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Old 12th January 2018, 10:06 AM   #41
Minoosh
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Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
In the Australia, they rank schools and compare states. The ACT performs better than other states. But then they adjust the scores for their parent's income and the ACT performs badly. What has happened? The ACT has a large % of people with good education. Hence the ACT performs well. But to attract them here they need to be paid higher than they would elsewhere. So to use income as a guide unfairly treats the ACT.

So it can get complicated with ranking systems.
"Data-driven" instruction is kind of a mantra at various schools where I've worked. I think that's OK, but you do tend to get kids who are jaded about taking such "benchmark" tests and don't try particularly hard. They know it's not for a grade. Some kids are inherently competitive, but these probably aren't the ones who absolutely need extra instruction to thrive. But they benefit from it, too. So then teachers have to be excellent at a lot of different things. Which is fine for society to demand, except that it's freakin' impossible for many people to accomplish. The culture of school - of the students, that is - is relentlessly social. They want to chat with their friends all day. A teacher has to then find a way to incorporate that socialization into learning (while also accommodating more introverted students). Guess what - this is great when it works, but it is not easy to get 30 students immersed in the lesson.

I hate to sound this old but where I went to school students came into the room, chatted for maybe a minute, then the teacher began the lesson. Sometimes it was boring. Oh well. That's not the default in many modern classrooms and a lot of teachers wonder, "Is it just me? Am I hopelessly unsuited for this job?" They beat themselves up which does not really help them improve. They beat their brains out trying to work an 8-hour instructional day with maybe one bathroom break, then do as much planning and grading as they can at home, then collapse into bed. Really for what I'm paid as a substitute I could ring up groceries or do light clerical work. After a few years of feeling inadequate, that's what many teachers do.

There is a poster I screen due to overwhelmingly hostile attitudes toward almost anything done by a public school system, including the whole system of separating kids out by grade, even though changing that may be far beyond the power of administrators at a given site. He is right about some things though. Parents are important. Kids who read and are read to at home, who learn simple math at home and who know the alphabet before kindergarten will have a better foundation when they enter school. Siblings can make a huge difference too. The best tutor for a first-grader IMO (and according to studies) is a second-grader. So there are simple things parents can do, even if they don't speak English and even if they're not following the latest fad (the "new math", the new "new math," Common Core etc.)

Yes I know parents often feel overwhelmed as well. Sad to say I know many parents who would have difficulty with fifth-grade math problems, like "find 18 percent of 12". It's a simple algorithm, but a lot of fifth-graders don't really learn it, either, and those deficits become entrenched. If too many kids "don't get it," they'll switch off mid-lesson unless a hella skillful teacher is manipulating them to encourage peer tutoring (which involves precision pairing and often a modest reward for the "tutor.") For that you need to know all of their personalities, who works well together, who doesn't. There are a lot of moving parts in a lesson and in a classroom. A few people make it look easy. It's not. For most people it's an acquired skill. But many get out of education before they have fully acquired that skill. It takes a while. The best teachers in the world say it takes a while. Most people don't come out of college having those skills. So maybe they get out of education before they become highly effective teachers. It's not a great situation.

Last edited by Minoosh; 12th January 2018 at 11:18 AM.
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Old 12th January 2018, 02:10 PM   #42
rjh01
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Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
<snip> The best tutor for a first-grader IMO (and according to studies) is a second-grader. <snip>
Interesting post. This sentence popped out at me. I just wonder what would happen if every second grader got assigned a first grader the former had to coach the first grader on whatever the first grader was weak on. Time would be set aside for this purpose. Ditto for every other grade. Would teach the students heaps like socialization, teaching skills, empathy.
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Old 12th January 2018, 02:54 PM   #43
Giordano
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Originally Posted by Minoosh View Post
"Data-driven" instruction is kind of a mantra at various schools where I've worked. I think that's OK, but you do tend to get kids who are jaded about taking such "benchmark" tests and don't try particularly hard. They know it's not for a grade. Some kids are inherently competitive, but these probably aren't the ones who absolutely need extra instruction to thrive. But they benefit from it, too. So then teachers have to be excellent at a lot of different things. Which is fine for society to demand, except that it's freakin' impossible for many people to accomplish. The culture of school - of the students, that is - is relentlessly social. They want to chat with their friends all day. A teacher has to then find a way to incorporate that socialization into learning (while also accommodating more introverted students). Guess what - this is great when it works, but it is not easy to get 30 students immersed in the lesson.

I hate to sound this old but where I went to school students came into the room, chatted for maybe a minute, then the teacher began the lesson. Sometimes it was boring. Oh well. That's not the default in many modern classrooms and a lot of teachers wonder, "Is it just me? Am I hopelessly unsuited for this job?" They beat themselves up which does not really help them improve. They beat their brains out trying to work an 8-hour instructional day with maybe one bathroom break, then do as much planning and grading as they can at home, then collapse into bed. Really for what I'm paid as a substitute I could ring up groceries or do light clerical work. After a few years of feeling inadequate, that's what many teachers do.

There is a poster I screen due to overwhelmingly hostile attitudes toward almost anything done by a public school system, including the whole system of separating kids out by grade, even though changing that may be far beyond the power of administrators at a given site. He is right about some things though. Parents are important. Kids who read and are read to at home, who learn simple math at home and who know the alphabet before kindergarten will have a better foundation when they enter school. Siblings can make a huge difference too. The best tutor for a first-grader IMO (and according to studies) is a second-grader. So there are simple things parents can do, even if they don't speak English and even if they're not following the latest fad (the "new math", the new "new math," Common Core etc.)

Yes I know parents often feel overwhelmed as well. Sad to say I know many parents who would have difficulty with fifth-grade math problems, like "find 18 percent of 12". It's a simple algorithm, but a lot of fifth-graders don't really learn it, either, and those deficits become entrenched. If too many kids "don't get it," they'll switch off mid-lesson unless a hella skillful teacher is manipulating them to encourage peer tutoring (which involves precision pairing and often a modest reward for the "tutor.") For that you need to know all of their personalities, who works well together, who doesn't. There are a lot of moving parts in a lesson and in a classroom. A few people make it look easy. It's not. For most people it's an acquired skill. But many get out of education before they have fully acquired that skill. It takes a while. The best teachers in the world say it takes a while. Most people don't come out of college having those skills. So maybe they get out of education before they become highly effective teachers. It's not a great situation.
I strongly agree with your entire post. And as you say, the parents play a crucial role- not only in how they prepare the child before the kid enters school and help them during the school years, but in terms of encouragement and expectation. Many of my friends and relatives teach or have taught K to 12 schools, and students who have parents who respect education and learning, and who insist that their children do the same, greatly outperform the students who have parents who routinely badmouth education and educators.

The difference is night and day. A respect for education instilled by the parents plays an even more important role than the specifics of what the parents can actually teach the child. A parent with no real personal knowledge of math can greatly help their child to succeed in algebra if they encourage the kid and make it clear that math is important, valuable, and worth studying, and that the math teacher deserves their respect and attention. I certainly didn't learn algebra or trig from my parents, but they made the importance of learning algebra and trig very clear to me. Conversely a parent who knows algebra in detail is a disaster if they "dis" the value of studying and/or present the teacher as an enemy or as irrelevant. And believe it or not, there are a lot of parents who fall into the second group.

As the kid grow older their peer group becomes even more important than their parents in this regard. I've seen kids from strongly pro-education families join a group of "friends" who bad mouth education and who demean those in their clique who study hard or who get good grades. This typically leads to disaster for the kid and is alone a good argument for why school rankings can matter- kids take their clues from the kids around them. Often the peer-group atmosphere in a well ranked school is much more pro-education than that from a poorly ranked school. It may be a self-fulfilling, circular process, but it is real.
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Old 12th January 2018, 05:01 PM   #44
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Originally Posted by Giordano View Post
The difference is night and day. A respect for education instilled by the parents plays an even more important role than the specifics of what the parents can actually teach the child. A parent with no real personal knowledge of math can greatly help their child to succeed in algebra if they encourage the kid and make it clear that math is important, valuable, and worth studying, and that the math teacher deserves their respect and attention.
Aside from the support for education in general, the effect even functions at a subject specific level. One of the strongest predictors of a girl's math ability is her mother's attitude toward math specifically.
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Old 12th January 2018, 05:25 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by rjh01 View Post
Interesting post. This sentence popped out at me. I just wonder what would happen if every second grader got assigned a first grader the former had to coach the first grader on whatever the first grader was weak on. Time would be set aside for this purpose. Ditto for every other grade. Would teach the students heaps like socialization, teaching skills, empathy.
That would be awesome - as long as the tutor was also learning to an elucidated standard.

I was Googling around for World Bank or IMF studies on improving primary education (often in developing countries), to back up what I said earlier. The studies are out there, but the first thing I came upon was this (from Freakonomics.com):

The best third grade teacher ever


Quote:
For whatever reason, Mrs. Ficalora saw something in me that caused her to give me time each day to work on simple experiments by myself, like making a galvanometer out of a lemon, a compass, and copper wire, or creating parallel and series circuits with a battery, a light bulb, and a switch. Best of all, at the end of these sessions, I would be allowed to show what I learned to the entire class.
Bolding mine. Pretty cool. Executing this kind of "differentiation" in a single class is both brilliant and obvious. The skill set this teacher had is black-belt classroom management in a very robust form.

Note that she did not require all students to be on the same page; she leveraged one student's curiosity and allowed him to do his own thing at times. I'm not that good, but I'm better than I used to be. Monday I got to see a principal model these same skills (assigning classroom jobs and posting a duty roster that the students obviously took pride in). Later in the day, transitioning from math to art, I was trying to get students to clean up some before we had art. I was not being very effective. The principal walked in. She had assigned the classroom jobs earlier and all she had to do is give students 3-4 minutes to do their jobs (pencil sharpener, floor monitor, etc.) In no time the class was tidy and kids were ready to settle in to the next activity. She made it look easy. It is not easy. But it's a skill that can be developed. Working as a sub or instructional aide, I get to learn a lot.

A typical full-time teacher in the U.S. can feel overwhelmed and isolated by the job and working conditions. I have the luxury of part-time employment, which at times allows me to step back and observe more-experienced educators model these skills. In this case, the classroom jobs were not directly tied to academic achievement, but they can be. You have to know your students and have time to think. I've read that the instructional day is shorter in China and time is taken to develop these skills.

Some people might denigrate teachers for not knowing this stuff straight out of college, but IMO that is not a productive approach. We realize students don't know everything when they get to kindergarten; they need modeling, mentoring and practice, but we expect new teachers to pick everything up on the fly. It's a sink-or-swim approach that is not particularly helpful.
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Old 12th January 2018, 06:20 PM   #46
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Originally Posted by Giordano View Post
Many of my friends and relatives teach or have taught K to 12 schools, and students who have parents who respect education and learning, and who insist that their children do the same, greatly outperform the students who have parents who routinely badmouth education and educators.
It's sad IMO that there's so much hating on teachers. Foreign-born students - and it doesn't matter which country - tend to be socialized by parents to value education. Americans meanwhile may be hampered by their own imperfect education.

Originally Posted by Giordano View Post
The difference is night and day. A respect for education instilled by the parents plays an even more important role than the specifics of what the parents can actually teach the child.
Which is a skill a lot of parents don't have. However I continue to believe that it can be developed. Modeling curiosity and enjoyment in learning comes naturally to some parents and may be culturally more prevalent in some families.

Originally Posted by blutoski View Post
Aside from the support for education in general, the effect even functions at a subject specific level. One of the strongest predictors of a girl's math ability is her mother's attitude toward math specifically.
Intergenerational math phobia is a significant problem IMO. And it's goes back 50 years or more.

ETA: I would not be posting at all on an education thread, except that I was tremendously humbled in my first teaching job, at age 50. I really want to get good at it, and my own behavior is really all that is in my control. An emphasis on believing great teachers are born, not made, is IMO an impediment to building a skilled teaching corps.

Last edited by Minoosh; 12th January 2018 at 06:26 PM.
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