Monday, August 5, 2013

Are we overlooking the obvious in attempting to improve the quality of education in America?

Many of the current trends of education reform in America are attempting to improve the quality of our public schools by applying various management strategies used in the business world.  However, the supposed lessons of business being heralded as education reform don’t often enough look like the strategies being seen in business-to-business advice about managing systems and working effectively with people.

One person’s principles that the business world holds in high regard is that of Edwards Deming. Deming is best known for his 14 points of quality management.  Deming and his principles were instrumental in working to improve the quality of Japanese manufacturing after World War 2.  As companies in the United States began to see the improved quality of Japanese products, they too adopted Deming’s principles.

However, for some reason, the Deming strategies of quality that businesses utilize are all but ignored when trying to improve education in America.

For example, consider Deming’s third point of quality, “Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for massive inspection by building quality into the product in the first place”.  In the United States current education reform initiatives seem to be totally ignoring that Deming principle by our reliance of depending on inspection with standardized testing.

What are some examples of changes we could do to “build quality” into education?  We could revamp the way teachers are trained.  We could utilize the intern model used by the medical profession by having quality internships for new teachers.  Instead, in most cases new teachers are given the most difficult teaching assignments and expected to perform alone.  Doing so would also be honoring Deming’s sixth point; “Institute training on the job”.

We could “build quality” by questioning the idea of one teacher per classroom.  We could “build quality” by redesigning the school year calendar and replacing it with a calendar that recognizes the quality benefits of time for teachers to plan and evaluate student work. 

Another current trend in education is that of developing punitive teacher evaluation systems.  While there is a need to evaluate teachers, the current trends seem to be ignoring Deming’s seventh and eighth principles.  Number seven being “the aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets do a better job” and number eight being “drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company”. Instead of using a system to help teachers improve their craft, many new teacher evaluation systems tend to be pitting school administrators against the teachers and putting fear into teachers of losing their job. 

In addition the current teacher evaluation systems violate one of Deming’s “Seven Deadly Diseases” that being “Evaluation by performance, merit rating, or annual review of performance”.  Again, if we “built quality” into the teacher development process there would not be such a great need for the current teacher evaluation systems. 

Furthermore, Deming’s ideas included his list of "A Lesser Category of Obstacles".  On that list are many ideas that schools should pay attention to including:
Deming during his lifetime did not seem to comment much on education but in this one interview he did share his views for reforming and improving education.  In that interview he made three particular points that seem to stand out people in the education reform movement seem to be overlooking:
  • ·        Quality goes down when ranking people.
  • ·        Cramming facts into students’ heads is not learning.
  • ·        People talk about getting rid of deadwood (bad teachers), but there are only two possible explanations of why the dead wood exists: 1) You hired deadwood in the first place, or, 2) you hired live wood, and then you killed it.
Our country has attempted to fix education with recommendations beginning in 1983 in reaction to the “A Nation At Risk” report, in the 1990’s with “Goals2000”, with “NoChild Left Behind” in 2001, and in 2009 with the “Race To The Top” initiative.  None of these fixes considered the quality ideas of Edwards Deming . If we continue to ignore such quality ideas such as Deming’s, we will never truly succeed in meeting the challenges that education reforms in the 21st century present.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

So I may not be a jazz critic, but I think I recognize good teaching!

Can I get an "AMEN!" for this?

How about a "HALLELUIAH!" for this? Is it finally time to eliminate class schedules?

In this edition of "reinventing the wheel instead of inventing the hover board"...Are we rushing to electronic textbooks too quickly?

A theory I believe is worth pondering... "Everything you know about curriculum may be wrong."

Does my love for "Smooth Jazz" mean I can't recognize good teaching?

Jazz critic or not... I know what I like!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

It's April!!!

Well folks, it seems I took the entire month of March off from Ranting, Reflecting and Reasoning.

Actually I got sidetracked by following the story of Pascale Mauclair.  (In addition to my other plethora of excuses such as teaching 6 preps per day, being sick for four days, plus having to prepare for a conference presentation.)

If you don't know Ms. Mauclair's story, she was declared New York City's "WORST" teacher based on a teacher evaluation system that utilizes the so-called "Value Added Measures".  Her photo accompanied a front page story on The New York Post.

The REAL story of Ms. Mauclair was revealed a few days later. Included in the REAL story were a number of notable facts.

"Mauclair is an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, and over the last five years she has had small, self-contained classes of recently arrived immigrants who do not speak English. Her students arrive at different times of the school year, depending upon that date of their family’s migration; consequently, it is not unusual for her students to take the 6th grade exams when they have only been in her class for a matter of a few months.

If a journalist with integrity had examined the TDR data, a number of red flags which suggested something was seriously amiss with the scores for Mauclair  would have presented themselves."
"Value Added Measures" are being pushed by so-called education "reformers" as the gold standard of teacher evaluation.  Almost every state that has followed the "reform" playbook has "Value Added Measures" as main component of teacher evaluation.   However, the elephant in the room being ignored is the fact that "Value Added Measures" as a teacher evaluation instrument are highly unreliable.

For some reason, politicians and "reformers" are ignoring the facts of "Value Added Measures" as described here by the journalist Julie Mack and cognitive scientist Dan Willingham.

Last week, teachers at my school had the opportunity to meet with the local state representative. Among the many questions regarding "reforms" that the representative had voted for were inquiries about the new statewide teacher evaluation requirements.

His response?  "If you're a good teacher, then you shouldn't have anything to worry about".

Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to inform him of Pascale Mauclair's story.... A good teacher who should not have had anything to worry about.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Magic Erasers?

No Bush Left Behind...

For some reason I've always been bothered by the phrase "a perfect storm".

This Week's "No, It's Not From TheOnion".... School Switches Erasers to Improve Test Scores.

Bill Gates discovers his educational Frankenstein Monster is being misused.

Alex, I'll take "99% of them absolutely do not" for $500...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Looking for an "AMEN!".

Question of the Month: Why don’t the top private schools adopt corporate-driven education "reforms"?

Can I get an AMEN! to this? "The standardized test and evaluation movement has opened a new predatory market allowing all sorts of snake oil salespeople into our schools and districts.

Consultants consuming 35% of federal grants aimed for "school improvement". Who would have thunk that?

Hey kid... your homemade sammich lunch is not nutritious, so eat this processed chicken nuggets/soylent green school lunch instead.

You are so smart…why did you become a teacher?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Should They Know It In 20 Years?

If the honest answer is, “No!” then we’re just playing a game.

A case study in teacher burn-out.

When the "Best and the Brightest" Don't Have the Answers- President Obama's Flawed Approach to School Reform.

A fifth grader who shaves?

Late to class? That will be a $5 fine. Oh yes we can do that, we're a charter school.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

More Evidence for Politicans to Ignore.

Cleveland students hold their own with voucher students on state tests.

Los Angeles Unified (public schools) bests so-called "reform" groups in most cases,

Public Schools Outperform Private Schools in Math Instruction.

Teach For America Research Fails the Test.

Voucher schools in in Milwaukee not outperforming the Milwaukee Public Schools.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

We Have Misdiagnosed the Problem and Ignored Common Sense.

This is what they call "School Choice" in New Orleans?

Evaluate Teachers and Doctors the Same Way?

How Education Fails Technology (And What to Do About It)

We Have Misdiagnosed the Problem and Ignored Common Sense.

 Someone who is not ignoring common sense Part 1.

 Someone who is not ignoring common sense Part 2.

There's nuttin' like a Mackinac Center headline that includes the words "teacher" and "monster".

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Google.... It knows you.

The Google... It knows you.

Diane Ravitch: " Does President Obama understand Race to the Top?"  Me: "Nope, doesn't have a clue."

Today's "No, It's Not The Onion" is brought to you by Alabama.... "It's a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher's pay scale,you'll attract people who aren't called to teach."

I'll take "The Answer is Definitely Yes" for $500 Alex....

Today's T.M.I. alert... Guess where 75% of people use their cell phone?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How To Kill A Mockingbird?

8 theories on why college costs are so high...

Until we figure out how to best use technology in the classroom, are the bells and whistles instead often a distraction?

Educational Technology Experts Skeptical About Apple's iBooks

"Public" Charter School suspends male cancer survivor over the length of his hair (Bonus: he is growing his hair long to donate to "Locks of Love".)

Monday, January 30, 2012

For-profit Cyber Schools... Does the Bad Outweigh the Good?

Failing education standards but passing Wall Street Standards...gotta love those "price points".

Should we really trust the convicted "Junk Bond King" to be involved with a cyber school?

What? There are people that are skeptical about for-profit cyber schools?

What? Even elected state board of education members are skeptical about cyber schools?

Are online students Googling their way to to graduation?

MUST READ.... "How Online Learning Companies Bought America's Schools".

Only 27% of for-profit companies operating virtual "cyber" schools met the adequate yearly progress standards of the federal No Child Left Behind law?

Perhaps for-profit cyber schools are needed because the technology is too costly and complex for public schools and regular classroom teachers to provide a rich, online learning experience??? WRONG!!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Getting married on a cold day in you-know-where???

A few points to ponder....

I think Upton Sinclair would be proud of the writers of this article. (Hint: It's about Apple's suppliers)

The big flaws in President Obama’s education argument.

From "Teaching Underground".... "They" don't listen because they don't understand. 

Today's MUST READ - "Voice of Authority"

Getting married on a cold day in you-know-where!!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Where is the outrage? (January 25 edition)

 Charter school in Florida (Joe Biden's school) hires principal with no teaching experience...

How to drive out a great teacher from the classroom, volume 12, issue 71.

Lessons from're doing wrong...Yes Indiana, we're looking at you.

In today's episode of Testing Gone Wild, ‘Digital DNA’ May Soon Be Required To Take SAT And ACT Exams

Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement for its new textbook publishing software.

An excellent article by an Arizona teacher: "What I'd like in a Superintendent." 

Picture of the Day... "Meeting Fatigue".

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Biscuit and a Cup of Tea?

If only American workers could learn to live in company dormitories and work for a biscuit plus a cup of tea...

 Apple makes great stuff, but it's also their proprietary control issues that disturb me.

“We are being told, ‘You need to do more with less,’” ... “That sounds like a great philosophy. But it presupposes you weren’t doing the most that you could with what you had in the first place.”
If you've never heard of Daniel Pink's work, you owe it to yourself to invest 10 minutes viewing this video.

Picture of the day:
Are the executives at textbook publishing giants McGraw Hill and Pearson seeing dollar signs?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Resistance is Futile!

Not to be outdone by Alabama, now Tennessee's governor has his own plans for an epic failboat.

Old and busted: Book Banning.... New Hotness? Nope, same old and busted.

The new potty policy at New York's Coney Island's Public School #90.

A sure sign of the Apocalypse... A governor proposes LESS standardized testing.

What surely must have come from but didn't....
"Education Secretary Arne Duncan and former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee are starring at the National Data Summit ..."

Picture of the Day: RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!