A New York Times article this week describes the challenge Florida science teachers face in teaching evolution to their students. Evolution is the central organizing principle that guides our understanding of living things on Earth, so it is very important. You might think Oakland, California, would be a place that would welcome the teaching of evolution in the science classroom, and for the most part, you would be right. But I learned the hard way that not everyone here is in agreement. Oakland has its share of students who attend fundamentalist churches of one sort or another. When I first ...


Every once in a while we get a chance to see the greatness in our fellow teachers. Last week I was with 18 of my fellow science teachers from Oakland, who took the last week of their precious summer to take on a huge task. They have agreed to build a team of mentors for the many new science teachers in our district, a project we are calling TeamScience. We will be working together to support new teachers through one-on-one support, team meetings, and in online forums. We spent the past week in Santa Cruz working with our partners from ...


When I began teaching middle school science, I thought it was going to be great. I wasn’t going to be one of those boring teachers making students memorize facts out of a book. I was going to give them hands-on activities! I knew they would love to investigate things for themselves, so I spent my own money on materials, and wrote up a lab sheet for an investigation. I was not prepared for what was about to happen. I spent fifteen minutes explaining what the steps they were supposed to follow. Then I allowed them to come and get ...


For the past six years, Nebraska educators, led by Commissioner Doug Christensen, have waged a lonely battle to preserve the integrity of assessment in their schools. Their system survived challenge after challenge, but now, even as NCLB may be on the ropes, Nebraska is implementing standardized tests. As a result, Christensen has resigned his post as state Commissioner of Education. He recently responded to a series of questions I posed to him, and as you will see, he has some potent lessons for us as we weigh the alternatives facing us related to teacher empowerment, the Federal role in education ...


Americans are awakening from several decades of spending and consumption with little to show for it. We are realizing that when we had the chance to engineer more efficient cars and put solar panels on the roof to harvest energy from the sun, we did neither, and as a result we are slaves to our addictions and in debt to support them. Our schools have bought into the idea that we exist to feed the American Dream, which means our students must graduate from college, prepared for the six figure salary, the fancy car, the house in the suburbs (and ...


A new report on the future of National Board certification has just been released, (download here) authored by a diverse national group of National Board certified teachers, including me. Perhaps it is not surprising that a team of 10 NBCTs could agree that the process is worthwhile. But our report is not blanket endorsement of the product; rather, it’s a thoughtful consideration of what the NB certification process has meant and could mean for teaching. In developing a reliable way to identify effective teachers, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has accomplished something great for our profession. It ...


A great deal of virtual ink has been spilled over the past week debating the merits of the California Board of Education’s decision to approve Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposal to require all 8th grade students to take Algebra. Assistant U.S. Secretary of Education Kerri Briggs revealed her thinking to the Associated Press, saying "Kids are dropping out because they're bored and they don't feel like there's enough challenge and expectations for them," she said. "This may be exactly what they need to help spur achievement." This got me to wondering about the basis for this claim. The rising ...


This week Barack Obama repeated his call for teachers to be paid for performance. He stated "Under my plan, districts will be able to design programs that give educators who serve as mentors to new teachers the salary increase they deserve. They'll be able to reward those who teach in under-served areas or take on added responsibilities. And if teachers learn new skills to serve students better, or if they consistently excel in the classroom, that work can be valued and rewarded as well.” I was involved in discussions and research on this issue last year, when I participated in ...


While I have been critical of No Child Left Behind since its inception, I have resisted accusing its proponents of having bad intentions. When we attack motives, it seems as if the debate devolves into a shouting match very quickly, especially if those on the other side are determined to hide their actual agenda. Recent comments in Time magazine by Susan Neuman, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education during George W. Bush’s first term, suggest there may indeed have been a destructive agenda at work. According to this article, “there were those within the administration who saw NCLB ...


In his famous Letter From a Birmingham Jail, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote passionately urging his fellow pastors to leave behind indecision and take a stand for justice. He wrote, “Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue." Now as then, we find ourselves at a crossroads, and once again, we must enter dialogue to find our way. That is the goal of my blog, and I begin with the following post. I believe we are now witnessing the demise of a poorly conceived and badly implemented ...


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