More on Learning from Neuroscientists-Children of the Code

In my previous post on our need to listen and learn from neuroscientists, I failed to provide the link I was after on some of Paula Tallal’s writings and lectures.  Dive into this link (scroll down) and you will find a trove of good material. For teachers engaged in Reading, and Writing with students (and we should all be) Dr. Tallal’s work helps to bring alive some of the teachings of more traditional Literacy experts.  In other respects, the work of Tallal corrects some fallacies about traditional teaching of Reading and Writing.

See what you think.  Link is as follows:

Have a great weekend!


Assessment and Achievement Measures-keep the Main Thing the Main Thing


TO:  Education Practitioners

While lawmakers, state officials, school boards, and others wrestle with adding student achievement as a component of teacher evaluation, it is easy for us all to get caught up in the hype.  There is much hype around ideology, fairness, research efficacy, and certainly the politics of it all.  While it is important to resolve this (frankly) important work–and if we are honest we know that teacher evaluation should be, in-part, tied to growth in student achievement.  However, there is something far more troubling about all of this.

While these debates and discussions remain in-progress and unresolved, too many practitioners (superintendents, principals, teacher leaders, and others) are spending all their energy immersed in the policy debates.  Practitioners should have a voice at the policy table, always.  But, developing policy is rarely the Main Thing.  So, in Assessment and Achievement Measures, we must keep the Main Thing, the Main Thing.

Here is my list of those things we must keep in mind in order to use Assessment and Achievement Measures effectively:

1. No doubt, that which gets measured, gets done.  There must be an underlying commitment to progress measurement for any school or school district or network if it is to excel in its work on behalf of all kids.

2. Data for the sake of data is no better than having no access to data at all

3.  Some types of data reporting and some types of Assessments serve as punitive measures against school principals and teachers and we should stop using them.

4.  Other types of data, are truly assistive to teachers, and help teachers, teams of teachers, students, and families adjust instruction and supports to accelerate the work of every student and that of his/her teacher(s).

5. I remain suspicious of many so-called value-added measures.  If teachers, families, and even students cannot follow the methodology, then the type of measure is likely a category 3 (above) and not a category 4 (above).

6. Pure growth measures, truly accomplished only by adaptive testing so that each student can be assessed to see how far above or how fear below his/her grade level (s)he is.  This type of growth score then helps discern if teachers and their students are accomplishing a year of growth (or more) in a year’s service and better ensuring that kids who are behind, grow more than a year’s worth in a year of service.

7.  Use of category 6 (above) measures are also more authentic, more reliable, and more fair assessments of a teacher’s work; hence, a more responsible part of a teacher’s evaluation.

Both of the teams I work with: Atlantic Research Partners and Distinctive Schools partner with NWEA + Silverback Learning + DIBELS.   These three services help us  and help our clients measure aggressively but not too often, create more help in better ways to teachers in their work, and hold each of us accountable for what we are to accomplish every year, every month, and every day.

I have appreciate so much, the feedback I receive from these posts. This post should really spark some reaction, and I want to “hear” it.  What did I miss?  How can we keep the Main Thing, the Main Thing?

Have a great weekend.


Compulsory HS Attendance until age 18!

“So tonight, I am proposing that every state — every state — requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.” 

Words from President Obama’s State of the Union Speech on this past Tuesday evening, January 24, 2012.

It is far past when we should have made this change to require all students to remain in high school until they graduate or turn 18.  In most all states, the required attendance remains at (until) each child’s 16th birthday.

When I served as superintendent of schools in Duval County, FL (Nation’s 19th largest school district located in Jacksonville) I worked hard with state legislators to try to convince them to change the law.  Appalling, that the only obstacle was the funding that would have to be shifted from building prisons to adding funding to schools.  And, “we can’t do that” as was repeatedly said to me, even though the change in the law otherwise resonated with every lawmaker I encountered.

No doubt the work of educating high schoolers needs to continue to improve (and most everywhere it is).  We need to provide flexible learning environments, schedules, and experiences.  We need to further ratchet up the rigor and the real-world relevance to help  teenagers see the value proposition of the work so they want to stay in school.  And as I told the FL lawmakers–require them to stay until 18 so that my high school leaders and teachers have a chance to make these improvements, before these children make irreparable choices of dropping out or disengaging.  I was not successful in getting the law changed back then, even though we did make many great improvements to the high school experiences of most kids.

Now that the President has called us to action on making a law requiring students to stay in school until age 18 or actually graduating in every state, can we finally move on this?  I hope so.

Your thoughts?


Bill Gates on Teacher Observations

See this short video where Bill Gates discusses his ideas on use of peer-review teacher observations.  Worth noting.  Link is:

The idea of peer review is not a new one, but it certainly is one that should be considered for re-invigorated.  Regardless, Teachers deserve and need good feedback from good feedback systems.



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