Tag Archive for 'teachers'

Slavin on Shanker, professionalism, and evidence

Over on the Huffington Post blog, in a fine remembrance of the founder of the American Federation of Teachers, Bob Slavin reminded readers that Al Shanker championed both professionalism and evidence.

Back in the day, I knew Al Shanker, the founder of the American Federation of Teachers. No one has ever been more of an advocate for teachers’ rights – or for their professionalism. At the same time, no one was more of an advocate for evidence as a basis for teaching. He saw no conflict between evidence-based teaching and professionalism. In fact, he saw them as complementary.

Professor Slavin continues his remembrance with sage argument about the importance of teachers embracing evidence-based practices. Ultimately he cited the value of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) evidence standards.

I applaud Professor Slavin’s argument and amplify it with an additional call for educators not only to embrace evidence-based practices, but to do even more. As professionals, we educators have a duty to

  • Identify evidence-based practices that have the strongest effects. Some evidence-based practices are more effective than others (in fact, Professor Slavin has been among the leaders in helping refine research methods to compare instructional practices). Professionals need to know how to find those practices.
  • Implement evidence-based practices with fidelity (see Cook & Odom, 2013). Having a great recipe for a soufflé is no guarantee that one will serve a gourmet dish; one has to use the right ingredients and execute the steps in preparing it, as well. That’s a big part of professionalism.
  • Monitor the effects of programs on individual students and groups of students so that, when needed, adjustments can be made. It is inevitable that evidence-based practices will move too slowly or rapidly for some learners. Professionals need to adjust instruction for them. These adjustments should, of course, employ evidence-based practices. See this post for an illustration.

There may be other important relationships between professionalism in education and evidence-based practices. Readers are welcome to suggest them in comments.

Cook, B. G., & Odom, S. L. (2013). Evidence-based practices and implementation science in special education. Exceptional Children, 79, 135-144. doi: 10.1177/001440291307900201

Willingham on reading

Dan Willingham has a new book entitled Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do, and he has published a précis of it in the spring 2015 issue of American Edcuator. It’s available on-line as “For the Love of Reading,” and people interested in reading should take the time to review it. Don’t expect to learn new and compelling teaching procedures, but do expect to have Professor Willingham make sense of some contemporary issues in reading.

A few questions for Joel Klein

According to widespread reports, in your just-published book about your time as chancellor of the New York City Schools, Mr. Klein, you wrote that firing a teacher “took an average of almost two and a half years and cost the city over $300,000.”

I’d ask you to consider a little context, please…. The reasons we have teacher unions and tightly worded contracts in the first place is because teachers historically were mistreated and they lost confidence in their employers. And what of the “incompetent” administrators—you fail to mention them. It takes two to tango. One more thing—you hired these people. Instead of deflecting blame to Ed Schools (I’ll get to them in a second), why don’t school districts and boards take responsibility for those they hire? The union did not make you hire them. The union did not make you neglect proper induction, good supervision, mentoring, effective programs of professional development. And the union did not create the pool of low SAT/GRE applicants. You and your board did that by not paying a professional salary or offering professional working conditions for professional work. What’s that? Better compensation requires higher taxes? Well then, what exactly have you and the board done to educate the voters on this issue instead of playing the politics of union confrontation. And by the way, maybe the value-adding abilities you tell voters you want can not be had at the price voters are willing to pay. Have you told them that?

As for Ed Schools—hang on a moment—let’s talk about state licensing boards and commissions. Your state, with support of your legislature, issued licenses to these teachers. Have they met labor market demands at the expense of quality? Who told them to do that? Not the unions. With legislative consent, are they setting the licensing bar low because the salaries we pay will not draw better candidates into the field? Have you lobbied your legislature on this issue or are you just writing books about the problem and running for-profit companies to sell products to the same schools you once administered? By the way, do you really feel the problem is we have too few commercial products or that commercial products have a hope of solving the systemic problems you describe.

UOh, and Ed Schools…. Why do you persist in thinking that you are small colleges of letters and sciences? Why have experimental stations filled with scientists to solve agricultural problems produced increasing yields (anyone use a split plot ANOVA recently?). Does growing crops require science but growing children require philosophy? And about those SAT/GRE scores, Mr. Klein, have you considered that training standards are set by accreditation bodies that respond to market demand which are created by salaries that you, your board, and your voters are willing to pay.

Thank you, Mr. Klein, for listing these problems, although some serious solutions for the system in which teachers do their work would have been more edifying.

Mike Gerber
Ex-teacher

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Michael M. Gerber, Ph.D.
Professor, Gewirtz School of Education
University of California, Santa Barbara

Free Funnix returns!

Loyal readers of TE will recall that the folks at Royal Limited Partnership gave away copies of the Funnix Beginning Reading program in 2011. Welp, it’s going to happen again! Yes indeedy! Quoting from a page on the Funnix Web site:

From February 1 through 16th, the Funnix Beginning Reading program will be free for download–no strings, no hidden costs.

The Funnix sequence teaches 2 year’s worth of reading skills. During last year’s promotion, more than 40,000 people received the Funnix Beginning Reading program free. Even higher numbers are anticipated for this year.

If you’re in the market for an excellent beginning reading program, sign up for your free download of Funnix Beginning Reading. The program has been offered for $25 during most of 2011; however, the price will rise to $38 following the giveaway in February.

Funnix is a computer-based early reading program that delivers the essential components for decoding instruction. A teacher, parent, teaching assistant, or other competent reader can work with an individual child or small group and provide the guidance needed by the student or students as they go through the instructional activities provided via the computer. It’s predicated on all the principles of Direct Instruction (its authors are Zig and Owen Engelmann). The lessons are lively and fun. There’s plenty of monitoring and opportunities for individualization.

Now, you can’t register early for this giveaway. You have to arrive after 1 February 2012. But, you can go to the Funnix giveaway announcement and look at the various offerings now, and you can become familiar with the products in advance, and you can be prepared (i.e., bookmark the site, put a reminder in your calendar, and so forth).

Free gift from Education Consumers Foundation!

partial image of cover of Clear Teaching

Isn’t it unusual to get something for free that is actually worth a lot? The good folks over at Education Consumers Foundation (ECF) are giving away a small book that is quite valuable, and I encourage readers to download it, read it, and tell their friends to get it, too.

What are they giving away? It’s a book called Clear Teaching: With Direct Instruction, Siegfried Engelmann Discovered a Better Way of Teaching by Shep Barbash. As one can tell from the subtitle, it’s about Zig Engelmann’s work on education. I talked with Mr. Barbash as he worked on the manuscript for the book, read an earlier version of it, and am very impressed with this finished product. It’s even more impressive that the book is now out in the wild for free. Kudos to Mr. Barbash, John Stone, and all the others at ECF who made this happen.

Clear Teaching – The Book
Written by veteran journalist Shepard Barbash over a period of 10 years, Clear Teaching is a well-researched, highly readable introduction to Direct Instruction (DI), a systematic teaching approach which for more than 40 years has dramatically improved learning outcomes for students of all abilities and from all walks of life. The book looks at the development of DI through the early experiences of its creator, Zig Engelmann; explains the principles that underpin this approach; and looks at DI’s reception in the world of teaching, where it has been effectively shunned despite a formidable research base and example after example of transformative success.

The image at the top of the post is hot, but readers can also click here to go to the ECF page where they can download the PDF.

It’s the teaching that matters

Does all the verbiage about the ills of education make you wonder about the reasoning skills of educational reformers? Well, it does make me have questions. I practice resisting the urge to walk away when people start attributing educational underachievement to problems we educators can’t change (poverty, for example) or to features of schooling that are like nibbling on one’s napkin rather than eating food (e.g., walls height in classrooms).

I also get a bit incensed when folks go after teachers as the bad people in the equation. I find it foolish to suggest that education simply needs to raise pay to attract more qualified people into classrooms; it is an admittedly biased sample, but there are lots of smart people going through U.Va.’s (and similar) teacher education programs. (Sadly, too many teacher education programs fill their students’ thinking with Pop-Ed bologna.) And even though I talk about dysteachia and dyspedagogia, those are references to practices, not to the people—and some of the worst cases of dyspedagogia probably can be observed in the professoriate at schools of education!

Anyway, I am glad to report that a couple of my colleagues argued a coherent case about the importance of curriculum in the effects of teaching in an editorial for the New York Daily News. In “The teacher quality conundrum: If they are the problem, why are kids gaining in math? Curriculum design is key to reform,” Dan Willingham and David Grissmer use evidence and reason to explain that it’s not the teachers per se, but the teaching that matters. I encourage people interested in sensible reform of education to read it.

More free Funnix! It’s math this time.

The folks who brought us the give-away of Funnix Beginning Reading are doing it again! They’re giving away Funnix Beginning Math for free throughout the month of June 2011. Funnix Beginning Math is a 100-lesson computer program designed for children who have not learned beginning math operations. One can download the program from the Funnix site (see link at the end of this post). All of the components of Funnix Beginning Math are included in the download—100 animated, computer-based lessons; workbook materials; a teaching guide, including explicit directions for the teacher; and a placement test for assessing and placing the student.
Continue reading ‘More free Funnix! It’s math this time.’

B. Cook on evidence-based practices

Over on SpedPro I have a post about an up-coming Webinar on evidence-based practices presented by Bryan Cook. A product of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and and CEC’s Division for Research, the session is billed as helping educators answer questions such as these:

  • What exactly does evidence-based practice mean for practitioners?
  • How are evidence-based practices different from “best practices” and “research-based practices”?
  • Where can you find them?
  • How should you select them?
  • How can you use them?
  • How can you evaluate them?

I haven’t seen the syllabus, but I bet this will be a worthwhile session. For one small fee, one can register as many folks as you can gather around a computer and a projector; and then you get a copy of the Webinar to review later, as well. It’s like a ready-made, re-usable staff-development program. To read the SpedPro post, follow this link. Alternatively, simply follow this link to register for the session!




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