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No one can credibly argue that teachers are trained well enough to be effective and efficient in today’s classrooms

Apparently there’s yet another fear-mongering publicist named Alyssa (yes, a different one!). So once more into the breach…

Here’s the email I received:

On the heels of the recent Vergara ruling in California, which eliminates teacher tenure, the outcome has peeled back the Band-Aid on the appalling lack of adequate teacher training.

Whether the judge was right or wrong on tenure, no one can credibly argue that teachers are trained well enough to be effective and efficient in today’s classrooms. The challenges are too great and the support is so weak, it’s a miracle any teachers are succeeding at all.

And while the California challenges may be acute and the consequences deep, deficient teacher training is a problem from coast to coast.

EXPERT SOURCE: To speak with one of the industry’s top PD expert’s on what’s next to come – Alvin Crawford, CEO of Knowledge Delivery Systems (KDS) – the leading provider of professional development solutions K-12 – is available via phone or will also be at ISTE in Atlanta from June 29 – July 1 and available for in-person interviews.

Crawford comments, “Before we can debate whether teachers should have legal protections to stay in classrooms, we should create effective and meaningful support systems for ongoing growth and development of certified teachers so that they are adequately prepared to support all students.”

He believes that only then can we perhaps all agree that we want them to keep teaching as long as possible.

Crawford, formerly of SchoolNet and responsible for its explosive growth and purchase by Pearsons for $230 million in 2011, is an industry leader in the K-12 educational system and available to discuss PD trends, transformational classroom practices, and how to solve the lagging student achievement gap.

For more information or interviews, please contact me at and thanks!

And here’s my reply:

Alyssa, with due respect to you and Alvin, this PR pitch that you just sent me is a crock. Other than a few anecdotes, made-up education ‘reformer’ sound bites, and, apparently, messages from corporations and publicists who are willing to ignore the truth and use scare tactics in order to make a buck (‘here’s a fake problem and, oh look!, we just happen to have a paid service that can help you solve it!’), there is no real evidence that we have a large, systemic problem with inadequate teacher training. In fact, peer-reviewed research studies from the highly-respected Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond and many others show that graduates of traditional teachers colleges outperform alternative teacher preparation programs.

I’m sure that Alvin probably has some value to lend to the conversation about teacher quality and professional development, but your willingness to exploit the myth of ‘bad teachers’ and/or colleges of education is overhyped, irresponsible fear-mongering. Your overeager use of phrases like no one can credibly argue that teachers are trained well enough to be effective and efficient in today’s classrooms and it’s a miracle any teachers are succeeding at all and deficient teacher training is a problem from coast to coast contributes to an escalating climate of disrespect and disenfranchisement of educators and also distracts from some of the very real factors that significantly impact student learning outcomes.

What would the numerous wonderful teachers that you and Alvin had as P-12 students think of this PR pitch? Do you think that they’d agree with you and be proud of your messaging that their training was deficient?

Why are we hiring grossly ineffective teachers?

Here’s an email I just received. Think about the messages contained in this PR pitch…

Hi Scott,

As the Vergara case continues to steal headlines and spark debate, I wanted to offer up an alternative angle. Although it’s a complicated issue, the tenure controversy seems to boil down to one real problem: that “grossly ineffective teachers” are entrenched and protected. But that raises the question: Why are we hiring grossly ineffective teachers in the first place – and how do we change that?

If you’d like to dive into this overlooked aspect of the issue for a blog post, I’d be happy to set up a call with Joel Sackett of Paragon K12. Paragon is a teacher selection tool that uses decades of research and large quantities of historical data to actually correlate individual teacher attributes (both quantitative and qualitative ones) to student achievement. Joel would be happy to engage in a high-level discussion about the hiring process, including current challenges many districts face – whether a lack of funding, efficiency or effectiveness – and also explain some skepticism and strategies surrounding next-gen hiring technology.

To round out the story, you could also talk to Katie Shortsleeve for an actual use case. She works in Human Resources at Douglas County School District – a district that actually using Paragon K12.

Would you be interested in chatting with Joel and/or Katie sometime next week? Let me know. Happy to set something up and I look forward to hearing from you! Have a nice weekend, Scott!

Best,

Alyssa

Here’s my response:

Alyssa, with due respect to you, Joel, and Katie, this PR pitch that you just sent me is a crock. Numerous peer-reviewed research studies and our best statisticians tell us that teachers only account for about 1% to 14% of the overall variability in student test scores. Nor is there any real evidence – other than a few anecdotes, made-up education ‘reformer’ sound bites, and, apparently, messages from corporations and publicists who are willing to ignore the truth and use scare tactics in order to make a buck – that we have a large, systemic problem with ‘grossly ineffective’ teachers.

I’m sure that Paragon K12 probably has some value it can lend to the educator hiring process. But I believe that this marketing message is overhyped, irresponsible fear-mongering that not only contributes to an escalating climate of disrespect and disenfranchisement of educators but also distracts from some of the very real factors that significantly impact student learning outcomes. What would the numerous wonderful teachers that you, Joel, and Katie had as P-12 students think of this PR pitch? Or the hardworking educators in Douglas County, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, Chula Vista, and other districts that are Paragon K12 clients? Do you think that they’d agree with and be proud of you?

UPDATE 1

Here’s Alyssa’s response:

Hi Scott,

My point was simply that everyone seems to be focusing on the protection of the “ineffective teachers” being cited in the Vergara case, but not asking about how they may have gotten hired in the first place. And while no one factor obviously determines learnings outcomes, similarly respected research has shown time and time again that teacher quality is the most important school-based factor when it comes to improving student achievement – so it is far from insignificant.

Anyways, thank you for the feedback.

Best,
Alyssa

And here’s mine:

Actually, it might be better to say school-controlled. And, at 1% to 14%, it’s less significant than many other, more important factors such as peer-to-peer effects (which could be considered ‘school-based’) or non-school factors…

The subject of your message was ‘Why are we hiring grossly ineffective teachers?’ My point is simply that your messaging is untrue. With very rare exceptions, schools are NOT hiring ‘grossly ineffective’ teachers. Should school districts care about and try to improve whom they hire? Absolutely. Can companies try to create systems that will help schools with this task? Sure. Should companies and their publicists engage in fear-mongering scare tactics and grossly inaccurate overgeneralizations in order to try and capitalize (literally) on the latest education story du jour? I don’t think so, but apparently that’s ‘marketing’ in the eyes of your firm and your client, regardless of the harm and disrespect to our school systems and the dedicated people who work in them.

UPDATE 2

Another message from Alyssa:

I am sorry you found the subject line so offensive. I agree – it is over-the-top, but that is unfortunately par for the course. The double-edged sword of a “clicky” subject line that may be fear-mongering but will result in getting someone to open an email and then consider a nuanced conversation on said topic vs. a muted one that no one reads. Again, appreciate the feedback.

And my response:

You admit to over-the-top fear-mongering, yet somehow are so easily able to disclaim culpability… As an educator, why wouldn’t I be offended by intentional, inaccurate insults to and acts against the profession?

Not sure I’m ever going to understand the Bammys…

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Reflection of Worlds! [guest post]

As you’ve read the posts about the team, seen the pictures and watched the videos…I’m positive you’re wondering what actually happened while we were there. Am I right?!

Lets just take it day by day, shall we?

Day 1: So, Day 1 was on a Wednesday. The team had to be at the school by 4:30 and we left at 5 (in the morning, yes). We stopped every two/two and a half hours. It was a very long car ride, least to say. We got there about 11 am. So we had an hour to blow some steam before the FTC would allow us to come in. It was meant to be a socialization time, but I myself had noticed that not a lot of people were doing that. I took advantage of the time I had. I grabbed Logan, Ben, and others who wanted to come and we went all the way down and back up the very long line of teams. We met people from Chile, Mexico, China, South Korea, and a lot of people from almost every state in the U.S! It was pretty amazing, and a lot of teams were really nice. After they let us in we had an hour and a half before judging. During that time we set up our pit area, became familiar with the dome, and updated family members/took pictures. At 1:15 we headed over to judging where we had to wait I’d say a good 10 minutes. Judging this time around was much different than in the past. Usually judging is set up that the team walks into a room, only those judges are there, the door closes and there is silence until you/your team mates start talking. This time we were in a very large room with multiple teams and a lot of judges. The team went in and so did Mr. Dixon. After judging, there was hardware/software inspection on the robot. The rest of us did scouting, looking at other teams, and sitting in the pit area.

Day 2: Thursday. On Thursday the actual qualifying matches happened. Logan, Kazuki, and Collin were constantly back and forth between the pits and the arena. Ben went a long with them because he was media. I (Molly) was at the pit area throughout the whole day. A lot of people stopped by, talked, asked questions and signed our guest book. We offered them stickers, business cards, and candy. It was a lot of fun and interesting to see the different cultures, costumes, and others come by! Kodi was the mascot so she was always at the pits passing those things out. Adam, Cory, Nick and Jeremy were walking around/sitting with me, etc. It was a lot of fun that day, but really long. That night we went back to the hotel and did laundry/watched movies.

Day 3: Friday. On Friday, qualifying matches were coming to a close. We ended with 5 wins and 4 loses. That night we all went back to the hotel room and ordered chinese! It was a pretty boring day at the arena, but the hotel was pretty fun that night.

Day 4: Last day. That day we went and watched other teams, helped support them, watched some of the FRC and FLL games and just kind of took it easy. It was a really relaxed, easy going day. :) That night was so awesome though! We had been told previously that the FTC was going to throw a big after party. None of us thought that it was going to be that cool though. This year it was circus themed. They used up basically everywhere we had been in the dome, so it was a huge party. There was a rock climb, a couple of those bouncy house race things, games, laser tag, dancers, people who were on stilts, roller blades, and bikes, there was a photo booth, a black out room, air hockey, ALL the food and drinks were free and you could win prizes depending on what games you play! It was so much fun. :) Everyone was running around, dancing, getting glow sticks, playing games, eating the food. Mr. Dixon said that he went and watched these guys who were professional jumpers! It was amazing! :D Will.I.Am made a speech, and Montell Williams went to the World Championships too! It was so much fun. :D The First program is an amazing one, that teaches kids team work, socialization skills, and how to have fun while learning. The reward that myself and my team got for all their hard work was amazing. Everything had payed off and all sacrifices that we made was totally and utterly worth it.

I’m so glad I got to share this experience with you- the reader. If you have children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, anything… I strongly suggest that you find a First program somewhere near you and get them involved! So many people were at this event, it was crazy! This is one of the most amazing, mind blowing things. It teaches so much more than just knowing the math or science of what’s going on. It’s beyond anything else that I believe is currently offered to kids/young adults in the world today.

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Photos! [guest post]

IMG_2512IMG_2900IMG_0964Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.21.42 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.22.53 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.22.40 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.22.28 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.22.09 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.23.07 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.23.22 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.24.26 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.26.51 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.27.35 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.29.35 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.30.05 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.30.35 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.31.14 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 6.32.00 PMScreen Shot 2014-04-28 at 4.00.10 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 3.58.32 PM 1618292_10152069410786720_2323332808920340712_o BmNdRxPCQAEIbj2 Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 4.01.06 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 4.01.20 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 4.07.05 PM 1618292_10152069410786720_2323332808920340712_o 10291294_664742990228162_7538390883394401868_n 10178141_664742893561505_2179137614684017776_n Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 10.07.05 PM share_1398529659631 10321694_664743150228146_5013849957847023824_o 10313398_664743040228157_922818304832015278_n Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 10.06.30 PM Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 10.06.44 PM

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnCaXiJWzMnr6Je_JHkZ-gg

 

photos and videos of our trip! Such an amazing experience. :)

More on the team! [guest post]

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This is the team! I am the girl in the back, 7 people in counting from the left.

The order of people are (From back to front, left to right): Mrs. Haage, Mrs. Eveland, Cory, Kazuki, Collin, Logan, myself, Jeremy, Ben, Mr. Dixon. Front row: Kodi, Nick, Caleb and Adam.

Mrs. Haage is pregnant in this photo! Sadly, she was not able to make it to the World Championship due to her pregnancy. She is filling in for Mrs. Eveland while she is out due to sickness! Mrs. Eveland has been diagnosed with breast cancer so she had to take some time off of school/robotics. She is always there to say goodbye and there to say welcome back. She still comes into robotics. She is doing really well though. :) Cory is a sophomore, Kazuki is a senior – our only one this year! Kazuki is also 1 of 2 drivers for the robot. Next is Collin. Collin does a lot of programming for the robot with Kazuki. He is the “Coach” while the boys are driving the robot and he is a sophomore. Next is Logan. Logan is the other driver and a junior. Then there is me (Molly). I am a junior, and I am community/outreach and I am the group’s PR. Then there is Jeremy. During Pre-Game (before competition) he scouts out. Basically scouting going around to other teams and asking them about their robot and what it can do. Jeremy is also a junior. After Jeremy comes Ben. Ben is a sophomore and does the same thing he does! Then there is Mr. Dixon. He is the only coach we have that is NOT also employed at our school. He works at Paslode and helps us out a lot with the building process and such. First on the bottom is Kodi. She is a junior and she is our team mascot! :D She made the whole thing from scratch and she also helps with what I do. Then there is Nick. He is a sophomore and he fixes the motors, etc. that break on the robot. He is extremely helpful in the process of making sure the robot is kept up. He also helps ease the tension between us and a team! He makes introductions funny and is good at socializing. Then there is Caleb! Caleb is a junior and he does the odds and ends of stuff. He helped make trifolds and stuff like that! And finally there is Adam! He is a sophomore and he helped us with the robot building process also. He helps stay in contact with our sponsors and likes to show off some of our 3-D printed parts. :) So that is the team for you! :D

Team 4443: The Sock Monkeys! [guest post]

Hey guys! My name is Molly Bleything, I am 17, from Oskaloosa Iowa and I am on a robotics team. I don’t know how much all of you guys personally know about us or what we do, but you’re going to find out extremely quick! :D Lets start with top 5 most commonly asked questions:

1. Does your robot shoot lasers and fight? – No. Our team runs through the FTC. FTC stands for First Tech Challenge. The FTC is just a branch for the overall First program. There is also the FRC, FLL, and Jr. FLL!

http://www.usfirst.org/aboutus/vision

Check out the website to get more information on us, and the other teams!

2. Are you guys only in robotics? – No! We are not all “nerds and geeks.” Many of us (including myself) are involved with many other things. A lot of us are in soccer, choir, band, art, cross country, orchestra, etc.

3. Are you guys the only team where you live? – No! There are a lot of no’s here, but that is a-okay! Our team – team 4443 – is the younger of the two. The other team we have is Team 3608 the Ninjaneers. They consist of freshman (9th graders) and younger! Team 3608 was the original team at our school.

4. Do you guys do cool stuff? – A lot of times, everyone has a different example. Yes, we do get to do cool stuff. We build a robot, go visit other engineering companies, meet up with other teams, and spread the word about the FTC program.

5. How many kids are on your team? – 10. There is one senior, four juniors, and 5 sophomores.

I encourage you to check out our website at oskyrobotics.weebly.com. It has a lot of information, updates, and pictures of the team. I also encourage you to follow us on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/4443SockMonkeys.

Now, back to robotics. Every year the FTC sends out a new challenge. This year the challenge is called Block Party. There are rules and regulations for you, your team and, most importantly, your robot. They call it the block party because well… it involves blocks. Your robot should be built and designed mainly to pick up cubed, yellow blocks. You are only allowed to pick up 3-4 blocks per scoop. The blocks are placed in opposite corners of the arena. After you get the blocks picked up, you and another driver steer the robot over to the ramp. The ramp sits in the center of the arena and has a bar across the top of it, and off the sides of it, it has a wooden crate with boxes put on it. You get x amount of points for certain things… anyways, the goal is to put the blocks in the pendulum. This is called Tel-op. Because of tel-op, there is autonomous. Autonomous is when the robot drives itself because the students programmed it to do so. The goal is to take a block, drop it in the box and then the robot will drive itself on the ramp. Some teams do not have autonomous at all… Anyways, after autonomous and tel-op comes the end game. The end game is the last 30 seconds of tel-op. In end game your robot should be able to raise a flag, hang itself. The robot can also keep scooping blocks into the pendulum if it so pleases. That is the Block Party this year! As a bonus we can do all of it! :D

So now that you know everything there is about the block party, lets get blogging!

Responsible educational journalism

Leslie and David Rutkowski say:

simply reporting results, in daring headline fashion, without caution, without caveat, is a dangerous practice. Although cautious reporting isn’t nearly as sensational as crying “Sputnik!” every time the next cycle of PISA results are reported, it is the responsible thing to do.

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/03/20/so-how-overblown-were-no-1-shanghais-pisa-results

This holds true, of course, for all other assessment results as well. I am continually amazed at how many press releases become ‘news stories,’ sometimes nearly verbatim. Too many educational journalists have abdicated their responsibility to ask questions, to investigate claims and evidence, to cast a skeptical eye on puffery, and to try and get to the truth…

Here’s to school spirit videos

Okoboji (IA) High School is having fun with video…

Do these kinds of videos directly improve student learning outcomes? Nope. Do they foster positive school climate, culture, and spirit? Absolutely!

Learning environments should be fun. Kudos to the Okoboji folks for remembering that. Happy viewing!  #eduboji

Okoboji High School Roar

Livin’ the Dream

Nice work on the teacher appreciation video too!

Did you know they add sugar to your fish sticks? [VIDEO]

Some of the wonderful folks who helped make the Did You Know? (Shift Happens) videos have a new company, The Tremendousness Collective. One of their first projects was a video highlighting what sugars do to us. I’m late blogging this but thought I would pass it along. This video has absolutely nothing to do with schools or technology or leadership but these people are truly remarkable to work with and I want to support them any way I can. If you ever need someone to help you tell a story or get people to care, get in touch with them right away. They truly do “turn your ideas into absurdly great visual communications.”

Happy viewing!

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