Curriculum & Instruction

(Gad)flies on the classroom wall

Mike and Rick wonder what (if anything) Newt’s resurgence means for education in the 2012 election and whether the white working class would benefit from schools that sweat the small stuff. Amber delves into NCTQ’s latest teacher policy report and Chris ponders a texting-free education.

Amber's Research Minute

NCTQ 2011 State Teacher Policy Yearbook

Amber's Weekly Poll


Tune in next week to find out the answer!

What's Up With That?

Rhode Island Rep. Peter Petrarca wants to ban text messaging during school hours? Is this a good idea? Leave your comments below.

Sal Khan at Web 2.0 Summit
 

The front page of Sunday’s New York Times featured a pair of articles, each of which was
informative and alarming in its way but which, taken together, produced (in my
head at least) a winter storm—as did Tuesday evening’s State
of the Union message
by President Obama.

The longer, more informative, and more alarming, of the articles
was an extensive account of why Apple’s iPhones are now
made in China rather than the U.S.
The short version is that “the
flexibility, diligence, and industrial skills of foreign workers have so
outpaced their American counterparts that ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ is no longer a
viable option for most Apple products.”

Flexibility, diligence, and industrial skills. Hold that
thought.

Simply
put, although the President spoke of restoring millions of manufacturing jobs
to U.S. shores, it’s hard to picture Apple (or similar firms)...

Last week, Education First and the EPE Research
Center released a report entitled Preparing for Change. It’s the first of three
that will look at whether states have developed Common Core implementation
plans that address three key challenges:

  • Developing a plan for teacher professional
    development,
  • planning to align/revamp state-created
    curricular and instructional materials, and
  • making changes to teacher evaluation systems.

Many CCSS supporters cheered at the main finding, which indicated that all but
one state—Wyoming—“reported having developed some type of formal implementation
plan for transitioning to the new, common standards.” There is cause for
excitement—this is a clear indication that states are taking CCSS
implementation seriously and that they are working to reorient their education
systems to the new standards.

That said, while developing implementation plans
is an essential step, it’s far more critical to ensure that those plans are
worth following—that they properly identify the gaps in teacher knowledge and
skills so they can target state-led PD efforts, for example, and that they
prioritize the essential components of the CCSS in state-created curricula and
instructional materials. This report doesn’t get...

ipad

Textbooks won't go extinct anytime soon.
Photo by meedanphotos

Last week, Apple launched two programs
for the iPad that it hopes will transform the textbook industry in the same way
the iPod transformed the music industry. The first, iBooks 2, will make
media-rich electronic textbooks available for purchase on the iPad at a
fraction of the cost of a hard-copy text. (Currently, all titles are available
for $14.99 or less.) The second, iBooks Author, allows anyone to create
textbooks for free using an iMac, and to publish them to iBooks immediately.

There were many skeptics who, when the
iPod was launched a decade ago, believed it would have only a negligible impact
on the way people listened to music. Helping those folks eat their words has
become something of a cottage industry on the web. Just yesterday, tech blogger
and Apple enthusiast John Gruber gleefully
documented
all of the people who underestimated the appeal of the...

When the Common Core academic content standards were first introduced,
most observers thought at best ten or 12 state would adopt them, and few
thought it possible they’d be adopted by all but a handful of states. However,
as a Fordham’s Now What? Imperatives and Options for “Common
Core” Implementation and Governance
pointed out back in 2010, the
introduction and adoption of the standards was just the beginning: “Standards describe the destination
that schools and students are supposed to reach, but by themselves they have
little power to effect change. Much else needs to happen to successfully
journey toward that destination.” It
is that journey and progress toward the final destination that Education First
documents in its new report,
Preparing for Change
.

As the Common Core efforts move into implementation, this
report takes an important look at where states are in the process of ensuring a
successful and seamless transition to the new academic standards. States were
asked to answer questions about implementation as a part of the Editorial
Projects in Education Research Center’s annual state policy survey last summer.
The survey questions...

The
U.S. economy has shed more than eight million jobs since 2008, and has created
only two million new jobs in that same period of time, resulting in not only a
high number of unemployed people, but also a high number of job vacancies. A
recent report by The Hamilton Project
attributes this contradictory statistic to the nation’s schools doing a poor
job of graduating students who are career-ready. With a lack of qualified
applicants, employers are settling for the cheapest employees rather than the
most qualified employees, or worse, leaving jobs vacant all together. Or, as in
the case of Apple and other great companies, moving the jobs to China where the
labor force is ready, willing, and able to do the work.

In
order to provide students with skills necessary to obtain decent jobs that pay
a middle class wage, the author argues that students need career counseling in
high school that does not simply herd students toward bachelor’s degrees, but
directs them to career certificates or associate’s degrees, as well. College
dropout rates could be lessened if students were...

Last
week on the Core Knowledge blog, Robert Pondiscio called for the end
of seven classroom practices that don’t work
. Four of the seven practices
dealt with standards- and data-driven instruction—or, really, the
bastardization of standards- and data-driven instruction. The crux of
Pondiscio’s argument is right on the money: Standards-driven instruction is
only as good as the standards and assessments that are used to drive
instruction, and reading standards (and/or assessments) that prioritize empty
reading skills over content are sure to steer our teachers wrong.

Unfortunately,
Pondiscio’s post distracts from that point by deriding some practices that,
when done well, can be used to powerfully drive student achievement.

Take,
for example, data-driven instruction. Pondiscio is right that “using data in
half-baked or simplistic ways” is going to do very little to drive student
learning. But the answer is not to abandon data-driven instruction writ large,
but rather to encourage teachers to use data thoughtfully and purposefully.
There aren’t nearly enough examples (or quality PD purveyors) that demonstrate
how this can be done and done well. We need more.

There is no question...

Last
week, a report was released by Education First and the EPE Research
Center entitled Preparing
for Change
. The report is the first in a series of three that will look
at whether states have developed Common Core implementation plans that address
three areas of CCSS implementation:

  • Developing a plan for teacher
    professional development,
  • planning to align/revamp
    state-created curricular and instructional materials, and
  • making changes to teacher evaluation systems.

Many
CCSS supporters cheered at the report’s main finding, which indicated that all
but one state—Wyoming—“reported
having developed some type of formal implementation plan for transitioning to
the new, common standards.” There is cause for excitement—this is a clear
indication that states are taking CCSS implementation seriously and that they
are working to reorient their education systems to the new standards.

That
said, while developing implementation plans is an important first step, it’s
far more critical to ensure that those plans are worth following—that they
properly identify the gaps in teacher knowledge and skill so that they can
...

Pretty much everybody favors better “civics education” in
our schools and colleges. Pretty much everybody who thinks about such matters
is alarmed that barely a quarter of U.S. school kids were at or above the
“proficient” level on the 2010 NAEP assessment of civics—and that achievement
at the twelfth-grade level is slipping even though just about all
students “take civics” in high school. Almost everyone has encountered ample
examples of students (and adults!) who cannot answer the most rudimentary
questions about how the government is organized, what “separation of powers” or
“checks and balances” means, how many senators their states have (much less their
names), and more.

It
is, indeed, a modern platitude that “we must do something to improve Americans’
knowledge of civics and government.”

But
there is a problem in civics education, a sort of dividing line, about which
there is far less agreement across society. On one side, we find an emphasis on
infusing kids with basic knowledge about government, an understanding of the
merits (as well as the shortcomings) of American democracy, and a sense of what
can...

Earlier this week, the National Center
for Science Education—an organization devoted to “defending the teaching of
evolution and climate science”—launched a new initiative to promote the
teaching of climate change in schools. But they didn't settle for conveying the
solid scientific fact that the climate (almost everywhere) is indeed changing.
They want causality and they enter into policy, politics and civic
activism
. In the Center's formulation, schools should teach children that,
while “climate has changed in the past…now it is changing because humans have
become a force of nature and are altering the flow of matter and energy on the
planet.” What's more, climate change needs to be taught in schools so that
“future citizens to be able to make scientifically informed decisions about the
consequences of climate change.”

But can we really equate people who question evolution with
those who question the science behind what causes (and what, if anything, might
ameliorate) climate change? According to
NCSE’s executive director, Eugenie Scott, “Both [groups] are making a pedagogical argument, that it is somehow
good pedagogy, good critical thinking, for students to learn both. That...

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