Fixing the STEM Problem by Asking the Right Questions-Don’t ask “Who, What, When, Where”; ask, “Why, and How?”

Fixing the STEM Problem by Asking the Right Questions 

Essay by

Allan C. Jones, President

Emaginos Inc.- Engaging Every Child Through Customized Education

Don’t ask “Who, What, When, Where”; ask, “Why, and How?”

Education in the No Child Left Behind era is all about answering “who, what, when and where” (4W) questions. But the questions that really matter are why and how. In a European history class, students are asked, “Who fought at the battle of Hastings?”, “What armies fought in the battle?”, “When was it fought?”, and “Where is Hastings?”. I can still remember that the English fought the Normans led by William the Conqueror in 1066. I don’t remember where Hastings is, if I ever did know it. What I don’t know is why it was fought and how it affected history. In considering what I know and don’t know, it seems like the stuff I know doesn’t matter and the stuff I don’t know does matter. In general, what matters is the stuff you learn by asking why and how.

The country’s leaders constantly complain about today’s students not learning enough about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). STEM topics are boring if you focus on the 4W questions.  But if you focus on “why and how” they come to life. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in the southern US before the civil war. Boring! Why did he invent it? How did it work. How was it powered? Why was it important? What recent inventions have had a similar impact on a nation’s economy? The last is a “What” question, but not a recall question. These are the interesting questions about the cotton gin – and they lead to a rich discussion of STEM.

Let’s make the issue more contemporary.

We tell children to use soap when they wash their hands. When they ask why they need the soap, the typical response is that soap gets the hands cleaner. This is usually where inquiry stops and authority takes over – just do it! But any healthy, curious child is thinking, “How does soap work?” The answer is, “Soap makes water wetter.” What does that mean? Soap breaks down the surface tension bonds between the water molecules. So the next obvious question is, “Why does that matter?” Because it allows the water to penetrate the dirt better to float it away. It also emulsified the grease molecules; allowing them to detach from the object and rinse away. I like to give the students another use for this piece of knowledge so I tell them that the next time they find a tick and are trying to kill it, the easiest way is to drop the tick into a cup of tap water. Initially, the tick will appear to float. (The little suckers are really hard to kill.) But ticks are not buoyant. They are not floating. They are standing on the surface tension. Add a drop of dishwashing liquid to the water and the tick will sink like a stone and drown.

We were recently at yet another STEM meeting where the people were all excited about an excellent robotics activity that they were proposing to engage more girls and minorities in STEM. Robots are cool; and designing and playing with them can be engaging and instructional. But why go the expense of creating an artificial world for STEM learning? Students are surrounded by STEM every minute of their lives. Some questions they might enjoy answering could include:

  • How do they get stone-washed denim to look that way? Do they really stone-wash it?
  • Why do the tires on a mountain bike look so different from the tires on a racing bike? Do car and truck tires have the same or different tread designs? How do they decide what is the best tread design for different uses? How does changing the amount of air pressure affect the performance of the tires? When do you use low tire pressure and when do you use high pressure and why?
  • Why does it get easier or harder to pedal a 12-speed bike when you shift the gears? How does the Derailleur work? How is the Derailleur different from a manual transmission on a car? Why does a manual transmission need a clutch and an automatic transmission does not? How does the clutch work? Why does a clutch burn out?
  • How do iPods store all that music? What other options are available to store it? Why was the one they use chosen? What may be the next better storage mechanism?

If you want to tie it into history, ask how people 200, 400, 600, 800, and 1,000 years ago did what we do routinely today. What did tires and treads look like at those different time periods? How were vehicles propelled? How was music stored and enjoyed? How does communications technology affect social unrest? Which technologies that were originally invented for military uses have become everyday household products? Did you know that microwave ovens came from radar technologies developed for guiding missiles?

The list of fascinating STEM topics is endless. More importantly, they are an integral part of everybody’s world. All of the inventions and the underlying technologies were designed and built by engineers and technologists based on work by scientists and mathematicians. STEM is not some remote esoteric set of knowledge reserved for nerds. It’s a fascinating set of knowledge and skills that make up the world we live in. The 4W questions are only interesting if they are used in the context of why and how.

Dropout prevention is another big issue in education. Because understanding why and how something happened are much more interesting than the 4W questions, students get more engaged in their learning when seeking answers to why and how. We need to get away from the model where the teacher asks the 4W questions and students answer them. We need to pose problems that require the students to determine what the questions are that they need answered in order to solve the problem. If you put the students in small ability-level based groups and frame the questions as problems to be solved, every student is actively engaged in learning. This student-centered learning environment also allows the teachers to work individually with every student and customize the learning for each of them.

Going back to the battle of Hastings, knowing why and how it was fought and how the result of the battle impacted the subsequent history of England might be of use in looking at the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Can we learn any lessons from Viet Nam, Afghanistan, and Iraq that will enable us to make better decisions about the value of those strategies?

We need to change the questions we ask our students and the way we pose them, not only in class, but also on assessments. There is an old axiom that applies; “You get what you pay for.” Since educational institutions get ‘paid’ for good assessments, they will structure the teaching and learning activities to produce what is assessed. So we need to do less assessing of who, what, when, and where; and start doing a better job of assessing students’ mastery of why and how.

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STEM , Education Supports Racial and Ethnic Equality in STEM

I attended a workshop at the Brookings Institute on this subject. The press reported it , but they did not give it much space or report some of the new ideas that are in place in thinking about STEM education. It is not just the US that has this problem. I know this from working in many countries as a part of WSIS, and the role of science in the information society.

While we have many kinds of new technologies that people take time to learn, the culture of learning in the US is not about STEM , so far. Robotics have made a leapfrog, but since most teachers in the lower grades are women, you cannot take that as a step to engineering for granted.

Here is the link to the report.  US Dept of Commerce   www.esa.doc.gov

There are actually three reports within the esa site. You can also read this blog.

http://www.esa.doc.gov/Blog/2011/09/13/education-promotes-racial-and-ethnic-equality-science-tech-engineering-and-math-jobs

Three important things to learn from the data.

K-12 all through K-12 we should be teaching and giving examples of STEM initiatives.

We used to say, or the people in charge used to only mostly targer students in the higher grades.

That does not work. Remarkably this is now being understood.

Teachers deserve respect for their jobs and interestingly enough in math there is a group that compensates math teachers  for being math teachers.

Math for America is the project he founded. I put the link here for those without broadband.

Math for America (MƒA) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to improve mathematics education in US public secondary schools by recruiting, training and retaining outstanding mathematics teachers. Founded in New York City in 2004, MƒA also has sites located inBerkeleyBostonLos AngelesSan DiegoUtah and Washington, DC. MƒA offers Fellowships for new and experienced teachers and school leaders, including: the MƒA Fellowship, which aims to increase the number of mathematically talented individuals entering the teaching profession; the MƒA Early Career Fellowship and the MƒA Master Teacher Fellowship, which support outstanding mathematics teachers already in the classroom; and the MƒA School Leader Fellowship, which is designed to support experienced mathematics teachers who have moved into administrative positions and oversee mathematics instruction in their schools.

Engineering

Dr. Charles M. Vest is the president of the National Academy of Engineering and president emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He shared this from the National Academy of Sciences.

 A report released in July  by the National Research Council presents a new framework for K-12 science education that identifies the key scientific ideas and practices all students should learn by the end of high school.  The framework will serve as the foundation for new K-12 science education standards, to replace those issued more than a decade ago.  The National Research Council is the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering; all three are independent, nongovernmental organizations. The committee that wrote the report sees the need for significant improvements in how science is taught in the U.S.  The new framework is designed to help students gradually deepen their knowledge of core ideas in four disciplinary areas over multiple years of school, rather than acquire shallow knowledge of many topics.  And it strongly emphasizes the practices of science – helping students learn to plan and carry out investigations, for example, and to engage in argumentation from evidence. 

 

The overarching goal of the framework, the committee said, is to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science, the capacity to discuss and think critically about science-related issues, and the skills to pursue careers in science or engineering if they want to do so — outcomes that existing educational approaches are ill-equipped to achieve.

 

“Currently, science education in the U.S. lacks a common vision of what students should know and be able to do by the end of high school, curricula too often emphasize breadth over depth, and students are rarely given the opportunity to experience how science is actually done,” said Helen Quinn, committee chair and professor emerita of physics at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Stanford, Calif.  “The new framework is designed to address and overcome these weaknesses.  It builds on what is known to work best in science education, based on research and classroom experience both in the U.S.and around the world.  It provides a blueprint that will guide improvements in science education over many years.”

 

From NIST Tech Beat ( Last summer’s offer)

NIST Summer Institute for Middle School Science Teachers Accepting Applications

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is soliciting nominations of middle school science teachers from eligible U.S. public school districts or accredited private educational institutions to participate in the NIST Summer Institute for Middle School Science Teachers. The NIST Summer Institute provides hands-on activities, lectures, tours and visits with scientists and engineers in NIST laboratories.

The Summer Institute will be held at the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, Md., from July 18 to 29, 2011.

The two-week workshop is designed to increase teachers’ understanding of the subjects they teach through exposure to the cutting-edge measurement science research pursued at NIST. The workshop provides teachers with instructional materials and ideas to use in their teaching, experience in how scientific research is carried out, and an opportunity to develop an ongoing network with the scientists and engineers at NIST. NIST provides a $2,000 stipend for teachers attending the workshop and travel and lodging funds for those traveling more than 50 miles to the workshop.

U.S. public school districts or accredited private educational institutions that offer science courses such as earth science, physical science, chemistry, physics and/or biologyat the middle school level (Grades 6-8) are eligible to nominate no more than one teacher per school for the program. Applications are due by 3 p.m. Eastern Time, on Thursday, March 24, 2011.

NIST also is soliciting nominations from school districts or educational institutions of middle school science teachers who have successfully completed the NIST Summer Institute to participate in the NIST Research Experience for Teachers (NIST RET) program. The NIST RET will allow the selected teachers to participate in scientific research with NIST scientists and engineers at the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, Md., that will encourage the teachers to inspire their students to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

So you can put that on your agenda to look at for the offerings next year.

If you are interested in the elementary level, or the new standards, look here.

A Framework for K-12 Science Education  for those without broadband http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13165

http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13165

Charles Giancarlo sahred with us the concern of meeting the needs of the businesses that do not have

the degrees and knowhow that is needed. He said that companies have to go abroad to find these workers. We had a long discussion on the lack of diversity and the rationale for companies to seek employees outside of the US and the problems that it causes and the  current problem is that the workers cannot stay and that others come, learn and then go home and earn, also taking their new ideas to their countries.

The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H). It allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. If a foreign worker in H-1B status quits or is dismissed from the sponsoring employer, the worker must either apply for and be granted a change of status to another non-immigrant status, find another employer (subject to application for adjustment of status and/or change of visa), or leave the United States.

The regulations define a “specialty occupation” as requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor[1]including but not limited to architectureengineeringmathematicsphysical sciencessocial sciencesbiotechnologymedicine and healtheducationlaw, accounting, business specialties, theology, and the arts, and requiring the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent as a minimum[2] (with the exception of fashion models, who must be “of distinguished merit and ability”

Great teachers and great schools have the ability to transform the living standard of Americans.  Over the past century, investments in education have boosted the productivity and earnings of American workers, forged a path out of poverty for many families, and developed a productive and innovative workforce.  However, those gains have stagnated and even declined in recent years.  Despite one of the highest rates of per-pupil spending among industrialized countries, the United States ranks as mediocre on most measures of student achievement.

We spent more per person on incarceration than education per person.

Here is the Brookings Institute summary of the event.

The need for better science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teacher training and investment was emphasized today at a Brookings Institution forum on the topic. Dr. Rebecca Blank, the Acting Secretary of Commerce, presented several Commerce reports showing the importance of STEM education for job creation and economic development, and significant underrepresentation in the field for women, African-Americans, and Hispanics. Its report on “Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation” found that STEM workers were 76 percent male and only 24 percent female. A new report released today on “Education Supports Racial and Ethnic Equality in STEM” noted that 74 percent of STEM workers are male, compared to 6 percent who are Hispanic, 6 percent African-American, and 14 percent Asian-American. She noted the importance of the United States doing a better job attracting students into STEM fields and the need to reach out to under-represented communities. Since STEM workers earn a premium of 25 percent over other workers and have only a 5.5 percent unemployment rate, there are strong economic incentives to get more people into STEM fields.

Jim Simons, the founder of Math for America and board chairman of Renaissance Technologies, discussed his non-profit’s interest in improving teacher training in high school STEM courses. He said we need “knowledgeable and inspiring teachers” and that today we have a “shortage of such teachers”. The way to make STEM teaching more attractive so instructors do a better job introducing students to science and math is “higher pay and better working conditions”. Math for America proposes bonuses and stipends for high school STEM teachers and has provided funding for this across the country. The organization helps 350 math teachers in New York City and hopes to raise that figure to between 700 and 800 in the near future.

Charles Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering and MIT president emeritus. He pointed out that South Korea graduates more engineers than the United States and the China graduates 10 times as many as America. In many Asian countries, 21 percent of college graduates are engineers, compared to 12 percent in Europe and 4.5 percent in the United States.

Charles Giancarlo is managing director and head of value creation for Silver Lake Partners. He noted that Cisco (where he used to serve as executive vice president) employs 24,000 engineers and Silver Lake Partner’s companies employ 87,000. Yet the United States graduates only 86,000 engineers, indicating a mismatch between supply and demand. He also explained that 35 percent of graduates are foreign born, yet we only provide 85,000 H-1b visas for scientists and engineers so many foreign students who would like to stay in the United States are forced to return to their home country. This robs the United States of valuable talent and sources of future innovation and job creation.

ADD YOUR VIEW

My view is at the top of the event and I believe that urban, rural, distant and gender .. we have a lot to do to change the face of education.

Bonnie Bracey Sutton

Two Americas, Two Ways of Thinking About Education?And Technology?

There was  a recent headline that concerns me.

Do ‘top’ college graduates really make better teachers?

Teachers have been a target this year and most of the time, after responding to few blogs, I gave up on trying to share the inequalities in teaching based on location,the population being served, the difference in economics, income , access and permission within the field. We should also cite access to supportive in technology use and tools. A lot of the people talking to teachers on the Internet , don’t even know that access is a problem in the US.

ACCESS IS A PROBLEM

This was shared by the Chairman of the FCC at a New Foundation Event in DC about broadband.

In the US  lots of people think everyone has access to Broadband. That is still a national goal. People however treat educators as if there is broadband everywhere. Note that I sometimes put the URL though we know how to make it clickable. In rural and distant areas people are still using dial up.

Julius Genachowski 

 BARRIERS TO USE

Affordability: 36 percent of non-adopters, or 28 million adults, said
they do not have home broadband because the monthly fee is too
expensive (15 percent), they cannot afford a computer, the installation
fee is too high (10 percent), or they do not want to enter into a
long-term service contract (9 percent). According to survey
respondents, their average monthly broadband bill is $41.

Digital Literacy: 22 percent of non-adopters, or 17 million adults,
indicated that they do not have home broadband because they lack the
digital skills (12 percent) or they are concerned about potential
hazards of online life, such as exposure to inappropriate content or
security of personal information (10 percent)

The blocking of school sites is a national problem for those who have access to broadband.

Relevance: 19 percent of non-adopters, or 15 million adults, said they
do not have broadband because they say that the Internet is a waste of
time, there is no online content of interest to them or, for dial-up
users, they are content with their current service.

Digital Hopefuls, all of the people who hope to be able to use technology in the future but who are not a part of the digital revolution. We cannot fail to reference Cyberbullying, perhaps in the cloak of Digital Citizenship. Schools are in fear about online safety.

Insulting Teachers it the new sport.  

Some of the insults I take personally. No one ever went into teaching for the money.

I have lots of awards, citations, workshops and have participated in  national initiatives. I went to Virginia State College, an HBCU. You may not be aware of MSO’s, Minority Serving Institutions. Those of us who are across the digital divide , and the education divide have had to work really, really hard to be a part of the conversation in education. My inspiration was my mother who felt marginalized by a rural education. She went to college and became a teacher.  She worked in the area of rural Virginia that closed down rather than accept the integration of schools. She felt that the ten and twenty year old books that she was given to teach with were not the best tools for learning. Of course there was no Internet.

My uncle taught at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Back then Einstein used to drive to the college to inspire the minority students to learn physics. The lack of lab resources was his concern. Einstein packed things in his car and made the trip to teach the students of Lincoln.

My digital divide now is tools. I do not have the most recent of all digital tools, but that makes me understand the people who don’t have but the Powerpoint reader, or who only have free software. Checked the price of a professional Microsoft suite lately?Price of the conferences , plus travel and hotel? Every teacher does not get to attend the big conferences. Economics is a big concern , and I imagine that the people who attend the best universities get the latest of tools of all kinds. There are people who help  teachers by sponsoring grants, like the people at EDC who set the vision of the possibilities, and Manorama Talaiver who works to create equity  from Longwood University in rural Virginia.

But, I digress, look  below and  read the whole article and then think of all the people who worked in MSO’s , minority serving institutions, each with a different set of missions. Is this another kind of prejudice? I think so. Maybe another divide. We often think of all the divides that separate us, the information divide, the technology divide, the resource divide, the support / technical divide. But now we are being told by some that top universities produce the best teachers. Think again.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IS A PROBLEM!!

Think of teachers as the help who often need support and don’t get it.
If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.  ~Donald D. Quinn

What makes a great teacher? Here is one of mine. A relative of students I had in class who mentored me . The children told me he knew more physics than I, so I wrote to him, and he sent me videos, and eventually came to visit.  We worked together later for President Clinton.

One of my mentors, his young relatives were in my class .

Bill Nye the Science Guy

As a teacher in some instances, you are always learning; especially with transformation in the way of the use of technology.  Technology is a moving target.

Sources of Information and Training? Sometimes Great Universities!

At George Mason, when Chris Dede was there, he worked with the schools in the community to make a difference. It was not one way. We went to his classes to talk to preservice teachers as well.The students visited our classes and learned from us. He is at Harvard now, but he was user-friendly to the learning community in our area.

Many of us have learned a lot from the University of Illinois, because the National Center for Supercomputing is there. It has been invisible learning because the media hardly acknowledges Supercomputing. Weather models,  earthquake patterns, tsunami examples,  visualization and modeling, the features are used in the news, without mention. How wonderful it would be if the science was acknowledged. Norm Augustine tells the story of the Senator who said that we did not need NASA because his local weather station could provide the data we need to know about weather.  The stations don’t acknowledge often , the source of their super doppler information.

I never attended the University of Illinois but. The universities have outreach to America. Most of us are in learning mode from resources that are for teaching and learning. The problem has always been the lack of sustained professional development. Some people think that a 2 hour explanation of a topic is sustained professional development. There is so much support available from interested groups, But, you must have enough broadband to reach out and be touched. Also , I hate to say this, but a lot of in service within school systems is not so effective.  Here are some good resources that have teacher outreach and training in mind.

One example:   Bugscope  http://bugscope.beckman.uiuc.edu/

Another powerful examplehttp://mynasa.nasa.gov/portal/site/mynasa/index.jsp?bandwidth=high

National Geographic.   http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/?ar_a=1&ar_r=1

Thinkfinity     http://www.thinkfinity.org/

River City   http://muve.gse.harvard.edu/rivercityproject/index.html

Fieldscope  http://www.fieldscope.org/scop

Scalable Game Design Alexander Repenning’s Project

http://scalablegamedesign.cs.colorado.edu/gamewiki/index.php/Scalable_Game_Design_wiki

Dr. Henry Neeman  and Scott Lathrop who chairs the Supercomputing Conference reach out to help create a Supercomputing program for educators during the Supercomputing Conference, and there is Broadening engagement as well. These are researchers who want to help transform teaching and learning.

There are teachers who do not know these sites or people as resources. I could share a thousand more. School systems often do not use these as resources. Why ever not? There is no excuse for teachers not knowing except that the riches of the Internet and professional development are limited in many school systems . Technology is one thing , content is another. Time is another. The benefit of social media is that we share. The benefit of social media are the tools we use to teach each other.

Some say that the vendors own education since NCLB. Testing is the focus and has been since its  inception.

         SOME PEOPLE ARE LOOKING AT THE TOOLS, NOT INFORMED PRACTICE

Sustained Support? Where Found? transformational Learning? Blooms Digital Taxonomy,  TPACK? Chris Dede takes us into the future here. http:/www.nebhe.org/info/pdf/reinventing/Chris_Dede_10-4-10.pdf

All of the technology gurus need to think about deep content.

What is TPACK?

Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) attempts to identify the nature of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration in their teaching, while addressing the complex, multifaceted and situated nature of teacher knowledge. At the heart of the TPACK framework, is the complex interplay of three primary forms of knowledge: Content (CK), Pedagogy (PK), and Technology (TK). See Figure above. As must be clear, the TPACK framework builds on Shulman’s idea of Pedagogical Content Knowledge. How many teachers know about it?

Here is the Tpack Image. IMAGE Lots to learn here.

There is an organization that supports teacher knowledge. It is SITE.org. AACE

Some of my teachers are from colleges and universities all over the US. We learn in our SIG’s and groups. It is not just about a conference. It is about collaboration, creation of new ideas and community.

Those groups that partner with educators to make a difference provide the best support. Unfortunately supervisors in schools want their signature on the professional development being offered, or do not know of the efforts of the National Geographic, NSTA, NCTM, Supercomputing, CSTA and other enabling groups. 

Why does professional development need help? Teaching and learning has undergone transformational change. It is not your grandmother’s school, or my mother’s idea of school.

Many of us attended , lots of courses from NASA, most from the University of Oklahoma.. Marc Prensky talks about how we in education learn from linking with other groups, associations and those interested in the subjects we are teaching. School systems do not always have the link or knowledge and that is why we have the National School Boards Association, and ASCD, and the various other organizations that break down the areas of isolation in education. But who can afford to attend all of the conferences? Those of us across the digital divide appreciate the online resources.

A stunning example of help is at the Shodor.org site. Computational thinking and learning. In particular, see, Interactivate.

There are people like Idit Caperton working from the various universities to help rural and poor teachers using the teacher network in a project entitled Globaloria. , or Chris Dede who works widely, sharing their messages in conferences , convenings and meetings. Probably most teachers don’t get to attend the meetings, because of costs, but we do have Facebook, G+ and organizations which are where we  , the regular people interested in education work to learn as education changes and transforms.

My concern about it is that there are excellent teachers who did not go to the best colleges  or universities.  More that many teachers did not get the best of professional development. Whose fault is that? 

We know that lots of people have a skill in teaching that is intuitive. There are lots of very smart people who cannot teach. They have the information, but they don’t know how to share, or even worse, don’t know how to frame their knowledge into ideational scaffolding for learning.  Do read the whole article. Lots of support to my concerns are here. I like to say that there are smart people who cannot teach their way out of a wet paper bag. But that would be rude as it is only a small set of people . We probably don’t know of the people who cannot teach. There is little feedback from those who are taught.

Do ‘top’ college graduates really make better teachers?

This was written by Matthew Di Carlo, senior fellow at the non-profit Albert Shanker Institute, located in Washington, D.C. This postoriginally appeared on the institute’s blog.

By Matthew Di Carlo

One of the few issues that all sides in the education debate agree upon is the desirability of attracting “better people” into the teaching profession. While this certainly includes the possibility of using policy to lure career-switchers, most of the focus is on attracting “top” candidates right out of college or graduate school.

The common metric that is used to identify these “top” candidates is their pre-service (especially college) characteristics and performance. Most commonly, people call for the need to attract teachers from the “top third” of graduating classes, an outcome that is frequently cited as being the case in high-performing nations such as Finland. Now, it bears noting that “attracting better people,” like “improving teacher quality,” is a policy goal, not a concrete policy proposal — it tells us what we want, not how to get it. And how to make teaching more enticing for “top” candidates is still very much an open question (as is the equally important question of how to improve the performance of existing teachers).

More segregation, dividing of the nation and educational misleading.

I adore some of the people in great institutions who have shared, resources, materials , workshops and initiatives. The problem is that education is ever-changing and subject to so many influences from people who do not  know schools or what happens in them.

Working with the Teragrid on the National Mall

Outreach to the public .

MAIN IDEA

 Now comes the idea that only people who attend the better schools have the skills to teach?? Being a good teacher is a gift. Content can be given to Preservice students, but that does not alway translate into a better student  or an outstanding teacher.  There are a lot of very smart people who cannot teach because they don’t understand students, their culture, or how students get motivated to learn.

Teaching is a combination of many elements. The school you go to does not make you a good teacher. It gives you contacts, networks and resources , hopefully. In a classroom , you are on your own. The variables in a school setting are so many even the best teacher may have to adjust, recover, revise and rework , ideas in education.

It is class, race, competency, language skills, the interest of the parents, the local resources, the spending within the community , the level of technology infusion, integration and teacher education and the support within the learning community. Few people talk about the real problems in education.

The application of people skills is as necessary as is content, and the skill of multitasking, and of being able to give and take and to integrate practice , performance and pedagogy  into a school day..

Schools are a community in the  learning landscape. Here is the good news. Networking allows me to share the reality of schools and actually some of the mystery of why teachers just either quit, or conform. Dr. Chris Dede, when at George Mason University, did outreach to the communities and that was how lots of us got training in technology. He invited us in, but he also came to our classes. The university partnered in a project with local school systems. Dr. Dede was always ahead of his time most of the school systems did not follow-up on his model.

 There comes a point in time when you have to decide , who is teaching this class, and what is it that I want to do, as often , the political winds shift in strange directions. Sometimes I am in rooms of PhD students who really get it.Sometimes, I know that they are PhD students, and that may mean that they cannot see all the way down to the classroom. If they ever had experiences in the classroom, they did not include newer ways of working, except what they studied.

I insisted on teaching science and problem solving math and thinking about computational sciences. I was right, but what a price I paid. I don’t regret it, but then to see the people who accepted it be thrown out of teaching and learning because they are considered not teaching STEM. It is unbelievable. I did not bow to testing as the reason for teaching. I did the tests and my students did well, but we had SO much testing.

Many of the people pushing NCLB have since changed their minds and are  now eloquent in their new  disbelief of the policy they gave to the nation. Thank goodness.

A generation of students and teachers have been lost by this time.

We who teach, know that the administrators set the tone of learning in a building, that the School Boards help to create the learning landscape and oversee curriculum  in a school system, that there are also the State mandates, and the effects of the Department of Education as there are fundings and programs that overlay everything we do. I have been through the various fashions or modes  in education, theme based, support of Gifted and Talented, Cooperative Teaching, Team Teaching, and I have worked in specialized schools.I have worked in a charter school, and tried to help with a DC Charter School with was an absolute failure. As you work through education you cannot have an opinion or you may find yourself without a job, support or funding. It does not matter if you are right. You have to be politically correct and sometimes that is.. well think, of the politics in a local school. It is often why teachers leave.

Who is the principal , who are the teachers that are liked in the community, who are the hard-working teachers who create miracles, and what is the sense of the school in working together?

There is a project that holds forth much hope if the project is ever funded, beyond the Tracy Learning Center. It is a model that has been in the works for a long time. It is the idea of a person called Jack Taub, who died this year the founder of the Source, which became America Online.. We who know of his dream keep the idea going forth. You can read about it at Emaginos.com.

The Tracy Learning Center is a charter school located in TracyCaliforniaUSA. Serving students in grades K12, it was founded in 2001 and had an enrollment of 125 students.[1] Charter status was awarded in June 2002.[2] It was decided, in June 2003, to relocate the Tracy Learning Center to the Clover Middle School site and to expand it to become a K–12 charter school.[3] Expansion of the school was completed in 2007, with the addition of the senior class, that took numbers up to 850.[1]

Tracy Learning Center

For the 2011-12 school year, the Tracy Learning Center has a population of over 1100 students K-12. It continues to be one of the highest ranked schools in San Joaquin County.It is a charter school, but we intend for it to go public. Teachers are in charge of the school.

WHY IS TEACHING SCIENCE A PROBLEM?

What happened to Science? Remember that tracking I told you about? People want to find the eleventh graders. Well to be a child in the upper grades interested in science on has to start somewhere. K-12 distribution of science is necessary . 

Sadly, in most of the schools in the nation, science is not a welcome subject. I put it in my curriculum using NASA, National Geographic Society Initiatives such as Kidsnetwork, NOAA weather and sea initiatives, and various NSTA resources.

When I was working in Arlington, there was the pressure of the parents to do new and exciting things in the use of technology. I learned a lot from parents, from one parent who taught me photography, from another who helped me learn to garden. Another teacher I will never forget was a Japanese teacher who came to teach the class and I about Japan, she had artifacts, taught us calligraphy, and all the time was working a meal. I was stunned. She was from the Smithsonian. Hmnn.. another way to involve and invite students. Never learned it in formal education.I incorporated cultural elements into my teaching practice because of her.

Dr. Embry was a forensic biologist who worked to reconstruct dinosaurs. How cool was it that we were able to learn from him at the Smithsonian. He offered, I accepted. Foot in the classroom and then we went to the Smithsonian to watch him work!!

Segregation by race is a national problem!

.When teaching students who were not gifted and talented science , geography, history were not allowed for the students on certain tracks.

Here is a study done by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.The report, Achievement Trap: How America Is Failing Millions of High-Achieving Students From Lower-Income Families, written by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and Civic Enterprises with original research by Westat, focuses on the educational experiences of high-achieving lower-income students from 1st grade through graduate school. A goal of the report was to examine the numbers of students considered low-income high achievers and to understand how these students were being educated. Using three federal longitudinal studies [Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K), The National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS), and The Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B)], students were categorized as high-achievers and further divided into either a higher-income or lower-income group. At this forum, presenters discussed results from the report, comparing the persistence rates, defined as students’ ability to remain in the top quartile of achievers, and improvement rates, defined as students’ ability to move from the bottom three quartiles  to the top quartile of achievers, both from higher- and lower-income families.  The report details the tracking, the dumbing down and the loss of those students who could make a difference in education.

And teachers? Do you see many of us minorities at the conferences presenting? We are “Ralph Ellison” invisible. We are not invited to the table. Broadening Engagement starts to solve the problem. If we are there it is often because we are passionate enough about education to invest in conferences where we are NOT invited. ASCD conferences are more diverse. I also like the resources, that try to combine the two America visions. Here is a book, 

Two offerings from ASCD

THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF EQUITABLE PRACTICES DVD

TEACHING WITH POVERTY IN MIND: WHAT BEING POOR DOES TO KIDS’ BRAINS AND WHAT SCHOOLS CAN DO ABOUT IT

The Need To Transform K-12 Education

As President Obama recently told Congress and the American people,

“In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity — it is a prerequisite. Today, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish. This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow.”

 I learned that with technology I could reach students with technology who had been restricted to only reading , and math. Tracking is a problem that has been a part of American schools. It was one way to solve the problem of integration. Two schools in one, one for the kids who “could” and one for the people found to be lacking . Tracking is still a big problem. 

 I  also learned the politics of place and power in schools. The NEA rescued me, my union protected me from terrible on the job problems.  I am grateful for their involvement. Teachers don’t usually tell the bad stories. We just move, leave teaching or try to find another school.

Who has the tools? Are they affordable?  I had the science tools. I was a demonstration teacher for AAAS and my principal had my kits and resources thrown out of the window. This was Marge Tracy at Ashlawn. Fortunately , the custodian retrieved most of my things and put them in his truck. We secretly smuggled the things to places in the school where they could be kept and not disposed of. I had microscopes , hands on resources. Her thing was reading out of the book. She considered hands on a ridiculous waste of time. Since I was working with the George Lucas Educational Foundation , I was hearing, listening and learning from the best people in the country. But that nor the fact that I worked for the NIIAC worked to make principals accept science, math, and problem solving computational thinking. 

Finally, I left the school. The principal set the tone and I knew that she was going to transfer me. Being a principal gives you the power to cast out the teachers you do not like or respect. There are others who can tell even worse stories. It is a humiliating thing. It is the reason lots of people leave teaching.

RESEARCH STORY

The Achievement Trap, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

The report, Achievement Trap: How America Is Failing Millions of High-Achieving Students From Lower-Income Families, written by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and Civic Enterprises with original research by Westat, focuses on the educational experiences of high-achieving lower-income students from 1st grade through graduate school. A goal of the report was to examine the numbers of students considered low-income high achievers and to understand how these students were being educated. Using three federal longitudinal studies [Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K), The National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS), and The Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B)], students were categorized as high-achievers and further divided into either a higher-income or lower-income group. At this forum, presenters discussed results from the report, comparing the persistence rates, defined as students’ ability to remain in the top quartile of achievers, and improvement rates, defined as students’ ability to move from the bottom three quartiles  to the top quartile of achievers, both from higher- and lower-income families.  The report details the tracking, thedumbing down and the loss of those students who could make a difference in education.And teachers? 

Sadly, from the time they enter grade school through their postsecondary education, these students lose more educational ground and excel less frequently than their higher-income peers. Despite this tremendous loss in achievement, these remarkable young people are hidden from public view and absent from public policy debates. Instead of being recognized for their excellence and encouraged to strengthen their achievement, high achieving lower-income students enter what we call the “achievement trap”—educators, policymakers, and the public assume they can fend for themselves when the facts show otherwise.

http://www.jackkentcookefoundation.o…ent%20Trap.pdf

OThis is a student who was at a special project, School Expo and she was able to use technology she had never seen.
Using any means possible to explore technology

 

Who is connected to be involved? Who has the funding to join the organizations that are pioneering the work?  

 Bonnie Bracey Sutton