kitchen table math, the sequel: sage on the stage bests guide on the side

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

sage on the stage bests guide on the side

new study

from the press release:
[P]rominent organizations such as the National Research Council and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, for at least the last three decades, have “called for teachers to engage students in constructing their own new knowledge through more hands-on learning and group work.”

Harvard Study Shows that Lecture-Style Presentations Lead to Higher Student Achievement
Thirty years.


ChemProf said...

And check out the first couple of comments -- you get the usual response that the standardized test doesn't measure "critical thinking" or "applications." Sigh.

Daniel Ethier said...

That should ruffle some feathers!

But looking at the comments, it just sounds like they'll just dismiss this study with the same well worn excuses.

One of the ironies is that when you look at the questions from the TIMMS 2003 test, some of them look like they came from the NCTM standards.

LynnG said...

If I played devil's advocate for a moment on this -- what if I agreed for the sake of argument that critical thinking and creativity and application of knowledge to new situations were things that can both be taught (or discovered on one's own with teacher acting as a guide) AND I agreed that current tests don't measure such skills.

If you take those two things as given, how are we supposed to know if we are succeeding in our efforts to teach these things?

I'm way past the point where I would trust the education system without demanding accountability. If they think they can teach critical thinking, then I need to see some proof that it is happening. Until then, it's just all smoke and mirrors.

Catherine Johnson said...

I have GOT to find time to tell you all about my field trip to the Cambridge Pre-U Global Perspectives course.

It's all critical thinking all the time.

Students read nothing, learning nothing; they think critically.

The principal told us: "This is not a content-rich course."

That was the selling point.

Not content-rich.

MagisterGreen said...

I am very much looking forward to the full article in the summer edition.

As far as content-free being a selling point, it makes perfect sense from a (poor) teaching/administrative standpoint, since the lack of content means a lack of standards. No standards means no judgement. And no reason for anyone to A) demand improvement and accountability or B) fire you.

Allison said...

The full report is available now:

MagisterGreen said...

Fantastic. A thousand thanks...I clearly missed the link.

Glen said...

Lack of content means that the teachers are already experts, too, without the need to study.

Catherine Johnson said...

it makes perfect sense from a (poor) teaching/administrative standpoint, since the lack of content means a lack of standards

The principal was talking about "data," so I asked what data they would collect in order to evaluate the course.

I don't know! he said. (The exclamation mark was there -- he had a smile on his face.)

The course is team-taught, and the English teacher told us that one of the two topics the students are researching is China as a global power. Then he said that one of the students told him that, "I GET China!"

The English teacher said that this student had never gotten China in his content-rich history courses, but now that he'd thought critically about the op eds they'd read, the student understood how all that history led to today's China.

I drove there with our h.s. principal, who, when I pointed out that there are about 5 China experts in the world and they don't "GET" China, said "China doesn't get China."

The whole point of these GLOBAL-GLOBAL courses is that the teachers have no expertise whatsoever.

A whole new SUBJECT has been invented: GLOBAL.

Nobody studies Global, nobody takes tests on Global, and everyone can successfully teach Global.

All you need is a SmartBoard and Google.

Catherine Johnson said...

The other topic students are researching is "Islamophobia and technology."

When I told that to Ed, he said, "Did anyone think critically about the concept of Islamophobia?"

Hainish said...

Catherine, I guess you haven't seen Scholastic's new English curriculum, Expert 21?

Bonnie said...

I am just as appalled by the Global course that you describe as you are. But...everyone here seems to repeat the charter school mantra over and over. "If only we had more charter schools, everything would be wonderful". So what do you think of the proliferation of "Global" themed charter schools? Here is an example
If you google "global" and "charter school" you will find tons of these. A friend of mine put her middle schooler in one of these and reports to me on occassion. The school is rife with these content-free courses - and my friend is thrilled. This is where charter schools will go because this is what parents want - content-free, "fun learning".

ChemProf said...

I don't have a problem with parents choosing a charter that I wouldn't choose for my own kid, anymore than I have a problem with parents choosing progressive private schools. I do have issues with these kinds of content-free methods taking over neighborhood schools when I don't have the option of sending my own child elsewhere. I think most of us are clear that many parents have different goals for their kids, but with the current neighborhood school system, there is no room for multiple approaches, and when charters are limited, then that's all you have.

Catherine Johnson said...

Hi Bonnie -- !

You can probably guess how I feel about global themed charter schools.


Ross Global is a mess, right?

Didn't I post an article about it?

Yes, I did.

worst charter school in New York City

Chris Whittle is starting a huge, new, for-profit chain of global schools 'cuz his daughter attended a global school in Wales for the last two years in high school or some such

David Kaplan has a hilarious piece on it in Fortune; must get it posted.

The piece isn't intended to be hilarious, but you can tell that he's appalled. (David lives here in Irvington, so he's spent the last 7 years steeped in jargon and fuzzy math.)

Catherine Johnson said...

Expert 21??????????

Allison said...


Catherine is worried that charters are the death of Catholic schools. I wouldn't call that "the charter school mantra".

I've moved beyond worried and realized it's inevitable. I'm actually very skeptical of charters because they are still public schools and in most states, are still forced to hire from the same pool of teachers that the other public schools must. But more, there's nothing that guarantees that charters are any better, and without accountability, there's no reason they'll deviate much from the norm. I've spent a long time talking about how parents use proxies for deciding what's a good education, because they have such poor visibility into the educational process. Those proxies of class size, nice physical space, and pleasant teacher are unfortunately not well correlated to academic success. That is still true in the charters. I too am skeptical of vouchers; cash is the proper voucher for the middle class, not another government entitlement.

So perhaps lumping "Everyone" together is not the most effective way to describe the people on this board or to engage them.

Bonnie said...

I actually used to be very much in favor of school choice, because I went to schools in Germany and France. I have not kept up with their systems as they are today, but in those days it was very much a choice system, especially in France. My high school there was considered to be very strong in literary studies, and actually had a boarding school component because so many kids in the region wanted to come.

However, there are huge differences there, not the least of which is a population that respects public education and teachers. There are very few private schools, and those that did exist were mainly for kids who flunked out of public school. The curriculum is largely nationalized, there is no local control of schools (which I think is going to be one of the biggest obstacles to school choice in this country), and students are heavilly tracked by ability and interest.

One of the things that changed my mind was reading the book Stuck in the Shallow End by Jane Margolis. She profiles 3 LA schools in terms of the STEM education that they were offering, focusing on computer science. The computer science aspect was fascinating, but more telling was the chapter that profiled a magnet school, one that minority parents wanted their kids to get into. The magnet school was ostensibly a math and science themed school. Yet, they offered very little in the way of computer science, advanced math, or science. It really seemed like someone had just slapped the "math and science" theme on top of a typical lousy school. The worst part was that the parents had no idea! They thought they were sending their kids to a good school.

Since then, I have noticed that so many charter schools have that same feel to them - a slick theme slapped on top of who-knows-what, in many cases associated with one of those for-profit "charter management" conglomerates. There is no oversight. No one has any idea what these schools are really doing. I read through a charter proposal for a school that was trying to open near where I live, and was totally appalled. I review NSF proposals in the area of computer science education, so I know a thing or about reading educational plans. This proposal was HORRIBLE, utterly devoid of any kind of real educational plan. They just kept saying "we will integrate the arts into every aspect of our curriculum", over and over, as if mere repetition would make it happen. And yet, the charter school fanatics were all pushing for this school's approval!

So, I changed my mind. We won't get European-style school choice here. Instead we will end up with lots of Slick Willie "circus-arts academies" with the same lack of content as current schools. And if that is all that is offered within driving range of your residence, then that is what your "choice" will be.

Text Savvy said...

Schwerdt defends his research in follow-up article: Link.