0119: #Education, Doublespeak, and a Guillotine?
#teaching #SOSchat #revolution
Quality teaching means two things. Her test scores reflect her quality teaching; or, her commitment to her students reflect her quality teaching. One statements reflect a commitment to test scores, the other to students. Does the public have a means of determining the difference? Only if they’re aware that there should be a distinction to be made. Many teachers are not even aware that there should be a difference. It’s difficult for a teacher to separate themselves from their test scores. It’s a cognitive miracle. The importance of the test is constantly reinforced through slogans, media, and, of course, evaluations. The slogans are branded onto the psyches of children from kindergarten fore. Teachers are asked (required) to participate in the branding— after all, it’s their job on the line. It behooves a teacher to create a test taking machine, further, a self-motivated test taking machine. It makes the work easier. Full buy-in to the testing system means success for all, or at least uniform massification for all. Dissidents beware. Anyone who speaks against the system, teachers, students, or parents, should expect to be branded a radical yahoo. Dissent will make the system crumble. Students who resist are suspended, expelled, remediated, and so forth. Student dissent is often subconscious and springs forth from the knowledge that forced compliance is unnatural. Defiant teachers are ostracized until they comply. They receive poor evaluations, are put on improvement plans, or fired. Some are just considered radical, and have to function more like spies than “teachers”. It’s an act of sneakily teaching the student with the appearance of teaching the test. A conscious teacher must be a master of doublespeak and fully aware of the doublethink required to function in the education system. Principals who dissent are brutalized and blackballed and the punitive measures continue to the top I’m sure. The carnage is widespread, but covert. The ones harmed the deepest are the students and teachers, oh, and society as people function less and less as human beings and more as automatons. People are being corralled into increasingly separated classes and camps. The poor, and barely making it in one camp, and the demigod rulers somewhere else— somewhere like the heavens where healthcare, literacy, and vacations are copious. Where is the solution? Who knows? Perhaps in community involvement, or better teacher evals. Maybe in representative democracy. Hell, maybe it’s somewhere in 18th century France. Viva la value-added measures my ass.
0104: Standardized Tests: The Carnival Games of Public #Education
#assessment #edreform #lexicon
EdTrends ( http://edtrends.tumblr.com/ ) for your response to my last post regarding the impossibility of standardized student centered learning (http://educatedtodeath.com/post/17612560042). Your response speaks to the confusion that often accompanies education lexicon (and any other institutional lexicon for that matter). EdTrends responded, “What is a “standardized” test? Isn’t any of the same test given to multiple students, even teacher-written, standardized?” Yes, if a teacher creates a test an administers this test to multiple students it is a “standardized” test. However, this test is designed to show if a student has mastered a certain criterion, thus the term “criterion-referenced test”. This test shows mastery of a skill or skill set, and is typically used to guide instruction. If a certain percentage of students didn’t meet the cutscore, say 80%, then the teacher may choose to reteach or remediate the skill.
The other standardized test, the monster of which many educators speak, is a corporate designed norm-referenced test that seeks to compare schools and children across a state or national population. This means one of my students may score in the 65th percentile and be considered basic because she only scored better than 65% of the population. But, the tests we prepare for in the classroom are not even that simple to understand. Students aren’t scored according to percentile rankings, at least not directly; rather, the scores are converted through some nebulous derivatives that require several pages of instructions to begin to understand. Scores are combined to give schools rankings, that are also a little difficult to understand. I can’t say for a fact that these results are intentionally obfuscated, but they’re certainly not accessible to just anyone. The lack of accessibility allows for information to be communicated and translated in all sorts of alarmist ways. For example, “Your child received a score of basic in math, he will be placed accordingly,” “This school is a low performing school because the majority of the students received a score of basic or minimal.” This language is used to condemn schools, place students, and label teachers without ever providing a clear answer as to why the label was received. Did the student only master 70% of the skills? Who knows? He is basic though.
The “standardized” tests used for labeling schools are a form of massification. They generate hysteria and obfuscate the problems existing in education. They are neither norm-referenced or criterion-referenced. They are some hybrid akin to carnival games. No one wins, at least not with any consistency or without cheating. Assessment is a good thing. Mass testing is a different story. (If I am wrong in any of this, please show me where, I would like to be mistaken in this case. email@example.com)
0103: The Impossibility of Standardized #Student Centered Learning
#education #lexicon #doublethink
Student centered learning cannot exist in a system that is based around a standardized test. “Student-centered” is a relatively old buzzword that is still used to evoke some feeling of benevolence among teachers. It’s a motivation technique that requires great skill at doublethink. We are to somehow motivate the learners into believing they want to learn the standardized curriculum and then do well on the test. We are given the task of making the oppressed believe that the oppressor has their best interest at heart. Student centered learning is impossible if it is not directed by learners needs and guided by their curiosity. Student centered learning requires classrooms to function as small democratic organizations where the teacher is the facilitator of discussion and maybe intervenes ever so slightly when an impasse is reached. Please don’t allow yourself to be confused by the lexicon of public education. Student centered instruction does not exist if knowledge is deposited into the learner. Our standardized education is quite authoritarian. Freedom within the system is an illusion. Surely, that does not come as a surprise. There are false choices. We can choose between a few very similar pedagogical methods. We can even conjure various methods of creativity to spice up a lesson. Regardless of technique the desired outcome is the same. We are all working toward the same outcome. We all work at the same pace. We all produce the same ill-formed sprocket, at least that’s the intention. If we we turn our eyes to the human instead of the sprocket, there will be dire consequences—reprimand, the label of ineffective, dismissal, etc. Is it possible to nurture the human and produce the sprocket? Can we create a conscious sprocket? What can we do? We must stimulate learning where we can. We must engage in parallel curriculums, that is we must allow and promote student curiosity. We must bother with things that don’t even come near the prescribed curriculum. Teach your test if you must, but for God’s sake chase rabbits.
0017: What is Student-Centered Instruction? How do we get there?
Many teachers don’t know what student centered instruction is. They’ve been told countless times to make lessons “student centered”, but that is nothing more than a meaningless phrase to many. Notably, I’m writing here to sharpen my understanding of the phrase “student centered” and maybe trying to decide if that’s even the best way to describe quality instruction.
The phrase is polarizing. Learning was teacher centered, now it should be student centered. This sounds to many like anarchy, and out of confusion teachers often hand the reigns directly over to their students and step completely away (some with hurt feelings) allowing their students to fester in their own frustration while still demanding the same things and assessing learning in the same ways. This very clearly is not the goal.
Perhaps a better goal would be collaboration between teacher and student. Classroom should be think-tanks that require everyone’s input— teacher and student. And, everyone should learn, even the teacher. The phrase “prepare student-centered” lessons is not quite functional. If I the teacher completely prepare the lesson, then it is teacher centered. It becomes inauthentic. Certainly, the teacher should think through the lesson, but the burden of thought and problem solving should not be on the teacher alone. Students should do the bulk of the research, problem-solving, lesson prep, and so forth with the teacher there to guide discussion sometimes and more important foster an environment that lends itself for directed lateral thinking. The teacher should help generate questions until the students are able to themselves. And then the teacher should become a partner in the learning.
Progressive teachers and principals help your fellow teachers learn. Empower them. Build relationships. Make collaboration a part of your faculty so it can be mirrored in the classroom.
0016: Administrators and Professional Developers Define Your Terms, and Empower your Teachers
Clearly defined expectations are tantamount to classroom performance. If a teacher wants a student to perform a task in a certain way, that task must be explained and discussed in such a way that the student can perform said task in such a way as to meet the teachers expectations. That means terms must be defined, rubrics should be clear, and for best results, dialogue between teacher and student should be free and frequent. The above is generally expected and necessary for a teacher to be effective.
Often, teachers are left in the dark by nebulous instructions from administrators and staff developers. The jargon in education is constantly changing. Expectations are constantly changing. With all this transition many education professionals are left in the dust, that means teachers, principals, and whoever else are struggling just to keep up with the change of lexicon. Which means communication is a constant struggle. Principals you must work to ensure that you are understood. You must teach your faculty to understand you. When kids understand, they function better. Teachers are the same way. Make sure faculty meetings are interactive. Walk around the room, and divide teachers into groups. Talk with groups individually to monitor for understanding. Best practices in teaching apply to leadership as well. If you want your schools to succeed, then help your teachers feel successful. Give them the tools to please you. And then tell them that they’re meeting your expectations. Build knowledge and power incrementally among your staff. And, this most certainly applies to district administrators too. Work to plug information gaps in bureaucracy.