Archive | December 2014

Bob Shepherd: Humans Tell Stories

Diane Ravitch's blog

Bob Shepherd, veteran designer of curriculum, texts, and educational publishing, explains here why the Common Core is wrong to favor informational text over fiction, argument over narrative.

Shepherd writes:

One of the many things that Coleman didn’t know about ELA (one could make a very long list there) is that getting a handle on narrative is essential. He decided unilaterally, for the rest of us, to de-emphasize narrative in favor of argument.

Narrative is arguably the primary means by which we make sense of the world. Let me tell you a story

Not so long ago. . .

the world was completely different.

Anatomically modern humans have existed for about 200,000 years.
But only since the end of the eighteenth century has artificial lighting been widely used. Gas lamps were introduced in European cities about that time, and electric lights came into use only in the twentieth century.

In other…

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Assessment in California Teacher Education

Nicholas Meier

(This column is adapted from a talk I gave at the University of Kyoto in January, 2012)

Those in the field of assessment often refer to two important standards that assessments are expected to meet, reliability and validity. Reliability meaning that the same results would be obtained if the assessment were given again, or if a different person was scoring the assessment.

Validity means that the assessment actually measures, assesses, what it claims to be measuring/assessing—and whether it predicts how one will perform in the future (Ormrod, 2005).

One type of validity is “face validity”—that is, it is accepted that the assessment actually does measure what it claims to measure, without needing statistical proof that it does. The road test portion of the driving test might be an example of that: We can easily agree that if we want to know if someone knows how to drive, we can sit…

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#NativeAmerican Ways of Educating

Cloaking Inequity

The United States consists of lands that have been considered home to American Indians for thousands of years. Given this continuous relationship to the land there are orientations within American Indian culture that not only honor nature but that promote a relationship of engagement and harmony with the earth that calls upon one’s observational and mindful capacities. This culturally grounded worldview has inherent value for not only American Indian children but all children who now call this land their home. A world view that enhances relational skills with the earth promotes a framework that respects the existence of all living things; understands one’s reciprocal relationship with the earth; the impact that humanity has on the earth and its resources; our obligation in protecting her as well as our responsibility in healing her when humans fail to protect her. These understandings are most activated when in relation to the Earth. Conversely…

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Bad for Solidarity and Message to Critique Specifics of CC

I’ve been resisting this position for a while, but critiquing the specifics of the Common Core may be unnecessary, confusing, and potentially divisive .  I admit I got caught up in it for a while.  I enjoyed the critique of the language arts standards,  reading commentary that points out all the pedagogical and curricular flaws, and it seemed to add one more position that those of us opposing corporate reform and standardized testing could unite on.

I noticed myself, though, not reading too much critique of the math because I was a little afraid that I wouldn’t agree with the critique. I’m not a math teacher, so it didn’t hit a nerve with me, but it all did seem to smack of criticizing something for being a little more difficult to teach and to learn because, well, it is more difficult, especially to a nation of children who don’t usually have to approach math or anything else as an open-ended confusing reflective slow process.  So, again, I didn’t go deep with it because, in retrospect, I was afraid I would disagree with the critique, and I don’t want to disagree.  I disagree with everybody else in the world.  Can I just be united with one group on its major tenets for once in my life?

But then, I started to take a look at the 3 C’s social studies framework, and I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. Oh, dear, I think I may like these broad standards, and people I respect hate them. It brought back memories of reading Diane Ravitch’s work on the history standards that I wasn’t completely aligned with in my master’s thesis.  No, I will not disagree with my hero, not right now.  I quickly closed the file to see if I could forget, but of course, unfortunately, I couldn’t forget, nor should I.  I know too much about social studies not to have an opinion.

I bring this up, not because I’m neurotic about disagreeing with people, but because we need to remember the merits of the Common Core standards are irrelevant. What is relevant is how and why they were created and who took part, and how and why they should have been created, and who should have taken part.  We know that the quality of our students’ learning experience has been severely diminished  and anything “good” that may be in the standards wouldn’t get into the test, so we probably won’t be teaching it. That is the relevant travesty that unites us against corporate reform and standardized testing.

When this fight is over, that will be the time for healthy respectful democratic dialogue and debate to negotiate what education should look like.  Now is not the time. Now is the time for unity and to preserve the integrity and clarity of the message.

Stop all the Clocks: You Should Have Made the Cover of Time, John Goodlad.

Last week, I re-blogged Deb Meier’s reflections on November 30 recommending that we ALL read The Public Purpose of Education and Schooling by John Goodlad and Timothy McMannon. ( This morning, I learned that John Goodlad passed away on the evening of November 30.   I only know John Goodlad passed away because after hours of reading his work and interviews online all night, I stumbled into an In Memorium page deep inside some website.

As an avid education news follower, I am stunned that I hadn’t heard of the passing of one my education heroes until my accidental web wandering.  It seems to me we all should all have heard, and it seems to me this nation should have mourned for the loss of this great, thoughtful and gentle man.

We should also take the time to reflect and mourn the loss of having not practiced his ideals and not heeded the recommendations from his unprecedented extensive research.

I hope every educator, administrator, parent, student, and citizen takes Deb Meier’s advice and experiences the eloquent and timeless prose of John Goodlad in The Public Purpose of Education and Schooling. Maybe we could try something new and actually make our actions match our beliefs and aims about education.  That would be the way to honor the life of John Goodlad, democracy, and our youth.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Even Harvard? Crap.

I decided to explore the Harvard Graduate School of Education website this morning for some good best practices research , maybe a well reasoned critique on educational reform, and I wanted to check out their amazing teacher education coursework as a possible alternative to Arne Duncan’s weird standards.   Instead, I saw this, “Dean James Ryan has announced a $5 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation that will fund fellowships in the Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) Program.”  Oh, well, back to Ravich, Schneider, and Edushyster…

Thank You to a Few Teachers

I was reading about corporate educational reform in the middle of the night, as usual, when a contributor challenged readers to recognize the teachers who made a difference in their lives as a reminder of how many great teachers there are out there.  I thought that was a good idea since the rich and the powerful are trying to ensure that those kinds of teachers become extinct- to be replaced by the ones that keep everyone quiet preparing kids for unethical, invalid, poorly written tests that will judge their worth- both child and  teacher.  So, here’s a few:

Mr. Kastelic- changed the way I think about the world and for some reason, saw me as someone who could change it; I am the teacher I am today because of him.  (11th grade American history, student taught for him 6 years later, mentored by him for years after that) RIP

Mr. Hawk- treated me like an olympian though I was just an above average cross country/track runner with some heart; He cheered me on in my first (and last) marathon; he said he admired me, which means a lot to a shy invisible kid (11th, 12th grade p.e., coach) RIP
Mrs. Hunt- taught me a love for music, art, and literature by making it accessible  and by making us feel like it was there just for us, and we were worthy to appreciate it.   (11th grade humanities) RIP
Mrs. Clayton- gave me permission to love to read and to read anything I wanted to, no but’s or even though’s. (11th grade reading, 12th grade t.a.)
Ms. Figuerelli– liked me even though I sucked at Spanish; I could be just okay at something and still be likeable, at least in her class. (11th grade Spanish)
Mrs. Adams- treated me as a special girl, came to my house for lunch, my inner world said “I am no one,” she said louder, “you are someone.” (2nd grade)
Mrs. Krause- for letting us act out Huckleberry Finn instead of just sitting there pretending to read for a whole year; it’s literally the only thing I remember about 7th grade! She obviously knew child development. (7th grade English)
Mrs. Boylin– for asking me if she could enter my essay into a contest (9th grade) RIP
Mr. Smith– for letting us give presentations in front of the class and make a huge deal out of it; I’ll bet I’m not the only one to remember most of my speech; mine was on the digestive system (5th grade science)
Dr. Papalagos- for rocking my world about political theory and appearing to be delighted by me, as a person, too; though that was my partying year in college, he didn’t seem to notice the lateness or the truancy, just my presence. (political science, undergraduate)
Dr. Margolis- for letting me become a thoughtful reflective teacher, pushing us go deeper than we thought we could, wanting us to dialogue about our readings, writings, and thoughts; for letting me write the thesis I wanted and appearing to be very happy with the result. (education, graduate)
Kris Boggs- my dearest friend and colleague; for inspiring me to stay true to myself as we taught next door to each other for so many years; so different from me as a teacher, but embracing and honoring my practice, when even I wanted to throw in the towel to those who wanted me to conform. You’ll simply never know how good of a friend you’ve been. (colleague)
Scott Jacobs– my other friend who I will think of until I die; we pushed each other further than we could go by ourselves; I wonder if together, we would make a perfect teacher..probably not. 🙂 may we re-unite again someday to complete the conversation. (colleague)
All the teachers I read in the blogs these days- who are fighting the good fight for kids to have a meaningful and worthy education, despite all forces working against that end. I was too busy all these years teaching and fighting my own battles to realize there are others like me out there. They inspire me, too, though I never met them.

And the countless great educators– who I was privileged to be required to read in college, who were hopefully the driving force behind most of what I did in the classroom.   I always knew the moments when I wasn’t doing the right thing for all sorts of conformist reasons, but in those moments, I had a conscience that nagged and nagged because of these great teachers and educators.  My greatest wish is that every one studying to become a teacher would get to read them, too.


We have got to fight to preserve the institution that brought us these  lifelong educators who know what they’re doing and why they are doing it.  They care for the students and our society so deeply that teaching is their calling and their life’s work.  Let’s change the tide before history blames us for allowing Teach for America and Kahn Academy to replace the American public educator, who once upon a time, helped kids tap into their power, their potential, their importance- who, once upon a time, taught American youth how to freely choose to use their power, potential, and importance for the betterment of all.