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Why College Is So Expensive In America - YouTube
"College in the United States is expensive. The cost of higher education just keeps going up. Tuition costs at both public and private universities have doubled since the late 80s, while accounting for inflation.

"I think that it's so ingrained in your head that you have to go to college, that college is the next step after graduation," said Jarret Freeman, a college graduate with roughly $50,000 in student debt. "I think in hindsight, I see that college is not for everyone."

But a college education is becoming more and more necessary to succeed in today's economy. Georgetown University estimates that by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require more than a high school degree.

Students graduate with an average of $37,172 in student loan debt. It all adds up to $1.5 trillion across the country.

Watch the video above to learn how higher education became big business, hear from former students facing mounting debt and explore why it's so important to solve the student debt crisis."
colleges  universities  tuition  studentloans  studentdebt  money  2019  education  highered  highereducation  rankings  usnewsandworldreport  wealth  inequality  tests  testing  meritocracy  data  sat  standardizedtesting  funding 
april 2019 by robertogreco
How to Build Castles in the Air – Teachers Going Gradeless
"One of the more profound ironies of “going gradeless” is realizing just how fundamental grades are to the architecture of schools.

Grades undergird nearly everything we do in education. By threatening late penalties and administering one-shot assessments, we focus our famously distracted students on the task at hand. By regularly updating our online gradebooks, we provide an ongoing snapshot of student performance so precise it can be calculated to the hundredths place.

Grades inform our curriculum and instruction too. Because so much rides on them, it’s essential we build upon the rock of “objective” data, not the shifting sands of human judgment. Thus, we limit ourselves to those kinds of learning that can be easily measured and quantified. A multiple choice quiz testing students’ knowledge of literary devices can be reliably scored by your 10-year-old daughter (not saying I’ve ever done that). A stack of bubble sheets can be scanned on your way out of the building for the summer. Check your results online in the driveway, then go inside and make yourself a margarita.

If you want to evaluate something more complex, like writing, you had better develop an iron-clad rubric and engage in some serious range-finding sessions with your colleagues. Don’t put anything subjective like creativity or risk taking on that rubric — you’re already on shaky ground as it is. Make sure to provide an especially strict template so that the essay is fully prepared to “meet its maker.” Word choice, punctuation, sentence variety, quote incorporation — these are the nuts and bolts of writing. If the Hemingway Editor can’t see it, isn’t it just your opinion?

Hopefully, you see the irony here. Grades don’t communicate achievement; most contain a vast idiosyncratic array of weights, curves, point values, and penalties. Nor do they motivate students much beyond what it takes to maintain a respectable GPA. And by forcing us to focus on so-called objective measures, grades have us trade that which is most meaningful for that which is merely demonstrable: recall, algorithm use, anything that can be reified into a rubric. Grading reforms have sometimes succeeded in making these numbers, levels, and letters more meaningful, but more often than not it is the learning that suffers, as we continually herd our rich, interconnected disciplines into the gradebook’s endless succession of separate cells.

So, as I’ve said before, grades are not great. Nor are the ancillary tools, tests, structures, and strategies that support them. But as anyone who has gone gradeless can tell you, grades don’t just magically go away, leaving us free to fan the flames of intrinsic motivation and student passion. Grades remain the very foundation on which we build. Most gradeless teachers must enter a grade at the end of each marking period and, even if we didn’t, our whole educational enterprise is overshadowed by the specter of college admissions and scholarships. And since grades and tests rank so high in those determinations, we kid ourselves in thinking we’ve escaped their influence.

Even in a hypothetical environment without these extrinsic stresses, students are still subject to a myriad of influences, not the least of which being the tech industry with its constant bombardment of notifications and nudges. This industry, which spends billions engineering apps for maximum engagement, has already rendered the comparatively modest inducements of traditional schooling laughable. Still, the rhetoric of autonomy, passion, and engagement always seems to take this in stride, as if the Buddha — not billionaires — is behind this ever-expanding universe.

Let’s go one more step further, though, and imagine a world without the tech industry. Surely that would be a world in which the “inner mounting flame” of student passion could flourish.

But complete freedom, autonomy, and agency is not a neutral or even acceptable foundation for education. The notion of a blank slate on which to continuously project one’s passion, innovation, or genius is seriously flawed. Sherri Spelic, examining the related rhetoric of design thinking, points out how “neoliberal enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and start-up culture” does little to address “social dilemmas fueled by historic inequality and stratification.” In other words, blank spaces — including the supposed blank space of going gradeless — are usually little more than blind spots. And often these blind spots are where our more marginalized students fall through the cracks.

Even if we were able provide widespread, equitable access to springboards of self-expression, autonomy, and innovation, what then? To what extent are we all unwittingly falling into a larger neoliberal trap that, in the words of Byung-Chul Han, turns each of us into an “auto-exploiting labourer in his or her own enterprise”?
Today, we do not deem ourselves subjugated subjects, but rather projects: always refashioning and reinventing ourselves. A sense of freedom attends passing from the state of subject to that of project. All the same, this projection amounts to a form of compulsion and constraint — indeed, to a more efficient kind of subjectification and subjugation. As a project deeming itself free of external and alien limitations, the I is now subjugating itself to internal limitations and self-constraints, which are taking the form of compulsive achievement and optimization.

One doesn’t have to look too far to find the rhetoric of “harnessing student passion” and “self-regulated learners” to understand the paradoxical truth of this statement. This vision of education, in addition to constituting a new strategy of control, also undermines any sense of classrooms as communities of care and locations of resistance.

A5. Watch out for our tendency to lionize those who peddle extreme personalization, individual passion, entrepreneurial mindsets. So many of these undermine any sense of collective identity, responsibility, solidarity #tg2chat

Clearly, not all intrinsic or extrinsic motivation is created equal. Perhaps instead of framing the issue in these terms, we should see it as a question of commitment or capitulation.

Commitment entails a robust willingness to construct change around what Gert Biesta describes as fundamental questions of “content, purpose, and relationship.” It requires that we find ways to better communicate and support student learning, produce more equitable results, and, yes, sometimes shield students from outside influences. Contrary to the soaring rhetoric of intrinsic motivation, none of this will happen by itself.

Capitulation means shirking this responsibility, submerging it in the reductive comfort of numbers or in neoliberal notions of autonomy.

Framing going gradeless through the lens of extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation, then, is not only misleading and limited, it’s harmful. No teacher — gradeless or otherwise — can avoid the task of finding humane ways to leverage each of these in the service of greater goals. Even if we could, there are other interests, much more powerful, much more entrenched, and much better funded than us always ready to rush into that vacuum.

To resist these forces, we will need to use everything in our power to find and imagine new structures and strategies, building our castles in air on firm foundations."
grades  grading  equity  morivation  intrinsicmotivation  extrinsicmotivation  measurement  schools  schooling  learning  howwelearn  socialjustice  neoliberalism  arthurchiaravalli  subjectivity  objectivity  systemsthinking  education  unschooling  deschooling  assessment  accountability  subjectification  subjugation  achievement  optimization  efficiency  tests  testing  standardization  control  teaching  howweteach  2018  resistance  gertbiesta  capitulation  responsibility  structure  strategy  pedagogy  gpa  ranking  sherrispelic  byung-chulhan  compulsion  constraint  self-regulation  passion  identity  solidarity  personalization  collectivism  inequality 
february 2018 by robertogreco
It’s Time We Hold Accountability Accountable – Teachers Going Gradeless
"Author and writing professor John Warner points out how this kind of accountability, standardization, and routinization short-circuits students’ pursuit of forms “defined by the rhetorical situation” and values “rooted in audience needs.”

What we are measuring when we are accountable, then, is something other than the core values of writing. Ironically, the very act of accounting for student progress in writing almost guarantees that we will receive only a poor counterfeit, one emptied of its essence.

Some might say that accountability only makes a modest claim on teaching, that nothing prevents teachers from going beyond its measurable minimum toward higher values of critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. Many seem to think that scoring high on lower-order assessments still serves as a proxy for higher-order skills.

More often than not, however, the test becomes the target. And as Goodhart’s law (phrased here by Mary Strathern) asserts, “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” What we end up aiming at, in other words, is something other than the thing we wanted to improve or demonstrate. When push comes to shove in public schools — and push almost always comes to shove — it’s the test, the measure, the moment of reckoning we attend to.

For most of my career, I’ve seen how a culture of accountability has caused the focus of administrators, teachers, and students to solidify around the narrow prescriptions and algorithmic thinking found on most tests. When that happens, the measure no longer represents anything higher order. Instead, we demonstrate our ability to fill the template, follow the algorithm, jump through the hoop. And unfortunately, as many students find out too late, success on the test does not guarantee that one has developed the skills or dispositions needed in any real field. In fact, students who succeed in this arena may be even more oblivious to the absence of these."
writing  howwewrite  teaching  accountability  2017  arthurchiaravalli  johnwarner  testing  tests  standardization  routinization  audience  measurement  metrics  rubrics  grades  grading  quantification 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Why there’s no such thing as a gifted child | Education | The Guardian
"Even Einstein was unexceptional in his youth. Now a new book questions our fixation with IQ and says adults can help almost any child become gifted"

"When Maryam Mirzakhani died at the tragically early age of 40 this month, the news stories talked of her as a genius. The only woman to win the Fields Medal – the mathematical equivalent of a Nobel prize – and a Stanford professor since the age of 31, this Iranian-born academic had been on a roll since she started winning gold medals at maths Olympiads in her teens.

It would be easy to assume that someone as special as Mirzakhani must have been one of those gifted children who excel from babyhood. The ones reading Harry Potter at five or admitted to Mensa not much later. The child that takes maths GCSE while still in single figures, or a rarity such as Ruth Lawrence, who was admitted to Oxford while her contemporaries were still in primary school.

But look closer and a different story emerges. Mirzakhani was born in Tehran, one of three siblings in a middle-class family whose father was an engineer. The only part of her childhood that was out of the ordinary was the Iran-Iraq war, which made life hard for the family in her early years. Thankfully it ended around the time she went to secondary school.

Mirzakhani, did go to a highly selective girls’ school but maths wasn’t her interest – reading was. She loved novels and would read anything she could lay her hands on; together with her best friend she would prowl the book stores on the way home from school for works to buy and consume.

As for maths, she did rather poorly at it for the first couple of years in her middle school, but became interested when her elder brother told her about what he’d learned. He shared a famous maths problem from a magazine that fascinated her – and she was hooked. The rest is mathematical history.

Is her background unusual? Apparently not. Most Nobel laureates were unexceptional in childhood. Einstein was slow to talk and was dubbed the dopey one by the family maid. He failed the general part of the entry test to Zurich Polytechnic – though they let him in because of high physics and maths scores. He struggled at work initially, failing to get academic post and being passed over for promotion at the Swiss Patent Office because he wasn’t good enough at machine technology. But he kept plugging away and eventually rewrote the laws of Newtonian mechanics with his theory of relativity.

Lewis Terman, a pioneering American educational psychologist, set up a study in 1921 following 1,470 Californians, who excelled in the newly available IQ tests, throughout their lives. None ended up as the great thinkers of their age that Terman expected they would. But he did miss two future Nobel prize winners – Luis Alvarez and William Shockley, both physicists – whom he dismissed from the study as their test scores were not high enough.

There is a canon of research on high performance, built over the last century, that suggests it goes way beyond tested intelligence. On top of that, research is clear that brains are malleable, new neural pathways can be forged, and IQ isn’t fixed. Just because you can read Harry Potter at five doesn’t mean you will still be ahead of your contemporaries in your teens.

According to my colleague, Prof Deborah Eyre, with whom I’ve collaborated on the book Great Minds and How to Grow Them, the latest neuroscience and psychological research suggests most people, unless they are cognitively impaired, can reach standards of performance associated in school with the gifted and talented. However, they must be taught the right attitudes and approaches to their learning and develop the attributes of high performers – curiosity, persistence and hard work, for example – an approach Eyre calls “high performance learning”. Critically, they need the right support in developing those approaches at home as well as at school.

So, is there even such a thing as a gifted child? It is a highly contested area. Prof Anders Ericsson, an eminent education psychologist at Florida State University, is the co-author of Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. After research going back to 1980 into diverse achievements, from music to memory to sport, he doesn’t think unique and innate talents are at the heart of performance. Deliberate practice, that stretches you every step of the way, and around 10,000 hours of it, is what produces the expert. It’s not a magic number – the highest performers move on to doing a whole lot more, of course, and, like Mirzakhani, often find their own unique perspective along the way.

Ericsson’s memory research is particularly interesting because random students, trained in memory techniques for the study, went on to outperform others thought to have innately superior memories – those you might call gifted.

He got into the idea of researching the effects of deliberate practice because of an incident at school, in which he was beaten at chess by someone who used to lose to him. His opponent had clearly practised.

But it is perhaps the work of Benjamin Bloom, another distinguished American educationist working in the 1980s, that gives the most pause for thought and underscores the idea that family is intrinsically important to the concept of high performance.

Bloom’s team looked at a group of extraordinarily high achieving people in disciplines as varied as ballet, swimming, piano, tennis, maths, sculpture and neurology, and interviewed not only the individuals but their parents, too.

He found a pattern of parents encouraging and supporting their children, in particular in areas they enjoyed themselves. Bloom’s outstanding adults had worked very hard and consistently at something they had become hooked on young, and their parents all emerged as having strong work ethics themselves.

While the jury is out on giftedness being innate and other factors potentially making the difference, what is certain is that the behaviours associated with high levels of performance are replicable and most can be taught – even traits such as curiosity.

Eyre says we know how high performers learn. From that she has developed a high performing learning approach that brings together in one package what she calls the advanced cognitive characteristics, and the values, attitudes and attributes of high performance. She is working on the package with a group of pioneer schools, both in Britain and abroad.

But the system needs to be adopted by families, too, to ensure widespread success across classes and cultures. Research in Britain shows the difference parents make if they take part in simple activities pre-school in the home, supporting reading for example. That support shows through years later in better A-level results, according to the Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary study, conducted over 15 years by a team from Oxford and London universities.

Eye-opening spin-off research, which looked in detail at 24 of the 3,000 individuals being studied who were succeeding against the odds, found something remarkable about what was going in at home. Half were on free school meals because of poverty, more than half were living with a single parent, and four in five were living in deprived areas.

The interviews uncovered strong evidence of an adult or adults in the child’s life who valued and supported education, either in the immediate or extended family or in the child’s wider community. Children talked about the need to work hard at school and to listen in class and keep trying. They referenced key adults who had encouraged those attitudes.

Einstein, the epitome of a genius, clearly had curiosity, character and determination. He struggled against rejection in early life but was undeterred. Did he think he was a genius or even gifted? No. He once wrote: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer. Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.”

And what about Mirzakhani? Her published quotations show someone who was curious and excited by what she did and resilient. One comment sums it up. “Of course, the most rewarding part is the ‘Aha’ moment, the excitement of discovery and enjoyment of understanding something new – the feeling of being on top of a hill and having a clear view. But most of the time, doing mathematics for me is like being on a long hike with no trail and no end in sight.”

The trail took her to the heights of original research into mathematics in a cruelly short life. That sounds like unassailable character. Perhaps that was her gift."
sfsh  parenting  gifted  precocity  children  prodigies  2017  curiosity  rejection  resilience  maryammirzakhani  childhood  math  mathematics  reading  slowlearning  lewisterman  iq  iqtests  tests  testing  luisalvarez  williamshockley  learning  howwelearn  deboraheyre  wendyberliner  neuroscience  psychology  attitude  persistence  hardwork  workethic  andersericsson  performance  practice  benjaminbloom  education  ballet  swimming  piano  tennis  sculpture  neurology  encouragement  support  giftedness  behavior  mindset  genius  character  determination  alberteinstein 
july 2017 by robertogreco
This Just Isn’t Something Public Teachers Do — Part 1
"In 2013 I took a teaching job in a district closer to where I lived. On the surface my new school had little in common with College Success Academy; I went from teaching a 100% African American population to a student body representing over 40 countries. My first school was situated in the poorest section of a city while my new school sat in one of the wealthiest counties in the country. One focused on college prep while the other claimed a holistic, whole child approach. Despite these differences, I found myself doing exactly the same things: using state testing blueprints and multiple choice test data to map out what, when, and how students would learn. My ability to move seamlessly between the two schools had nothing to do with “best practices” and everything to do with a unified core of assumptions about teaching, learning, and schooling. I had discovered the ideological boundaries of the rational community of teachers.

The Rational Community of Teachers

According to philosopher Alphonso Lingis, a rational community is a group of individuals who submit to a common discourse through a process of continual depersonalization. The concept of the rational community provides us with a useful theoretical model for analyzing the intersections of community, identity, and behavior. Lingis explains that rational communities are a necessary component of modern life (1994, p. 110). All groupings, from occupations to national and cultural identities, form through the same mechanism of depersonalization and submission to a group identity. It’s important to note that rational communities are inherently neither positive nor negative; they’re essential to the functioning of modern life. Every rational community functions in accordance with a specific set of principles that the group both produces and is produced by. He says,
Statements can be true, and meaningful, only in the discourse of an established community that determines what could count as observations, what degrees of accuracy in recording observations are possible, how the words of common language are restricted and refined for different kinds of cognition and for practical or technological uses, and what could count as an argument” (1994, p. 135).

As an example, we as a society have come to define plumbing as the knowledge and maintenance of water, sewage, and drainage systems. In order to become a plumber one must demonstrate one’s ability to understand and maintain these systems with a certain degree of fidelity. I would not expect a plumber to critique my bathroom’s color scheme because that’s not a practice of their rational community. Similarly, if I want to be a teacher then I need to act in a way that conforms to my community and society’s definition of a teacher. This means I teach content and skills to different groups of adolescents, assessing them at some point to check for proficiency. The instructional methods and assessment strategies I may pull from are not infinite; they draw from a set of assumptions that my community produces and is produced by. So while I could spend every class period performing cartwheels up and down the hallway, I wouldn’t because it obviously doesn’t fit with what we think teachers should do. But what about if I wanted to remove all grades and tests from my class? Would my actions still align with my community? Although I would still be teaching and assessing, I would no longer be enacting the practice of A — F grades, a staple of public education since at least the 1960s (Schneider & Hutt, 2014).

My ability to transition seamlessly between two opposing school environments revealed a set of technocratic and instrumentalist assumptions about what it means to be a teacher in this moment in time. These norms cast education as a scientific instrument. Teachers wield education as a seemingly neutral tool to bring about specific and predetermined learning outcomes. In my state this means ensuring that every child knows how to do things like identify the main idea of a passage, summarize important details, and ascertain a reading passage’s organizational pattern. Children demonstrate proficiency with these skills by correctly answering multiple-choice questions on a test. While teachers can and often do provide additional methods of assessment, test-based accountability means that, at the end of the day, scores on standardized exams are what matters most."

"To stray from the community becomes an act of open rebellion. Something as simple as removing letter grades from student assignments and providing only narrative feedback goes against the core assumptions of the community. As I found out during that afternoon with the assistant principal, refusal to participate in the practices of the rational teaching community puts one’s ability to be a teacher at risk. Regardless of the rhetoric around creativity, the whole child, differentiation, and creativity, teachers are expected to function within a of specific set of instructional practices and behavioral dispositions. Plumbers use wrenches; teachers use data."

[See also
"Confronting My Critical Identity in Social Media: The Critical Ceiling, Part II"
This Just Isn’t Something Public Teachers Do — Part 2

"Confronting My Critical Identity in Social Media: The Critical Ceiling, Part II" ]
education  pedagogy  criticalpedagogy  peteanderson  2017  teaching  howweteach  cultue  practice  sfsh  schools  schooling  resistance  rebellion  change  unschooling  deschooling  learning  standardization  standardizedtesting  testing  standards  gertbiesta  alphonsolingis  community  rationalcommunities  gregdimitriadis  marclamonthill  tests  society 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Fiction or Standardized Test? ‘Multiple Choice’ Is Both - The New York Times
Zambra was born in Chile in 1975, and his entire primary education took place during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. His four works of fiction that have been translated into English before “Multiple Choice” have been lauded for exploring how the repressive forces of that era continue to haunt the country today. This new book, however, is the first to focus solely on the role that education and testing played in constricting the discussion of art and ideas during the dictatorship — and still plays, more than 25 years later in the different context of today. Just last week, my 16-year-old niece in Chile took a multiple-choice test in her literature class that asked her and her classmates to identify “the correct ­order” of events in a Borges story.

"I'ma leave this one right ... Here. [link to article]"

"Read this as part of the struggle vs overtesting. Bars."

See also:

"No coincidence that Milton Friedman's free market schooling ideology had its first outing in Chile." ]
tests  testing  multiplechoice  chile  education  policy  politics  2016  books  borges  miltonfriedman  debate  conversation  control  authority  authoritarianism  standardization  standardizedtesting  idranovey  alejandrozambra 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Austin Kleon — Neil Postman & Charles Weingartner, Teaching as a...
"The game is called “Let’s Pretend,” and if its name were chiseled into the front of every school building in America, we would at least have an honest announcement of what takes place there. The game is based on a series of pretenses which include: Let’s pretend that you are not what you are and that this sort of work makes a difference to your lives; let’s pretend that what bores you is important, and that the more you are bored, the more important it is; let’s pretend that there are certain things everyone must know, and that both the questions and answers about them have been fixed for all time; let’s pretend that your intellectual competence can be judged on the basis of how well you can play Let’s Pretend."

"Almost any sensible parent knows this, as does any effective top sergeant. It is not what you say to people that counts; it is what you have them do…. What students do in the classroom is what they learn (as Dewey would say), and what they learn to do is the classroom’s message (as McLuhan would say). Now, what is it that students do in the classroom? Well, mostly, they sit and listen to the teacher. Mostly, they are required to believe in authorities, or at least pretend to such belief when they take tests. Mostly, they are required to remember. They are almost never required to make observations, formulate definitions, or perform any intellectual operations that go beyond repeating what someone else says is true."

"A syllabus not only prescribes what story lines you must learn…. It also prescribes the order in which your skills must be learned."

"The good teacher “regards learning as a process, not a terminal event… he assumes that one is always in the process of acquiring skills, assimilating new information, formulating or refining generalizations.”"

[See also Matt Thomas's Neil Postman posts (linked within): ]
austinkleon  neilpostman  charleswingartner  teaching  education  teachingasasubversiveactivity  2016  1969  crapdetection  hemingway  criticalthinking  howweteach  pedagogy  learning  howwelearn  unschooling  deschooling  alanwatts  linear  linearity  nonlinear  textbooks  tests  testing  non-linear  alinear 
july 2016 by robertogreco
A Manager’s FAQ — The Startup — Medium
"How do I get employees to perform better? Tell them what they are doing well.

How do I give negative feedback? By being curious.

How do I decide what to delegate? Delegate the work you want to do.

How should I prioritize? Fix problems. Then prevent problems.

How should I grade employees? Don’t. Teach them to self-evaluate.

When do I fire somebody? When you know they can’t succeed.

How do I fire somebody? By apologizing for our failures.

Why can’t I just tell people what to do? Because the more responsibility you have, the less authority you have.

How do I know if I am a good manager? Employees ask you for advice.

How do I know if I have good management team? Shit rolls uphill.


[Each point elaborated upon like…]

How do I get employees to perform better?
Tell them what they are doing well.

Most managers attempt to minimize an employee’s bad work instead of maximizing their good work. When 98% of an employee’s work is great and 2% is not, managers give feedback on the 2%.

We do this because schools taught us to. Tests started with a maximum score of 100 and points were deducted for every wrong answer. If tests started at zero and awarded points for every correct answer, we would be encouraged to continue doing better. Instead, we learn to fear mistakes and point them out in others.

Startups start at zero and earn points along the way. We expand our strengths instead of minimize our weaknesses. There is no maximum score. Steady progress, not expected outcome, is the measuring stick.

Treat employees similarly. An employee has a finite amount of time. Doing more good work leaves less time for bad work. Double-down on what your employees do well.
It also creates a positive feedback loop. Reinforcing great work encourages more great work, which creates more reinforcement. When you try to correct bad work, the best you can hope for is to stop giving feedback.

Maximizing good work instead of minimizing bad work requires patience and confidence. Fight the urge to tell people to “do better.” Instead, tell employees when they do something well. It takes conscious effort to find these opportunities but with practice it becomes habit. And your people will be more effective for it.


How do I decide what to delegate?
Delegate the work you want to do.

When I ask this question most managers respond with, “I delegated the call to Mary because she needs to learn how to handle an angry customer” or, “I delegated the report to John because he’s good at writing.”

It is funny how managers rationalize giving employees shitty work as a benefit to them. Mary’s manager delegated the call because he didn’t want to deal with the angry customer. John’s manager delegated the report because she didn’t want to write it.

Many managers treat their position as a privilege and delegating shitty work is one of the perks. They are lousy managers.

I can give you a simple rule to decide what to delegate. Delegate the work you want to do. There are reasons to do this:

1. Employees will love working for you. The work you want to do is probably the work they want to do, and they will be happy employees because of it.

2. You will train future leaders. They will see you doing the hard, miserable work that nobody wants to do. One day they will want to do it too. Not because they enjoy the work, but because they see you doing it as their leader, and they want to be leaders too.

3. You will grow. Most people want to do the work they are good at. If you delegate the work you are good at, the remainder will mostly be work you are bad at. You will struggle, suffer, and learn. That is where growth comes from.

To extend the eShares 101 sports analogy, hockey coaches talk about “skating to the hard parts of the ice.” This is the ice in front of the goal where defenders punish players. But this is where goals are scored, and those who suffer most score most. The best managers are always found on the hard parts of the ice.


How should I grade employees?
Don’t. Teach them to self-evaluate.

Employees often ask, “How am I doing?” I respond with, “How do you think you are doing?” Self-evaluation is the most important skill you can teach an employee. I am happy to offer my perspective, but only as feedback on theirs. They can evaluate themselves every day, minute, and second. I am lucky if I see their work once a week.

This may seem strange after years of receiving report cards and employee performance reviews. Companies (and schools) have convinced us we should be graded. It benefits the institution to do so. They can sort, rank, and filter employees. They can use it to decide who to fire and keep. They can set compensation against it. It is easer to manage employees as a distribution of scores rather than as unique individuals.

But employees gain nothing from it. It is selfish for us to reduce employees to a letter grade. Instead, we should become experts on our people’s strengths and weaknesses and help them become experts too.

We ask employees to have a ten-year career at eShares. If the only evaluation they come away with is a letter grade or employee rank, we have failed them as managers. They deserve more and the most valuable skill we can teach them is self-evaluation. They will carry that for the rest of their careers."
management  leadership  administration  howto  motivation  via:ableparris  tests  testing  grades  grading  howweteach  howwelearn  henryward  power  authority  evaluation  assessment 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Standards, Grades And Tests Are Wildly Outdated, Argues 'End Of Average' : NPR Ed : NPR
"Todd Rose dropped out of high school with D- grades. At 21, he was trying to support a wife and two sons on welfare and minimum wage jobs.

Today he teaches educational neuroscience at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He's also the co-founder of The Center for Individual Opportunity, a new organization devoted to "the science of the individual and its implications for education, the workforce, and society."

In other words, Todd Rose is not your average guy. But neither are you.

In fact, he argues, absolutely no one is precisely average. And that's a big problem, he tells NPR Ed: "We've come to embrace a way of thinking about ourselves as people that was intentionally designed to ignore all individuality and force everything in reference to an average person."

Admissions offices, HR departments, banks and doctors make life-changing decisions based on averages. Rose says that "works really well to understand the system or the group, but it fails miserably when you need to understand the individual, which is what we need to do."

Rose talked with us about his new book: The End Of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness.

Q: The opening example you use in the book is that in the 1940s, when the Air Force designed cockpits based on the average measurements of the pilots, there were an unacceptable number of crashes. But when they went back and measured thousands of pilots, across 10 body dimensions, they found that zero of them even came close to the "average" on all 10. So they concluded that they had to redesign the seats and so forth to be adjustable to each person.

A: Body size is a very concrete example of what I call jaggedness. There is no average pilot. No medium-sized people. When you think of someone's size you think of large, medium, small. Our mass-produced approach to clothing reinforces that. But if that were true you wouldn't need dressing rooms.

Q: So dimensions like height and weight and arm length and waist circumference ...

A: Yes, they're not nearly as correlated as you would think. Height is one-dimensional, but size isn't. People are jagged in size, in intelligence, everything we measure shows the same thing.

Q: I'm going to quote a line from the book, said to psychologist Paul Molenaar, who is arguing for a greater focus on individual difference: "What you are proposing is anarchy!" How do you make decisions about people if you can't use statistics and cutoff scores and compare them to averages?

A: People feel like if you focus on individuality, everyone's a snowflake, and you can't build a science on snowflakes. But the opposite has been true.

It's not that you can't use statistics, it's just that you don't use group statistics. If I want to know something about my daily spending habits, one straightforward way would be to collect records of what I spend every day. To take an average for myself would be perfectly fine.

Q: So you can generalize across time, but not across people?

A: We've got to let go of putting a group into a study and taking an average and thinking that's going to be close enough to universal insight.

Now we have something better. We have a natural science of individuality that gives us a surer foundation. We've gotten breakthrough insights in a whole range of research, from cancer to child development.

Q: How does what you term "Averagerianism" impact our school system both historically and today?

A: It's so ubiquitous that it's hard to see.

We design textbooks to be age-appropriate, but that means, what does the average kid of this age know and can do? Textbooks that are designed for the average will be a pretty bad fit for most kids.

Then you think of things like the lockstep, grade-based organization of kids, and you end up sitting in a class for a fixed amount of time and get a one-dimensional rating in the form of a grade, and a one-dimensional standardized assessment. It's everything about the way we test and move kids forward.

Q: With standardized tests, I often hear teachers talking about students being two months behind or ahead, as if there's a very fixed timeline for progress that all human beings should fit.

A: It feels comforting. But if you take the basic idea of jaggedness, if all kids are multidimensional in their talent, their aptitude, you can't reduce them to a single score. It gives us a false sense of precision and gives up on pretending to know anything about these kids.

Q: So alongside jaggedness, two other principles of individual variation you look at are "context-dependence" and "pathways." Talk about those.

A: It's meaningless to talk about behavior and performance without context. Let's take assessment. Carnegie Mellon [University] had this work showing that changing the way a question is asked can fundamentally alter how a kid performs. So if the [math] problem is about football players instead of ballerinas, you can't standardize on the item. That systematically affects the kids' ability to demonstrate what they know.

But at a macro level, I think [context] introduces an attention to things like the impact of stress and trauma.

Q: And what about pathways? This sounds a lot like the talk around personalizing learning using technology and allowing each student to learn at his or her own pace.

A: I think people who care about personalized learning talk about it as: If we just collect more data, we're going to have this personalization. And that's not clear to me at all.

I think when you look at the idea of pace, we are so convinced that slow means dumb and fast means smart. We feel justified in pegging the time to how fast the average person takes to finish.

But this is where, with a better understanding of this and realizing, "Oh, pace really has nothing to do with ability, people are fast at some things and slow with others," you would build a very different system than the one we have.

Q: Do you think the school system acknowledges the need to treat students as individuals?

A: Two years ago I would have said no. But my colleague Paul Reville, who used to be secretary of education in Massachusetts, he's rethinking the architecture of school systems. In most states, people have put on the books goals about meeting every kid where they're at. Even the "Every Student Succeeds" [ESSA, the new federal law] approach is based on the assumption that we're meeting each kid where they're at, to give them what they need to be successful.

But we haven't thought through the system design that needs to be in place to do that.

We're trying to have a system to do what it was never designed to do.

Q: What about in higher education?

A: In higher ed we have a brutally standardized system. It doesn't matter what your interests are, what job you want, everyone takes the same courses in roughly the same time and at the end of the course you get ranked.

This is personal for me. I have two kids in college. The idea that someone is going to click a stopwatch, compare you to other kids in your class, and the kids with the best grades can get the best jobs, that's not a good deal. I want my two boys to figure out what they love and what they're good at and be exposed to things and be able to turn that into a job.

Q: You talk about innovations that are starting to catch on, like competency-based education and credentialing — basically, accommodating different pathways and different balances of strengths and weakness.

A: There's plenty of ways we're making smaller units of learning to combine in ways that are useful to you. To me, competency based education is nonnegotiable. I don't think you can have fixed-time, grade-based learning anymore. I don't see how you justify diplomas.

It doesn't mean students can take forever, but allowing some flexibility in pace and only caring whether they master the material or not is a sound foundation for a higher ed system.

There are so many examples of a lot of really interesting universities trying these things.

Q: Yes, reading this book it struck me that in some quarters, it seems like we've already moved forward to a focus on individuality, innovation, creativity. You talk about how companies like Google are finding that GPA or school prestige or even ranking employees against each other is not useful, and instead they need to create, essentially, performance-based assessments for doing tasks in context.

A: There are bright spots where you can see the principles of individuality at work.

So for me it comes back to, well, wait a minute. So why is that not the mainstream?

What I think my contribution is, is to say: Our institutions are based on assumptions about human beings. Our education system is based on a 19th century idea of an average person and using 20th century statistics.

As long as people think you can understand people based on averages, or how they deviate from averages, it seems reasonable. It looks like accountability and fairness rather than absurdity.

Q: And you're trying to show that there's an alternative?

A: If we don't get rid of this way of thinking about ourselves and the people around us, it's hard to get the public demand to create sustainable change. That's the role that I and my organization want to play. We're making a really big bet."
anyakamenetz  toddrose  standards  grades  grading  averages  education  howweteach  schools  admissions  tests  testing  standardization  standardizedtesting  sameness  paulmolenaar  textbooks  behavior  performance  individuality 
february 2016 by robertogreco
The Big Picture Program Focuses on Real-World Skills and Projects to Help Teenagers Who Struggle in Traditional Classrooms - The Atlantic
"Nothing in particular stands out about the two adjoining rooms at South Burlington High School, one littered with desks, the other lined with simple grey cubicles. Yet the 30 students working inside are taking part in a uniquely personalized curriculum unlike anything their peers—or most U.S. high-school students—ever get to experience.

Big Picture, a program with a chapter at South Burlington, bucks the traditional model of high-school learning. There are no tests, no grades, and, for some students, no traditional classes to sit through.

That’s because the program is centered around the concept and execution of self-directed learning. With input from advisors, working professionals, parents, and peers, each teen participant creates his or her own curriculum, tailored to fit personal interests.

Big Picture’s model is now used in more than 60 schools across the U.S. And in Vermont, it’s also a precursor to a new statewide mandate meant to take effect over the next three years: Public-school students in grades seven through 12 will soon be required to create their own personalized learning plans.

Within South Burlington’s larger student population of around 900, Big Picture accounts for just a small portion of students. The program is broken into two sections: Big Picture 101 for new participants, and a 201 level for upperclassmen and experienced participants. Students aren’t required to take classes like English or biology—though they can if they so choose.

Each Big Picture student comes up with a big idea, or hypothesis, for their year-long independent project, such as 17-year-old Joey Mount’s plan to design a clothing line and launch an accompanying website. Teens tap into their pre-existing interests, then come up with creative ways for the topic to be reimagined to gain proficiency in subject areas like science and math.

The goal is for students to stay motivated and learn while gaining real-world experiences—and honing the tricky art of time management. Four staff members help guide, coach, and hold students accountable: two advisors, one Americorps Vista volunteer, and one program director.

“Most students who find us, find us for a reason: School isn’t working for them.”
Over the course of each semester, projects are carefully vetted and executed according to reporting standards, which are also predetermined by students. It’s a process that the advisor Jim Shields said evolved over the program’s seven years at South Burlington.

“Most students who find us, find us for a reason: School isn’t working for them,” Shields said. “If you think of high school as having a ceiling and a floor, there’s the students who are struggling because they’re falling through the cracks in the floor. Then there’s the students who just wanna take the roof off, who are held back by high school.”

This year’s crop of Big Picture projects covers a diverse range of topics. Shields’s students are gaining the academic proficiencies required for them to graduate by studying artistic endeavors like blacksmithing, clothing design, e-games, and pinhole photography. One is conceptualizing and designing a card game meant to increase face-to-face interaction among participants; another is producing a film examining how depression and anxiety manifest in high-school environments.

To earn their proficiency-based diploma, which results in a non-traditional transcript, the program requires that students achieve “a minimum level of proficiency and competence when it comes to mastering the essential knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college, work, and life.” At South Burlington, those lofty concepts are measured with the help of a rubric.

Kids are also required to seek out mentors related to their topic of study—a professional photographer for a project exploring pinhole photography, or perhaps a coder for another tackling e-game design. Second-year students also spend two full days a week working at internships, putting in 80 hours each 12-week semester.

Furthering that community involvement, the introductory students are also immersed in planning a group project, which the entire Big Picture group executes together. This year, they’re trying to open a café in South Burlington.

Although Big Picture is self-selective and small by design, Shields said he doesn’t turn many interested students away. “We look at a lot of things,” he said, “grades being an indicator but not the most important indicator. They may have no good grades, but started their own rock band, and they tour.”

After filling out a paper application, potential program participants are invited in to interview. The applicants and their parents are both required to submit essays, in which they explain why they think the program will work for the student. The process culminates in a test of sorts. Applicants are given a choice of two prompts to answer, both of which require the teen to consider how, exactly, they might complete a structured project over the course of the semester.

Sam Caron, 16, said he had trouble staying focused in a traditional classroom. He’s a first-year participant, and this year, his project is the creation of a cider press.

Comparing a traditional high-school schedule with a self-designed Big Picture curriculum is like comparing “apples and oranges,” Caron said. “Here, what I put into it is what I get out of it. It’s just that with this, I want to be putting more into it, because it’s stuff that I’m interested in.”

So how does making a cider press earn the equivalent of an A in, say, chemistry or world history?

To fulfill science proficiency requirements, each participant enters Vermont’s annual state science fair. Their entry has to have an angle related to their independent project, forcing them to think creatively in order to come up with a scientific hypothesis that can be executed and tested.

Caron will be testing and designing a contraption to demonstrate how best to extract the most juice from a single apple for this year’s science fair.

A panel of judges consisting of scientists and science teachers review each experiment according to a rubric. For other students, science fair feedback is just constructive criticism. For the Big Picture kids, it effectively replaces their grades, proving or disproving their science proficiency.

Shields said Caron’s cider press project would fall under the Big Picture “reasoning and problem solving domain.” The 16-year-old will learn through research, gaining hands-on experience while using the scientific method.

Throughout the year, students assesses their own work to measure what they’ve learned and to make sure they’ve identified, mapped out, and realized plans toward achievable goals. They also participate in exercises like weekly “Socratics,” where they read, analyze, and discuss a news article or piece of literature chosen by advisors or peers. Reflection and self-assessment are key.

At the end of the semester, instead of grades, feedback for each independent project comes after an “exhibition of learning.” Students give presentations to their peers, parents, and the public on their topics.

On a recent Monday, Shields stood in the Big Picture 101 room, moving from teen to teen as they worked through the day’s plans on laptops. As the bell sounded marking the end of the two o’clock session, his seven students put on their jackets, grabbed clipboards, and walked outside into the crisp Vermont air.

Their destination? Three local supermarkets two miles up the road: Hannaford’s, a New England chain; Trader Joe’s; and Healthy Living, a pricier health-food store. The students were on a fact-finding mission to help build toward opening their café, the program’s collective community project. On this particular outing, their goal was to figure out which menu items would be the most affordable.

As the group distanced itself from the old brick school, Shields walked along the sidewalk, in the middle of the pack.

The teens led the way."
curriclulum  education  schools  lcproject  openstudioproject  2015  erinsiegalmcintyre  southburlingtonhighschool  projectbasedlearning  teaching  pedagogy  agency  unschooling  deschooling  curriculum  tcsnmy  bigpictureschools  testing  tests  standardizedtesting  grading  grades 
november 2015 by robertogreco
What one college discovered when it stopped accepting SAT/ACT scores - The Washington Post
"Hampshire College is a liberal arts school in Massachusetts that has decided not to accept SAT/ACT scores from applicants. That’s right — the college won’t accept them, a step beyond the hundreds of “test-optional” schools that leave it up to the applicant to decide whether to include them in their applications. So what has happened as a result of the decision?

For one thing, U.S. News & World report has refused to include Hampshire in its annual rankings. For another, Hampshire officials say, this year’s freshman class, the first chosen under the new rules, is more qualified by other measures than earlier classes.

Hampshire College was founded in 1970 as an alternative private liberal arts college that experiments with curriculum and relies on portfolios of work and narrative evaluations rather than distribution requirements and grades. It is one of the top colleges in the nation in terms of the proportion of its graduates who go on to graduate school.

Here’s an explanation of what the college did regarding SAT/ACT scores and why, from President Jonathan Lash, who is also a director of the World Resources Institute, a D.C.-based environmental think tank, where he previously served as president. He chaired former President Bill Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development and was Vermont’s environmental secretary and commissioner. He holds a law degree and master’s degree in education from Catholic University of America and a bachelor’s from Harvard College.

By Jonathan Lash:

You won’t find our college in the U.S. News & Word Report “Best Colleges” rankings released this month. Last year Hampshire College decided not to accept SAT/ACT test scores from high school applicants seeking admission. That got us kicked off the rankings, disqualified us, per U.S. News rankings criteria. That’s OK with us.

We completely dropped standardized tests from our application as part of our new mission-driven admissions strategy, distinct from the “test-optional” policy that hundreds of colleges now follow. If we reduce education to the outcomes of a test, the only incentive for schools and students to innovate is in the form of improving test-taking and scores. Teaching to a test becomes stifling for teachers and students, far from the inspiring, adaptive education which most benefits students. Our greatly accelerating world needs graduates who are trained to address tough situations with innovation, ingenuity, entrepreneurship and a capacity for mobilizing collaboration and cooperation.

We weighed other factors in our decision:

• Standardized test scores do not predict a student’s success at our college.

• SATs/ACTs are strongly biased against low-income students and students of color, at a time when diversity is critical to our mission.

• We surveyed our students and learned not one of them had considered rankings when choosing to apply to colleges; instead they most cared about a college’s mission.

• Some good students are bad test takers, particularly under stress, such as when a test may grant or deny college entry. Multiple-choice tests don’t reveal much about a student.

• We’ve developed much better, fairer ways to assess students who will thrive at our college.

In our admissions, we review an applicant’s whole academic and lived experience. We consider an applicant’s ability to present themselves in essays and interviews, review their recommendations from mentors, and assess factors such as their community engagement and entrepreneurism. And yes, we look closely at high school academic records, though in an unconventional manner. We look for an overarching narrative that shows motivation, discipline, and the capacity for self-reflection. We look at grade point average (GPA) as a measure of performance over a range of courses and time, distinct from a one-test-on-one-day SAT/ACT score. A student’s consistent “A” grades may be coupled with evidence of curiosity and learning across disciplines, as well as leadership in civic or social causes. Another student may have overcome obstacles through determination, demonstrating promise of success in a demanding program. Strong high school graduates demonstrate purpose, a passion for authenticity, and commitment to positive change.

We’re seeing remarkable admissions results since disregarding standardized test scores:

• Our yield, the percentage of students who accepted our invitation to enroll, rose in a single year from 18% to 26%, an amazing turnaround.

• The quantity of applications went down, but the quality went up, likely because we made it harder to apply, asking for more essays. Our applicants collectively were more motivated, mature, disciplined and consistent in their high school years than past applicants.

• Class diversity increased to 31% students of color, the most diverse in our history, up from 21% two years ago.

• The percentage of students who are the first-generation from their family to attend college rose from 10% to 18% in this year’s class.

Our “No SAT/ACT policy” has also changed us in ways deeper than data and demographics: Not once did we sit in an Admissions committee meeting and “wish we had a test score.” Without the scores, every other detail of the student’s application became more vivid. Their academic record over four years, letters of recommendation, essays, in-person interviews, and the optional creative supplements gave us a more complete portrait than we had seen before. Applicants gave more attention to their applications, including the optional components, putting us in a much better position to predict their likelihood of success here.

This move away from test scores and disqualification from the U.S. News rankings has allowed us to innovate in ways we could not before. In other words, we are free to innovate rather than compromise our mission to satisfy rankings criteria:

• We no longer chase volumes of applications to superficially inflate our “selectivity” and game the U.S. News rankings. We no longer have to worry that any applicant will “lower our average SAT/ACT scores” and thus lower our U.S. News ranking. Instead we choose quality over quantity and focus attention and resources on each applicant and their full portfolio.

• At college fairs and information sessions, we don’t spend time answering high school families’ questions about our ranking and test score “cut-offs.” Instead we have conversations about the things that matter: What does our unique academic program look like, and what qualities does a student need to be successful at it?

• An unexpected benefit: This shift has saved us significant time and operational expense. Having a smaller but more targeted, engaged, passionate, and robust applicant pool, we are able to streamline our resources.

How can U.S. News rankings reliably measure college quality when their data-points focus primarily on the high school performance of the incoming class in such terms as GPA, SAT/ACT, class rank, and selectivity? These measures have nothing to do with the college’s results, except perhaps in the college’s aptitude for marketing and recruiting. Tests and rankings incentivize schools to conform to test performance and rankings criteria, at the expense of mission and innovation.

Our shift to a mission-driven approach to admissions is right for Hampshire College and the right thing to do. We fail students if we reduce them to a standardized test number tied more to their financial status than achievement. We fail students by perpetuating the myth that high standardized test scores signal “better” students. We are in the top one percent of colleges nationwide in the percentage of our undergraduate alumni who go on to earn advanced degrees – this on the strength of an education where we assess their capabilities narratively, and where we never, not once, subject them to a numerical or letter grade on a test or course.

At Hampshire College, we face the same financial challenges as many colleges. But these challenges provide an opportunity to think about who we are and what matters to us. We can not lose sight of our mission while seeking revenues or chasing rankings. We are committed to remaining disqualified from the U.S. News rankings. We’re done with standardized testing, the SAT, and ACT."
hampshirecollege  colleges  universities  admissions  sat  act  education  grading  teaching  rankings  diversity  jonathanlash  standardizedtesting  tests  class  race  selectivity  fit  srg  edg 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Cheerful to a Fault: “Positive” Practices with Negative Implications - Alfie Kohn
"We live in a smiley-face, keep-your-chin-up, look-on-the-bright-side culture. At the risk of being labeled a professional party pooper, I’d like to suggest that accentuating the positive isn’t always a wise course of action where children are concerned. I say that not because I’ve joined the conservative chorus whose refrain is that kids today have it too damn easy and ought to be made to experience more failure (and show more “grit”).[1] Rather, my point is that some things that sound positive and upbeat turn out not to be particularly constructive.

1. Praise. The most salient feature of a positive judgment is not that it’s positive but that it’s a judgment. And in the long run, people rarely thrive as a result of being judged. Praise is the mirror image of criticism, not its opposite. Both are ways of doing things to kids as opposed to working with them. Verbal rewards are often more about manipulating than encouraging — a form of sugar-coated control. The main practical effect of offering a reward, whether it’s tangible, symbolic, or verbal, is to provide a source of extrinsic motivation (for example, trying to please the rewarder), and this, according to a considerable body of research, tends to undermine intrinsic motivation (a commitment to the activity or value itself).

While “Good job!” may seem like a supportive thing to say, that support is actually made conditional on the child’s doing what we ask or impressing us. What kids most need from adults, apart from nonjudgmental feedback and guidance, is unconditional support: the antithesis of a patronizing pat on the head for having jumped through our hoops. The solution, therefore, isn’t as simple as praising children’s effort instead of their ability, because the problem isn’t a function of what’s being praised — or, for that matter, how often praise is offered — but of praise itself.[2]

2. Automatic reassurance. Deborah Meier once remarked that if a child says one of her classmates doesn’t like her,
we need to resist reassuring her that it’s not true and getting the classmate to confirm it; then we must ask ourselves what has led to this idea. Probably there is truth to the cry for help, and our refusal to admit it may simply lead the child to hide her hurt more deeply. Do we do too much reassuring – ‘It doesn’t hurt,’ ‘It’ll be okay’ – and not enough exploring, joining with the child’s queries, fears, thoughts?[3]

A reflexive tendency to say soothing things to children in distress may simply communicate that we’re not really listening to them. Perhaps we’re offering reassurance more because that’s what we need to say than because it’s what they need to hear.

3. Happiness as the primary goal. How can we help children grow up to be happy? That’s an important question, but here’s another one: How can we help children grow up to be concerned about whether other people are happy? We don’t want our kids to end up as perpetually miserable social activists, but neither should we root for them to become so focused on their own well-being that they’re indifferent to other people’s suffering. Happiness isn’t a good thing if it’s purchased at the price of being unreflective, complacent, or self-absorbed.

Moreover, as the psychologist Ed Deci reminds us, anger and sadness are sometimes appropriate responses to things that happen to us (and around us). “When people want only happiness, they can actually undermine their own development,” he said, “because the quest for happiness can lead them to suppress other aspects of their experience. . . .The true meaning of being alive is not just to feel happy, but to experience the full range of human emotions.”[4]


And here are four specific cheerful-sounding utterances or slogans that I believe also merit our skepticism:

4. “High(er) expectations.” This phrase, typically heard in discussions about educating low-income or minority students, issues from policy makers with all the thoughtfulness of a sneeze. It derives most of its appeal from a simplistic contrast with low expectations, which obviously no one prefers. But we need to ask some basic questions: Are expectations being raised to the point that students are more demoralized than empowered? Are these expectations being imposed on students rather than developed with them? And most fundamentally: High expectations to do what, exactly? Produce impressive scores on unimpressive tests?

The school reform movement driven by slogans such as “tougher standards,” “accountability,” and “raising the bar” arguably lowers meaningful expectations insofar as it relies on dubious indicators of progress — thereby perpetuating a “bunch o’ facts” model of learning. Expecting poor children to fill in worksheets more accurately just causes them to fall farther behind affluent kids who are offered a more thoughtful curriculum. Indeed, as one study found, such traditional instruction may be associated with lower expectations on the part of their teachers.[5]

5. “Ooh, you’re so close!” (in response to a student’s incorrect answer). My objection here is not, as traditionalists might complain, that we’re failing to demand absolute accuracy. Quite the contrary. The problem is that we’re more focused on getting students to produce right answers than on their understanding of what they’re doing. Even in math, one student’s right answer may not signify the same thing as another’s. The same is true of two wrong answers. A student’s response may have been only one digit off from the correct one, but she may have gotten there by luck (in which case she wasn’t really “close” in a way that matters). Conversely, a student who’s off by an order of magnitude may grasp the underlying principle but have made a simple calculation error.

6. “If you work hard, I’m sure you’ll get a better grade next time.” Again, we may have intended to be encouraging, but the actual message is that what matters in this classroom isn’t learning but performance. It’s not about what kids are doing but how well they’re doing it. Decades’ worth of research has shown that these two emphases tend to pull in opposite directions. Thus, the relevant distinction isn’t between a good grade and a bad grade; it’s leading kids to focus on grades versus inviting them to engage with ideas.

Similarly, if we become preoccupied with effort as opposed to ability as the primary determinant of high marks, we miss the crucial fact that marks are inherently destructive. Like demands to “raise expectations,” a growth mindset isn’t a magic wand. In fact, it can distract us from the harmfulness of certain goals — and of certain ways of teaching and assessing — by suggesting that more effort, like more rigor, is all that’s really needed. Not only is it not sufficient; when the outcome is misconceived, it isn’t even always desirable.[6]

7. “Only Positive Attitudes Allowed Beyond This Point.” I’ve come across this poster slogan in a number of schools, and each time I see it, my heart sinks. Its effect isn’t to create a positive atmosphere but to serve notice that the expression of negative feelings is prohibited: “Have a nice day . . . or else.” It’s a sentiment that’s informative mostly for what it tells us about the needs of the person who put up the poster. It might as well say “My Mental Health Is So Precarious That I Need All of You to Pretend You’re Happy.”

Kids don’t require a classroom that’s relentlessly upbeat; they require a place where it’s safe to express whatever they’re feeling, even if at the moment that happens to be sadness or fear or anger. Bad feelings don’t vanish in an environment of mandatory cheer — they just get swept under the rug where people end up tripping over them, so to speak. Furthermore, students’ “negativity” may be an entirely apt response to an unfair rule, an authoritarian environment, or a series of tasks that seem pointless. To focus on students’ emotions in order to manufacture a positive climate (or in the name of promoting “self-regulation” skills) is to pretend that the problem lies exclusively with their responses rather than with what we may have done that elicited them.[7]"

[Also posted here: ]
alfiekohn  education  listening  howweteach  teaching  pedagogy  praise  reassurance  happiness  reflection  expectations  grades  grading  effort  attitudes  positivity  behavior  manipulation  criticism  judgement  feedback  constructivecriticism  support  schools  selflessness  kindness  tests  testing  standardizedtesting  accuracy  deborahmeier 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Opting Out of Everything | The Jose Vilson
"Last Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking at Organize 2.0’s annual conference, a gathering of some of the country’s most influential organizers to speak about thought leadership as a classroom teacher. I had far too much to say over a 20 minute period, so I read a portion of my book and spoke about our current education reform issues. I got plenty of applause for hounding Andrew Cuomo and speaking up about racism, sexism, and homophobia in our communities. I also had an opportunity to shout out a group like Change the Stakes because a) they’re in NYC b) they have materials in Spanish and c) they’re in my neighborhood. Needless to say, I believe in parents opting their students out of the standardized tests, especially if they can meet the requirements for grade advancement. (Actually, even if they can’t, but that’s another post.)


During the Q&A period, a concerned parent asked, “But what if my kid needs to use those test scores in order to get into a better school?” These are the types of questions meant to stymie speakers, as if I hadn’t seen it already. People who asks these questions presume that the speaker isn’t a parent themselves, and that there isn’t a negotiation between “parent as expert” and “for the public good” that society has to find ways to balance all the time. I replied that we first need to define what a bad school and a good school are. Secondly, that there are multiple ways to demonstrate that a student has learned something, and I can’t see too many principals who would reject a student who has a strong portfolio of work.

Eventually, I find out from other attendees that the “parent” also works somewhere that should work at the behest of teachers, students, and parents, but that’s another matter completely. This idea that the standardized test is the ultimate way to ensure passage to the next level sounds like pseudo-meritocratic drivel.

After leaving the conference, my blood only boiled hotter after hearing a commercial in Spanish telling Latino parents that the upcoming state tests are designed to improve students’ cognitive skills, so they should be encouraged to take them. Excuse me? Whoever paid for that spot (my bet: StudentsFirst) forgot to mention that tests don’t explicitly teach anything. Teachers do. Tests don’t go up or down magically or because of raised standards, but because of what happens on a daily basis in schools.

I wanted to listen to the whole commercial, but, instead I hurried up, paid for my groceries, and got the hell out. You guessed it: I opted out.

In fact, I wish I had a refusal letter handy for a bunch of different things I need to opt out of. In no particular order, I’d like to opt out of giving the exams, of being rated on standardized tests, of arguments that say “students need these tests to learn”, of educators not openly supporting other educators when they decide to do something about the testing regime we’re still beholden to, of contentions that these tests are similar to the SAT / ACT when colleges are paying less attention to those things, of folks on all sides silencing voices of color opting their students out by saying opting out is a mostly white suburban moms issue, of giving America’s public monies to private testing corporations for the express purpose of perpetuating testing, and of any mandates that shutter schools on the sole basis of achievement on these tests.

I’d like to opt in to more resources and redistribution of said resources so that the more students need, the more we give. I’d also like to opt our kids in to demonstrating their learning through multiple factors. I’d opt into professional development that would make me a better facilitator for students showing their own learning, too. It’s the right thing to do.

The largest question about the opt out movement for folks is color is whether these tests help highlight our educational inequities via numbers. Opting out students stands as a powerful rebuke of the idea that standardized tests should be the primary determinant as to whether a school stays open or not. So if opting out is an option for you, please do."
education  testing  standardizedtesting  resistance  optingout  2015  activism  teaching  tests  sat  schools  policy  protest  josévilson 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Wilson’s 1997 “Educational Standards and the Problem of Error” (updated 2013)
[A comment in reaction to a post on Diane Ravitch's blog "The Fatal Flaw of the Common Core Standards", via Taryn who quotes Duane Swacker. Bookmark points to the comment.]

"the [grade/test score] becomes part of the story about yourself and with sufficient repetitions becomes true: true because those who know, those in authority, say it is true [...] true because if your mark is high you are consistently rewarded, so that your voice becomes a voice of authority in the power-knowledge discourses that reproduce the structure that helped to produce you"

[The full comment:]

"That educational standards, in this instance CCSS and standardized testing have “fatal flaws” has been know for quite a while. In 1997 Noel Wilson identified at least 13 epistemological and ontological “fatal flaws” that render the processes of the educational standards and standardized testing completely invalid. That this is not wider known is beyond me because it seems like common sense, but we know there isn’t much common sense in the Common Core. To understand why CCSS is such educational malarkey and, in reality educational malpractice read his “Educational Standards and the Problem of Error” found at:

Brief outline of Wilson’s “Educational Standards and the Problem of Error” and some comments of mine. (updated 6/24/13 per Wilson email)

1. A quality cannot be quantified. Quantity is a sub-category of quality. It is illogical to judge/assess a whole category by only a part (sub-category) of the whole. The assessment is, by definition, lacking in the sense that “assessments are always of multidimensional qualities. To quantify them as one dimensional quantities (numbers or grades) is to perpetuate a fundamental logical error” (per Wilson). The teaching and learning process falls in the logical realm of aesthetics/qualities of human interactions. In attempting to quantify educational standards and standardized testing we are lacking much information about said interactions.

2. A major epistemological mistake is that we attach, with great importance, the “score” of the student, not only onto the student but also, by extension, the teacher, school and district. Any description of a testing event is only a description of an interaction, that of the student and the testing device at a given time and place. The only correct logical thing that we can attempt to do is to describe that interaction (how accurately or not is a whole other story). That description cannot, by logical thought, be “assigned/attached” to the student as it cannot be a description of the student but the interaction. And this error is probably one of the most egregious “errors” that occur with standardized testing (and even the “grading” of students by a teacher).

3. Wilson identifies four “frames of reference” each with distinct assumptions (epistemological basis) about the assessment process from which the “assessor” views the interactions of the teaching and learning process: the Judge (think college professor who “knows” the students capabilities and grades them accordingly), the General Frame-think standardized testing that claims to have a “scientific” basis, the Specific Frame-think of learning by objective like computer based learning, getting a correct answer before moving on to the next screen, and the Responsive Frame-think of an apprenticeship in a trade or a medical residency program where the learner interacts with the “teacher” with constant feedback. Each category has its own sources of error and more error in the process is caused when the assessor confuses and conflates the categories.

4. Wilson elucidates the notion of “error”: “Error is predicated on a notion of perfection; to allocate error is to imply what is without error; to know error it is necessary to determine what is true. And what is true is determined by what we define as true, theoretically by the assumptions of our epistemology, practically by the events and non-events, the discourses and silences, the world of surfaces and their interactions and interpretations; in short, the practices that permeate the field. . . Error is the uncertainty dimension of the statement; error is the band within which chaos reigns, in which anything can happen. Error comprises all of those eventful circumstances which make the assessment statement less than perfectly precise, the measure less than perfectly accurate, the rank order less than perfectly stable, the standard and its measurement less than absolute, and the communication of its truth less than impeccable.”

In other word all the logical errors involved in the process render any conclusions invalid.

5. The test makers/psychometricians, through all sorts of mathematical machinations attempt to “prove” that these tests (based on standards) are valid-errorless or supposedly at least with minimal error [they aren't]. Wilson turns the concept of validity on its head and focuses on just how invalid the machinations and the test and results are. He is an advocate for the test taker not the test maker. In doing so he identifies thirteen sources of “error”, any one of which renders the test making/giving/disseminating of results invalid. As a basic logical premise is that once something is shown to be invalid it is just that, invalid, and no amount of “fudging” by the psychometricians/test makers can alleviate that invalidity.

6. Having shown the invalidity, and therefore the unreliability, of the whole process Wilson concludes, rightly so, that any result/information gleaned from the process is “vain and illusory”. In other words start with an invalidity, end with an invalidity (except by sheer chance every once in a while, like a blind and anosmic squirrel who finds the occasional acorn, a result may be “true”) or to put in more mundane terms crap in-crap out.

7. And so what does this all mean? I’ll let Wilson have the second to last word: “So what does a test measure in our world? It measures what the person with the power to pay for the test says it measures. And the person who sets the test will name the test what the person who pays for the test wants the test to be named.”

In other words it measures “’something’ and we can specify some of the ‘errors’ in that ‘something’ but still don’t know [precisely] what the ‘something’ is.” The whole process harms many students as the social rewards for some are not available to others who “don’t make the grade (sic)” Should American public education have the function of sorting and separating students so that some may receive greater benefits than others, especially considering that the sorting and separating devices, educational standards and standardized testing, are so flawed not only in concept but in execution?

My answer is NO!!!!!

One final note with Wilson channeling Foucault and his concept of subjectivization:

“So the mark [grade/test score] becomes part of the story about yourself and with sufficient repetitions becomes true: true because those who know, those in authority, say it is true; true because the society in which you live legitimates this authority; true because your cultural habitus makes it difficult for you to perceive, conceive and integrate those aspects of your experience that contradict the story; true because in acting out your story, which now includes the mark and its meaning, the social truth that created it is confirmed; true because if your mark is high you are consistently rewarded, so that your voice becomes a voice of authority in the power-knowledge discourses that reproduce the structure that helped to produce you; true because if your mark is low your voice becomes muted and confirms your lower position in the social hierarchy; true finally because that success or failure confirms that mark that implicitly predicted the now self-evident consequences. And so the circle is complete.”

In other words students “internalize” what those “marks” (grades/test scores) mean, and since the vast majority of the students have not developed the mental skills to counteract what the “authorities” say, they accept as “natural and normal” that “story/description” of them. Although paradoxical in a sense, the “I’m an “A” student” is almost as harmful as “I’m an ‘F’ student” in hindering students becoming independent, critical and free thinkers. And having independent, critical and free thinkers is a threat to the current socio-economic structure of society."
assessment  learning  tests  testing  authority  dianravitch  duaneswacker  measurement  1997  noelwilson  commoncore  stadards  standardization  error  epistemology  grades  grading  ranking  rankings  standardizedtests  dtandardizedtesting  hierarchy  hierarchies  via:Taryn  power  tcsnmy  criticalthinking  freedom  democracy  sorting 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Friedrich Knauss - Google+ - "Your entire career will be based on a the equivalent of single tweet."
"CST tests.

60 multiple choice questions for each student.

4 choices for each question.

That's 2 bits per question. 15 (8 bit) bytes per student. The sum total of how we look at their success.

Those 30 bytes get turned into a score between 150 & 600. 450 points (9 bits), except it's not. Because of weighting and quantization, you only get 160ish discrete scores. That's down to under 8 bits per student. (Probably appropriate, because the questions are unique from one level to next, so information about an individual response doesn't correlate to any particular response from the next year).

If a teacher has 28 kids in 5 periods, that's 140 students. 1120 bits of data to evaluate their entire performance for a year.

NY has decided that test scores will count for 40% of a teachers evaluation, & an unsatisfactory rating on test scores prohibits anything except an unsatisfactory rating for the other 60%.

Your entire career will be based on a the equivalent of single tweet."
2012  schooliness  schools  education  testscores  performance  numbers  data  absurdity  assessment  evaluation  tests  standardizedtesting  testing 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Teachable Moment - "How to Stop Cheaters", by Alan Shapiro
"there are tests that ask for more, ask for thinking…& open book tests…<br />
<br />
But in everyday life both adults & kids often think w/ other people & use whatever resources seem likely to help. What is valued in such group efforts is coming up w/ questions that nobody else has thought to ask…thoughts that connect A w/ B & C & w/ others' ideas…insights that foresee consequences regarding a possible action…ability to work well w/ others & carry out group decisions capably.<br />
<br />
If there is an incentive for cheating in such group endeavors, it is more likely in an investment banking firm that includes a stock analyst division or in a telecom corporation that conspires collectively to cook its books to produce let's-pretend profits than among students working on a problem.<br />
<br />
So why not at least some tests that promote group thinking & acting but that also have a role for individual thinking & acting? Certainly, some teachers make such tests part of their programs.<br />
<br />
Here is a sample…"
writing  education  testing  tests  assessment  groupwork  teaching  alanshapiro  learning  tcsnmy  cheating  sharing  unschooling  deschooling  problemsolving  problem-basedlearning  criticalthinking  collaboration  peer-assessment  via:irasocol 
july 2011 by robertogreco
BBC News - Five Minutes With: Alain de Botton
"I was a disturbed child, an adolescent, and I think that's where my interest in ideas comes from. I think that people become intellectual because of disturbance. My goal, raising my own children, is that they will never read a book or at least not be that dramatically inclined towards writing and reading. <br />
<br />
I think that reading and writing is a response to anxiety, often having a basis in childhood. I hope to at least quench some of that need in my children…<br />
<br />
The point of reading is to help you to live. It's not to pass an exam. It's not to sound clever. It's to get something out of it that you can use…<br />
<br />
We should be reading to help ourselves and help our societies. I don't believe in knowledge that is abstract and simply made to impress. I believe in knowledge that can be practical and that can bring us, in the broadest sense, happiness."
alaindebotton  philosophy  ideas  thinking  action  2010  parenting  paternalism  government  life  art  bbc  dialogue  debate  conversation  reading  writing  anxiety  tests  testing  adolescence  intellectualism  living  dialog 
april 2011 by robertogreco
The $20 Starbucks Test
"Here's how it works: you get a $20 bill and walk into the nearest Starbucks. And then you walk up to a random person and tell them you're worried about your brother and you'd like to buy them a cup of coffee if they'll just give you a couple of minutes to talk.

You tell them your brother is about to put all his life savings into a business idea that you think is totally crazy and your brother's wife has enlisted you to come up with arguments about why the idea sucks.

...And then you pitch them your idea, and take note of all their objections.

Rinse and repeat until your $20 are spent.

The "worried about your brother" part is great for two reasons. First: when making your first impression, people are less likely to brush you off if you say you're worried about your brother. Second: if you pitch your idea as your own, people are apt to use kid gloves and be insincere. If you're talking about a brother who's not there, people will be more candid in shooting it down."
business  entrepreneurship  ideas  sincerity  tests 
december 2010 by robertogreco
leading and learning: Let's have some real creativity!
"Lets be honest, there never was that much creativity in our schools. They have aways been more conservative than innovative and this includes many so called child-centred primary teachers. Creativity is seen when students and teacher diversity is appreciated, experiential learning valued, and where students complete powerful personal 'products' following up their own ideas in: in depth research, poetic writing, the creative arts - including these days information technology. The 'default mode' for most primary teachers is literacy and numeracy first and others areas in the time remaining…

Most people, according to creativity expert Robert Fritz, can't cope with creativity because they want quick answers and don't like living in the realm of not knowing, the very essence of science and creativity."
children  creativity  schools  kenrobinson  brucehammonds  gamechanging  tests  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  education  learning  risk  risktaking  problemsolving  experientiallearning  control  literacy  numeracy  robertfritz  unschooling  deschooling  lcproject  criticalthinking 
november 2010 by robertogreco
Op-Ed Contributor - Scientifically Tested Tests -
"scant evidence these tests encourage teachers to become better at helping individual children…some studies show tests protect bad teachers by hiding lack of skill behind narrow goals & rigid script…hardly any data to suggest punishing schools w/ low test scores & rewarding schools w/ high ones improves anything. The only notable feature of our current approach is that these tests are relatively easy to administer to every child in every school, easy to score & understand. But expediency should not be our main priority when it comes to schools.

Instead, we should come up w/ assessments that truly measure qualities of well-educated children: ability to understand what they read; interest in using books to gain knowledge; capacity to know when problem calls for math & quantification; agility to move from concrete examples to abstract principles & back again; ability to think about situation in several different ways; & dynamic working knowledge of society in which they live."
education  learning  psychology  testing  tests  standardizedtesting  tcsnmy  susanengel  criticalthinking  lcproject  whatmatters  policy  schools  schooling  schooliness  society 
september 2010 by robertogreco
Teaching Science to Nonscience Majors
"Because their minds haven't had a lot of the physics formulas drilled into them in high school physics, where everybody is concerned with the students just doing well on the test, they have a better, fresher perspective."
science  scienceliteracy  learning  education  testing  tests 
april 2010 by robertogreco
Tuttle SVC: Common Core -> New Tests -> Curriculum Aligned to Tests
"Hirsch doesn't seem to understand plan being implemented. There's no pretense of going from standards to curriculum to assessments of understanding of the curriculum. There are standards, there will be assessments of standards -- of enumerated standards, not Common Core or anyone else's commentary on standards, not of knowledge of recommended texts. There will be curriculum, textbooks, etc. aligned to assessments. There will be increasing emphasis on online assessment which is detached from rest of curriculum...There will be increasing use of regular diagnostic tests at higher grade levels for specific reading standards, e.g., this group needs to work on comparing structured poems to free verse, while this one works on analyzing how a dramatic production of a work departs from original text. There will be standards-based assessment, where standards are not "understandings," "skills," or "knowledge," but tasks.
tomhoffman  edhirsch  curriculum  commoncore  standards  standardizedtesting  assessment  2010  testing  tests  knowledge  skills  tasks  understanding 
april 2010 by robertogreco
Big Thinkers: Howard Gardner on Multiple Intelligences | Edutopia
"The student may have a good grade on the exam, we may think that he or she is learning, but a year or two later there's nothing left...I think that we teach way too many subjects and we cover way too much material and the end result is that students have a very superficial knowledge...I actually don't care if a child studies physics or biology or geology or astronomy before he goes to college. There's plenty of time to do that kind of detailed work. I think what's really important is to begin to learn to think scientifically...The most important thing about assessment is knowing what it is that you should be able to do...In school, assessment is mystifying. Nobody knows what's going to be on the test, and when the test results go back, neither the teacher nor the student knows what to do. So what I favor is highlighting for kids from the day they walk into school the performances and exhibitions for which they're going to be accountable."
howardgardner  assessment  schools  education  tcsnmy  projectbasedlearning  learning  technology  multipleintelligences  iq  inquiry  teaching  slowlearning  childcenteredlearning  grading  grades  testing  tests  gamechanging  cv  edutopia  pbl 
december 2009 by robertogreco
Overcoming Bias: Thinking Helps
"Most people believe that they should avoid changing their answer when taking multiple choice tests. Virtually all research on this topic, however, has suggested that this strategy is ill-founded: Most answer changes are from incorrect to correct, and people who change their answers usually improve their test scores. Why? .... Changing an answer when one should have stuck with one's original answer leads to more "if only ..." self-recriminations ...[making such events] more memorable."
testing  multiplechoice  howto  bias  tests 
november 2008 by robertogreco
Borderland » Blog Archive » Assessments for Learning
"One of Darling-Hammond’s slides listed what she called the “changing expectations for learning”:
learning  teaching  dougnoon  testing  assessment  change  reform  schools  schooling  education  policy  standards  tests  cv  nclb  literacy  tcsnmy 
november 2008 by robertogreco
FM 100 Hue Test
"Drag and drop the colors in each row to arrange them by hue order.
colors  perception  tests  quiz  vision 
september 2008 by robertogreco
Codebox Software - The 100 Most Common English Words
"See how many of the 100 most common words in the English language you can guess in 5 minutes..."
fun  english  language  quiz  games  words  usage  tests 
august 2008 by robertogreco

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