Sunday, June 29, 2008

Poll: What Does the Nation Think About Education

The poll was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Finding:
About half of the Nation thinks that schools are not preparing kids adequately for college and the work force.

Education is trying to function at cross purposes. I keep reading about how all students need algebra in the 8th grade. "Algebra is the gateway to college". But, since when does everyone in the work force need college or choose the college path? Is college the new high school? Is it recommended for everyone? Solving linear equations, the essence of algebra, is not going to help huge numbers of people in the Nation's workforce. Being able to handle fractions and percents, which many students have not mastered, including students in higher level courses such as advanced algebra, would serve to better prepare students for the work force and life.

If we need to do a better job training kids for college and the work force then we might want to think of offering different kinds of high school education. A student might want to prepare for college. Others might want to prepare for business, a trade, or the arts. If we start offering appropriate training in high school, then we will have appropriately trained students entering college and the work force.
Finding:
Sixty percent of adults think that teacher pay should in some way be tied to student results on standardized testing.
I have taught honors level math courses. Good! My salary will reflect the fact that my students are doing well on standardized tests. I have taught remedial math. Woe is me! A salary cut because many of the students in my class speak English as a second language, a large percentage of them have learning disabilities, are economically disadvantaged, or any other number of reasons that cause students to have trouble learning math. The remedial students are much more difficult to teach than the honors level students. The quality of the teacher is more crucial at the remedial level, yet the test scores won't show how capable that teacher is.

An analogy: One person has an automobile that is an engineering wonder. It performs well with little service and the service that it does need is straight forward and simple. The other person has a car that was manufactured with questionable engineering. It is made of plastic parts that break down and need to be replaced often. It is always in the shop due to its poor quality construction. The cars are repaired at two different repair shops. The first car goes to a shop that is spotlessly clean. Any replacement parts are readily available and are of top quality. The second car goes to a shop that is falling apart. It is filthy. The parts have to be ordered and take days to get to the shop. When they arrive at the shop, they are of poor quality because the clients can't afford better parts. Yet the mechanic is able to keep the car running despite the poor circumstances of the shop. The first car always runs better than the second car in all tests.

The second mechanic risks his life everyday to get to work because the shop is in a crime ridden neighborhood. He is in fact a much better mechanic than the first. When a part can't be found, he is able to fashion one to suit the purpose, in order to get the car back on the road. He does work for free sometimes because his clients can't always pay.

The way that 60% of our Nation thinks is that the first mechanic should get paid more because the car he works on always performs better in all tests.

For anyone who thinks this way, be clear on what you really mean. If teacher pay is to be based on testing outcome, then you are advocating that teachers who teach in schools that have everything they need, for kids who want naught, should be paid more than teachers who work with students who have little, in schools that are falling apart. Testing outcomes are directly related to the zip codes of the homes of the students.

The Brain: Understanding How it Functions and the Impact on Our Teaching Practice

Reading and studying about how the brain works had more of an impact on my teaching practice than any course required by the teaching credential program I undertook.

When I encounter former students, they reminisce about the information I presented on the functioning of their brains, metacognition, and the metaphors I used to help them understand how to use their brain to boost their learning. There is no mention of geometry or algebra (the subjects I taught) during these encounters.

As is especially appropriate for their age group (teenage/young adult), they were thirsty for knowledge of themselves, especially when compared to learning the quadratic formula or the Pythagorean theorem.

The following videos are about two amazing people sharing their experiences, helping to give us insight into how our brains work.

Josh Waitzkin, The Art of Learning


Josh Waitzkin was a chess prodigy, the subject of "Searching for Bobby Fischer". He then became a Tai Chi champion. Watch him talk about his insights on learning. Thanks Lee, for sending me this clip.



Jill Bolte Taylor: My Stroke of Insight

Jill Bolte Taylor had a stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. She is a neuroanatomist and was able to document her experience from her professional perspective. It is fascinating. Thanks Dyan for sending me information about Ms. Taylor.


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