Monday, October 31, 2011

Parent Conference Attendance Affects Teacher Merit Pay

It’s not just about test scores.

At least 29 school districts in Idaho have developed merit plans partly based on parental involvement. Many plans also include student attendance, graduation rates, and writing assessments.

In the central Idaho countryside, Challis schools have set a goal that teachers make contact with the parents of their students at least twice every three months.

In southern Idaho, up to 70 percent of the potential bonus available to employees at Wendell High School will be based on attendance at parent-teacher conferences. More than 40 percent of parents have to attend the meetings in order for Wendell teachers to earn the maximum bonus and that goal was exceeded this fall.
About 50 school districts and charter schools have opted not to develop their own pay-for-performance systems but rather to comply with the state's plan, which bases bonuses on standardized test scores. In the 105 districts and charter schools that have developed or are working on their own merit pay plans, teachers will still have to meet statewide goals in order to receive their pay-for-performance bonus.

To learn more about Idaho's plans for merit pay, click here.

Is it possible to truly measure a teacher's performance? If so, how?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Do Teachers Still Wonder?

“We must remind ourselves how little we know and how much there is to know.” 

As we get older we attend more classes, have more experiences, and gain knowledge all along the way. For many of us learning becomes a means of survival, rather than an exploration of life. So where along the way do we forget to question, to wonder, to be curious?

Peter Huidekoper Jr. so clearly described the loss of wonderment and the need for its return in his article, “The Age of Wonder.” He says, “To learn, it is best to begin humble, open, unsure. Most adults know that feeling. Teachers must know that feeling. And yet, we forget. Sometimes, as we focus on convincing parents, students, principals (our evaluators), even colleagues, of how much we know, we lose touch with this quality we so hope to find in our students.” 

“Our foolish pride gets in the way as if we need to prove we know more than those darn bright kids staring back at us, who read better than we ever did and absorb new information faster than we ever could.”

Peter questions the desire teachers demonstrate to their students. Do they encourage desire and learning in the classroom? He reminds us that, “Searching invites participation. Knowing says, ‘I hope you can begin to catch up to me, here at the finish line, here with my wealth of information.’ The former fosters wonder and learning; the latter, regurgitation and boredom.”

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Research Gives Insight to Teacher Training

The academic progress of students is linked directly to where their teachers attended college.

Not to say that if a teacher went to a low-ranking school that they couldn’t or wouldn’t be successful in the classroom, but rather that all teacher training is not created equal. According to the director of the University of Washington Center for Education Data & Research, Dan Goldhaber, the new research revealing that academic progress of public-school students can be traced, in part, to where teachers went to college is just the first step toward determining what kind of training — not where the training occurred — best prepares teachers for excellence in the classroom.

Washington state schools are among the first to see which teacher-training programs seem to result in the best student test scores, but 35 states now have the means to do similar research, according to the Data Quality Campaign, a national organization formed by education and business groups to track state progress on collecting data about students and schools.

Is the future of teacher training on its way up?

To read the full article, click here.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Digital Library Aids Students Learning in a Digital Age

What if we encouraged students to learn in the same ways and with the same tools they spend their time away from school, their “free” time?

Not only that, what if we provided them the means to learn in that same way?
In Chicago, the city’s main library is giving it a go. With a 5,500-square-foot space, Chicago teens are utilizing resources in the “YOUmedia” section of the library to experience learning on “their terms.” While no one knows if this new media space will help the students directly in their classrooms, it is likely to provide a greater interest in learning altogether and knowledge of how to use modern day technology to pursue interests they may want to pursue in the future as a career.

"We are in one of these rare moments in time where what it means to be literate today, what it meant for us, is going to be different from what it means to be literate for our kids," says DePaul University's Nichole Pinkard, who first envisioned the space. Just as schools have always pushed teens to read critically and pick apart authors' arguments, she says, educators must now teach kids how to consume media critically and, ideally, to produce it.

To learn more, click here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Is Collaboration Essential for Students to Learn?

“If school isn’t about doing things together, just about everyone has better places to spend their day.” Ira David Socol declared this statement in his blog post about the necessity of collaboration in creating and sustaining real learning. The dilemma of students becoming prepared for careers in the 21st century and centuries to come in what Socol calls a 19th century school (a classroom with a bunch of kids doing the same thing in the same way on the same device) is not a new one, but while many discuss the problem, Socol outlines what he believes is a solution.

He explains that classrooms where, “educators think the information of the world still moves via paper and pencil, that there are ‘correct answers’ to everything, and that there is a structured cultural norm of learning behavior, best exemplified by the silent child bent over a wooden desk with a thick physical book, which must be duplicated if a student is to succeed in their learning spaces” is an environment that impedes the desire for students to come to school at all.

Instead, Socol gives four ways to provide an environment that promotes self-motivated learning:
1. A learning environment in which students make most decisions
2. A time environment in which students learn and work along a schedule which makes sense to them
3. A technological environment which supports collaboration across every barrier
4. A social environment where adults do not rank students according to their oppressive standards

To learn more about Ira David Socol’s solution and improving collaboration in schools, click here.