What Should we want from Preschool?

In Tobin’s article published in LA Times today, I was taken aback by the title, What Should we want from Preschool?

After President Obama’s SOTU speech earlier this month, revealing plans to move to birth-three the work of Head Start, so we can add rigor to the routines of 4 year olds, much debate will likely ensue. And, after attending a work session with Assistant US Secretary of Education, Deb Delisle last week, I am reminded, we KNOW what we should want from an improved preschool. Here are some of the “wants” steeped in research:

1. more access to learning for more 4 year olds-and in particular for poor kids
2. more learning care (vs. custodial care)
3. lots of social learning, teaming, cooperation, and character building
4. lots of letters, numbers, colors, music, physical eduction and coordination, other creative enterprises, and of course naps!
5. basics of vocabulary, holding books properly, age-appropriate technology, and single digit math workouts.

Some critics will make credible arguments on what to add to preschool. Others will make ridiculous arguments on what (if anything) to add to preschool. Tobin’s article provides some insights from China’s and Japan’s preschool practices to help shape the arguments. Link is as follows:–tobin-preschool-20130224,0,3134355.story

Some Resources to Intervene on Bullying in Schools

Our colleagues at Distinctive Schools continue to share important resources for the work we all do.  Here are some great informational pieces from NEA on Bullying (from NEA’s Bully Free Website):

How to Intervene in a Bullying 


How to Identify Bullying-


Confronting the Bullies-


Harassment or Bullying of GLBT Students- Students.html

Good Mentors don’t Trample on Big Dreams

Venture Capitalist Tony Tjan seems to take mentoring seriously, and with serious thought when he provides or receives mentoring to others.  In a NY TImes article, he shared with Adam Bryant, some lessons he learned from Mats Lederhausen about mentoring as a starting point with a new “mentee”.  I imagine that these questions are also useful later as the mentoring relationship develops.
1.  What is it that you really want to be and do?
2.  What are you doing really well that is helping you get there?
3.  What are you not doing well that is preventing you from getting there?
4.  What will you do differently tomorrow to meet these challenges?
5.  How can I help, and where do you need the most help?
Tony Tjan also praised one of his own mentors (Jay Chiat) for incredible capacity for optimism during mentorship, and that when leaders are mentoring they must embrace and encourage dreams being shared.  While human nature might be to be a critic and a skeptic, and automatically imposing your own mental framework and your own lessons.  Seems like all leaders must exercise any formal and informal mentoring with great skill and care.

Homework and Homework Debates

The New Yorker recently published a little piece on Homework assigned to students (Louis Menand, December 17, 2012).  Seems the President of France has the power to abolish Homework for school children.  Apparently, President Hollande recently announced that he would do so for all primary and middle grades children. Imagine the delight of some.
I have posted other material on Homework, and the deeply debated merits of same in the professional literature.
Here is what you need to know and what makes most sense to me:
1.  Every successful school practitioner has a school of thought on assigning Homework.
2.  Every successful school has a well-informed policy on practices of assigning Homework.
3.  Those referenced in #s 1 and 2 above are inclusive, strategic, and reasonable in their Homework protocols.
Some cautions:
A.  Socio-economic status of the child’s family is still the great variable and predictor of a child’s success in school.
B.  Homework policies can exacerbate the problems with A above.
C.  Homework can be used more effectively today in the classroom Flipping strategy, where the whole group and lectures segments of a lesson are completed by students at home, but ONLY when technology is available to students at home.
D.  Homework overload can be detrimental to many success factors in a child’s schooling
Final Food for Thought:
In Finland, leading the world in education performance these days, educators assign no Homework to its students.

Guns, Violence, and Schools

With the raging debate over gun control and the absolute reckless abandon we seem to approach such nationwide problem solving, has anyone thought to ask the kids?  Specifically, school kids who have suffered directly or indirectly the problems of violence while growing up might have keen insights.

In USAToday, journalist Marco della Cava delved into some teenager thoughts on violence in our schools and society.  Link is:

Suffice it to say, children should be asked when working on issues of improving schools and out society as a whole.

Be Careful before Dissing AP Exams

Interesting article in NY Times about Dartmouth discontinuing providing credit for incoming students for their AP exam scores.  Link is:

Seems that questions remain about the rigor embedded in some (all?) of the AP courses and exams.  NY Times is also running a blog on the subject, and comments are rampant and charged-up. Link to that blog is:

Before dissing AP exams or AP tests, be mindful of just how much The College Board has done with its AP exams and other products and services to advance the work in American high schools, and to help increase across-the-board academic achievement of our high schoolers. And, before dissing AP, you might want to check the research and data behind its record and our benefits of both the tests and the courses.


New Research-Better Measures on Teacher Effectiveness

Gates Foundation has enabled new research on a better composite to gauge (and give feedback on) teacher effectiveness.  A link to the study is:

Seems that student feedback, test-score growth calculations, and observations of practice appear to pick up different but complementary information that, combined, can provide a balanced and accurate picture of teacher performance, according to research released this week by the Gates Foundation.  A composite of measures, and tested through a random-assignment experiment, predicted fairly accurately how much high-performing teachers would successfully boost their students’ standardized-test scores, concludes the series of new papers, part of the massive Measures of Effective Teaching study launched three years ago.

Bottom line for me is:

1.  student performance should still enter into the evaluation equation

2. student feedback is also important


Common Core State Standards and Reading Assistant

Check out the product and performance behind, Reading Assistant if your K-12 school or school system is in the throes of shifting to the Common Core State Standards.  Link is:

At a time when academic stakes are higher, we have at our disposal a tool to help tutor kids (through fascinating automation) to practice reading, re-reading, processing of information, vocabulary acquisition, comprehension and FLUENCY.  When with colleagues of the Reading Assistant organization today, I learned that there is a very strong positive correlation between improved fluency and improved comprehension.  Teachers cannot do enough 1 on 1 work with children required, and Reading Assistant helps!

If you’d like to see what some schools are doing to improve children’s reading performance in grades K-12, through this product, let me know.  My email is . The data are staggering, and impressive.  This tool even counts words correct per minute, and has a great collection of books for kids to select topics (books and articles) to work on.

Helping High Schoolers Choose a College

Much has been written and debated about college going preparation and planning.  We all have a stake in this with our young people.  Frank Bruni, a NY Times columnist, provided some keen insight, and the pertinent excerpts are as posted here:

So dig as deeply as you can into what the statistics that colleges showcase do and don’t assure. And treat your undergraduate education as a rare license, before you’re confined by the burdens of full-fledged adulthood and before the costs of experimentation rise, to be tugged outside your comfort zone. To be yanked, preferably. If you’ve spent little time in the thick of a busy city, contemplate a school in precisely such a place. If you know only the North, think about the South. Seek diversity, not just in terms of nationality, ethnicity and race, but also in terms of financial background, especially if your bearings have been resolutely and narrowly upper middle class. You’ll most likely encounter a different economic cross-section of classmates at one of the top state universities than you will at a small private college. Doesn’t that have merit, and shouldn’t that be weighed?

And if your interests and circumstances don’t demand an immediate concentration on one field of study, go somewhere that’ll force you to stretch in multiple directions. (A core curriculum isn’t a bad thing at all.) The world is in constant flux, life is a sequence of surprises, and I can think of no better talents to pick up in college than fearlessness, nimbleness and the ability to roll with change, adapt to newness and improvise.

Link to the whole piece is:

For today’s high schoolers, seeking a place to complete higher education outside of regional or local boundaries can be a great idea.  If we had more of this, we could likely cure our oft-times narrow-mindedness and help our kids increase their chances of succeed in this fascinating global economy!

To Educators: Happy New Year!

At her acceptance speech for the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, Ellen DeGeneres mentioned the following:  “I never could have imagined that my life would end up this way.  I didn’t think I’d have my own show, I didn’t think I’d end up being in movies, I didn’t think I’d have a talk show, I didn’t think that I would be a CoverGirl.  I just thought that I’d be a closeted gay comedian wearing parachute pants.”

Funny, but instructive!

Ellen’s comment reminded me of a former boss who once mentioned how the new year is a great time to re-tune, re-tool, re-focus, and re-energize your life’s and your work’s purpose.

What did you think you’d become?  What can you now think about becoming?

For Educators and education leaders, this is a great time to get your staff, your students, your colleagues, and others who look to you as a model to think about what think they can become.

This can set the stage for markedly improved work in preK-12 and beyond in 2013.

Happy new year!


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