Textbooks and the Common Core Standards

For the August 8, 2012 edition of Education Week, Beverlee Jobrack penned an intriguing article, entitled Solving the Textbook-Common Core Conundrum. Link is:

The piece is intriguing but does not go far enough in clarifying the work and the possibilities ahead. Here is where she missed:

1. Jobrack discusses better practices on textbook adoption. There is simply no reason to do another textbook adoption. Stop buying these enormous wastes of taxpayer money. Develop your curriculum maps and align resources and materials to the maps. Buy the materials like we buy iTunes (by the song vs. the album). Otherwise, we will continue to the textbook and not the standards.

2. Apply additional teacher time, and their extra pay (for extra time) to participation in developing new curriculum maps.

3. Teachers still build brilliant teacher-made materials. Jury these with teachers who develop curriculum maps so that all teachers can use what a colleague built, and so that those things teachers build that are marginal can be improved.

4. Use networking sites, such as Teacher Studio (see: teacher for collaboration on material, resources, and soft (electronic) portions of textbooks.

Why do we stay stuck in the same ole paradigm holding on feverishly to textbooks? I suspect because the big publishers spend big money to pitch their wares, just like big money skews political campaigns.

We can do better!


Improving Student Engagement Through Early Career Mapping

See the following from an Ed Week article.

“When students discover their career interests, they often get more excited about school and can see the relevance of what they are learning.  Middle and high schools are increasingly requiring that counselors and teachers work with students to map out their college and career paths.  To engage today’s tech-savvy student, many districts offer individual learning plan programs online.  Students are given online accounts with passwords to track classes; create an electronic portfolio of grades, test scores, and work; research careers; and organize their college search.”

These are good thoughts, however, this work of getting kids focused on possible careers and probable college should start earlier than high school and even earlier than middle school.  Also, we know that simply helping a student make connections between school work and career and college, is important but not sufficient for truly engaging kids.  Our teachers must make real work connections to all the work, tie learning activities to each child’s real life, and help paint a return on investment for each child through his classroom work.

We know a lot about student engagement, and if we increase our frequency of uses of these best practices, we could greatly accelerate academic achievement with all kids.


Parents, School, and Technology

Good news!  From a review of several recent studies, it appears that parent-involvement in their child’s schooling is on an increase.  Along-side this, it also appears that attitudes about technology, devices, and uses for schooling are shifting.

Some stats reported by Project Tomorrow included the following:

70% of parents (of high school students) were likely to purchase a mobile device for their child to use at school.  This trailed only slightly for parents of younger students (69% for middle school and 63% for elementary).

12-14% of parents think that providing devices are solely the school’s responsibility

Only 8-11% of parents indicate that it is “unlikely” they will provide devices, while 7-10% remain “unsure”.

Couple these stats with what we already know about gamily engagement being “a key driver in education reform” it seems that using technology is another way to broaden and deepen parent and family engagement in their child’s education.  Regardless, we must continue the up-tick in family member engagement in schools.

Some ideas:

1.  establish a BYOD (bring your own device) for students and family members as part of learning and meeting.

2.  Use the various social media and student information system features to engage parents and family members

3.  Every teacher ought to have their own web page to communicate assignments, after-hours support, etc. for their student and parents and guardians.

4.  Vary the hours of parent meetings and parent development sessions to accommodate a wide diversity of parent and guardian work demands.

5.  Know the parents and guardians who have personal or attitudinal barriers to full-involvement in their child’s school and flex to meet their needs.

6.  Help (don’t squelch) parents and guardians to advocate for their child’s school and schooling.  This is a key correlate to student achievement.

7.  More and more we have active family members and parents are from so-called nontraditional circumstances (e.g. grandparents, aunts, and uncles as parents, same-gender, transgendered, and gay persons as parents, homeless parents, and more).  Family engagement strategies should meet their needs as well.  There is no shortage of loving, supportive, caring adults in many kids’ lives who hail from these nontraditional circumstances.  They need to be brought into the school engagement mix as equals, not as anomalies or novelties.

If these 7 ideas do nothing more than cause you to think about your own involvement and your own school’s approach to broadening and deepening family involvement, now is the time while the up-tick is there.  Better are the times when we can use technology to help.

What did I miss?


Oh yes, It’s a National Crisis-and the Media must help!

Some close to me will find it ironic and surprising that I would suggest reading something from The Florida Time Union, Jacksonville’s main newspaper.

During my tenure as Jacksonville’s school superintendent, we enjoyed great support of primary partners, including the teachers’ union, the chamber of commerce, and philanthropic (and many other) leaders. These partners helped to move improvements in the academic, operational and financial results of the district. Regrettably, the city’s main newspaper repeatedly provided shoddy, inaccurate, and disruptive reports of our work for kids and educators.

Today, the same newspaper provided a great summary on where we stand on issues of our educational system-nationally, and how important it is to quickly improve student performance, and the urgency in which Jacksonville and all our Nation’s cities and states must face necessary improvements and new supports. I strongly recommend this OpEd piece. It is a call-to-action for Jacksonville and for all American cities and states. Link to the article is:

As Jacksonville looks to recruit another reform-minded school superintendent later this year, I hope that all factions of this city will support the new work. Jacksonville deserves a great school superintendent, and should work to recruit and keep one for a long time.

Regarding the education crisis, oh yes, it’s a national crisis. One that many of us are keenly focused on, but one where all of us focus must focus on. According to Thomas Friedman, indicators are that we have about 12-15 years left to completely reverse our trend of gradual economic deterioration by creating a new level of American human capital capacity. This can only be achieved through improving our schools and schooling for kids. All of them!

On the issues of educational improvements, Media outlets can help. Media outlets are a great resource for driving public accountability, among other things. Some do a great job already. All other Media outlets must return to standards of factual, context-accuracy, issues-driven reporting. Media outlets’ forced shift in their business models must not be an excuse for misrepresentation of the public issues pursued. Our schools and school districts need better. Our Nation deserves better.

Good work Florida Times Union!


Who Evaluates E-Learning and Online Coursework?

Is it your job to evaluate E-Learning?  How about online learning, e-courses, and virtual schools?

Teachers, I hope you said yes!

Administrators, I hope you said yes!

State departments of education, and local school boards, I hope you said yes!

While so-called e-learning (Some call it online learning) is exciting and certainly necessary for us to accelerate the work of kids and their teachers.   Sadly, though, some entrepreneurial interests are perpetuating poor quality features and courseware to accelerate profits over accelerating improvements for kids and teachers.

I once sat in a due diligence meeting for a company acquiring another e-learning company with Chester Finn.  We noticed a page in an online Science course reference to the study of the stars as Astrology. (The sellers defended this as a type-Astronomy, Astrology, oh yea-we all knew what they meant.  eeegads!)  Another gaffe, online, erroneously credited President Lincoln with eliminating slavery-not clarifying that our Nation did not accomplish this at 100% during his presidency.  The shortcuts and errors are egregious in e-learning, virtual schooling, and e-courses and learning activities.

Michelle R. Davis provided through her work, some good guiding principles with respect to evaluating the quality of e-learning, virtual schools, and other online venues for coursework and learning activities:

1.  Students should take any exams in-person to ensure they are doing their own work and truly absorbing the information.

2.  Assessments should be embedded throughout an online course or venue to ensure that appropriate interventions and supports are provided as early as possible.

3.  Data tracking to monitor how long students are taking to complete assignments, frequency of participation and frequency of student-teacher contact are necessary for success.

4.  The same accountability measures to judge regular teacher-led activities and brick and mortar schools should be used to measure virtual schools, online courses, and any e-learning delivered activities. (Davis asserts that this would include AYP and state testing requirements.)

Good luck!


Can we all agree?!

A follow-up to my post of January 27, 2012 on high school drop-out eligibility age is as follows:

Compulsory HS Attendance until age 18!

Can we all agree that this is a necessary step to help us in the imperative to save the quality of education for all our high school students?

Ed Week did a nice job publishing the state-by-state status of compulsory attendance (age 16, 17, or 18) before a child can decide to drop out of high school.  Link below should get you there:

While there is much more to the work than keeping students in school longer, this would at-least give us a stronger chance at helping more student prevent wreckage in their lives.

Almost for sure states where the compulsory attendance is to be raised will pay for this by reducing allocations to budget line items such as building more prison beds.  That would certainly be a great change of tide.

It is an election year–so this is the very thing we should all push our state legislators on.  18 states continue to allow 16 year-olds to drop out.   Eleven states still allow 17 year-olds to drop out.

Is it do-able?


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