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Monday, November 10, 2008

Put State Standards on a Word Diet THEN Tag Them



Came across Richard Platts' Post Conference Bounce from the TRETC (Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference) and was struck by his reflection on an ITunes U session, where he says:

"It appears that our friends at Fox Chapel School district are once again
on the bleeding edge of all that is technical, and are the first
Pennsylvania school to distribute content through iTunes.  My
feelings are mixed as to how practical a solution this actually
is.  What’s worse is that the State is involved in the
process, and wants all content that is posted to be tagged with state
standards.
  I’m not sure if I can think of a more
effective way to squash teacher enthusiasm than to insist that content
is pigeonholed into a specific set of state standards.  And where
does Foreign Language content go?  We have no state standards."
I agree and disagree.

To me, I see an embedded disgust for the cumbersomeness of state standards.  Although I don't have to use our state standards in Georgia, I have had to pore through the standards of both Georgia and other states in order to deliver "standards aligned" professional development.

In order to align to state standards, it requires a lot of financial resources to deliver content (just see the recent Scantron and ETS partnership)

If I were teaching computer in the state of Georgia, I think I would get lost in the standards, and become paralyzed.  Although just about everything in the list is covered via Flat Classroom and other projects, I just don't know that the time it would take me to quantify it wouldn't keep me from doing the projects in the first place.

It is a struggle for many:  How to have standards that make sure that all schools are somewhat consistent and helping students become the type of student that will become a successful adult.    I think that tagging things with some sort of meta standard would make it VERY useful for others to find things...

IF the standards are somewhat reasonable and usable on a daily basis.

A Call for Being Concise

It is so easy to sit down and write what we want students to learn. It is another thing to translate those into daily action.

Is there a way, like ISTE has done to gel down what we want students to learn in a course into perhaps 10 or fewer main meta-topics?  It would make tagging and sharing so much easier.

Standards Seen as the Path to Paradise
Many believe that to improve education, the secret is in just increasing the standards.  However, increasing standards without a commensurate level of support and resources, is just an exercise in increasing futililty.

Look at the recent "drop" in North Carolina test scores due to an increase in standards.  Yes, standards must change and improve, however, change and improvement takes time and resources.

"If
the public schools are truly to be a pipeline to high-skill jobs in our
state, then the state's standards must reflect the increased
competitiveness of today's global economy," said a joint statement from
leaders of the North Carolina Chamber and the N.C. Business Committee
for Education.

But
if North Carolina wants to make the tests harder, the Legislature must
expand resources for the state and local schools to ensure that failing
students will not fall further behind, said Angella Dunston, director
of the N.C. Justice Center's Education and Law Project.

"What are we going to do differently to make sure these students are
successful?" said Dunston, so that "we don't set these students up for
failure."




Prisoners of Paper
As of now, cumbersome, fluff-filled standards have made paper prisoners of many of my public school counterparts.  When my friends tell me that they have over an hour of paperwork A DAY and planning periods chock full of mandatory meetings, I have to ask -- when do they have time to plan?  When do they have time to do a good job with the students?

Right now, we've got the "customer" WRONG.  The "customer" is the student, but much of the work of teachers is in delivering some sort of content to the bureaucracy that is also burdened under mounds of paperwork.

Surely, with the technology in place, we could make observation easier (via webcams) and we could let teacher capture verbal overviews of the lesson that day as well as notes on each child as needed for their Individual Education and Action Plan (much like doctors do with voice recorders.)

We want to move education into the information age, but we haven't moved the processes and procedures used to manage teachers into the information age.

Definition of Excellence
To me, excellence is in taking the time to customize the learning experience to each student, based upon their learning style and interest. It is in the one on one coaching that is so much a part of what I do with the students. 

It is in looking kids in the eye to see their state of mind and understanding where they are coming from.  Knowing their name.  Knowing their circumstances.  Knowing their lives.  Knowing them.

In the good classroom you laugh, you learn, you explore, you even sometimes sing.  I just struggle with how the learning environment can be customized when the curriculum is so regimented and standardized.

Right now, I just see the "breathing room" shrinking as the urgent (the upcoming test) often crowds out the most important.

Kids do need to read and write, but they also need to find how they learn and have the opportunity to have something during the school day that they actually look forward to.  Sometimes the kid who has nothing else, can make it through the day because they know they have play practice that night. 

Customized, individualized learning by "teacherpreneurs" is so vital to a good education.

Tagging State Standards

I think tagging things with state standards is a GREAT idea -- If we put the standards writers on a verbal diet and require them to do an exercise in meaning -- WHAT are the 10 most important meta-standards to be taught in this course?  Period.

Could it be done? 

Do standards writers and legislators see the commensurate bureaucracy and planning time and MONEY every single standard costs IF it is going to be implemented?  And with no money behind it, if takes time away from students.  Just thinking some things are getting backwards.

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