Archive for May, 2012

Testing and Student Motivation

May 26, 2012 Comments off

CNN blog post describes a recent set of studies that determined (are you ready for this) that tests may or may not motivate students. While this may seem self-evident, it is tacitly assumed that students naturally WANT to do well on ANY test, especially a test that has “high stakes”. Unsurprisingly, the study concluded:

“Finally, like any motivational tool, assessments have the strongest power to motivate when their goals are not too difficult or too easy and when they align with students’ own personal interests and goals.”

This explains why students who struggle in, say English, can perform very well on their Drivers Education test or, if they aspire to the military, on an ASVAB test. It also explains why students who are behind their age peers AREN’T motivated when they take a “high stakes” assessment like those mandated by NCLB. After all, if the tests are too difficult and have no alignment with the students’ own personal interest and goals, why should they work hard on it?

Studies like these reinforce the notion that IF the purpose of school is to graduate motivated self-actualized learners, accountability assessments should be formative instead of summative and should measure the students academic performance using content that matches their interest. Given the technology we have available today, this is possible. It is our mindset, that “second grade” is inextricably linked with seven or eight year olds who mature at the same rate, that prevents change.

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Urban Education Blues

May 26, 2012 Comments off

I just read two columns on schools that were disheartening.

Gail Collins Saturday NYTimes column on Romney’s education policy was no more substantive than Romney’s “bold education policy”, which I critiqued a couple of days ago. What she neglected to point out was that BOTH Obama AND Romney refuse to acknowledge two canards: first, that school choice is a viable alternative; and secondly, that we are spending too much on urban schools. After a quick Google search, here is the comment I wrote:

School choice will work when Bronxville accepts kids from the Bronx. School improvement will occur when the Bronx per pupil costs match Bronxville. How much more would NY budget if it matched its neighbor to the north in per pupil expenditures? $5.9 billion is a rough approximation. And Bronxville is only ranked 55th in the State in per pupil costs. But I keep forgetting…. we’re “throwing money at the problem” and money doesn’t make any difference anyway.

If money doesn’t make a difference, why do affluent schools spend more than urban schools on education: in the case of Bronxville $6,168 dollars more than NYC? And don’t tell me that the cost of living in Bronxville is any more than the Bronx! The two communities border each other. Without doing the Google research I am confident that the same disparities exist between neighboring districts across the country.

Then I read an article on privatization in Philadelphia in Common Dreams that drove me back to Google and resulted in the following comment:

Here’s some data from the New American Foundation: Philadelphia spent $10,828 per pupil in 2009 and Springfield, Montgomery County, its neighbor to the Northwest, spent $17,069. If Philadelphia budgeted as much on a per pupil basis as Springfield it would have just under $1,000,000,000 more to spend. But I keep forgetting… money doesn’t matter.

The disparities between Philadelphia schools and Springfield schools are almost identical to the disparities between Bronxville schools and New York schools! Money DOES make a difference to those living in affluent suburbs but doesn’t matter if your kids attend urban schools. And for those who think that the money is better managed in private hands, please read the Common Dreams post… or read any of the recent articles on JPMorgan Stanley.

A School Based on Brain Research

May 25, 2012 2 comments

One of my of repeated “fundamental questions” is this: “Knowing what we know about how students learn and having the technology that makes individualized learning possible, why are our schools organized based on the 1920s factory model?”

This ASCD blog post describes a “School Designed by Your Brain”… and it looks more like Summerhill than the traditional model experienced by most of us. The blog post is short, but it describes a non-graded technology-based environment where students know how and why they learn information. But… since the students might not do well on the standardized tests that are used to measure school performance it is unlikely that we will see it happen any time soon.

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