Archive for September, 2015

Rethink Teacher Training

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
high-achieving suburban high school

 suburban high school

I just heard about XQ: The Super School Project, funded through the Emerson Collective founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ wife. The XQ campaign sets out to inspire teachers, administrators, and education leaders from all sectors to rethink high school. Ms. Powell Jobs says, “The [current] system was created for the work force we needed 100 years ago.” As has been noted in this blog, there are many incredible, but incremental, changes occurring right now, but nothing is coordinated throughout the country except Common Core State Standards (CCSS). And even the standards have received abundant criticism.

As is stated in the news article I read (“A Campaign to Establish High Schools for a New Era” by Jennifer Medina, New York Times, September 14, 2015), the project is looking for efforts to alter school schedules, revise curriculum strategies, and use technology, each of which has already been happening across the country. But to upgrade and change high schools, workable projects must be devised to be eligible for funding by XQ.

One has been able to read about improving outcomes in high school for a long time. To think about what must happen to make improvement occur, start with teacher training. Daniel T. Willingham ( New York Times Opinion article “Teachers Aren’t Dumb,” September 9, 2015) addresses the need for change in each college and university’s teacher education program. As any teacher can agree, most courses for credential or degree stress pedagogy on theories of instruction or theory of child development. Mr. Willingham stresses, however, that a good teacher knows the subject/s and how to teach it so that students learn it. If you teach beginning readers, explicit knowledge of literacy concepts is important. If you teach middle school mathematics, it is important to take math classes which, for example, teach techniques for drawing analogies that explain math ideas. So, before XQ projects will succeed, the teacher must be knowledgeable about the subjects they teach. So let’s watch for university education departments to upgrade their curriculum.

A great deal of emphasis for school success relates to parent involvement in the school. However, Karen L. Mapp from the Harvard Graduate School of Education feels it is more important to teach school staff members how to communicate with parents, especially across racial and socio-economic divides. In addition, Keith Robinson at the University of Texas, Austin, and Angel L. Harris from Duke University have analyzed surveys of parents and found that the biggest impact of parents on learning was if they expected that their student would go to college.

At this moment, I can cite two examples that may help in the design of a worthy project. Recently, Glass Lab’s Paula Escuadra explained how the innovative maker of learning games based on the use of computers has opened in 6000 middle schools across the country. Designed to provide an “ecosystem of learning” engrossing low and high performing students, the model addresses both English/Language Arts and math/technology.  Glass lab uses standards from CCSS which are available and encouraged to help students think critically and problem solve. XQ, here we come.

Schools are being asked to encourage parent participation. Whether in school committees or just reminding students to learn for college, the model associated with this blog may help. Called “Take Care!” the DVD program helps school staff learn positive ways to communicate with each other and especially with parents. Interested? Look at the website and then get in touch with me at Please put TakeCare in the subject line.

Speaking at North High School in Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday September 14, 2015, President Obama said good words for teachers, bombarded on all sides to “do better” for kids.

“If you hear a candidate say the big problem with education is the teachers, you should not vote for that person. It is a hard job, and it is the most important job we’ve got, and folks who go into teaching don’t go into it for the money. They go into it because they’re passionate about kids.”

Passionate? Find out about XQ: The Super School Project, and Glass Lab, and Take Care! Go to the head of the class!