Archive for the ‘schools of education’ Category

Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM)

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Teachers, do you find yourselves in an interim where you teach, just waiting to see if Congress comes around to the cost of running a country before 2012 ends? And keeping your fingers crossed that ‘sequestration’ doesn’t cut into money for schools?

Aside from the fiscal conundrum for the country, the United States Department of Education and the National Science Foundation have been tracking student achievement in science and math. Why? The next step for the Common Core State Standards is implementing the Next Generation Science Standards.

A notable education news article about the Next Generation Science Standards urges reassessment of teacher preparation to make sure

  • Teacher-learning experiences should include what the standards are asking all students to learn. Teachers cannot teach what they themselves cannot do.
  • Teacher-learning experiences need to be close to the classroom. Teachers should see, hear, and feel what this new vision of science looks like with students that compare to their own, over extended periods of time, in order to recognize the implications and adapt their practice.
  • Teacher learning requires working with rich images of desired practice beyond modifications of instruction. They call for an ability to engage students in building and refining scientific knowledge.
  • Teacher-learning experiences should provide educators with models of expertise in different formats. Examples include videos of real classrooms, scientists’ and engineers’ perspectives on practices such as modeling, and print and technology-based resources.
  • Resources and teacher-learning experiences must be scalable, widely accessible, and interwoven into a well-coordinated system of expertise, resources, tasks, and tools adaptable to different learning contexts.

These concerns and solutions come from a November 30, 2012, article “Science Standards Require Teacher-Learning Rethinking” by Jean Moon, Sarah Michaels, and Brian Reiser.

Not a new issue, the STEM Education Coalition updates teachers interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math to legislation and projects in states all over the country. From Congressional legislation authored by Senator Bennett (D-CO) to Representatives Honda (D-CA) and Hanna (R-NY), federal grants are designed to support state projects and tax benefits for higher education students.

In addition, Change the Equation, a business leader’s group has devised signs to assess each one of the fifty states’ education emphasis on STEM fields. See “Business Group Gauges STEM ‘Vital Signs’ Across States” by Erik Robelon, September 12, 2012.

Aside from schools, STEM projects of all kinds attract students. For one, the American University of University Women (AAUW) sponsors girls for a summer interactive week with women teachers and professionals from STEM fields at twenty university campuses in California. The project is being introduced at five more sites across the country in 2013.

Do you want to prepare students for jobs of the future? Advocate for fund allotment to plan space and time for STEM at your school from Kindergarten to University.

A good year!

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

It’s spring. Time to think about a good year! My thesis for a master’s degree is nearly finished. Yearly tests will take a week to complete. Then we begin the last fourth grade unit in science and social studies.  Students choose one more book. We complete one more math topic. Another year will be done.

I will have another degree so my salary will rise. Lucky me, I have no loans to repay, no tuition still unpaid. Most of my friends have been not only talking but wringing their hands about all money items. Even with a raise in pay for a master’s degree, my friends will be in debt for a long time. As one can guess, I’ve been reading the newspapers, education magazines, and on-line articles that come my way. University of California pieces share demonstrations against tuition increases, and items describe Congressional votes against funding of federal Pell Grants, which are relied on, remember, because the pitiful amount doesn’t have to be repaid.

No one talks anymore about funds for the DREAM Act which would have helped some people I know who are from illegal immigrant families, but have lived here for a long time. What is it against these people? Almost everyone has some defect: legal, physical, mental. Nowadays, we have to listen to TV news about the GOP candidate who assures all us women teachers that the U.S. Department of Education will be closed down. Don’t candidates realize that the main country-wide changes to improve education have occurred in the last three years because of guidelines from the federal government? The states or local districts haven’t been prodding for change, that’s for sure.

Usually, I read the news items about elementary schools, mainly about the advantages and disadvantages of Proposition 98. Recently, I read an article addressing organized games at recess.  Sounds good until you realize that the teacher is supervising the playground. There is no money to find a teacher to organize and supervise games in any but a few California schools.

Now I concentrate on the articles about money for my college friends.

The Changing Teacher

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Change has become the well-used mantra in the past year, often as the start of a taunt or wisecrack.

Columnist David Brooks, however, is glad about change in the 21st century education world.  He’s on the side of President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan in their determined push to keep education reform as a top priority.  See “The Quiet Revolution,” New York Times, October 23, 2009.

Though I completely disagree with Brook’s despair that a District of Columbia Schools voucher program has been tossed, I do concur that the Obama administration is pushing for change in school districts and schools of education.  (See post 11-4-09).

A Policy Information Report, December 2007, distributed by the Educational Testing Service, confirms the anecdotal changes I saw already underway in new teacher preparation before I retired.

The report’s findings looked at several factors about new teachers and experienced teachers taking courses to satisfy the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandate for highly-qualified teachers.  It found that students who passed the exam in the second cohort studies (2002-2005) had higher GPA and SAT scores.  Students from all ethnic groups and both genders showed consistent improvement in academic work.

The most interesting conclusion of the study suggested “that when policies target a common objective and employ a variety of strategies, real change can happen.  …seldom have policy changes been associated with such positive impact in so little time.”  Finally, a good thing from the NCLB legislation.

Problems still remain, of course.  The second cohort had a lower number of passing students, attributable to the increased difficulty of the exam.  Middle-school teachers, both new and experienced, had special difficulty passing the test.

The report looked at 20 states with teachers who take Praxis tests as part of their teacher preparation.  They must pass all parts of the exam or they do not receive certification.  Only 3 of the states, Nevada, Hawaii, and Oregon are in the west.

Some states have identified their own tests.  California, for example, uses the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) when determining new teacher and highly-qualified teacher certification.  The exams must be passed before teacher preparation classes are completed.

While the study demonstrates that teachers entering the profession are better prepared to do well in schools of education, other studies share additional issues that must be addressed to turn out excellent teachers for the variety of students in the 21st century United States.

Let’s look at two other reports Eduflack blogger Patrick Riccardo has noted.

Hope Street Group, a business group interested in better learning outcomes, released “Using Open Innovation to Improve Teacher Evaluation Systems.”  While the report, developed mostly by teachers, is concerned with accountability in the classroom, some of its proposals could be part of further improvement in teacher preparation, attracting new professionals with good academic backgrounds.  Here are several examples:

* Education schools should use clearly defined standards of quality instruction and assessment of a student teacher’s classroom performance.

* Student teacher evaluations that rely on observation and discussion must be in the hands of instructional leaders who have sufficient expertise and training.

* Information from teacher preparation evaluations should be comparable across schools of education and available to districts, and similar evaluations used to address new (and experienced) teachers.

The Forum for Education and Democracy‘s Rethinking Learning Now group released its report “Effective Teachers, High Achievers,” outlining another model of high-quality teacher education.  The government pays all expenses for teacher preparation; the student teacher receives a year of practice teaching in a clinical school; all beginning teachers are mentored; and ongoing professional development is embedded in the work week.

These guidelines would surely change the outlook for the teaching profession.  If so, keep in mind President Obama’s key question-who is all this change for?

Kids, I hope.

Getting Ready

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Rumbles about teacher preparation keep surfacing in the newspapers, on TV, on teacher internet websites, in union magazines.

The concern engulfing the education world is not just teacher quality, but how to improve schools of education, whether undergraduate or graduate programs.

Impressive statistics describe the dilemma.  Of 3.2 million teachers in 95,000 schools in the United States, half are Baby Boomers who will soon retire.  The data estimates that within four years schools will lose 1/3 of those veteran teachers.  By 2014 almost 1 million new teachers will be needed, roughly 200,000 new teachers a year.

Those numbers stood out when Arne Duncan, U. S. Secretary of the Department of Education, in an October speech at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, New York, addressed mediocre-his words-teacher preparation in the United States.

Veteran teachers may shake their heads.  A long line of famous educators, Horace Mann, William James, John Dewey among them, have despaired of weak teacher preparation.

My favorite quote is from Jacques Barzun, a revered philosopher and educator from Columbia University, who disparaged teacher education as having “a strong anti-intellectual bias, enhanced by a total lack of imagination.”

The good news from the second half of Duncan’s speech is that over the past ten years a few “rigorous practice-spaced initiatives to adapt to the reality of preparing instructors, to teach to diverse students in our information age” have developed.

Sounds like good news for young men and women in schools of education, until those that oversee teacher education look at the kinds of students for which their programs must prepare new teachers.

English Language Learners, isolated rural children, high poverty-high need urban students, kids who need excellent math and science teachers, diverse ethnic groups that would do well to see a diverse teacher population.

What to do about these disparate needs?

A number of options for schools of education have surfaced.  One essay by Susan Engel, “Teach Your Teachers Well,” New York Times, November 2, 2009, suggested more time student teaching, not just sitting at lectures about class management or the latest reading research.  Next, she suggests videotaping and analyzing the lessons taught, similar to training for therapists who analyze good points and difficult moments in therapy sessions.

Also, she suggests more study about watching children learn, not merely memorizing Piaget’s theories, for example, but in-depth study.  Last and best, is Engel’s suggestion to provide financial incentives to public schools to hire several teachers from a similar training program.  With this strategy, called a teacher residency, participants will have backup and camaraderie that may be a boost during difficult moments which any veteran teacher knows will occur.

PACT, Performance Assessment for California Teachers, has been pioneered by a wide-ranging consortium of teacher education programs in California.  It offers some of Engel’s strategies for the aspiring teacher.  Fourteen states are piloting similar performance assessments based on PACT.

One caveat: in California, as well as many other states, the current fiscal budget deficit and the solution of pillaging money from education places a pall over success.  However, there are those who will never say die.  Veteran teachers count on that determination.

Get ready!