Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

August 4, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

July’s “The Best…” Lists (There Are Now Over 730 Of Them)

Here’s my monthly round-up of new “The Best…” lists I posted in June (you can see all 730 of them categorized here):

The Best Sites For Showing Sacramento Destroyed By Floods — July, 2011

The Best Resources For Learning About The Phoenix Dust Storm — July, 2011

The Best Sites For Learning About South Sudan’s Independence — July, 2011

The Best Infographics Of 2011 — So Far — July, 2011

The Best Social Studies Sites Of 2011 — So Far — July, 2011

The Best Resources For Learning About Machu Picchu — July, 2011

The Best Posts Responding To David Brooks Criticism Of Diane Ravitch (& Many Of The Rest Of Us) — July, 2011

The Best Resources For Learning About Small Learning Communities — July, 2011

The Best Posts For Learning About The NEA’s New Policy Statement on “Teacher Evaluation and Accountability” — July, 2011

The Best Posts & Articles About The Atlanta Testing Scandal — July, 2011

My Best Posts On Building Parent Engagement In Schools — 2011 (So Far) — July, 2011

The Best Posts About Public Officials (& Non-Elected “Reformers) Sending Their Children To Private Schools — July, 2011

The Best Posts & Articles About Compromise – July, 2011

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

The Best Posts, Articles & Videos About Learning From Mistakes & Failures — July, 2011

The Best Posts & Articles On The Save Our Schools March — July, 2011

Part Sixty-Two Of The Best Ways To Create Online Content Easily & Quickly – July, 2011

The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education In 2011 — So Far — July, 2011

The Best Ways To Create Online Content Easily & Quickly In 2011 — So Far — July, 2011

The Best Online Teleprompters — July, 2011

The Best Resources For Learning About The Space Shuttle — July, 2011

The Best Resources For Learning About Rube Goldberg Machines — July, 2011

The Best Science Sites Of 2011 — So Far — July, 2011

The Best Resources For Learning What Google+ Is All About — July, 2011

The Best Online Learning Games Of 2011 — So Far — July, 2011

The Best Funny Videos Showing The Importance Of Being Bilingual Or Multilingual — Part One — July, 2011

The Best Videos Illustrating Qualities Of A Successful Language Learner — July, 2011

The Best Sites (& Videos) For Learning About Jazz Chants — July, 2011

The Best Posts On Students Reading Aloud Individually In ESL Class — But I Need Your Help Finding Research On The Topic — July, 2011

July 6, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Today’s “Round-Up” Of Recent School Reform Posts

Here are a few recent good school reform-related posts from around the Web:

Marzano’s “Causal” Evaluation System by Justin Baeder at Education Week makes a great point about “research-based practices” not holding all the answers.

KIPP’s Atrocious Attrition and Expulsions from New Orleans Charters are posts by Gary Rubinstein. I’m adding both to The Best Posts About Attrition Rates At So-Called “Miracle” Schools.

Garry Rubinstein has also helped start a Miracle Schools wiki to coordinate research on this phenomena. I’m adding it to the same “The Best…” list.

Data-Driven To Distraction appeared on Larry Cuban’s blog. I’m adding it to The Best Resources Showing Why We Need To Be “Data-Informed” & Not “Data-Driven”.

Larry Cuban has written another interesting post titled Jazz, Basketball, and Teacher Decision-making. John Thompson relates it to school data at Thompson: Duncan Can Shoot — But Can He Rebound? and I’m adding both to the “Data-Informed” The Best list.

Diane Ravitch has written a response to last week’s David Brooks’ column criticizing her. I’m adding it to The Best Posts Responding To David Brooks Criticism Of Diane Ravitch (& Many Of The Rest Of Us).

May 30, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

May’s Best Tweets — Part Two

Every month I make a short list highlighting my choices of the best resources I shared through (and learned from) Twitter, but didn’t necessarily include them in posts here on my blog. Now and then, in order to make it a bit easier for me, I may try to break it up into mid-month and end-of-month lists (and sometimes I’m a bit late).

I’ve already shared in earlier posts several new resources I found on Twitter — and where I gave credit to those from whom I learned about them. Those are not included again in this post.

If you don’t use Twitter, you can also check-out all of my “tweets” on Twitter profile page or subscribe to their RSS feed.

Here are my picks for May’s Best Tweets — Part Two (not listed in any order):

Confirmation bias comic strip

Video: This teacher keeps her students calm as a gunfight emerges outside (Thanks to Vicki Davis)

“Teacher: Of 8,892 data points, which ones matter in evaluation?”
from Washington Post

“Goodbye Food Pyramid, Hello Dinner Plate” NY Times

“Teachers College Hopes to Empower Educators” local San Francisco NPR

“Otter and toddler laugh and frolick” video is really cute

“Children Learn Language in Moments of Insight, Not Gradually Through Repeated Exposure, Study Shows”

“The world’s most surreal landscapes” slideshow, Salon

“80 things we wish we knew before we started traveling “ CNN

“Choose Your Own Apocalypse” Slate interactive

“Educators, business team up to bridge student “digital divide”” San Diego Union-Trib

“What thinking in 140 characters does to our brains” NY Times

“Nice Guys Finish First” by David Brooks, NY Times

You might also be interested in seeing other people’s choices for their best tweets:

Eye On Education

May 13, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
3 Comments

New Study Says Homework Has No Impact…Except In Math

David Brooks at The New York Times writes in Homework Follies that a new study shows that homework has no impact in science, English, and history, but it does have a large impact in math.

I think it’s probably also safe to say that (depending on the type of homework, of course) it would also show a large impact with English Language Learners (see Homework For English Language Learners).

I’m adding this info to The Best Resources For Learning About Homework Issues.

April 17, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
8 Comments

Why Do So Many Ordinarily Thoughtful Columnists “Lose It” When They Write About Schools?

I really am surprised to see so many ordinarily thoughtful national columnists — ones who I generally like — show such poor judgment when they write about schools.

The only times when I’ve read David Brooks and he sounds somewhat incoherent is when he writes about education (see What Is Going On With David Brooks?) and you can sometimes almost see Ruben Navarrete foaming at the mouth (see Boy, Did Ruben Navarrete Get Up On The Wrong Side Of The Bed This Morning!).

The latest is Matthew Yglesias, who, in his post The False Promise of Class Size Reduction, was completely taken in by a recent study from the Center For American Progress supposedly showing that class size reduction was not effective. The comments on his post pointed out a number of his, and the report’s, errors, and Bruce Baker completely demolished the data and premise of the report.

What is it that blinds these columnists? In fact, what is it that does the same to so many school reformers and legislators? Do they think that since they went to school when they were children, that makes them experts in figuring out how they should be run? They all have gone to see a doctor at some point, too, but they don’t seem to be as critical or prescriptive about how they think a medical professionals should treat their patients.

Help me out here — what do you think?

(When Bad Ideas Happen to Good Columnists is an excellent post by Robert Pondiscio responding to this issue)

April 15, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

April’s Best Tweets — Part One

Every month I make a short list highlighting my choices of the best resources I shared through (and learned from) Twitter, but didn’t necessarily include them in posts here on my blog. Now and then, in order to make it a bit easier for me, I may try to break it up into mid-month and end-of-month lists (and sometimes I’m a bit late).

I’ve already shared in earlier posts several new resources I found on Twitter — and where I gave credit to those from whom I learned about them. Those are not included again in this post.

If you don’t use Twitter, you can also check-out all of my “tweets” on Twitter profile page or subscribe to their RSS feed.

Here are my picks for April’s Best Tweets — Part One (not listed in any order):

“The Mother of All Languages” Wall St. Jrnl

“The Tragic Death of the Flip” by David Pogue, NY Times

“New Orleans schools ‘miracle’ not so miraculous” by Valerie Strauss at Wash Post

“How to Fix (Or Kill) Web Data About You” NY Times

“Budget Idea: Divert Money From Prisons to Schools” Miller McCune

“Why people with a European background can’t help but judge a book by its cover” Mail Online

Field Museum exhibition on “The Horse” now online

“Meet Duolingo, Google’s Next Acquisition Target; Learn A Language, Help The Web”

Some day, you, too,can have a 360 deg video recorder in your classroom taping you & your students’ every move everyday

Very interesting interactive on Islamic face veils, Wall St Jrnl

“The Geography of Music on Google Maps”

David Brooks writes about the central role of metaphors in our thinking, NY Times

“America in 2010″ impressive interactive from Wall St Jrnl

“From Russia with love: The doting father bear who can’t help cuddling his cub “

10 Ways to Help Students Ask Better Questions

” Nick Kristof on Story Telling and Development”

“Feline fisticuffs: Cat goes Tyson on Dog” pretty funny video

You might also be interested in seeing a list of favorite tweets at:

Shelly Terrell’s blog

Kalinago English

Eye On Education

March 30, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
3 Comments

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

I had vaguely heard of the concept “fundamental attribution error” in relation to schools in the past, but then my valued Accomplished California Teachers colleague David B. Cohen wrote about it yesterday (by the way, if you are not subscribing to his/our ACT blog, InterAct, I’d strongly encourage you to do so, even if you don’t live in California). The same day, David Brooks referred to it in his New York Times column highlighted it in his column and explained it meant “Don’t try to explain by character traits behavior that is better explained by context.”

Justin Baeder described it this way in his Education Week blog:

…the idea that we tend to erroneously conflate actions (and our interpretation of them) with personal characteristics. Instead of concluding that a teacher isn’t very good, perhaps we should look at how many different subjects the teacher has to prepare for, how much planning time they actually have, how many reforms and disruptions they have to deal with, and so on.

It seems to me it also connects a lot to the tendency by some school “reformers” to say that any mention of the role of poverty in education challenges is just an “excuse.” They place the lion’s share of responsibility for student achievement on teachers, instead of learning about the research listed on The Best Places To Learn What Impact A Teacher & Outside Factors Have On Student Achievement.

So, I thought I’d pull together a few useful resources.

Here are my choices for The Best Posts & Articles To Learn About “Fundamental Attribution Error” & Schools:

Fundamental Attribution Error by David B. Cohen

Collecting the Wrong Data: Fundamental Attribution Error in Teaching Quality by Justin Baeder at Ed Week.

Attribution Error and the Quest for Teacher Quality by Mary Kennedy.

The comment at Attribution Error and the Quest For Teacher Quality

And, for some useful thoughts on how we teachers can apply this concept to working with students, check-out The Construction Zone.

Feedback is welcome.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at previous “The Best…” lists and also consider subscribing to this blog for free.

March 18, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

The Best Posts Debunking The Myth Of “Five (Or Three) Great Teachers In A Row”

A study by Eric Hanushek claiming that having several “great teachers” in a row can overcome the student achievement gap is used by many school “reformers” to push for unhelpful changes like the elimination of teacher tenure, using value-added assessment for teacher evaluation, and implementing teacher merit pay.

Nicholas Kristof from The New York Times (who I generally like and respect, but he now joins his fellow columnist David Brooks as ones who tend to miss the boat when it comes to writing about education issues) is the latest to bring up this myth.

This “The Best..” list is going to be a very short one. You only have to read two posts to learn why this “great teachers in a row” idea is a myth, with no connection to reality.

The first is from Matthew Di Carlo at the Shanker Blog, who has written a brilliant response to Kristof’s column in his piece, How Many Teachers Does It Take To Close An Achievement Gap?

The second is The “three great teachers in a row” myth by Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post, who quotes extensively from Diane Ravitch.

Value Added — Scrutinizing The Most Widely Cited Study is by Gary Rubinstein.

I’d love to hear any additional suggestions.

Feedback is welcome.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at previous “The Best…” lists and also consider subscribing to this blog for free.

February 25, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Today’s Wisconsin Update — It’s Not About Money, It’s About Power

Here are the newest additions to The Best Resources For Learning About Attacks On Teachers & Other Public Sector Workers In Wisconsin:

The most interesting information today, I think, is a few seconds of the following embedded video from tonight’s PBS News Hour. Columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks have a segment every Friday. There’s nothing exceptional about this one until you get to the 5:45 minute mark. Then, Shields points out that there are nine states that have no collective bargaining, and that those nine states have a “higher indebtedness” than the states who do have collective bargaining. Brooks agrees with him. I wasn’t aware of that statistic, and it certainly raises more questions about the purpose behind the move to eliminate it in Wisconsin and other states — it’s not about money, it’s about power.

As Madison Impasse Continues, Schools Eye Layoffs is from NPR.

Of Budgets and Bargaining: Putting the Union Protests Into Context is from The New York Times Learning Network.

Anger In Orange is a Wall Street Journal slideshow.

February 17, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
10 Comments

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

The attacks on teachers and other public sector workers in Wisconsin by Governor Scott Walker and his allies could be a dangerous sign of things to come throughout the United States. Fortunately, the courageous and well-organized opposition could be an even more powerful indicator for the future.

I have a particular interest in what happens in Wisconsin — beyond its national implications. I lived in Milwaukee from age ten to fifteen, and know first-hand, and fondly remember, the hard work of educators in that state.

I hope readers will provide additional suggestions for this list — I’m sure there are plenty of good articles I don’t know about.

Here are my choices for The Best Resources For Learning About Attacks On Teachers & Other Public Sector Workers In Wisconsin:

First off, an important post from the Shanker Blog answering this question: Are Public Employee Unions To Blame For States’ Budget Crises? (the answer is “No”)

Angry Demonstrations in Wisconsin as Cuts Loom is from The New York Times.

Marching On The Capitol is a NY Times slideshow.

Democrats Missing, Wisconsin Vote on Cuts Is Delayed is another NY Times piece.

Wisconsin Crowds Swell to 30,000; Key GOP Legislators Waver is from The Nation.

Wis. union vote on hold after Democrats leave state is from MSNBC, and has links to lots of articles and multimedia.

The Wall Street Journal seems to have a surprisingly good article and slideshow.

Wisconsin teacher Mrs. 4444 suggests this MSNBC clip.

Gov. Walker’s Pretext is an editorial from The NY Times.

Wisconsin in near-chaos over anti-union bill is from The Los Angeles Times.

State Democrats absent for vote as Wisconsin budget protests swell is from CNN.

Unions aren’t to blame for Wisconsin’s budget is a column in the Washington Post.

Obama joins Wisconsin’s budget battle, opposing Republican anti-union bill is an article in The Washington Post.

States, GOP go after teachers unions in budget crisis is from CNN.

The Wisconsin Situation from The Guardian.

Wisconsin Bill in Limbo as G.O.P. Seeks Quorum is from The NY Times.

Union battle echoes beyond Wisconsin: ‘We’re fighting for our very existence’ is from The Christian Science Monitor.

Fiscal Crisis Strikes At Labor’s Core: Public Workers is from NPR.

The real Republican strategy by Robert Reich

Why FDR would support the Wisconsin protests is from Salon.

Here’s a video of firefighters — who are exempted from the changes proposed by Gov. Walker — marching into the state capitol playing bagpipes to support the protest by teachers and other public sector employees:

Here’s an excerpt from a CNN piece titled Wisconsin governor defends budget bill as opposition persists. It gives a pretty good sense of what is going on in Wisconsin right now:

Kennedy (head of the Wisconsin affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers) blamed Walker for refusing to meet with union representatives.

“We are willing to come to the table and negotiate,” Kennedy said. “He is the one not willing to come to the table. He wants to strip our rights and then dictate exactly what the terms and conditions of employment are.”

Wisconsin Assistant Senate Majority Leader Glenn Grothman, a Republican, said Walker shouldn’t have to negotiate.

That exchange says it all…

Why should an elected official talk with constituencies who will be adversely affected by his plans?

Incredible.

Chalkboard: Why one teacher is protesting comes from The Cap Times.

Chris Hayes and Naomi Klein Explain Why the Protests in Wisconsin Matter

Here’s an MSNBC video saying that 70,000 people attended Saturday’s protest against Gov. Walker’s plan to end collective bargaining. Other media outlets estimate the total was closer to 100,000.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The Essence of Democracy is from The New York Times.

12 Things You Need to Know About the Uprising in Wisconsin comes from AlterNet. (Thanks to Diane Wallis for the tip)

Larry Miller is an editor at Rethinking Schools in Milwaukee, and is writing useful updates on his blog.

Battlefield Wisconsin: Visualizing the protest comes from Salon.

Wisconsin Teachers Show Us How to Resist the Shock Doctrine is from Anthony Cody at Ed Week.

Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill Protest from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

Alice Mercer posts What’s up Wisconsin?, which gives her perspective and tells about a support vigil that will be happening here in Sacramento on Tuesday.

Why America’s Teachers Are Enraged by Diane Ravitch on CNN.

This is amazing: Video: Rep. Peter Barca explodes with anger after Assembly Republicans begin voting before Democrats enter the chamber (thanks to Liam Goldrick for the tip). Here’s what happened next:

Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, responded by saying that he started early because “Honestly, I thought you guys weren’t showing up.”
Fitzgerald acknowledged that Barca was correct in his reading of the rules, and members allowed the bill to return to its amendable stage. Fitzgerald then moved to adjourn the Assembly until 10 a.m. Tuesday, prompting a standing ovation from Democrats, who promised to continue working on amendments to the bill.

Protests in Wisconsin – We are Winning

As many people know, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while supporting workers who were striking in Memphis, Tennessee. He was a strong supporter of organized labor. Here is one of his statements that I think indicate clearly what his position would be on what is happening in Wisconsin today:

“Negroes in the United States read the history of labor and find it mirrors their own experience. We are confronted by powerful forces telling us to rely on the goodwill and understanding of those who profit by exploiting us. They deplore our discontent, they resent our will to organize, so that we may guarantee that humanity will prevail and equality will be exacted. They are shocked that action organizations, sit-ins, civil disobedience and protests are becoming our everyday tools, just as strikes, demonstrations and union organization became yours to insure that bargaining power genuinely existed on both sides of the table.

“We want to rely upon the goodwill of those who oppose us. Indeed, we have brought forward the method of nonviolence to give an example of unilateral goodwill in an effort to evoke it in those who have not yet felt it in their hearts. But we know that if we are not simultaneously organizing our strength we will have no means to move forward. If we do not advance, the crushing burden of centuries of neglect and economic deprivation will destroy our will, our spirits and our hope. In this way, labor’s historic tradition of moving forward to create vital people as consumers and citizens has become our own tradition, and for the same reasons.”

—Speaking to the AFL-CIO on Dec. 11, 1961

Wisconsin Power Play by Paul Krugman at the New York Times may be the best piece that’s been written about what’s happening in Wisconsin.

Protesters in Wisconsin Say They Are Staying Put is from The New York Times.

Back to the future? Return to labor unrest?

The irony of Obama’s ‘help’ for Wisconsin teachers is from Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post.

Teachers Unions, ACT/SAT, and Student Performance: Is Wisconsin Out-Ranking the Non-Union States? is a very important post by Angus Johnston. He examines the research connecting the role of teachers unions to student achievement.

I’m going to print an excerpt here, but you’re making a mistake if you don’t read his entire post:

There’s only been one scholarly effort to tackle this problem that I’m aware of. Back in 2000, three professors writing in the Harvard Educational Review did a statistical analysis of state SAT/ACT scores, controlling for factors like race, median income, and parental education. They found that the presence of teachers unions in a state did have a measurable and significant correlation with increased test scores — that going to school in a union state would, for instance, raise average SATs by about 50 points.

Two other findings leap out from the Harvard Educational Review study. First, they concluded that Southern states’ poor academic performance could be explained almost entirely by that region’s lack of unionization, even when you didn’t take socioeconomic differences into account.

And second, and to my mind far more interesting, they found that concrete improvements in the educational environment associated with teachers’ unions — lower class sizes, higher state spending on education, bigger teacher salaries — accounted for very little of the union/non-union variation. Teachers’ unions, in other words, don’t just help students by reducing class sizes or increasing educational spending. In their conclusion, they stated that

“other mechanism(s) (ie, better working conditions; greater worker autonomy, security, and dignity; improved administration; better training of teachers; greater levels of faculty professionalism) must be at work here.”

Egyptian union leader sends message of support to Wisconsin workers:

Teachers’ absence could turn into lesson for students comes from The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

From Cairo to Madison: Hope and Solidarity Are Alive

Alice Mercer and I, along with many others, attended a rally at the California State Capitol in Sacramento tonight in support of the Wisconsin unions.
Here are some photos from the rally. The first two, which show me and others, were taken by Alice. You’ll see a picture of her in there, too. The presentation is a little strange — I’m trying out a new tool I haven’t used before (you can find a better slideshow at REAL Teachers):

MSNBC reports:

“A new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows the public strongly supports employee bargaining rights. In the survey, 61% oppose a law in their state similar to one being considered in Wisconsin, compared with 33% who favor it.”

Workers’ protests swell in Midwest as budget battles continue comes from CNN.

To my critics: Teachers deserve rights by Diane Ravitch

Wisconsin is about power, not money by Ezra Klein at the Washington Post.

Ezra Klein continues to write some great pieces at the Washington Post, including:

How long can Scott Walker hold out?

What a prank call proves about Wisconsin

The conversation is no longer about Wisconsin’s finances

And he points out that not all Republican governors are inclined to follow Gov. Walker’s lead.

NPR also has some very good pieces, including:

Labor Unions Fight For Their Right To Influence

Here’s an excerpt from that NPR segment, which points out the impact of eliminating collective bargaining:

Mary Bell, head of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, says her members use collective bargaining to speak up on behalf of students. She says WEAC members weigh in on a whole host of education issues, such as “what the parameters are when you need to speak up on behalf of a student [and] what your voice is in setting curriculum.”

State Budget Fights – Wednesday, Feb. 23rd Edition

The Nation: In Wisconsin, It Isn’t About The Money

Governor Walker’s office confirms prank Koch call comes from The Washington Post.

Stephen Colbert did a fantastic piece on Wisconsin:

Here’s another excellent video:

A Wisconsin Moment For Our Education Policy Debate comes from The Shanker Blog.

Public Unions In Wisconsin, Elsewhere Are Scapegoats:Expert comes from NPR.

Unemployed public workers are bad for the economy is another good piece by Ezra Klein.

The state Assembly just passed the bill eliminating collective bargaining. You can read about what happened in this New York Times article, and see what happened in this video after Republicans cut-off debate, even though many Democrats were still waiting to speak:

The most interesting information today, I think, is a few seconds of the following embedded video from tonight’s PBS News Hour. Columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks have a segment every Friday. There’s nothing exceptional about this one until you get to the 5:45 minute mark. Then, Shields points out that there are nine states that have no collective bargaining, and that those nine states have a “higher indebtedness” than the states who do have collective bargaining. Brooks agrees with him. I wasn’t aware of that statistic, and it certainly raises more questions about the purpose behind the move to eliminate it in Wisconsin and other states — it’s not about money, it’s about power. (There might be a problem with PBS’ embed code — you can also access the video here)

As Madison Impasse Continues, Schools Eye Layoffs is from NPR.

Of Budgets and Bargaining: Putting the Union Protests Into Context is from The New York Times Learning Network.

Anger In Orange is a Wall Street Journal slideshow.

Indiana Informs Wisconsin’s Push is a very interesting article in The New York Times. Not only does it provide a scary picture of what happens without collective bargaining, it also includes a quote from a political supporter of Governor Walker’s bill eliminating it that explains what teacher tenure is so important (which is why I’m also adding this to The Best Articles For Helping To Understand Both Why Teacher Tenure Is Important & The Reasons Behind Seniority-Based Layoffs):

“I’ve talked to many teachers and public works employees in my county,” he said, “and almost every conversation comes around to the impact on their seniority and their concerns that their boss doesn’t like them and they won’t be treated fairly, and frankly I think there’s something to that.”

Scott Walker’s unprincipled rigidity comes from The Washington Post.

Another huge crowd gathers at Capitol for rally is from The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Thousands converge on Wisconsin for more protests is from MSNBC.

Protesters out in force nationwide to oppose Wisconsin’s anti-union bill is from The L.A. Times.

Reuters has an article headlined Voices from the massive pro-union rally in Wisconsin.

Here are two videos from MSNBC:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Police, who are exempt from Gov. Walker’s bill, have also come to the Capitol to support protesters. Here’s a video:

Rethinking Schools has an excellent resource page titled Teaching About Labor Issues and the Wisconsin Worker Fight Back.

Here’s a video from ABC News:

Here’s a video from a Madison TV station:

Police won’t boot protesters from Wisconsin Capitol comes from MSNBC.

Protesters Defy Deadline in Wisconsin is a slideshow from The NY Times.

Poll Shows Support for Embattled Public Sector Workers is also from The New York Times.

Protest continues at Wisconsin Capitol is a series of photos from The Sacramento Bee.

Labor wins the day in Wisconsin is from Salon.

Real leaders don’t bust unions comes from Salon.

With Wisconsin’s Protesters: A Cold Night in Madison is from TIME Magazine.

Wisconsin Senate Okays Arrest of Democrats Hiding in Illinois comes from The Atlantic.

Where the Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana Union Battles Stand also comes from The Atlantic.

Wisconsin Teachers, Students Face Uncertain Future is from The Nation.

Reports: Wisconsin Republicans Wavering on Union Bill is from The Atlantic.

Wisconsin: The Tea Party’s Waterloo? is from Salon.

Unions Hope States’ Attacks Nurture a Comeback comes from The New York Times.

Both Sides Begin Efforts for Recalls in Wisconsin is also from The New York Times.

How To Make A Misleading Public/Private Earnings Gap Disappear is from The Shanker Blog.

The Budget: Who’s Really to Blame? is a cartoon from The Atlantic.

“Everyone who is party to this travesty is writing their political obituary,” said Wisconsin State Senator State Sen. Chris Larson after Republicans used a fishy and potentially illegal maneuver to pass a bill ending collective bargaining for public sector unions.

In addition to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article where he made those comments, here are some other updated resources (I’m adding all of these to The Best Resources For Learning About Attacks On Teachers & Other Public Sector Workers In Wisconsin).

What happened in Wisconsin tonight by Ezra Klein at the Washington Post.

Here’s a video report from MSNBC:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Anti-Public Employee Bill Passes Senate in Wisconsin; Only the Beginning of the Fight is a good description of potential strategies going forward.

At a Wisconsin Town Hall, the Mood Turns Against Compromise is from The Atlantic.

Wis. GOP strips public workers’ bargaining rights is from The Washington Post.

Top Ten Union Movies is a slideshow from TIME Magazine.

“Your actions are disgraceful” is what some of their Democratic legislative colleagues tell Republican Senators who leave after voting to end collective bargaining for public sector employees in Wisconsin. Here’s the video:

In Wisconsin Battle on Unions, State Democrats See a Gift is a New York Times article, along with a slideshow.

The Wisconsin union fight goes nuclear is from Salon.

Nelson Lichtenstein: ‘A governor like Walker is completely correct that it’s in his self-interest to ignore public opinion.’ comes from Ezra Klein’s Washington Post column.

Here is a Wall Street Journal video showing at least 100,000 people protesting in Madison today:

Articles also appeared at MSNBC and The New York Times.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had a slideshow.

Wisconsin recalls hit deadline: Where things stand is the headline of a Washington Post headline reporting on the latest news out of the campaign by teachers and other public workers. And things are really looking interesting…

Organizers Say 1 Million Signed Petition to Recall Wisconsin Governor is the headline from today’s New York Times article on the effort.

Sixty-two thousand people rallied at the Wisconsin state capitol in March, 2012 to support the rights of workers and the recall of Governor Walker. You can read about it here, and watch this video:

The Atlantic reports:

A Wisconsin panel has voted to hold a recall election on June 5 for Gov. Scott Walker, after the efforts of his opponents in last year’s fight to end state workers’ collective bargaining rights and limit their benefits.

Wisconsin voters chose Tom Barrett to oppose Governor Scott Walker in the recall vote.

Along with that NY Times article about the election, the Times produced a very useful Timeline: The Wisconsin Labor Fight.

What Governor Walker’s Win Means…

Additional suggestions are welcome.

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

You might also want to explore the over 600 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.

January 28, 2011
by Larry Ferlazzo
10 Comments

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

'Marveling at the Data' photo (c) 2013, DoDEA - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Last year, two very talented educators — Ted Appel, the extraordinary principal we have at our school, and Kelly Young, creator of much of the engaging curriculum we use at our school through his Pebble Creek Labs — brought-up the same point in separate meetings with teachers at my school: The importance of not being “data-driven” and, instead, to be “data-informed.”

These conversations took place in the context of discussing the results of state standardized tests. Here’s the point made by Ted:

If schools are data-driven, they might make decisions like keeping students who are “borderline” between algebra and a higher-level of math in algebra so that they do well in the algebra state test. Or, in English, teachers might focus a lot of energy on teaching a “strand” that is heavy on the tests — even though it might not help the student become a life-long reader. In other words, the school can tend to focus on its institutional self-interest instead of what’s best for the students.

In schools that are data-informed, test results are just one more piece of information that can be helpful in determining future directions.

Since that conversation took place, I’ve written several posts about the topic. I thought it might be useful to bring together several related resources.

Here are my choices for The Best Resources Showing Why We Need To Be “Data-Informed” & Not “Data-Driven”:

First, I’m going to list the post I wrote immediately after that conversation – “Data-Driven” Versus “Data-Informed”

Next, a Dilbert cartoon that Alexander Russo shared on his blog:

Dilbert.com

The cartoon reminded of what the New York judge said earlier this month when he ruled that the School District can publicly release the names of teachers and their “Teacher Data Reports.” Here is what the judge said (and I kid you not):

“The UFT’s argument that the data reflected in the TDRs should not be released because the TDRs are so flawed and unreliable as to be subjective is without merit,” the judge wrote, citing legal precedent that “there is no requirement that data be reliable for it to be disclosed.”

Data-Driven…Off a Cliff is the title of an excellent post by Robert Pondiscio.

An article in Educational Leadership is a year-old, but it’s new to me and certainly worth sharing. It’s called The New Stupid, and has the subtitle “Educators have made great strides in using data. But danger lies ahead for those who misunderstand what data can and can’t do.” It’s written by Frederick M. Hess.

It’s an article worth reading (though I do have concerns about some of its points), and relates to what I’ve written about being “Data-Driven” Versus “Data-Informed.”

Here are a couple of excerpts:

…the key is not to retreat from data but to truly embrace the data by asking hard questions, considering organizational realities, and contemplating unintended consequences. Absent sensible restraint, it is not difficult to envision a raft of poor judgments governing staffing, operations, and instruction—all in the name of “data-driven decision making.”

and…

First, educators should be wary of allowing data or research to substitute for good judgment. When presented with persuasive findings or promising new programs, it is still vital to ask the simple questions: What are the presumed benefits of adopting this program or reform? What are the costs? How confident are we that the promised results are replicable? What contextual factors might complicate projections? Data-driven decision making does not simply require good data; it also requires good decisions.

The Truth Wears Off: Is there something wrong with the scientific method? by Jonah Lehrer is an exceptional article from The New Yorker. David Brooks from The New York Times wrote a nice summary of the article:

He describes a class of antipsychotic drugs, whose effectiveness was demonstrated by several large clinical trials. But in a subsequent batch of studies, the therapeutic power of the drugs appeared to wane precipitously.

This is not an isolated case. “But now all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings have started to look increasingly uncertain,” Lehrer writes. “It’s as if our facts were losing their truth: claims that have been enshrined in textbooks are suddenly unprovable.”

 

 

The world is fluid. Bias and randomness can creep in from all directions. For example, between 1966 and 1995 there were 47 acupuncture studies conducted in Japan, Taiwan and China, and they all found it to be an effective therapy. There were 94 studies in the U.S., Sweden and Britain, and only 56 percent showed benefits. The lesson is not to throw out studies, but to never underestimate the complexity of the world around.

Talking To Students About Their Reading (& Their Data) is a post I’ve written.

“Using data for progress, not punishment”

In a Data-Heavy Society, Being Defined by the Numbers is by Alina Tugend at The New York Times.

Data-Driven Instruction and the Practice of Teaching is by Larry Cuban.

The Obituaries for Data-Driven ‘Reform’ Are Being Written is by John Thompson.

California Governor Puts the Testing Juggernaut On Ice is by Anthony Cody at Education Week.

Making the wrong “Data-Driven Decisions” is by Carl Anderson (thanks to Dean Shareski for the tip).

Data-Driven To Distraction appeared on Larry Cuban’s blog.

Larry Cuban has written another interesting post titled Jazz, Basketball, and Teacher Decision-making. John Thompson relates it to school data at Thompson: Duncan Can Shoot — But Can He Rebound?

“Not everything that matters can be measured”

“You Are Not An Equation” (And Neither Are Your Students)

Policy by Algorithm is a nice post over at Ed Week.

Professional Judgment: Beyond Data Worship is by Justin Baeder at Education Week.

This Is Why Our School is “Data-Informed” & Not “Data-Driven”

Bias toward Numbers in Judging Teaching is by Larry Cuban.

The False Allure Of Statistics is by John Thompson.

‘Moneyball’ and making schools better is by John Thompson.

Here’s Another Reason Why We Need To Be Data-Informed & Not Data-Driven

Data Gone Wild

“Why Do Good Policy Makers Use Bad Indicators?” is by Larry Cuban.

New Hope for the Obama/Gates School of Reform is by John Thompson.

“It’s amazing how much it’s possible to figure out by analyzing the various kinds of data I’ve kept,” Stephen Wolfram says. To which I say, “I’m looking at your data, and you know what’s amazing to me? How much of you is missing.”

This is the last paragraph of Robert Krulwich’s article at NPR, titled Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Does The Data Tell It All? In it, he compares authors of books, one by Stephen Wolfram, creator of a the Wolfram search engine, and Bill Bryson, author of a biographical account of growing up in Iowa. The column, though not specifically about schools, hits a “bulls-eye” on our current data-driven madness.


What Does “Stop & Frisk” Have To Do With What’s Happening With Our Schools?

What Does The NYPD Have In Common With Many Data-Driven Schools?

Tired of the Tyranny of Data is by Dave Orphal.

Big Data Doesn’t Work if You Ignore the Small Things that Matter is from The Harvard Business Review.


Test Scores Often Misused In Policy Decisions
is from The Huffington Post.

The Data-Driven Education Movement
is from The Shanker Blog.

Data Overload

Invisible Data is from Stories From School.

Don’t Let Data Drive Your Dialogue is from The Canadian Education Association.

“The Goal Is The Goal”

On the Uses and Meaning of Data is by David B. Cohen.

Friday Thoughts on Data, Assessment & Informed Decision Making in Schools is from School Finance 101.

The New York Times Has Discovered The Perils Of Being Data-Driven — I Just Wish Arne Duncan Would, Too

Here’s a Part One and Part Two series of posts on the use of data in education, and they’re both from Larry Cuban’s blog.

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.

Beware the Big Errors of ‘Big Data’ is from Wired.

The NYPD Probably Didn’t Stop All That Crime

Data-Informed Versus Data-Driven PLC Teams is from All Things PLC.

David Brooks, who generally loses all coherence when he writes explicitly about education issues, has just written an eloquent case for the importance of being data-informed, and not data-driven. Read his column titled What Data Can’t Do. Here’s an excerpt:

The Problem with Our Data Obsession is from MIT.

Data Without Context Tells a Misleading Story is from The New York Times.

Big Data is “not a replacement for the classic ways of understanding the world”

Quote Of The Day: “Data & data sets are not objective”

“Big (Dumb) Data” is by John Thompson.

Data are no good without theory is from The Washington Post.

The Perils of Economic Thinking about Human Behavior is from School Finance 101.

What You’ll Do Next is by David Brooks

At the risk of being accused of taking a “cheap shot,” I just can’t resist embedding two segments from The Colbert Show about the now well-known mistake by the two economists whose work has been cited endlessly to support austerity. And I can’t resist adding it to this list:

Quote Of The Day: “The Dictatorship of Data”

How The NBA Finals Taught A Lesson About Not Being “Data-Driven”

Second Quote Of The Day: The Dangers Of Being “Data-Driven”

The Great Lakes Center has released an excellent report on Data-driven Improvement and Accountability. The Washington Post published an excerpt, Six principles for using data to hold people accountable.

The Tyranny of the Datum is by John Kuhn.

Garbage In, Garbage Out: Or, How to Lie with Bad Data is from Medium.

How ‘data walls’ in classrooms can humiliate young kids is by Valerie Strauss.

Select Your Conclusions, Apply Data is from The Shanker Blog.

How ‘platooning’ and data walls are changing elementary school is from The Washington Post.

Big data: are we making a big mistake? is from The Financial Times.

Ainge: Analytics Sometimes Leads To Shortcuts is from RealGM Basketball.

Misusing Test Data is from Renee Moore’s blog.

Additional suggestions are welcome.

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December 29, 2010
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

We See What We Want To See

The Truth Wears Off: Is there something wrong with the scientific method? by Jonah Lehrer is an exceptional article, and it was just released from behind The New Yorker pay-wall yesterday.

It reinforces why we need to be data-informed, but not data-driven — everywhere, including in schools.

David Brooks from The New York Times wrote a nice summary of the article:

He describes a class of antipsychotic drugs, whose effectiveness was demonstrated by several large clinical trials. But in a subsequent batch of studies, the therapeutic power of the drugs appeared to wane precipitously.

This is not an isolated case. “But now all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings have started to look increasingly uncertain,” Lehrer writes. “It’s as if our facts were losing their truth: claims that have been enshrined in textbooks are suddenly unprovable.”

The world is fluid. Bias and randomness can creep in from all directions. For example, between 1966 and 1995 there were 47 acupuncture studies conducted in Japan, Taiwan and China, and they all found it to be an effective therapy. There were 94 studies in the U.S., Sweden and Britain, and only 56 percent showed benefits. The lesson is not to throw out studies, but to never underestimate the complexity of the world around.

It’s also a perfect article for Theory of Knowledge classes.

September 21, 2010
by Larry Ferlazzo
1 Comment

Why Am I Disagreeing With Someone Who Doesn’t Like Standardized Tests?

Jonah Lehrer is a very talented writer who creatively applies research from the human sciences to real-life problems. I’ve often linked to his columns from this blog.

Today, though, he wrote an odd column about the somewhat odd column that appeared in the New York Times earlier this week about testing (which I wrote about in “Scientifically Tested Tests”).

My summary of what he wrote is that the standardized tests we use now don’t really measure knowledge. Instead, what it really measures — less than perfectly — is grit, self control, and perseverance. Those are the qualities schools should really be focusing on, and we should develop tests to more accurately measure those kinds of qualities, particularly because those are what are most valued by employers (let me know if you think that’s an inaccurate representation).

I’m certainly in agreement that the standardized tests we use today do not accurately measure knowledge. And I’m also in agreement that we should help students develop grit, self-control and perseverance. In fact, as regular readers know, I’ve written a lot about how do just that in the classroom, and will be writing more in my upcoming book.

But I get frustrated whenever I see people (who tend to either be school “reformers” or columnists who have little background in education — like Lehrer and David Brooks (though I wouldn’t put Lehrer in the same category — Brooks becomes almost incoherent whenever he writes about schools) portray needed school changes in a black/white view.

Yes, we need to help students develop those what I call “life skills” qualities. And, yes, we need to develop useful assessments for them (though I wouldn’t look to KIPP Schools as a model like Lehrer does in his article).

But we also need to help our students, particularly those in many of our schools with limited background knowledge, learn facts and, despite Mr. Lehrer’s criticism of helping our students develop the skills of “critical thinking, or the “ability to think about a situation in several different ways,” we need to teach those, too.

And I think both can be done in a lot more creative, useful, and effective ways than Lehrer’s anecdotes of cramming facts down students throat. I also don’t agree with Lehrer’s definition that this kind of cramming is “learning to learn.” And, despite what many of my colleagues are saying, I’m not entirely dismissive of the potential of a new generation of tests being helpful in that effort.

It doesn’t have to be either/or. How about both/and?

August 24, 2010
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

“There’s a metacognition deficit”

David Brooks has written a very good column in The New York Times today headlined A Case of Mental Courage.

He says “there’s a metacognition deficit” in our society and:

In this atmosphere, we’re all less conscious of our severe mental shortcomings and less inclined to be skeptical of our own opinions.

It sounds like this quote could fit right in my weekend post “Five Quotes That All Of Us (Including Self-Righteous School Reformers) Should Keep In Mind.”

I often like his columns, except when he writes about schools. Then, he’s almost incoherent.

July 19, 2010
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

July’s Best Tweets — Part One

Every month I make a short list highlighting my choices of the best resources I shared through (and learned from) Twitter, but didn’t necessarily include them in posts here on my blog. Now and then, in order to make it a bit easier for me, I may try to break it up into mid-month and end-of-month lists.

I’ve already shared in earlier posts several new resources I found on Twitter — and where I gave credit to those from whom I learned about them. Those are not included again in this post.

If you don’t use Twitter, you can also check-out all of my “tweets” on Twitter profile page or subscribe to their RSS feed.

Here are my picks for July’s Best Tweets — Part One (not listed in any order):

Who Are The Millennials? infographic

Unlikely Tutor Giving Military Afghan Advice, NY Times

Create your own font through your handwriting

The Champion Within

Bill Gates’ School Crusade

Wall St Journal reviews new biography of Saul Alinsky;I worked for many years as community organizer for organization he founded

Supporting Kids: A Conversation with School Counselor of the Year Barbara Micucci

“12 Writing Tips from Mark Twain”

The links between bloggers’ personalities and their use of words

“Sac City Unified gets corporate look” Sacramento Bee

“Matisse’s ‘Bathers by the River’ amazing NY Times interactive showing development of Matisse painting over 8 yrs

What the class size research REALLY says

Wikipedia Explained By Common Craft

“The Medium Is the Medium”, NY Times, David Brooks on books & Internet

Creating Edible Illusions–and Great Art [Slide Show]

World’s Strangest Festivals slideshow

You might also be interested in seeing a list of favorite tweets at Shelly Terrell’s blog.

April 16, 2010
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

April’s Best Tweets — Part One

Every month I make a short list highlighting my choices of the best resources I shared through (and learned from) Twitter, but didn’t necessarily include them in posts here on my blog. Now and then, in order to make it a bit easier for me, I may try to break it up into mid-month and end-of-month lists.

I’ve already shared in earlier posts this month several new resources I found on Twitter — and where I gave credit to those from whom I learned about them. Those are not included again in this post.

If you don’t use Twitter, you can also check-out all of my “tweets” on my Twitter profile page or subscribe to their RSS feed.

Here are my picks for April’s Best Tweets — Part Two (not listed in any order):

The Most Ridiculous Detention Slips Of All Time (Thanks to Alexander Russo)

Richard Rothstein grades “Race To The Top”

Who’s Attending College in U.S. Infographic

Why you just can’t trust what you think you’ve seen with your own eyes

Gravity defying illusion

U.S. public education by the latest numbers, Washington Post

Curious Collections: Offbeat Museums Around the World, TIME Mag slideshow

Money Is Not The Best Motivator, Forbes

5 Civilizations That Just Disappeared

Has music gotten louder over the years? NPR Infographic

6 Career-Killing Facebook Mistakes

Infographic showing budget for “Average College Student”

The Humble Hound, NY Times, David Brooks on leadership

Alfred Tatum’s Latest Work

Relax, We’ll Be Fine” David Brooks, NY Times

You might also be interested in seeing a list of favorite tweets at Shelly Terrell’s blog.

April 6, 2010
by Larry Ferlazzo
3 Comments

The Best Sites To Learn About…Happiness?

'Happy Face' photo (c) 2009, Anthony Easton - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I use one of my previous “The Best…” lists, The Best Lists Of “Best Places To Live,” in our Intermediate English unit on neighborhoods (see A Lesson Highlighting Community Assets — Not Deficits). Students compare the criteria they’ve used to determine what is a good place to live with the criteria other studies have used.

In a similar vein, I’ve been collecting links related to measuring happiness. I plan is not necessarily to create a lengthy unit plan but, instead, to make it a more fun (and learning) activity where students explore what makes them happy and again see the criteria used by others. In addition, I think this list can be useful in my International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class when we explore the role of emotions in determining true knowledge.

Here are my choices for The Best Sites To Learn About Happiness:

Mean Happiness is an infographic from GOOD showing how happy people in different countries have been over the years.

Does Money Buy Happiness? is another infographic.

Does Being Happy Make You Healthy? is a short article from GOOD that would need to be modified in order for it to be accessible to English Language Learners.

Here’s the World Happiness Map, along with an article describing how it was developed.

Here’s a downloadable PDF of a poster from Yes Magazine: 10 Things Sciences Says Will Make You Happy

Facebook measures how happy we are — and when — in this infographic. Here’s another version of the infographic.

Look at the World’s Happiest Places. Here’s a map showing the results.

David Brooks explores what makes us happy in this recent New York Times column.

Animated Infographic: Which Countries Are Happiest? comes from GOOD Magazine.

The Greater Good Science Center is based at the University of California, Berkeley, and “promotes the study and development of human happiness.” It doesn’t have much that’s accessible to ELL’s, but their resources could certainly be modified.

The New York Times has published a very interesting interactive map charting people’s happiness across the United States, a good graphic, and an article titled Discovered: The Happiest Man in America.

The Atlantic has a fascinating interview with Dr. Daniel Gilbert, an author and researcher who has just completed a study on how to be happy. Ezra Klein in The Washington Post has a good summary of the interview. Here are a couple of the main pieces of advice:

….consider forgoing whatever it is you want to do most:

Imagine making love to the person of your dreams. That will be a good day. But the day after will not. The good thing about peak experiences is that they make us happy while we are having them, but the bad thing is that they then serve as a standard of comparison for all the experiences that follow. When researchers looked at lottery winners, they weren’t happier than a control group, but they did take less pleasure in everyday events. The big happiness rush you get when you receive the big check is gone pretty soon, and then when good things happen you find yourself saying, “That was nice but it wasn’t like the day I won the lottery.”

….buy lots of fun small things, not a few big ones:

If you asked people if they’d prefer an ice cream cone every Monday for the next few weeks or a great meal at a French restaurant, most would probably take the great meal gift certificate. But it turns out that the frequency of positive events is a better predictor of happiness than intensity of those positive events. Let’s say that you had five good experiences and each had an intensity of 10 out of 10. And I had 10 good experiences each with an intensity of 5. Simple math suggests we should be equally happy. But the odds are that I will be happier than you because happiness is affected less by how good your good experience was and more by how many good experiences you had.

Create A Better Life Index lets you, without having to register, create an infographic emphasizing the qualities that you believe are key for a “better life” and showing how different countries in the world are doing in those areas. You can then share your infographic with others. It’s from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Top 15 happiest nations: Who’s #1? is a slideshow from CBS News.

The 10 Things Economics Can Tell Us About Happiness is from The Atlantic.

The Geography of Happiness According to 10 Million Tweets is from The Atlantic.

The Happiest Countries 2014
Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome!

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You might also want to explore the 400 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.

January 21, 2010
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

January’s Best “Tweets”

Every month I make a short list highlighting my choices of the best resources I shared through (and learned from) Twitter, but didn’t necessarily include them in posts here on my blog.

I’ve already shared in earlier posts this month several new resources I found on Twitter — and where I gave credit to those from whom I learned about them. Those are not included again in this post.

If you don’t use Twitter, you can also check-out all of my “tweets” on my Twitter profile page or subscribe to their RSS feed.

Here are my picks for December’s Best Tweets (not listed in any order):

Visions of the Cosmos is a neat Wall Street Journal slideshow.

‘How Bad For The Environment Can Throwing Away One Plastic Bottle Be?’ 30 Million People Wonder is satire from The Onion.

When the question is either/or, sometimes the answer is both
(Thanks to Bud Hunt)

What Lessons Those Carrots Are Teaching, New York Times

The Bold, the Beautiful and the Incremental, Public School Insights

More to education than data, Diane Ravitch

Understanding the development of academic langauge for ELLs, Judie Haynes

See how the number of crayon colors have expanded over the years in this infographic

“The time has come for detracking”

Why You Haven’t Donated to Haiti Yet is an intriguing study of why & when we give

Vidinotes lets you create notes of video, including images

“Redefining Achievement”, Deborah Meier

Interactive on Doomsday Clock

Intriguing review of data used by author of Atlantic Teach For America article (Thanks to Susan Ohanian)

Fascinating interactive showing how energy use has developed since the Industrial Revolution

9 Amazing Bridges

Reading In The Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human Invention
, New York Times

“Make Beautiful Music on YouTube With This Interactive Video”

The Messiah Complex, David Brooks, critical thinking about Avatar

Hitching All Our Wagons to Tests, Public School Insights

How much data do Americans consume each day? Check out this visual breakdown

You might also be interested in seeing a list of favorite tweets at Shelly Terrell’s blog.

December 18, 2009
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

The Best From “Interviews Of The Month”

As regular readers know, in September I began a new series called “Interview of the Month.” In it, I interview people in the field of education. The main criteria is that I want to learn more about them, and I think they have something to offer to me and to readers of this blog.

I thought it might be useful to readers and to me to revisit these interviews and pick-out what I think is the best part of each interview.

Here are my picks of The Best From “Interviews Of The Month”:

KELLY YOUNG

I started off this series with Kelly, who I consider a key mentor.  I’d be surprised if there is  anybody else in the country who knows more about effective instructional strategies than Kelly. Kelly is the founder of Pebble Creek Labs, which provides curriculum and professional development to urban high schools (including ours)  across the United States in Language Arts and Social Studies.  Kelly has been a teacher, principal, and district Superintendent (and a lot else along the way!).

Kelly shared what he thought the three most important skills/strategies for a teacher to have in their repertoire in order to help students learn:

1. Literacy strategies to help students engage with text and make meaning.  There are a lot of them. 2. Strategies to help students talk with one another about their learning.  They like school more, and learn more, when they have to dialogue, purposefully, about their learning.  It is also a vital skill for work and life.  3.  The Inductive Model.   This strategy is so rich, so full, can go so many places.

He went on the explain each in a little more detail:

1) Students HAVE to learn how to make sense of text.  There is no getting around that, as a high school student, college student, worker or adult.  But students have been woefully unprepared, especially with expository text, which is 90% of their reading in high school, college and workplace.  So we MUST learn techniques that teach and help students think while they read. Our curriculum provides strategies, that with modeling and lots of practice, make a big difference for students.

2) Learning groups, and later work groups, talk to one another.  They problem solve, they read, discuss, argue, interact.  Schools where teachers talk and gab and blab some more aren’t doing students any favors, especially with students of limited engagement and lackluster skills.  Students need daily practice with working in teams, with reading text and writing to prompts and talking to one another about their work, their ideas, their problem solving.  We simply don’t have enough classrooms where dialogue is student to student around text, ideas, student work.

3) The Inductive Model is a learning/teaching strategy that is as powerful as they get, and few teachers know about it. It’s a natural higher-order learning strategy, and if students used it daily they wouldn’t just like learning more, AND learn their content better, they’d actually become smarter.   I cannot say enough about its power.

You can read the full interview with Kelly here.

CLAUS von ZASTROW

I was lucky enough to interview Claus von Zastrow, the director of the Learning First Alliance, a partnership of 17 leading education associations. He writes the influential Public School Insights blog, which I highlight regularly here.

I asked Claus to comment on the tendency many have of looking at school reform through the lens of “either/or” — it’s either the merit pay/standardized tests/charter school etc. way or one that has all the elements of what are often considered a “progressive” vision for schools:

I think people like to go whole hog on the newest reform ideas, and they tend to dismiss earlier reform ideas as passé or ineffective. That tendency creates either/or thinking, because people begin to harden into ideological camps.

He shared several examples, including:

The highly-publicized battle between those who advocate for a “schools plus” approach to improving student performance and those who argue that schools alone can get the job done. You would think it would be uncontroversial to argue that factors both within and beyond schools affect student performance—and that we should address both. But somehow the media framed this argument as a debate between those who believe schools are powerless to effect change and those who say schools alone can effect change. What a preposterous debate! And yet national commentators like David Brooks, commentators who should know better, fueled the phony debate with simplistic op eds.

Why does this happen? Many organizations have focused more attention on PR than research into what works. Brass knuckles PR types have made sure that national media outlets like the Times or Newsweek play up the battles between opposing factions rather than actually weighing evidence or learning more about the nuances of education policy. Nuances can make for uninteresting copy, but they sure matter when it comes time to make things better for kids

You can read the full interview with Claus here.

ALEXANDER RUSSO

Alexander Russo is a longtime education journalist and writer of the popular blog This Week In Education (and several others).

Alexander didn’t mince any words (he generally does not) in his critiques:

I think that most think tanks are glorified PR outfits for their funders, and that many many education advocates are sadly ineffective. I think innovation is highly over-rated compared to implementation. (I’m currently in favor of a moratorium on innovation while we implement some of the things we already know how to do. Maybe with a little less distraction we’d actually get down to business and get some things done.)

Later in the interview, he shared some thoughts on the potential education legacy of the Obama administration:

I’d love to be wrong about this, but Arne Duncan could well end up exposed as the Obama administration’s version of Rod Paige – a generally nice guy who’s in way over his head in Washington as he may have been in Chicago. And I worry that the Obama administration will be too focused on innovation and political needle-threading that it won’t get anything meaningful or transformative done on the education front.

You can read the full interview with Alexander here.

DAVID B. COHEN

David B. Cohen is one of the key people behind The Accomplished California Teachers and co-author of a recent Op Ed piece titled Test scores poor tool for teacher evaluation.

I asked David how he would respond to those who criticize teacher unions for supposedly blocking changes that would benefit students:

Randy Ward, the current superintendent of San Diego County Schools, was in a roundtable discussion with John Merrow on PBS about a year-and-a-half ago, and given a chance to criticize unions, Ward made a wonderful comment that I’m paraphrasing here: “I always tell school boards, ‘you signed the contract, too.’” In other words, we shouldn’t expect unions not to stick to contracts, so if in the process of following a contract, the union is doing something the district doesn’t like, well, there’s an item for negotiation next time around. If districts expect concessions in one area, I’d expect them to come to the table offering concessions in some other area. And if unions were the root of our problems, you’d expect “right to work” states that lack collective bargaining to have significantly better results to offer, but they don’t. They also struggle with teacher quality issues and various reform efforts.

You can read the full interview with David here.

JOHN NORTON

John Norton is the director of The Teacher Leaders Network. I was invited to join TLN this year, and it’s helped me become both a better teacher and better thinker on education issues. I knew of John earlier through his generous sharing of resources through Middleweb, one of the “granddaddies” of ways to share education resources on the web.

I asked John how he would characterize any differences between the concerns and questions raised by teachers with whom he’d worked between ten or twenty years ago and now:

Well, that’s a dunk-shot question! Let’s all say it together: No. Child. Left. Behind. Not the idea of it – not the dream of making school better for all kids that led many well-meaning progressive reformers to fall for it. But the reality of it. I’ve always felt that the well-meaning group of folks who supported NCLB (there’s a less well-meaning group too, as we know) fell for a bait-and-switch. The bait was “we need to help these kids get an education and get out of poverty.” The switch was that instead of placing the blame for their condition where it belongs – on our entire society and our culture of haves and have-nots – somebody switched the villain in the story to the American public school teacher.

He went on to say:

Of course I realize that NCLB has impacted teachers across the board, not just in our highest needs schools, but that’s how it started and teachers in those schools still bear the greatest brunt of the top-down sanctions and general professional humiliation. The teachers I hang out with every day at the Teacher Leaders Network are truly top-notch educators. They set the highest standards for themselves and their profession. They’re not in the business of protecting “weak teachers,” they just understand that the real problems in our public schools are not going to be addressed by an “off with their heads” strategy.

These are teachers who are eager to get policymakers to listen and learn about the genuine core problems – and some expert solutions. But it’s a hard go. It’s much easier to grab the public’s attention these days with a cartoon villain — and her/his counterpart, the heroic teacher who is defying the status-quo simpleton teachers who have somehow taken over our schools en masse when the public wasn’t looking. That’s meant to be sarcasm, in case anyone is thinking of sending me a blistering email or tweet.

You can read the full interview with John here.

Look for more interesting interviews in 2010!

October 20, 2009
by Larry Ferlazzo
0 comments

Interview Of The Month: Claus von Zastrow From The Learning First Alliance

Last month I began a new feature called “Interview Of The Month.” In these interviews, I’ll be talking with anybody in the education world who I want to get to know better and who I think others might be interested in, too. How’s that for a broad criteria?

The first person I interviewed was Kelly Young from Pebble Creek Labs, one of the best people — if not The Best — in the country for assisting teachers develop better instructional strategies.

Next month, David Cohen, one of the key people behind The Accomplished Teachers Forum and co-author of a recent Op Ed piece titled Test scores poor tool for teacher evaluation, will be the guest.

This month, I was lucky enough to interview Claus von Zastrow, the director of the Learning First Alliance, a partnership of 17 leading education associations. He writes the influential Public School Insights blog, which I highlight regularly here.

It’s a bit lengthy, but well worth reading!

Can you describe the Learning First Alliance and how you got involved with it?

The Learning First Alliance is a permanent partnership of 17 major national education associations that collectively represent some 10 million parents, education practitioners and education policymakers. Rather than dump the entire list of members on you right here, here’s a link to the membership list. We represent the people who work in and for public schools every day. We need to have a voice at the national policy table.

We give our very diverse membership opportunities to find common ground on a host of education issues that affect the well-being of children. The Alliance exists because the members believe they can accomplish much more for children if they work together.

We’ve done some important work establishing common ground in areas like reading instruction, mathematics instruction, district-wide improvement and staffing hard-to-staff schools. We want to create alignment among our own members in these important areas, but we also want to remind the outside world that the people who carry out the work of public education have to be partners in the formulation of policy.

How did I get involved with LFA? My previous jobs in education were quite different. I started working on workforce issues and proceeded to curricular issues at a couple of DC think tank/policy organizations. It occurred to me after that work that parents and practitioners were often left out of discussions about school reform. They, after all, will have to carry out many of the reforms currently under discussion. LFA operates on the assumption that the people who work in and for public schools everyday can become a powerful force for improvement.

You’ve written a lot about the fallacies of looking at school reform through the lens of “either/or” — it’s either the merit pay/standardized tests/charter school etc. way or one that has all the elements of what are often considered a “progressive” vision for schools. Can you give us an overview of these thoughts, and why you think so many people have that “either/or” perspective?

I think people like to go whole hog on the newest reform ideas, and they tend to dismiss earlier reform ideas as passé or ineffective. That tendency creates either/or thinking, because people begin to harden into ideological camps.

Take, for example, the biggest proponents of alternative certification. Many discount investments in “traditional” teacher education or staff development. One prominent advocate even counseled the federal government to defund traditional programs. As Linda Darling-Hammond notes, however, neither traditional nor alternative certification programs can boast stellar results across the board, so it’s time to learn what’s best from both to create something much better. (Of course, Darling-Hammond had to endure vicious ideological attacks, but that’s another story.)

The charter school debate offers another example. There are terrific charter schools out there, and we can learn a lot from them. But the True Believers in the charter movement—and their enablers in the media—would have you believe that charters offer the only answers to what ails public schools. There are wonderful traditional public schools out there that are having astonishing results for low-income kids, but you wouldn’t know it from reading the papers. And as a result, the public is getting a distorted view of what’s possible in school reform. For many, the charters vs. traditional public schools discussion boils down to a zero-sum game.

Case in point: A very intelligent friend asked me if we should just convert all schools into charter schools to improve the system as a whole. I had to remind him that (1.) charter schools are on average no better than traditional public schools, and many are worse; (2.) Many of the best charters are difficult to replicate; and (3.) we have important lessons to learn from high-performing traditional public schools as well. These are common-sense positions, but you won’t find them in the New York Times or Washington Post these days.

One more example: The highly-publicized battle between those who advocate for a “schools plus” approach to improving student performance and those who argue that schools alone can get the job done. You would think it would be uncontroversial to argue that factors both within and beyond schools affect student performance—and that we should address both. But somehow the media framed this argument as a debate between those who believe schools are powerless to effect change and those who say schools alone can effect change. What a preposterous debate! And yet national commentators like David Brooks, commentators who should know better, fueled the phony debate with simplistic op eds.

Why does this happen? Many organizations have focused more attention on PR than research into what works. Brass knuckles PR types have made sure that national media outlets like the Times or Newsweek play up the battles between opposing factions rather than actually weighing evidence or learning more about the nuances of education policy. Nuances can make for uninteresting copy, but they sure matter when it comes time to make things better for kids.

I’m often asked by people outside of education what I think should be done to make schools better. What would your response to that question be?

That’s a challenging question, because It invites silver bullet answers. The real answer is actually more complex than many journalists think it is. Any answer that does not consider how reforms affect classroom practice isn’t really much of an answer at all.

We’ve published an “emerging vision” that lays out some big areas for school improvement. I won’t repeat all of that vision here, but I will point to some important themes. For one, we need excellent standards AND curricula AND assessments—and we have to be sure that they support excellent instruction. Standards-based reform often stopped at standards—assuming it went that far. Assessments have too often been lousy, and curricular supports for teachers all but non-existent. So standards that do little to build educators’ capacity don’t accomplish much—other than giving politicians nice talking points.

Another important theme is personal attention to students’ needs. This, after all, is the reason for better data systems. Teachers need information and time to address students’ individual instructional needs. They need the right kinds of information, they need to get it in time to be useful to students, and they need help—professional development—to use it most effectively. Too many commentators have made a fetish out of data systems for accountability purposes without considering how they can boost educators’ ability to provide first-rate differentiated instruction.

And let’s not forget the importance of families and communities. Schools need their help—but they also have a responsibility to engage families and communities as partners in the work of educating children. (Your excellent new book can be a guide here, Larry). The media have distorted calls for greater community engagement as attempts to let schools off the hook. That’s pure rubbish. Schools alone can have a profound effect on students’ lives, but schools working with their communities can tackle the broad array of challenges our most vulnerable students face.

As for the reforms that get the most ink in our national papers—charter schools, merit pay and mayoral control…. They can be promising if they truly improve instructional conditions for kids. Yet too many reformers seem to support them as ends in themselves, even though the evidence for these reform strategies remains murky.

Whose thinking/writing most challenges and pushes your own thinking about education?

Yours!

Otherwise, I’m hesitant to name too many names. The education writers who challenge my thinking in the best ways are often the writers I don’t agree with. Often, they simply irk me, but they can also unsettle some of my own assumptions and force me to reconsider my positions on issues of school reform. It’s important to keep these critical friends on the reading list!

Your blog is widely read in education circles. What do you consider its primary purpose, and what might be three or four posts you’d characterize as particularly good and/or insightful?

The blog’s primary purpose is to highlight what’s working in public schools and districts—and to call for reforms that build schools’ capacity for improvement. A closely related goal: The blog aims to call some received wisdom about school reform into question. The media stage the “reformers vs. establishment” drama. In doing so they turn complex debates about school reform into a kind of morality play, complete with personified virtues and vices. I hope the blog reminds people that true reform has many faces. There’s much more to reform than changes to incentives and governance structures.

What are my favorite posts? Hard to say. It’s often disappointing to reread them. I’ll give you three very recent posts: The first, which aims to sum up the teacher’s predicament, received a fair number of comments. The other two, which I published since yesterday, received few or no comments—and I wish they would get a few more. (Yes, I’m shamelessly trolling for comments):

1.) “You Can’t Win”

2.) “Merit Just Ain’t Worth What It Used to Be”

3.) “Welcome to Our World”

I hope people also visit our “Success Stories” page, which is the heart of our website: One-hundred, fifteen stories and counting.

People might also enjoy our page of exclusive interviews with education visionaries. We’ve interviewed about 75 people, including some big names like Henry Louis Gates, Jr., author Dave Eggers and fitness legend Richard Simmons. More important, we’ve interviewed many educators and parents who are doing remarkable work.

What might be the three most important lessons you’ve learned about making change in schools?

1.) The people on the front lines have to be central players in discussions of school reform.

2.) Don’t oversell any reform idea: You’ll do more harm than good over the long term.

3.) Reformers should have a clear vision for how their reforms actually improve classroom instruction.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with this blog’s readers?

I’m afraid I’ve said too much already. It’s such an honor to be interviewed by you. Thanks so much for the opportunity.

Thanks, Claus!