymous, the Unknown Teacher — whose name is Taylor Mali.  Watch for him and his work.

This is an encore post from 2007.  (Mild profanity.)

_________________________

Killer lesson plans:  Teachers as superheroes

Reader Bernarda noted this site in comments, and it’s good enough to promote more formally: Teachers as the alter egos of superheroes.

Teachers ARE superheroes, a lot of them. More than in other professions, certainly.

Which reminds me of this video. Teachers, you need to watch this sometime here in the first month of school. What do you say when someone rudely asks, “What do you make?” Wholly apart from the Ann Landers-style answer, “Whatever would possess anyone to ask such a personal question?” there is an answer to give, as explained by slam poet Taylor Mali; surely you’ve seen this before, but watch it again — to remember what teachers should be doing, as well as how to talk about it. See below.

[Update August 2010:  Hmmmmm.  Well, that video is out of commission at the moment -- Mali and copyright?

Mali has a version at his website, for sale.  Buy it, you have it in high fidelity audio, video and emotion.

Here's a shorter version of the tape not available above:

It remains the single best piece about teaching and why teachers do it when they don’t get paid the big bucks, when administrators make it so hard, and when society at large wants to fire them all — they do it for the kids.  What do they make?]

You can support Mr. Mali. Just purchase a pen that includes that little poem.

You can support Mr. Mali and his campaign for good teachers in another way, too. Make sure that whenever you talk about this poem of his, you credit it to him. I think we as teachers owe that to artists, and other teachers, as part of our continuing struggles against plagiarism.

But we also owe it to ourselves to get credit to Mr. Mali. Odds are he has some other good things to say. When you properly attribute his work, you increase the chances that someone else will find the rest of his work. You increase the chances that some superintendent will hire Mr. Mali to speak to the teachers in his district. You increase the chances that someone will understand that Mr. Mali is a real human being who loves teaching — he is, in short, one of those superheroes we call “teachers,” even without a cape.

Uncaped crusaders need compliments, too.


Educating for a creative society

June 29, 2010

Just as a reminder about what we’re doing in education, I hope every teacher and administrator will take three minutes and view this video (that allows you some time to boggle).

Surely you know who Tom Peters is.  (If not, please confess in comments, and I’ll endeavor to guide you to the information you need.)

Technically, Texas’s early elementary art standards are not so bad as Peters describes them.  But, check this document, from the Texas Education Code (§117.1. Implementation of Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Fine Arts, Elementary).  Do a search of the Texas standards and count how many times students are expected to stay “within guidelines.”


2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Making Our Schools Safe Havens for Learning

June 28, 2010

This post is eighth in a series on the education planks of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

This is an unofficial version published in advance of the final version from the Texas Democrats, but I expect very few changes.

MAKING OUR SCHOOLS SAFE HAVENS FOR LEARNING

Texas Democrats believe students, teachers and other school personnel should be safe from acts of violence, and students must be protected from bullying. School campuses and functions must be weapon-free and drug-free. We support swift and fair enforcement of disciplinary standards. Teachers deserve support when they exercise their right to remove a disruptive student from class.

Students referred to disciplinary alternative education programs should continue to receive strong academic instruction. When a student’s misconduct is serious enough to warrant disciplinary placement, the state should make sure that the disciplinary setting – whether a school district’s own disciplinary alternative program or a county’s juvenile-justice alternative education program – offers a full array of educational and social/behavioral services to help that student get back on track. School districts should be discouraged from indiscriminately placing students in disciplinary alternative education programs for trivial misconduct.

We support the Dignity for All Students Act to guarantee safety for all students.


2010 Texas Democratic Platform: Solving the Dropout Crisis

June 28, 2010

This post is fifth in a series on the education planks of the 2010 Texas Democratic Party Platform.

This is an unofficial version published in advance of the final version from the Texas Democrats, but I expect very few changes.

SOLVING THE DROPOUT CRISIS

Rick Perry may be willing to write off more than a fourth of the school age children in Texas, but Texans can’t afford to pay the price for Perry’s complacency in the face of the dropout crisis. Solving the dropout crisis is a priority for Texas Democrats because it threatens the economic well-being of all Texans, and failure to solve the dropout crisis could write off economic progress for an entire generation. Texas already has more low-wage and minimum wage workers than any other state, and in Texas dropouts earn $7,000 less per year than high school graduates. According to the state demographer, if these trends persist, by 2040, the average annual Texas household income will be $6,500 less than in the year 2000, at a cost to Texas of over $300 billion per year in lost income.

More than one-fourth of Texas high school students fail to graduate on time. For African American and Hispanic students, the dropout rate is more than one-third. Out of all 50 states, Texas has the highest percentage of adults who have not completed high school. However, in response to the Governor’s call for across-the-board budget cuts to address an $18 billion state budget shortfall, his Texas Education Agency recommended cutting programs that have helped keep kids in school and off the street. The economic consequences of such shortsighted policies are stark. Rick Perry’s refusal to address this dropout crisis is making Texas poorer, less educated, and less competitive.

Proper funding of all our schools to meet the needs of students who are most at risk of dropping out is essential. Specific solutions include:

  • school-community collaboration that brings educational and social services together under one roof to help at-risk students and their families;
  • expanded access to early childhood education, targeting at-risk students;
  • dual-credit and early-college programs that draw at-risk students into college and career paths while still in high school;
  • equitable distribution of highly qualified teachers, to change current practices that too often match the most at-risk students with the least experienced and least prepared teachers;
  • enforce daytime curfew laws to reduce truancy;
  • providing access to affordable programs for adults who have dropped out of the education process.

  • Diane Ravitch’s “U-turn”: The teachers were right

    March 4, 2010

    Were I to advise Diane Ravitch right now, I’d tell her to change all her computer passwords and redouble the security on her servers.  Why?  After what happened to the scientists who study global warming, I expect many of the same wackoes are working right now to get her e-mails, knowing that the mere act of stealing them will be enough to indict her change of heart on education in America.

    It’s much the same mob crowd in both cases.  [I'm hopeful it's not a mob.]

    Dr. Ravitch thinks big thoughts about education.  She stands in the vanguard of those people who are both academically astute in education, and who can make a case that appeals to policy makers.  Working under Checker Finn at the old Office of Educational Research and Improvement, we quickly got familiar with Ravitch’s works and views.  Finn and Ravitch, good friends and like-minded in education issues, were the running backs and sticky-handed receivers for any conservative education quarterback, back in the Day.

    Finn was Assistant Secretary of Education for Research under Bill Bennett.  Ravitch succeeded Finn, under Lamar Alexander.  While Bennett and Alexander took troubling turns to the right, and Finn stayed much where he was, Ravitch has been looking hard at what’s working in schools today.

    Ravitch doesn’t like the conservative revolution’s results in education.  She’s changed her views.  Says one of the better stories about her changing views, in The New York Times:

    Once outspoken about the power of standardized testing, charter schools and free markets to improve schools, Dr. Ravitch is now caustically critical. She underwent an intellectual crisis, she says, discovering that these strategies, which she now calls faddish trends, were undermining public education. She resigned last year from the boards of two conservative research groups.

    “School reform today is like a freight train, and I’m out on the tracks saying, ‘You’re going the wrong way!’ ” Dr. Ravitch said in an interview.

    This is big stuff, and good news to teachers who, since I was at Education in 1987, have been telling policy makers the same things Ravitch is saying now.

    David Gardner and Milton Goldberg wrote in the report of the Excellence in Education Commission in 1983 that America faces a “rising tide of mediocrity” because of bad decisions.  That’s true of much education reform today, too.

    Gardner and Goldberg also said that, had a foreign nation done that damage to us, we’d regard it as an act of war.

    Maybe Ravitch’s turn can help mediate an end to the Right’s War on Education and pogroms against teachers.

    Here in Texas the conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education didn’t like Ravitch’s views when she was in the conservative camp, so Texas has started, finally, to vote out commissioners who don’t get it, who prefer a state of war on Texas’s children to promoting public education

    Let’s hope more people listen to Ravitch now.

    More:

    Be sure to listen to the NPR interview from Morning Edition, yesterday (you can read it, too).

    And, in next Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, a story about how to build a better teacher; do you know the difference between testing and teaching?


    New UT-Dallas grad: Congratulations, Kenny!

    December 22, 2009

    Cue the show tune, “Sunrise, Sunset.”  Quickly go the years indeed.

    For the second time in our lives, elder son Kenny and I experienced a university graduation ceremony together.  This time he wore the gown, and I was the one who didn’t cry and disturb the audience.

    Kenny got his diploma in neuroscience from the University of Texas at Dallas Saturday.

    Here’s an almost-decent photo I got as he flew across the stage:

    Kenny Darrell, Graduation at UT-Dallas 12-19-2009

    Kenny Darrell speeds to get his diploma, UT-Dallas, December 19, 2009; photo copyright Ed Darrell

    At the bottom of the photo you can see a fellow in a UT-D green t-shirt — the official photographer of the day.  Kenny’s elation showed so well, the photo that guy got turned up on UT-D’s website (photo #11 in the series).

    [Update] Here’s the “official” photo of Kenny with UT-D’s President David Daniel.

    UT-Dallas photo of 12-2009 graduation - Kenny Darrell pictured

    UT-D President David Daniel shakes the hand of 2009 graduate Kenny Darrell

    Some time in his high school days Kenny got the idea that he’s responsible for his own education.  At UT-D he took control of his time and learning.  His graduation is his own doing.

    Congratulations, Kenny.  I have it on good authority your parents are beaming.

    Nice cap to the year.

    Kenny Darrell at graduation from UT-D, 12-19-2009

    Kenny Darrell, graduate from UT-Dallas, December 19, 2009


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