Wednesday, January 6, 2010

One to One Schools

The Maine Thing About 1-to-1 Computing

1 to 1 Schools Blog

One to One Institute (Ning)

District Administration: Are One-to-One Laptop Programs Worth the Investment?

Steve Hargadon: The Truth about 1:1 Laptop Progams

The End of Techno-Critique: The Naked Truth about 1:1 Laptop Initiatives and Educational Change by Mark E. Weston and Alain Bain

Personal Information in 2010

Digital Natives
Steve Hargadon: Facebook's Data About Us: Mind-boggling and Scary


Should Education Be a Race?

"The economic motive has always figured in the spread of mass education in the United States, but recently it has predominated, edging out all the other reasons we send kids to school: civic, social, ethical, developmental." ~ Mike Rose

There is big money involved in the federal education grant program, Race to the Top (RttT). States across the land, including Maine, are scrambling to pass legislation that will put them in contention for an infusion of funding. The requirements are:

--Turn around the lowest-achieving schools.

--Create competitive academic standards and tests that prepare students for college and the work force.

--Build data systems to track students from grade to grade.

--Connect teacher and principal salaries to student performance.

--Loosen caps on charter schools.

Question: Are we selling our souls for money?

President Dwight Eisenhower had the following to say about local control of education:

"A distinguishing characteristic of our nation — and a great strength — is the development of our institutions within the concept of individual worth and dignity. Our schools are among the guardians of that principle. Consequently . . . and deliberately their control and support throughout our history have been — and are — a state and local responsibility. . . . Thus was established a fundamental element of the American public school system — local direction by boards of education responsible immediately to the parents of children. Diffusion of authority among tens of thousands of school districts is a safeguard against centralized control and abuse of the educational system that must be maintained. We believe that to take away the responsibility of communities and states in educating our children is to undermine not only a basic element of our freedoms but a basic right of our citizens."

In the end, does more data ever improve our lives? See Neil Postman's "Informing Ourselves to Death."

" . . . It is all the same: There is no escaping from ourselves. The human dilemma is as it has always been, and we solve nothing fundamental by cloaking ourselves in technological glory." ~ Postman

Do we want corporations and technocrats to determine how and what our children learn? See the Common Core State Standards Initiative and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Check out who is - and who isn't - on the boards.

When it comes to turning around lowest-achieving schools and connecting teacher and principal pay to student performance, have we forgotten about this side of the equation:

What are your thoughts?

Related Links:

How to Create Workers, Not Citizens - the Frustrated Teacher
Bridging Differences: The New Era of Greed
NEA: Race to the Top = The Demise of Teaching
Schools Matter: Calling Out Harvard's Graduate School of Education

Reforms of Least Resistance
All Innovation Short of Charter Schools
Starting to Race to the Top

Monday, January 4, 2010

Comparing State Math Standards

By Pam Kenney

Beginning this month I will be part of a group that will review the K-12 Common Core Math Standards. The standards come from the Common Core State Standards Initiative, “a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief School State Officers.” Their purpose is to delineate the knowledge and skills students should acquire to succeed in both college and workforce training programs. Rigorous content and the application of knowledge through high-order skills, international benchmarks, and an insistence on evidence- and/or research-based criteria are their hallmarks.

To prepare for my role in the review process, I have spent many hours the past three weeks reading and thinking about the K-8 math standards from several states. To date, I’ve pored over standards from Massachusetts, California, Indiana, Washington, and Maine. I chose Massachusetts because it has had the highest NAEP fourth and eighth grade math scores in the nation for the last several years, Maine because it’s my home state, and the others because they were recommended to me as examples of states with particularly strong standards. As I read the state documents, I compared the broad strands that organize their mathematical content, the concepts under each strand, and the more specific skills that guide day-to-day classroom instruction.

All the states have basically the same strands through the eighth grade, although they may be grouped in different ways. The five strands in the Massachusetts document are representative: Number Sense and Operations; Patterns, Relations, and Algebra; Geometry; Measurement; and Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability. The concepts related to the strands are similar, too. For example, the first concept listed under the strand “Number Sense” in California’s Grade Two standards is “Students understand the relationship between numbers, quantities, and place value in whole numbers up to 1,000.” All the state standards I read had a similar concept.

The final and most detailed level of the states’ K-8 standards encompasses the specific skills that students must acquire over a one- or two-year period. And it is here that significant differences among the states appear. Some states write their standards using verbs such as “count’, “identify”, “know”, and “compare”, which allow the standards to be measured objectively. Others employ “understand” and “use.” How states teach addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts under the “Number Sense and Operations” strand is particularly noteworthy. In Massachusetts, California, Indiana, and Washington students are required to memorize facts through 10 or 12. In Maine, fact mastery is not required by its Maine Learning Results’ standards. In Maine, students learn a variety of methods to solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems, and the use of standard algorithms is not mandated. In the other state standards I read, children must learn standard algorithms, although several methods for solving problems are taught, too.

The use of technology differs among the states, also. In Maine, for example, calculators are an integral part of elementary school math instruction, and students can use them daily to solve problems as well as on standardized tests. In other states, such as Massachusetts, students “learn how to perform thoroughly the basic arithmetic operations independent of the use of a calculator.” In addition, the fourth and sixth grade state assessments in Massachusetts do not allow the use of calculators.

Overall, I found significant differences among the state standards I read. Maine is intensely focused on its students acquiring a thorough understanding of concepts and procedures, so focused that it allows technology to compensate for the absence of basic fact mastery. Massachusetts, California, Indiana, and Washington have math standards that offer an excellent balance between understanding concepts and fluent computation. Massachusetts has the highest test scores in the nation. Maine’s math scores, though, are higher than California’s, Indiana’s, and Washington’s.

I’d love to be able to write that I’ve drawn some far-reaching conclusions from my reading of the five different state standards. I can’t do that, but I have decided that balanced standards will help our nation produce better math students in the future than we are producing today. Standards that are clear, detailed, rigorous, and measurable and that require fluency in basic computational skills, an understanding of mathematical concepts, and the acquisition of problem-solving skills that focus on reasoning, communicating, and connecting are what we should strive for. As I review the K-12 Common Core Math Standards, that’s what I’ll be looking for.

Verbs for Learning Series: Predicting

Making Predictions at LIM Resources