Tag Archives: testing

Education Evolutions Newsletter #15


sas-ipad flickr photo by zandwacht shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

Welcome back to the fray of the school year. Hope you enjoyed the holiday respite. Here is a bumper selection after a week off the regular schedule. Enjoy.

Education Evolutions:

Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

Happy New Year, here are four curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.

  • How Massachusetts Built a World-Class School SystemTop Performers blog @ EdWeek – Marc Tucker  (9 minute read)
    This blogpost is a nice reminder of just how well Massachusetts has been able to perform amidst all the edreforms of the last 20+ years. Sadly, the metric used to make the case is always about testing, in particular, PISA which is a significantly more dubious measure than is generally recognized. Yet, if there have to be standardized tests, Massachusetts certainly has been able to develop and administer ones that are clearly better than about any other state in the union, something worthy of consideration since Education Commissioner Mitch Chester has opted for MCAS 2.0. The commissioner, however, was the initial PARCC chair but seemingly no longer occupies that position, despite no official statement ever being released. While the commonwealth has been able to reach remarkable heights in these international league tables, the real item worthy of replication are the attempts to support the youngest and most disadvantaged students in a statewide, systematic way. Of course, there is still room to improve but it is good to recognize some of the success too.
  • No Test Left Behind: How Pearson Made a Killing on the US Testing CrazeTalking Points Memo Features – Owen Davis  (16 minute read)
    This is a long form piece that sheds some bright light on just how shady K12 education policy has become over the last 15 years. The impact of A Nation at Risk is stunning, despite having been thoroughly debunked and dismantled. So much of the free-market-style reform movement is predicated on the falsehoods presented in that Reagan era document. What remains even more remarkable is just how much facts and evidence have no purchase with the political and economic machine that wants and needs an “education market” to exist. Sadly, “Pearson and its similarly sized rivals aren’t going away” is far truer than is healthy or beneficial for anyone other than those seeking to profit from the public coffers. By the way, guess who makes the PARCC test?
  • This may be the best way to train teachers – and yes, we can afford itThe Hechinger Report – Marisa Bier and Sara Morris (5 minute read)
    This opinion piece presents a case for a residency-based model for teacher training. There are a lot of compelling reasons to give this idea some consideration. The argument here is “we can’t afford not to train teachers this way.” That may be the case but it is difficult to see a model like this succeeding anywhere but in larger, urban districts. It is no surprise that this is working in a city the size of Seattle. There are not many contexts that can hope to shoulder the upfront, capital costs of instituting such a program without some kind of government subsidy. However, think of how much funding could be made available if less money was spent on the kind of standardized testing profiled in the previous piece. The price of admission into the teaching profession is often financially quite high, without a lot of mobility, which is a factor worthy of considering in the rush to fire “bad” teachers. Yet, it is something that accountability hawks seem to summarily dismiss.
  • How Comedy Became Education’s Best CritiqueThe AtlanticAlia Wong  (6 minute read)
    This is a fascinating installment from a series examining intersections between education and entertainment that The Atlantic is conducting. This particular article is worth a look if for no other reason than it includes the embedded video segments it references. Anyone that has not seen John Oliver’s monologues on the School Segregation and Charter Schools should click this link immediately. Oliver has an impressive knack for making exceedingly complex issues understandable while being ridiculously funny. He amplifies absurdity and hammers home a point better than anyone. The subtext of this piece highlights just how much education has been politicized in recent years. Were it not, what is the likelihood that late-night comedy would have even taken an interest.
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Education Evolutions Newsletter #13

It was a little harder to find decidedly more positive pieces for this week, as some of that is a bit in the beholder. Hopefully, this selection does not require a dark soundtrack, perhaps a bit more like jazz.

Education Evolutions:

Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

Here are four curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.

  • When Finnish Teachers Work in America’s Public Schools – The Atlantic – Timothy D. Walker  (11 minute read)
    Walker is a Massachusetts native living and working in Finland as a teacher. In this piece, he characterizes three teachers from Finland now working in American schools and documents their experiences. Considering how Finland is widely considered the best school system in the international scoring tables, it is interesting to see their first-hand difficulties with the way our American system is structured. Also interesting is the inclusion of long-time standards advocate Marc Tucker who writes a regular column for EdWeek. While he is considered an expert in education policies and practices from abroad, Tucker’s warning at the end of the article seems rather alarmingly dramatic.

  • Why Identity and Emotion are Central To Motivating the Teen BrainKQED’s MindShiftEmmeline Zhao  (7 minute read)
    While there might not be anything truly revolutionary in this article, it does a nice job of consolidating a lot of emerging understanding about the adolescent brain. Perhaps its primary value is in a kind of reframing that enables to see certain kinds of challenges as genuine opportunities. It certainly provides soft support for the notion of students driving a lot of their own learning through setting their own goals involving their own interests, something many high schools have a difficult time embracing institutionally. There is increasingly little doubt that it is a profoundly romantic period in life, in the purest sense.

  • This Is Not An EssayModern LearnersLee Skallerup Bessette (11 minute read)
    I have a hunch that I read this once upon a time, since it was written in 2014, although it resurfaced recently as it might as well be required reading. I wish I had written this piece myself for so many reasons. Skallerup Bessette gets right to the heart of a dark disservice that we do to students far too often. Rigid, narrow demands and negative reinforcement are just part of a constellation of associations with writing for students and yet more than ever before they are “writing.” It might not be what teachers want or like but, as Skallerup Bessette observes, “They learn, they teach, they offer their own feedback, they fail, and they try again. And we often actively work in schools to devalue, undermine, and even try to get students to unlearn these skills.” We can meet students where they are or force them to meet us where we are. I know which one I would choose.

  • It Turns Out Spending More Probably Does Improve EducationThe New York Times – Kevin Carey and Elizabeth A. Harris  (8 minute read)
    There is an element of this article that strikes a kind of cynicism, a well-who-doesn’t-know that kind of response. Yet the research profiled in this piece provides the kind of substantive data as evidence for the claim. Surprisingly, or maybe not so much, there has been a lot less hard evidence in support of this than we might realize. Of course, the researchers are still using tests as a metric because schools are all about testing, right? Still, what research like this does is support the eye-test, what we see all around us, which can at times be the best kind of research and use of data. Not surprisingly, the requisite charter supporter questions the findings and seems almost dismissive. It frustrates me to no end how often journalists, in an attempt to be “balanced” include just anyone with an opposing view regardless of whether they have any warrants for their views or not.

Education Evolutions Newsletter #8

Education Evolutions:

Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

Here are three curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.

  • Facebook and Google: most powerful and secretive empires we’ve ever knownThe Guardian – Ellen P. Goodman and Julia Powles (7 minute read)
    One of the potential dangers of buying into a technocratic dream, or worse what Neil Postman called a technopoly, is just how much private technology enterprises overtake spaces or processes previously thought of as public. The lack of transparency from private institutions should be viewed with skepticism. Moreover, we repeatedly see the prescience of someone like Marshall McLuhan. It is good to see a different cultural perspective, albeit a slight one, that resides a bit further outside the immediate influence Silicon Valley. Plus, considering how much each of these companies wants to be involved in education seems important to continue considering how they operate.
  • Why Teaching to the Test is Educational MalpracticeGadfly on the Wall – Steven Singer (15 minute read)
    There is a notion in education that teaching to the test is alright, so long as it is a good test. This blogpost presents an articulate and well-researched argument against that notion and teaching to a test as a general principle. The nature that teacher Steven Singer’s argument is one I think about a lot regarding Advanced Placement. Also, I like Singer’s recognition that his evidence is neither conclusive nor does he think it should never be used as a strategy. Still, there are a number of points definitely worthy of deep consideration.
  • Tracing Personalized Learning Research Back to the 1970sEdWeek Digital Education blog – Benjamin Herold (10 minute read)
    Reporter Benjamin Herold traces the idea of personalized learning back to the mastery learning trend that dates back to the 1970s. Considering just how hot a topic personalized learning is in education and edtech, this seems like information definitely worth understanding. One issue that Herold never really addresses is how often personalized learning is conflated with adaptive learning, using a device as the mediator that typically uses some kind of artificial intelligence to adjust based on student response. Adaptive learning is a definite branch off the mastery learning and behaviorism tree. I am deeply skeptical about these trends and hope that education reaches far beyond these paradigms.