Self-paced, Student-Centered

Last week I joined a group of science and math teachers to talk about how the new school year was going. One of the teachers is working in a school where the administrative directive is to shift to “proficiency based” and “student-paced” learning. (I put the words in “quotes” because they seem to mean different things to different teachers.) The students in this teacher’s seventh-grade science classroom are now working at substantially different paces as they proceed through investigations. Some of what he sees happening is exciting. He said, “I am feeling a lot of discomfort, but that is also kind of exciting because when I am uncomfortable I am usually learning to do new things.” But some of the discomfort does seem related to real collisions between ideas about teaching and about what we value.  Continue reading

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Schools As Watershed Systems

How do we measure progress as we improve schools?

In a blog post this past week week Brian Drayton noted that while you can look at the improvement in performance of a business by looking at its bottom line, this doesn’t make sense for schools. They don’t have a bottom line. He suggested that it makes more sense to think of them as watershed systems.

What an interesting idea!  Continue reading

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What Can Teachers Learn From Kermit Washington?

The other day I picked up a month old (November 10) New Yorker while waiting for an appointment and started reading an article by James Surowiecki titled “Better All the Time.” I learned that in 1976 Kermit Washington, a former college basketball star with great natural athletic ability and size (six feet eight inches), found himself sitting on the bench with the L.A. Lakers. He had the size.  He had the natural ability.  But he didn’t have the skills.  Continue reading

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Smarter Balanced Cut Points – What’s With That?

The lead article in the December 3 Education Week announces that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) — the organization that will provide high stakes assessments for English / language Arts (ELA) and mathematics in Maine and 21 other states — has set the “cut points” for proficiency at a level that is likely to ensure that most students will be judged as “not proficient.” Specifically, they expect that only 41% of 11th graders will be judged as proficient in ELA; for mathematics only a third of 11th graders are likely to be proficient.

Huh? Why would they do that?  Continue reading

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