The Transformation of Education cannot wait!!! Education needs change! We are stuck in an outdated model that isn't effective in today's world. I challenge everyone to innovate, create, and implement teaching 21st Century Skills and providing relevant, rigorous learning. School is a place to learn how to learn. Stop overfilling minds with irrelevant facts, basing success and potential on tests.
The education system is OBSESSED WITH DATAand it is taking a toll on schools, teachers, and students everywhere. In my opinion, we need to start treating our students like "people" and not "data". I know "College & Career Ready" sounds really nice, but maybe it is time we start preparing them for life. Maybe it is time we start preparing them for being spouses, parents, friends, self advocates at the grocery store, doctor's office, etc...
If you are in education, I am sure you can relate to a professional development session in which you analyzed data. In our district we do it obsessively. These are some of the issues I have with this: 1. We are talking about students. When we try to objectify everything into a statistic, we lose focus of the fact that these are living, breathing, unique, and special people..... not just a bunch of data. 2. Data analyzes the past. We are in new and mysterious territory as we try to transform the education system to meet the needs of the digital age. A plethora of data from the past cannot always dictate the future. I know this is difficult to believe, but Christopher Columbus did not have a rubric that he was following in order to discover America.
3. The fact that schools put 100+ teachers in a room, 95%+ of who are NOT qualified to do any statistical analysis, many who have no clue how to do statistical analysis, and tell them to analyze the data is a JOKE, DISSERVICE TO STUDENTS, WASTE OF THE TEACHERS' TIME, and a WASTE OF TAXPAYERS money. Please stop. Hire one statistician to analyze the data and report it out. Let the teachers teach and build relationships with students.
Since we are obsessed with data, however, along with the fact that I have always like to work with data (usually related to sports statistics), I thought that I would "PLAY THE GAME" and analyze some data in education:
DATA REPORT #1
The issue: Too many students are dropping out of school. I recently read an article about this in which they pointed out some of the states that are doing the BEST job of having students graduate and some of the states that are doing the WORST job of having students graduate. *** STATISTIC ALERT *** If you are in states like Iowa, New Jersey, and Wisconsin, you are doing really well at getting students to graduate. If you are in states like Georgia, New Mexico or Nevada, you are NOT doing well.
The article I was reading, which I intentionally do not name, suggests that we need to take a look at why some states are doing a good job of having students graduate high school, while others are doing terrible.
I decided to do some "STATISTICAL ANALYSIS" (which I am not qualified to do) in order to get to the bottom of this. I decided to list the states in order, according to the percentage of students that graduate high school. After this, I gathered some more data about these states. What I found was this: I first looked at average temperature during the months of November, December, January, and February. For the "TOP 10" and "BOTTOM 10" states, I eliminated the highest and lowest temperatures and averaged the other eight. What I found was this: In the states in which the MOST students are dropping out of school, the average temperature in these "winter" months is: 58° F In the states in which the LEAST students are dropping out of school, the average temperature in these "winter" months is: 38°F After completing this elaborate statistical analysis of the data, I have reached the following conclusion..... In warms states, where it is enjoyable to be outside year round, a LOT of students are choosing to drop out. In cold states, where it sucks to be outside in the winter, very few students are dropping out.
My analysis: School has become irrelevant to students. They are disengaged and do not see the value of what they are learning at school. School has become a "game". The "game" of school, however, is not as fun to play when it is nice outside. Therefore, in states with nice temperatures the students are deciding to drop out. In colder states, where it is painful and miserable to be outside during the winter months, students simply decide to stay indoors and play the game of school.
My solution: We need to figure out how to close the temperature gap. Maybe some of the colder states can talk to the warmer states and discuss how they get it so cold outside. Maybe we can have volunteer groups of teachers to explain how cold it can get outside. Ultimately, we need professional development on how to get it colder in our states so that kids decide to sit inside and go through the motions, thus raising the graduation rate. Maybe we could rally the government to start a program called "No State Temperatures Left Too High" or "Race to the BOTTOM of the thermometer" DISCLAIMER: When I am in school as a teacher, or out of school, I am not qualified to analyze data. You should use my data, my analysis, and my solutions with caution as they may not have any validity or reliability. This probably should, however, count as professional development for you and improve your "teacher effectiveness" ratings. Let your principal know that you analyzed some extra data on your own time. *** If this seems dumb to you.... that is because it is. It is also dumb when we have a plethora of teachers sitting in professional development analyzing data.
I never thought I would say this to you, but I am mad at you. I have loved science since I was a little kid. To me, science involved constantly observing the world around us and wondering "Why". Science was the attempt to make sense of the world around us. It was an opportunity to explore, investigate, predict, test, experiment, and explain. It was the perfect blend of math, logic, literacy, and technology. Ultimately, science was a "way of thinking". In my opinion, it is the best way of thinking. Science is the way in which all of us answer questions such as:
- Which car should I purchase?
- What should I wear today?
- What should I say in a job interview?
- How can I be more influential?
- What will cure cancer?
- What is the best diet for me?
- What can I innovate? How?
- What is the best way to care for my pets & my plants?
- .... and thousands of other questions that arise daily.
Some are much better than others at answering these questions. I can't help but think that many of the problems that exist in today's world, including obesity, the high divorce rate, stress levels, binge spending, poor purchasing decisions, a collapsed housing market, etc..... are due to faults in our thinking.
Science is thinking. Yet, you had to ruin this. While Literacy Class was busy proving why it was a skill that is critically important to incorporate into every classroom (and it is that important), you were being stubborn and refusing to change. You have officially become a GIGANTIC BODY OF FACTS. You do not teach thinking. Sure, you teach PHEOC and IV & DV, but you don't even bother to relate it to your students' real lives. Science is awesome because it explores the unknown, yet you spend every day trying to convince students that there is a right answer to everything in science.... and you know the answer..... and it is at the back of the book. Yuck!
Instead of embracing science as a way of thinking, and following the lead of literacy, proving that you are a skill that is critically important to incorporate into every classroom (which science is that important), you have remained a big fat body of facts that students are required to memorize. Mitosis, the Kreb's Cycle, each step of photosynthesis, chemical equations, atomic mass, Newton's Laws, the periodic table, the organelles of the cell, etc... You have completely lost touch with reality. Sure, many students do memorize all of these facts, because we put enough fear into them to make them do so, but they don't remember these facts for very long. I taught a Health Careers course, which included Juniors and Seniors looking to going into the medical field and surveyed them to see how they did on their Biology Finals two years earlier. Almost all of them said they received A's. I then allowed them to retake that very same Biology final. The result: students averaged a 37%. Many students responded to their score saying that they "don't remember that stuff", or "why would I still remember that".
I have heard so many students say that they "HATE" science. Wow! When I first started hearing that, it was hard for me to comprehend. I didn't think it was possible to hate "learning how to think more efficiently" as that would make every aspect of your life better. Eventually, however, I understood what they meant. They not hate science.... they hate Science Class, because it has become one disgusting, insurmountable, rigorous, irrelevant body of facts.
I went to school to be able to teach you. I have taught you for over 12 years, but I am afraid you are disappearing. Other courses, such as Industrial Tech and Family & Consumer Ed have happily stepped in and started teaching "science" as a skill and a way of thinking, making you almost useless. These days, the #1 place to learn about "science" in school, isn't even in Science Class. That is sad. I will miss you.
Shame on you Science Class for not embracing science.
I was not at all surprised by the list. In fact, it seems quite obvious that these would be the desired skills. So, how do students prepare for working in the "real world"? School? I believe that preparing students for careers later in life is one of the purposes of education. Point of this Post: Considering this, I just wanted to "GRADE" how I think school is doing at helping our next generation attain these skills. The following post is MY PERSONAL OPINION on how schools are doing at preparing students for these skills. This analysis has nothing to do with Forbes. *** This "giving a grade" is ironic, however, since I do believe that "grades" are destroying learning in our schools.
1. Ability to work in a team structureGRADE: D- This actually seems to be the opposite of school, where we are obsessed with holding everyone accountable and constantly trying to rank their individual ability to memorize information. Students are in rows of desks. Students are told to keep their eyes on their own papers, tests, quizzes. I would have given this an "F" 5 years ago, but some progress is being made. I must mention, however, that just because you assign a group of students to work together and they get along.... that does not mean they are COLLABORATING. That means they are behaving. 2. Ability to Make Decision and Solve ProblemsGRADE: F Ha! This one is funny. The real world and school have completely different definitions of the word "Problems". The real world means that situations will arise in which we may not know the best solution, but through critical thinking, we can find a good solution. We must then have the ability to make that decision. In school, a problem is a question created by the "sage on the stage" such as "3x + 18 = 33 solve for X" or "What are the stages of mitosis". Sorry school, this is not what the real world is talking about. We continue to convince students there is ONE correct answer to everything, and it is at the back of the book. Wake up. 3. Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside of the organization. GRADE: F Oh my! School does not deserve an "F" on this one. Maybe an "I" for incomplete as I am not sure they have began to address this. Claiming that you have students stand in front of the class and give a crappy Power Point without any guidance on how to "speak" does not count as verbal communication. Speaking only to classmates does not count, either. If you have not read Erik Palmer's wonderful book titled: Teaching the Core Skills of Listening & Speaking.... I highly recommend it. 4. Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work.GRADE: D I have seen some teachers teach these skills. For most teachers, however, this means "PLAN" to do homework every night, "Organize" it by writing it in your binder and putting it in the folder we made you purchase, and Priority? Get it done by tomorrow, no excuses, or you will lose points. Ha! 5. Ability to obtain and process informationGRADE:D If by obtain, you mean get it from the "sage on the stage" who is handing it to you, school is doing okay. If by process you mean.... "MEMORIZE IT FOR THE TEST".... then school is doing okay. I don't think this is what the real world is talking about, though. Maybe 40 years ago, but not anymore. 6. Ability to analyze quantitative dataGRADE: F Education is really ignorant on this. Part of the blame is on a curriculum which culminates with Calculus instead of Probability and Statistics, but the other part goes on the schools itself. One sign they are ignorant on this, is when they have a large group of teachers "ANALYZE DATA" at professional development meetings. Most of these educators have no right analyzing data for such high stakes purposes. Remember the housing market crash? Our current financial condition, along with the fact that most students couldn't make change at a store more less make financial decisions, is concerning. 7. Technical Knowledge Related to the JobGRADE: F* I put an asterisk next to this grade because if you have a student who will become a historian (whatever that means), a photosynthesis or mitosis worker (whatever that means), or a fiction author, maybe they are learning this knowledge. My biggest wake up call on this, is when we partnered with 150+ business partners in our project based program and we asked them what "content knowledge" was most important to learn. The most common answer was a chuckle and a claim that "Once you get to our job we will teach you what you need to do on the job". In others words.... the technical knowledge we are learning in school isn't even relevant technical knowledge. Sad. 8. Proficiency with computer software programs.GRADE: F- This is a joke. Most schools will hide behind "costs" and "infrastructure" as an excuse, but it is usually because of ignorance, an inability for 75% of teachers to understand technology, and a fear of knowing less about something than students in the class that contribute to this. Although almost every business and organization I talked to mentioned that students "better know a lot about technology", the High School I taught at requires ZERO credits of technology. Brilliant concept! The biggest misconception is that teachers believe students are already "great with technology". If you are talking about selfies, tweets, texts, and video games, you may be correct... but that isn't what the real world is talking about. 9. Ability to create and/or edit written reportsGRADE: D- Schools are trying to improve at this, but they are not doing well. Students suck at writing. The schools are up against the texting & tweeting style of communication that students use in their daily lives, but without a clear rubric, most students have no clue how to write. 10. Ability to sell & influence othersGRADE: F I don't think that school has ever considered teaching influence, charisma, integrity, or the ability to sell a concept. Instead students learn to shut up and do what they are told. Schools really strike out at this one.
OVERALL GRADE = F
If you really care about students, will you please stop settling for the status quo? Will you please speak up? Will you please do something about this? If you don't, who will? Be prepared. In about 10 years we are going to have millions of ANGRY 20-something year old people, who despise schools for failing to prepare them for the real world. Help!
There is a student in your classroom that will be a wonderful parent. Actually many of them.
There is a student in your classroom that will be a wonderful spouse. Actually many of them.
There is a student in your classroom who will be a wonderful friend to someone who desperately needs them. Actually many of them.
There is a student in your classroom that will go through some REALLY tough times.
There is a student in your classroom who will seriously consider suicide, as approximately 5% of teenagers in the United States do at some point.
There is a student in your classroom who is brilliantly creative, although they do not do well at the game of school.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO HELP THESE STUDENTS? What are you doing to help foster an environment in which we have more wonderful parents, spouses, and friends. What are you doing to help your students be prepared to deal with REALLY tough times more effectively, and hopefully never consider something as terrible as suicide. What are you doing to help make sure that the creative geniuses in your class, who the school has continuously made them feel below average, know that they are geniuses and can use those strengths to change the world.
It isn't teaching them the stages of photosynthesis or mitosis.
It isn't teaching them about the War of 1812.
It isn't teaching them about the Pythagorean Theorem.
It isn't having them read another novel from the 1940's (which they don't read anyway).
It isn't the worksheets you assign.
It isn't the standardized tests you administer.
If you think that having a large group of teachers, 98% of which are not qualified or capable of analyzing statistics properly, look at test scores for an hour is called "data analysis", I disagree with you. * Instead, I would call this a huge waste of taxpayers money and a huge waste of the teachers' time.
If you think that having a principal or other administrator talk about a topic they read about or learned at one conference is called "professional development", I disagree. * Instead, I would call this a "joke" and a huge waste of the teachers' time.
If you think that correcting students by telling them it is "May I go to the bathroom" has a positive Return on Investment, I disagree. * In terms of grammar +0.25 pts. In terms of rapport building -100,000 pts.
If you think that making a student who is struggling in school stay in at recess to do homework is a good idea, I disagree with you. * They most likely dislike school already. Now they really dislike it. Also, you are taking away the hour at school that they are engaged in play and probably learn more than they do for the rest of the day.
If you think that an appropriate answer to "Why should we learn this?" is "Because I am the adult and I said so." I disagree with you. * You are being a bully. Students deserve a better answer than this.
New Section. Intended to spark conversation. CONTROVERSIAL BOLD STATEMENT THE CLASSROOM PUPPY MILL: Our education system is broken. Most teachers I talk to agree. It is admirable to stick with it and help the 30 students in your classroom. This isn't the solution, however. It is not a good idea to buy dogs from a puppy mill. Why? Some would say that it is good because you are "rescuing the dogs". I disagree. By purchasing these dogs, we are perpetuating the puppy mill to continue. If they sell dogs, there is more reason to breed more. If you stay in the broken classroom, without fighting hard for change each day, you are perpetuating a broken system of education. Why would it change? There is a lot of rumble about reform, but not a lot of action..... and so a 100 year old, outdated system, continues on. Do something. What you are doing is not enough.
The question I'd ask every administrator and school board is, "Does this curriculum you teach now make our society stronger?"
- Seth Godin in Stop Stealing Dreams
This is not a hypothetical statement. This is a call to action. Why wouldn't you ask every administrator this? Why wouldn't you ask ever school board this? Yet, very few will. For some reason we have reached a point in which we are afraid that by asking an administrator or school board member whether the "curriculum makes our society stronger", we are being offensive.
If anyone has the courage to ask this, and they reply "yes", please ask them "How?" Please share their responses in the comments. I do not expect to hear back from many.
I have been working hard for the past year to represent students and help them receive a more relevant education that prepares them for the REAL world, and not just the fantasy world of school. I have noticed that teachers want change. The majority of teachers I have met have been completely "on board" with revolutionizing our education system. I have noticed something that is somewhat disheartening, though. It seems that too often administration and district leaders are too busy to take this "transforming education" concept seriously. They often listen and nod their heads, but do not seem poised to take immediate action.
In order to improve my "pitch" I have started mentioning the fact that the new student assessments (standardized tests) that are coming out are MUCH different than the old ones. While the old ones relied on the lower level skills such as recall, classifying, and identifying, the new ones will focus on higher level skills such as analyzing, investigating, and creating. The strange thing, is that when I mention this, often administrators become more engaged in the conversation and begin to ask about strategies to deal with this.
I feel dirty when I take this angle, but whatever works. If it helps equate to the change our students deserve, I will talk about the tests.
I do want to mention, however, that I do not care at all about the tests. I care about students, and preparing them to be successful in their futures. I care about learning. I care about real feedback.
I do want to mention, though, that until we all unite and stand up against these tests, along with the many traditional or passed down practices that are holding back our students, we will not see change. We need a strong voice advocating for change. We do not need teachers' lounge conversations that amount to nothing.
Stop perpetuating a broken system.
*** I have worked with and know many administrators that are very progressive and working hard to fight for change. Thank you! This article is not talking about you.