Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ever try drinking from a firehose?

Originally uploaded by jeremy.plemon.
I've been drinking from the firehose known as Bloglines; instead of water, it's spraying me with posts, bits and bytes, some of it good stuff, some of it not so good, and some of it great stuff. And, every once in a while, something that gets me thinking.

Why is my Bloglines reader like a firehose? Well, for starters, I have 468 (and counting) active feeds.

Why do I mention this here? The latest get-me-thinking posts have been in the realm of teaching. By and large, the teachers and administrators who are using the read/write web are cutting edge, thoughtful educators who want to make a difference in their classrooms, in their schools, in their communities.

In the last couple days, I've learned a little about Direct Instruction and 6+1 Trait Writing, both topics I knew nothing about. Now I know enough about each to know I don't know anything still.

Dennis Fermoyle in his From the Trenches of Public Ed. wrote today about reform His post was inspired by an essay titled What Does it Mean to be a Research-Based Profession? although the genesis of it could have come from the New York Times or any other mainstream paper this week with the news telling us that Grades Rise, but Reading Skills Do Not. I would think that if we are being effective, achievement would rise with an increase in grades. Would not increased grades show increased learning? Or does it show grade inflation?

From Diana Jean Schemo's article in the New York Times:
“There’s a disconnect between what we want and expect our 12th graders to know and do, and what our schools are actually delivering through instruction in the classroom,” David W. Gordon, the superintendent of schools in Sacramento, said at a news conference announcing the results.
We've had "reform" but it doesn't seem to be getting us, as a nation, anywhere.

Dennis Fermoyle writes,
Every teacher I know wants to be successful. I mean who wants to regularly go up in front of 25-30 people, even young children, and look like an idiot? Show me something that will help me do a better job, and I will grab it, and I don't know any teacher who doesn't feel the same way. The bottom line is this: colleges of education and those who put on teaching workshops have been doing a lousy job. Maybe, instead of focusing on "failing schools" and "failing teachers", Congress ought to take a look at them.
Thankfully, independent schools don't have to answer to Congress or any other legislative body. (I reminded that we don't want to see either sausages or laws made; in both cases, things are pretty ugly.) Independent schools need only to answer to key stakeholder groups: parents, alumni, board members, students, faculty, & staff. And, for the most part, those key groups line up when a school has clearly articulated missions and goals. (See this page for a great example of clearly defined missions and goals; this school knows what it is and knows where it is going and knows how it is going to get there.)

If we want reform, I'm a fan of starting with the work of the Coalition of Essential Schools. Their principles provide a framework within which teachers and leaders can work to provide students what they need, so that there is no disconnect between what we want and expect our graduates to know and do, and what the school is actually delivering through instruction in the classroom.

Meanwhile, I'm back to the Bloglines firehose, looking for those nuggets which will make me better, smarter, faster, wiser.

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