Curriculum & Instruction

In praise of ed tech

On this week's podcast, special guest David DeSchryver, a senior vice president at Whiteboard Advisors and OFOM (Old Friend of Mike’s), joins Mike Petrilli and Alyssa Schwenk to discuss the most promising developments in ed tech. During the Research Minute, David Griffith examines the effects of part-day absenteeism in high school.

Amber’s Research Minute

Camille R. Whitney and Jing Liu, “What We’re Missing: A Descriptive Analysis of Part-Day Absenteeism in Secondary School,” AERA Open (April 2017).

 

More than Overdue: Special Ed 2.0 - A conversation with Miriam Kurtzig Freedman

More than Overdue: Special Ed 2.0 - A Conversation with Miriam Kurtzig Freedman

What if every child in American schools had the equivalent of an IEP, i.e. we customized the education of every unique student?

What if we focused on pupil strengths rather than weaknesses?

What if we freed their teachers from paperwork and allowed them to instruct their students as they think best?

What if our education interventions had to be based on solid research?

What if we celebrated IDEA’s many accomplishments, then replaced it with a 21st-century alternative?

Special education in America is overdue for reform, broken beyond repair and in need of a total replacement. Four decades after the enactment of IDEA (as it’s now known), Congress should replace it with a very different approach.

That’s the thesis of Miriam Kurtzig Freedman’s gutsy and provocative new book, Special Education 2.0—Breaking Taboos to Build a NEW Education Law.

PROVOCATEUR

  Chester E. Finn, Jr.
  Distinguished Senior Fellow and President Emeritus
  Thomas B. Fordham Institute
 

PRESENTER

  Miriam Kurtzig Freedman
  Attorney
  School Law Pro

 

Should schools teach the success sequence?

On this week's podcast, Mike Petrilli, Ian Rowe, and Alyssa Schwenk discuss whether and how schools should teach the “success sequence.” During the Research Minute, Amber Northern examines the cross-subject effects of English language arts instruction.

Amber’s Research Minute

Benjamin Master et al., “More Than Content: The Persistent Cross-Subject Effects of English Language Arts Teachers’ Instruction,” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (February 2017).

Although it’s been almost seven years since many states took the important step of elevating their academic standards by adopting the Common Core, teachers and administrators across the country still bemoan the lack of reliable information about which instructional materials are high-quality and best aligned to the new standards.  

One recent survey found that a whopping 90 percent of districts reported having major or minor problems identifying high quality, well-aligned resources. A second study found that the majority of textbooks had substantial alignment problems. In response to these reports, several entities such as EdReports, the Louisiana Department of Education, and the California Curriculum Collaborative have begun providing educators with impartial reviews of core instructional and curricular materials. Yet next to no information exists on the quality and content of resources intended to supplement a full curriculum.

The Right Tool for the Job fills that void by providing in-depth reviews of several promising digital learning tools. We focused the series on English language arts (ELA) resources, as educators stress that those are particularly difficult to come by, especially writing tools.

Four all-star educators evaluated the quality and usefulness of the tools: Melody Arabo (a third-grade teacher at Keith...

This new study, the product of a partnership between District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and researchers at New York University and the University of Maryland (including Dr. June Ahn, author of our recent report Enrollment and Achievement in Ohio's Virtual Charter Schools), examines how students’ use of educational software affects their achievement.

In 2012, DCPS began to implement a web-based mathematics program called “First in Math” (FIM) for students in grades K–8. The initiative consisted of games centered on basic computational skills and concepts like fractions or decimals. The authors examine student-level usage data, including how much time students spent on the FIM system, which modules they completed, and what achievements (like points, collecting “badges,” or unlocking bonus games) they earned at various points in the school year. That information was combined with student-level data, such as gender, English language learner status, special education status, race, grade level, and achievement on the mathematics component of the DC-Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS). The final sample included approximately 9,200 students in Grades 4–8 during the 2012–13 school year.

The analysis reveals some intriguing findings. Time spent using FIM had a small but significant positive relationship with performance on standardized mathematics assessments, even...

Editor’s note: This article is part of the series The Right Tool for the Job: Improving Reading and Writing in the Classroom that provides in-depth reviews of several promising digital tools for English language arts classrooms.

Many years after the adoption of new academic standards in most states, frustrated teachers and administrators across the country still decry the dearth of Common Core-aligned curricular materials. One survey conducted by the Center on Education Policy (CEP) in 2014 found that 90 percent of surveyed districts reported having major or minor problems finding such resources. More recent studies conducted by Morgan Polikoff and Bill Schmidt also conclude that the majority of textbooks marketed as being aligned with Common Core actually have “substantial alignment problems.”

In response to this persistent lack of high-quality, standards-aligned materials, organizations such as EdReports and agencies like the Louisiana Department of Education have begun providing educators with free, independent reviews of curricular resources. Other groups have developed rubrics and evaluation tools intended to help state, district, and school leaders vet the quality and alignment of textbooks, units, and lesson plans (including EQuIPIMET, and Student Achievement Partners’ “Publishers’ Criteria”). Even Amazon has entered the curricular stage, recently announcing the launch of a ...

Sally Krisel

Throughout the recent Olympic Games, I reflected on the parallels between elite-level athletics and gifted education, and I thought how much we could learn about developing exceptional ability from what we saw during those two weeks. We appreciate diverse forms of brilliance on the field, in the pool, on the court, and on the track. And we support the long-term dedication of time and resources it takes to achieve athletic excellence. And yet we wonder why, as a society, we have had a harder time openly embracing and celebrating the development of intellectual and creative talent.

It has been suggested that the answer lies in some vague (I would suggest misguided) discomfort related to our nation’s egalitarian roots. Supporters of gifted education counter with the argument that there is something decidedly undemocratic about not providing all children—including those of exceptional ability—with equal opportunity to develop their talents.

A second argument—one that came to mind many times when Rio commentators talked about records that fell during the games—is that by investing heavily in the kinds of programs that promote exceptional performance from gifted students, we may indeed be showing the way to much-improved educational experiences (and achievement) for all students. This argument may finally...

Don Hirsch has done it again. Never mind that he’s eighty-eight. Why Knowledge Matters: Rescuing Our Children from Failed Educational Theories, his fifth book on education reform—there were at least five earlier ones in his original field of English literature, criticism, and composition—is as clear and trenchant as Cultural Literacy was in 1987. And it is arguably even more needed, as there’s ample evidence that the “knowledge” part of K–12 education has been backsliding even as we’ve seen slight improvement on the skills side.

There’s the curricular narrowing associated with our reading-and-math obsession and the accountability regimes attached thereto. There’s the perverse effect of Google and other technologies leading us to assume that we “can always look it up.” And most perniciously—it is the theme of Why Knowledge Matters—there’s what Hirsch terms “the tyranny of three ideas” that steer educators in the wrong direction.

Here, in short form, are the mistaken ideas:

  • Early education should be age-appropriate and seen as part of a “natural development process.” (“Early education” in Hirsch’s world isn’t preschool; it’s kindergarten and the first several grades of school.)
  • Early education should be individualized as far as possible.
  • The main aim of education is to develop critical thinking and other
  • ...
Gisèle Huff

After almost eighteen years in the field of education, I have become convinced of the need to transform the way our children learn so that they can confront the unknowable challenges of the twenty-first century. I applaud any effort aimed at changing the mindset of those involved in the education system so that they can leave behind the traditional twentieth-century paradigm, which was (and in most places still is) an industrial model. Today’s enthusiasm for project-based learning (PBL) fits into the paradigm-shifting category, helpfully emphasizing that we learn best by doing. As a complete educational philosophy or strategy, however, it falls short on many fronts.

At some level, doing must be based on knowing. Yet in almost every PBL model that I’ve observed—Summit Public Schools being the main exception—little or nothing is said about the acquisition of knowledge. Instead, these models emphasize the completion of the project, and whatever knowledge students may actually acquire seems incidental and not clearly assessed. Of course, it’s true that knowledge alone is insufficient for today’s economy. Skills and dispositions must be developed in the learner for content to be relevant and engaging. But it is that “content” (a.k.a. knowledge) that students must master in order...

Frank C. Worrell and Rena F. Subotnik

Every instructional strategy, from direct instruction to the flipped classroom, elicits both negative and positive outcomes depending on when, where, and how it is employed. When it comes to using competition, however, schools tend to favor cooperative learning as the preferred approach for inter-student activities designed to increase learning and motivation.

Negative views of competition stem from early research purporting that its use in most contexts led to undermined motivation, negative self-concept, and anxiety on the part of participants.  However, research on resiliency highlights the fact that adverse conditions do not universally lead to despair; they may, in fact, fuel motivation for high levels of achievement. Failure to achieve valued goals (e.g., winning a competition) may hurt, but the result does not have to be debilitating. In fact, experiences with competition during youth present opportunities to fail under safe conditions. In doing so, they provide lessons on how to manage the range of emotions and possible behavioral responses to setbacks, particularly for those who have been sheltered from such experiences. Thus, participating in competitions also facilitates teaching about coping skills in the face of disappointment.

Another important benefit of competition is deriving feedback that leads to self-reflection and improvement. If...

Pages