Posts Tagged ‘citizenship’

Apples to Apples

February 13, 2011

Apples to Apples

Let’s compare apples to apples. This is what I think whenever I hear one of those dire comparisons between the public schools in the United States and India…or China…or Japan…or Finland.  Without exception the US stats pale in comparison. But are we comparing the same populations?  Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit a high school in Shanghai. It was impressive. I observed diligent students in well run classrooms; computer use by all students; high college entrance rates.  Definitely this was a high performing public school.  Or was it something else? As I passed other schools in Beijing where students hung out of third story windows cleaning the outer panes, I wondered would these young people soon be in high schools. The group I was with did not visit these schools, but I learned through conversations and observation that they would not. I learned that the school I observed in Shanghai was more akin to a prep school in the US than it was to any American public high school. Not only were young people winnowed out of schools into the workforce as early as middle school age, entrance into elite public high schools like the one I saw in Shanghai required a substantial payment. Yes there are scholarships available to needy students, but the majority of poorer students will enter the workforce or attend inferior high schools that limit college opportunity.  In more ways than one they were being hung out to dry.  How many of these students were included in the PISA and TIMSS results? How many of these students took the test.?

American schools educate the entire population into high school. There is no active institutional winnowing into career paths. American schools educate the entire barrel of apples. We do not hand pick a few golden ones. And yet the beauty of educating everyone through high school is also our greatest challenge. Meeting the needs of a diverse population; ridding our system of the passive filters that limit opportunities for some while enhancing opportunities for others; developing competent and passionate educators with high expectations for all; achievement gaps; digital gaps…the challenges are many and in these economic times they might seem insurmountable , but it must be achieved if this democracy is to remain vibrant. 

I am proud that we educate all of our students. I am proud that anyone at any point in their life can reenter our educational system. I embrace our “all apples” approach and as an educator I am determined to address the challenges educating everyone poses because the alternative of education for a select few  is the true danger to us as individuals and as a society.

Jay Mathews of the Washington Post has a recent article that addresses a similar idea. It is an interesting read.

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/class-struggle/2011/02/myth_of_declining_us_schools.html

What are your thoughts?

Advertisements

Constitution meets AVID tutorial…Students Win

January 27, 2011

Constitution Meets AVID Tutorial…Students Win

One of the goals of any solid AVID program is to take the power of WICR (Writing Inquiry Collaboration Reading) out of the elective classroom and integrate it throughout the school. Two of the most challenging strategies to integrate into the core classes are the AVID tutorial process and the Socratic Seminar. Last week after years of gentle prodding my school made some successful growth in these areas. Several of my AVID students came to class excited that they had done a Socratic Seminar in their Language Arts class. Concurrently in my Eighth Grade US History class I had just revised and implemented a lesson on the Constitution where students take a scenario and resolve it based on information they find in the Constitution. In the past students have struggled to read the document and often produced incomplete answers that did not demonstrate they understood or had even read the primary document. I decided to infuse the AVID tutorial process of collaborative problem solving through inquiry to address this problem. The result was total engagement of all students as they successfully grappled with their dilemmas. The bonus was the richness of their answers as they analyzed their dilemma and used the Constitution to develop their response. Most striking was the complex thinking that revolved around questions and evidence. The nuances of both the dilemma and the Constitution emerged as they had never done before. I am excited to share these results with my department when we meet at our next collaboration meeting.

Here is the lesson

I used the scenarios from my History Alive manual, but these could be made up by any teacher or even taken from items in the news.

I gave students an overview of the day and the assignment.

Students worked in groups of 4. Each person in the group chose a letter A-D.

A single set of the 12 scenarios are given to each group. Students then put their letter next to any three scenarios on the page. I had student choose one scenario and then pass the paper. They did this three times until every scenario had been assigned.

Rules of Engagement were posted and explained.

Students were told that everyone had to help each person find an answer to their dilemma, but they could only do so by asking the person with the dilemma questions. It was explained that the only person who could make a statement was the one with the dilemma. Each dilemma would be considered resolved if the person with the dilemma could explain the solution to the group using references to the Constitution (This process is the core of the AVID tutorial).

The criteria for their written responses was demonstrated with a sample response.

As students worked on their dilemmas my role was to facilitate the discussions. I also modeled question asking for groups that had difficulty with this. This is an important role especially in modeling questions that push thinking. Finally I watched to make sure the group was holding to the “ask not tell” protocol.

As students found a solution to their dilemma they wrote a solution that cited the Constitution (Article/Section/Quote).

What surprised me was the elaboration of the responses that included the weakness of the information given in the dilemma. Many students concluded that they could only partially respond to their dilemma because of missing information. They then went on to explain what information was missing.

While one student was writing their response to their dilemma, the next person read their dilemma and they along with the other remaining group members began to scour the Constitution looking for information that would resolve the dilemma. Then the questioning began again.

The energy that revolved around a document that is over 200 years old was amazing.

Following is a link to the slides I used.

Constitution meetsAVID

Do These Results Matter? Fundamentals vs Fluency

July 11, 2009

If you haven’t had a chance to read my post “How Did You Do? Does It Matter?” you might want to do so before reading this one. The fact that only 3.5% of the students surveyed “passed” this quiz does indeed matter, but not for the reasons one might expect. Yes a good procedural understanding of how our republic works is essential to its survival. Whether it is a contested election result or a desire to address a concern to your legislator, a basic understanding of the Constitution is necessary. I sincerely believe such information is taught and tested every year in classrooms across the nation. Why then the poor performance? We as educators are reluctant to take the leap of faith into higher level thinking. Intellectually we know that low level questions such as the one on this test do not work and yet the vast majority of questions asked during a typical class are mired in recall. Often we use the rationalization that these facts are on a high stakes test. However unless we ask students to process these facts at a higher level, they are doomed to continue to fail tests like this one. It is only when students manipulate information to make meaning that gelling between the neurons occurs. It is imperative that educators take this leap into the more complex levels of higher level inquiry. Not only is it more engaging for students, it creates enduring learning.

For example how many US History teachers ask students to name the goals of the Preamble to the Constitution? This is an important concept. It is relevant to life today as we consider the proper role of government in 21st century America. However if this concept is kept as a listing item you can be assured students will not remember it. Strategic teaching recognizes this and designs tasks that allow students to manipulate essential information. Analysis, application, and evaluation will ensure recall. Engaging students in higher level activities will ensure the long term learning of the lower levels as well. Instead of asking students to list the goals have them create visuals of each goal. Then hand student groups a list of scenarios of government activities and have them analyze each scenario to identify which goal it demonstrates. Make sure some scenarios are ambiguous so groups have to come to consensus, and explain why the scenario fits the goal their group chose. Take the leap!

Key Idea: Students learn facts only when they process them at the higher levels of thinking. Drilling students at a recall level is a sure path to failure.

How would you do? Does it matter?

July 6, 2009

The following 10 citizenship questions were randomly selected from the US Citizenship test and given to 1,350 public high school students by the Goldwater Institute. Only 3.5% of those students passed by getting 6 or more of the answers correct. Look over the questions and see how well you do. Let me know how many you know. I have provided a link to a news article on the results.

In a few days I will add a comment that considers why and if these results matter. I am interested in your thoughts and questions particularly those that relate to how these results inform or hinder  a discussion about standards and enduring and essential learning.

TEST YOURSELF

1. What is the supreme law of the land?

2. What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution?

3. What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?

4. How many justices are on the Supreme Court?

5. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?

6. What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?

7. What are the two major political parties in the United States?

8. We elect a U.S. senator for how many years?

9. Who was the first president?

10. Who is in charge of the executive branch?

Answers and % of students who got them correct.

1. Answer: The Constitution. correct 29.5 percent

2. Answer: The Bill of Rights. correct 25 percent

3. Answer: The Senate and the House. correct 23 percent

4. Answer: Nine. correct 9.4 percent

5. Answer: Thomas Jefferson. correct 25.3 percent

6. Answer: Atlantic. correct 58.8 percent

7. Answer: Democratic and Republican. correct 49.6 percent

8. Answer: Six. correct 14.5 percent

9 Answer: Washington. correct 26.5 percent

10. Answer: The president. correct 26 percent

http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/education/299259.php