When I reached a point in my life when it was time to reflect on my choices and priorities, I realized just how important it has been for me to feel recognized. And it does not seem to satisfy me to hear that recognition as part of a larger group. In order for me to really feel seen and my work honored, I want my particular contributions recognized. I think many of our students share this need from deep within – the need to be seen, recognized and honored as individuals. What happens to a student when he gets this recognition? ...


Education Week founder and former editor Ron Wolk did us all a big service a month ago when he wrote this op-ed criticizing what he termed “Five Faulty Assumptions” of the pivotal report, “A Nation at Risk.” Wolk pointed out the flaws in each assumption, and his piece should be read and re-read, especially by those empowered to make education policy. Here in my little corner, I want to build on his critique, and offer some alternative assumptions. So let’s see if we can take these five faulty assumptions, and replace them with sound ones. (Faulty) Assumption One: The ...


Last week I posted Part 1 and Part 2 of a four-part interview with author Richard Rothstein. Monday I posted Part 3, and today I post the fourth and final segment, focused on the trouble with performance pay and some fresh ideas for building accountability for our schools. 6. There is much discussion of providing financial incentives for teachers who improve student achievement. Is this a wise strategy? We should be cautious about this strategy because we do not yet (and may never) know how to measure accurately an individual teacher's contribution. Teachers know that in some years they get “good”...


Last week I posted Part 1 and Part 2 of a four-part interview with author Richard Rothstein. Today I am posting Part 3, focusing on tough questions President Obama must face if he is to live up to his goals of improving educational outcomes. 3. You quote President Obama as being critical of the way NCLB has narrowed the curriculum to focus on tested subjects. Are there indications that steps are being taken to reverse this emphasis? During the election campaign, President Obama said that NCLB “has become so reliant on a standardized test model that…subjects like history and ...


Earlier this week I posted Part 1 of a four-part interview with author Richard Rothstein. Today I am posting Part 2, which focuses on the dire warnings we have heard over the past few decades, echoed recently by President Obama, that the United States is in danger of falling behind other nations due to our poor educational system. Question 2: It is often said that our students are falling behind those in other nations. Is this the case? What should we do about it? American students perform less well in mathematics than students in many other industrialized and in East ...


Former New York Times columnist Richard Rothstein has emerged as one of the nation’s sharpest critics of the current test-centered approach to education reform. Six weeks ago I posted a review of his recent book, Grading Education, Getting Accountability Right. I thought it would be great to hear his comments on the debates raging over how to fix NCLB, and proposals such as national standards. Here is part one of a four-part interview: 1. In Chapter 4 you describe how a student who scores as proficient in 8th grade math in Montana could go a few miles across state ...


This week some educational bombshells have exploded, and we need to take some time to examine their implications. But first, a bit of my own history, to provide some context for my perspective. I chose to teach in Oakland because I had experienced the civil rights movement as a child. In 1968, as a fifth grader in Berkeley, I was reassigned to a South Berkeley school that had been predominantly African American in the city’s voluntary desegregation program. My parents were deeply committed to social justice, and I emerged from high school active in the civil rights struggles of ...


From Sacramento, California, we got news this week of a strange new practice. Several high schools and middle schools have organized race-based “heritage” assemblies not to celebrate Black History Month, or Cesar Chavez day, but to promote improved achievement on state tests. According to this report in the Sacramento Bee, one high school held several separate assemblies at the same time; students had to choose between African American, Pacific Islander, and Latino-themed rallies. “Last year we scored the highest percentage increase of any group,” the African American students were told. The school justifies this segregation by citing the need to ...


/> I must confess I am a bit turned off by all the talk about “tough standards.” I am all for high expectations, but I became a teacher to share joy and creativity with students, not to be a taskmaster. Sometimes a bit of tough love is needed, but how can we get back to the real basics, the joy of learning something new? My colleague (and music teacher) Nancy Flanagan wrote recently about the value of creativity. Even without a randomized trial evaluating the precise measurable impact of strategies designed to expand thinking-- isn't it worth the attempt to create ...


And should teachers encourage them to do so? Do you remember Carl Chew? He is a teacher in the state of Washington who became famous last Spring when he refused to administer the state achievement test (WASL) to his 6th grade students. Chew was suspended for two weeks as a result of his action. This week he turned the spotlight on efforts to get parents to “opt out” of the state test. He writes: There is one powerful group in Washington though with a legal means to end the WASL and suffer no retribution, and that is parents. If even ...


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