Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

March 29, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

March’s Best Posts From This Blog

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I regularly highlight my picks for the most useful posts for each month — not including “The Best…” lists. I also use some of them in a more extensive monthly newsletter I send-out. You can see older Best Posts of the Month at Websites Of The Month (more recent lists can be found here).

Here are some of the posts I personally think are the best, and most helpful, ones I’ve written during this past month (not in any order of preference):

‘Best Practices’ Are Practices That Work Best For Your Students

“Knowledge Motivates Preschoolers More Than Stickers, Study Says”

My New BAM! Podcast: What Are The Benefits & Challenges Of A One-To-One Program?

Origami & The Language Experience Approach

“Unknown Unknowns” & The Potential Of An Exceptional Theory Of Knowledge Lesson

“Scrawlar” Will Certainly Be One Of The Top Web 2.0 Tools Of The Year…

“Great Teachers Focus On Connections & Relationships”

Students Learn About Antonyms & Write About Their Perfect School In My Latest NY Times Post For ELLs

English Language Learners Design Their Own “Ideal” Neighborhoods

Different Teachers, Different Classrooms, “but the thinking & learning going on inside students’ heads is the same”

This Is The Best Piece I’ve Seen On The Role Of Social Media In Making Social Change

I’m Interviewed In Podcast “Parent Involvement Versus Parent Engagement: Is There Really a Difference?”

My New Podcast: “How Can We Get All Students in Our Classes Thinking & Learning All the Time?

I’m Not Sure How Effective It Will Be, But Sugata Mitra’s New Online Tool Definitely Looks Interesting

Here’s One More Small Thing I’m Doing To Help Students See The Importance Of Social Emotional Learning

Learn English By Reading About Eating Bugs At My Latest NY Times Post

Excellent (& I Mean EXCELLENT!) Post On Asking Questions

Will It Ever Be Possible For A Teacher To Trust Bill Gates?

‘Respecting Assets That ELLs Bring To A School Community’

Bookmark “Teach UNICEF” For Excellent Lesson Materials

Our Latest Response From A Sister Class — This Time From South Africa!

Recent Student Projects From My Theory Of Knowledge Class

Using Art For Language-Learning Is Focus Of My Latest NY Times Post For ELLs

We’re In The Middle Of My Favorite Unit Of The Year — Comparing Neighborhoods

This Has Me Concerned: “Study Links Teacher ‘Grit’ with Effectiveness, Retention”

Reducing Attrition In Urban Schools ‘By Listening To Our Teachers’

Wash. Post Republishes My Piece On SEL: “The manipulation of Social Emotional Learning”

Several Excellent New Posts & Articles On Assessment

My Slide Presentation For Education Writers Association: “Connecting Educators & Education Journalists”

Khan Academy To Do SAT Prep Not Just For Math, But For Reading & Writing, Too

“Four questions to ask before using an Ed Tech tool” Is My New British Council Post

Excellent Post: “This Brilliant Math Teacher Has a Formula to Save Kids’ Lives”

Getty Images Has Just Become The Number One Source For Images In Social Media — Choose From 40 MILLION!

“TED Talks” Unveils Redesigned Website With New Useful Tools

The Problem With Including Standardized Test Results As Part Of “Multiple Measures” For Teacher Evaluation

Practice Pronunciation With Tongue-Twisters AND Learn About Dinosaurs!

Infographic: “How the Brain Benefits from Being Bilingual”

Wash. Post Does It Again With “25 maps and charts that explain America today”

‘Reading Is Intensely Social’: An Interview With Jeffrey Wilhelm & Michael Smith

Video: Though It Seems Like A Parody, It’s A Real Professional Development Event

Check Out Our New Article: “English-Language Learners and Academic Language”

 

March 2, 2014
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

The Best Posts & Articles On The Florida Teacher Evaluation Fiasco

'Map of Florida' photo (c) 2011, Boston Public Library - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The state of Florida has just released the Value-Added Assessment scores of teachers to newspapers.

It’s a fiasco.

You might also be interested in The Best Resources For Learning About The “Value-Added” Approach Towards Teacher Evaluation.

Here are some posts on what’s going on — feel free to suggest others in the comments section:

The most meaningless teacher evaluation exercise ever? is a Washington Post piece on the public release of insane teacher evaluations to local newspapers in Florida.

Confused by Florida’s teacher scoring? So are top teachers
is from The Tampa Bay Times.

Gates Foundation opposes release of teachers’ VAM scores in Florida is good, but as this tweet says:

I’m One of the Worst Teachers in My State is a great post about the Florida fiasco.

December 14, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

A Collection Of My “Best” Lists On The Common Core

'CCSS ELA Standard 10 progression through grades' photo (c) 2012, luhtalam - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I’ve published several “Best” lists related to the Common Core, and thought that readers might find it useful if I brought them all together.

I was prompted to do this tonight after reading a good post: Five myths about the Common Core by Valerie Strauss in The Washington Post.

Here they are:

The Best Articles Sharing Concerns About Common Core Standards

The Most Useful Resources For Implementing Common Core

Q & A Collections: Implementing The Common Core is one of my posts over at Education Week Teacher. It brings together all my posts there on…the Common Core.

The Best Resources For Talking To Parents About The Common Core Standards

The Best Resources For Learning About Common Core Standards & English Language Learners

The Best Resources For Learning About The “Next Generation” Of State Testing

How The Common Core Became Education’s Biggest Bogeyman is from The Huffington Post. It gives a pretty good overview of what’s been happening with CCSS.

How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution is from The Washington Post.

Common Core might be the most important issue in the 2016 Republican presidential race. Here’s what you need to know about it. is from The Washington Post.

November 16, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Microsoft Eliminates Its Own Destructive VAM Rankings; However, Gates Still Seems Focused On Using It For Us

'Bill Gates world's most 'spammed' person' photo (c) 2004, IsaacMao - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I’ve previously posted about Microsoft’s destructive worker evaluation system, one that has been almost universally hated there for years (see Bill Gates’ Employee Evaluation Process). Like Value Added Measurement (see The Best Resources For Learning About The “Value-Added” Approach Towards Teacher Evaluation), Microsoft’s so-called “stacked” system always has to have some people at the bottom.

This week, though, Microsoft announced the elimination of its system. Here are some articles about their decision to eliminate “curves” and “ratings” and, instead, focus on “teamwork and collaboration, employee growth and development”:

Microsoft does away with stack ranking is from ZDNet.

Why Microsoft Dumped ‘Stack Ranking’ is from The Wall Street Journal.

Microsoft gets rid of stack-ranking review system is from The Seattle Times.

Ranked and yanked is from The Economist, and is the best of the bunch.

The question is — Will Bill come to the same conclusion sooner rather than later?

October 17, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

This Week’s “Round-Up” Of Useful Posts & Articles On Education Policy

'Stand Up for Schools Fullerton Protest 6' photo (c) 2009, Travis - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Here are some relatively recent good posts and articles on education policy issues:

The Value Added & Growth Score Train Wreck is Here is from School Finance 101. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About The “Value-Added” Approach Towards Teacher Evaluation.

John Merrow has some interesting thoughts on NBC’s “Education Nation.”

The Glossary of Education Reform is:

a comprehensive online resource that describes widely used school-improvement terms, concepts, and strategies for journalists, parents, and community members.

‘Teachers’ Letters To Bill Gates’ Website Reveals 7 Major Things Educators Want The Mogul To Know is from The Huffington Post.

Teacherprefakeurism. Sound Awkward? is from Stories From School. I’m adding it to The Best Resources On Being A Teacherpreneur.

Does the Accelerated Reader Program help develop Lifelong Readers? is from Gathering Books. I’m adding it to A Beginning List Of The Best Posts & Articles On Accelerated Reader.

LAUSD looking to delay iPad distribution is from The LA Daily News. I’m adding it to A Very Beginning List Of The Best Articles On The iPad Debacle In Los Angeles Schools.

Mass school closings’ severe impact on lives of black, Latino students is from NBC Latino. I’m adding it to The Best Posts & Articles On The Impact Of School Closures.

September 28, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

This Week’s “Round-Up” Of Good Articles & Posts On Education Policy

Don’t miss the first link in this post

'Wisconsin Teachers Protest' photo (c) 2011, WxMom - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Here are some recent useful articles on education policy issues:

Reliability and Validity of Inferences About Teachers Based on Student Test Scores by Edward H. Haertel from Stanford University was published by The Education Testing Service (ETS). Though I’ve only had a chance to skim it, it appears to be an extraordinary critique of the use of Value Added Measures in teacher evaluation. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About The “Value-Added” Approach Towards Teacher Evaluation.

Do American public schools really stink? Maybe not is from Politico. I’m adding it to The Best Articles Pointing Out That Our Schools Are Not Failing.

Education and poverty, again is by Matt Bruenig. I’m adding it to The Best Places To Learn What Impact A Teacher & Outside Factors Have On Student Achievement.

The Race Between Education and Technology—Revisited is by Marc Tucker at Education Week. I’m adding it to The Best Posts About Trust & Education.

Cyber schools flunk, but tax money keeps flowing is from Politico. I’m adding it to A Beginning “The Best…” List On The Dangers Of Privatizing Public Education.

What is Common Core and why is everyone—right, left—so mad about it? is by Alexander Russo and appears on Slate. I think it gives a decent overview of Common Core for those who are not familiar with it.

Jonathan Kozol reviews Diane Ravitch’s new book in The New York Times. You can read a few other thoughtful reviews here.

A lot of attention has been paid to the release of SAT scores this week. Here are two pieces that provide good perspectives: Why the new SAT scores are meaningless by Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post and College Board ‘Concerned’ About Low SAT Scores from NPR (especially the second half of that report).

Bill Gates: ‘It would be great if our education stuff worked but…’ is from The Washington Post. I’m adding it to The Best Resources For Learning About The Role Of Private Foundations In Education Policy.

The bottom line on charter school studies appeared in The Washington Post. I’m adding it to A Beginning List Of The Best Posts & Articles On The Charter School CREDO Study.

August 30, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

August’s Best Posts From This Blog

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I regularly highlight my picks for the most useful posts for each month — not including “The Best…” lists. I also use some of them in a more extensive monthly newsletter I send-out. You can see older Best Posts of the Month at Websites Of The Month (more recent lists can be found here).

Here are some of the posts I personally think are the best, and most helpful, ones I’ve written during this past month (not in any order of preference):

Social Emotional Learning Can Help, But More Research Shows It’s Not Enough

“Building a Community of Self-Motivated Learners” Is Title Of My Next Book

All My Education Week Teachers Posts From Past Two Years In One Place

Bill Gates’ Employee Evaluation Process

This Is The Best Video I’ve Seen On Perseverance & Resilience: “There’s no dishonor in having a disability”

Discussion Questions & Resources For Combined #engchat & #sschat On Monday

USA Weekend Feature Article: “What teachers want you to know”

This Year’s Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup Education Poll Just Released — Here Are Highlights (& “Reformers” Are Not Going To Be Happy)Guest Post: Commentary On New IB Theory Of Knowledge Guide From Author Of Bestselling TOK Textbook

I’m Now Writing A Weekly Post For The NY Times On Teaching ELLs

Great Illustration On The Shelf-Life Of Knowledge

Wow, Google Street View “Treks” Site Is Impressive!

If You Don’t Have Teacher Access To YouTube At Your School, Then This Search Engine is a “Must”

Lingua.ly Is A Useful Tool For Second-Language Learners

“Rewordify” Is One Of The Most Unique Sites Out There For English Language Learners & Others

This May Be The Best Geography Site Of The Year: “40 maps that explain the world”

Attention IB Theory Of Knowledge Teachers: How Is The New TOK Guide Going To Affect How You Teach?

“Mighty Meeting” Lets You Easily Create Free Online Meetings For An Unlimited Number Of Participants

“BrainRush” Lets You Create Online Learning Activities & Monitor Student Progress

Updated “Best and Worst Education News of 2013 — So Far”

“A Good Beginning is More Than Half of the Whole”

“Why we can’t all get along over school reform”

Quote Of The Day: “A Question That Can Change Your Life”

Do We Want A “Community Of Learners” Or A “Classroom Of Students”?

“Ways To Start Off The New Year On A Positive Note – Part One”

Create Your Own “Escape The Room” Game With “Room Escape Maker”

Two Great Sites – SAS Curriculum Pathways & Awesome Stories – Upgrading Big Time This Month

Excellent Article On Teaching Making Home Visits — & It Features Our School!

Deliberate Practice, Myelin & The Brain

Video: Cookie Monster Sings — I Kid You Not — About Self Regulation

Ask A Classroom Question, Any Classroom Question….

A Site For Teaching ELLs About Adjectives & TOK Students About Perception

Chaplin & Keaton Silent Movies For English Language Learners

Now This Is The Classroom Management Mindset I Need To Have….

Yet Another Good Piece For Students On Learning & The Brain

 

July 30, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Best and Worst Education News of 2013 — So Far

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I need to add one more “Best Of 2013 – So Far” list to the ones I’ve posted so far, and that’s my annual “The Best And Worst Education News Of 2013 — So Far.”

As usual, I don’t presume to say it’s all-encompassing, so I hope you’ll take time to share your own choices in the comment section. I’ll list the ones I think are the best first, followed by the worst. It’s too hard to rank them within those categories, so I’m not listing them in any order.

You might also be interested in previous editions of this list:

The best — and worst — education news of 2012

The Best (and Worst) Education News of 2011

The Best (and Worst) Education News of 2010

The Best Education News Of 2013 — So Far:

* The successful boycott of the unnecessary MAP standardized test by teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle that spread to six other local schools and inspired educators everywhere.  Teachers who participated in the boycott were not disciplined (as had been threatened) and using the MAP tests have now been made optional.  Garfield teachers’ strategy of organizing a united front of teachers, parents and students demonstrated that collective action can have a major impact on education policy that affects our classrooms.

* Passage and approval of California Governor Jerry Brown’s new funding formula that not only increases school funding across the board, but provides more monies to districts with higher numbers of low-income students.  We can only hope that it will be a model for other states to follow.

* The deaths of children (and adults) as a result of the terrifying Oklahoma tornado will never be considered anything but awful news.  But the heroic response of local educators risking their own lives to save their students is another reminder that teachers do put the interests of children ahead of their own.

* Two new exciting books, authored by some of the best minds in education policy, were published: Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools by Diane Ravitch and Teacherpreneurs: Innovative Teachers Who Lead But Don’t Leave by Barnett Berry, Ann Byrd and Alan Wieder. These “must-reads” are follow-ups to their previous exceptional books.

* More and more research was published supporting the view that, yes, our students need good schools, but if we’re truly serious about providing them with genuine opportunities,  what really needs to happen are major economic and political changes.  I suspect quite a few of us are tired of hearing the refrain of “No Excuses” when we point out this reality.

* And more and more research was published pointing out that, you know, schools in the United States are generally doing pretty well, though you wouldn’t know that by a lot of public rhetoric.

* Charlotte Danielson is the guru for many districts that are initiating new teacher evaluation programs.  Arthur Goldstein discovered a video of her declaring that standardized test scores should not be used in those teacher evaluations.  I wonder if district administrators are listening?  And, speaking of test scores and their validity in determining teacher quality, an important study determined that teacher success in helping students’ develop non-cognitive skills (an area of high-interest these days) had no relation to their Value Added Measurement (VAM) score.

* In his annual appearance on this list, Harvard professor Roland Fryer failed once again to prove that extrinsic motivation increased student achievement.  One of this year’s failed experiments was giving students cellphones and sending them daily “inspirational” text messages.  It didn’t work, but it did receive an advertising award.

* The millions of students who had great learning experiences in their schools this year.

 

The Worst Education News Of 2013 — So Far:

 * The North Carolina legislature went off the deep end in a number of areas, including eliminating teacher tenure and pay raises.

* Attacks on low-income communities continued with massive school closures in Chicago, Philadelphia and elsewhere.

* Here we go again — Cleveland’s newspaper published the Value Added ratings of teachers.

* Sadness, on a number of levels, in seeing the indictments of 34 Atlanta educators, including its former Superintendent, as a result of the test-cheating scandal there.

* Two surveys found what many of us knew already — that teacher morale is plummeting in the face of “school reform.”

* Bill Gates’ PBS-televised TED Talk where he announced that billions of dollars should be spent videotaping all teachers.  Almost simultaneously, the teacher he showed a video of in his talk said she disagreed with him.  And, even though his foundation announced at the same time they want to  start listening to teachers more, there was no chorus of “preach on, Bill!” from educators across the U.S.

* The millions of students who are not getting the education they deserve.

Again, feel free to point out what I’ve missed!

May 10, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

More On “TED Talks On Education”

Here are some new additions to The Best Of “TED Talks On Education”:

Bill Gates’s $5 billion plan to videotape America’s teachers is by Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post. She highlights a piece I wrote for her column that I still think is the best thing I’ve ever written, Videotaping teachers the right way (not the Gates way).

TED Talks Education speakers make playlists for you is from TED.

May 10, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

The Best Of “TED Talks On Education”

I’ve published several posts on the recent TED Talks On Education extravaganza on PBS, and others have done the same.

I thought it would be useful for readers here for me to put them all together, and to continue to add to them.

You might also be interested in:

The Best Teacher Resources For “TED Talks” (& Similar Presentations)

The “Best” TED Talks (Well, Really, The Ones I Use With My Classes)

Here are my choices for The Best Of “TED Talks On Education”:

TED just posted Sir Ken Robinson’s talk. I’ve embedded it below, and you can read the transcript here:

You Can Now Watch Entire PBS TED Talks On Education Online

Complete Unedited Versions Of Last Night’s TED Talks On Education (Including Bill Gates & His $5 Billion Boondoggle)

Video: Angela Lee Duckworth On “The key to success? Grit”

Bill Gates’ TED Talk: Are Video Cameras the Missing Link? is by Anthony Cody.

Bill Gates’s $5 billion plan to videotape America’s teachers is by Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post. She highlights a piece I wrote for her column that I still think is the best thing I’ve ever written, Videotaping teachers the right way (not the Gates way).

TED Talks Education speakers make playlists for you is from TED.

Bill Gates’s Ridiculous TED Talk, Part III: Shanghai Surprise is from Jersey Jazzman.

What Bill Gates Didn’t Say About Videotaping Teachers In His TED Talk On Education

Feel free to share your thoughts on the videos, and links to pieces you’ve written, in the comments.

May 8, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

You Can Now Watch Entire PBS TED Talks On Education Online

'Bill Gates. TED2011' photo (c) 2011, Gisela Giardino - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

PBS has just put last night’s TED Talks On Education Online. I’ve embedded it below:

Watch TED Talks Education on PBS. See more from TED Talks Education.

Here are the names of some of the presenters and links to some supplemental materials:

Bill Gates spoke about, among other things, his big new $5 billion initiative to videotape teachers. You might find these posts useful:

Videotaping teachers the right way (not the Gates way)

The Best Posts & Articles About Videotaping Teachers In The Classroom

Many of my previous posts
about Gates, along with his MET Project.

Gates Foundation Minimizing Great Tools For Helping Teachers Improve Their Craft


Professor Angela Duckworth
spoke about “grit.” Check out her work at The Best Resources For Learning About The Importance Of “Grit.”

Geoffrey Canada from the Harlem Children’s Zone. You can find a link to my many posts — both positive and critical — here.

Sir Ken Robinson. Check out a previous post and video titled “You Cannot Make A Plant Grow — You Can Provide The Conditions For Growth.”

You might also be interested in The Best Teacher Resources For “TED Talks” (& Similar Presentations).

April 23, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

PBS Special “TED Talks Education” On May 7th (Along With Supplemental Resources)

PBS is airing a special TED Talks Education program on May 7th. It’s an interesting line-up of speakers, and I thought I’d list a few of them along with previous posts in this blog that readers might find helpful:

Bill Gates will be speaking about, among other things, his big new $5 billion initiative to videotape teachers. You might find these posts useful:

Videotaping teachers the right way (not the Gates way)

The Best Posts & Articles About Videotaping Teachers In The Classroom

Many of my previous posts
about Gates, along with his MET Project.

Professor Angela Duckworth
will be speaking about “grit.” Check out her work at The Best Resources For Learning About The Importance Of “Grit.”

Geoffrey Canada from the Harlem Children’s Zone. You can find a link to my many posts — both positive and critical — here.

Sir Ken Robinson. Check out a previous post and video titled “You Cannot Make A Plant Grow — You Can Provide The Conditions For Growth.”

You might also be interested in The Best Teacher Resources For “TED Talks” (& Similar Presentations).

February 18, 2013
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Data Data Everywhere…..

Here are the newest additions to The Best Resources Showing Why We Need To Be “Data-Informed” & Not “Data-Driven”:

Data: No deus ex machina is by Frederick M. Hess & Jal Mehta.

Bill Gates is naive, data is not objective is by Cathy O’Neil and is really good.

Bill Gates and the Cult of Measurement is by Anthony Cody.

Sure, Big Data Is Great. But So Is Intuition. is from The New York Times. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s encouraging that thoughtful data scientists like Ms. Perlich and Ms. Schutt recognize the limits and shortcomings of the Big Data technology that they are building. Listening to the data is important, they say, but so is experience and intuition. After all, what is intuition at its best but large amounts of data of all kinds filtered through a human brain rather than a math model?

At the M.I.T. conference, Ms. Schutt was asked what makes a good data scientist. Obviously, she replied, the requirements include computer science and math skills, but you also want someone who has a deep, wide-ranging curiosity, is innovative and is guided by experience as well as data.

“I don’t worship the machine,” she said.

The NYPD Probably Didn’t Stop All That Crime

September 17, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Arrogance, The Gates Foundation & The “Remembering Self”

I’ve certainly been critical of the Gates Foundation and Bill Gates on many occasions. However, recently, I had been developing some respect for both — Gates staff has been engaging in what appeared to me a productive online dialogue with my Education Week and Teacher Leaders Network colleague Anthony Cody and Bill Gates recently gave a surprisingly open-minded interview to The New York Times.

But in the last part of the dialogue with Anthony, Gates staff wrote an angry and ill-advised post that, at least for me — and I suspect for many other educators — lost them most, if not all, of the good will they had recently gained. If I were them, I’d go into damage control mode right away to ensure that their post is not what people remember about this online dialogue.

John Thompson wrote an excellent piece questioning the Gates’ response, so I’m not going to re-invent the wheel here.

I continue to be shocked at the lack of wisdom shown by Gates staff in publishing such a post. In the future, they might want to “sleep on it” before clicking the “publish” button. And, with that being the last planned post in their dialogue, they might also want to consider what Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman has discovered in his research about how things end affect us — it is the “remembering self” that tends to stick with people and the one they use to frame future decisions and actions.

I’m adding this post to The Best Posts Discussing Arrogance & School Reform.

July 15, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo
4 Comments

L.A. Times Writes Shockingly Good Editorial On Schools — With Convenient Amnesia

The Los Angeles Times, the paper guilty of pioneering extraordinary moral lapse of publishing teacher’s value-added ranking (see The Best Posts About The LA Times Article On “Value-Added” Teacher Ratings) just published a shockingly good editorial titled Education’s pendelum: Thinkers or test takers?

After warning that countries that outscore the U.S. on tests now want to emulate us because they realize they want more of the creativity to innovate, analyze and solve problems the U.S. students have developed in our system, here’s how it ends:

Now, even though academic performance among U.S. students is still lagging, many parents and educators are complaining that the push toward a standard curriculum and standardized tests is bleeding lessons of liveliness, and that schools do too little to foster creativity and analytical thinking. They’re not entirely wrong. In keeping with the tests, which are mostly multiple choice, schools have assigned less writing and project work. Teachers have tried to make sure they go over every speck of material that might be on the tests, and because the approved curriculum tends toward the broad and shallow, there’s a lot of short-answer information to cover but not much depth to explore.

Aiming higher on academics shouldn’t have to mean leaving deeper or more open-ended thinking skills behind. No one in the American school reform movement ever told teachers they had to abandon their own creative instructional skills or drop critical-thinking lessons from the school day, but the relentless emphasis on covering tested material obviously pushed them in that direction.

The switch over the next few years in many states, including California, to the so-called common core standards, which emphasize learning fewer things in greater depth, should help somewhat but still falls short. State and federal officials endlessly debate the role of test scores in teacher evaluations, but they pay too little attention to enabling teachers and students to take academic risks — considered essential to building creativity — while ensuring that vital academic material is still covered. It’s not easy to figure out how schools can balance creativity with academic rigor, productive thinking with knowledge. The nations that do so will have the competitive edge in the future.

I know and appreciate that everybody can learn — Bill Gates might be another example of someone who’s changing his attitude about teachers and schooling (see Surprising — At Least To Me — NY Times Interview With Bill Gates On Education).

I just wish that these same institutions and people would also acknowledge that their initial attitudes and actions contributed to the climate that they now decry. Doesn’t the LA Times realize that publicly humiliating teachers who didn’t focus on test results pressures them to teach to the test?

I’m adding this post to The Best Sites For Getting Some Perspective On International Test Comparison Demagoguery.

May 27, 2012
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

May’s Best Posts

I regularly highlight my picks for the most useful posts for each month — not including “The Best…” lists. I also use some of them in a more extensive monthly newsletter I send-out. You can see my previous Best Posts of the Month at Websites Of The Month.

These posts are different from the ones I list under the monthly “Most Popular Blog Posts.” Those are the posts the largest numbers of readers “clicked-on” to read. I have to admit, I’ve been a bit lax about writing those posts, though.

Here are some of the posts I personally think are the best, and most helpful, ones I’ve written during this past month (not in any order of preference):

How NOT To Prepare A Student For A Standardized Test

Wow! Voice Of America Dramatically Redesigns & Expands Its Learning English Features

Very Helpful Research On Using Photos & Videos In Lessons

Smithsonian Unveils Best Site Out There To Prepare For Citizenship Exam

A Great Example Demonstrating The Pitfalls Of Extrinsic Rewards

Surprising — At Least To Me — NY Times Interview With Bill Gates On Education

Part Two Of “Factors Behind The Success Of Ontario’s Schools”

“Factors Behind The Success Of Ontario’s Schools — Part One”

This Post By Larry Cuban Is A Candidate For The Best Education Policy Commentary Of The Year

Washington Post Ranks Our High School Among Top Ten Percent In U.S.

This Is So Cool! Google Maps For The Ancient Roman World

Texting Becomes New Marshmallow Test

“Fostering Relationships in the Classroom”

“Helping Long-Term ELL’s & Evaluating ELL Teachers Fairly”

Grant Wiggins’ Critique Of Value-Added Measurement To Assess Teachers

Share Your Ideas On How You Have Involved Parents In Classroom Lessons

“Self-Persuasion” — A Good Addition To Lessons On Self-Control & Blame

Finding Google Images For “Reuse”

“The Darn Thing’s Not Working”

Using A Lesson On Cognitive Dissonance To Help Students Learn To Take Responsibility

“Several Classroom Management Ideas For Younger Students”

Hot Off The Press! The Best Piece Yet Published On Teacher Evaluation

How Reading Strategies Can Increase Student Engagement

“Easel.ly” Is Clearly The Easiest Tool For Creating Infographics

This Is A Great Passage For Learning How To Make Change

Here’s The Cover Of My Upcoming Book (Along With Excerpts)

“Assessment & Reflection With ELLs—And All Students”

What Are The Right Things To Measure?

My Final Post In A Three-Part Series On Teaching Social Studies

What Are You Going To Do Differently Next Year?

The 28th Edition Of The ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival Is Up!

“Evaluate Me, Please”

 

 

December 6, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

A Collection Of “The Best…” Lists On School Reform Issues — 2011

Since I have published so many “The Best…” lists, I thought it might be helpful to readers if I posted a few year-end collections.

You might also be interested in The Best “The Best…” Lists On School Reform Issues — 2010.

Here is A Collection Of “The Best…” Lists On School Reform Issues — 2011:

The Best Posts On Attracting The “Best Candidates” To Teaching

The Best Posts/Articles On This Year’s Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup Education Poll — August, 2011

The Best Articles Describing Alternatives To High-Stakes Testing — Help Me Find More

The Best Commentaries On Steven Brill’s Book, “Class Warfare”

The Best Posts & Articles About The New York Court Decision Releasing Teacher Ratings

The Best Posts About Trust & Education

The Best Posts & Articles On The Save Our Schools March

The Best Articles & Posts On Education Policy In 2011 — So Far — July, 2011

The Best Posts About Public Officials (& Non-Elected “Reformers) Sending Their Children To Private Schools

The Best Posts & Articles About Compromise

The Best Resources For Learning About Small Learning Communities

The Best Posts For Learning About The NEA’s New Policy Statement on “Teacher Evaluation and Accountability”

The Best Posts & Articles About The Atlanta Testing Scandal

The Best Resources For Helping Students (& The Rest Of Us) Learn The Concept Of Not Blaming Others

The Best Posts Responding To David Brooks Criticism Of Diane Ravitch (& Many Of The Rest Of Us)

The Best Resources For Learning About The “Next Generation” Of State Testing

The Best Resources For Learning About The Four School Improvement Grant Models

The Best Posts/Articles On National Research Council Finding That Carrots & Sticks Don’t Work

The Best Posts About Attrition Rates At So-Called “Miracle” Schools

The Best Posts Discussing Arrogance & School Reform

A Beginning “The Best…” List On The Dangers Of Privatizing Public Education

The Best Resources For Learning About The “Achievement Gap”

The Best Posts & Articles About “Erase To The Top”

The Best Posts & Articles To Learn About “Fundamental Attribution Error” & Schools

The Best Articles Providing An “Overall” Perspective On Education Policy

The Best Posts & Articles About The Importance Of Teacher (& Student) Working Conditions

The Best Posts Debunking The Myth Of “Five Great Teachers In A Row”

The Best Posts Responding To Bill Gates’ Appallingly Clueless Op-Ed Piece

The Best Resources For Learning Why School Vouchers Are A Bad Idea

The Best Resources For Learning About Attacks On Teachers & Other Public Sector Workers In Wisconsin

The Best Places To Get Reliable, Valid, Accessible & Useful Education Data

The Best Posts About Michelle Rhee’s Exaggerated Test Scores

The Best Posts & Articles Raising Concerns About Teach For America

The Best Articles Sharing Concerns About Common Core Standards

The Best Resources Showing Why We Need To Be “Data-Informed” & Not “Data-Driven”

The Best Articles For Helping To Understand Why Teacher Tenure Is Important

The Best Resources For Learning Why Teachers Unions Are Important

The Best Posts & Articles About Videotaping Teachers In The Classroom

The Best Resources For Learning About The Role Of Private Foundations In Education Policy

The Best Posts & Articles Explaining Why Schools Should Not Be Run Like Businesses

The Best Resources For Learning Why Teacher Merit Pay Is A Bad Idea

The Best Sites For Learning That Money Does Matter For Schools

The Best Resources To Learn About Finland’s Education System

The Best Places To Learn What Impact A Teacher (& Outside Factors) Have On Student Achievement

December 2, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

The Best (and Worst) Education News of 2011

(NOTE: The Huffington Post has also republished this piece)

Here’s my humble attempt to identify the best and the worst education news that occurred during the past 12 months. I hope you’ll take time to share your own choices in the comment section.

I’ll list the ones I think are the best first, followed by the worst. However, it’s too hard to rank them within those categories, so I’m not listing them in any order.

You might also be interested in my list from last year, “The Best (and Worst) Education News of 2010.”

THE BEST EDUCATION NEWS IN 2010

* A new “meta-analysis” of hundreds of studies found that “discovery learning” (inductive, inquiry, constructivist) was more effective than direct instruction methods. You want “research-based” instruction? Here it is!

* The organizing responses to attacks on teacher bargaining rights, including the approval of a referendum in Ohio to repeal a law limiting them there and the massive protests in Wisconsin resulting in partially successful state senator recalls and the recently initiated campaign to recall Governor Walker.

* The publication of Teaching 2030: What We Must Do For Our Students And Our Public Schools, an extraordinarily important book written by a group of educators laying out “a vision for what our students need and the teaching profession they deserve.”

* The hundreds of principals in New York who have signed a protest letter and are organizing opposition to the state’s new “education by humiliation” teacher evaluation system.

* The rapid demise of the poorly-designed and ineffective parent trigger effort in California, a not very veiled campaign by charters to parachute into low-income communities and take over neighborhood public schools.

* The success of the Save Our Schools March in Washington, D.C., which drew thousands of parents and educators to support a positive vision for our schools.

* The emergence of The Shanker Blog from the Albert Shanker Institute as the “go to” place for insightful, even-handed,and accessible interpretation of research data on education policy issues.

* A major new study found that — different from previous belief — teen intelligence is not “fixed” and that they can increase their IQ and cognitive abilities. Of course, many educators already knew this, but having more evidence to show children who have been given labels that make them feel like they are, as a student once told me, “born as smart or as dumb as they are going to be,” can be a huge help to changing their beliefs.

* A major effort to debunk the inflated statistics and myth of many so-called “miracle schools” that are touted by school reformers as proof their ideas work.

* Michelle Rhee’s rapid decline in public credibility as the Washington, D.C. test-cheating scandal, and how she handled it when she was Chancellor, continues to haunt her.

* Partially precipitated by an article in The New Yorker, there has been an increase in attention being paid to the idea of teaching “coaching” — outside of the official teacher evaluation process — as an important professional development strategy.

* The millions of students who had great learning experiences in their schools this year.

THE WORST EDUCATION NEWS IN 2011

* The awful Alabama immigration law, which has resulted in Latino families fleeing Alabama schools — and the state.

* A southern California high school was discovered to be giving color-coded student ID cards based on state test results.

* The pepper-spraying of students peacefully protesting in the town where I live — Davis, California — has got to be on this list.

* The Los Angeles Times expanding their public ranking of teachers based on the inaccurate “Value Added Approach” and the on-going effort in New York City by media outlets to do the same there.

* More and more states, like New York, Tennessee, and Florida are devising outrageous teacher evaluation systems with little connection to reality.

* The Atlanta testing scandal, and the “organizational misconduct” that was its primary cause.

* Bill Gates continuing in his mistaken belief that he knows what needs to happen in schools, and the millions he has at his disposal to damage educators, families and schools in the process.

* The unsurprising fact that Mark Zukerberg’s $100 million donation to Newark schools is being spent with little valued input from local parents and educators.

* The millions of students who are not getting the education they deserve.

What are your choices for the best and worst education news of the year?

October 29, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
2 Comments

Interview Of The Month — Larry Cuban

As regular readers know, each month I interview people in the education world about whom I want to learn more. You can see read those past interviews here.

Today, Larry Cuban, the well-known author, researcher, and former teacher, superintendent and professor, has agreed to answer a few question. Larry also writes a must-read blog at Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice.

Can you share what led you to pursue a career in education, give a brief summary of the positions you’ve held, and tell us what has kept you in it after so many years?

I am the youngest of three sons of immigrant parents and the only one to attend college in my family. I needed to support myself in college and afterwards. Becoming a teacher of history combined to the performing part of teaching appealed to me so I began teaching in 1955. Since then, I taught high school history and social studies in big city schools for 14 years, directed a teacher education program that prepared returning Peace Corps volunteers to teach in urban schools, and served seven years as a district superintendent. In all I spent 26 years working in urban public schools before going to Stanford University in 1981.

For two decades at Stanford, I taught courses in the methods of teaching social studies, the history of school reform, curriculum, and instruction, and leadership. I was faculty sponsor of the Stanford/Schools Collaborative and Stanford’s Teacher Education Program. While a professor I taught three times in local high schools semester-long courses in U.S. History and Economics. My major research interests focused on the history of curriculum and instruction, educational leadership, school reform and the uses of technology in classrooms.

In 2001, I became Professor Emeritus of Education. After leaving the faculty, I have taught one seminar a year at Stanford, written articles and books, and since 2009, became a blogger.

If you were going to offer teachers three key pieces of advice that you think might help them to stay in the profession longer and be more effective educators, what would they be?

1. Re-pot yourself every few years.

Teaching is energizing but also exhausting work. When teaching you spend the rich intellectual, physical, and emotional capital that you have accumulated over the years on students. Because of that draining of your capital, for yourself and your future students you need to re-invest in yourself by doing what expert gardeners do with favorite potted plants.

Because plants can become pot bound, that is, the roots of the plant become cramped and form a tightly packed mass that inhibits growth they need to be re-potted in different soil and larger pots so they can flourish. Yes, re-potting entails risks and often causes stress but staying potted in the same place means little growth, even death.

For teachers, re-potting may mean shifting to another grade, tossing out old lessons, introducing new ones, taking a short or long break from the classroom and doing something else that engages one’s passions.

Effectiveness in every people-serving occupation requires developing relationships with those served be they clients, patients, parishioners, or students. In teaching, the building and sustaining of relationships with children and youth prepare the soil for learning. Such work, over time, drains one’s energies and commitment. Renewal—repotting—is essential.

2. Take intellectual risks.

Because teaching is repetitive work—as is doctoring, lawyering, and engineering—a certain monotony creeps in over years. Sure, the students each year differ and they add the spice of unpredictability to what occurs in classrooms but inevitably daily routines become familiar and taken for granted. Altering predictable classroom routines, introducing new subject matter, experimenting with different time schedules for activities, trying out new technologies to enhance student learning—all are instances of taking risks. Yes, failure may occur but teaching well means accepting that from time to time falling on one’s face is not a tragedy but—you guessed it—an opportunity to learn how to do the task better next time around. Losing the will to take intellectual risks is a telltale sign that teaching fatigue has set in and the routines of teaching have triumphed.

2. Speak out.

There are so many reasons why teachers do not speak out about teaching, student learning, school procedures and district policies. From fear of retaliation to sheer exhaustion at the end of the day to working at another job or taking graduate courses to caring for family and friends to inexperience in writing or speaking publicly—all are reasons teachers give for letting others speak for them. What many teachers forget or underestimate is the credibility that they have with parents, voters, and students when they do speak out about teaching, learning, school policies, and leadership. I read many teacher blogs and applaud them for taking this avenue to express themselves. More teachers need to speak out on the issues and the daily life that they experience. Being union members is, of course, important but no teacher can depend upon a union or association to do all of their speaking for them.

So voicing publicly one’s thoughts about teaching, learning, school routines, policy struggles, and, yes, even school politics is a way of re-potting one’s self and taking intellectual risks.

And, speaking of three pieces of advice, what would suggest to many people in the school reform movement, such as Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee?

*Before recommending any reform policy or making a grant aimed at altering teacher behavior in classrooms, include an historical impact statement (no longer than two single-spaced pages) of earlier similar reforms (what happened to the reforms? Why did they succeed? Fail? What conditions were in place? Missing?)

*Recommend only those policies (and grants) aimed at changing teachers and classroom practices that you, as reformers, would want for the teachers of your children and grand-children.

*Dial back hyped policy talk about what a new policy will achieve for teachers, students, and the larger society (e.g., online instruction for K-12, Core Curriculum Standards, charter schools). Over-promising results while under-estimating the tough difficulties principals and teachers face in implementing new policies is the pattern that reformers have followed for over a century. Speaking honestly, directly, and publicly about what a new policy aimed at teachers can and cannot do would not only be refreshing but give credibility to proposed policies and grants.

*Publicly advertise the theory of change (or action) that is embedded in any recommended policy that is being pushed and funded.

What are the most hopeful things you are seeing in schools today?

*New and veteran teachers with tempered idealism working hard each day teaching.

*Small but increasing numbers of teachers who blog and speak out.

*Amid the policy churn over evaluating teachers on the basis of student test scores and merit pay schemes to pay teachers and cascading criticism of teacher unions, public opinion polls show growing respect for teaching and teachers. To be sure respect for teachers in the U.S. remains below that in other nations such as China, Finland, and Canada. Nonetheless, the over-heated policy talk over the past five years about lousy teachers and firing bad ones has not altered the respect that parents and voters have for teachers—if these opinion polls are to be believed.

*The existence of good schools (as measured by parent/student/teacher satisfaction and multiple student outcomes) in big cities, suburbs, and rural districts that continue year after year seeking intellectual, physical, psychological, and emotional growth in children and youth.

What projects are you working on these days?

* Writing my next book. The working title is: “Inside the Black Box: Change without Reform in Classroom Practice.”

*Staying alive and healthy for my family and friends.

Thanks, Larry!

August 25, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
2 Comments

The Best Posts & Articles About The New York Court Decision Releasing Teacher Ratings

(Update in February, 2012: Terrible News: New York To Make Teacher Ratings Public)

Here are additional updates:

New York Teacher Ratings Released — “At Best Unwise, At Worst Absurd”
Here’s an excellent television interview about it:

Teachers’ Ratings To Go Public: MyFoxNY.com

Why the release of the Teacher data reports and adoption of a new statewide evaluation system will be bad for teachers and bad for kids is from New York City Public School Parents.

Value-added? Not much: what the Teacher Data Reports won’t tell us is by Aaron Pallas.

If Newspapers Are Going To Publish Teachers’ Value-Added Scores, They Need To Publish Error Margins Too is by Matthew Di Carlo.

Bill Gates — Yes, Bill Gates — Calls Making Teaching Ratings Public “A Big Mistake”

Teacher Quality Widely Diffused, Ratings Indicate is from The New York Times. That paper is publishing the ratings, despite the article saying:

The ratings, known as teacher data reports, covered three school years ending in 2010, and are intended to show how much value individual teachers add by measuring how much their students’ test scores exceeded or fell short of expectations based on demographics and prior performance. Such “value-added assessments” are increasingly being used in teacher-evaluation systems, but they are an imprecise science. For example, the margin of error is so wide that the average confidence interval around each rating spanned 35 percentiles in math and 53 in English, the city said. Some teachers were judged on as few as 10 students.

NYC releases teachers’ value-added scores — unfortunately is by Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post.

After Championing Release, City Says It Did Not Want Teacher Data Public is from The New York Times.

The Wall Street Journal has published a surprisingly thoughtful video on the use of Value-Added Measures to evaluate teachers in New York City and elsewhere:

“The only way this will have any kind of a positive impact,” she said, “would be if people see how ridiculous this is and it gives New York State pause about how they are going about teacher evaluation.”

The New York Times has this quote from a principal in its latest article about publishing the public ratings of teachers, In Teacher Ratings, Good Test Scores Are Sometimes Not Good Enough.

Reign Of Error: The Publication Of Teacher Data Reports In New York City is from The Shanker Blog.

A principal at a high performing school explains why she is “absolutely sick” about the public release of the TDRs” is from NYC Public School Parents.

Big Apple’s Rotten Ratings is by David B. Cohen.

Applying a Precise Label to a Rough Number is by Michael Winerip at The New York Times.

The True Story of Pascale Mauclair demonstrates the damage this kind of fiasco can cause.

How to Demoralize Teachers is by Diane Ravitch.

Test scores mean nothing appeared in the New York Daily News.

Integral to “value-added” is a requirement that some score low is from Gotham Schools.

Hard-Working Teachers, Sabotaged When Student Test Scores Slip is from The New York Times.

The worst eighth-grade math teacher in New York City is by Aaron Pallas.

Oh boy, here we go again. A New York court ruled today that teacher ratings based on the value-added model can be released to the media with teacher names attached. The teacher’s union is filing an appeal.

This is wrong on so many levels. The L.A. Times originally opened up this can of worms, and you can read about that at The Best Posts About The LA Times Article On “Value-Added” Teacher Ratings. All those posts are directly relevant to this New York situation.

Because those posts say so much about the problem of the value-added model and the terrible idea of releasing the ratings to the public, I don’t anticipate re-inventing the wheel with a very lengthy list here. But I will add pieces that come out and that speak specifically about New York.

Here are my choices for The Best Posts & Articles About The New York Court Decision Releasing Teacher Ratings:

Appeals Court Says NYC Can Release Teacher Ratings is from The Associated Press.

I wrote about this New York case when it first came up last year, and you can find some useful links at that post.

NYC Ordered to Release Teacher Performance Data is from The Wall Street Journal.

Appellate Court Gets It Wrong on NYC Teacher Data is by Rick Hess at Education Week.

Evaluating New York Teachers, Perhaps the Numbers Do Lie is a New York Times article that actually shows the bizarre mathematical equation use to determine a New York City teacher’s value-added score.

Teacher Value-Added Scores: Publish And Perish is from The Shanker Blog. It’s actually about the LA Times fiasco, but I thought I’d include it in case you didn’t have time to review my “The Best…” list on that issue.

You might also be interested in The Best Resources For Learning About The “Value-Added” Approach Towards Teacher Evaluation.

Naive To Print Teachers’ Scores, Says TFA Founder
is from Alexander Russo, who reports that Teach For America’s Wendy Kopp opposes the public release of teacher ratings. That’s good to hear though, as Alexander mentions, “I wish Kopp had been so clear back a year ago when this was all first being debated — it would have been brave and right of her…”

N.Y. appeals court rules that teacher ratings can be public is from The Los Angeles Times.

New York City teacher evaluations based on students’ test scores can be made public, court rules is from The New York Daily News.

Please let me know in the comments section if you have written a post about the article, or if you know of other good ones.

If you found this post useful, you might want to consider subscribing to this blog for free.

You might also want to explore the 750 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.