Archive for the 'writing' Category

23rd 2014
Building a Well-Rounded Education: Field Trips and Hamlet with Dr. Jay Greene

Posted under reading & Research & writing

Sometimes my mom pokes fun at my dad for being a little portly. His response is always the same: “I’m just a well-rounded individual.” But while my dad’s goal (every year) is to make himself narrower around the middle, that may be exactly the opposite of what we want to see in our children’s education.

Jay Greene, already one of my favorite academics due to his work on school choice, has most recently taken to arguing for wider ranging liberal (no, not that kind of liberal) education in American schools. He begins a recent post on the topic thusly:

Some people seem determined to narrow education.  I’ve been trying to make the case for a well-rounded, liberal education, but that idea has less support than I realized.  In their effort to maximize math and reading test scores, schools have sometimes narrowed their focus at the expense of the arts and humanities.

That narrowing focus often cuts programs like art, music, drama, field trips, and extracurricular activities. Continue Reading »

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1st 2012
NY High School Success Calls for Look at Old-Fashioned Writing Instruction

Posted under Edublogging & Grades and Standards & High School & Independence Institute & learning & PPC & Teachers & Urban Schools & writing

Some of you out there probably think I’m starting to get lazy. Just pick out an education-themed article and point you two it, then head along on my way. But this one I couldn’t resist. A new piece in The Atlantic magazine by Peg Tyre gets at the nitty-gritty of learning and knowledge through telling one school’s story at trying something that used to be common in American education and largely proved successful.

What is the secret for New Dorp High School in Staten Island, New York? An intense focus on actually teaching students how to write, rather than just hoping they’ll “catch” it by doing some creative assignments. Maybe it is a “revolution,” seeing as how everything old happens to become new again:

…Fifty years ago, elementary-school teachers taught the general rules of spelling and the structure of sentences. Later instruction focused on building solid paragraphs into full-blown essays. Some kids mastered it, but many did not. About 25 years ago, in an effort to enliven instruction and get more kids writing, schools of education began promoting a different approach. The popular thinking was that writing should be “caught, not taught,” explains Steven Graham, a professor of education instruction at Arizona State University. Roughly, it was supposed to work like this: Give students interesting creative-writing assignments; put that writing in a fun, social context in which kids share their work. Kids, the theory goes, will “catch” what they need in order to be successful writers. Formal lessons in grammar, sentence structure, and essay-writing took a back seat to creative expression.

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24th 2011
Education Sector Report Adds Valuable Perspective on Colorado Growth Model

Posted under Independence Institute & learning & math & Parents & PPC & reading & Research & School Accountability & writing

The first time I heard of the Colorado Growth Model, I thought maybe it would be a scientific system to help determine how tall I would grow up to be in our high-altitude environment. No, we’re talking about our state’s system for measuring student progress toward proficiency in math, reading and writing, sorted by district and school. So I was more than just a bit off. You could sue me, but it wouldn’t get you very far.

Anyway, the reason I bring up the topic is a brand-new Education Sector report titled Growth Models and Accountability: A Recipe for Remaking ESEA. The report’s hook and chief case study is Denver’s Bruce Randolph School, and a significant chunk of the report is focused entirely on (you guessed it) the Colorado Growth Model. That’s why my Education Policy Center friends gave it such close attention. Co-author Kevin Carey was kind enough to spend a few minutes on the phone with Ben DeGrow to explain a few things and answer some questions.

It’s safe to say the authors of the Education Sector reports are high on the Colorado Growth Model as exemplary for other states to follow. As the report notes, a consortium of 14 states has inexpensively done just that, thanks to Colorado’s use of open-source software to display the data for public consumption. Carey and co-author Robert Manwaring gave our state’s growth model lofty praise for user-friendliness and accessibility: Continue Reading »


13th 2010
Sen. Keith King Chimes In on Colorado Adopting Common Core Standards

Posted under Federal Government & Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & PPC & State Board of Education & State Legislature & writing

Not to spend too much time today dwelling in the past — it’s been 11 days now since the State Board regretfully adopted the Common Core standards — but I felt impelled to bring your attention to a guest column in today’s Denver Post. State senator Keith King, a charter school administrator and education expert, explained why he believes last week’s State Board vote forfeited a chance for Colorado to be an education leader:

This capitulation to national standards in pursuit of federal funds is misguided. Colorado could have led the nation in setting high standards for our public schools, not jump on the bandwagon of uncertain, still-evolving national standards.

Following the pied piper of new federal funding has proven to be a trap many times in the past. When will we stop being enticed into federal programs with some up-front federal funding and then be left hanging when those initial funds run out?

Besides the obvious problem of relying on federal funds that soon will disappear, Senator King raised a specific point I haven’t seen discussed much. Namely, that Colorado’s own high-quality writing standards figure to be forfeited once our state begins relying on regional or national assessments. I think we all can agree students need improved writing skills. It’s very hard to see how Common Core gets our state there.

On a related note, Debi Brazzale of the Colorado News Agency reported yesterday on the skepticism of rural superintendents toward the adoption of Common Core. She must have heard our recent 10-minute iVoices podcast (MP3) with Kit Carson school district “chief” Gerald Keefe.

Parting question for the weekend: Does this development mean Colorado is getting ready to part ways with the long-established principle of “local control” of public schools? If so, what would the implications be?

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