Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My #ISTE2015 Topic List

Going back over my notes and Tweets during the recent ISTE Conference in Philadelphia, I highlighted a list of key learning terms that are changing the face of K-12 education and, to the extent they are finding their way into schools, are finally moving us forward:

  • Unlearning
  • Maker education (or simply maker ed)
  • Maker spaces
  • Culture of making
  • Design thinking and learning
  • Connected learning (for both the kids and the adults)
  • Global learning
  • Learning through creation versus consumption
  • Future ready
  • SAMR
  • STEM and STEAM
  • Coding
  • Online professional learning using social networking (e.g., Tweet of the Day)
  • Writing and publishing
  • Genius Hour (for both kids and the adults)
  • Putting technology in students' hands:
    • leveler
    • door opener
    • deeper learning
    • adjacent possibilities
    • student voice
    • agency
    • social justice
    • passion
    • digital citizen
    • digital leader
  • Learning is still based on relationships

Compilation of #ISTE2015 Tweets

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Efforts to Improve Teacher Equity Hinge on Funding Equity

As federal and state debates heat up over the inequities of quality teachers and the need for more regulation to ensure every child is served by a well-qualified teacher, Bruce Baker reminds us that regulations without equitable funding (e.g., greater funding for students and schools with higher needs) will fall short.

About those Ed Regs for Improving Teacher Equity: A preview of new (old) findings | School Finance 101

As states roll out their plans, this topic is again getting some ed media attention, most of which (if not all) misses entirely the point that regulatory pressure passed by states along to local public districts will achieve little or nothing in equalizing the distribution of teacher/teaching/instructional resources across schools and children statewide. That is, without any attention to inter-district disparities in school funding, which as I have noted, have only continued to get worse. Bottom line, you can’t fix cross-school, statewide disparities in resources without fixing between district disparities in funding. 
As a basis by which inequality should be determined, the administration places significant emphasis on variations in concentrations of children in poverty across schools. That is, resources should be equitably distributed across children by their economic status.[5] Just what “equity” means under the circumstances is left to states to articulate in their proposals, but the language of the regulations suggests that, at the very least, children in high poverty settings should not be subjected to fewer total resources or teachers with lesser qualifications – that there should not be a negative correlation between poverty concentrations and resources. 
Put simply, the amount of funding available to any school district determines the amount it can spend on its schools and, in turn, the combination of wage competitiveness and staffing ratios the district can provide. Those with more can spend more; those without can’t. Where inter-district inequities persist – especially where districts serving needier student populations have substantially lower spending – so too will inequities in the various indicators suggested for review by the U.S. Department of Education. Regulatory intervention without more substantive changes to state school finance systems will likely achieve little. So too will legal challenges to statutes and regulations which fail to correct inter-district disparities in available funding. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Learning is not necessarily what you know but how you think

In the midst of movement to industrialize public education, there was a voice of reason and sanity, who like those same voices today that are drowned out by politicians and pseudo-reformers, was pretty much ignored. However, his message rings through in truth one hundred and twenty years later.

Education does not consist in knowing certain definite things, as Greek, Latin, or mathematics, but in that power and versatility of thought and emotion which elevate life into truth and virtue, and which may come from any form of true and deep experience which the individual has with the world about him. (p.39)

Today's reformers are stuck in a world of test-prep and measuring learning strictly based on what one knows versus how one thinks. Measuring rote knowledge is far simpler and much more profitable in a world of paper and online assessments. And on top of it, measuring rote knowledge instead of evaluating learning holistically provides an opportunity to point blame at the teacher.

Contact with the world, as well as the tuition of the school, produces wealth of experience and ripe wisdom. The individual's whole environment educates him; and the teacher, being but a small part of this, must not be accredited nor charged with the whole result. (p.39 continued)

Twelve decades ago, academic leaders knew that the school and the teacher are but a small part of the education of a child and that whether or not that child succeeded in reaching a desired level of learning could not be solely the teacher's fault. Today, the reformists prefer to place the full blame on teachers and the schools they labor in, despite the overwhelming evidence that the home and community, complicit with socio-economic status, English language deficiencies, disabilities and crime, have an often greater impact on whether the child learns or not; all factors that cannot be accurately measured by achievement tests.

Tompkins, Arnold, PhD. The Philosophy of School Management. Ginn and Company, Boston. 1895

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Michigan Continues to Stick it to the Poor

We already know that the socio-economic gap between the highest incomes and those living in poverty has grown over the past couple of decades, and the percent of school-age children in Michigan and across the country living in poverty continues to climb. But Michigan lately seems bent on extracting even more pain from low-income families and children:
Students from low-income families now represent a growing majority of the school children attending the nation’s public schools, the Southern Education Foundation has found in its policy research. ~ The Leadership Conference Education Fund, 2015
1. When Governor Rick Snyder took office back in January 2011, the state moved to reduce the Earned Income Credit for low-income families. Ironically, this was a program championed by conservative President Ronald Reagan.

2. When Proposal 1 to repair the state's roads and infrastructure was presented to the people back in November 2014, it was defeated by a resounding no vote in part due to a portion of the new taxes that would restore the Earned Income Credit for low-income families and repair the recent funding cuts to public schools.

3. A bill to cut much-needed welfare funds for low-income families if a child is truant from school has passed the Michigan Senate, ensuring that the most at-risk kids who are absent in large part due to the many hurdles faced by those growing up in poverty will be even more impoverished as a result.

4. Last week, the House Appropriations School Aid Subcommittee chair expressed his desire to shut down the Detroit Public School District despite the fact state policies, "white flight" over many decades, and a general decline in school-age population were the primary sources of the district's problems, not the thousands of low-income kids and families the district has tried to serve.

5. And just this week, the Michigan Department of Education indicated it will cut federal funds (a.k.a., Title I funding intended for schools to support low-income, at-risk students) if parents continue to opt-out their children from the annual high-stakes testing game.

6. Earlier this spring, Education Trust published a report that illustrates how the state legislature sticks it to school districts serving high percentages of students living in poverty. Michigan is one of only six states where the funding for high poverty districts is at least 5% less than low poverty districts.

Certainly looks like the state is spot-on when it comes to reforming public education and addressing the impact poverty has on learning. Just keep sticking it to the poor until things shape up.

What's the old saying? "The beatings will continue until morale improves?"