Friday, September 30, 2011

Once Upon a Time . . .

In 1956, Peter Stang left his hometown in Hungary to travel to the United States. Why? Because the U.S. represented opportunity—opportunity to achieve anything Stang could imagine. Now, at 69, Peter Stang is receiving the National Medal of Science, the highest honor given to a scientist or engineer by the United States.

Over 50 years ago, and even before that, immigrants came to the U.S. searching for a better life, knowing the freedom to study, learn, and progress was finally possible. Some might argue that the country has lost that reputation or that it has significantly diminished. Although we may not currently be at the top compared to competing nations of the world in math and science, the United States still has an abundance of potential. Peter Stang became a world-renowned chemist (ranked 69th on a list of the world’s top 100 chemists) because he had opportunities. He credits his success to the freedoms and opportunities he has enjoyed in the U.S. “This is the only country in the world that I know of that takes the best of anyone in the world and gives them the opportunity to succeed.”

Can the United States still be the catalyst for great learning and innovation? How?

Learn more about Peter Stang by clicking here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Are the Students Asking the Questions?

Any teacher will tell you that asking the right questions is imperative to fostering real learning in the classroom. But what about the questions the students are asking? In a recent article, Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana discuss the positive effects of teaching students to ask their own questions. They conclude that, “Typically, questions are seen as the province of teachers, who spend years figuring out how to craft questions and fine-tune them to stimulate students’ curiosity or engage them more effectively. We have found that teaching students to ask their own questions can accomplish these same goals while teaching a critical lifelong skill.”

While learning more about questioning, a child at Boston Day and Evening academy observed: “When you ask the question, you feel like it’s your job to get the answer, and you want to figure it out.” Rothstein and Santana indicate that, “When students know how to ask their own questions they take greater ownership of their learning, deepen comprehension, and make new connections and discoveries on their own.”

Are you teaching students how to ask their own questions? Do you agree with Rothstein and Santana?

To learn more about teaching students to ask questions from Rothstein and Santana, click here

Friday, September 23, 2011

Will Wyoming's Students Achieve with the Common Core State Standards

In June 2010, Wyoming’s Board of Education decided to adopt the Common Core State Standards. Although the opportunity to raise the English and math scores of students seems like a good idea, nearly one-third of the members of the Legislature’s Joint Interim Education Committee have decided that the Common Core math standards are too difficult for Wyoming students.

One would think if students are struggling with achieving the standards that almost every state in America has adopted, what will change if the standards don’t change? What will be done to ensure those students stop struggling and experience high-level learning? If the legislative committee reverses the decision by the Board of Education, Wyoming’s students likely will always be behind the other states in terms of math achievement.

Kay Persichette, dean of the University of Wyoming’s College of Education, said the Common Core Standards do raise the bar in math. That’s exactly what should happen if our students are falling behind their counterparts in other states.

“It only makes sense that we have some platform of expectations in terms of rigorous common standards in core subjects across the nation if we’re going to be able to reasonably compare achievement, progress and learning,” Persichette said.

Monday, September 19, 2011

How Do We Determine Teacher Effectiveness?

National leaders, teachers’ unions, state officialsall have tried to come up with the most effective method for evaluating teachers. What will ensure quality educators for the students in our schools? Although there is no simple, ready-made solution, Nancy Folbre argues in an article in the New York Times that rating teachers according to their students’ performance on standardized tests and firing those who don’t make the grade will likely backfire.

Too much pressure to improve students’ test scores can reduce attention to other aspects of the curriculum and discourage cultivation of broader problem-solving skills, also known as “teaching to the test.” The economists Bengt Holmstrom and Paul Milgrom describe the general problem of misaligned incentives in more formal terms – workers who are rewarded only for accomplishment of easily measurable tasks reduce the effort devoted to other tasks.

Advocates of intensified teacher assessment assert that current practices leave too many incompetent or ineffective teachers in place. But many schools suffer from the opposite problem: high teacher turnover that reduces gains from experience and increases the costs of personnel management. As Sara Mosle pointed out in a recent review of Mr. Brill’s “Class Warfare,” about 40 percent of teachers in New York City quit after three years.

Is there a solution?

To read the full article, click here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Current Condition of Our Education

“The passing references to children and students feel largely like rhetorical flourishes in the partisan and ideological fights among adults.” Yesterday, Gene R. Carter, CEO and executive director of ASCD, made this bold statement on the current condition of our education system in the United States. Evident in the title, “We Need a Different National Conversation,” Carter exposed disappointing facts about the decline in the education system that will likely remain if the conversation about education does not change. He said, “Our poorest children routinely don’t get the help they need inside or outside the classroom. Their teachers are the least well prepared; their schools are the least funded; and the community services they need are largely lacking.”

“We talk about the importance of teachers, but we are in the midst of firing tens of thousands of them. We want teachers to be more effective, but we rarely provide the professional development they need or encourage their desire to be the best they can be.”

Carter fearlessly called on Congress to support a whole-child approach to education, to support quality schools and effective teachers, to broaden the definition of academic excellence, and to embrace college- and career readiness standards that include all core academic subjects, not only reading and math.

Read the full article and learn more here.