RSI Corporate - Licensing

A Cage-Busting Curriculum for Teachers

Education Next – Frederick Hess

“Last week, new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos stirred up a kerfuffle when, after a visit to Washington DC’s Jefferson Middle School Academy, she said that the teachers seemed to be in “receive mode.” DeVos told a columnist for Townhall, “They’re waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child. You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.” DeVos has since clarified that she meant to say it’s a problem that so many teachers feel hamstrung by rules, regulations, and bureaucracy. And you know what? That is exactly right. DeVos’s phrasing was unhelpful, and it’s a problem that she framed the remark as the product of a single school visit, but the contretemps shouldn’t obscure the larger point.”(more)

Separate cooperative and basic skills education

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

Cooperative learning first gained traction as an instructional method in the 1970s and was widely implemented in K-12 classrooms by the 1990s. It is based on the premise that collaborative participation creates an enhanced learning experience. Proponents of this teaching strategy site improved student communication, heightened oral skill development, more advanced learning, and enhanced student responsibility.

Cooperative learning, however, is not without challenges. One of the biggest obstacles to effective cooperative learning is a negative group dynamic. Conflicts between individuals can reduce a group’s ability to work together and problems are magnified when members are too immature to adequately resolve conflicts. To make matters more challenging, personality mismatches can stall learning even when no overt conflicts are present. In addition, assertive students often move into leadership roles even when they are not best suited to direct a project.

Beyond personality issues, cooperative learning can also result in uneven workloads. When this type of learning is working efficiently, students support and inspire one another. Everyone has a similar workload and everyone learns. In many instances, however, more advanced students take over projects rather than spending extra time to help struggling students. In addition, unmotivated students often rely on more conscientious team members to complete required work. The result is not only an uneven workload but also uneven learning that leaves struggling students behind, permits lazy students to slide by, and allows more advanced students to stagnate.

Also, student evaluations for group assignments are challenging. It is often impossible to evaluate group members individually. This can result in all group members receiving the same grade regardless of how much they participated and contributed. In addition to artificially high or low marks, it is difficult to determine gaps in student understanding. This proficiency issue is particularly problematic in subjects like math, science, grammar, and writing where learning is cumulative.

It is not that the skills associated with cooperative learning are not important, but that the academic classroom may not be the best place to teach these skills. Instead of compromising basic learning in science, language arts, math, history, and foreign language we should consider using electives for collaborative activities. In addition, we should give students credit for sports, theater, makerspace (cooperative technical and art gatherings), and other group activities that occur after school hours. This approach would provide kids with an opportunity to build both basic educational and soft skills that are critical for success later in life.

Teach your children to THINK

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

Efforts to control the minds of children are at an all-time high. Most kids spend a lot of time learning “what to think” and very little time learning “how to think”. As a result, parents need to take a proactive role to make sure their children are not manipulated.

Mind control has been an issue since the beginning of human existence. The difference today is a new communication medium, the Internet. At first it was a relatively unbiased source of information. As it has matured, governments and companies have learned to control it.

Now Internet searches are based on the preferences of the owners and employees of the search engine companies and paid advertisers. In addition, social media companies have started censoring dialog. Twitter and Facebook recently deleted accounts from people who were promoting ideas that were not popular with company management. While most people do not agree with the viewpoints presented in these accounts, it does not mean it is wise to remove these dissenting voices. If companies can cut these accounts, what prevents them from cutting other accounts when it is political expedient?

History is written by the winners and is often sanitized to support specific political agendas. As a result, school history is generally far from reality. The problem is compounded because standard textbooks are rarely complemented with materials that include opposing viewpoints.

In addition, journalists and writers have prejudices that are based on upbringing, education, and access to information which means most news stories have a significant slant.

In higher education, professors tend to promote similar perspectives, because the tenure and publication system discourages alternative thought. This uniformity of ideas is dangerous, because it can lead to myopia. Some people argue that theories having to do with manmade climate change, technical capabilities of ancient civilizations, and brain differences between genders have not been properly vetted because of this bias.

Fortunately, it is possible for parents to circumvent the mind control efforts. First kids need to learn discipline. Then they need to be taught how to research, respectfully question conventional thinking, and present alternative viewpoints. After that it is important for parents to make sure schools are using textbooks and supporting materials that cover subjects from a variety of perspectives.

Finally, it is imperative for families to discuss classroom topics at home. This way parents can expose their children to viewpoints they may not be hearing at school.

In writing foundational skills more important than volume

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

We would never expect a child to become proficient in algebra without a strong understanding of arithmetic, yet we expect kids to write well by osmosis.

For much of the 20th Century, elementary-school teachers taught the general rules of spelling, sentence structure, and basic paragraph writing. In secondary school, students focused on building paragraphs into essays. This regimented approach produced some excellent writers and many average writers.

In the 1970s, academics began experimenting with new strategies for teaching writing. A group of professors argued that making writing assignments less regimented and more creative and social would encourage students to write more. If the students wrote more they would become better writers. In other words, writing could be “caught” rather than “taught”.

The proponents of this method of writing instruction were persuasive. Gradually formal instruction in grammar, sentence structure, and essay writing took a back seat to creative expression. By the 1990s, most students were learning to write by this “caught not taught” approach.

Sadly, very few students learned how to write well. Universities and employers began complaining about the written communication abilities of high school graduates. Universities were forced to introduce remedial writing classes and employers began hiring English speakers educated overseas. Students expressed frustration with writing.

In the early 21st Century, a few K-12 schools reintroduced a structured approach to teaching writing with a creative twist. At one school, students begin writing instruction with phonics-based spelling. Then they learn how to write simple, creative, grammatically correct, properly spelled sentences. The following year they learn to construct slightly longer sentences (creative, grammatically correct, and correctly spelled). Next they learn to creatively combine sentences into simple four to five sentence paragraphs; then how to write outlines and creative, eight-sentence paragraphs; and finally how to construct creative, twelve-sentence paragraphs that include more interesting sentence structure. By the end of elementary school students can write a well-organized, grammatically correct, properly spelled, interesting three-paragraph essay without stress.

In the early 21st Century, a few K-12 schools reintroduced a structured approach to teaching writing with a creative twist. At one school, students begin writing instruction with phonics-based spelling. Then they learn how to write simple, creative, grammatically correct, properly spelled sentences. The following year they learn to construct slightly longer sentences (creative, grammatically correct, and correctly spelled). Next they learn to creatively combine sentences into simple four to five sentence paragraphs; then how to write outlines and creative, eight-sentence paragraphs; and finally how to construct creative, twelve-sentence paragraphs that include more interesting sentence structure. By the end of elementary school students can write a well-organized, grammatically correct, properly spelled, interesting three-paragraph essay without stress.

As with math, learning to write in a slow methodical way is better than rushing ahead without the necessary foundational skills.

Why A School’s Master Schedule Is A Powerful Enabler of Change

KQED News Mind/Shift – Katrina Schwartz

“When Jerry Smith became a principal six years ago he had been teaching for 22 years, so his administrative style is firmly rooted in the belief that the important stuff goes on in classrooms. When he took over Luella High School outside Atlanta, he began thinking about how he could propel fundamental change in what was then a traditional comprehensive high school. When a third of the students and a big chunk of the staff relocated to a new high school the district opened to ease crowding at Luella, Smith knew the moment was ripe for even bigger shifts. “We said we’re going to put anything and everything on the table and try to do this differently,” Smith said. He was appalled that the current system prioritized churning out graduates, many of whom weren’t actually “college and career ready — life ready,” as the school’s mission statement boldly pronounces. And, the school certainly wasn’t doing a good job by its gifted students or those who were struggling, Smith said.”(more)