Sunday, December 8, 2013

International Assessment Conclusions Called Into Question


PISA Conclusions Called into Question

Recently, a report came out regarding the international PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) exam comparing student achievement between countries. This showed Americans’ student achievement as stagnant or making only slight improvements compared to other countries. I am a fan of the PISA assessment, because it asks students to do more than regurgitate facts, which is the focus of current standardized tests in the United States. Alternatively, PISA requires students to demonstrate their ability to think and solve problems. However, I am very concerned about the number of students who actually take the test and the accuracy of the results and conclusions derived from the PISA exam. Here's why.

PISA is administered to a minimum of 150, randomly selected schools in each of 65 countries. All of the grade 11 classified students in these schools take the PISA test. In the United States, with our total population of juniors at approximately 4 million in over 27,000 high schools, this means that 6,000 juniors in 150 schools took the test. This represents 0.15% of the total population of eligible juniors and 0.59% of all high schools in America. This number of test takers is insufficient, according to statistical methods, to draw generalizable conclusions from the data. This means that the data derived from the test cannot be used to draw conclusions about overall achievement in the United States.

Comparatively, Finland has a population of 5.4 million people. They have approximately 70,000 fifteen year olds who could take the PISA test. These students attend approximately 300 high schools. If 150 schools in Finland are required to take the PISA test, that is a sample size of 50%. Logically, this represents approximately 35,000 students, which is 50% of the total population of fifteen year olds in Finland. This is a very strong sample size and the results are certainly generalizable to all of the fifteen year olds in Finland.

China has an overall population of over 1.3 billion. Japan's population is 127 million. Korea has a population of 50 million. How can we draw comparisons about student achievement between countries if the sample size of students taking the test is statistically insignificant compared to the number of potential participants?

Certainly, those who examine the data closely will determine that some countries have more than 150 schools who take the test. For example, over 900 schools in Canada participated. And with an overall population of 35 million, 900 schools is a nice sample size.

In sum, 510,000 students in 65 countries representing approximately 28 million eligible fifteen year olds in the world took the test. This is a sample size of 1.8%.

Are you comfortable making a judgement about anything with evidence from 1.8% of the population? In Michigan, 1.8% of fifteen year olds represents 2,500 of our 142,000 fifteen year old students. However, with the American percentage of participants at 0.15%, only 213 of the eligible fifteen year olds in Michigan took the test (although PISA will not disclose how many of Michigan’s students or schools actually participated). And 0.59% of Michigan high schools represents 4 schools. Are you comfortable making a conclusion about the skills of our fifteen year olds based upon a sample size of 0.15% of the population? That's less than 1 in 100. That’s 15 out of 10,000 or 150 out of 100,000. Are you comfortable stating that the achievement of fifteen year olds in Michigan is stagnant based upon a test given in 4 schools? How many kids at your local high school took the PISA test? Not one Clarkston student took it. Not one.
I like the PISA test. I think it is a big improvement over the standardized tests our students currently take in Michigan. I think our state should consider using The PISA assessment with a statistically significant percentage of the population of fifteen year olds and then consider the results in comparison with other countries who have a statistically significant number of students take the test. Until then, I think it is negligible to draw any conclusions from such a small sample.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Educational Reform: What's Dumb about Smart? Part III


Following up on my August 10 Detroit Free Press Letter to the Editor, Feedback: Schools put too much emphasis on tests (http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013308100015), here is Part III of my III part series on What's Dumb about Smart.

Educational Reform: What’s Dumb about Smart? Part III
by Rod Rock, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Clarkston Community Schools

Recently, I had lunch with the mother of an autistic child. This mother is one of the biggest advocates for children I have ever met. She is also a terrific supporter of public schools. She and her husband have studied neuroscience. Their child has taken part in national studies on the brain. They use herbal remedies, diets, and medical treatments. They are great parents.

Their child is terrifically smart. She can hear things once and know them forever. She is a good reader. The child is well spoken and is not highly emotional. The child is very self aware and has, since a very young age, been able to articulately discuss and discern how she learns and how learning is challenging for her. She struggles with writing and interacting with other students in large class settings, yet she does very well on tests just by hearing and reading the content. Still, the educational system requires her to write and takes away points from her grade when she does not write.

In a system that focuses on deficits in children, we label this child as disabled and mildly autistic--we determine that this child needs to be fixed. We give this child writing support, we work on her study skills, and we remove her from gym and art classes so that she can spend more time practicing her writing.

In a system that focused instead on strengths, aptitudes, and individual differences in children, we would label this child as logically-mathematical, intra-personally, and linguistically intelligent. We would notice this child’s natural proclivities and strengths and we would use this knowledge to help the child better learn math, science, social studies, art, music, and interpersonal communication skills. We would give this child a computer that would allow her to take notes in a way that made sense for her smarts and we would expect her to demonstrate her knowledge and understandings on tests designed for her (perhaps alone). In these ways, we would assure that any deficits in her learning were not a result of inhibitors related to the unimodal learning environment of the school, classroom, or test, but rather actual gaps in her knowledge. These are the elements of a non-dumb educational system.

In 1983, Harvard professor, Howard Gardner, conceptualized the idea of multiple intelligences. In his research, Gardner "documented the extent to which students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways," (1995, p. 11).

According to Gardner, "We are all able to know the world through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking, the use of the body to solve problems or to make things, an understanding of other individuals, and an understanding of ourselves. Where individuals differ is in the strength of these intelligences and in the ways in which such intelligences are invoked and combined to carry out different tasks, solve diverse problems, and progress in various domains" (1995, p. 12).

Hear it again: “Students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways.... Where individuals differ is in the strength of [their] intelligences and in the ways in which such intelligences are invoked and combined to carry out different tasks, solve diverse problems, and progress in various domains."

This is really smart! Kids are different. Each child is unique and uniquely smart. It is the job of the educational system, then, to figure out how and to help each child use his/her smarts to be happy and to achieve at the highest levels possible so that he/she may pursue his/her dreams and positively contribute to our world. This is a profound and fundamental change/reform that is inclusive of all children. It is not elitist, it is malleable; it is not exclusive, it is attainable. In so doing, we are not lowering achievement standards, promoting excuses or laziness, or threatening anyone. Instead, we are reforming education. This is non-dumb. This is really smart.

Of course, these ideas are blatantly obvious and make complete sense, right, parents of multiple children? You know from raising your children that, even though they were born of the same parents and reared in the same home, each of them possesses a different set of strengths and can uniquely apply these strengths in carrying out tasks, solving problems, and understanding concepts. Does this mean that one is smarter than the other? Is the scratch golfer smarter than the concert pianist? Is the CPA smarter than the millionaire plumber who hires the CPA to do his bookkeeping?

What Gardner is saying in his research on intelligence, and what we all know to be true, is that there are many ways to be smart and one way is not necessarily more indicative of ability, future performance, or potential contribution. Indeed, it takes all kinds of intelligences (e.g., strengths, aptitudes, skills) to make our world work and to thrive in the worlds of work. Standardized tests, by their very design, measure only a limited number of intelligences, and therefore exclude many children from the realm of the smart. This is really dumb.

It is time to stop talking about intelligence in the singular form and to make it plural. It is time to recognize the strengths and aptitudes that kids bring with them to school, to build upon these, to assess these, and to help children understand how to best use and expand these to make our world work and to thrive in the worlds of work. Humans, unlike dogs, do not learn through suppression, conformity, or omission. Exactly the opposite is true, in fact: humans learn through expression, creativity/individuality, and inclusion.

Once we collectively agree upon an expanded definition of smart, achievement for all children will improve. Not because we dumbed down the standardized tests or discontinued accountability measures, but because we stopped suppressing the natural inclinations and proclivities of many kids and instead included their smarts in our assessments. This will be the beginning, after too many years of marginalization, of real, student-centered, educational reform. I can’t wait, and neither can your child who thankfully and remarkably is exactly unlike anyone else on planet Earth.

As preeminent scholar and author Peter Senge discusses, “Transformational change is about deep, systemic change; and what is most systemic is actually most personal” (2013). It is time to transform education by un-dumbing smart and personalizing learning according to the gifts that children possess. How will proposed legislation or reform make this closer to the truth for every child?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What Matters Most in Education?: N = 1

In my opinion, government policy, although well intended, is aimed at faux, short-term wins over true, long-term betterment. As an example, we grade schools, then we rank order them, then we label them, then we color code them. Why? Is this based upon science, or politics? What doctrine proves that these policies make schools any better for kids?

When we watch football on TV, we see performances. At the end, there is a clear winner (almost without exception). What we do not see are the thousands of hours--broken down by position, offense and defense, weight rooms  conditioning, youth football, passing camps, junior high, all alone with a dream, playing catch with dad, watching tapes, planning for practice, half-time adjustments, getting cut from the team. The stuff that matters most--effort, trial and error, repetition, one pound stronger, one-tenth of a second faster, diets, sacrifice, sleep, encouragement, skills, drill, break down--we never see. Our only window in is the game--win or lose? Record. Statistics. Performance.

What matters most in schools and in the learning of individuals throughout life isn't an arbitrary label--gifted, disabled, average, focus, reward, red, periwinkle, highly effective. Rather, it is the thousands of hours of effort that few people ever see that in sum total equal who we are as individuals. Our character, our grit, our spirit, our willingness to run one more lap, study one more minute, try when we feel like quitting, belief in our selves, pursuit of a passion.

Our rewards are not arbitrary, notwithstanding of the labels. Our rewards are very real; tangible. They come often in the form of passion, emotions, relationships, and inspiration--given and received.

I want to educate in a smart world, where we collectively do the best we can for every child. This is the antithesis of politics, which most often represent the will of the majority. Individuals, they are the epitome of minority: n = 1. This makes education much more of a case study than generalizable to the masses. In fact, when you think about a child; a life; a human; a story, the only thing that matters is n = 1.

This is my opinion.

Rod Rock

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Educational Reform: What's Dumb about Smart? Part II


Following up on my August 10 Detroit Free Press Letter to the Editor, Feedback: Schools put too much emphasis on tests (http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013308100015), here is Part II of my III part series on What's Dumb about Smart.

Educational Reform: What’s Dumb about Smart? Part II
by Rod Rock, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Clarkston Community Schools, Clarkston, Michigan

It is universally agreed upon, mistakenly, that the United States’ educational system is broken. Yet, in all of the discussion, debate, and legislation related to fixing it, rarely do we ever read or hear any suggestion that what is broken is not the system itself, but rather the very concept of achievement and intelligence that the system pursues and promotes. This fundamental flaw makes dumb the educational system’s pursuit of smart.

Reform in the current context means revised governance structures (such as charter schools, virtual schools, and district consolidation); school choice (such as vouchers); one-size-fits-all standardized tests for every student every year, the use of test results to rank schools, teacher evaluation and merit pay, new curricula, and more tests. Since reform discussions began in the US nearly 65 years ago, this list has not changed. Reform is almost exclusively and perpetually about governance structures, standardized tests, curricula, and placing blame.

Essentially, this means that not much ever actually changes in our educational systems. Yes, more laws are put in place. Yes, the money for education goes to different providers. Yes, parents have choices. Yes, curriculum is different. Yes, kids take more tests. And, these reforms are remodels as opposed to true changes. The facade looks different, and how the system measures, acknowledges, and fosters individual differences in children remains static.

The reason: because the reforms never addressed the fundamental element of education--intelligence. From 1947 to 2013, our educational systems have never--despite overwhelming evidence--adjusted what it means to be smart in school. In opposition to prolific begging from universities and the business world regarding the skills today’s kids need, our educational systems remain profoundly focused on a unimodal concept and measurement of intelligence. Education attempts today, harder than ever, to fit more and more students into an accepted, antiquated, singular, and highly prejudicial definition of intelligence. This is really shameful.

There is one curriculum, generally speaking, in your local school. It is expected that students born in the same six to ten months of a calendar year will experience and thrive within this curriculum, and as a result, achieve at a high level on the same standardized test each October or March. When this does not occur, the child, the teacher, the school, and the district are considered to have failed and reform sets in. Yet nothing ever really changes.

This approach makes perfect sense in a factory model of education. It is highly efficient, predictable, portable, manageable, reportable, and reliable. However, it is completely dumb if you are the parent of a child who demonstrates intelligence in a different way. Say your child is an excellent listener and does not enjoy writing or taking notes. In fact, his motor skills are so poor that the process of writing actually distracts him from learning. Since the standardized test is designed for kids who read and write well, as opposed to listen well, there is a very good chance that your child will not do well on this test and that he is currently being reformed. Does this mean he’s dumb?

Suppose your child is a highly active learner. She can go into the woods, build a fire, catch a fish, filter creek water for drinking, and identify plants, but despises sitting in a classroom, facing the front of the room, reading from a textbook, and memorizing facts. Despite your child’s obvious smarts, she is unlikely to do well on the standardized test that takes into account only reading and memory skills. Does this mean that she’s dumb?

In a system where the definition of smart is dumb, the answers to these questions is simply, uniquely, and profoundly, “Yes, your child is dumb.” This is the message that the child receives as he or she is reformed each day. This is the message that the teacher receives as she looks at her students’ standardized test scores. This is the message that the media sends as it compares one school’s effectiveness to another.

So, what is dumb about smart is the way that standardized tests measure it, the ways in which the media reports it, and the ways in which the government uses it to constantly reform the educational system? If we measured a tub of butter in acres instead of ounces and pounds, and then tried to sell it by the pound, we would be very confused. And, if we surveyed land in ounces and pounds and then tried to sell it by the acre, we would have a messed up system. Yet, this is exactly what we do in schools. We measure the intelligence of our students on a unimodal, universal assessment, and then we use the results to try to fix the kid or the school. Only after they graduate do they come to realize how they are smart. We have a messed up system.

We have to stop this nonsense. We must stop assessing to determine who is smart and start assessing to see how each child is smart. The present assessment system is patently unfair to children, teachers, and schools. It marginalizes kids. It tells kids that they are dumb and that they cannot be smart. It connects failure to learning, which is an absolute oxymoron. It’s what is dumb about smart. It is time to change it, fundamentally and universally.
In Part III, I will discuss the elements of a non-dumb educational system.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Educational Reform - Unchaining Change: What's Dumb about Smart, Part I


Following up on my August 10 Detroit Free Press Letter to the Editor, Feedback: Schools put too much emphasis on tests (http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013308100015), here is Part I of my 2+ part series on What's Dumb about Smart.

Educational Reform - Unchaining Change:
What’s Dumb about Smart? Part I
by Rod Rock, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Clarkston Community Schools, Clarkston, Michigan

One of the most used and overused words in the English language is change. It was the word of the 2008 Presidential election. It is the focus of thousands of books and lectures. It is a constant topic of study. What is change? What’s worth changing in education? Which changes will truly affect student achievement?

When I think of changes in education, I think of the chains of education. It seems to me that alterations in the fundamental functions and concepts of education are chained to a stake in the ground, like the elephant at the circus. If the elephant decided she wanted to escape the length of that chain, she could easily do so, yet her mind tells her that she cannot. Similarly, education is chained perilously to a stake in the ground that says that there is only one form of intelligence; only one way to measure student achievement; and only one way to improve student achievement. Certainly, if our educational systems collectively decided that this perplexing chain is flawed and only exists in our minds, we could snap it and truly change our systems to make them inclusive of all children.

So, what is change? Preeminent scholar and author, Peter Senge, declared that “Transformational change is about deep, systemic change; and what is most systemic is actually most personal” (2013). Deep, systemic, and personal. These concepts are rarely unchained in educational change. Certainly, change infrequently goes deep. Less frequently, change affects entire systems before the next change comes along. And only in exceptional cases do we unchain education to a point where changes truly affect children on a personal level.

So what might unchaining change look and feel like? Howard Gardner (2004) stated that “the phenomenon of changing minds is one of the least examined and least understood of familiar human experiences” (p. 1). Gardner “reserves the phrase ‘changing minds’ for the situation where individuals or groups abandon the way in which they have customarily thought about an issue of importance and henceforth conceive of it in a new way” (p. 2). Like the elephant chained to the stake in the ground, Gardner declared that “the key to changing a mind is to produce a shift in the individual’s ‘mental representations’--the particular way in which a person perceives, codes, retains, and accesses information” (p. 5).

Here then we have conceptualized the unchaining of change --deep, systemic, personal, abandon the old ways of thinking and knowing, and fundamentally alter mental representations. These are not the terms or phrases of America’s traditional educational reform agendas or Michigan’s proposed teacher evaluation processes, due the chains of history, politics, groupthink, and unquestioned assumptions. It is time to unchain change!
What’s worth changing in education? Back to Gardner:

I define an intelligence as a biopsychological potential to process specific forms of information in certain kinds of ways. Human beings have evolved diverse information-processing capacities--I term these ‘intelligences’--that allow them to solve problems or to fashion products. To be considered ‘intelligent,’ these products and solutions must be valued in at least one culture or community.... Individuals are not equally ‘smart’ or ‘dumb’ under all circumstances; rather they have different intelligences that may be variously cherished or disregarded under different circumstances.... I argue that intelligence is pluralistic; it includes fashioning products as well as solving problems, and it is defined neither on an a priori basis, nor on test performances, but rather on the basis of what happens to be valued at a particular historical time in a particular cultural context.

The perpetual, perturbational chain of our educational systems is thus the unquestioned, unimodal mental representation of intelligence. This mental representation frames intelligence as something that a written, annual test can measure. It does not ask test takers to solve problems or fashion products. It asks test takers to process specific forms of information in only one way--identify the correct answer. Our assessment systems see all individuals as equally smart or dumb, as suggested in the reporting of results, the scales, and the responses to results. Without question, intelligence in our educational system is based on test performance. Most troubling, the singular definition of intelligence is biased and exclusive, and therefore marginalizes too many students. Indeed beyond school, most cultures and communities see this limited definition of intelligence as inaccurate and insufficient.

In order to unchain educational change--to make it deep, systemic, personal, based upon modern ways of thinking, and to fundamentally alter mental representations, our systems must change--and unchain--the definition of intelligence, help every child discover how he/she is intelligent, and then expand these intelligences to make our world work and to allow every graduate to thrive in the worlds of work. This must become the reform agenda of the 21st Century. If teacher evaluation processes and other reforms do not include these changes, we should not expect achievement--which is currently based upon a flawed and singular concept of intelligence--to improve.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Too Much Emphasis on Tests: Biased and Unfair to Kids

From the August 10 Detroit Free Press:

As politicians design school reforms, they compare America to other countries, and our values of individuality, creativity, achievement and citizenship, and fail to see that our educational systems indeed sustain these values.
We are not Singapore or Finland.
The true fault with our educational system is that it uses only tests to determine student, teacher and school achievement. If a student has a good memory, writes well and can read and do math quickly, then the he will score effectively on the test. If a student is good with her hands, remembers best through hearing, and struggles with a pencil, then the child will not score effectively on the test.
This does not mean that one of these children is smart and one is dumb; it means that the standardized test they took measured intelligence in only one way.
Our standardized testing system is unfair and biased. It perpetuates sameness and ensures that some kids fail, regardless of their work ethic, abilities and aptitudes or the quality of their teacher.
Until an educational reform plan — teacher evaluation, choice and charters, consolidation, curriculum — expands the definition of intelligence, it cannot universally improve student, teacher or school achievement.
Rod Rock
Superintendent,
Clarkston Community Schools
*I will follow up with 2+ more opinion pieces on this topic.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Future of Learning 2013 Reflections

Day 1, Harvard Project Zero Plenary Sessions:

Learning has evolved. The decisions we make regarding learning represent our values. How can we evolve learning for all learners?

What is worth learning? Which understandings matter most in the lives learners are likely to live?

If every single student who left formal education having mastered at least one discipline, how would this understanding serve the child in the life he/she is most likely to live?

Expertise, information, achievement. How can we reimagine ed 2 personalize learning 4 the lives learners are most likely to live?

Nothing enters our brains without context.

Facing History In Ourselves: http://www.facing.org/

Justin Riech: http://www.edtechresearcher.com/

Mary Helen Immordino Yang: http://rossier.usc.edu/faculty/mary_helen_immordinoyang.html

Todd Rose: http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/03/30/dropout-harvard/3JEYV7sdiHzhlFNOapHSuO/story.html

Emotions matter in learning. The environment affects emotions. Kids must make emotional connections to the learning goals.

Kids must emotionally understand the learning goals. If they do not, they may struggle.






Content represents lenses through which to view the world in which we live.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Response to MEAP Results


Here is my response to the recent release of MEAP tests in the state of Michigan.

Continuous improvement is the business of our business. Every day, our teachers use data to inform their decision making. Part of this ongoing process are MEAP test results, which the state provides in February (students in grades 3-9 takes these tests in October) . Just as we do every day, our administrators and teachers examine multiple assessments (e.g., observations, grades, tests, performances, homework, discussions, quizzes). We continuously review our curricula and instruction in comparison to these data. We make adjustments according to our ongoing needs. This is a process that occurs every day in every one of our schools and not just in February when we receive MEAP results. These are the processes of highly effective schools.

As the community is aware, Michigan, along with 46 other states, will soon discontinue the use of the MEAP (or whatever standardized test each state uses) and begin instead using the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which is based upon the Common Core Curriculum. These assessments will ask our students to demonstrate higher order thinking skills (examples at http://sampleitems.smarterbalanced.org/itempreview/sbac/index.htm). The reason for the change in assessment is that we, as an educational community and based upon research, know that knowledge (as demonstrated on the MEAP or other multiple-choice/one-right-answer assessments) is only one essential skill necessary for success in our world. Other, equally important skills include: critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurialism, effective oral and written communication, accessing and analyzing information, and curiosity and imagination (Wagner, 2010). These skills are not measured by the MEAP, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment will attempt to measure them.

Hence, the Clarkston Community Schools is focused upon preparing our students for the future, including success on the higher-order-thinking assessments. We are not focused on the past or on the MEAP.

Many educational experts and politicians in our world suggest that the achievement of our students is measured solely by standardized tests (such as the MEAP) and that educators should use these results to drive all decisions (including teacher evaluation, merit pay, school effectiveness, state funding, and principal effectiveness). Some people suggest that school districts should carefully scrutinize MEAP test results, identify students within each achievement category, and work diligently to move students from one category to another. Of course, we could do this, but why would we? Why would we focus solely on improving our students' test taking skills? Why would we give our students a test once each year, await the results for four to five months, and only then make adjustments to our teaching and curricula? Why would we focus on the past and not the present or the future? Why would we focus on a test that only measures knowledge and only at one point in time? These types of practices are a disservice to our students, teachers, staff, and community.

The essence of education and achievement is what kids can do with what they know. Achievement, among other things, is a result of what happens every day with every child in every classroom in every school. As Richard Elmore says, "From pre-K to high school, the make-or-break factor is the 'instructional core' — the skills of the teacher, the engagement of the students and the rigor of the curriculum. To succeed, students must become thinkers, not just test-takers." Certainly, we as educators would be negligent if we did not engage our students as thinkers every day and not just in response to annual test results from the state of Michigan.

So, the results that we've received from the state are the results. We will use these results--along with other measures--to examine our curriculum, adjust our instruction, and engage our students more deeply as thinkers and not just test takers. We won't use the results as a single picture of the ability of our students, our teachers, our principals, or our schools. We won't compare ourselves to other schools. We won't compare one student to another. We won't compare ourselves to the rest of the state. We will continue instead to use research to inform our practices, to support our students' learning every day, and to continuously enhance our students as thinkers, learners, and positive contributors to a global society.

If I, as the superintendent of schools, were to focus my attention on MEAP scores, I would be contradicting the messages I send to teachers and students each day about learning. I would be saying to them that, 'despite what we know and believe about teaching and learning, I want you to make sure that our students do better on the MEAP test.' I would be saying that, 'because these tests get lots of attention from the press and because the state might evaluate my effectiveness as a superintendent on these test results, it is important that our students do well and that our teachers focus on these tests.' In the process, our teachers would wonder why I constantly talk about thinking and learning and the development of the entire mind. They'd wonder why I am inconsistent and reactionary. Certainly, these are not the kind of messages I would want to send and not the kind of learning environment that I wish to foster and promote.

Instead, I want to focus on the culture of the classroom. The engagement of students. The capacity of our students to use what they know, and not just know it.

If we are going to become the best school district we can become; if we are going to ensure that our school district fully cultivates each student as a thinker, learner, and positive contributor to a global society, then we are going to have to stay the course of coherence. We are going to have to focus. We are going to have to overcome the pressures that come at us from outside entities. We are going to have to critically think and problem solve; collaborate across grade levels and buildings; with agility and adaptability manage assessment and instruction; practice initiative and entrepreneurialism; effectively communicate (both orally and in writing); access and analyze a variety of  information; and curiously and imaginatively learn, teach, and lead. We can't say one thing and do something else. We must stay the course of coherence.

This is exactly what we will do.

Thank you.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Reform Lessons from Finland

From Sahlberg, P. (2010). Finnish Lessons: What the World Can Learn from Educational Change in Finland. New York: Teachers College Press.

"We should reconsider those education policies that advocate choice, competition, and privatization as the key drivers of sustained educational improvement. None of the best-performing education systems currently rely primarily on them. Indeed, the Finnish experience shows that a consistent focus on equality and shared responsibility--not choice and competition--can lead to an education system in which all children learn better than they did before. Hoping that the problem of inadequate education would be fixed by paying teachers based on their student's test scores or converting public schools into private ones through charters or other means is not included in the repertoire of educational improvement in Finland." (p. 134).

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Response to Unfounded, Nonsensical Educational Reform Agendas:

We must be the educational leaders, teachers, parents, researchers, students, and American citizens that swim against the currents of unfounded, nonsensical educational reforms (and the present wave of unfounded, nonsensical educational reform efforts won't be the last). We must set and stay a course of coherence. We must displace the comfortable, quick-fix, unquestioned reliance on compliance with the passionate, patient, persistent discomfort of transformational change--toward excellent public schools in every community for every child. Kids don't grow by happenstance--first their fingers, then their toes, then their elbows, then their brains. Growth, rather, is collective; whole. It is a minute, ubiquitous, simultaneous symbiosis. Just as a fetus develops in the womb--moment by moment, day by day, month by month until the right time--children's understandings evolve. Only in still pictures and hindsight is there a moment in time; a silver bullet; an obvious way forward. The development of the mind--of a person, of a citizen, of understanding--is an HD, 3D movie. It lives. We must move educational reform from reactionary political platforms and special interests to creating equal access to excellence through research, shared responsibility, and collective action. Excellence and equitable access. Altruism. Mother and child. Mind and environment. Child and society. Schools and communities. Interdependent. Interdependence. Interdependency. Symbiosis.

CCS is on the right path. We must stay the course.






"While [examples from excellent, comprehensive educational systems in the highest performing countries] hold great promise, they call for patience. Reforming schools is a complex and slow process. To rush this process is to ruin it. The story of Finland's educational transformation makes this clear. Steps must be grounded in research and implemented in collaboration by academics, policy makers, principals, and teachers." 
(Sahlberg, P. 2010. Finish Lessons. Teachers College Press, New York. P. 3)