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Great Teachers Are Made, Not Born
March 3, 2010 4:16 PM   Subscribe

Doug Lemov is getting some attention for his work at identifying - and trying to replicate - the key things that successful teachers do.

The network of charter schools he helped found offers a no-apologies mission statement, and shows some impressive results.

Meanwhile, efforts to rid New York of the worst teachers are proceeding slowly, while Chicago's Renaissance 2010 initiative to "turn around" many of its lowest-performing schools, in some cases replacing them with charters and firing teachers and principals, remains controversial.
posted by mai (44 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not finished reading yet but this is essential:

The incentives did shock some schools into recognizing their shortcomings. But most of them were like the one in Syracuse: they knew they had to change, but they didn’t know how.

Every time I hear about merit pay or other incentivization schemes this pops to mind - it's not clear that anyone really knows how to teach or what skills need to be enhanced - a lot of times it's just a parochial way of lashing out at teachers with their cushy "9 month" jobs. It's great that finally someone is bringing empirical work to bear on the problem. Great post.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 4:43 PM on March 3, 2010


The politics and controversies of school governance and charters and such aside, the idea of Lemov's taxonomy is interesting. I went through a very-highly respected teacher training program ... and upon graduation had absolutely no idea how to teach. But then, as I was doing graduate work, I volunteered in the classroom of a master teacher for three years. That was where I learned to teach - and it really was the little tips, tricks and tone that made all of the difference.

When I was flailing in my first teaching job (before my three years of volunteering), I began to assume that teaching was something where either you've got it or you don't (and I thought I didn't have it). But I leaned things during those three volunteering years, and my assumptions about the innateness of good teaching were contradicted. Now, over a decade later, I can walk into a room of 27 sixth graders and have their attention on the spot - warmly and pleasantly, not by instilling anxiety and fear. I was not a natural - and if for me it was a learned behavior and not merely instinctive, I believe that others can improve, too.

I'm glad that someone is trying to distill those sorts of fundamental methods. I've often said that we'd have a completely different education system in this country if only every teacher could spend three years working in my mentor teacher Kathy's classroom. For me, it was an incredible gift. Maybe this taxonomy will help push some teachers along that path without a need for a three-year internship.

Thanks for the great post.
posted by Chanther at 4:54 PM on March 3, 2010 [11 favorites]


successful teaching depends in part on a certain inimitable “voodoo.”

I could say Amen to that. The best teachers I have had conveyed insights which sometimes took years to sink in, and these insights were not easily immediately conveyed on graphs and evaluations.
posted by ovvl at 5:20 PM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


and proper funding for education helps, too.
posted by ovvl at 5:21 PM on March 3, 2010


I thought paying more money to the same teachers was supposed to improve teaching?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:35 PM on March 3, 2010


I haven't finished reading yet, but I had to rush in here to thank you for the very interesting post.
posted by Anything at 5:45 PM on March 3, 2010


Thanks for this; very timely, as I'm involved with a charter school that's opening this year and trying to make sure my kids continue their positive educational experience as they enter kindergarten this fall.
posted by davejay at 5:55 PM on March 3, 2010


"Teaching depends on what other people think,” Ball told me, “not what you think.”

Well, yes and no. And teachers are, I think, both born and made.

Interesting stuff about the math. As a sub I have witnessed more than one, hmm, shall I call it "derailment"?, situations when, as I watch silently, the real teacher gets lost in the math (or grammar, for that matter), and the entire class attempts to reconcile a patently "wrong" answer. At such times it is entirely inappropriate for me to correct said teacher; I actually appreciate the extent to which his/her students follow, bewildered, into the woods. Well, sometimes I can find something tactful to say, but these situations are difficult, to say the least.

Sometimes I enter someone else's room in the morning and I just know that a great teacher is at work here. The environment and materials (no to mention the lingering voodoo) speak for themselves. When that happens I know I will have a tough act to follow or an easy time. But I will learn something and I hope they (the students) do too.

Thanks for this post. It was interesting to read about school lunches *before* school today, and come home to this.
posted by emhutchinson at 5:57 PM on March 3, 2010


Great article. The "cold calling" method of having students answer questions is something I'd like to use more often than I do, but the problem with this approach is that parents sometimes give me flak for causing little Johnny/Suzie anxiety. The whole concept of "anxiety" generally is kind of a hot button issue these days with adolescents, in fact. Is some of it real? Absolutely. Is some of it ridiculousness? Oh hell yes. Learning to manage anxiety is what growing up is all about.

In my own teaching experience, balancing how parents think their kids ought to be taught with how kids ought to be taught for optimum learning can sometimes be difficult. For example, cold calling is fantastic for keeping kids focused and on their toes, but it can be hard to make a parent understand that when all they care about is their wee baby's angst. It would be nice to see a push to educate the greater public about the secrets to successful teaching as well as teachers themselves.
posted by Go Banana at 6:02 PM on March 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Something rings hollow here, and not just the anecdotal stories piled up. When proposed pay incentives failed to take into account the prevailing spirit of budget cuts, they seemed too quick to tout that certain something about great teachers that nobody quite understands. Fine, but even when ignoring the political controversy between the lines, all we're really talking about is a form of educational elitism, because the "successful" charter schools selectively draw ambitious students from mandatory public schools, which naturally lowers a public school's norms.

The lowest performing schools will have the worst neighborhoods and home conditions, and whatever else can go wrong as far as expectations go, even while conservatives still want to ban abortion and make most people into economic "losers" like those parents. After reading stuff like this I'm more sure that public school funding is being targeted by these charter schools, because the squeeze is on, and they are leading us to believe that it isn't about politics, elitism or money. Somebody said it well here: Since we can't fire poverty, we can't fire students, and we can't fire families, all that is left is to fire teachers.
posted by Brian B. at 6:30 PM on March 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fascinating videos! I think this shows that all teaching techniques have to been understood as more than mechanical exercises. A teacher would have to use them with the same good humor and respect s/he uses with all work in the class.

And ... the most important tool a teacher has is empathy - i.e., the ability to feel students' level of interest/anxiety -- i.e., the students might seem alert and involved in an activity that is challenging, learning-focused and rewarding, ... OR ... they might be silently flinching from an activity that poses possible humiliation (the "gotcha!" game that too many teachers think is 'good teaching').

Humiliation is violence. I wish that were taught in all teachers' schools.
posted by Surfurrus at 6:36 PM on March 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Brian B, did you really pick up "that certain something about great teachers that nobody quite understands" and "fire [bad] teachers" as the core message of the article? Those perspectives were mentioned but the story was mainly about finding and promoting useful teaching methods so teachers can improve.
posted by Anything at 6:45 PM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Brian B, did you really pick up "that certain something about great teachers that nobody quite understands" and "fire [bad] teachers" as the core message of the article?

Yeah, I picked it up like gum on my shoe. Did I win something?
posted by Brian B. at 6:51 PM on March 3, 2010


I read the article earlier and I agreed with much of it: there are specific teaching techniques that can be taught, and teachers need to know their subjects. However, test scores don't measure student learning, they measure how well the student can take tests. I have been in high-scoring classrooms where "test practice" was considered a subject, just like math or English.

Based on my experiences with education classes, if I was hiring teachers, I would never hire someone who majored in "elementary education."

(However, since I majored in Drama, I will probably never be the one sitting behind the big desk.)
posted by betweenthebars at 7:04 PM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Those ten pages seemed awfully long-winded to me. I agree with the central message, as I understood it, which was that you have to work diligently and patiently to get students' attention and keep it. I know this is not an easy thing to do, and I know many teachers give up on this difficult task and settle for teaching those who are paying attention. "Classroom management" is incredibly important, as is empathy and constant, consistent awareness of what is going on in each child's mind. Points well-taken, but the writer did not need ten pages to make these points.
posted by kozad at 8:03 PM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, classroom management is important and yes, it's a learned practice. But classroom management becomes trivial when you have something interesting for your students to do. Conversely, classroom management is trivial when you don't.

Think of someone inviting you to play a board game that is dull, confusing and stressful. Imagine a very enthusiastic and well-spoken person reading out the rules to you and making it crystal clear whose turn it is and so on. How big of a difference would this make? The game still sucks.
posted by argybarg at 9:06 PM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Those ten pages seemed awfully long-winded to me.

Several of the many details which fill those pages were fascinating in themselves, I think, like Lemov's straightforward way of finding teachers whose techniques to document:
After his disappointing visit to Syracuse, he decided to seek out the best teachers he could find — as defined partly by their students’ test scores — and learn from them. A self-described data geek, he went about this task methodically, collecting test-score results and demographic information from states around the country. He plotted each school’s poverty level on one axis and its performance on state tests on the other. Each chart had a few outliers blinking in the upper-right-hand corner — schools that managed to squeeze high performance out of the poorest students. He broke those schools’ scores down by grade level and subject. If a school scored especially high on, say, sixth-grade English, he would track down the people who taught sixth graders English.
I also found it very interesting to ponder why specifically the techniques described on page 5 (with linked video) are useful. Also interesting is the distinction drawn by Ms. Ball on page 8:
Mathematicians need to understand a problem only for themselves; math teachers need both to know the math and to know how 30 different minds might understand (or misunderstand) it. Then they need to take each mind from not getting it to mastery. And they need to do this in 45 minutes or less. This was neither pure content knowledge nor what educators call pedagogical knowledge, a set of facts independent of subject matter, like Lemov’s techniques. It was a different animal altogether. Ball named it Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching, or M.K.T.
This is illustrated in the "Seth numbers" example on page 7 (again with links to videos), and I'm pretty sure she wouldn't have been able to guide the pupils' discussion in such a fruitful manner without the kind of knowledge just mentioned. Later it's told that this distinction and the according knowledge-gathering is now being applied to other school subjects as well.

Of course many teachers know and do many of these things anyway, but I find it exciting that they are being studied and propagated in a manned more systematic than before.
posted by Anything at 9:12 PM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, classroom management is important and yes, it's a learned practice. But classroom management becomes trivial when you have something interesting for your students to do. Conversely, classroom management is trivial when you don't.

Think of someone inviting you to play a board game that is dull, confusing and stressful. Imagine a very enthusiastic and well-spoken person reading out the rules to you and making it crystal clear whose turn it is and so on. How big of a difference would this make? The game still sucks.


What about when students have different opinions about what is and isn't interesting? In such cases I would guess that interested students will appreciate classroom management, trivial or non-trivial, and the non-interested ones get an opportunity to develop an interest, which they won't have if they don't pay attention.
posted by Anything at 9:24 PM on March 3, 2010


What about when students have different opinions about what is and isn't interesting?

Well, no one will be 100%, and no teacher will move every student forward to an equal degree. But, man, some teachers are just dull, or at least their classrooms are. They give busy-work assignments, they don't have a point. If you ask them what they connect to in what they teach the answer is probably nothing. I would still prefer that such teachers have efficient classroom management, but it isn't the first thing I would change in them if I could.
posted by argybarg at 9:55 PM on March 3, 2010




The game--schooling-- still sucks. Some students just like winning at it more than others.


" A teacher needs a responsive few in order to feel he has a reason to possess power. The few will confirm to him that his power to affect other people is real, that he can truly do good. To sort out two classes of ability, then, in fear of the "lower" class of students, is to create a meaningful image of himself as an authority rather than simply a boss."

--Richard Sennet and John Cobb, The Hidden Injuries of Class, quoted in John Holt's Instead of Education
posted by Paddle to Sea at 9:57 PM on March 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


(Having not followed the links...) this reminds me of NLP, which began as a way of modeling excellence in psychotherapy. The idea that the essence can be identified is exciting, and NLP was pretty successful until it was hijacked for financial gain.
posted by anadem at 9:58 PM on March 3, 2010


Between 1870 and 1900, as the country’s population surged and school became compulsory, the number of public schoolteachers in America shot from 200,000 to 400,000. Normal schools had to turn out graduates quickly; teaching students how to teach was an afterthought to getting them out the door.

Whoda thunk? The thing that makes schools terrible places from the get-go turns out to also be the reason they're full of people who can't teach.
posted by Paddle to Sea at 10:02 PM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Imagine that, actually trying to figure out what works instead of just coming up with half-cocked theories and demanding everyone follow them!
posted by delmoi at 3:34 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyway, a lot of the "debate" around education just sounds ridiculous. Like random people spouting off about their own pet theories, or whatever, or trying to throw data at the problem without any thought (like mass standardized testing). Testing can help identify where problems are, but it obviously can't fix them -- or even tell you what they are.

Then after that people just proffer their pet theories, figuring since that they went to school the know enough about it to tell people how to do it.
posted by delmoi at 3:41 AM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I tried to avoid editorializing my post, though truth be told I work at a school that uses Lemov's ideas and they are quite powerful.

I do want to respond to Argybarg's point about classroom management. It is true that students will often engage naturally when the material is interesting, and it is true that a well-managed, dull classroom is still pretty pointless. But those are strawman arguments.

I am teaching in a situation where, because the students I work with come to school with all the baggage living in a low-income, violent neighborhood, students often have trouble behaving themselves even when the material is interesting.

And there are many other moments when students have to slog through some work that is initially frustrating, difficult, or dull, so that they can get to the point where it becomes interesting and fun - you have to learn how to multiply before you can have an exciting debate about even and odd numbers. It is impossible to get any learning done whatsoever without a calm, orderly environment.

But more important than that is the issue of culture. Kids are very impressionable. If they are in a place where everyone is behaving well and learning and working hard, they will go along with it and have a grand time. If they are in a place where a few people are clowning and wasting time and treating school as uncool, they will go along with that because it gives them greater social status.
posted by mai at 7:14 AM on March 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


But classroom management becomes trivial when you have something interesting for your students to do.
You know, that's not my experience. The most frustrated students in my classroom, hands down, were the ones who were fascinated by the material and wanted to do the activities but kept getting distracted by the kids who preferred to throw paper clips at each other.

Speaking as someone who is not a natural teacher and who really struggled with the classroom management stuff during my forays into teaching, I think this is a pretty exciting development. I especially like that it acknowledges that teaching involves creativity, intelligence and flexibility, because a lot of recent innovations in pedagogy have seemed to be geared towards taking autonomy away from teachers and forcing them to adhere to a script, which I don't think works.
posted by craichead at 7:33 AM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


But classroom management becomes trivial when you have something interesting for your students to do. Conversely, classroom management is trivial when you don't.

My wife's a high school math teacher, with an undergrad in math, but she didn't take to math with ease. She struggled in high school until one teacher taught her in a way that clicked. It still wasn't easy, but at least it made sense. And her last year of college math kicked her ass, but she graduated. My wife knows what's she's teaching quite well, and has empathy for all her kids, but some of it will never be easy or fun for a number of her students, and she tells them that. Life isn't always fun, and sometimes you'll have tasks or a job that you have to do that you will not enjoy. It'd be easier to focus kids if every day was a joy, but sometimes you have to deal with what you have.

... test scores don't measure student learning, they measure how well the student can take tests. I have been in high-scoring classrooms where "test practice" was considered a subject, just like math or English.

My wife comes home with stories of what she's taught that day. Of course there's math, but there's some cultural history, bits of biology and natural history, and test taking. The other bits come up from random questions the kids ask (they ask a lot of weird questions), but test taking is necessary because of standardized tests that rank the school and determine funding. There isn't the money or staff for a test taking class, so other teachers do what they can. Some things that may seem like common sense (if one question is stumping you, move on to what you know) isn't always common knowledge. Until standardized tests go away, some kids will need to be taught (or reminded) how to take tests.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:21 AM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mai, this is a great post, thank you. I can't even comment though, without writing an entire manifesto. Perhaps that will be on Projects one day...teacher wife and I are working on it!
posted by snsranch at 6:44 PM on March 4, 2010


I wonder if any teachers here would comment on another concept I thought about one day concerning classroom management when there aren't enough well-trained teachers to go around?

Suppose that you had one experienced math teacher who handles students really well and, say, three who can instruct the students well enough when it's peaceful but may or may not have trouble keeping it that way.

Suppose that it would be architecturally feasible for the experienced teacher to move around between the three classrooms without much hassle (preferably a short hallway with entrances to the teacher's end of the rooms).

The scenario would be that at each class, the other teachers teach their class in the usual fashion, while the 'lead' teacher moves between the rooms helping both in the instruction and the discipline. The goal would be that the lead teacher's effect on the students would stay active even when s/he's not there because s/he's never gone for very long. This would also help the teachers learn from each other through ongoing everyday experience.

I'm not a teacher so I wouldn't know if there is something fundamentally dumb or infeasible in this idea.
posted by Anything at 2:23 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


(preferably a short hallway with entrances to the teacher's end of the rooms).

Or simply just doors between the teachers' ends of the rooms.

posted by Anything at 2:29 PM on March 5, 2010


It's hard to read anything about teacher training without coming back to the more basic problem, which is that twenty students sitting in a grey brick room following a state math curriculum are almost certainly not coming anywhere near their maximum learning potential, even with the fucking Buddha in front of the class. Education 'reform' that simply assume modern public-school classrooms will always consist mainly of stopgaps and half-measures.

For instance:
Zimmerli got the students to pay attention not because of some inborn charisma, Lemov explained, but simply by being direct and specific. Children often fail to follow directions because they really don’t know what they are supposed to do.
I read this as 'Students in schools rightly fear denigration by peers and distrust their teachers, so they refrain from action until forced; they then learn to obey force rather than pursue opportunity.' Vicious circle, blah blah blah.

An advisor once told me that the average public school kid asks an unsolicited question once every 12 hours, while the average homeschooled kid asks one every five minutes. That's not a consequence of the difference between public schooling and homeschooling; that's its substance. 'Reform' can't be content to cut the public school kid's per-question wait to, say, six hours, or four hours. That's obviously bullshit.

So yeah: entertaining anecdotes in this article, and we're still going to send our children to fight boredom while seated quietly in nondescript boxes among arbitrarily-selected age-matched other children, and for twelve years they will never be allowed any meaningful input into what they learn.

So it goes.
posted by waxbanks at 2:36 PM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


(I'm not advocating homeschooling, by the way. Just bemoaning the shitty idea of factory-floor schooling.)
posted by waxbanks at 2:39 PM on March 5, 2010


So what's your alternative?
posted by Anything at 2:44 PM on March 5, 2010


So what's your alternative?

Not that I have to have one at the moment - it's enough to recognize how shitty the typical public school experience is, right? - but I'll give a somewhat glib answer: 'Tutoring. Small community schools built around cross-disciplinary projects. Rotating apprenticeships. Train tutors and facilitators rather than classroom managers.' The basic goal being: eliminate students' expectation that they will spend their nine-hour day bored and condescended to. Once that expectation sets in, teachers lose. So do students - and they know it. (Everyone does, actually.)
posted by waxbanks at 3:20 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]



So what's your alternative?


There are so many alternatives. It isn't hard to find them. The problem is that none of them are turning out the 'well-socialized zombies' that this (US) capitalistic society has (so far) demanded.

When people start to question why college should be the first challenging, exciting, enjoyable learning experience in a child's life, then maybe we will see some public discussion of alternatives. When people start to question why some youngsters don't even respond to college, then we might see some real fear of what we have done.

The US public education system is perfectly designed to fulfill it's 19th century mission - to kill the creativity and joy of a child's mind, so s/he can become a standardized, obedient, punctual, passive 'cog in the machine'.
posted by Surfurrus at 1:55 AM on March 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


All of that rests on the premise that 'public school classroom' implies 'cogs in the machine', that teachers are a species so weak in the mind that the setting can and does render every one of them incapable of having any significant positive influence on children.

I'm afraid you've misunderstood something.
posted by Anything at 8:59 AM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


All of that rests on the premise that 'public school classroom' implies 'cogs in the machine', that teachers are a species so weak in the mind that the setting can and does render every one of them incapable of having any significant positive influence on children.

As a teacher, I'm not insulted by the premise that the school environment is too lifeless and bureaucratic to result in much learning. Good teachers are good teachers, but they can't single-handedly make school what it ought to be. Kids -- hell, all people -- crave a complex, living environment, with lots of activity and interesting roles to play. Only very rarely does the classroom meet this description.

Just picture going to meetings all day long. Some meetings are better than others, but overall, meetings suck. Even someone who runs a good meeting and sticks to the agenda can't change that.
posted by argybarg at 1:05 PM on March 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


the 'lead' teacher moves between the rooms helping both in the instruction and the discipline.

Anything, this DOES happen in my wife's elementary school. They even have the full time support, in class, from their veteran administrators. It's hugely collaborative effort and forgive me for putting it this way, but it's really about leaving no TEACHER behind.

One thing that really causes education to be a quagmire is bureaucratic intervention. I've witnessed too many occasions in which administrators are forced to abandon already successful programs for the "next best thing" as commanded by politicians.

That is a huge detriment to educators and is very demoralizing. As difficult as it is living between bureaucratic edicts and trying to provide meaningful educational experiences to students who are really loved, teachers still take ownership and responsibility in their positions as providers.

I know it's sad and ridiculous to think that politicos will ever get their noses out of public education, but that's really where the problem is. School level admin know how to run their schools.
posted by snsranch at 4:14 PM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anything, this DOES happen in my wife's elementary school. They even have the full time support, in class, from their veteran administrators. It's hugely collaborative effort and forgive me for putting it this way, but it's really about leaving no TEACHER behind.

Do you know if this is at all common in other schools?

I suppose this is a tricky question, but I wonder if she'd be willing to roughly speculate on the levels of reasonable minimum training that would be required for running a class under routine assistance from a skilled senior teacher, versus what's required for running a class on one's own (my impression being that the latter is what teacher training usually aims for)?
posted by Anything at 1:55 AM on March 7, 2010


In the independent school where I work, we have an intern program. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Last year, I took on a guy for whom it hadn't worked the previous year--he'd been assigned a class and basically left on his own--so he taught one of my sections and I supervised. That was one holy heck of a lot of work for me. I was basically still teaching all my sections, plus teaching him. He's on his own for the most part this year, though I'm still working in the room when he's teaching. From time to time, I still step in. I also supervise the mentor program in our school, and without release time you are just not going to get meaningful supervision from other teachers. I'm good at it. That's rare. I'm basically nuts, so I'm willing to do the bizarre juggling it takes to help other people become good teachers.

I'm also department chair, and I'm interviewing candidates. My favorite question is, "What is it about teaching--why would you want to do the hardest job in the world?" and if they can't give me an answer that satisfies me (one which acknowledges how hard it is, but recognizes how creative you get to be because you have to approach and solve problems in such a flexible and inventive way, and recognizes that students are not just flowers to be watered but independent people with their own agenda) I don't go any farther.

And there are many vital, dynamic classrooms across the US, in spite of NCLB and in spite of the prevailing mythology about school in this country. The USA's popular culture is unbelievably anti-school and anti-teacher, and it takes its lead from (and feeds the negativity of) the kids who are the focus of our advertising and all our public media. I read the article, and went away shaking my head that anyone would think it's anything new. All the little how-to-teach books you can buy in the education supply stores say all these things. Anyone who thinks you can learn to teach by following a list of "skills" is buying into the prevailing anti-intellectual, anti-professional ethos that believes teachers are unskilled drones who can be trained by checklist, and that learning can be assessed by tests.
posted by Peach at 5:41 AM on March 7, 2010


The question of teacher quality is incredibly complex and simply cannot be reduced to how well their students do on standardized achievement tests. As a classroom teacher with both 27 years of experience and a PhD in my subject area, I live in chronic amazement at the amount of faith that other professionals (and the public at large) put into the validity of standardized tests as a measure of teacher performance. A couple of years ago at a professional conference, I heard the president of PBS cite data that "67% of third graders in the US are not reading at a third grade level." Statements, such as this, reveal how little people are willing to reflect on what they are being told when given a simple statistic regarding student achievement; clearly, if more than two-thirds of a population are not matching an established epistemological norm, then the problem is not with the children, but the people who are establishing the norm. (After all, what determines a "third grade" reading level but the level at which the majority of third graders can read?)

Getting the same results over and over again is reliability. Getting results that actually reflect relevancy is validity. Determining how well a teacher is teaching based on her students test scores may be reliable, but it's certainly not valid; there's just too many other factors that cannot be quantified relating to the scoring (such as cultural bias of the tests; how the students have been grouped into the classroom by the administration; or the percentage of students who eat breakfast, go to bed at night, and have parents who give a hoot about their welfare).
posted by Dr.Rhetoric at 6:34 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


you have to learn how to multiply before you can have an exciting debate about even and odd numbers.

Please describe for me the exciting debate about even and odd numbers. I had no idea such a thing was possible.
posted by not that girl at 8:03 AM on March 7, 2010


I'm afraid you've misunderstood something. - anything

I'm afraid you misunderstood what I was saying. The design of our public school system is archaic -- simply not appropriate for 21st century learning. It is only because there are subversive elements that we are protected from the full impact of that. Teachers are among the most subversive of all. Some - very few - are lucky enough to have a subversive administration.

What kind of institution is this that the very core of the system has to work against itself to succeed?! I spoke of alternatives to the giant 'educational system' in this country. Sometimes I don't even think the alternatives can save us --- we should just follow Betty Boop - blow it all up and start over.

BTW, regarding 'testing' and 'standards' ... consider the garden metaphor. Anyone who gardens knows that you can plant fifty seeds around your yard. Each one will grow differently. The ground, the natural nutrients, the inherent genetics, the sun, the wind ... the number of elements that affect the growth are unlimited. Diversity is a given. Why do we expect less of young humans?
posted by Surfurrus at 12:57 PM on March 7, 2010


not that girl - the exciting debate about even and odd numbers was referenced in the article.

Peach and Dr. Rhetoric - what I liked about this article is that it acknowledged that teaching is complex, intellectual work of some subtlety and cannot be reduced to a checklist. Lemov isn't offering a checklist - he is offering some techniques that still require a thinking human to put into action effectively.

Regarding standardized tests, I see them not as the final measure of learning but as one measure. I think they do tend to do a good job of exposing the worst schools. My goal as a teacher is not merely that my students be able to do what is on the state test, but that they be able to go beyond it.
posted by mai at 8:50 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


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