Monthly Archives: April 2016

Why our students can’t think on their feet: Are our schools are too timid?

I’ve lately been wondering about a problem I’ve noticed with some of the students that I have taught over the years: an inability to think through an issue. This seems particularly evident in the sections of writing assignments where they have to either evaluate contrasting viewpoints or cogently explain their point of view on an issue or topic. The agape… Read more →

It’s PARCC day at school, and we’re not sweating the test

PARCC testing begins tomorrow for my two oldest boys. They talk of it matter of factly, with the 5th grader claiming he likes testing days. I used to be the same way, enjoying a change of pace from the usual school day. And 3rd grader boasts that he can now type faster than at least one other kid in his… Read more →

Only A Fraction Of Students Are Prepared For College When They Leave High School

Huffington Post, 4-27-16

The gap in literacy performance between star students and struggling students is getting larger. While the nation’s top students continue to attain higher, more impressive reading scores, the number of students left in the dust with scant skills is also growing, according to new results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress for 12th-graders.

The latest NAEP results for 12th-graders — released Wednesday — do not paint a rosy picture. On the whole, reading scores stayed roughly the same from 2013, although a closer look at the numbers shows an increase in students on both the high- and low-achieving ends of the spectrum. In math, the average scores for 12th-graders declined slightly.

Overall, only 25 percent of students performed at a proficient level or above in math in their year before graduation. Thirty-eight percent of students who took the exam — a higher portion than in previous years — showed “below basic” skills in math, the lowest score designation given by NAEP.

How to stop school innovation dead in its tracks

Wisconsin mom Amber Regan nailed it when she pointed out why she couldn’t get her school district on board with a national grant proposal to “rethink” their suburban Milwaukee high school. “They (spend) … a lot of time looking at things and not a lot of time changing things.” Yep, school districts love to say they are interested in innovation, and… Read more →

Teaching writing as ‘5-paragraph formula’ is a recipe for joyless mediocrity

As a part of my parent volunteer duties, I assist in elementary school writing classes. I won’t candy coat this. I’ve been a professional writer my whole adult life. It was painful – really painful – to watch how the students were being taught to write. I witnessed first-hand writing instruction as a formula – kind of like what’s in… Read more →

9 out of 10 parents think their kids are on grade level, but they’re probably wrong

NPR, 4-25-16

In a recent survey of public school parents, 90 percent stated that their children were performing on or above grade level in both math and reading. Parents held fast to this sunny belief no matter their own income, education level, race or ethnicity. The nationally administered test known as the Nation’s Report Card, or NAEP, suggests a very different reality. About half of white students are on grade level in math and reading by fourth grade; the percentages are lower for African-Americans and Hispanics.

Morgan Polikoff, who researches K-12 education policy at the University of Southern California, says the “Lake Wobegon effect” is actually no surprise. “Kids are getting passed on from grade to grade, a large percentage of kids graduate high school on time,” he explains. “So certainly parents have been getting the message for a long time that their kids are doing just fine.”

‘Opting out’ must lead to more than feel-good policies

Poughkeepsie Journal, Commentary, 4-25-16

No matter how great of an education you think your child is getting, he or she is almost certainly trailing behind kids living in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Switzerland, Finland, Poland, Canada, Germany, Australia and 18 other countries where, according to Pew Research Center, young people did “significantly” better on the PISA math test than those in the U.S.

That is why most of the heated arguments over opting in or out of standardized tests are missing the point. All of our schools, including yours, need to achieve much higher standards. And — since American students have been required to take standardized tests for more more than a decade — we also know which schools will need to stretch the farthest to get there. But it is simply a matter of degrees. Every parent needs to understand that an “A’’ in their neighborhood could translate into a “C’’ in Japan.


How do we get past the fatigue, frustration, and fear of our national ed reforms?

We need a new paradigm if we are to transform our public schools. The 19th century factory model of education has certainly run its course, and continuing to scaffold new programs and promises onto a “seat time centered” public school structure is a losing proposition because it fundamentally fails to meet student educational needs. The key to real improvement is,… Read more →

Opt Outs driven by more than just union propaganda—blame suburban status quo too

In a recent piece in The 74 Bill Bennett suggests that the opt-out movement in New York is driven solely by  teacher union leaders and allies who have spent millions of dollars on robocalls, emails, forums, and other tactics. Their motivation to increase test refusals this year is engineered to undermine “tough, high-quality standardized exams” that “will hold their members accountable… Read more →

Suburban NJ schools underperform, report says

Commentary, Courier News, 4/15/16

Are the public schools serving New Jersey’s middle-class students performing well? Lots of parents think so. They believe that student performance problems are limited to low-income areas in the inner city — in places like Newark or Camden. But many suburban public schools serving middle-class New Jersey students are not performing as well as parents think, according to a new study from the Pacific Research Institute.

Despite these troubling proficiency rates on a respected national exam, many middle-class New Jersey parents believe that their local public schools are doing fine. Part of the reason is that New Jersey’s own state exams have, until recently, been easy to pass. The PRI study found that there were very few predominantly middle-class public schools where half or more of the students in at least one grade level failed to achieve math or English proficiency on the less-than-rigorous 2014 state exams.

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