Wednesday, May 21, 2014

B Positive

B Positive is my blood type, and it has served as an important reminder about my attitude toward all things work-related (and non work-related).

I attended Dynamic Landscapes last week at Champlain College and had a wonderful time. The best presenters are those who are super enthusiastic about education and its potential. Though cynical about the way things are, wonderful speakers like Gary Stager, Thursday’s keynote, has an optimistic vision.

Gary says...

I am not surprised when kids do extraordinary things. I am surprised when adults are surprised when kids do extraordinary things.

What are kids really capable of? We need to find out.

Gary Stager is worth getting to know if you are an educator. He’s an advocate for kids working to their fullest potential with technology, and having high/low tech maker spaces in classrooms. His book is called Invent to Learn. Gary makes me want to be more radical.

At Dynamic Landscapes, I also attended a panel of educators who recently hosted the Smarter Balanced Assessment (Common Core) field test in their schools, facilitated by Peter Drescher of the Vermont Agency of Education. My district isn’t part of the field test, so it was great to hear from folks who know more. There was discussion of the nuts and bolts of the new assessment like the fact that students could take the test on a tablet but are supposed to have an external keyboard. There was talk of how to schedule the test to make it work, how to test the wireless capacity of the schools, how to prepare students and teachers.

I noticed that many of the educators who have administered the Smarter Balanced field test to students remarked that students enjoyed it. They like the tech format rather than dealing with pencil and paper, they liked the multimedia content, and the challenging questions.

A principal in the audience spoke up. I didn’t know him and didn’t catch his name. He said attitude is everything. This is a positive opportunity to learn. Let’s pull our sleeves up and make this work. There will be challenges, but we will learn a lot. Like any new thing there will be bumps in the road. His positive attitude was adopted by his staff and students.  

There is and will be lots of complaining about the Smarter Balanced assessments. Adult negativity is quickly taken up by students, and could rob them of important opportunities. As a math coach, I will model positivism.

B Positive.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Who Gets to Graduate?

On Sundays I love to play tennis and read the New York Times. There was a great article this past Sunday. Author Paul Tough shares some sobering statistics about who is graduating with four year degrees, who isn’t, and why.

You must read the whole article. Go and do that now. My big takeaways: remedial classes and groups don’t work and students in some demographic groups (low-income, non-white, parents who didn’t graduate from college) are at risk but can be helped. It isn’t really new information. It is just more evidence supporting certain ideas.  I want to know how we can apply this to K-12 public schools.

Every college freshman — rich or poor, white or minority, first-generation or legacy — experiences academic setbacks and awkward moments when they feel they don’t belong. But white students and wealthy students and students with college-graduate parents tend not to take those moments too seriously or too personally...It is only students facing the particular fears and anxieties and experiences of exclusion that come with being a minority — whether by race or by class — who are susceptible to this problem. Those students often misinterpret temporary setbacks as a permanent indication that they can’t succeed or don’t belong…

“What I like about these interventions is that the kids themselves make all the tough choices,” ... “They deserve all the credit. We as interveners don’t. And that’s the best way to intervene. Ultimately a person has within themselves some kind of capital, some kind of asset, like knowledge or confidence. And if we can help bring that out, they then carry that asset with them to the next difficulty in life.”