Archive for October, 2007

The School: Part 3 Testing

The TestMy favorite target..Testing.

OH! How I have come to hate testing!!!

 

 

Testing can be a very useful tool in helping diagnosis student learning problems. Testing coupled with classroom teacher observations make a good indication of how a student is progressing. Testing can be used to measure the effectiveness of a new program or method. Testing in its place as a diagnostic tool is extremely useful in the learning process.

 

What is testing and how does it fit in with the school? Schools are artificial forums designed to help pupils learn. The process of helping kids learn is called teaching. Teaching involves three processes: Planning, Execution and Assessment. In time we will take up each of these aspects of education. Teaching occurs on three level: State, Local and Classroom. A fourth level is being pushed today more than at any other time: National. All that said, we are focusing in one topic Assessment.

 

Assessment is “a method of evaluating student performance and attainment.” Evaluating means “to consider or examine something in order to judge its value, quality, importance, extent, or condition.” Teachers are constantly assessing pupils and methods as a routine of their teaching skills. It is part of what makes a good teacher. All of us are familiar with Teacher testing: essay questions, multiple guess, true and false, fill in the blank, short answer, and practical exams. Assessment should be authentic, reliable and valid. Teacher constructed tests offer the best assessment of learning. Teachers are aware of what learning is expected in the classroom. Teachers know their pupils. There are individuals who cannot perform very well on multiple choice questions. When asked verbally, the pupil responds as a scholar. Recent research has shown that students learn in different ways. Effective teachers react according. Good teachers use a variety of methods to help students learn. Assessment needs also to be authentic and evaluate the actual process to be learned. And good teachers need to use a variety of assessments just as he does methods.

 

Testing is a regular routine in a teacher’s program. Teachers use standards to construct lessons. Lessons involve a plan in which the standards are converted to objectives which are attainable. Methods to achieve the objectives are designed to provide a variety of learning paths for the accomplishment of the objectives. In order to identify if the student has achieved the objective, the teacher uses an assessment or assessments to determine success. The teacher plans a lesson, executes the plan and then evaluates the plan. Testing is one of the assessments used by teachers to determine the achievement of the pupils and the effectiveness of the plan. 

 

All readers of this blog have a classroom teacher to thank. Reading is a primary school task and as the neophyte reader progresses he or she are assessed both by tests and observation. This is how tests should be used. In some cases it is a benefit to compare pupil achievement to a broader group of pupils at the same level. The standardized test is ideal for this. The test can then be analyzed illustrating strong and weak points in a pupils education. Schools, teachers and parents can use this information to improve student, teacher or school problems. Unfortunately today’s standardized tests are used to punish and not improve.

 

All in the name of Accountability.

 

 

October 29, 2007 at 3:15 am Leave a comment

The School: Part 2 The Rules

Rules for Students A school, as we discussed, is a brick and mortar structure composed of a bunch of cells (oops! I mean classrooms.) in which children are herded where the shepherd exposes the lovely lambs to opportunities of learning. This the traditional school most of us have in mind and probably what the overwhelming most of the us have experienced. Traditional schools have names PS 45, The William Penn Elementary, Central High School or Academy of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School. There are rigid schedules: 8:40 AM to 3:10 PM. There are bells. Don’t be tardy! There were lavatories (rest rooms or bath rooms). And schools had smells! The smells changed as the day progressed.

Schools are governed by rules. There are rules for the school. There are rules for the teachers. There are rules for the pupils. There are even rules for the parents. It would take many blogs to cover all the rules. In this blog, we will briefly cover an extremely complex issue. Public schools are governed by school boards. Who are must follow the mandates of the State Board of Education. Who interprets and executes the mandates of the School Code. Which are the statues passed by the state legislature. These are the politicians we elect every so often.

There are rules that govern the number of days that schools must have on their calendar. This calendar must be approved by the school board. In Illinois there must 180 days minimum in the calendar. Four of those days can be used for Teacher Institute days (Training or development programs). Some school districts have more days on their calendar. The City of Chicago has 185 days.

There are rules to cover the amount of time spent in school. There are so many minutes required for subject area in the elementary schools (Grades 1-8). High schools have minimum credits for subject areas. Each year schools must file forms to show their time distribution. The quality of a school involves the time distribution on the elementary grade and the number of credits achieved on the secondary level.

It is the number of days and time on task that politicians propagandize as solutions to school problems. “Keep those kids in school longer.” I can hear the political candidate bellowing. “More time in the school day and on task.” This has been the “quick answer” solution to apparent problems in education. This is the madness that has stripped away recess in many schools and the 15- or 20-lunch period. Remember when there was recess, hat or cold. There was milk and cookie time. Lunch was an hour. There were some pretty bright and good people that graduated from those schools. They could  add and subtract, read and write, laugh and cry, think and solve a problem; they were for the most part somewhat well adjusted individuals.

So what happened to the rules that used to run our schools. Tests and more tests and even more tests.

October 26, 2007 at 3:09 am Leave a comment

The School: Part 1 The Building

  The Traditional School   This Blog deals with education. It is about teaching, learning, schools, home, teachers and pupils.  It is about what is good and what is bad. I jumped into the most controversial issue that confronts education at the present time- NSLB. But, as we will discover, everything in education is related. I did want to present this blog in a somewhat of a logical flow, if such a thing exists.

 

 Today’s blog begins with a little philosophy. John Dewey was the most influential educator in the first half of the 20th Century. He was cast aside during the 70’s and 80’s. His philosophy has made a dramatic comeback in the third millennium. Basically, John Dewey sees education as the passing on of traditions and rituals to the upcoming generation. He goes back to primitive cultures where each generation is trained in the “tribes ways.” Children pass into adulthood during rites of passage. The next generation then decides on the good aspects of the culture to pass on. Dewey sees formal education of today’s world as the path that leads to these rites of passage. Learning occurs within social interaction.

 

Formal education (= school) must first decide what traditions, knowledge and social values are to passed on to the next generation. The curriculum mandates these standards. The classroom teacher must translate these standards into lessons that result in learning. Dewey identifies humans as social creatures. Basic to any school is the social aspect. Through this social foundation learning is accomplished. The school is a social environment in which the traditions, knowledge of past generations and social values are learned. Schools might be considered the basic unit of formal education. Therefore , it is a good place to begin our journey of education.

 

The humans in a school can be divided to four groups: pupils, staff, teachers and administrators. The interaction of these groups result in an atmosphere of learning. The capabilities and abilities of pupils are determined by the level of the school, i.e., at their location in the continuum of the curriculum. Primary level pupils do not have the abilities of the upper grade pupils. The capabilities of a pupil is determined by previous learning. A pupil would have difficulty writing a paragraph if he was unable to write a sentence. A student learns words in preschool, puts words into sentences in early primary and constructs paragraphs by late primary. It is this continuum that formal education follows.

 

Schools can be organized into six levels: Pre-school, Primary, Intermediate, Upper grades, High school and Post- secondary. These may be perceived as artificial tiers and to a certain extend they are but the continuum of learning for the sake of formality can be separated into stages of learning. These are the levels that represent the stages of learning. What they are called or how they are shifted is not the important aspect. What is important is that learning is a long term process that results in a socially adjusted individual with the basic tenets of his or her world. Schools divide the continuum into levels.

 

Schools are made of classrooms, washrooms,  lunchrooms,  offices and corridors. Schools are made of brick, wood, plastic and metal. There are doors, floors, windows and chalkboards. Bulletin boards, lights and desks fill classrooms. Schools sound like bells ringing ,pupils talking, and shoes marching. Bodies bump into each other. Teachers terrify pupils with stern warnings. Giggles grip pupils of every  level. Schools have exteriors and interiors.

 

Schools are what we make of them. Schools are just buildings made of mud and mortar.  Some schools are like home. Other look like armed fortresses. Others like pleasant resorts. Schools can be inviting or frightening. They can make pupils feel safe and relaxed. Schools can be old and smelly with the structure deteriorating. Schools can be modern. Schools are what we perceive. What occurs in them is what we are most concerned about.

 

In the blogs ahead, we will attempt to examine the school from as many angles of which we can think. We will offer insights and opinions of what works and what we are doing wrong. Schools are after just a place where learning occurs. It is not the only place. Schools influence learning. 

October 22, 2007 at 1:13 am Leave a comment

Quick thoughts about No Child Left Behind

Noses to the grindstone Quick thoughts about No Child Left Behind

 

As a teacher and parent, I am interested in quality education for every child. Whether you have children in school, a homeowners worried about property values, or a concerned citizen wanting taxes dollars spent properly – the basic tenet of the NCLB act is great, every single child should have an equal and fair opportunity to learn. Schools ultimately bare the responsibility to offer a quality education to each child in that school. Not a soul will argue with the fact that our schools should provide quality education.

 

As a teacher in the trenches battling the war against ignorance, NLSB not only keeps me from doing my job but it frustrates me and unfairly gives schools and American education a black eye. The desire to improve education is through testing programs. Schools are required to test all students , regardless of disability. Students are expected to achieve certain levels on the test. Sounds good! But not all students have the same abilities or capabilities. For example, if you were to sign you child up for tee ball. (Have you ever seen 5 year-olds play tee ball. It’s a ball (sorry)!) Kids learn the fundamentals of baseball and have fun. There is no test! Kids run all over. Hit the ball and run. Does not make a difference if its toward third or the pitching  mound- just run. It’s fun! The coaches have fun, the parents have fun and everyone congratulates the kids . They also thank the coaches. The parents go home feeling good. Introduce NCLB to tee ball. Each child will be expected to hit the ball a certain distance, run in a correct direction, run so fast, and catch a ball hit to them. This may well be the goal we set for our children but we also want them to have fun. Now tell the coaches that they are accountable to see each and every child meets these standards. Failure to do so could result in disbanding this team and firing all the coaches. We quibble and vacillate whether this is good. Jeannie is a fantastic hitter and a very coordinated runner. She will probably be an outstanding athlete one day. Roger trips over his own feet and swings the bat with his eyes closed. He laughs and had as much fun as Jeanine but he is placed on a watch list. He may not want to become an athlete or a scholar or a doctor or lawyer. He likes cars. He wants to work with his hands. He does not read as well as Jeannine but NCLB does not care. Roger must have extra tutoring. He must be forced to improve. He is not to ne left behind! Roger is not behind. He is as happy as anything when he listens to the hum of a car engine and tell that the pistons need work. Will Jeanine know that? Roger wants the testing program to include car maintenance. Jeanine would now find herself in the “left behind” category. This is the frustration and unfair aspect of NCLB.

 

More to come on this highly controversial Act. It has become a political football.    

 

October 19, 2007 at 1:46 am Leave a comment

Hello world!

The Teacher’s World           The Teacher’s World

“Today is the first day of class, children. You can stay in the seat you are sitting in until you talk to your neighbor. THEN I will move you. I am the master of this classroom: I’m the boss- the chief- the head honcho- the big cheese. That’s right I run the show! Hey you! The plaid shirt staring out the window! Are you listening?”

The disheveled boy twisted toward the front of the classroom with wide eyes. “Huh! What’d ya say?”

“See That’s what I mean! LISTEN! LISTEN TO EVERYTHING I HAVE TO SAY BECAUSE IT IS IMPORTANT! YOU HEAR ME!”

There was a pause as the teacher’s eyes searched the faces of the classroom. 

“Hand up. What do you want?”

” Are we suppose to take notes?” The preppy dressed girl said with a smile.

“Not now..” The teacher whined. “I’ll tell you when.”

Sound at all familiar? I have been a teacher for too long. Too many years making the same opening remarks. I didn’t follow this teacher’s tack of being the boss. I did at one time. I was the tough guy. New teachers are warned. “Be sure to set the rules right from the beginning. Let those kids know who’s the boss or you’ll be in trouble.” Probably good advice for the neophyte teacher. The teacher must be in control of the classroom and learning is the business of a classroom. It can be a relaxed business atmosphere but the teacher must be in charge and there is the business of learning that needs to be addressed.

This blog is for parents, politicians, students and teachers. It is about teachers and learning. It is about the influences that affect education. It is about what should be and what shouldn’t be. It is about teachers, students, learning, standards, testing, politicians, schools, and everything else! Like any good teacher I don’t have the answers. I can only guide you on your journey to find the answers and become enlightened. Learning is an internal process. It is change in thinking, habits and attitudes. There must be questions in order to seek out answers. Learning occurs not with the answer but with the changes that occur as one seeks the answer. Teachers are great resourses. They are like encyclopedias, they have all the answers. If they yield the answer each time the pupil asks a question, what have has the pupil learned. This pupil learned that if you have a question go to the teacher to get the answer. If this is what we veiw learning as, then we have a serious problem.  

We will attempt to tackle some problems that confront education in this very complicated world. Everyone has an answer. As a student we don’t need to seek the answer, there already there. All we need do is to take one and we are done. That’s the easy path. However, as learned  individuals we are faced with all these solutions. It is necessary to examine the means and realable sources that were used to reach the answer.

Life is filled with choices. Good teaching leads to good learning which leads to better decision making which leads to better choices. Better choices lead to happier and healtier lifestyles. Isn’t that what is all about?

October 17, 2007 at 6:05 pm Leave a comment


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