I was hopeless at school, messy and terrible at spelling. And although the term dyslexia was not something I came across until much later in life, when I did I understood immediately that I had a number of its symptoms. My writing often had a jumbled logic. The advent of computers, of course, brought spell-checkers, but even so my word blindness can carry such conviction that I sometimes find myself staring incredulously at the red line underneath words, before finally realising that "during" does not begin with a "J".
Recently, at the age of 57, I got an iPhone. Like many, I spent the first few hours loading up apps, including a Classics book app. Some weeks later, while mending a client's computer, waiting for the blue line to progress slowly across the screen, I began reading. The first thing I noticed was that, while familiar with many of the books on the app, having seen a film version or been read them as a child, I had not myself read a single one. Books which would have been part of many a youthful literary diet had passed me by. Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island, Tom Sawyer – I hadn't read any of them (but I have now).
The first title I selected was The Count of Monte Cristo. I raced through this on my iPhone in just over a week, my wife asking why I was continually playing with my iPhone. When I'd finished I enjoyed the story so much that I went to buy a copy for a friend. In the bookshop I was amazed. It was more than 1,000 pages! Had I been presented with the book in this form I would never have read it. It would have been too much like climbing a mountain.
So why I had found it easier to read from my iPhone? First, an ordinary page of text is split into about four pages. The spacing seems generous and because of this I don't get lost on the page. Second, the handset's brightness makes it easier to take in words. "Many dyslexics have problems with 'crowding', where they're distracted by the words surrounding the word they're trying to read," says John Stein, Professor of Neuroscience at Oxford University and chair of the Dyslexia Research Trust. "When reading text on a small phone, you're reducing the crowding effect."
I was so impressed that I contacted the Dyslexia Society, where Sue Flohr, herself dyslexic, recounted how her iPhone had changed her life.My iPhone has revolutionised my reading
by Howard Hill
Guardian April 6, 2010
Saturday, April 10, 2010
"exactly what do ed schools purport to teach?"
From an ed school, here are six principles they purport to teach:
Working in education is a moral act based on an ethic of care.
Working in education is a collegial act.
Working in education is reflective and inquiry-based.
Working in education is a political act.
Working in education is acquisition of subject matter and professional knowledge.
Learning is a constructivist and developmental process.
Notice -- nothing about classroom management, discipline, student achievement, or fundamentals. Lots of philosophy of education, constructivism, and (buried in the principles) diversity. At my own school, I've been to admission events with folks from the ed school. Things they talk about: reducing the achievement gap, making sure to teach history students about the genocide of American Indians and similar politically correct stuff. Things they don't: gifted students, subject matter, science/math education, actually teaching.
I'm afraid I have to agree with Barry -- this book won't crack the ed school shell. It is just too thick.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Lemov spent his early career putting his faith in market forces, building accountability systems meant to reward high-performing charter schools and force the lower-performing ones to either improve or go out of business. The incentives did shock some schools into recognizing their shortcomings. But most of them were like the one in Syracuse: they knew they had to change, but they didn’t know how. “There was an implementation gap,” Lemov told me. “Incentives by themselves were not going to be enough.” Lemov calls this the Edison Parable, after the for-profit company Edison Schools, which in the 1990s tried to create a group of accountable schools but ultimately failed to outperform even the troubled Cleveland public schools.
Lemov doesn’t reject incentives. In fact, at Uncommon Schools, the network of 16 charter schools in the Northeast that he helped found and continues to help run today, he takes performance into account when setting teacher pay. Yet he has come to the conclusion that simply dangling better pay will not improve student performance on its own. And the stakes are too high: while student scores on national assessments across demographic groups have risen, the percentage of students at proficiency — just 39 percent of fourth graders in math and 33 percent in reading — is still disturbingly low. And there is still a wide gap between black and white students in reading and math. The smarter path to boosting student performance, Lemov maintains, is to improve the quality of the teachers who are already teaching.But what makes a good teacher? There have been many quests for the one essential trait, and they have all come up empty-handed.
When Doug Lemov conducted his own search for those magical ingredients, he noticed something about most successful teachers that he hadn’t expected to find: what looked like natural-born genius was often deliberate technique in disguise. “Stand still when you’re giving directions,” a teacher at a Boston school told him. In other words, don’t do two things at once. Lemov tried it, and suddenly, he had to ask students to take out their homework only once.
It was the tiniest decision, but what was teaching if not a series of bite-size moves just like that?
Lemov thought about soccer, another passion. If his teammates wanted him to play better, they didn’t just say, “Get better.” They told him to “mark tighter” or “close the space.” Maybe the reason he and others were struggling so mightily to talk and even to think about teaching was that the right words didn’t exist — or at least, they hadn’t been collected. And so he set out to assemble the hidden wisdom of the best teachers in America.
The most damning testimony [concerning teacher training] comes from the graduates of education schools. No professional feels completely prepared on her first day of work, but while a new lawyer might work under the tutelage of a seasoned partner, a first-year teacher usually takes charge of her classroom from the very first day. One survivor of this trial by fire is Amy Treadwell, a teacher for 10 years who received her master’s degree in education from DePaul University, one of the largest private universities in the Chicago area. She took courses in children’s literature and on “Race, Culture and Class”; one on the history of education, another on research, several on teaching methods. She even spent one semester as a student teacher at a Chicago elementary school. But when she walked into her first job, teaching first graders on the city’s South Side, she discovered a major shortcoming: She had no idea how to teach children to read. “I was certified and stamped with a mark of approval, and I couldn’t teach them the one thing they most needed to know how to do,” she told me.
When Doug Lemov, who is 42, set out to become a teacher of teachers, he was painfully aware of his own limitations. A large, shy man with a Doogie Howser face, he recalls how he limped through his first year in the classroom, at a private day school in Princeton, N.J. His heartfelt lesson plans — write in your journal while listening to music; analyze Beatles songs like poems — received blank stares. “I still remember thinking: Oh, my God. I still have 45 minutes left to go,” he told me recently. Things improved over time, but very slowly. At the Academy of the Pacific Rim, a Boston charter school he helped found, he was the dean of students, a job title that is school code for chief disciplinarian, and later principal. Lemov fit the bill physically — he’s 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds — but he struggled to get students to follow his directions on the first try.
...[H]e decided to seek out the best teachers he could find — as defined partly by their students’ test scores — and learn from them. A self-described data geek, he went about this task methodically, collecting test-score results and demographic information from states around the country. He plotted each school’s poverty level on one axis and its performance on state tests on the other. Each chart had a few outliers blinking in the upper-right-hand corner — schools that managed to squeeze high performance out of the poorest students. He broke those schools’ scores down by grade level and subject. If a school scored especially high on, say, sixth-grade English, he would track down the people who taught sixth graders English.
He called a wedding videographer he knew through a friend and asked him if he’d like to tag along on some school visits. Their first trip to North Star Academy, a charter school in Newark, turned into a five-year project to record teachers across the country. At first, Lemov financed the trip out of his consulting budget; later, Uncommon Schools paid for it. The odyssey produced a 357-page treatise known among its hundreds of underground fans as Lemov’s Taxonomy. (The official title, attached to a book version being released in April, is “Teach Like a Champion: The 49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College.”)
Building a Better Teacher by Elizabeth Green | NY Times | March 2, 2010
It's incredible. Teach Like a Champion is about the techniques used by "champion" teachers as opposed to merely good teachers, champion meaning these teachers reliably produce very large gains in student achievement. Year in and year out, their students do better than students in the classrooms of good teachers.
The book has the potential to be revolutionary. In fact, it is revolutionary. These are some of the best teachers in the country, and not one of them is a facilitator or a guide on the side. They are instructivists leading teacher-directed classrooms.
Words you do not see in the index:
- cooperative learning
- balanced literacy
- reading workshop
- writing workshop
What do parents want?
Parents want the teachers and methods described in this book.
The most dangerous word in the education-reform lexicon is “stakeholder” and the most problematic among the infinite theories that reformers espouse is that widespread “stakeholder buy-in” is essential if anything is actually to change.
My own experience these past zillion years is that demanding lots of buy-in is a reliable way to ensure that nothing much changes, at least nothing beyond enlarging the total pie so that every “stakeholder” gets a bigger slice.
The problem, of course, is that the “stakeholders” in K-12 education always turn out to be producers, not consumers. They are the grown-ups who earn their livings (or their members’ or shareholders’ livings) from the money spent by the education system. Remember that about three-fourths of the typical school-system budget goes for salaries and benefits—for grown-ups. And nearly all the rest goes to buy things that grown-ups benefit from selling, such as textbooks, teacher-education, in-service training, computers, football uniforms, building maintenance services, school buses, etc.
For big changes—in education, in foreign policy, in dietary practices, you name it—almost never occur because everybody affected by them agrees in advance that they should occur. People aren’t like that. The only kind of change that most people—and, heaven save us, most “associations”—will readily assent to amounts to “more of the same.” Real change occurs with duress, in response to leadership, in defiance of habit, resistance, inertia, and obduracy. Real change occurs because someone manages to place the needs and interests of children, parents, and taxpayers ahead of the interests of the putative stakeholders that normally prevail. (Among innumerable examples: Teach For America, charter schools, pay for performance, standards-based accountability.)The "buy-in" paradox
Homeschooling can produce amazing results. Between K and 1st my son jumped 3 grade levels in reading, language, and math. Just recently he took a standardized math test for 6th graders (he was in the middle of Singapore 4A at the time) and his grade equivalent came back as 7.5.
Actually, I think that says more about average 7th graders than it does about my 2nd grade son.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
I have to ask myself: if [a good private school] was available in my area, would we choose to send our kids there instead of homeschooling?
My husband and I have had a few interesting conversations about this sort of thing -- since we homeschool for academic, rather than religious or social, reasons -- we have to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak. We need to provide a better education than what is available "out there" -- and the proof will be in the pudding to see if our gamble paid off.
Or maybe this is on my mind because my oldest has her yearly standardized test this afternoon. Heh. And she took it last year, so we'll have a delta to look at: just what did we learn last year, in our first "official" year of schooling?
We currently use Peabody. It's an oral test, the licensed test-taker comes to the house and it takes about an hour or so. I think it is structured like those new-fangled computerized tests where what your next question is depends on how you responded to your last question. We did it last year, as well, and seems to be a particularly good fit for younger kids.
OK, you'll just have to indulge me for a moment, because, hey, I'm a mom. I get to brag a little. We got our Peabody results.
Our traditional method-taught Kindergartener's grade equivalence:
Reading Recognition: 5th grade, 6th month
Reading Comprehension: 8th grade, 1st month**
Math: 4th grade, 0th month
Spelling: 4th grade, 2nd month
** She said possibly even higher. A. was starting to get bored and fidgety as they kept going and going and didn't want to answer any more questions.
So, THANK YOU Singapore math and Math-U-See combo, and THANK YOU traditional phonics!
ktm: How old is your daughter?
I don't have her exact grades from last year in front of me, but from memory, she went up almost 2 years in Reading Recognition, 3 years in Reading Comprehension, 2 years in Math and almost 4 years in Spelling. Also, I didn't mention "General Knowledge" above, it's supposed to be an amalgam of Science, Soc. Studies, etc -- she went up 3 years in that, to 4th grade, 9th month. (And a "Thank you!" shout out to Sonlight, which provided a good chunk of the general knowledge bump this year.)
Last year was our first "official" year of schooling so we had her tested at the beginning of the year to get a baseline to see how much she learned during that year.
Apparently, a whole heck of a lot.
And, again, I apologize for the prideful mom-puffery here, but ... well, you guys know how this is. The choices you make for your kids *are* a gamble -- and homeschooling is a big one.
As Andrew has said -- sending your kid to public school is the educational equivalent of "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." So we're -- and especially me -- sticking our necks out here. And the stakes couldn't be higher -- our children's education! -- if we lose.
So high standardized test scores? Yeah, that's a huge deal to me.
And it's a big relief because it solidifies my husband's support for our choice. As the tester said to him, the school wouldn't have any idea what to do with A. if she was a Kindergartener this year. Well, any ideas that taught her academics, at least.
Define basic. Is it functioning on grade level, i.e., doing what a 5th grader is expected to do, when you're 10? If that's the definition, then what should one do with children who enter their 5th grade year above grade level? What are systems legally required to do?
Our school system doesn't have G&T, so that's never been an option for us. The school's answer has been, in general, that strong students should tutor weak students. Of course, a kid who's bored out of his gourd may not look like a strong student, because compliance with a rules based system may not make any sense to a bright 10 year old. Why should he pretend to make an effort, when the homework takes no effort? If the class matter is too easy, it will have no value for him -- or as much value as a worksheet requiring adults to name the days of the week would have for adults.
If a basic education means the provision of teachers and academic work, why must it fit the age, not the kid's academic level? Why must a 10 year old functioning at a 7th grade level attend 5th grade classes?
This is vitally important for our society. Just this week I saw an article citing a national shortage of nuclear engineers.
I submit that the kid who gets As on class tests, but doesn't hand in his homework, needs more interesting subject matter. Every student should have the privilege of being unable to ace tests. If students are passing tests with 100%, they aren't correctly placed, even if they're darned useful to others as tutors. On balance, they're more useful to society, in the long run, as nuclear engineers or lawyers, than as free, untrained tutors.
We believe that the people closest to the challenges in their profession are the ones best suited to solve them. In addition to the procedures outlined in the FCTA, FASSE, and FCASA negotiated agreements, employees at the Frederick Classical Charter School will have an additional informal mechanism to resolve concerns and make suggestions. The school will employ General Electric’s Work-Out process to empower employees to identify problems and unleash their creativity, energy, and expertise to develop and implement solutions. The point of Work-Out is not to create an additional formal, top-down bureaucratic process for resolving issues, but to encourage an informal, simple, fast, and employee-led way of operating that respects the fact that the people closest to the issues are more likely to have the knowledge to resolve them.
Valuable Professional Development, Not Fads
Our extensive professional development will be given by the best in their fields, and provide practical training based on mainstream education research and cognitive science that makes a real difference for students. We plan to create a Summer Institute and in-service training that also meets Maryland certification requirements, so that the time spent in professional development helps teachers maintain their credentials. Though our teacher satisfaction survey we'll continually improve the professional development offerings so that teachers get training that is useful to them. We plan to build the school's capacity to deliver professional development, transitioning from using external consultants for professional development in the first few years to developing in-house trainers whose expertise is sought at the school, county, and, eventually, national levels.
Focus on Students
Our school regards well-written and well-delivered lesson plans as the heart and soul of improving education. In subjects where research-based lesson plans are available, we provide them to teachers so that they can spend less time planning lessons and more time helping students. In areas where validated lessons are not available, we'll provide teachers with resources from which lessons can be developed, and give them support over a period of several years to complete a full set of field-tested lesson plans that can be adjusted to meet students' needs.
First, I'd never heard of GE Work-Out, but I'm glad to see it's there. My experience has been that top-down management doesn't work well in public schools absent a total school reform like DI (pdf file), where you have a validated curriculum and you want every teacher to be teaching that curriculum well. In that case you have two tiers of management: the principal and the DI trainers.
My own district has been bulking up administration for years now and plans to carry on bulking up by hiring 'instructional coaches.' Throughout this period, we've seen no gains in student achievement, a fact that administration recently acknowledged.
I've become convinced that Richard DuFour's "professional learning communities" are the way to go in public schools. "PLCs" are not hierarchical; nor does a school that is organized around PLCs grow the administration. So I'm thinking Frederick Classical Charter School is on the right track.
Have any of you -- teachers, parents, everyone -- had a different experience of hierarchy and authority working well inside public (or private/parochial) schools?
Second, I wonder how teachers will be evaluated in this school -- and whether there is a reason why they haven't mentioned linking teacher evaluations to student achievement.
Third, research-based lesson plans --- wow!
It sounds as if there might be a market in Westchester County for a private school that stressed real phonics, spelling, grammar, composition, high-quality fiction and non-fiction, real (Singapore etc.) math, serious content across all disciplines (CK or Wise Bauer's classical), explicit teaching to mastery, homogeneous grouping by subject, immediate help for struggling students and allowing/encouraging acceleration. With the existing demographics, I'd think kids would soar to great heights with that kind of program (without outside tutoring!) and class sizes could probably be larger than at public schools, with no problems.That's what I've been wondering. That's why I asked the question about cheap private schools.
About 2.9 percent7 of all students ages 5 through 17 were homeschooled in 2007, most of them on a full-time basis. A larger percentage of students in two-parent households were homeschooled (3.6 percent) compared with students in one-parent households (1.0 percent). A greater percentage of students living in rural locales were homeschooled (4.9 percent) than were students living in cities or suburbs (2.0 percent vs. 2.7 percent, respectively).
Homeschooling is an additional education option available to parents. The percentage of students being homeschooled has increased in recent years. Over 1.5 million students were homeschooled in the United States in 2007 compared with 1.1 million in 2003, and 850,000 in 1999 (Bielick 2008).
Trends in the Use of School Choice 1993 to 2007
a higher percentage of females (3.5 percent) were homeschooled than were males (2.4 percent). A higher percentage of White students (3.9 percent) were homeschooled in 2007 than Hispanic (1.5 percent) or Black (0.8 percent) students. A smaller percentage of poor students (1.8 percent) than near-poor (4.1 percent) or non-poor (2.9 percent) students were homeschooled in 2007. A smaller percentage of students whose parents’ highest level of education was a high school diploma or GED (1.8 percent) were homeschooled than were students whose parents highest level of education was some college or a bachelor’s degree (3.8 and 3.9 percent, respectively). A larger percentage of students in two-parent households (3.6 percent) were homeschooled than were students in one-parent households (1.0 percent). A higher percentage of rural students (4.9 percent) were homeschooled than were students living in cities or suburbs (2.0 and 2.7 percent, respectively).
Trends in the Use of School Choice, 1997 - 2003
So we see a 29% increase in homeschooled students from 1999 to 2003 followed by a 36% increase from 2003 to 2007.
From 1993 to 2007, the percentage of students enrolled in assigned public schools decreased from 80 percent to 73 percent, while the percentage of students enrolled in chosen public schools increased from 11 percent to 16 percent. Using data from the National Household Education Survey (NHES) of the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), this report examines enrollment trends in public schools (assigned and chosen) and private schools (religious and nonsectarian), from 1993 to 2007, as well as the characteristics of students in these schools in 2007. Additionally, the report describes student enrollment in charter schools in 2007 and demographic characteristics of homeschooled students in 2007. The report also examines parents' satisfaction with and involvement in their children's schools.
Other findings include:
- In 2007, about 2 percent of students in grades 1 through 12 were enrolled in charter schools, and about 2.9 percent of all students ages 5 through 17 were homeschooled, most of them on a full-time basis.
Trends in the Use of School Choice 1993-2007
- In 2007, about 50 percent of students had parents who reported that public school choice was available, and 27 percent had parents who reported that they had moved to their neighborhood for the child's school. Between 2003 and 2007, the percentage of students in chosen public schools who attended their parents' first-choice school increased from 83 to 88 percent.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
The author, like so many who paint "traditional" education with the same brush does not define what is meant by “failing with the traditional curriculum.” What are the numbers of students who failed and the criterion for failing? If traditional teaching failed, was it because of traditional teaching done poorly... has the author considered that teaching at Schools of the Future may be done poorly because it is inherent in the progressive nature of the “student-centered” and “inquiry-based” structure? How does the author know that successful people did not learn by sitting in a classroom in front of a board? Have the successful people he has met been taught exclusively by inquiry based and student-centered approaches, with cooperative learning, and popsicle stick dioramas of World War II?The Ed Next article reminds me of the writing I did for New Woman Magazine back in the day. New Woman employed zealous fact-checkers who scrutinized every quotation and factoid, except for the founding claim made in the opening paragraph.
e.g.: Because it was New Woman Magazine, there were certain truths we held to be self-evident. Women were oppressed; men failed to commit; divorce was skyrocketing. I remember, by the time I left the magazine, being amazed that it was OK to assert, in a first paragraph, that divorce was skyrocketing when divorce had been doing no such thing for at last a decade.
In fact, skyrocketing change of any kind was simply assumed to be real when it was the peg from which an article would hang. Skyrocketing divorce, skyrocketing STDS, skyrocketing single motherhood by choice, what have you. No one ever asked for proof that a given phenomenon was actually, truly, measurably, skyrocketing.
That is the issue with the Education Next book excerpt: "traditional" education is simply assumed to be bad, while progressive education is assumed to be good. No fact-checking required.
The students, almost all African American, more than 80 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, came with skill levels all over the map; a majority read at a 5th-grade level or below. Used to worksheets, paper-and-pencil tests, and being asked to regurgitate information, many weren’t prepared to take control of their own learning. Some thrived on the project-based, interdisciplinary, and technology-rich model, and were finally able to connect to the purpose of school; others simply found it bewildering.Last I checked, Education Next was a center-right, pro-standards, pro-accountability, pro-knowledge journal sympathetic to the arguments of E.D. Hirsch. And here we've got Ed Next excerpting a book passage that takes as a given the wrongheadedness of everything E.D. Hirsch stands for.
High School 2.0
By Dale Mezzacappa
This is what you call your discourse speaking through the subject. Foucault was right.*
Joanne Jacobs has a post.
critical thinking challenge
How much "information" is a high school student who reads at a 5th grade level able to "regurgitate?"
* Either that, or the entire universe of edu-writing is being funded by Bill Gates.
next time, try Core Knowledge
Battling the Progressives
what do parents want? Sweden's "Knowledge schools"
comments on Knowledge Schools
project learning in Holland
Monday, April 5, 2010
Here's one example that answers Vicky's question with a resounding "No!" Ridgeview Classical School is continually ranked in the US News & World Report as a top charter school in the country. One year, they were #15 overall. Their previous principal, Dr. Terrence Moore, (currently an Assistant Professor of History at Hillsdale College in Michigan) wrote frequently about teacher certification and the value of ed. schools. (And classical education, and phonics, and Core Knowledge...) He recommends two books for people seeking information on schools of education: Rita Kramer’s Ed School Follies and, even better, George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
From his article, Association of Teacher Qualification and Certification is a False One:
When I taught history at the university level, I noticed an extreme division in my classes. The history majors reveled in the subject, did all the reading, and had significant things to say in class. The ed-school students sat at the back of the class, had little to say, showed little sign of enjoying or mastering the material, and usually skimmed by with a C minus. Which group is more qualified to teach history to the nation’s children?His thesis from A Monopoly on ’Relating to Children’?: Teacher Certification Further Refuted:
Certified teachers do not have a monopoly on being able to relate to kids but are very often the people least able to do so.Ouch! The Ridgeview Classical School is well-known locally for seeking out non-certified teachers in the school. In fact, anyone seeking a teaching position in Fort Collins should consider the current open positions at Ridgeview:
(All emphases are mine)
Special Education Teacher
...The candidate does not need to have a degree in special education to be considered for this position. Any interested candidate who has a strong background in liberal arts, science, or brain-based fields will be considered, as long as there is a commitment to obtain appropriate CDE licensure. It is necessary that the candidate maintains high academic standards for all students regardless of background or learning differences. The special education teacher must demonstrate the ability to teach students (K – 12), who need additional supports and services beyond the scope of the classroom setting, and is also expected to participate in the identification process for students who struggle academically or behaviorally. Candidates should have experience in different kinds of classroom settings.
Ridgeview is looking for a versatile teacher who can teach literature, Latin, and history (especially American) to students from upper elementary to high school. Applicants should have degrees in at least two of those subjects or be able to demonstrate their versatility in other ways. A teaching certificate is not a requirement. Teachers are expected to be content experts in their field. Applicants should be able to demonstrate excellent classroom control and considerable experience in teaching students of different ages.
Ridgeview seeks a math teacher for the middle and high school. Applicants should be expert mathematicians with a degree in their field and the ability to communicate their expertise to their students. Teaching certification is not required for this position. Applicants should be able to teach a wide variety of math classes from pre-algebra to high-level math electives.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Thirty-five years ago, the nation's Jesuit high schools were reeling from an identity crisis. Jesuits were leaving both the schools and the Society; social action ministries seemed more relevant than teaching high school. Should the Jesuits continue to run high schools for upper- and middle-class students or focus on serving the poor?
Simultaneously, urban riots slashed enrollments at some inner-city Jesuit schools, and single-sex education seemed to some to be a chauvinistic anachronism. Replacing Jesuits with lay faculty raised tuition. Some of the nation's best Catholic high schools were in danger.
Fast-forward to 2006. The "long black line" of Jesuits is gone, with just a handful of priests and brothers remaining in most of the forty-nine American Jesuit high schools. However, the Society of Jesus is committed to its high schools, because Jesuits now realize that they provide outstanding opportunities for the spiritual formation of young people, says Fr. Ralph Metts, SJ, president of the Jesuit Secondary Education Association (JSEA). AMDG still rules at today's thriving schools. Consider these developments.
- Inner-city Jesuit Cristo Rey high schools, where low-income students work for their tuition, are opening rapidly. Two were added to the network in 2006, with more planned.
- Most of the traditional Jesuit high schools are at capacity, with competitive enrollments. This includes inner-city schools once threatened with closing.
- The schools are raising at least four hundred million dollars in capital campaigns alone to upgrade campuses and enhance endowments/financial aid.
- Jesuit schools all over the country are still academically and athletically elite.
What lies behind this turnaround?
That's what I sought to discover in writing this book.
They Made All the Difference: Life-changing Stories from Jesuit High Schools by Eileen Wirth
I came across this rib tickler while reading a dismal report on my state legislature's continuing refusal to stand up to our teacher's union, Education Minnesota. The current issue is whether to permit alternative teacher certification.
Minnesota has one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation.
But here's a quote from the union president, from Politics in Minnesota:
“Why in the world, when we rightfully demand more from students, would we demand less of teachers?” Dooher wrote. “Minnesota is a national leader in teacher excellence. That’s why we’re speaking up against the Teach for America program, and why we believe parents should, too. This program, which has been around for years, puts people in charge of classrooms after only five weeks of training.”
Could he be more plain about protecting his turf? The bills in the legislature are about bringing qualified, experienced professionals into the profession. Reportedly, some include requirements such as having earned a bachelor degree with at least a 3.0 grade point average, or having at least 10 years of relevant experience in their subject matter, completion of a state-certified preparatory program, and passing all skills tests required of teachers before entering the classroom.
But nope, not acceptable to our teacher's union. Gotta get them when they're 23 and straight out of ed school, I guess, or you might end up with some disruptive influences.
Fascinating interview with Stanislaus Dehaene, author of Reading in the Brain
On the shapes of letters:
How literacy changes the brain.
In the case of reading, the shapes of our writing systems have evolved towards a progressive simplification while remaining compatible with the visual coding scheme that is present in all primate brains. A fascinating discovery, made by the American researcher Marc Changizi, is that all of the world's writing systems use the same set of basic shapes, and that these shapes are already a part of the visual system in all primates, because they are also useful for coding natural visual scenes. The monkey brain already contains neurons that preferentially respond to an “alphabet” of shapes including T, L, Y. We merely “recycle” these shapes (and the corresponding part of cortex) and turn them into a cultural code for language.
We are starting to do brain-imaging experiments in illiterates, and we find that this region, before it responds to words, has a preference for pictures of objects and faces. We are also finding that this region is especially attuned to small features present in the contours of natural shapes, such as the “Y” shape in the branches of trees. My hypothesis is our letters emerged from a recycling of those shapes at the cultural level. The brain didn't have enough time to evolve “for” reading – so writing systems evolved “for” the brain!
On the scientific bankruptcy of whole-language (and balanced literacy)
In the case of reading, very concretely, as I explain in the book, we now have plenty of evidence that the whole-language approach has nothing to do with how our visual system recognizes written words – our brain never relies on the overall contours of words, rather it decomposes all of its letters and graphemes in parallel, subliminally and at a high speed, thus giving us an illusion of whole-word reading. Experiments even suggest that the whole-language method may orient learning towards the wrong brain region, symmetrical to the visual word form area in the right hemisphere! We need to inform our teaching with the best brain science – and we also need to develop evidence-based education research, using classroom experiments to verify that our deductions about teaching methods actually work in practice.
This isn't fully known, but I was intrigued by recent research which indicates that dyslexic children and adults can be better on tasks of symmetry detection – they have a greater ability to notice the presence of symmetrical patterns, and the evidence even suggests that this was helpful in a group of astrophysicists to detect the symmetrical spectrum of black holes!
My theory is that mirror recognition is one of the functions that we have to partially “un-learn” when we learn to read – it is a universal feature of the primate brain that is, unfortunately, inappropriate in our alphabet where letters p, q, d and b abound. By somehow managing to maintain this ability, dyslexics might be at some advantage in visual, spatial or even mathematical tasks.