Why does even the easy stuff seem so hard?

Over the last week or two a couple of (education) news items caught my eye: The first was an article (“Schools find active kids make smarter students”) that ran in the Star Tribune on August 23. Meadowview Elementary School in Farmington, Minnesota was featured for its effort to increase the amount of physical activity its students experience during the school day. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | Bashing teachers and trashing tenure not the way to reform

This past Easter Sunday, as I took a break from gardening to watch the Masters, I was overcome with hope, not manifested by the risen Christ, and certainly not by Tiger Woods’s prospects for a comeback. No, my renewed hope for the future was delivered unto me in a barrage of ads from Exxon Mobile. They were clean, unfettered endorsements of America’s teachers; there must have been two dozen aired over the course of the final round. The message was clear: Bashing teachers isn’t working; we need to try supporting them instead. Now, I’m no fan of big oil. Continue Reading

Testing . . . testing . . . are we having fun yet?

Our students are in the midst of the annual standardized testing marathon. When they ask their teachers why they have to take them they are informed that the results are an indication of how well they are doing in school, and that their teachers, school principal, and the district superintendent need to know what changes to make in order to improve student learning. Continue Reading

Sifting Through the Voices of Education Reform

For a long time I have been trying, pretty much unsuccessfully, to convince the upper crust of the education reform movement (State Department of Education, school districts, superintendents, principals, school board members, and pundits) that their commune is largely uninformed by the ideas and suggestions of the real experts: teachers. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | By whose standards are our high school grad candidates judged?

Okay, I’m a writing teacher; my standards for minimal writing proficiency among our young people are high–too high, apparently. On March 9, the Star Tribune published an editorial containing a statistic that gave me pause: “Statewide, 87% of seniors have passed the reading test, and 97% have passed the writing test.”Now, virtually everyone I’ve asked, including those with no direct investment in teaching and learning, has questioned the accuracy of this claim. Personally, I thought it was a typo. How in the world, I wondered, with all the anecdotal evidence out there pointing to the inferior writing skills of today’s college students and young (but increasingly not-so-young) career professionals, could Minnesota be such an outlier? Surely those “other” states must be doing a horrible job of it, and oodles of their graduates are moving to Minnesota to become lawyers and middle managers whose bosses are having to edit their briefs and memos!Free Speech ZoneThe Free Speech Zone offers a space for contributions from readers, without editing by the TC Daily Planet. Continue Reading

FORUM RESPONSE | Those promising improvement had better deliver

Unfortunately, I was unaware of the February 5th breakfast; I would like to have attended. I read the synopsis of the discussion and the (related) New Yorker article regarding teacher competence cited here on TCDP. I have a few observations, comments, and suggestions. American public education is an institution that affects all of us in one way or another; therefore, everyone has an opinon as to its current status and the way forward. Reforming our schools is complicated; ask Dave Jennings. Continue Reading