Archive for the ‘Teaching Methods’ Category

American students are losing ground in education attainment compared to countries from Korea to Estonia. In a recent edition of @Brookings, a weekly podcast by the Brookings Institute, expert Grover “Russ” Whitehurst poses provocative solutions for students from kindergarten through college.

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A new report released on October 29, 2009 by the nonprofit group Project Tomorrow and Blackboard Inc., finds that parents, students and some teachers are greatly dissatisfied with the technology skills students are learning in school.

The report finds that about only one-third of parents and 40 percent of grades 6 through 12 students feel that schools are doing a good job of teaching and implementing technology in the classroom. According to the report, more than half of school principals and administrators thought that they were doing a good job of preparing students for using 21st-century technology.  The contrast between the two figures reveals that there is a large disconnect between how parents, school principals and administrators feel about the way technology is taught in the classroom. 

The report also discovers that parents feel that teachers are not receiving the proper training to implement new technology in the classroom and they also feel that teachers do not have adequate access to new technology such as: interactive whiteboards, computer projection devices, laptops for students, tablet PCs, online textbooks, organizational tools, games, mobile devices and other technology-based organizational tools. The report focuses on the parents’ perspective of technology use in the classroom, but it gives great insight into what information parents want their children learning and what products they want their children using.

The data from the report comes from a new analysis of Project Tomorrow’s 2008 Speak Up project. The analysis was a collection of data from over 335,000 K-12 students, parents, and educators about online education and 21st-century learning in the U.S.

For more information about“Learning in the 21st Century: Parents’ Perspectives, Parents’ Priorities,” visit: http://www.blackboard.com/Solutions-by-Market/K-12/Learn-for-K12/Leadership-Views/Education-in-the-21st-Century.aspx.

 Let NSSEA know your thoughts!

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This week’s link of the week comes from eSchoolnews.org. Several state officials and public broadcasters are creating digital resource centers that coincide with state education standards and student data systems to help teachers find high quality education materials for their student’s learning needs. A fascinating subject indeed! Read the article and let NSSEA know your thoughts!


Free Digital Resource Centers on Tap
By Meris Stansbury, Associate Editor

An effort is under way in several states to create digital teaching resource centers that are aligned with state education standards and connected with student data systems, so teachers can find free, high-quality educational materials to help them address their students’ learning needs.

The effort comes from a partnership between the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). It’s a way of helping states provide 21st-century tools to increase student achievement, by leveraging public television’s vast collections of educational content.

The idea for the project arose a few years ago, when Gene Wilhoit–who is now the executive director of CCSSO–was Kentucky’s education commissioner.

“It all began when we tried to solve some simple problems in the state, such as [knowing] what’s going on in schools and how can we monitor that. But we couldn’t answer anything, because there were no robust data systems in schools,” he explained. Read More (Source: eSchoolnews.org)

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Do boys and girls learn differently online? According to an article recently published in Education Week, some educators say they do. The article, “E-Learning Gender Factor” by Michele R. Davis, discusses ways some educators are examining how girls and boys learn differently in an online environment.

The reporter mentions Michigan Virtual University, an online virtual school for boys. The school began a course that incorporates mathematics and baseball in hopes to keep boys interested in learning math. The course spotlights baseball statistics, base running, coaching decisions, and baseball design. The article also talks about recently launched virtual private schools for girls that helps keep them interested in science and mathematics.

Davies interviews Kelley King, associate director of the Gurian Institute, about the differences in the way boys and girls learn. She mentions that girls are much better note-takers then boys. In addition, boys have a tendency to need more visual aids and movement. She reveals that online classes for boys usually have more games, videos, stimulations, and lessons that incorporate competition among the young males. Lessons for girls on the other hand usually focus on collaboration and working together.

What do you think about the differences in which boys and girls learn in an online environment?

 For more information about the article, visit: http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2009/10/21/01e-gender.h03.html and let NSSEA know your thoughts!

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According to a large-scale study backed by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the U.S. Department of Education, video and interactive games are beneficial and effective in teaching disadvantaged preschool students literacy skills needed to succeed in kindergarten.

The study incorporated three PBS produced television shows “Sesame Street,” “Between the Lions,” and “Super Why!” in efforts see what affect video and interactive games had on preschoolers’ development of early reading skills.

Eighty classes at forty-seven different centers participated in the spring 2009 study and for 10 weeks, preschool teachers and students were randomly assigned to use a technology-supported science curriculum or a technology-supported literacy curriculum.

Out of the 398 children who participated in the study, those who participated in the literacy curriculum outscored children in the science curriculum on four important measures. These measures include: the ability to name letters, know the sounds associated with those letters, recognize letters in their own names, and understand basic concepts about stories and printed words.

For more information about the study, visit http://cct.edc.org/ready_to_learn.asp and let NSSEA know your thoughts!

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By Jeff Pett, Fleetwood Group, Inc.

I just finished reading the review in this week’s NSSEA Essential’s Weekly of Teachers, Performance Pay, and Accountability: What Education Should Learn from Other Sectors by Scott J. Adams, John S. Heywood and Richard Rothstein.  If you missed it and have ever thought about how to better evaluate and pay educators it is worth your time.  I have not yet read the book, but it is now on my “to-read” list.

Having spent a few years in the classroom as a teacher, over 20 years in the private sector in large and small businesses, served on school finance committees, school boards and been employed as a school administrator I have seen the debate up close and personal.  Business people on school boards are often frustrated that teachers are not evaluated or paid based on their performance.  It most often comes down to years of service and level of education that most often forms the basis for determining pay levels for educators.  I will confess that I have sometimes been one of those frustrated businessmen.  However, over the years I have come to appreciate just how difficult this issue is to resolve.

There are two key areas of difficulty when it comes to using a “pay-for-performance” model in the classroom.  First of all teaching is a very different kind of work.  You are typically assigned to a room with 25 or so students.  You don’t usually teach in a “team.”  You don’t have the kind of ongoing interchange with other professionals over the course of the day usually experienced in a business.  And your “boss” rarely, if ever, sees you in action over any meaningful stretch of time in such a way as to be able to assess how effective you are.  And what objective measures do you use?  Using student grades would likely lead to inflated grades by many teachers.  And using test scores by any outside organization moves education toward teaching to that particular test when it may not be the best measure of educational achievement.

The second area of difficulty is the comparison to a business model—as if there is just one of those. That is just not the case.  As the book reviewed in Essentials this week seems to point out, the pay-for-performance model in business is not a uniform thing, and it is certainly not perfect.  The best ones do not JUST use objective measures but have incorporated subjective feedback on how a person performs to areas of importance to a particular company.  Objective measures are always a part of it to the extent possible, but good evaluations in the business world go well beyond that.  And yet it seems that most of the evaluation models in the education world have attempted to apply only the objective measures.

When educators try to respond to the directives of business people on their boards they are often chasing a very imperfect model.  And if they land on a plan to pay teachers based on objective measures alone they are missing some key elements that make good pay-for-performance systems work.  And why not combine subjective measures with objective?  Partly because it’s hard to do, partly because evaluators would have to spend “quality time” in the classrooms of those they are tasked to mentor and evaluate, and partly because allowing subjective evaluation requires someone to be “judgmental”, and that is distasteful to many.  However, businesses that do it well help weaker performers either improve or move on to different, ultimately more satisfying, lines of work; and stronger performers are recognized, better rewarded, and have greater ownership in the success of the organization and better reasons to stick around.  Applied properly in schools we should expect to see very similar results… and maybe fewer schools would be characterized as underperforming.

What should be the primary goals of evaluating someone’s performance?  They are to hold that person accountable to some level of expected performance, and to help that person to be more successful.  A stronger better performing person helps create a better and stronger organization that is much more likely to deliver a better more competitive product.  It works in the business world because there are often more obvious and easy to quantify objective measures of performance; and because someone has defined the subjective aspects of a job that are important to the success of the organization; and there are usually more opportunities to observe someone’s performance to those subjective expectations.

In a well performing professional athletic team everyone knows the objective numbers related to each persons performance in their individual and team stats.  But there are always many subjective aspects to an individual’s performance that are “obvious” to the fans of that team.  Many times the “best” players on a team will not have the “best” stats.  And sometimes the player with the “best” stats has to be traded for the good of the team because of their poor performance in the subjective areas.  You wouldn’t dream of having a professional sports team pay everyone evenly and treat everyone equally based on time of service.  The best players would leave for teams that were willing to pay them for their skills, and the worst players would not have that option so they would have to stick around.  The team would become so-so at best, and more likely move quickly to the “basement” of their league.

Having a good performance evaluation system that is applied evenly, reasonably, and consistently can help any organization to help its team members become better performers.  And it will help the weaker performers, those who may be in the wrong organization or the wrong profession, move on to find a line of work that they are better and happier at.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could put in place such a system in schools?  If it was easy we’d already have it.  There are many businesses and some schools that have done it well.  Let’s not be afraid of it, but let’s also recognize that the “business model” is not one size fits all.  It will take a lot of work.  But having great schools staffed by great professionals should be worth it.

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Next month, after nearly 17 years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether Arizona is complying with federal laws requiring public schools to teach children to speak English.

The Flores vs. Arizona case was brought up in 1992 by a Nogales, AZ mother because her daughter, Mia Flores (now a 23-year old college student), struggled in her English-only classes. Since the early 90s, the way ELL students learn has drastically changed. Now students, who are struggling with English, are provided four hours of intensive English every day in small classes. The training costs about $1,570 per student compared to just $150 per child when Mia was in school. In Nogales, where Spanish is used in most homes, the state only provides $385 per child for the English program. The district has to come up with the rest themselves.

The issue has officials split down party lines. Some believe that Arizona should give more money to the program, while others believe that federal courts should not be dictating how states spend education funding.

With five million school-age children nationwide who do not speak proficient English — one in 10 of the nation’s students — the Supreme Court’s ruling could affect spending on English language learners in many states.

Learn more about the case.

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