Classroom Review FAQ

August 2, 2007

What’s your school like?

It’s an urban high school with over 4000 students.  Most are good kids, some aren’t, and very few have gotten a solid education in math, my subject.  Less than half pass the state math test. 

What have you done besides teaching?

  •   • Helped edit a math textbook
  •   • Researched education policy at a think tank
  •   • Performed magic at children’s birthday parties.

What are you going to write about?

Mainly teaching experiences, education policy, and other random topics.  I’ll try be smart, entertaining, and occasionally accurate.

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Attention Researchers

July 20, 2007

Originally published at The Quick and the Ed. 

At Teacher Magazine, Jessica Shyu asks her readers to weigh in on what makes teachers stay.  Good question.  After that, we should figure out what makes them leave.  Then we need to know why people decide to join or not join the profession in the first place.

Of course, we already have plenty of theories, conjectures, and conventional wisdom about these questions.  We do not, however, have nearly enough useful research.  It’s time to stop asking for anecdotes and start asking for data.

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More McLeroy

July 19, 2007

The Dallas Morning News editorial staff gives its take on the appointment.

Lonestar Leadership: New Texas Ed. Chair

July 18, 2007

Originally published on The Quick and The Ed.

mcleroy.jpgTexas Governor Rick Perry named the new chairman of the State Board of Education yesterday.  Perry chose Don McLeroy, a staunch conservative dentist known for his strong views on curriculum:  yes to abstinence, no to evolution.

I could tell you more about McLeroy, but you should take a look at his surprisingly candid website.  In case you’re short on time, or in case a wise bureaucrat gently suggests that McLeroy take down the site, I’ll describe a few highlights.

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School Names, Take 2

July 10, 2007

Originally published on The Quick and the Ed.

More on school names from Jay Mathews at the Washington Post, this time focusing on North Virginia.  Evidently, presidents and well-known people “tend to be controversial, whereas few people have bad things to say about rivers, lakes, forests, or freedom.”  And don’t forget sea creatures.

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A School By Any Other Name…

July 2, 2007

Originally published on The Quick and the Ed.

manatee.jpgResearchers have discovered a new culprit for low academic achievement: school names. The Salt Lake Tribune reports, “in Florida, five schools are named after George Washington although 11 honor manatees, also known as sea cows.”

God forbid that schools be named after animals known as sea cows. Let’s hope that no manatees read the Salt Lake Tribune this morning – probably a safe bet, but who knows what will happen if the story gets picked up on the Atlantic coast.

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June 19, 2007

Originally published on The Quick and the Ed.

Last February, I told my geometry class about their upcoming state test.  I chose my words carefully, trying to build enthusiasm for several weeks of preparation.  I explained my new Saturday tutorial program and daily review problems.  Luisa interrupted me.

“The TAKS test doesn’t even matter this year.”

The rest of the class chattered in agreement.  The TAKS test would matter next year, when they were in eleventh grade.  That test would determine if they graduated.  But the tenth grade test wouldn’t even determined if they passed geometry. 

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Virtual Reality

June 13, 2007

Originally published on The Quick and the Ed.

Every day, internet users send over 170 billion emails.  For comparison, the U.S. Postal Service delivers 213 billion pieces of mail — in a year.  Could a similar transformation take place in education?  A year ago, 700,000 public school students took online classes, enough to form the third largest school district in the country.  Most did it to supplement traditional “brick-and-mortar” schooling.  To get a better idea what it’s all about, test drive some sample lessons

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Understanding Standards

June 11, 2007

Originally published on The Quick and the Ed.

There has been much discussion of standards in the last week, fueled by the release of two major reports.  The National Center for Education Statistics raised some interesting questions about the rigor of state standards and variation between the states.  Their report compelled Secretary Spellings to argue against national standards on the editorial pages of the Washington Post.

There is some ambiguity in the use of the word “standards” in this debate.  In terms of curriculum,  standards are a specific description of what students should know and be able to do by the end of a course or grade level.  This is what we often mean by “national standards.”  In terms of assessment, standards are the level of performance to which students are held accountable — the difficulty of the test.  This is what we mean by “high standards” (which, incidentally, is also the reason women say they won’t go out with me).  It’s the difference between what a student should learn and how well they need to learn it to pass the test. 

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