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In education, perception and reality must be the same

As I write this, my younger son is visiting family where it snows. A lot. So, when he shared on Facebook about going snowshoeing with the family, I, having never been snowshoeing in my life, assumed he was wearing something like this:Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 4.14.24 PM

When I learned he was actually wearing something like this:

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 4.17.14 PM

it made me laugh and then think about the difference between perception and reality.

And as silly as it may seem to some, I then actually thought about my students and how perception is really what drives education. Of course, we want our students to be prepared for whatever their future holds, but if those of us who are in charge of that preparation are misinformed about what we are preparing them for, then we have a big problem. A really big problem.

I think educators are working hard to do the right thing by our students, but I also think we must do our best to stay properly informed so our perception is a lot closer to reality!

We need to have meaningful conversations with our students.

We need to have meaningful conversations with industry and business.

We need to have meaningful conversations with ourselves.

Together, we must make sure perception and reality are the same. Anything less, and we are only fooling ourselves to the detriment of our students and their futures.

How will you as an educator prepare yourself to be better at making ready your students for their future college plans or career paths?


My Island View’s Top 10 for 2014! :)

OK, I have gathered from Tom’s posts he does not care for lists per this post. So, in the spirit of New Year fun, I have been mulling a reblog, which is simply my way to bring a smile to Tom’s face. So, read and enjoy. You will learn something as well! Happy New Year!

My Island View

As a tweeter of education tweets (many, many education tweets), I often find myself on lists that people put out as recommendations. Whenever that happens there will be a number of people who will pass their judgment over the quality of the list or the quality of the qualifications of individuals on that list. Of course, there are no rules in social media, so that will go on no matter what. I do think that we need a perspective on these lists in order to gauge the intensity of criticism.

First, we should state that anyone putting out a list, recommending people to follow, has found worth in the information that those people have put out. We can’t judge the value of that information to that individual, since we all come from varied backgrounds with varied experiences. What an inexperienced educator finds of value from others may not be as…

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Failure: the 8th grade NYS Common Core Math Test

Granted, and...

As I have often written here, the Common Core Standards are just common sense – but that the devil is in the details of implementation. And in light of the unfortunate excessive secrecy surrounding the test items and their months-later analysis, educators are in the unfortunate and absurd position of having to guess what the opaque results mean for instruction. It might be amusing if there weren’t personal high stakes of teacher accountability attached to the results.

So, using the sample of released items in the NY tests, I spent some time this weekend looking over the 8th grade math results and items to see what was to be learned – and I came away appalled at what I found.

Readers will recall that the whole point of the Standards is that they be embedded in complex problems that require both content and practice standards. But what were the hardest questions on the…

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Honoring a student’s personality quirks and all

Since I began my teaching career I have had on several occasions and at a parent’s request the rather disconcerting experience to visit with said parent about a student’s perceived lack of social skills or quirkiness. I am often incredulous at the varying expectations as to what is or is not acceptable in regard to what really amounts to a student’s innate personality traits.

I am not saying as teachers we can’t help our students develop good manners or even help them improve those ever-important social skills. After all, success at anything is as much about interpersonal relationships and getting along with others as it about one’s ability to do a good job. Regardless, oftentimes, what I hear are adults complaining about exhibited personality traits of the student, which translate, in my opinion, to nothing short of an inherent dislike of the person the adult should love more than anything in the world.

As a result, this teacher has made the decision to advocate on behalf of the child and his or her quirkiness by gently reminding adults the importance of honoring a student’s personality.

What a boring place it would be if we were all gregarious and outgoing or if we were all subdued and contemplative. What the world will always need is a good mix of both and everything in between.

As a teacher, I believe now more than ever in the importance of honoring our students’ personalities by helping each become the best he or she was meant to be quirks and all!

Why I support Standards Based Grading

As a 17-year-old college freshman and first in my family to attend a four-year institution, I couldn’t have been any greener if I had tried. Physics was overwhelming. I preferred mathematics theory to the practical and found the transition daunting. With a D average going into finals week, I studied for days on end hoping for a B on the exam and maybe a C in the class. I ACED THE EXAM WITH AN A PLUS. When I received my grade card in the mail, my D had somehow become an A.

Being the forever-nerd I was and am to this day, I went to my physics professor to suggest he had miscalculated my final grade. In my mind an A-plus averaged with a D was no more than a C-plus or maybe B-minus. The professor assured me my grade was accurate by saying, “Anyone who can score an A on my exam deserves an A in my class.”

This story resonates with my parents and students. It has been a great motivator resulting in a 99% success rate with my geometry students over the past four years. I refuse to fail any student who genuinely wants to learn.

Sometimes you really should not drink the Kool-aid

Before you begin reading under the assumption this post is metaphorical (and I guess it could be and maybe it is), this blog post is based on a true story and actually is about why sometimes you really should not drink the Kool-aid.

It was the summer of 1985 and my fellow Presbyterians and I were looking forward to our first Vacation Bible School (VBS) using the church’s brand-new professional-grade kitchen. The kitchen was designed to accommodate Wednesday night meals, frequent social gatherings, such as weddings and funerals, as well as our annual week-long VBS attended by hundreds of children.

As per tradition, 1985 VBS snack time included cookies and Kool-aid, which were served by the matriarchs of our church, older women who over the years had moved from the classroom to the kitchen. The VBS Snack Ladies took their position very seriously and arrived early each morning to lovingly organize the cookies as well as make gallons of Kool-aid as they had done for many summers before.

What the ladies did not realize was the water faucets in the new kitchen not only offered the choice between hot and cold water, but soap as well. So, later that day when the children complained the Kool-aid tasted funny, the ladies chastised the children and told them to quit complaining and drink the Kool-aid. One person in particular, Joe, the VBS Recess Organizer, was so adamant the Kool-aid was just fine, he took an extra-large glass and with dozens of children watching downed it in one huge gulp only to immediately regret his decision to do so.

Yes, the Kool-aid really was tainted with soap. Yes, the Kool-aid really tasted funny. Yes, Joe really was sick as a dog shortly thereafter.

And, yes, you really should heed the warning of others because sometimes you really should not drink the Kool-aid.




Following the Gates-CCSS Money Trail

When I first studied the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), I was a member of the 2010-11 North Kansas City Schools’ (NKCS) Superintendent’s Leadership Institute. As part of a three-member team, which did a comparative study of the then NKCS district curriculum standards and the CCSS, I also studied the ties between the origin of the CCSS and ACT. What my team reported in regard to the comparative study is that our district’s curriculum aligned more closely to the CCSS than some expected. It was my thought that more than anything we were looking at a bigger shift in pedagogy than content. Most of the content was there. It was the delivery that would need tweaking.

On the other hand, my delving into the ties between the CCSS and ACT revealed what we all now know and that is the CCSS and ACT are closely affiliated. (The CCSS developers are actually transparent in acknowledging that when they wanted a definition for College and Career Readiness they looked to ACT.)

With that in mind, I now find it of great interest as a state which has adopted the CCSS, Missouri has become the 9th state to require all high school juniors take the ACT.

For years, my simple mind has tried to get my brain around how the CCSS were developed in what appeared to me to be a very short amount of time. From my vantage point, the CCSS went from idea to reality in little more than a blink of an eye.

Now, thanks to a recent blog post by Diane Ravitch I understand how it happened. It really boils down to a money trail between Bill Gates and David Coleman, et al.

In fact, I have a sinking feeling everything regarding recent education reform boils down to little more than money and lots of it–pure greed at the potential expense of one of our country’s greatest assets, its students.

Not to say that everything about the CCSS is bad, but I also agree with Diane Ravitch that it is time for Congress to step in and investigate just what and how it all came about.

Then again asking Congress to follow the Gates-CCSS money trail might be like asking a fox to guard the chicken coop.