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Questions Galore

February 10, 2012

Are we preparing students to learn without us? That is the question posed by Will Richardson in his February 2012 article in Education Leadership, an article that has echoes of Ted Sizer and Ivan Illich. In the article Richardson makes a distinction between “personalized” learning, which is organized by an educator for a student, and “personal” learning, whereby a student is a more autonomous, self-directed learner. While both forms rely on technology, personalized learning is more externally controlled. Lots of food for thought!

BYOT? In a KQED article posted in ASCD blog described a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiative in Mankato, MN, whereby students bring their own technology to class. The problems with this are many: affluent kids have higher end computers than less affluent kids; some schools don’t have ANY bandwidth let alone “enough” bandwidth; the fact that 75% of kids have “cell phones” doesn’t mean that they have the plans required to download information from the internet; and finally, kids use of technology is less important than ADULTS use of technology.

Are Charter Schools Better? An article in the blog New Deal 2.0 doesn’t really answer the question or even pose the right question, which is: how can we possibly know if charter schools are better given the metrics we use to compare schools to each other?

What could Obama’s $100,000,000 in training funds be used for? Bryce Covert’s New Deal 2.0 article suggests it would best be used to hire back laid off teachers… but as I noted in my comment,

…$100M is chump change: only 2000 teachers could be hired at $50,000/teacher for wages and benefits, hardly a king’s ransom. If Bryce is right about her calculation that 217,000 teachers lost their jobs in the past three years, barely 1% of the laid off teachers could be rehired using $100M.

Does money make a difference in education? Yes it does… especially the amount of money parent’s make, according to an article in today’s NYTimes. The article includes a link to a book released last fall by Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane that includes the following quote:

…between birth and age six, wealthier children will have spent as many as 1,300 more hours than poor children on child enrichment activities such as music lessons, travel, and summer camp. Greg Duncan, George Farkas, and Katherine Magnuson demonstrate that a child from a poor family is two to four times as likely as a child from an affluent family to have classmates with low skills and behavior problems – attributes which have a negative effect on the learning of their fellow students. As a result of such disparities, contributor Sean Reardon finds that the gap between rich and poor children’s math and reading achievement scores is now much larger than it was fifty years ago. And such income-based gaps persist across the school years, as Martha Bailey and Sue Dynarski document in their chapter on the growing income-based gap in college completion.

Can you imagine  a school district seeking funds for music lessons, travel, and summer camp for children in housing projects? Fox News would be all over it! There is no doubt, though, that those kinds of opportunities make a difference.

How do parents like tests used for accountability? Not too much, according to an Education Week article posted on the ASCD blog. Parents, teachers and administrators like FORMATIVE tests more than summative ones and find test results that come more than a month after the test is administered to be irrelevant.

How long should students be required to stay in school? An Education Week article reports that Obama’s recent call for 18 to be the mandatory attendance age resulted in some blowback… but not from NH where we’ve had the 18 year old law in effect for two years along with the Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs) that accompanied the passage of that law. The message: only raise the attendance age if you simultaneously increase flexibility in the awarding of credits!

It is now evident that INCOME disparity has a bigger effect on student performance than RACE. My experience in school administration leads me to believe that it is harder to integrate schools based on income disparity than on race. I learned that when I moves a housing project from one attendance zone to another  earlier in my career. When I tried to adjust boundaries to include an affluent enclave into a low SES school several years later I lost the battle…

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