Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chapter 3 Testing

I apologize for my tardiness with this site, I seemed to have overlooked this assignment. This chapter focuses on the utilization of the multiple choice exams to define adequate yearly progress in a school district. The author questions the skills that are evaluated with the standardized tests and the motivation the test provide students to stay in school. "While all employers need workers who can solve problem, they do not find that students who have taken the usual math and science and passed the test can apply this content to solve real problems" (pg. 92). With the vast amounts of professional development available, problem-based and inquiry-based teaching strategies, I can see were students can be prepared for solving real problem while teaching content within core classes. But would the state standardized testing method reflect the students ability to problem solve? Multiple choice tests are used because they are the cheapest to administer and assess.
Looking a NCLB and state testing requirements to compare them to the needs of students entering secondary education, college teachers state that "70 percent say students do not comprehend complex reading material, 66 percent say students cannot think analytically, 65 percent say students lack appropriate work and study habits, 62 percent say students write poorly, 59 percent say students don't know how to do research, and 55 percent say students can't apply what they've learned to sole problems" (pg. 103). The focus was not whether the students knew the content but how they could utilize the content. Are the high school educators teaching students how to study content? Are students being required to research material to solve problems? The chapter provided examples of students and how they felt about Advanced Placement classes. It was interesting to note that the students were bored and frustrated with the large amount of information needed to memorize to be prepared for the test and the lack of opportunity to have discussions on the materials.
"Schools have less money in their budgets for elective courses" (pg. 113). Many of these elective courses entice students to stay in school to begin with. With all of the effort put into NCLB and standardized testing, students are left with fewer course choices and less motivation to stay in school. Overall, the accountability system in education lacks the depth to fully evaluated a student, does not motivate learning, and does not spotlight requirements needed for secondary education or the workforce.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chapter 4 Reinventing the Education Profession

This chapter talks all about the education system in the United States failing to provide an adequate education due to lack of teacher and administration training and a lack of streamlining and teamwork. It begins with this interesting quote, “the district that has ten priorities really has none” (p. 127). As we all know, we often see this as the case when some motivational speaker comes in saying all the right things, or we get a glimpse of a new education fad. This seems to occupy our agendas for a short while, but it eventually fades out when we either hear of a new fad or go back to our old ways because it’s “easier.” This chapter also shows us the author’s position that we often fail to reflect on our teaching and work together as a team to improve. Too often our districts search for someone outside who is thought to have all of the answers, and, because of this, we lose focus on the learning process, teaching, and teachers. We also often fail to agree on what makes a good teacher, as made evident by some of the author’s research in this area. He strongly suggests making professional development meaningful by reflecting on what a good teacher is by consistently observing fellow teachers and reflecting on teaching videos. In his example of “The Hawaii Story” he talks about how beneficial collaboration and reflection were between administrators and teachers. At one point, he quotes the administrators who took part in this project naming their presentation, “From Castles to Kingdom.” This, of course, means that, instead of working in isolation behind closed doors, it’s much more beneficial to the learning process for teachers to open up and collaborate. (This is a great idea, but let’s not forget that time is extremely valuable and often lacking!) From this reading, the doors need to be open and the critical reflective process needs to be an integral part of teaching.

There was one part in the text that was a bit offensive. On page 150, this is stated:

“…to get and keep a teaching license, teachers would have to show evidence that they’re competent--and that they have continued to improve—in the skills that are critical for effective teaching.”

I think most of us would agree we are competent teachers and quite effective with the requirements we have been given. However, we are sometimes limited by 20 content standards to master in a short amount of time AND a multiple choice test that we need to make sure our school passes so our jobs aren’t in jeopardy. Because of this, we often have to push the “7 survival skills” to the back burner.

The author’s idea of having programs for teachers similar to medical residencies is also alarming. After this statement it would appear the author is asking a lot out of educators especially those under paid and asked to work a lot of extra hours. He also stated that in this type of program for educators us educators would have to see a pay increase and be properly compensated. I would have to agree with the author as long as we can convince those at the state capitals and Washington.