Rigor: What it Is, and What it Isn’t [TABLE]

rigorTo help educators work together to have some focused conversations about what rigor must mean, John Wink whipped up this table comparing what it is and what it isn’t.  His hope is that all educators within an organization will have meaningful discussions about rigor and create a common understanding, so that together they could make a rigorous school instead of rigorous classrooms.

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Good Intentions & Unintended Consequences


Reposted from Blue Cereal Education:

When we try to mass-mandate solutions in ways that ignore or deny the underlying sources of the problems, there will be unintended consequences. We want so badly for ‘higher standards’ and ‘college ready’ to become unilateral solutions to complex problems, and to provide us with moral and legal cover as we marginalize and blame those not born into pre-existing privilege. We choose not just the height of the expectation, but its very nature. We rarely stop to ask if our concept of ‘mastery’ reflects anyone’s worldview but our own.

In practice, ‘high expectations’ has become a new poll tax or grandfather clause – fair and reasonable on the surface, but inequitable and perhaps even malicious just below the gilding. It’s a job description tailored to the person on the inside they’ve already decided to hire, labeling all others ‘unqualified’. It doesn’t have to be purposeful to be destructive (hence ‘unintended’), but I’m not always certain it’s not. Our conflation of ‘high standards’, ‘success’, and ‘compliance with my old white guy paradigm’ is simply too persistent to dismiss intent altogether. Real learning and its ‘measurement’ must vary with circumstances and goals. It must accommodate real students and teachers working through their messy, non-standardized worlds.

That this is cloyingly unsatisfying makes it no less true. Until we grasp that, we’ll just keep trying to pound the wonderful variety of pegs entrusted to us into the same damn little round holes. Not only will we keep failing to make them all fit, but we’ll break far too many along the way. Their destruction will be an unintentional consequence of our most noble rhetoric. The grades will go on their report cards, but the failure? That’s ours.

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Raising Education Standards: The Key To Better Policing?


Reposted from ThinkProgress:

President Obama launched the Task Force on 21st Century Policing to explore ways to “build public trust and foster strong relationships between local law enforcement and the communities that they protect, while also promoting effective crime reduction.” Yet as officers and civilians explore solutions to what is perceived as a national crisis, the answer may be as simple as raising the education requirements for job applicants. Research, while limited, suggests a positive correlation between education and job performance, as data spanning several decades show that officers with a college education are subjected to fewer disciplinary measures than ones with a high school diploma.

In 2003, the Bureau of Justice Statistics determined that 98 percent of all police departments instituted an education requirement. The vast majority, or 81 percent, of those departments required a high school diploma, whereas 1 percent required a four-year college degree. For instance, the largest police departments in the U.S. have authority to establish their own education standards. Los Angeles Police Department applicants must have a high school diploma, G.E.D., or California High School Proficiency Examination certificate. The New York Police Department requires 60 college credits or a high school diploma and two years of military service. And candidates for the Chicago Police Department need 60 hours of college courses or four years of active military service.

In his book, Research in Law Enforcement Selection, Radford University professor Mike Aamodt writes that criminal justice experts and law enforcement commissions have urged police departments to rethink their educational standards for decades. The President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration (COLEA), a task force created by Lyndon B. Johnson, endorsed a four-year degree requirement in 1967. The National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals offered a similar suggestion six years later, which was followed by an endorsement by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) in 1988. Today, many criminal justice experts believe that higher education standards should be enforced nationwide.

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Common Core Standards in Action


Reposted from Education Safari:

Friday afternoon,  I had an end of first trimester parent-teacher conference with my 2nd grader’s teacher, Mrs. W. I have mentioned Mrs. W. before, in my blog post about Common Core Standards back in October. She is a veteran teacher of more than 25 years. Her husband, now retired, begs her every summer to retire with him so that they can do more traveling together. Mrs. W.  loves teaching way too much. They do travel in the summer, but when the fall rolls around, poor Mr. W. has to go find a project to tinker with or something to do.

I’m really amazed at the progress my youngest child is making. It is very different from the standard that his older brother experienced at the same grade level. Instead of filling in the blanks for reading comprehension, or answering  a question in a single phrase, he writes entire sentences that give the reader comprehensive information.  Mrs. W. instructs them to “P.Q.A. – put the question in the answer.” That means, find the keywords inside the initial question and use that to build your answer sentence.

Mrs. W. is not in the least intimidated by Common Core standards in her classroom. She went over some of the weekly tests with me to illustrate the new standards at this grade level, and I thought I would share some of those illustrations here…

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Meet the Man Behind Common Core Math


Reposted from NPR ED:

When Jason Zimba was first hired to help write a new set of K-12 math standards in 2009, the groups behind the Common Core — including representatives from 48 states — set very ambitious goals. The tough new guidelines would match the expectations set for students in higher-performing rivals like Singapore and South Korea. The standards would not only catapult American students ahead of other developed nations but would also help close the gaps between low-income students in the U.S. and their wealthier counterparts.

The Common Core would drive publishers and test-makers to create better curricula and better tests and push school districts and teachers to aim for excellence, not just basic proficiency, for their students. And the guidelines would arm every principal, teacher and parent with the knowledge of exactly what it takes to get into college and succeed.

The champions of the Common Core — including organizations like the National Governors Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers — expected the task to be difficult. Overhauling textbooks would take a lot of time, and training teachers would take even more. But the bipartisan groundswell of opposition to the standards took them by surprise.

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ISTE Launches ReimaginED To Align Tech & CCSS

learn key

Reposted from the ISTE Community:

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has launched Project ReimaginED, a social learning community that aims to redesign learning activities for alignment with the Common Core State Standards and the ISTE Standards for Students. Open to K-12 teachers and technology coaches, the community will ask teams of educators to submit educational artifacts aligned to the standards for review by network leaders.

Once vetted, the artifacts will be curated and published, “creating a valuable resource library for educators around the country,” according to a news release. “Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions, post comments, share works-in-progress and get feedback from community members on educational artifacts that they contributed. In addition, they can continue to build their knowledge of the Common Core and ISTE Standards by attending online or events or through reading the Project ReimaginED blog.”

Developed in partnership with the National Center for Literacy Education and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project will run through December 2015. Participation is free, so bring colleagues and work together to deepen your understanding of the standards and get support in applying what you learn to what you do every day.

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Common Standards, Fractured Tests


Reposted from the New York Times:

Despite some defections and political hand-wringing, 42 states are still signed on for the mathematics part of the Common Core standards, which specify the skills that should be mastered in kindergarten through high school. The plan for common testing, however, has fractured.

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) has dwindled to 12 states plus the District of Columbia. New York, a member of PARCC, will continue to use its own Common Core-inspired test. The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has 21 states participating, but four members will not use the tests, at least not this school year. A survey by Education Week found that less than half of public school students would take either test this year.

Even with the fracturing, millions of students will take the brand-new PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests next spring. New Jersey is all-in with PARCC, and judging from my observations at back-to-school night, many, many parents have no idea what is coming. So I sat down and took the practice version of PARCC’s fourth-grade math test to see what my daughter would be facing. (Smarter Balanced also offers sample tests.)

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Breaking the “Asking Known-Answer Question Syndrome”


Reposted from MindShift:

Dr. James Kaufman, director of the Learning Research Institute at California State University San Bernardino and Dr. Ronald Beghetto, associate professor of Education Studies at University of Oregon, suggest teachers should meet unexpectedness with curiosity. Rather than shutting down a potentially creative solution to a problem, explore and evaluate it. What seems like a tangent could actually help other students think about the problem in a different way. They also note that part of incorporating creativity is helping students to read the situation. There’s a time and a place for a creative solution and kids need to learn when it’s appropriate to take the intellectual risk. They should also learn that there’s a cost to creativity; it takes effort, time, and resources and depending on the problem the most creative solution may not make sense.

When kids leave high school, they become experts in what Beghetto calls the “asking known-answer-question syndrome.” They’ve learned it’s not really about how they understand it; it’s about how the teacher understands it and how she wants to hear it. That, then, becomes the definition of the “educated mind.”

This discussion may seem removed from the rubrics and standards that dictate teachers’ lives, but Kaufman and Beghetto argue that fostering creative thinking is not mutually exclusive to meeting standards. “We do need academic domain knowledge in order to be creative,” Beghetto said. “The standards can serve as guideposts, but these should not be the end that we are driving towards.” They argue that constraint is always present in creativity and that something like memorization can provide the tools for improvisation within a discipline.

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Standards Won’t Transform Education…Here’s What Will


Reposted from TeachThought:

“Standards won’t save education, or even serve as a good guide into the remaining 85% of the 21st century. Instead of trying to codify information from past centuries, we better be looking at how students will handle the incoming flow of traffic. Or how to stimulate creative design thinking. Or how to make them smart enough—meaning curious, resilient, persistent, empathetic, and open enough–to live and perform in today’s world.

Do students need to know stuff? Of course. But, frankly, if they aren’t taught about climate change in Wyoming or evolution in Indiana or South Carolina, the world will not fall apart (there’s something called the Internet). Also, I think we should focus on the obvious: Middle school and high school aren’t teaching grad school level rocket science.  All versions of the standards do a fine job of describing middle of the road information that students need to get as a base of knowledge. And, with about 100 years of teaching the same subjects, teachers pretty much know what people under the age of 18 need to know. Just put some guidelines and expectations in place, and get on with it.

Once that happens, the real conversation about redesigning education—the dialogue that will determine (and I mean this literally) whether our civilization stands or falls—can begin. That conversation should be furious, hot and heavy, and full of as much creative fire as we can muster.

You may recall the old bumper sticker: “If you don’t like education, try ignorance.” In my view, the current debate over standards is a sign of ignorance, not enlightenment. It consumes us, but offers empty calories, not sustenance for a deeper and longer journey. The real agenda items? I see at least five.”

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A School That Ditches All the Rules, But Not the Rigor


Reposted from MindShift:

“How can we make school a joyful experience without sacrificing rigor? What’s the best way to measure true learning? What’s the purpose of school? The founders and teachers at the PlayMaker School (watch the PBS Newshour report by April Brown), an all-game based school in Los Angeles, are asking those big, abstract questions that all teachers grapple with. And they’re trying to find their own answers through their constantly morphing, complex experiment.

Here are their thoughts about these issues, in their own words, on on rigor, measuring learning, reaching standards and the purpose of school.”

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