Thinking About Education

I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think. ~Socrates

Out of the Mouths of Babes

As a teacher mentor, one of the first things I do after meeting and greeting a new teacher is to visit a class and give the teacher comprehensive feedback on their teaching from fresh, objective eyes. I tell them all the good things I see them doing and describe their best qualities as teachers and people. Then I tell them the main areas they should work on to improve their practice. Later, I.. Read More

The Discrimination Behind “Easy” Grading Practices

  There seems to be a growing trend to revise grading practices so that courses are easier to pass. Some have called such practices the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” but how is bigotry ever soft? When inflationary practices began several years ago at my middle school, teachers and administrators were quiet about them; they weren’t sure they wanted parents to know that, for example, if a student turned in nothing or made.. Read More

Data Central = Bad Karma

  Public schools in my area have developed a new karma over the last decade: data central.  It was student central for a while, but alas, like many other movements in education, it was replaced by something perceived to be bigger and better. What could be more scientific and certain than basing decisions on data? And which data are the most important?  Student performance data, of course. We measure our schools by how.. Read More

Collaboration Does Not Mean Conformity

Teachers are being told that their PLC (professional learning community) is not functioning properly if an administrator “walks through” their classrooms on any given day and s/he doesn’t see the same things going on in all classrooms. Teachers are also being told that disagreeing with initiatives/ideas handed down from somewhere above is a sign of “not being a team player.” These are disturbing signs as they indicate a confusion of collaboration with conformity… Read More

Fixing Only What is Broken, a.k.a. Data-Driven Education

Recently, I asked my friend, a physicist who likes fixing things, if he thought he might be able to repair my washing machine.  He embraced the challenge and began taking it apart to see what was wrong. Methodically, he disassembled each layer: control panel, back, wiring, motor. I confess was a little concerned as I hardly recognized my machine and was not confident that all the pieces could be put back exactly as.. Read More

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