Can we personalize education and persuade students that it’s on them to learn?

The release earlier this week of international benchmark testing scores produced came the usual laments about where the United States stacked up.

As always, Asian countries took the crowns in math and science performance. Among the 60 countries that participated in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the United States ranked 11th in fourth-grade math, 9th in eighth-grade math, 7th in fourth-grade science and 10th in eighth-grade science. (In the original TIMSS from 1995, U.S. eighth-graders ranked 23rd in math among 41 nations.)

But, while America’s standings aren’t bottom-of-the-barrel, the scores trouble forecasters who believe that the economic future belongs to countries that excel in science, technology, engineering and math.

American students still lack the math mastery of other nations. For example, 7 percent of U.S. eighth graders scored at the advanced level in math, compared with 48 percent in Singapore and 47 percent in South Korea.

So, what’s the answer? Two panels of experts took up that issue at a Washington Post online forum this week. The consensus: New attitudes were needed as much as new reforms.

“It starts with a real recognition of the importance of education,” said Anthony Wilder Miller, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. “Not enough parents or children understand the importance of education.”

The economic downturn underscored that importance, said Jamie Merisotis, president & CEO of the Lumina Foundation, noting that between 2009 and 2012, four out of five jobs lost were among people with a high school diploma or less.

Today, 40 percent of Americans hold an associate’s degree or better. The White House wants to raise that rate to 60 percent by 2020 to meet the changing job market. “Virtually, all the new jobs being created are for people with associate degrees or college degrees,” Merisotis said.

Panelists agreed that the goal was not simply creating more degree holders but creating more lifelong learners.

“Shooting to have all students graduate from high school is nowhere near a high enough aspiration,” said David Conley, CEO of the Education Policy Improvement Center. “And if we design high schools to get students to graduate, we have failed. We’ve got to get the schools to focus on students continuing on beyond high school. Because learning is going to be a lifetime activity for our young people and getting them to learn how to learn is just as important as what they’re learning.”

Now, we’re not even sure what a degree represents in terms of learning and competencies, said Merisotis.

“We are one of the only countries in the world for which you can’t actually articulate what the learning is behind any of the credentials that we offer. The Common Core is the first example in the k-12 level where we’ve actually articulated what students should know and be able to do,” he said.

But we have yet to create similar expectations for a college degree, which now signifies time spent in a seat accumulating credits, said Merisotis, adding, “It has nothing to do with learning. It has nothing to do with what people actually know or are able to do.”

Merisotis said he was not advocating more testing, but a national conversation about “what these degrees, these credentials, actually mean. What competencies should people have? What should they be able to do?”

Absent that kind of conversation, Merisotis warned, “We are going to have nice conversations about boutique ideas that we hope over time we will get to scale and we are not going to get to the economic promise we have as a country.”

The experts concurred that personalized learning is vital to keeping students engaged and in school. They also urged opportunities for learning outside school, such as practicums, internships and apprenticeships.

“Right now, most learning is following directions,” said Conley, calling for a move away from compliance-based learning to an emphasis on teaching children to manage their time, to persist and not give up and to take control of their own learning.

“One of the great ironies is that we are headed into an age where students can get almost any piece of information off their phones,” he said. “Yet, what we are doing is getting more and more information into their heads. The goal is to go beyond that and make them understand that they have to own their own learning.”

MIT professor Anant Agarwal, president of edX, a worldwide online learning initiative of MIT and Harvard, sees promise in the personalization of virtual education.

Agarwal is a pioneer of the massive open online course or MOOC, a free online course in which students earn certificates rather than credits and which relies on the far-flung community of students to help one another. Many top universities are now experimenting with MOOCs, including Georgia Tech and Emory, to figure out how to blend traditional college classes and virtual classes and expand the reach of their campuses and, ultimately, their brands.

In the first MOOC he taught, Agarwal had 155,000 students from 162 countries enrolled. “I would have been up all night answering questions from 155,000 students,” he said. “But we didn’t have to answer student questions because students would ask a question and other students would help them. They would learn by teaching.”

More than 7,o00 people finished his challenging MIT circuits and electronics class, including a 15-year-old genius from Mongolia who is now applying to top U.S. colleges.

As a student in India, Agarwal said he spent all his time wishing he could fast-forward his teachers. Once he was a student at Stanford, he wished he could pause them.

In online courses, students control when they learn and the rate at which they learn, he said. They can watch lectures and complete their interactive exercises at 2 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon. They can pose questions through online forums and get instant feedback from their peers.

“Now, it is one-size-fits-all,” said Agarwal. In his MOOC, he found that most students downloaded lessons between midnight and 2 a.m.

“Why are we driving kids to school at 7 a.m. in a hurry?”

The panel moderator asked some panelists what they would do tomorrow to improve schools. Here are a few of their answers:

Joshua Starr, Superintendent, Montgomery County Public Schools: Impose a three year moratorium on all standardized tests given all the activity and upheaval now under way, including the Common Core assessments, the newly issued federal No Child waivers and the Race to the Top reforms.   He also called for “crowd sourcing” to create the Common Core assessments, using teachers to create the new tests rather than contract the job out to private companies. “They could come up with a better assessment with any of them. Sorry, Pearson,” he said.

During the panel, Starr repeatedly criticized the linking of teacher performance to student test scores, saying that despite its best intent, the Obama administration “built RTT on bad science…We should focus on practice and stop the insanity of linking individual scores to teacher evaluations: It doesn’t work and it doesn’t help motivate people.”

Heather Harding, Senior Vice President, Community Partnerships, Teach for America: Push professional development to the classroom It ought to be coaching in the classroom as opposed to pulling teachers out of their classrooms to undergo training.

Richard Trogisch, Principal, School Without Walls: Put a greater focus on parental involvement Make it possible for parents to be involved including holding parent meetings at night or on Saturdays.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog



46 comments Add your comment

fjeremey

December 13th, 2012
5:18 am

It is nice to see that some folks in education leadership recognize that the link between student performance on standardized tests and teacher effectiveness is specious at best, at least considering the current poor state of test construction. The system is fundamentally broken and responsible change needs to happen; to curriculum, to funding, to leadership, to teachers’ continuing education, to expectations. All stakeholders, students especially, need to be held accountable.

If you’re looking for a few good ideas ask a good teacher. There really are quite a lot of us out here that spend a great deal of time thinking about what might work better and how to implement such solutions. Y’know, just in case anyone deigns to ask or, even more radical, listen and act.

Note

December 13th, 2012
5:50 am

I want to work for Joshua Starr.

Poor Boy from Alabama

December 13th, 2012
5:56 am

No input from business leaders and other potential employers? Little mention of the role of parents?

The educational community is way too insular. They seem to believe they have all the answers, even if there’s evidence in the real world that their methods are not yielding great results. The TIMSS and PIRLS results speak for themselves. High percentages of high school graduates need remedial courses when they enter college. Less than 70% of college entrants graduate within six years. Employers are increasingly disappointed with the skills and attitudes of new graduates.

You can’t fix a problem until you understand it. What needs to happen is a national conversation that ends with everybody on the same page regarding what’s required for young people to be successful in the global economy and the best way(s) to prepare them. We also need better leadership across the board.

What we have now is gibberish from well-meaning folks who are often clueless about how the real world works.

Peter Smagorinsky

December 13th, 2012
6:04 am

Well said fjeremey. As usual, teachers aren’t consulted when it comes to questions about effective teaching.

Here are some good reports debunking the validity of international comparisons on standardized tests:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2012/12/12/yes-numbers-on-international-tests-can-lie/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2012/12/11/what-international-test-scores-really-mean/

Finally, the following is just plain ignorant: “We are one of the only countries in the world for which you can’t actually articulate what the learning is behind any of the credentials that we offer. The Common Core is the first example in the k-12 level where we’ve actually articulated what students should know and be able to do,” he said.

Every state and school district has articulated what students should know and be able to do as part of its mission, and has done so for a long time. The CCSS is the first effort to standardize and centralize curriculum in the hands of people who have never taught. That doesn’t make it the first effort. Again, what teachers have been doing for years is discounted; it’s only when a highly-paid outsider imposes something on them that it’s regarded as real and important.

bootney farnsworth

December 13th, 2012
6:20 am

its already done. its called Montessori.

drew (former teacher)

December 13th, 2012
6:22 am

“The panel moderator asked some panelists what they would do tomorrow to improve schools.”

Maureen…get the rest of the panelists answers and you’dll have a years worth of blogs at the ready. Good suggestions, especially the three you highlighted.

-get teacher more involved in the creation of tests; the test making companies, whether by design or apathy, dictate what defines “an education”. Facts are abundant and easily obtained; the ability to think – not so much.

-move professional development into the classroom and “coach” teachers up. Give teachers the tools and strategies, then model their effective use in the classroom. Some of most wasteful time I spent in education involved “professional development”.

-promote (how about require?) parental involvement.

A couple more:

Do away with all compulsory education laws; respect the right of those who don’t care to belly-up to the educational trough…some simply haven’t the appetite for it. You can lead a horse to water…

Keep schools open in the evenings, staffed with tutors, counselors, parent volunteers, student volunteers, etc.. It’s a shame that these buildings sit empty more than half the time. Make help easily available for students and parents.

bootney farnsworth

December 13th, 2012
6:22 am

like almost everything else in this world, educators are the last (if at all) to be consulted about education.

ScienceTeacher671

December 13th, 2012
7:00 am

Basic reading and math skills are still, well, BASIC for a good education. Sometimes we forget that in our zeal to entertain and make education fun for all.

Odd that students expect to work hard and do repetitive drills etc. to improve in band, football, baseball, soccer, gymnastics, etc., but education is supposed to be entertaining all the time, and the basic skill-building is assumed to “kill” the joy of learning rather than inculcate the basic skills needed to progress.

Holly Jones

December 13th, 2012
7:09 am

Bootney @ 6:20- I was thinking the EXACT same thing as I read this! The Montessori method allows for that personalization in learning, moving at your own pace, and most importantly of all, IMO, self-correction. One of the core tenets of Montessori is that creation of a life-long learner. I’d love to see Montessori methods used more.

South Georgia Retiree

December 13th, 2012
7:14 am

There are so many important variables in a student’s life, and one of the most critical is maturity. We don’t know enough about the human brain to have an ideal learning model that fits all kids, so we have floundered around, and still flounder around, to find something that works for all. Yes, parents, teachers, peers, school environment, etc. are part of the equation, but even a mediocre high school student can excel in college when maturity kicks in. Many kids never have this crucial characteristic, and they fall back. I am proof that an average student, with the sheer determination and necessary maturity, can do it. At 18, I was a “C” student and had no clue or desire to move beyond high school, so I went into military service and was ready for college when I was discharged four years later. Maturity is a consideration in most learning models, but I just don’t think we have yet found a way to move kids along who are immature. We can borrow, create, buy, and adapt learning models, but will never succeed until we find a way to look inside the brain and discover whether a kid is ready to learn.

HS Math Teacher

December 13th, 2012
7:14 am

It’s very clear to anyone with 20/20 vision that we have depersonalized education in the last 5 or 6 years. Instead of tailoring education to the needs of students of varying ability levels (and motivation levels) we’re just putting them all in a standard-sized jumpsuit.

Additionally, we socially promote slower students in the lower grades, and then tell them that “it’s on you to learn” in high school. Its a damned charade.

Private Citizen

December 13th, 2012
7:31 am

The dumbing down has been done with strategy and force. It is not by accident. Central planners started changing policy and forcing people to be unlearned, replacing content with hocum. It turns into a rhythm and then content is not recognised when it is there. Content becomes unfamiliar and alien. The central planners have alienated the people from content/intelligence.

Regarding MOOCs, that is a separate issue. It tool me a while to figure this out, this free study, this “manna from heaven.” The MOOC scheme is/will/does received money as an HR human resources seek and identify mission. The high performers (students) will be hired / recruited by companies if they choose to do so. In part, MOOCs will be about demographics, keeping records of the users, and then selling the students as “human capital” for commission. ‘Not saying this is a bad thing, just what is going on. The “free classes” thing is only half of the story of the MOOC concept.

Private Citizen

December 13th, 2012
7:33 am

MOOCs are not unlike “American Idol” audition tv show finding talent for record companies.

Private Citizen

December 13th, 2012
7:44 am

hey Peter, great post but I do not think you ever used the Georgia version of the “common core standards.” It was no picnic and I’m glad it’s gone. I’m really glad it’s gone. At the school house, teacher was expected / required to use wipe-board space and write this on the board every day: http://smithsclass.com/Essential%20Questions.htm

It’s like they take one aspect of a discussion and turn it into policy and force-require the teacher to post that one thing, like they are a mouse that needs a piece of cheese. This level of intrusion and directing is inappropriate, way way over the line. As I have said, in Georgia school concept has very poor boundaries all the way around. Arne Duncan probably has the poorest boundaries of any person on earth. He wants to the school in the home (calling) he wants the home in the school (kids evaluating teachers), and he wants the managers in the classrooms (360 degree evaluations) and he wants your (students) repeated tests and records in a federal database.

[...] Today, 40 percent of Americans hold an associate’s degree or better. The White House wants to raise that rate to 60 percent by 2020 to meet the changing job market. “Virtually, all the new jobs being created are for people with associate degrees or college degrees,” Merisotis said.Panelists agreed that the goal was not simply creating more degree holders but creating more lifelong learners.“Shooting to have all students graduate from high school is nowhere near a high enough aspiration,” said David Conley, CEO of the Education Policy Improvement Center. “And if we design high schools to get students to graduate, we have failed. We’ve got to get the schools to focus on students continuing on beyond high school. Because learning is going to be a lifetime activity for our young people and getting them to learn how to learn is just as important as what they’re learning.”  [...]

teacher&mom

December 13th, 2012
8:10 am

From Peter’s link above:

“But the successful transmission of prescribed content contributes little to economies that require creative and entrepreneurial individual talents and in fact can damage the creative and entrepreneurial spirit. Thus high test scores of a nation can come at the cost of entrepreneurial and creative capacity.”

Our nation has the highest number of Nobel Prize winners and the highest number of patent applications. Yet, we are convinced that our entire educational system is failing based on test scores.

Perhaps it is time to pull back and look at the picture from a different angle….

What if we followed Mr. Starr’s advice and instituted a 3-year moratorium on standardized testing and used the surplus funds to push professional development to the classroom level as suggested by Ms. Harding?

Or… used the surplus funds to guarantee every science classroom in this nation is decked out with the finest equipment….

or…vocational classrooms stocked with plenty of equipment and supplies…

Won’t happen because testing is a multi-billion dollar business that buys a lot of support from politicians and policy makers.

And the general public would rather spend countless dollars on a test score at the expense of classroom level investments.

Johnny Too Good

December 13th, 2012
8:24 am

Can we? This should’ve been the case all along.
A student cannot be taught if they dont wanna learn.
Kids in other countries beg for an education, our kids act like its punishment —- there’s your answer to low test scores and bad behavior

Maureen Downey

December 13th, 2012
8:28 am

@Private, Most people agree that MOOCs will eventually turn into a way for colleges to make money — fees will likely be imposed once colleges begin to attach credits to the classes.
Maureen

V for Vendetta

December 13th, 2012
8:47 am

To answer the blog question: no.

Life is about incentives, and currently, we offer no incentives to really succeed beyond those imposed by parents who are already, by some measure or another, successful people themselves. We need to contextualize the Math and Science curriculums into a more college-based system. If students, especially high school students, saw purpose and vision in their educational paths, I think it would resonate more clearly with them.

I’m learning how to do this Math because…

I need this Science in order to…

And for the love of all that is holy and decent in the world, we need to start kids off in computer classes MUCH earlier. I have high school students who still cannot attach a file to an email. That’s pathetic and a serious problem in today’s email-based, file-sharing workforce. Of course students don’t know what they want to do or who they want to be when they reach high school; however, I would argue that their latent aptitudes have been quite clearly discovered and that they have a firm grasp of what they would NOT like to do.

But starting kids on tracks too early bothers some people because all the kids are special and each one can be whatever he or she wants to be.

Rubbish.

motivation is lacking

December 13th, 2012
8:50 am

““Right now, most learning is following directions,” said Conley, calling for a move away from compliance-based learning to an emphasis on teaching children to manage their time, to persist and not give up and to take control of their own learning.”

I’m sorry, but this last statement makes it sound like a teacher can teach students to manage their time and not give up. You should visit my school and try teaching these skills. Teachers give students numerous opportunities to select their individual assignments and are given time in class to complete them. Every day the teacher prompts the students to complete the assignments, assists them with anything they need to be successful, but when the completed assignment is due the student does not have it. “I forgot it.” “I didn’t have time.” “It was too hard.” These are just a few of the excuses students give. Teachers can’t make a student do their assignments. Many sit and do nothing even with the teacher trying to help them. So the teacher gives students more time to complete the assignment. Most students simply do NOT want to work or learn especially if it means thinking about it and applying it. Teachers cannot teach motivation. All the candy in the world will not motivate students!

“In online courses, students control when they learn and the rate at which they learn, he said. They can watch lectures and complete their interactive exercises at 2 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon. They can pose questions through online forums and get instant feedback from their peers.”

I love online learning. But I also love learning and thrive on tasks that are challenging and make me work. Students today don’t think school is necessary and don’t really understand how it will affect their future. We, their teachers, try to tell them, show them, and plan activities that are applicable to the real world. PLUS, 75% of the students in my school do not have a working computer with Internet at home and there is only one computer lab in the school for 600 students. Unfortunately in my school they know there is a Welfare check waiting on them and they don’t have to work to get it. They know what it takes to get a disability check and know that it doesn’t require work. They know this because this is what their parents have taught them. Do you really think most middle school and high school students are even capable of working in an online environment? I don’t. If students can’t turn in simple assignments with prompts from the teacher how in the world can you expect them to be motivated to learn online? In my online learning experience the online forums are pretty limited in ideas worthy of reading. The professor must require a certain number of feedback responses in order for students to even respond to others. It all sounds ideal but the reality is we live in a society of unmotivated people, for the most part.
Before people who think they know how to change education start making their new mandates they need to visit rural America. Places that don’t have job opportunities, big box stores, theaters, museums, or numerous professional offices. This is where I live and my students don’t get to experience big city life with all of its opportunities. We don’t have funds for field trips or job fairs. Not everyone lives and works in big cities. Rural America is being left behind when it comes to education.

Private Citizen

December 13th, 2012
9:37 am

Every day the teacher prompts the students to complete the assignments, assists them with anything they need to be successful

Yes. It’s all backwards and teacher is run like a greyhound dog on a track, while kids sit back and play cool and do not value the instruction. Used to be if the student did not put some heart and soul and effort into it, they got failed out, sent out into the cold or back to the farm. Teachers could work in a dignified purposeful manner and got some respect. If there is no proxy arrangement and consequence to purposefully being a laggard, then students are being warehoused to keep them off the street and teachers must play act or do excessive placated, over-customising etc., and then be faulted. The whole thing is backwards. Education has been subverted. Stupid people are good marks for being politically powerless and for going into debt. As adults, these students will certainly have no political voice and a lot of people want it that way. The students will grow up to be consumers who can be stimulated, manipulated, directed.

Private Citizen

December 13th, 2012
9:39 am

I should say “ignorant people,” not “stupid people.” I am not saying anyone is innately stupid, but essentially these students are being rejected by the power structure and are being treated as fodder with all of the over-kindness stuff.

Private Citizen

December 13th, 2012
9:41 am

Reverse-grading in the movie “Harrison Bergeron” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmEOI5zwFMM#t=1m50s

Private Citizen

December 13th, 2012
9:50 am

motivation is lacking, If Georgia wanted to, they could take an interest in “world class” internet distribution, but that is not happening. In my opinion, this would an appropriate for state superintendent John Barge, to put together a study group of engineers to evaluate means, model, and method for A#1 high speed internet in Georgia. No one is doing it. It is left to the FCC, which, like John Barge, takes a passive “hands off” approach to left the monopolists compete seems to be their mode. Well, folks, monopolists do not compete and have no one to compete. They simply collect money and make propaganda and do minimal services at the highest price they can obtain, exactly as told by Adam Smith circa 1850. We’re ranked 35th in the world or somesuch on internet distribution. Considering the developing interest in online education, it is a little bit derelict of the educations czars to maintain silence. But maybe the play a great round of golf or get the best steak dinners to put them to sleep. Or maybe the simply work in fear for their jobs and careers if that the audacity to do anything besides play along with imported ideas and power. The proxy is sort of humorous. Keep people down and then declare them to “Race to the Top.” It is a perverse routine and people should not accept it and allow the public to be treated this way with stimulant jargon.

V for Vendetta

December 13th, 2012
10:26 am

Private,

Good link. I actually wrote (some of) a novel based on Atlas Shrugged but set in a modern day high school. The grades were “shared” with the highest achievers scores being used to prop up those at the lower end of the spectrum. Maybe I should go back and finish that novel. :-)

Private Citizen

December 13th, 2012
11:17 am

you finish that novel I’ll buy a copy and one for my friend. That’s ten bucks right, or $3.99 x 2 or whatever, digital. That’s the new way. Got an email from guy releasing his record, download for free, many formats OGG Vorbis etc, make a donation if you like. I sent him $2. He’s happy. I’m happy. I hope he sells a lot of lot of records. Here’s the link and you can hear it, too. http://albums.overwerk.com/album/after-hours For books, either do it that way or do Amazon Kindle sales. Any ideas? Yes please go back and finish novel. Can you get it done by March?

Private Citizen

December 13th, 2012
11:22 am

By the way, I hope your novel is better than that guy’s music in the link i posted for you. :-)

V for Vendetta

December 13th, 2012
11:37 am

Hahaha! Awesome. Well, I did sign up for a Kindle publishing account….

Mary Elizabeth

December 13th, 2012
11:59 am

While the “economic future belongs to countries that excel in science, technology, engineering and math,” an over-emphasis in these curriculum areas, which are data-based, will not necessarily produce wisdom in the learner, nor create a desire in the learner to pursue a lifetime of learning.

On the other hand, studies in the arts, literature, history, philosophy, language, and psychology will more likely lead to wisdom in the learner and inspire the learner’s ongoing thirst for knowledge about the world, and its inhabitants, beyond that which is simply job-oriented. Education must continue to engage the student’s imagination and creativity of thought to insure that societies will foster literate and wise populations who value pursuing educational pursuits for a lifetime, and who desire to do so.

Both the pragmatic, factual areas of the curriculum, as well as the more intellectual, artisitic areas of curriculum, are needed for balance to be achieved in students and in societies. Neither area should be lessened in value in the eyes of the populace, nor in the eyes of the students.

Dr. John Trotter

December 13th, 2012
12:24 pm

Maureen, I am glad to see that some are coming around to what MACE has been saying since its inception in 1995. Norreese Haynes and I just released the first chapter of our book on a couple of blogs yesterday, on 12-12-12! But, the title cannot be printed here in your family newspaper. So, here is the link…

http://www.georgiateachersspeakout.com

We have been saying forever that the onus for learning should be on the students and their parents. The teachers can only teach the students, not “learn” them. That’s even bad English, right? Ha!

HS Math Teacher

December 13th, 2012
12:29 pm

Motivation is Lacking: You’re right on target.

Ole Guy

December 13th, 2012
3:16 pm

GEE FREQUIN WHIZ, YA THINK! Persuade kids that it’s on them to learn…WHAT A NOVEL IDEA! Whoever came up with this nugget of wisdom (like Forrest Gump’s drill sergeant said) is a gd genius.

The big hurdle, however, lies in the process of persuasion. How does one, for example, “persuade” the unwilling to, say, eat lunch? You don’t tickle em and make available the opportunity to eat at their earliest convenience. NO, if they choose not to eat, you shove em into the fire.

If anyone can come up with an alternate plan…WHICH PRODUCES RESULTS…LETS HEAR IT. So far, all I’ve seen are speeches, essays, and findings, none of which seem to work. So let’s get with it, folks; stop pissing around.

Ed Johnson

December 13th, 2012
6:20 pm

“Both the pragmatic, factual areas of the curriculum, as well as the more intellectual, artisitic areas of curriculum, are needed for balance to be achieved in students and in societies. Neither area should be lessened in value in the eyes of the populace, nor in the eyes of the students.”

Ah, “balance.” Such a beautiful and inspiring word. Thank you, Mary Elizabeth.

And it seems a word that has been popping up quite a bit lately. For example, this from recent reading in Psychotrauma: The Human Injustice System, a book by Rev. Willie J. Webb:

“Balance is real. It is not an arbitrary man made point or condition. It has a natural existence in the universe. In an effort to achieve maximum harmony and efficiency individuals must obtain the optimum balance. Balance is a basic goal of the scientist, the artist and the true religionist. The wheels and tires on motor vehicles must be round and balanced for efficient performance. Great music, paintings, sculpture and poetry must have balance.”

It should be fairly easy to foresee the poor quality of ride and damaging consequences to come to the automobile and its occupants from driving on unbalanced tires, let alone from driving on wheels that aren’t round.

And it should be fairly easy to foresee the poor quality of life and damaging consequences to come to our society and its members from an imbalance between the “factual” and the “artistic.”

And it should be fairly easy to foresee the poor quality of learning and damaging consequences to come to an education system and its students from an imbalance between trying to “persuade the students it’s on them to learn” and the education system itself being incapable to learn.

And … well, why do we keep acting and behaving as if there is something new under the sun?

Mary Elizabeth

December 13th, 2012
8:04 pm

@ Ed Johnson, 6:20 pm

Your words are beautifully conceived and written, Dr. Johnson. Thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts on this subject. I hope that those in power positions will take notice.

Dr. Monica Henson

December 13th, 2012
11:25 pm

“[W]e didn’t have to answer student questions because students would ask a question and other students would help them. They would learn by teaching.”

We are embarking at Provost Academy Georgia on our implementation of Common Core literacy by structuring our online discussion boards so that students are wrestling with questions and being encouraged to pose thoughtful questions for their peers to discuss and debate. It is in frontloading the instructional process and encouraging thoughtful debate in the context of assigned readings in the subject area that deep understanding can be developed and nurtured best (rather than waiting until the assignment-grading phase, which in most high school work is where assessment occurs).

Private Citizen

December 14th, 2012
1:26 am

I didn’t want to be subjugated, and I didn’t want to subjugate others. In fact, it made me morally ashamed, the idea. It was morally wrong, in my view. – Richard Stallman

Pride and Joy

December 14th, 2012
7:33 am

Proposterous! It is not “on them” (the students). Teachers must teach! Education systems must function. Our government must be held accountable and responsible for the education it forces we parents to pay for.
If education is on the backs of my innocent children, then the government can go ahead and refund ALL of my tax money that goes to pay for the public schools — ALL of it. I’ll be glad to do that. Then the responsibility will be ON ME and I will have enough money to pay for it.
The rididiculous notion that education is the responsibility of children is so ridiculous — why don’t we blame the fate of the war on children too? War works the same way. The government takes money from parents like me without my permission and then forces me to send my innocent children to fight and die in it.
There is a reason Bob Hope always talked about “the boys” oever there. They were. Little eighteen year olds.
Why don’t we make the fiscal cliff the responsibility of the kids as well? It makes jsut as much sense as holding kids responsible for the actions of adults.

Options

December 14th, 2012
8:07 am

Yes, at HoneyFern in West Cobb. Kids design their own curriculum. This puts the responsibility on them, a responsibility that parents sometimes have trouble with.

As for test scores, their school average last year on a nationally-normed standardized test was 96% for reading and math. This without a day of test prep and very few multiple choice tests. This is a progressive school that focuses on students, not the politics of ed.

Very small, only 3 years old, but expanding for next year, I think. Student-teacher ratio never more than 10-1. Grades 6-12 and fully accredited.

[...] The release earlier this week of international benchmark testing scores produced came the usual laments about where the United States stacked up. As always,  [...]

Pride and Joy

December 14th, 2012
3:03 pm

If the government wants 60 percent of the population to have an associate’s degree or better, it needs to produce GOOD public schools and that is not happening in Georgia. If we want more GA college graduates, we’ve got to improve k-12 education.

Claudia Stucke

December 14th, 2012
3:14 pm

I was floored the first time a student asked, “If I fail a class in college, I get that part of my tuition refunded, right?” Imagine my surprise. But this was not an isolated incident; the question came up again and again in future classes. When I questioned the logic of this assumption, the student typically said, “It’s the professors’ job to teach me. If I fail, then it’s because I didn’t understand the material, so they didn’t do their job.” I realized that they applied the same principle to my class, even though I had tried to disabuse them of this notion.

I began every semester by telling my students that I expected them to assume responsibility for their own learning, even though most of them did not truly understand what that meant; and I spent the rest of the year trying to help them to understand and internalize this concept. Among other things, I meant that they were to ask questions of me and of each other and to share their observations with me and with each other, respectfully. If they didn’t understand the material, it was their responsibility to ask for help; and it was my responsibility to help them. Most students seemed puzzled by the approach, even though I think that most teachers go into the classroom with these ideas in mind.

ms teacher

December 14th, 2012
4:32 pm

You know, it starts to get really annoying when people keep writing articles comparing the American public schools to that of Singapore and South Korea and only looking at the numbers of the test scores without taking into consideration the other factors that make America and the Asian countries so different in their academic results.

Do you want to know the main difference between America and Asia? Asian parents instill the value of education early on in their children’s development. They push their kids and follow through with their education. They don’t side with their kids when they fail and then blame the teacher. If their child isn’t motivated in school, they make sure to find a way (even if it’s bribing w/ toys or threatening to take away technology, or even physical punishment) to get them motivated…..ever heard of “Tiger Mom”? Last but not least, Asian parents don’t treat their children like fragile diamonds. They do everything they can to support and lead their kids to success in life, but they do not defend their child at every blow and failure.

Over the past decade or two, a growing trend that I have noticed throughout my high school years, college years, and even now as I’ve been teaching for several years is that more and more parents are raising their children as wimpy, fragile kids who cannot speak or act for themselves. Even speaking with other educators, they are noticing that the younger generations are expecting their parents to back them up when they don’t get something they want. In middle and high schools, parents don’t discipline their children when they get suspended for whatever reason, but they blame the teachers and administrators for not doing their job well. In colleges, parents call the dean or professor if their child failed a class in hopes of a re-take exam or a grade change. And apparently now, some parents even call human resources if their child was not offered the job. I don’t like to generalize too much because I have worked with parents who do not enable their children like this and instead are very supportive of the teachers and staff at school. However, as I’ve grown up and continue to make observations as a teacher, I am noticing this parental shielding and enabling more and I believe that this can turn into a major problem for America and its public schools. If this is going to be a growing trend in the continuing generations, the best model for education is privatizing all schools or each parent homeschooling their own child.

Private Citizen

December 14th, 2012
8:23 pm

Private Citizen

December 14th, 2012
8:28 pm

“As of Quarter 1 in 2012, the average student loan balance for all age groups is $24,301.” http://www.asa.org/policy/resources/stats/default.aspx

Pride and Joy

December 15th, 2012
8:36 am

Claudia, I think the attitude you describe you have witnessed in your students is indicative of the college in which you teach.
Let me guess; you don’t teach at the Ivy Leagues nor at a top college.
This is not a generational phenomenon. It is a low socio-economic one.
When the children of parents who existed on welfare and government subsidies goes to college, they bring with them the attitudes of entitlement.
When you know you work in that environment, be prepared to set the expectations on the first day. Explain that college doesn’t work like the rest of their lives have worked. Don’t assume that the children you are teaching come from the educated middle class.
I have the same experience when I shop at a drug store or big box store. The employee will be on her cell phone talking to a friend about somethign personal. I stand by and wait for her to end her call. She usually glares at me because I am being rude to her. She truly does not understand the difference between taking a personal call at work and taking a personal call at home. If I was her friend in her home, I would excuse myself but because I am a shopper and I need help and she is paid to help me, it is inappropriate for her to continue her personal phone call while I am needing assistance in her place of employment.
Employers have to realize that when they hire the cheap labor they have o assume that kids and young adults and even older ones don’t have basic manners and guidelines for what is and is not appropriate in the work place.
The same goes for you in college. With all the emphasis on getting mroe kids into college, you will have to assume that some of those kids are the first from their families to go to college and have no idea they can’t get a refund for a failed course.
Explain it in the beginning and have them sign the document saying they understand the rules.
Then, fight to make the college in which you work, explain the rules during orientation so you are only reinforcing them, not presenting them for the first time.
Good luck.

Ole Guy

December 15th, 2012
8:00 pm

Personalize education…I believe they call it LEADERSHIP…causing/persuading others to WANT something.

Is it just me, or does this notion harken back to the “old ways” of educating kids. However, leadership styles aren’t always (let’s call it) pallatable to the recipients/the kids.