Monday, April 25, 2016
Nick Donohue, the President and CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, was a speaker at a recent education conference that I attended. His summation of the state of educational discord in our country was right on point. He mentioned a few of the mantras of those who want to overhaul our public schools. "We need to fix our broken schools" and "we need to go back to the basics" were two of the common chants that Donohue referenced. The problem with these proclamations, as Donohue acknowledged, is that while they are great at grabbing attention, they offer little substance in the area of solutions.
Even worse is the fact that these lines of thinking are usually followed by the vilification of one of following groups:
- Educators - Let's face it, if we just had better educators then everything would be different. I mean, just look at the test scores.
- Parents - If we had more competent parents then these kids would be better prepared to learn. They just don't care about their child's education enough.
- Students - Gosh, if these kids just took school more seriously. They aren't as conscientious about school as students were in prior decades.
Anyway, you get the picture. Donohue continued with an important point regardinng the relationship between the teacher, the student, and the parent. He called this "the iron triad." I could not agree more in regards to the importance of these connectons. In fact, as I think about the public discourse surrounding education mentioned above, it seems that a key aspect of this movement is to break apart the iron triad to which Donohue referred.
As Donohue encouraged the educators in the room to make sure that their schools and communities are moving beyond the empty rhetoric that is fueled by blaming and bashing key stakeholders, he recommended a reframing of the issues with forward-thinking questions (i.e. What if we started by asking the adults in a school community to discuss something that was a significant learning in their lives? How can we offer our students more personalized, relevant, and contextualized experiences? How can we provide more agency for the learner?)
The whole conversation immediately brought me back to a recent post I read from Will Richardson titled We're Trying To Do "The Wrong Thing Right" in Schools. The excerpt below is filled with forward-thinking questions that need to be answered.
"Doing the right thing in schools starts with one fairly straightforward question: What do you believe about how kids learn most powerfully and deeply in their lives? Once you've answered that as an individual and as a school community, the question that follows is does your practice in classrooms with kids honor those beliefs? In other words, if you believe that kids learn best when they have authentic reasons for learning, when their work lives in the world in some real way, when they are pursuing answers to questions that they themselves find interesting, when they're not constrained by a schedule or a curriculum, when they are having fun, and when they can learn with other students and teachers, then are you giving priority to those conditions in the classroom?"
I am fairly certain that if this happened that there would be a quick realization that the path we are on is not one that is in the best interest of our kids.
Sunday, April 24, 2016
Sunday, April 17, 2016
Friday, April 15, 2016
As we head into April vacation, I am not going to add anything here other than the last 20 posts from the BPS Blog (listed below). Have a great break!
Please continue to share posts with me via e-mail if you have something that you would like to see shared as the daily post!
Day 121 - BHS Spanish Students Visit Sprouts - BHS World Languages Blog
Day 136 - Be Safe on the Internet! - Mrs. Hoyt - Pine Glen Kindergarten
Day 137 - April Social Skills Lesson - Self-Esteem - Memorial School Guidance Blog
Day 138 - Digital Art Students Create Art For Social Justice - Ms. Chang - BHS Art
Day 139 - Snapchat Geofilters - Mr. Mistler - BHS Web Design
Day 140 - 4th graders holding their "miles" run for their virtual Boston Marathon! - Mrs. Nicholas - PE Staff
Only 40 posts to go...
Monday, April 11, 2016
What would your perfect school or classroom look like? What are some of the age-old practices that you would revise or do away with? I am struck by the fact that despite overwhelming research that the elimination of certain practices would benefit students, we continue on with these "traditional" approaches. Maybe it's just easier to maintain the status quo rather than spend the time and energy discussing changes to the way we have always done things. The main question for me is what do we have to lose? Or even better, what could we gain?
Last week, I discussed homework and found little middle ground in the conversation surrounding whether or not homework helped students grow academically. Check out the comments beneath the post for the passionate responses from readers. Please add your point of view to the debate. In my opinion, the only wrong answer is one that is made with the idea that there is no room for discussion.
Moving on from the homework debate, this week I want to look at the research on later start times for high school students discuss why so few schools have heeded the advice of experts on the health of teenagers. It has been nearly 20 years since the decision was made at Edina High School in Minnesota to push the start of school back an hour. The following excerpt from Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explains the change at Edina High:
"The decision to change the Edina High School start time from 7:25 to 8:30 was made in the spring of 1996 and implemented in the 1996-97 school year. The decision was made in response to a request from the Minnesota Medical Association (to all superintendents in Minnesota) to start high schools later, and that was in response to definitive medical research on adolescent sleep patterns from Brown and Johns Hopkins Universities. USA Today states that Edina was the first district in the nation to change start times based on that research."
More recently, in August of 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement titled Let Them Sleep: AAP Recommends Delaying Start Times of Middle and High Schools to Combat Teen Sleep Deprivation. The opening statement of the release read as follows:
"Studies show that adolescents who don't get enough sleep often suffer physical and mental health problems, an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance. But getting enough sleep each night can be hard for teens whose natural sleep cycles make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. - and who face a first-period class at 7:30 a.m. or earlier the next day."
Despite the fact that our healthcare professionals are imploring schools to consider starting later in an effort to allow our students to be safer and more productive, the movement on this matter is still minimal. A coalition of people at startschoollater.net has organized a number of resources to help schools that would like to allow their students to get more sleep. The site lists schools in 44 states that have adopted later start times and also shares positive statistics that have occurred because of the time changes. For instance, one school in my state of Massachusetts that made a change in start times is Nauset Regional High School. Startschoollater.net lists the following positive results that have come about since this change in 2012:
After the 2012 implementation of an hour later school start, preliminary analysis revealed:
- a 53 percent drop in the number of failing grades
- a 38 percent decline of D's and F's
- the number of days students were suspended for disciplinary reasons plummeted from 166 in the first two months last year to 19 days in September and October of this year.*These findings have been confirmed over time, with an additional benefit of a reduction in tardiness (3/14/16)
Schools Are Slow to Learn That Sleep Deprivation Hits Teenagers Hardest was the title of an article in the written by Dr. Aaron Carroll for the New York Times last week. Dr. Carroll's closing line sums things up nicely in regards to changing school start times to support our teenagers. "Too few stories focus on those who are really at risk for sleep deprivation, namely teenagers. It's not their fault. We could fix this problem for them." Unfortunately it is school leaders who are tardy in this case. I hope more school and district leaders will make later start times a priority for their teenage students. Fortunately, the local Supertintendents in my area have come together to write a joint statement to push this topic in each of their communities. It is time for others to do the same.