Education Readings May 15th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

This week’s homework!

What Happens When Students Boycott a Standardized Test?

“These protests should also serve as a reminder for decision-makers that parents and students are stakeholders in education policy and that community outreach must be part of any reform. Just as third-grade students need to explain why, for example, three-fourths equals six-eighths on the PARCC, education leaders should also answer the “why?” question: Why should students take standardized tests?”

In Australia, a School Designed to Excite and Engage

There are still beacons amongst the gloom…

“From the outside, Wooranna Park, built in 1971, looks boxy and old school. That impression changes as soon as you step inside and see that the original walls and halls have been moved and reconfigured. There’s room here for all kinds of learning — individual, collaborative, hands on, digital. Children and teachers move from space to space throughout the day, depending on the situation or activity.”

The 10 Biggest Breakthroughs in the Science of Learning

“While we still have a long way to go before we truly unravel all the mysteries the brain has to offer, scientists have been making some major breakthroughs that have gone a long way in explaining both how the brain functions and how we use it to organize, recall, and acquire new information. Here, we list just a few of the biggest and most impactful of these breakthroughs that have contributed to our understanding of the science of learning.”

Can reading comprehension be taught?

“Can reading comprehension be taught? In this blog post, I’ll suggest that the most straightforward answer is “no.” Reading comprehension strategies (1) don’t boost comprehension per se; (2) do indirectly help comprehension but; (3) don’t need to be practiced. Let me elaborate on these claims.”

Teaching Reading: No Magic Wand Required 

“Teaching children to read seems to be a mystery to everyone except primary school teachers. Someone recently asked: Is it true that it is not necessarily a teacher’s job to teach children to read? Is our job to give them the skills to make them better readers? Does any teacher have the time to teach all their students to read?”

The knowledge economy is neither

These days we are bombarded with the phrase ‘knowledge economy.’ This article deconstructs that.

“The knowledge economy is about extracting as much goods and services from the people who do the actual work of extracting what we need.”

Education Reformers Are So Gullible

This article is applicable all over.

“The thing voters need to ask themselves is: Who do they believe has the best interests of their child in mind more — the person who interacts with them every day and is part of their local community, or the corporate CEO 500 miles away who answers to an unelected board and investors? Because right now, the only ones really benefiting from the litany of education reform sweeping the nation are the corporations.”

Sir Ken Robinson: ‘The education system is a dangerous myth’

More from Sir Ken’s latest book.

“The issue in a nutshell is this: most developed countries did not have mass systems of public education much before the mid-19th century. These systems were developed to meet the labour needs of the Industrial Revolution and they are organised on the principles of mass production. The standards movement is allegedly focused on making these systems more efficient and accountable. The problem is that these systems are inherently unsuited to the wholly different circumstances of the 21st century.”

This week’s contributions from Bruce Hammonds:

Most states lacked expertise to improve worst schools

Bruce’s comment: So much for top down school change! After all the money and compliance requirement one third of schools showed no change (on standardised tests I presume) and one third got worse.

“Although turning around the worst schools was a priority for nearly every state, most did not have the staff, technology and expertise to pull those schools out of the bottom rankings, according to a brief released Tuesday by the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Education Department.”

7 Ways to Use Technology With Purpose

“In order to make sure you are using technology the right way, you must first “start with why”. If your students understand the “why” behind your technology use, then the class will have a purpose and technological glitches and issues can be worked through. If they don’t understand the “why” then any small issue could turn into a major problem.”

21 Fun (and Simple) Formative Assessment Tool

“Eyes bugging out when looking at endless lists of formative assessment strategies? Head spinning trying to figure out which one to use? Like a good librarian, we’ve put things in order to help you find what you’re looking for. First, we will define the characteristics of effective formative assessment. Then we will give examples of the quickest no-nonsense (and fun) formative assessment tools.”

Characteristics Of A Culture of Learning

Bruce’s comment: An excellent run through of the elements that contribute to a positive learning culture. How does your school/class stack up?

“Schooling is a system designed to move students from one grade to the next. Once students earn enough high school credits, they are rewarded with a high school diploma. Schooling focuses on teaching, while a Culture of Learning focuses on the whole child and student understanding.”

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Howard Gardner – developing a disciplined mind

Bruce’s comment: Gardner’s ideas of the disciplined mind continues Perkin’s ideas of in depth learning. Gardner calls ‘the disciplined mind’ a mind that knows how to work steadily over time to improve skill and understanding ad writes, ‘Without at least one discipline under his belt, the individual is destined to march to someone else’s tune.’

“Rather than the current diversion of focusing on literacy and numeracy, with its inevitable consequence of narrowing the curriculum, schools should get back to providing Perkin’s ‘threshold experiences’ so as to develop disciplined  minds and the gifts and talents of all their students. With such gifts firmly in place students will be equipped to make a positive contribution to whatever areas of learning/occupation that have attracted their attention.”

Guy Claxton – building learning power.

Bruce’s comment: More on the theme of real learning from Guy Claxton. Both teachers and students need, according to Guy Claxton, to know what habits of mind ( learning muscles) that they need to exercise, stretch and strengthen. These ‘learning power’ capacities need to be part of all learning. They must be a permeate of the culture of the school. ‘Messages’ that learning power is important ought to be obvious to all.

“At centre is the belief that all students can develop their learning power? How do your students see their ability – one one fixed by birth and set for life ( a ‘fixed bucket’) or one that can be continually expanded ( a ‘learning muscle’). The ‘mindset’ a student holds will effect all their future learning – or non learning.”

Advice from David Perkins to make learning whole

“’Play the whole game’ not fragmented bits says David Perkins.The problem Perkins says is there is too much problem solving  teachers problems and not enough problem finding – or figuring out often ‘messy’ open ended investigations.’Playing the whole game’ is the solution resulting in some sort of inquiry or performance. It is not just about content but getting better at things, it requires thinking with what you know to go further, it is about finding explanations and justifications.It involves curiosity, discovery, creativity, and camaraderie. It is not just discovery learning – it needs strong guidance gradually faded back.”

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