The Key to Lessening Pressure AND Increasing Rigor

David Aderhold, a superintendent in New Jersey recently put an end to HS mid-term and final exams in a well-intentioned attempt to ease pressure on increasingly anxious kids–pressure also discussed in this recent NY Times opinion piece and the film Race to Nowhere.

Aderhold’s decision led to a vigorous debate in his community–with one side firmly standing with the superintendent, led by concern about their children’s mental health. Those on the other side worried that the superintendent was dumbing down education. Continue reading

To Raise or To Ruin

A 3d graphic of the words in the question What Do You Think? This could be used to encourage people to participate in a survey or poll and ask their opinion or input on a customer service or other fact gathering project[/caption]I recently had an experience that had me wondering how we can keep children engaged and excited about learning as they progress through school.

Recently, I joined with a fabulous group of educators–reading coaches who were using a Looking at Student Work protocol following our first administration of common Parcc aligned interim assessments.

Each coach had brought samples of student work, all in response to the following prompt: “Retell the story from the crow’s point of view. Be sure to use details from the selection.” Continue reading

Teachers, Innovation and the Evolution of Schools

Last Friday afternoon at the Business Innovation Factory, four teams of teachers, including a team from my network, shared their stories of collaborative design thinking. This “storytelling” event was the culmination of a six week project called TD4ED, in which teachers were given the space and time to consider a problem of practice and design their own solution.

While the four teams’ projects differed, a common thread appeared. Each team had clearly been energized by the autonomy given them and came out of the experience not only with a sense of empowerment and enthusiasm, but with a tangible product to improve their schools. Continue reading

Teachers’ Messages and Student Engagement

I spent an hour recently visiting classrooms. First day after a break, with an anticipated snow day to follow, it could have been easy to lose the student engagement fight. Indeed, a few kids seemed to be moving a bit slowly, going through the motions. Yet I saw students ready to go–hands waving in the air to give an answer and exclamations of excitement when arriving at correct responses during a math review, for example.

By far, though, the greatest levels of engagement with the work was happening when students were arranged in peer groups and given the opportunity to construct their learning together. In an Algebra class, students were working in groups of their choosing to reviewing a test and making corrections. By designing this activity, the teacher was sending very clear messages to his students: Continue reading