Education Readings November 17th

By Allan Alach

Now that the curse of national standards is being removed from New Zealand education, the way is clear for schools and teachers to really let loose. Bruce Hammonds’ two articles on Elwyn Richardson provide a really good insight into this teaching genius of the 1950s, whose work is very relevant today in the post national standards world.

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

The Northland school teaching with art

‘There is a place for the arts in the teaching of all subjects across the curriculum. Teaching becomes lively and fun; children are ‘doing’ rather than sitting, and the classroom becomes an environment where students love to learn. This is a simple definition of ‘arts integration’ which is being researched by educators globally: A small school in Northland has taken the ideas on board and the results are proving remarkable.’

http://bit.ly/2ARsCmX

Teaching to Forget

Much of the ‘learning’ children do at school each day is gone by the time they walk out of the school gate…

‘The truth that we all know but are loathe to discuss is that the vast majority of what kids “learn” in our classrooms will soon be forgotten. We know this because we ourselves forgot the vast majority of what we learned in classrooms when we were in school.

And the other truth that we don’t want to admit is that the grades that we give that are supposed to show what a student has “learned” are pretty meaningless considering that student will forget most of the “learning” once the grade is given.’

http://bit.ly/2APqf41

Engaging Practice: Making in English Language Arts

Use creative technology tools to engage struggling readers and writers.

‘Creative multimedia tools allow for multiple forms of representation, providing an opportunity for students to demonstrate understanding while practicing literacy skills through writing (text), reading (audio), and illustration (picture walks and visualization). “When students publish their own books, you tap into their innate desire for recognition as they learn to connect to literature, play with language, and beam with pride at their accomplishments,” shares California educator Linda Oaks.’

http://bit.ly/2hCDOib

It’s Time for a New Core Curriculum

‘If we were starting the American school system from scratch today, knowing what skills our students will need, we could change the subjects and not base them on what big-time publishers want us to focus on with our students.  Building on some of the great work from FutureReady.org, the ISTE NETS for Students and keeping in mind those most desired future job skills from above, I would propose the development of the following 7 courses for every student:’

http://bit.ly/2hCjJcb

6 Strategies For Dealing With ‘Difficult’ Students

‘As a new school year approaches, the guidance offered by six “pillars” can help you stay at the top of your game by dramatically influencing even your most challenging students to want to behave and achieve. Each pillar is explained followed by a few hands-on suggestions. Add or substitute other methods within each pillar to reflect your style and preference.’

http://bit.ly/2zGhCLq

A Surprising Strategy Makes Kids Persevere at Boring Tasks

‘With the onset of early childhood and attending preschool, increased demands are placed on the self-regulatory skills of kids. Children need to start completing tasks that may be much less interesting than the myriad of entertaining distractions around them. Researchers have been interested in how to develop self-control and perseverance in children by teaching them tactics like averting their attention away from distractions.’

http://bit.ly/2hEzJtY

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Use Einstein’s Educational Philosophy to Boost Your Learning

‘Although he overall did well in school, Einstein was skeptical of the schooling system and strongly disliked academia’s restrictions on learning. Here are 10 things we can learn from Albert Einstein about school and education: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”’

http://bit.ly/2zE8neB

Why This Second Grade Handout Should Be Your New Creative Manifesto

‘Last week, I attended curriculum night at my daughter’s school. In discussing the things the kids will be learning this year, the teachers handed us the chart above. My first thought was, what an amazing thing to give a bunch of second graders. I am sharing it with you. I feel like this is as good a guideline for a creative department I’ve ever seen. A simple chart for all teachers at all levels.’

http://bit.ly/2A1c0vP

How This School Library Increased Student Use by 1,000 Percent

‘To adapt to changing student needs, some school libraries are reinventing themselves as makerspaces, but this Ohio library took a slightly different approach. Now they’re seeing incredible results. A library as a place where students did hands-on work, an extension of what was happening their classrooms toward more personalized learning.’

http://bit.ly/2yKi9rO

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

What’s the Point of School?

What’s the Point of School asks Guy Claxton

‘The purpose of education’ Claxton writes, is to prepare young people for the future.Schools should be helping Young people to develop the capacities they will need to thrive.What they need and want, is the confidence to talk to strangers, to try things out, to handle tricky situations, to stand up for themselves, to ask for help, to think new thoughts’ ‘This is not to much to ask’, says Claxton, ‘but they are not getting it.’

http://bit.ly/2p5BukY

Reclaiming the joy of learning 

and also

A new inspirational book about Elwyn Richardson – New Zealand’s pioneer teacher

Two articles about the great NZ teacher Elwyn Richardson that all teachers should read.

‘What matters is a curriculum that places children’s natural curiosity at the heart, so that they are encouraged to explore who they are and the world around them.This is evident in Elwyn’s use of an integrated curriculum, focusing on intriguing questions that motivated children to pursue avenues of enquiry. He encouraged the freedom to explore, the opportunity to observe closely, and the discipline to record findings in various ways. He also upheld the value of the arts as a vivid means of expression and not secondary to other subjects. He also realised that one subject informs another; that scientific understanding is enhanced by the aesthetic, and vice versa.’

http://bit.ly/2zMetXW

http://bit.ly/2ijzjXb

Looking back

Dr Beeby and the first Labour Government set an example for today

‘Today teachers need to look back to ideas that have been sidelined by the imposition of the current technocratic curriculums of the 90s and to appreciate that it is these curriculums that have caused our current confusion and distress. Dr Beeby believed in a creative role for education. He reminded those present in 1983 that the most important thing realized about education in the previous decades had been the discovery of the individual child. It is not that individuality wasn’t appreciated earlier but that the school system was based on a mass education vision which made realizing such an idea impossible.’

http://bit.ly/1sPo0SY

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Education Readings October 13th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

More than bricks and mortar: A critical examination of school property under the National-led Government

An article I posted last week referenced an article by Dr Leon Benade, School of Education, Auckland University of Technology. Here is Leon’s full article.

‘Teachers are largely unprepared for flexible learning spaces that bring together multiple teachers and students (see my earlier blog on MLE/ILE). These (enforced) changes require students to master new learning habits and routines, while parents’ most recent school memory may have been of sitting in rows or possibly in grouped desks, in so-called ‘single cell’ classrooms with one teacher and no more than 30 or 35 students. So, where has this policy come from, and what does it look like in action?’

http://bit.ly/2yZqQyg

Is Math Art? Dream or Nightmare?

‘I was blown away by this remarkable (and strangely empowering) critique about math education:  how we view it as a culture; how teachers are teaching it (or not teaching it); how and why some students struggle with it; how some students who apparently “get it” don’t; how parents perceive it; how testing may not be showing us what we want to know, and how we can change math education for the better.’

http://bit.ly/2xzU7mI

FORCE & FLUNK: Destroying a Child’s Love of Reading—and Their Life

‘A frenzy surrounding reading is caused by school reformers and the media, claiming children are not learning to read fast enough. Kindergarten is the new first grade, automatically making preschool the new kindergarten. If we aren’t careful, obstetricians will show newborns an alphabet chart immediately after babies are born! We’re told that reading is an emergency, and if it’s not addressed by reading programs produced by individuals, companies, and technology, children won’t learn to read—and they won’t be ready for the global economy.’

http://bit.ly/2zh6NMv

Most everything you need to know about creativity

‘It is about knowing what and how to observe and directing your attention accordingly: what details do you focus on? What details do you omit? And how do you take in and capture those details that you do choose to zoom in on? In other words, how do you maximize your brain attic’s potential? …Everything we choose to notice has the potential to become a future furnishing of our attics.’

http://bit.ly/2gb0jdo

Stop Forcing Introverts To Speak In Class. There Are Better Ways.

‘Class participation is often a significant portion of a student’s grade, and I have felt pressured to force myself to speak in order to meet the participation requirements, as do many introverts. But I was fortunate to have a teacher who offered an alternative, and I strongly encourage other teachers to do the same. How can a teacher recognize an introverted student and support him or her?’

http://bit.ly/2g2etd9

What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?

‘Negative consequences, timeouts, and punishment just make bad behavior worse. But a new approach really works.’

http://bit.ly/2xyX6vM

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Malcolm Dixon: Time to discuss primary school education

‘I don’t know if anyone else noticed but primary school education was seldom mentioned throughout the election campaign and yet for everyone with children or grandchildren education plays an extremely important part in their lives. Why didn’t the Government mention it? In my opinion it was the legacy of the Parata regime and there is very little to celebrate and the current minister is completely out of touch with reality.’

http://bit.ly/2kHTQYU

This Is What Teachers Need And Aren’t Getting

‘An important category of educators: teachers with a high level of professional freedom will be extinct by 2033 if the current rate of loss continues. Like most endangered creatures, their habitat is threatened. When you were a child they were present in every city and town in the United States, but now their world has changed. They can be found only in rare, hospitable environments’

http://bit.ly/2xA7j6k

Raising the bar with flexible grouping

‘Professor Christine Rubie-Davies, a leading researcher in the field of teacher expectations, is based at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work. In this blog Christine challenges the practice of grouping students by ability, arguing that it constrains learning.’

http://bit.ly/2i6fTYu

We Need to Trust Teachers to Innovate

‘If we want to see innovation happening in our schools, we need to trust, encourage, and empower teachers to transform their practice. Too often, teachers are forced to teach inside the box and it can feel frustrating. In this post, I explore why teachers are the innovators, what’s getting in the way, and what we can do about it.’

http://bit.ly/2kIbcVv

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Einstein, Darwin, da Vinci & Mozart et all – lessons from the Masters. Based on the book ‘Mastery’ by Robert Greene.

An education to develop the gifts and talents of all students.

‘Developing an education system premised on developing the talents and gifts of all students has always been my vision. Unfortunately schooling has been more about standardisation and conformity – sorting and grading of students. National Standards with its emphasis on literacy and numeracy at the expense of other areas of endeavour, is the most recent iteration of this standardised approach.’

http://bit.ly/1ru4wpP

Does your classroom have the ‘wow’ factor?

The first sign of ‘wow’ is the overall first impression the room gives you. The feeling you get is that you are indeed in special place. There is a feeling of positive relationships between teacher and learners and often parents are to be seen quietly helping students. Other students seem to be working without supervision. A quick look around the walls, covered with students creativity gives an impression that this is a room dedicated to the students themselves.’

http://bit.ly/1FxlCvx

Kelvin Smythe: “Some terrible things have been perpetrated – close to evil.”

I have tried to point out that the prevailing neoliberal political climate in Australia induces our elected ‘masters’ to use totalitarian methods based on fear and coercion to try to force others to do as they want them to do, without reason. Some terrible things have been perpetrated.  Teachers, parents and school pupils appear to suffer the indignities calmly, but all is not well. As a reaction to this quasi-fascist political  mind-set, they is no spirit at the chalk face and everybody suffers….kids, parents, teachers.  The reaction to such low-level, fear-based managerial tactics is such that absolute rejection of high-stakes testing is on the cards. Ethical professionals can only tolerate  so much.
Fellow primary school advocate,  Kelvin Smythe, highly respected Kiwi commentator and former Chief Inspector, had written  “Some Terrible Things That Have Been Perpetrated – Close to Evil’  about  New Zealand circumstances that closely resemble what is happening in its ANZAC cobber. 
With his permission, I have adapted his germane paper to apply directly to Australian conditions. I have merely changed any NZ references to Aussie ones. It suits neatly; and since he is much more erudite that I am, I strongly commend your close and critical attention to his advices.  Interested educators can compare his original paper with what I have done to it to suit Australian conditions.
Phil.
Some terrible things have been perpetrated – close to evil
Kelvin Smythe
If the media and the Australian people were able to comprehend the terrible things that have been perpetrated on their primary teachers they would be taken aback. And now it is coming to a head. 
 
If school education is not run in good faith between teachers and politicians then school education will fail – and is failing. Teachers will never be in a position to counter the simplistic, bad faith, distorted arguments of politicians bent on implementing secret agendas. The policies imposed on teachers, when they fail, as is inevitable, will soon see politicians frenetically hide the failures: hermetically sealing off education with propaganda, statistical corruption, and a ruthless programme of Kafkan fear. But because the agendas are so ideologically embedded, further policies from these are reflexively returned to. These will be characterised by more hierarchy, more imposition (only minor details up for discussion), and more levels of bureaucracy.  This is the way we are, as is what follows.
Teachers in the interests of children and their professional integrity are committed to an open-minded consideration of education issues. That means any engagement with politicians  working from a secret agenda, will fail. Teachers will make no headway against the full propaganda weight of the politicians who deal in simplistic messages expressed in abstract nonsenses, lies, distortions, non sequiturs, and evasions. Words have flowed in a near impenetrable disgorgement of arrogance-laden toxicity; their arguments dependent on a fantastically protected ignorance and an unrelentingly calculated slantedness.
Above all, almost all politicians in Australia have protected themselves from any recognition of the holistic in education. The holistic is detested and feared by the current crop of bureaucrats and politicians because it is based on variety, the free exchange of ideas, and democratic processes. It is also detested and feared because teachers following the holistic do not see children’s learning in the basics as mutually exclusive of getting children to think flexibly and imaginatively. The holistic would turn primary education away from ghettoising less able children to an exclusive basics’ curriculum, and what is not generally appreciated, restricting the more able children to largely the same.
If written at a certain level, in describing and accounting for this, few references to education need be made, the issues involved being central to the functioning of all societies: the nature of power and democracy, authority, authoritarianism. (Note: authority is used for the combination of political and bureaucratic power.) In relation to primary school education, power is increasingly being exercised as an end, not for the declared beneficial purposes; authority as an end with other considerations secondary; authority degenerating into authoritarianism using the cover of acting in the public good.
This is necessarily a judgement because authority has, of course, presented what they were doing as intended to meet the declared beneficial purposes. However, the real but undeclared purpose by those currently wielding authority is that power needs to be increased not only for the declared beneficial purposes but also for future unspecified ‘beneficial’ use. This is a formula for degeneration into authoritarianism encouraging authority to play a cunning short game in the interests of an unrelenting long one. The cunning short game providing an excuse for those who want to yield to authority.  
Authority has the power to lie, distort, and propagandise with impunity; to promote delusion based on a default desire to trust authority for the comfort of conforming and thoughtlessness; and to promote delusion relying on ignorance or lack of imagination.
This I suggest has occurred to a devastating extent.
The leaders of groups appointed to be voices for the people, including political parties, are not immune to this process, many becoming oppressors of the people they were put there to represent.
This I suggest has occurred to a devastating extent.
 Authority, through propaganda and status, is able to control the collective will and use it as a blanketing sanction. And as authority gains dominance, and the democratic means to oppose reduced accordingly – easily observable expressions of force diminish, and voluntary compliance to meet authority goals takes their place. Fear of authority is sublimated to allow constructed compliance even co-operation. Moral and ethical challenges, as a result, are no longer posed, conformity to authority entrenched, and democracy cast as inefficient.
This I suggest has occurred to a devastating extent.
Bureaucracies or quasi bureaucratic adjuncts (privatised entities) are the instruments for applying authoritarian sanctions, being able to retreat into themselves to become impenetrable for anyone seeking redress and impersonal for anyone seeking explanation. As well, no bureaucracy has ever abolished itself, only transformed itself, to avoid the heat or to take an even more dangerous form. 
This I suggest has occurred to a devastating extent. 
Primary education is so complex, far more than secondary, that to explain it satisfactorily needs time and a willingness in the listener to genuinely listen. Primary education has the answers to the questions being asked but neither authority nor the media is listening because to listen would give respect and a degree of power to teachers. Authority is also not listening because it is intent on scapegoating teachers so that it can impose its own ideologically-based ‘answers’ for power and ideological advantage.
For curriculum change to succeed there needs to be the opportunity for a free exchange of curriculum ideas and the freedom for teachers to colonise the curriculum – but teachers do not feel free to exchange ideas or colonise curricula, they are made to follow rigidly the official standardised line. A stern eye is kept out for deviancy. There is now, no official national curriculum only national standards. There is only one way to teach, that is in measurable fragments with fiddly objectives of various nomenclatures attached.
NAPLAN’s control of the curriculum brings children’s learning down to a level politicians and bureaucrats  can understand, and provides them with the perfect blunt instrument to control schools and trivialise the curriculum.
And what is an explanation of the holistic?
The holistic curriculum is about a combination of knowledges – teacher and academic; about the interaction of the affective and cognitive; about teaching and learning being organised by broad aims (assisted by criteria that can be considered converted objectives); about those broad aims being an expression of the essence of curriculum areas; about a broadly-based curriculum encompassing the wide range of human experience; about learning being meaningful, exploratory, and challenging (hence the attention to discovery learning and problem solving); about learning being open to the transformational and sensitive to the immanent; about learning being coherent and organic not fragmented and desultory; about teachers having considerable individuality of response within the broad school aims; about children having significant control over what and how they learn; about evaluation practices being proportionate to that which is educationally important (to the holistic); about all learning being quality learning; about attending to individual needs through a combination of class learning set up for individuality of response and one-to-one teaching; about class and school practices, for instance, evaluation, and group learning being learning enhancing (hence the emphasis on observational evaluation and group learning being mainly mixed ability); and about protecting and enhancing the crucial bond and trust between classroom teacher and child.
What parent wouldn’t want this kind of education for their children?
The NAPLAN-based curriculum in being about the measurable, does not fit with the affective; the holistic curriculum in being expansive fits with it perfectly. The NAPLAN-controlled curriculum is instrumental; the holistic curriculum is democratic and participatory. The NAPLAN-controlled curriculum implies certainty and someone who knows; the holistic curriculum implies openness and collective exploration about what is known. The test-based  curriculum because it implies certainty and someone who knows leads to a hermetic system based on fear and dependence; the holistic curriculum because it implies openness leads to continuous exploration based on trust and independence. The NAPLAN curriculum is hierarchical and standardising; the holistic curriculum is democratic and characterised by variety.
Because NAPLAN is about hierarchy, certainty, and standardising – it means no variance and it means compulsion. Because the holistic is about valuing variety, about democratic, participatory relationships – the holistic means the freedom to be holistic not the requirement to be so.
The managerialist restructuring of primary education based on the national standards curriculum is about hierarchy of the sort that functions on the belief it knows; it knows how education works, how it can be organised and standardised into unproblematic and manageable parts, made utterly assured in its mission by the ideas of quantitative academics who also know. A holistic restructuring of education based on teacher knowledge, on commonsense through informed experience, on the value of variety in education, on education as part of life in a social democracy, on identifying the essences of curriculum areas (guided by the competencies), on a commitment to abroad-based curriculum, and on teaching and leadership being significantly an art.
Dominating the current education system is the neo-liberal concept of the need to avoid provider capture. This concept, developed from the ideas of Ayn Rand, interprets human behaviour as based on the pursuit of self-advantage and society being the better for it. The effect has been to hand school education over to those with little or no experience in school education and to make the education system authoritarian by design – power forever shifting upwards. Education is certainly not the better for it.
 These new people are doing terrible things to primary school education, their consciences protected by their ignorance and that ignorance by their arrogance. What use to talk of the holistic to these people, of the subtleties, for instance, of bringing early readers along? They no doubt think we are talking gibberish. Their confidence in their understanding of education – always narrow, fragmented, and constructed for measurement – bolstered by quantitative academics flown in for the purpose. The effect has been the process described by Orwell: the past bad-mouthed, neglected, pushed aside, verboten, and forgotten – to the devastation of the present; and hopelessness of the future.
In what other major agency of state, as a matter of policy, would there be a concerted effort to appoint people to high position with little or no knowledge or experience of that agency’s central function. 
What I want to ask these people is, as parents, would you want your children to attend primary schools as they are presently functioning or to go to schools that are holistically based? Are you so caught up in the bureaucratic madness that you lost your moral bearings? (I suggest you google: Vanessa Redgrave and violin.)
The following long paragraph is an example of the toxic combination of lies, false statistics, and secret agenda referred to. The length of the paragraph is figurative for the growing stain of evil and corruption spreading throughout primary education.
There is the intense political pressure for results encouraging secondary schools to advise children to move into less challenging units; also to use internal exams in a way that virtually excludes failure. And one of the reasons many children can’t do challenging units is because for the last two decades flexible thinking has virtually been excluded from the primary curriculum. There is the intense pressure on primary schools via league tables for ever-improving results which encourages a very liberal interpretation of children’s test performances; there being no moderation policies in place. In other words, the system is set up for corrupted results.This leads on to charter schools producing corrupted results by the same process but even worse because there is no supervision at all by official agencies, just a group appointed by ministry with, of course, no interest in probing rigorously. This corruption of results has a sinister purpose because charter schools are being set up as a platform to denigrate public schools with a view to eventual privatisation of public education expected . As for primary charter schools, they are being set up as lavishly funded private public schools, an oasis of privilege, in a desert of poverty. These charter schools will be able to attract certain children, while being able to exclude others. Some public schools have a 100% turnover of children every three years or even less. Such children will not be accepted into charter schools even in the unlikely circumstance of them applying. The charter schools will have much lower teacher to children ratios and more funding for computers and other resources placing the local public schools at a further disadvantage. The huge unfairness of attracting likely better children to charter schools will have the effect of ghettoising the public schools leaving them shorn of the better performing ones. The role of the government is not to privilege some publically funded schools to the disadvantage of others. This is unfair and morally bankrupt. But calumny on calumny, the corrupted results from the charter schools will then be used to cast a slur on all public schools, to demoralising effect.
The present system is held together by fear and a world view of education based on lies and false statistics. Everything (New Zealand Minister of Education Hekia Parata says is a lie except when she uses the truth to help in the formation of one.

Ground-breaking News

Treehorn Express

 

First Country to Care about Curriculum

Scrap National Testing

 

New Zealand Cares for Kids

 

New Zealand is having its election on Saturday, 20 September. The two major parties are the National Party and the Labour Party. The National Party is currently in power.

The Labour Party has released its educational policy.Click link:

 NZ Labour Party Policy

The National Party had introduced National Standards, a series of tests that have the same deleterious effect on the school curriculum as does NCLB in the U.S., Standards in the U.K., and NAPLAN in Australia. The crippling effects on each country’s curriculum direction have been profound; and has allowed various kinds of gimmickry, such as Charter Schools, to develop. Serious Kiwi educationists, proud of NZ’s great heritage in the conduct of schooling, have had enough.

The policy states that Labour will:

  • scrap National Standards and return schools’ focus back to teaching the full breadth of New Zealand’s internationally acclaimed curriculum.
  • simplify ERO reports so that parents have access to quality, reliable information on their school’s performance.
  • repeal legislation allowing for the establishment of charter schools that don’t have to employ qualified, registered teachers.

This is the first major political party in the world to express its concern about curriculum devastation caused by Standardised Blanket Testing. Wonderful news.

If your politics is non-aligned; if you care about kids at school; if you care about the mental health of children generally; you will wish the NZ Labour Party all the very best. God bless its efforts.

World educators wishes them well. There will be millions watching with fingers crossed.

_________________________________________________
Phil Cullen […..praying for NZLP] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486 07 5524 6443 cphilcullen@bigpond.com

Holistic or SBTs?

Holistic or SBT Curriculum?

By Phil Cullen

Kelvin Smythe leading educator from New Zealand, recently wrote a definitive article called “Some terrible things have been perpetrated – close to evil. Please make sure that you read it….over and over.

All world teachers should read it carefully. He refers, in the text, to ‘national standards’, the New Zealand version of Standardised Blanket Testing [SBT], known as ‘NAPLAN’ in Australia; as ‘No Child Left Behind’ in the USA; and ‘Standards’ in the UK. His title fits any system that relies on testucation rather that education and, so, I have dared to substitute the word ‘NAPLAN’ for ‘national standards’ in my extract below… because I’m a proud Aussie primary school teacher. I’m proud to be, in Smythe terms, one of those “Teachers [who work] in the interests of children and professional integrity, committed to an open-minded consideration of educational issues.”

Those of us who worry about kids, suggests Smythe, “…will make no headway against the full propaganda weight of the politicians who deal in simplistic messages expressed in abstract nonsense, lies, distortions, non sequiturs and evasions…..Their words have flowed in a near impenetrable disengagement of arrogance-laden toxicity; their arguments dependent on a fantastically protected ignorance and an unrelentingly calculated slantedness.”

Maybe.

The object of this edition of The Treehorn Express is to highlight Kelvin Smythe’s explanation of a system, based on an holistic curriculum and a NAPLAN [Please excuse, K.S.] one.

It is so appropriate for Australian educators at present; as the general curriculum is under review.

 HOLISTIC CURRICULUM

“The holistic curriculum is about a combination of knowledges – teachers and academic; about the interaction of the affective and cognitive;

about teaching and learning being organised by broad aims [assisted by criteria that can be considered converted objectives];

about those broad aims being an expression of the essence of curriculum areas;

about a broadly-based curriculum encompassing the wide range of human experience;

about learning being meaningful, exploratory, and challenging [hence the attention to discovery learning and problem solving];

about learning being open to the transformational and sensitive to the immanent;

about learning being coherent and organic not fragmented and desultory;

about teachers having considerable individuality of response within the broad school aims;

about children having significant control over what and how they learn;

about evaluation practices being proportionate to that which is educationally important [to the holistic’]

about all learning being quality learning;

about attending to individual needs through a combination of class learning set up for individuality or response and one-to-one teaching;

about class and school practices, for instance, evaluation, and group learning being learning enhancing [hence the emphasis on observational evaluation and group learning being mainly mixed ability]; and

about protecting and enhancing the crucial bond and trust between classroom teacher and child.

What parent wouldn’t want this kind of education for their children?

NAPLAN CURRICULUM

The NAPLAN curriculum is about the measurable which does not fit with the affective; the holistic curriculum, in being expansive, fits it perfectly.

The NAPLAN curriculum is instrumental; the holistic curriculum is democratic and participatory.

The NAPLAN curriculum implies certainty and someone who knows; the holistic curriculum imples openness and collective exploration about what is known.

The NAPLAN curriculum , because it implies certainty and someone who knows, leads to a hermetic system based on fear and dependence.

the holistic curriculum, because it implies openness, leads to continuous exploration based on trust and independence.

The NAPLAN curriculum is hierarchical and standardising; the holistic curriculum is democratic and characterised by variety.

Because the NAPLAN curriculum is about hierarchy, certainty and standardising – this means no variance and it mean compulsion.

Because the holistic is about variety, about democracy and participatory relationships – the holistic means the freedom to be holistic not the requirement to be so.”

Read more from Kelvin Smythe : http://www.networkonnet.co.nz

Thank you, Kelvin Smythe. Let’s hope that your message sinks-in to those who tend to be indifferent to major curriculum issues.

_________________________________________________________

Phil Cullen [….for kids] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point Australia 2486 07 5524 6443 cphilcullen@bigpond.com

Unpacking the sound bite “quality teaching eliminates socioeconomic advantage”

by Dianne Khan

Reposted from Save Our Schools New Zealand

New Zealand Minister of Education Hekia Parata this weekend said that experts had found that four consecutive years of quality teaching eliminated any trace of socio-economic disadvantage.hekia

In her now typical teacher-bashing way, she went on to say “In New Zealand we provide 13 years. You’d think it would not be too much to expect that four of those are good quality.”

Ignoring the snarkiness, just think about what she said:  Four consecutive years of quality teaching eliminates any trace of socio-economic disadvantage.

That’s a mighty big claim.

Where did it come from and does it stand up to scrutiny?

Where did they find their catchy soundbite?

Neither The Southland Times nor Hekia Parata provide a reference for their claim.  You’d think someone making bold statements like that would be more than happy to cite their source, wouldn’t you?

They merely use it to end their article with a flourish.  After all, it sounds good, doesn’t it?  Very catchy. And they’re not alone – many newspapers and online publications including The Boston Globe used the same quote, also with no reference,

Whatever.  I searched on.

A Bit of Digging

A flicker of something I read on Twitter came to mind, and a quick search led me to an article called The economic case for sacking bad teachers.  Nice title.  I felt sure this would be a clear, research-based, unbiased article…digging

The article largely ignores the actual report it is supposedly based on and, indeed, misrepresents its conclusions. But wait!  They manage to get a nice soundbite out of their expert, Eric Hanushek.  I sense he is going to prove interesting.

In the article, Hanushek is quoted as saying:

‘A good teacher can get 1.5 years of learning growth; a bad teacher gets half a year of learning growth.’

The article goes on to say:

Having four consecutive years of high-quality teaching, [Hanushek] says, can eliminate any trace of economic disadvantage. (5)

Leaving the validity of the first of his statements aside, what on earth does that have to do with the 2nd statement?  That is not discussed at all in the OECD paper the article is meant to be about.  Why throw it in?  Did the journalist just find Hanushek’s most famous tidbit and throw it in for good measure?  Who knows.

And again, no reference.

Just an acceptance that this bold statement is fact.

And why would the journalist question it?  It sounds good doesn’t it?  And look at the great headline it gave them.

large_digger

Further Digging

Still no clearer as to where this assertion had come from, I enlisted the combined research abilities of the experts I  know. With their help, I found some very interesting stuff.

Take this quote from Diane Ravitch:

[Eric] Hanushek and Rivkin projected that “having fiveyears of good teachers in a row” (that is, teachers at the 85th percentile) “could overcome the average seventh-grade mathematics achievement gap between lower-income kids (those on the free or reduced-price lunch program) and those from higher-income families. (7)

Ravitch goes on to say that, at the conference where they claims were presented, they were fervently disputed. Richard Rothstein  said they were “misleading and dangerous.” (7)  Criticism continued after the conference, and the debate of the statement’s validity raged.  

New reports came out, suggesting that 3, 4 or 5 years in a row with a good teacher could override the socioeconomic status (SES) of a student.

And despite being incredibly contentious and there being many experts arguing against the claims and plenty of research to say otherwise, it is too good a headline grabber and too utterly irresistible  for journalists.

Ravitch tells us that:

Over a short period of time, this assertion became an urban myth among journalists and policy wonks in Washington, something that “everyone knew.” 

This is the danger.

The sound bite wins the day.

reading-newspaperYour Average Newspaper Reader

Do you think the readers of The Southland Times will stop to wonder how rigorous was the research that lead to that soundbite?

Do you think they will ponder whether it has been challenged?

Do you think they will have eight solid hours and a goodly handful of experts to help them look into it, like I did?

No, me neither.

Luckily, I had the time.  And even more fortuitously, some anti-GERMers with a larger platform that I did, too.

A Fallacy and a Rebuttal

Renowned education expert, Pasi Sahlberg tackled the “four consecutive years of quality teaching” fallacy:

“This assumption presents a view that education reform alone could overcome the powerful influence of family and social environment mentioned earlier. It insists that schools should get rid of low-performing teachers and then only hire great ones. This fallacy has the most practical difficulties.

The first one is about what it means to be a great teacher. Even if this were clear, it would be difficult to know exactly who is a great teacher at the time of recruitment.

The second one is, that becoming a great teacher normally takes five to ten years of systematic practice. And determining the reliably of ‘effectiveness’ of any teacher would require at least five years of reliable data. This would be practically impossible.

Everybody agrees that the quality of teaching in contributing to learning outcomes is beyond question.  It is therefore understandable that teacher quality is often cited as the most important in-school variable influencing student achievement.

But just having better teachers in schools will not automatically improve students’ learning outcomes.” (8)

As Sahlberg says, there are many other factors that lead to students success, and global reforms tend to ignore those that the most successful countries have implemented, namely

“… freedom to teach without the constraints of standardized curricula and the pressure of standardized testing; strong leadership from principals who know the classroom from years of experience as teachers; a professional culture of collaboration; and support from homes unchallenged by poverty.” (8)

Controversial Expert

Eric Hanushek

Eric Hanushek

But back to the original statement.  Who is Eric Hanushek, who made the claim?

Hanushek is an economist. He is not without controversy, and his research methods have been called into question in the past. (6)

However, disputes with his methods and conclusions have not stopped him from promoting his views widely in professional and public media, nor have they prevented the US administration and now our very own Education Minister, Hekia Parata, using his work and his words to justify further education reforms that education experts argue are not in the best interest of students. (3, page 40-42) and (4)

What does Hanushek say makes a Good Teacher?

His measurement of a good teacher is one whose students get high test scores.

One wonders what this means for a teacher of special needs students of lower cognitive ability, or students with English as a second language, or students who have a low educational ethic.  Are those teachers bad because their scores are lower than a teacher with more able students?

It’s a tad disconcerting, isn’t it?

You will have your own ideas on what makes a good teacher.  Anecdotal evidence tells me that for many Kiwi parents, it is more than test results.  I shall tackle this in detail some other time.  Meanwhile, you might want to read this and ponder the issue further.

rich kid poor kidFact or Snappy Sound Bite?

Back to the sound bite, then.

Quality teaching is, of course, of huge importance.  But the best that can be said for the assertion that four consecutive years’ quality teaching eliminates any trace of socio-economic disadvantage is that it is contentious.

Certainly there is evidence out there that supports the view that poverty has an impact on student achievement.  And great teachers are likely to do more than just improve test scores.

One thing I know for sure, though: Whether even the best teachers can completely override the impact of a student’s socioeconomic situation is not something that can or should be tackled by a sound bite.

~ Dianne

With sincere thanks to the many experts who were kind enough to help me today.

References and further reading:

(1) The high cost of low educational performance

(2) The Market for Teacher Quality  Eric A. Hanushek, John F. Kain, Daniel M. O’Brien and Steven G. Rivkin* December 2004

(3) School Reform Proposals: The Research Evidence (Research in Educational Productivity) by Alex Molnar (Mar 1, 2002)

(4) Minister: I don’t like deciles

(5) The economic case for sacking bad teachers – The Spectator

(6) Does Money Matter?  A meta-analysis of studies of the effects of differential school inputs on student outcomes, by Hedges, Laine, and Greenwald (1994)

(7) The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, by Diane Ravitch

(8) What if Finland’s great teachers taught in U.S. schools? by Pasi Sahlberg

(9) The Washington Post – The Answer Sheet – The “three great teachers in a row” myth

(10)  The Boston Globe Gets It Wrong on Teacher Evaluation

Meaningless Debates

by David Hood

Retired after 50 years in education

Career includes 25 years as teacher and principal, Department of Education official, senior manager of ERO, establishment CEO of NZQA and consultant since 1996 – working on range of projects with schools, industry, MoE, Te Wananga o Aotearoa. Author of Our Secondary Schools Don’t Work Anymore [1998].Currently on establishment Board of Tai Wananga, a new model multi-site secondary school.

davidhoodassoc@xtra.co.nz

Debates on (New Zealand’s) National Standards, NCEA (New Zealand secondary school qualifications) , and Charter Schools are likely to continue, and to remain largely meaningless, until as a society we ask and seek to address some more fundamental questions:

  • What is the purpose of schooling in this complex and rapidly changing world?
  • What are the understandings, skills, attitudes and values [or dispositions] our young people need to develop if they are to successfully face the challenges of their futures, and to contribute as productive members of our society and economy?
  • What does this mean in terms of curriculum, teaching and learning, and assessment?
  • How will we know when we are successful?

 To answer these questions we need to have an understanding of history.

 Universal schooling was a response to the emerging mass manufacturing economy of the early part of the 20th century. Its design is now universally described as the factory model because in design and process it reflected the characteristics of the assembly line. Children entered the production line in batches by age and at various points ‘quality checks’ applied to test their educability. Selection was its over-riding objective; its purpose to progressively sift out the 12-15% who would become the professionals, administrators and managers, the decision makers for industrial society. At different points on the production line were the ‘purchasers’ choosing different grades of product suitable for their purposes. At the very end of the line, accepting the surviving 12-15% with the highest grade, were the universities.

 Justification for this selective function lay in the beliefs that intelligence is fixed at birth, is innate, and can be measured in precise numbers. The overt curriculum was reading, writing and arithmetic; the covert curriculum was punctuality, repetition and discipline. Thus the majority were prepared to be passive, obedient workers in the factory and other workplaces.

 While schooling now offers a plethora of subjects, and in spite of numerous ‘reforms’ at high cost to the taxpayer, the key characteristics of the factory model remain. We still have an obsession with trying to measure learning and schooling still grades, sifts and sorts students by seeking to attach numbers to them that are limited measures of a limited range of abilities. Is this what we really want out of our education system?

 Around the world, respected thinkers – politicians, business leaders, economists and academics as well as educators – are saying that the factory model is past its used-by date and needs to be replaced. The reasons are many, but include:

  • We live in a world very different from 100 years ago.
  • There has been in a revolution in our understanding of the nature of intelligence; it is complex, and more than just IQ.
  • We are also much clearer in our understanding of how the brain works and how children learn best.
  • Knowledge is no longer seen as individual, fixed, passive and a matter of facts to be regurgitated, but active and constantly evolving. The emphasis is on creating and sharing and utilising new knowledge, and problem-solving and creativity require multi-disciplinary approaches.
  • The workplace is totally different; employees need a much broader range of skills. Over the past decade the biggest employment gains are in occupations that rely on people skills and emotional intelligence, imagination and creativity.
  • Recognition that the current model cannot meet the needs of all students and cannot resolve the issue of the continuing under-achievement of particular groups.

 Among those challenging our current system are Stephen Covey [e.g. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People], Peter Senge and Tom Peters who will be well known to New Zealand business leaders. Peter Senge argues that: “The problem is not measurement per se. The problem is the loss of balance between valuing what can be measured and what cannot, and becoming so dependent on quantitative measures that they displace judgement and learning.” Tom Peters in his book Re-Imagine comments that we need a school curriculum “that values questions above answers; creativity above fact regurgitation; individuality above uniformity and excellence above standardised performance.”

 Every child will be a future parent, voter, citizen, member of the community [local, national and increasingly global] and a worker. The emphasis of the current system is on the last, in the false belief that delivering education in this way, through standardisation and a focus on ‘academic’ learning New Zealand will be assured of a bright economic future. There is however little correlation between a country’s economic performance and creativity and technological innovation, and national testing, and how many external exams and school qualifications it has in the last three years of secondary schooling, or with the international PISA results [which seem to be the basis of the oft repeated claim that “New Zealand has one of the best education systems in the world”].

 On other international indicators New Zealand doesn’t rate anywhere near as highly e.g. child and alcohol and drug abuse, youth suicide and incarceration rates, the poverty gap. These ‘outcomes’ seem to be a clear indication there is something wrong with our education system. Along with those major issues the world faces such as climate change, the environment and rapid depletion of the earth’s resources, we seem to be leaving it to our children to find answers to all of these problems because of our continuing reluctance and apparent inability to deal with them. To find solutions will require an education system that produces young people who understand themselves and others, and the world in which they live; are tolerant and compassionate; and lateral, creative, innovative and ‘connected’ thinkers.

New models of schooling are emerging in many different countries including here in New Zealand. All of them share common philosophies and challenge conventional practice; they also show that poverty and ethnicity do not have to be barriers to success in learning.

 This means a strong focus on every student as an individual, their individual strengths, interests, passions and aspirations, and the nurturing of their mental, physical, social/emotional and cultural/spiritual capabilities [see Covey]. It also means high expectations for every student, a focus on quality work and students applying effort and perseverance.

 The curriculum of these schools is designed to provide rich and varied contexts for students to acquire, develop and apply a broad range of knowledge, understanding and skills; to enable them to think creatively and critically, to solve problems and to make a difference for the better; to give them the opportunity to become creative, innovative, enterprising and capable of leadership to equip them for their future lives as workers and citizens; to enable them to respond positively to opportunities, challenges and responsibilities, and to manage risk and cope with change and adversity.

Some of these new kinds of schools monitor their students for up to 12 years after graduation; they recognise that what students achieve after school is probably a better measure of the value of their schooling than what they did in school.

 Instead of having endless debates about National Standards, NCEA and Charter Schools as if they are separate and isolated issues we need to have a national debate on what should be the nature and purpose of schooling in this complex and rapidly changing world full of messy problems, rather than on what it is now. We need to answer questions such as:

  • What do we mean by learning?
  • What does it mean to be literate in a networked, connected world?
  • What does it mean to be educated?
  • What do students need to know and be able to do to be successful in their futures lives?

 We need to do that rather than continue to tinker with a model that increasingly is seen to be irrelevant, that is itself largely meaningless, and obsolete for today’s world.