Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Why So Many Kids Can't Sit Still in Class Today


Excerpts: "We quickly learned after further testing, that most of the children in the classroom had poor core strength and balance. In fact, we tested a few other classrooms and found that when compared to children from the early 1980s, only one out of twelve children had normal strength and balance. Only one! Oh my goodness, I thought to myself. These children need to move!"

"Ironically, many children are walking around with an underdeveloped vestibular (balance) system today–due to restricted movement. In order to develop a strong balance system, children need to move their body in all directions, for hours at a time. Just like with exercising, they need to do this more than just once-a-week in order to reap the benefits. Therefore, having soccer practice once or twice a week is likely not enough movement for the child to develop a strong sensory system.
Children are going to class with bodies that are less prepared to learn than ever before."
If we want elementary age kids to do well academically as well as just be "good" kids, they need to have recess and P.E. EVERY day!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

i-Pads in school??? What do they do?

Here's what the push to put an i-Pad on every desk has done in schools:


In short:
1. There is no evidence they improve learning
2. iPads only add to the financial problems of our education system
3. iPads are distracting
4. Onscreen reading is NOT comparable to traditional reading
5. Children need less screen time, not more

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Faulty, Fadish, Feel-good Philosophies and How to Avoid Their Propagation

Over their careers, teachers, and by extension their students, are subjected to a tremendous amount of Faulty, Faddish, Feel-good Methods that don't work but are pushed very vigorously for a while and then discarded.  They take a lot of time to learn and implement.  They also take a toll of emotional energy from teachers to change what they are doing, with a resultant loss of trust or faith in actually finding the truth about anything, despite the fact that there are better ways and worse ways of teaching that can be proven.

Students are harmed in two ways by these fffphies, as I call them.  They are obviously harmed when they are taught by ineffective methods, with incorrect ideas, or by lost time.  They are also hurt as teachers' emotional energy is dissipated through a constant imposition of these fffphies.

So do we just have to put up with these losses?  I believe that much of this problem is caused because teachers and especially their trainers/professors don't know or study the history of these philosophies in education or their origins, many of which have their base in the constructivist philosophy and have been resurrected/modified in one form or another.  Let me give a few examples from the past century.

The earliest example I am aware of is from the movie The Music Man.  The Music Man is a flimflammer that knows nothing about teaching people to play the instruments he is selling.  He uses "the think program" idea to avoid teaching.  The students are supposed to "think" about how to play rather than being bored by practicing.

The next example is from the book To Kill a Mockingbird in chapters 2 and 4.  In chapter 2 Scout gets a new teacher, Miss Caroline, in 1st grade and is told by Jem, an older student, "Our teacher says Miss Caroline’s introducing a new way of teaching. She learned about it in college. It’ll be in all the grades soon. You don’t have to learn much out of books that way...."  Scout explains, "The Dewey Decimal System consisted, in part, of Miss Caroline waving cards at us on which were printed 'the,' 'cat,' 'rat,' 'man,' and 'you.'"  The "new" way to teach reading was with sight words and not phonics, and parents were NOT to teach their children how to read.

In chapter 4 Scout further describes the "new" ways of teaching. "The remainder of my schooldays were no more auspicious than the first. Indeed, they were an endless Project that slowly evolved into a Unit, in which miles of construction paper and wax crayon were expended by the State of Alabama in its well-meaning but fruitless efforts to teach me Group Dynamics."  Constructivism has always been about projects, with all their busy-work, and about group work.

The third example comes from my parents.  My father was 5 years older than my mother and was taught reading by phonics - the "old" way.  This made him a good speller as well as a good reader.  My mother came along later and went to one of the newer city schools, which had adopted the "new" ways of teaching, which meant sight words and no phonics.  Though she became an excellent writer on her own later, wrote several books, and even published one, she could never spell correctly.

Those that were educated by the "new" methods from John Dewey (constructivism) during the Depression era were the ones who ended up of age to be the new recruits when World War II began.  Because of these methods of teaching math, the new recruits could not do the math needed in the army and had to be reeducated before they could use artillery or many other army jobs.  There is a little movie clip by Abbott and Costello that is quite humorous showing the "creative" ways of doing math that the constructivists are always pushing at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkbQDEXJy2k.

As a result of the poor performance of the "new" constructivist way of teaching during the 30's and early 40's, constructivism was dropped and tried-and-true methods were used during the 50's.  However most university professors still believed in constructivism despite the evidence.  When Sputnik circled the earth, these proponents of constructivism saw that as a reason to reintroduce this teaching philosophy back into the schools, indeed it went rampant on the university campuses with extreme variations that gave us the "new morality" (the same old immorality), and "Values Clarification" (which made values "old-fashioned"), because "truth is merely what you perceive it to be."

In the K-12 schools sight word reading was reintroduced, and phonics, grammar, and spelling rules were ridiculed as "old-fashioned" and of no value.  "Be creative!" they said.  The 60's were also when the term "New Math" was coined and promoted by the proponents of constructivism.  In the 70's many began to oppose these faulty methods and began the Back-to-Basics movement to return schools to using phonics, grammar, spelling, times tables, and facts in history and science instead of the "creative," subjective ways constructivists were pushing.

In the 80's and 90's constructivists changed the terminology to "Whole Language" and were going to use the term "Whole Math" instead of "New Math" until Whole Language was discredited as a terrible way to teach Language Arts.  Project Follow Through, the biggest ever study done on teaching methods proved conclusively that constructivist programs by whatever name were ineffective and that direct instruction was better.  The study fell on deaf ears in the colleges of education and was swept under the rug.

As the Back to Basics movement changed into the Standards movement, the proponents again changed the names for the same methodologies using terms such as "Balanced Literacy" for Whole Language and "Standards-Based Math" for New or Whole Math.  To fight the ever changing target of new names that confused the public, allowing these ideas to be reintroduced over and over, the opponents came up with the No Child Left Behind legislation that was supposed to show with testing what really worked and what didn't and use government to push out these faulty philosophies.

Unfortunately it backfired.  By giving government the power to enforce "standards" it allowed the "experts" from the colleges, who by this time were completely constructivists (because you couldn't get hired as a professor unless you were a constructivist) to use that power with Common Core to force every teacher to use constructivist methods.  These "experts" designed the tests more to prove whether a teacher was using their methods rather than to show what or whether students had learned.

This short history, of the attempts by constructivists to control our schools, I hope, will help teachers and parents to hopefully not be fooled by fffphies, but to see programs for what they really are.  The "Apollo Project" in a local district appears to be the same thing disguised as something new.


Excerpt: "It seems that, when it comes to differentiation, teachers are either not doing it at all, or beating themselves up for not doing it as well as they're supposed to be doing it. Either way, the verdict is clear: Differentiation is a promise unfulfilled, a boondoggle of massive proportions."

"It seems to me that the only educators who assert that differentiation is doable are those who have never tried to implement it themselves: university professors, curriculum coordinators, and school principals. It's the in-the-trenches educators who know the stark reality: Differentiation is a cheap way out for school districts to pay lip service to those who demand that each child be educated to his or her fullest potential."


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Why America's Schools Have a Money Problem

I post this link, because it is a common reason stated as to why America's schools have a funding problem.  It is not incorrect, but it misses a couple big issues in the discussion.

Why America's Schools Have a Money Problem

The article has an interactive map that shows the average spending per student for every district in America.  Its conclusion is that the inequality of property tax revenues is the main cause of funding inequality between districts.  Utah's schools are mostly equalized by state law, unlike those cited, but that means they are all low.  The article is correct regarding property tax problems to a certain degree.  I might also add that for the western states it is difficult to fund schools when the federal government owns 60-70% of the land, but doesn't pay property tax.  It pays a small amount in lieu of taxes, but not nearly what property tax revenues would be.  The eastern states have almost all of their land owned privately and paying the tax.  That gives them a huge advantage, and they generally have less children too, so less students to spend it on with more revenues to begin with.

This doesn't tell the whole story however. It doesn't tell the mandated interventions for different problems that some districts have. In other words, some districts have much bigger problems with their student populations than other districts have, which government requires them then to spend more on. Some districts that are spending more may have less to spend for the average student because of these mandates.

If you compare Ogden SD with Alpine SD, you will find that Ogden spends an average of $8181. Alpine spends $5409. That's not what is spend on the average student. That is the total spent divided by the number of students. It looks like Ogden is way better off.

However Ogden has more students with interventions prescribed compared to total students than Alpine has. They are required to spend that extra on them, so in some cases those that spend more may actually have less for the regular student - all because of government intrusion, mostly federal.

Much of the so-called "waste" in administration, etc., in school district spending is not district caused. It is federal government caused, yet we unfairly blame the local districts who have their hands tied. THAT is the message that needs to get out in order to get enough support to free ourselves from federal government tyranny. The federal government mandates cost us more than the funds they provide! (What else is new?!)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Attacking Problems

One problem I see in classroom management is that many teachers, at the beginning of the year, identify a few problem students and spend great efforts in trying to "solve" those problems.  Then all year long they go around trying to put out fires that come up and "accommodating" these students.  In most cases "accommodating" these kids is not the answer, because it isn't us that need to change.  It is the student.

To me it is more important to set up what will work for most of the students, get them working and producing in class.  THEN, as the majority of the class comes on line, you can use them to help you get the problem students to start coming on line too.  This is not a hard and fast rule, but I have found that if most of the class is being successful, that will have an influence in getting the others to come along.  It gives them hope that, if they put forth the effort to change, they would be able to succeed too.  Many of those with problems don't believe, or don't know they can change, or how they should react to difficulties.

Too many educators and parents today feel that it is the adult who needs to change, when it is usually the child that needs to change.  That is not always easy or fun, but it usually works better than trying to change the environment the student is in.

Continuity and consistency, in assignments and routine, builds confidence.  This is more important than spending all of a teacher's energies in having every activity or assignment a "higher level thinking skill."  The same is true with discipline in regards to rewards and punishments.

Punishments should not be big and onerous, but rather small, so that the teacher is not reluctant to administer them.  Not all punishments have to "fit the crime," because the teacher doesn't have time or resources to fit every deviation a student might commit.  The important thing is a consistent and minimal, but easily used, punishment.  Writing a simple sentence about obedience ten times at recess or five minutes of "sleeping" time at recess are usually sufficient, or just missing recess or P.E. until the assignments are completed and turned in.

Rewards for good work also need to be small and plentiful as well.  Green slips that go into a drawing for a variety of penny candy or cheap trinkets are plenty.

Sometimes teachers are made to feel guilty because every little action they do is not "authentic" or perfect.  It doesn't have to be.  It does need to be simple and consistent, not constantly under revision or only administered according to the mood of the teacher.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Competition is NOT a Silver Bullet for Schools

Conservative political pundits have been saying for decades that competition is what is needed to improve schools.  Part of this is based on the mistaken view that parents will always know which school is the best, that somehow they will know the methods and programs that work best for their kids and how well those methods and programs are working in a particular school.  The reality is that they probably have no idea WHAT methods or programs are being used in the school, let alone whether they are effective!  If they have an opinion on it, it is most likely based on what the school has told them rather than what the truth is.  This is true regardless of which school you refer to, district, charter, or private.

With the emphasis on competition that charter schools and the voucher movement have brought, combined with the personal ambitions of policy makers and the media's insatiable appetite for news, we see more and more spin on "new" ideas, programs, and educational schemes, all of which are attractive but untested.

Competition is based on pride.  It is not based on being good.  It is based on being better than certain others.  There is no satisfaction in being good, but only in being better than others being compared.  This leads to seeking for more things to entice parents with, to get them to bring their kids to that school.  Those things usually end up being warm-fuzzies that lack substance, because that is what is attractive or what sells.

Those warm-fuzzies could be anything from programs that claim to teach "higher-level thinking," to open classrooms, to more technology, or fancier gadgets or buildings.  Most of the time these things add much additional work to the teacher.  There are only so many things they can do in a day, so these additional things begin to take away from the ability to provide other more important things, like foundational skills that take work from both parent as well as teacher, physical exercise, subjects not tested, or money for what is more important.

I have listened in faculty meetings where the discussion was based around how to make the school more attractive, so parents won't go to another "new" charter school coming next year.  The suggestions were mostly things that for the teacher would be additional work, questionable as to its value, but the vogue thing at the time, like more iPods, etc.

This phenomenon undermines being good and turns efforts into becoming more attractive instead.  It ends up being a lot like having a garden and thinking that introducing competition from the "natural influx of competing plants" (weeds) will improve the garden.  Yes, some plants will "step up" to the competition and put out more growth, but their efforts go into competing for light and space instead of producing food.

Competition between students can be motivating when used properly.  I've used it a lot with things like knowledge bowl quiz competitions.  It can help businesses, though unbridled, or ruthless competition can also eliminate healthy competition establishing monopolies that cost more and provide less.  Competition between schools is proving to not be improving them.

The more we introduce "competition" between our schools, the more we push them into spending their time and energy in competing rather than producing, being attractive rather than building a solid foundation.