The Reflective Educator

Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

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Month: October 2017

10 things that might actually disrupt US education

There’s a list being shared of ten things that will disrupt US education and I agree with Dan Willingham.

 

In no particular order, here are ten things that might actually disrupt US education.

 

Teachers being afforded respect as a profession by policymakers and others

You do not enact law like No Child Left Behind if you fundamentally believe that teaching is a profession. You know who primarily regulates lawyers, engineers, and doctors – that’s right, in many countries they do that themselves.

 

Teachers, especially elementary school teachers, having adequate time to plan

In some states elementary school teachers teach all subject areas and have a total of 45 minutes to plan AND are paid so little that many of them need second jobs.

 

Provide curated resources to teachers

Although increased planning time may reduce this tendency, designing ambitious curriculum is difficult and extremely time-consuming, so most teachers would benefit from curated resources that they can modify and adapt using their professional judgement. Surprisingly, many teachers have to use Pinterest and/or Google to find resources for their classroom because of a lack of curriculum resources aligned to their new state standards.

 

Paying teachers enough that they do not need second jobs and can afford to live in the communities that they work in

One way to make getting into teaching competitive would be to pay people enough that it makes teaching an attractive choice. It would also mean fewer people leaving the profession to find more lucrative careers and leaving vacancies, especially in harder to fill content areas.

 

Policies intended to improve teaching not teachers

As Jim Stigler and notes in the Teaching Gap, much of US policy is engineered at supporting individual teachers at getting better and that as soon as these teachers retire or quit, their professional knowledge leaves with them and the profession of teaching in the US remains relatively unchanged. It’s a good thing for individual teachers to get better at their practice, it is better that the professional benefits from what they learn.

 

Equitable funding across US schools

In some school districts, schools spend $9000 per student while a few miles away in a suburban district, schools spend $26,000 a student. While this inequity exists, resources are unevenly distributed across US education and in most cases the students who need the most support to be successful receive the least amount of funding.

 

Equitable access to teachers across US schools

In almost all large urban areas, it pays better to work in the suburbs than it does to work in the city. This results in teachers leaving the cities for high paying, lower stress jobs outside of the cities and in uneven amounts of teacher experience across the schools in the city.

 

Design school structures which are coherent and communicate across all levels of education

Imagine a system where the person who teaches teachers never sets foot in a school, the person who runs a school has no time to read research or even see their teachers teach, the person who runs research has never taught, the instructional coach who supports a teacher has their own idiosyncratic teaching style, and a teacher who has to listen to all of these people give them different advice on teaching. This is considered normal for teachers across the United States. But it does not have to be that way! It is possible to design systems where all of these people work collectively rather than individually.

 

End economic inequality in the United States

Income inequality in the United States is increasing and given that we know already that there exists a relationship between income and educational achievement, any shift toward more economically equitable society is likely to result in improvements in education for most students.

 

The end of systematic oppression of people of colour

The United States has a long dark history of oppressing people of color in various ways. One way this occurs in the US school system is that the schools attended by children of color are much more likely to be closed and/or labelled as failing than other schools. Ending this systematic oppression would transform the United States educational landscape.

 

A Conference Experiment

My colleagues have long been frustrated sharing our work at conferences primarily because the work we do is complex and hard for people to understand thoroughly within the constraints of a conference session where we only have at most 75 minutes to work on an idea.

So we contacted the organizers of the two NCTM regional conferences and proposed a possible solution. Instead of running one session, we will run 4. Instead of 4 separate sessions, we will plan those 4 sessions to connect together. Given how closely my colleagues and I work, we were each able to be the lead speaker on a different proposal. Both the NCTM Orlando and NCTM Chicago conference organizing teams agreed to this proposal and scheduled our sessions both so they do not overlap and also sequentially as requested.

So although we have 4 separate workshops listed in the program guide, these sessions are actually one of our day-long workshops divided into four sessions. Our hope is that some participants will experience one workshop and be no worse off than before – they will still learn something even if it is not the complete picture – but that participants who attend multiple sessions will have more insight and ability to use our work.

Here is a video of Contemplate then Calculate in action, with Kaitlin Ruggiero as the teacher and some teachers from one of our courses playing the role of students.

If this teaser intrigues you, our four sessions are:

  1. Experiencing Instructional Routines: 

    In this session participants will experience the same instructional routine three times with three different tasks to consider what elements of the teaching that occurs are part of the routine and what elements probably depend on the task and the students.

  2. Unpacking Instructional Routines: 

    Next, participants will experience the routine again (this will give access to people for whom this is their first session) and name the parts of the routine, why those parts are helpful, and what questions they have about the routine.

  3. Planning and Preparing Instructional Routines: 

    There is good evidence that a new teaching idea sticks better for participants if they have an opportunity to incorporate it into their existing teaching by planning and preparing to use the idea, so that will be the primary focus of this session. This will also connect the planning process for the instructional routines to the 5 practices for orchestrating productive mathematical discussions.

  4. Rehearsing Instructional Routines: 

    There are two goals of this session. First that some participants will have an opportunity to apply what they have learned and actually practice using the instructional routine before trying it out with students. Second, rehearsal of teaching is a useful way to norm around teaching practice and to try things out in teaching in a lower pressure situation than with a group of students.

 

Here are the times and locations for these sessions in Orlando:

 

And here are the times and locations for our sessions in Chicago:

 

Further reading about instructional routines:

 

Questions about Curriculum

Here are some questions that I ask myself whenever I read through a mathematics curriculum:

 

• Does this curriculum assume that children will forget ideas over time?
• Does this curriculum provide instructional supports that increase the odds that all children have access to it?
• Does the curriculum assume all students are capable of learning and doing interesting mathematics?
• Are the connections between different mathematical ideas made explicit, both for me as a teacher, and for students who will experience the curriculum?
• Is it possible, based on the license and format of the materials, for me to extend / adapt / modify the curriculum based on student need?
• Does the material make it easier for me to use formative assessment practices each day?

 

If the answer to all of these questions is not yes, I don’t want to use that curriculum. A curriculum which is no more than a collection of tasks is no more useful to me than my ability to search for resources in Google.

 

What other questions do you ask yourself when reviewing curriculum?