Tag Archives: L1

RIP Jaime Escalante, 1930–March 30 2010

Jaime Escalante was born in La Paz, Bolivia in 1930. Both of his parents were teachers who worked in a small Aymara Indian village called Achacachi. He became a teacher himself, and developed a widespread reputation for excellence during 12 years of teaching math and physics in Bolivia.

Click to play video.

Mr. Escalante’s many teaching awards include the Presidential Medal for Excellence in Education, the Andres Bello Prize from the Organization of American States and the Free Spirit Award from the Freedom Forum, a foundation affiliated with USA Today and dedicated to the preservation of the First Amendment. He was also inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame in 1999.

In the spring of 1998, Mr. Escalante announced his retirement from teaching.

Mr. Escalante passed away on Tuesday, March 30, 2010.

In 1974, Mr. Escalante was hired as a basic mathematics teacher at Garfield High School, a troubled inner-city school in East Los Angeles. His spectacular success teaching advanced mathematics to gang members and other students who had been considered "unteachable" attracted national attention. When his story was told in the acclaimed film "Stand and Deliver" (1988), Escalante became a national hero.
From 1974 until 1991, Mr. Escalante taught in the L.A. Unified School System. From 1991 until 1998, he taught algebra and calculus for the Sacramento Unified School District.
To reach more students, he became the host of the acclaimed PBS television series, "FUTURES". "FUTURES" introduces students to the exciting and astonishing variety of math and science-based careers. It became one of the most popular classroom programs in the history of PBS and has been honored with more than 50 awards from educational and professional organizations including the highest honor in the broadcasting field, the George Foster Peabody Award. He also appeared in two family specials for PBS, "Math…Who Needs It?!" and "Living and Working in Space: The Countdown Has Begun." Both have received multiple awards and continue to be popular among teachers, parents and students.
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Meece & Daniels, Chapter Overviews


Chapter overviews taken from http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0073525766/student_view0/

Chapter 1 Overview:  Studying Child and Adolescent Development

What teachers believe about child development varies considerably and influences their teaching practices in the classroom. Children represent a large proportion of the poor population in the United States, and more and more of our schoolchildren are from African American, Latino, and other minority backgrounds. These changing demographics have significant implications for our schools.

Child development experts use various theories to explain the changes that occur over time in children. These theories differ in both the approaches they adopt and the conclusions they draw about key issues in child development. There are biological, psychoanalytic, behavioral, cognitive, contextual, social-cultural, and ecological theories about children’s development. It is important for teachers to have knowledge of all the various theories because children’s behavior is better explained by a combination of theories than by any one theory alone.

It is also important that teachers be skilled at judging the quality of research studies in the area of child development so they can be critical consumers of the research they encounter at conferences and in articles. Child development has been studied using various research designs and methods of data collection. Each has advantages and disadvantages and should be chosen based on the questions the study seeks to answer. Research studies involving children and adults must follow a set of ethical guidelines, and it is important for potential teachers and parents to be aware of these.

Chapter 2 Overview:  Physical Development

Chapter 2 addresses the physical development that occurs from the prenatal period through adolescence. Development during this period is largely guided by genetics but is also influenced by interactions with the environment. During the prenatal period, genetic and chromosomal abnormalities can lead to genetic diseases and disorders. Environmental conditions such as maternal nutrition, alcohol consumption, or smoking can interfere with normal fetal development, putting the developing fetus at risk for various physical and cognitive disabilities.

The human brain continues to develop through early adulthood. The area of the brain that controls motor movement develops first; the largest part of the brain, the cerebral cortex, which controls thought processes, is the last to develop.

Students with specific learning disabilities or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) present special challenges to educators. It is important that teachers not treat students with learning disabilities as if they were lazy, irresponsible, or unintelligent. The causes of learning disabilities are difficult to determine, but research indicates that they are influenced by heredity, problems during pregnancy, and incidents after birth.

Height, weight, and muscle mass are about the same for boys and girls until the onset of puberty. Puberty, the time when a young person becomes capable of sexual reproduction, brings about physical changes and often has a psychological impact on adolescents as well. Adults and children alike may evaluate children based on cultural stereotypes of physical attractiveness, affecting children’s social relationships and school achievement. Early or late physical maturation can be particularly stressful for young people, resulting in them feeling "out of sync" with their peers.

Several health problems can be of particular concern during childhood and adolescence, including eating disorders, obesity, substance abuse, adolescent sexuality and pregnancy, and depression and suicide. Researchers believe schools must play a larger role in preventing these problems.

Chapter 3 Overview:  Cognitive Development:  Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s Theories

Chapter 3 covers two major theories of cognitive development: those put forth by Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. Many current reforms in educational research are based on a constructivist approach to learning, whereby children must construct their own understandings of the world. Many of these reforms are based on research influenced by the theories of Piaget and Vygotsky.

Prior to the introduction of Piaget’s theory, children were thought to be passive organisms shaped and molded by their environment. Piaget taught us that children act as "little scientists," trying to make sense of their world through hands-on experimentation. He believed cognitive development involved not simply quantitative changes in facts and skills but rather major transformations in the way children organize knowledge and make sense of their world. These changes occurred, according to Piaget, in four major stages of development: sensorimotor, preoperations, concrete operations, and formal operations. Piaget believed all children proceed through the four stages in the same sequence, but that there is a great deal of individual and cultural variation in the amount of time children spend in a particular stage.

Lev Vygotsky was an early critic of Piaget’s theory. He believed that knowledge is not individually constructed but co-constructed between people as they interact. Social interactions with more knowledgeable peers and adults provide the main vehicles for intellectual development. He believed that language was the most important psychological tool influencing cognitive development. One of Vygotsky’s most important contributions to education is the zone of proximal development, which represents the gap between what children can do on their own and what they can do with the assistance of others. By working in a child’s "zone," an adult or more skilled peer can stretch a child’s ability to successfully complete a task through guided participation and scaffolding.

While both Piaget and Vygotsky agreed that knowledge must be mentally constructed by the child, Vygotsky placed much more emphasis on the role of social interactions and language in the construction process. Vygotsky also believed that learning precedes development, while Piaget believed that the stage of cognitive development limits what children are capable of learning.

Chapter 4 Overview:  Cognitive Development:  Information Processing and Intelligence Theories

In the last chapter the cognitive development theories of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky were covered, along with the contributions of these theories to current educational reforms and practices. Chapter 4 examines two additional theories of cognitive development—information processing and intelligence theories—and the implications of these theories for teachers.

Information processing theories focus on the flow of information through the cognitive system. Developmental changes in children’s attention, memory, problem-solving skills, and knowledge base are discussed, and the various components of the information processing system are described. The role of prior knowledge in cognitive development is also explored. Information processing theories provide us with a number of implications for teaching practice that can enhance children’s attentiveness, memory, and problem-solving skills.

While looking at broad theories of cognitive development it is important to keep in mind that there are individual differences in cognitive development. Chapter 4 addresses how cognitive differences are assessed and interpreted, different conceptions of intelligence, and stability and change in intelligence. The research related to genetic and environmental influences on intelligence is reviewed, examining such factors as the home environment, parenting behavior, and the effects of early intervention and later schooling on intelligence.

Ethnic and gender-based variations in intellectual abilities and academic achievement are described. Possible explanations for these variations are presented, along with the role that schools can take in creating learning environments that provide equal resources, encouragement, and opportunities to all children regardless of race, ethnic background, or gender. The chapter ends with a look at the role of computers in children’s learning.

Chapter 5 Overview:  Language and Literacy Development

Language development begins at birth. All children (except those with exceptional learning needs) acquire language. Adults foster language development in children by talking to them from birth, by reinforcing their efforts to engage in conversations, and by modeling language use. Children all follow a similar sequence of language development as they make and test hypotheses about language on their way to constructing the rules of their language.

Language is learned at home, but literacy, the ability to read and write, is typically learned at school. And while all children acquire language, not all children will become literate. The notion of emergent literacy holds that both spoken and written language are learned from birth. To promote literacy, young children need to have a print-rich environment and many informal opportunities to interact with print prior to formal literacy instruction in school. At school, teachers need to create print-rich classroom environments, provide many authentic reading and writing activities whose purpose is communication, and explicitly teach literacy skills and strategies.

Fostering language and literacy development in linguistically diverse populations can pose significant challenges to teachers. The interactional patterns in classrooms can be significantly different from those that children from linguistically diverse populations are accustomed to in their home and community, leaving students feeling confused, frustrated, and unable to participate. English language learners need a supportive school environment, and different instructional approaches must be used and customized for the diversity of the students served.

Chapter 6 Overview:  Self-Concept, Identity, and Motivation

Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development provides a framework for understanding children’s social and emotional development. As they mature, children face developmental issues that must be resolved. Parents play an important role in how their children resolve these issues. When parents are supportive and caring, children learn that the world is a place that can be trusted and that they are worthy of care and support, and they feel confident to explore their environment and initiate new activities. Inconsistent, overly strict, or overly permissive parenting is associated with negative resolution of developmental issues.

Schools play an important role in the development of children’s self-concepts and self-esteem. Current programs to promote positive self-esteem are cognitively based, focusing on the attributions students make for their successes and failures. Children with high self-esteem and positive self-concepts tend to be more highly motivated and more successful in school, while low levels of self-esteem are correlated with a range of problem behaviors, including poor school attendance and achievement, peer rejection, juvenile delinquency, loneliness, depression, and teenage pregnancy.

The developmental task to be resolved during adolescence and early adulthood is the formation of an identity. Adolescents must integrate childhood identities with personal desires and societal opportunities and expectations in order to develop a sense of who they are and who they will become. A positively valued ethnic identity is important for a strong, positive, and stable self-identity in minority youths.

Motivating students to learn is one of the most difficult problems teachers face. Achievement motivation has numerous definitions based on different motivational theories. Most contemporary theories of motivation focus on students’ beliefs, values, goals, and cognitive processes. An individual’s achievement motivation can be affected by differences in ability, early learning experiences, parenting practices, gender, ethnicity, race, and socioeconomic status. Students’ achievement motivation tends to decline as they progress in school.

Chapter 7 Overview:  Peer Relations and Moral Development

Children need to develop the ability to understand the perspective of others in order to form social relationships. By helping students understand the perspectives of others, teachers aid students in developing positive peer relations. Peer relations have an important influence on school success by enhancing children’s feelings of competence, efficacy, and self-worth. Poor peer relations can lead to low self-esteem, depression, poor school achievement, dropping out of school, and delinquent behavior. Children who are aggressive tend to be rejected by peers and have poor peer relations. Teachers can enhance positive peer relations in the classroom with the frequent use of cooperative learning activities, providing social skills training to neglected and rejected peers, and by modeling and reinforcing prosocial behavior in the classroom.

Teachers and schools influence children’s conceptions of moral behavior and ethical values. Kohlberg proposed a theory of moral development organized into three levels. Moral development, in Kohlberg’s view, progressed from self-centered, to rule-oriented, to principled reasoning. Carol Gilligan has challenged Kohlberg’s theory because it is based on men, and women may reason differently about moral dilemmas because of being socialized to consider the well-being of others, making judgments based on an ethic of care. Nel Noddings developed ideas about caring in schools based on the ethic of care. In her view, schools must become caring communities where children feel understood, respected, and recognized.

Character education and service learning programs are two increasingly popular ways for schools to foster the moral development of children and adolescents.

Chapter 8 Overview:  The Family:  Partners in Education

Families have the primary responsibility for socializing the child to be a productive and competent member of society. Children are increasingly being raised in single-parent families, often headed by single mothers facing economic difficulties.

There are cultural variations in family values and child-rearing practices. Generally speaking, African American families emphasize assertiveness, independence, and self-confidence. Hispanic American families value social harmony, interdependence, family obligation, conformity, and cooperation. Asian Americans also value social harmony and interdependence, as well as emphasizing academic success. Native American family values differ by tribe, but most families emphasize harmony and connectedness and respect for elders.

Family environments can be characterized by levels of warmth, responsiveness, and control. Constellations of parenting behaviors along these dimensions form parenting styles. An authoritative parenting style is associated with the most positive outcomes for children. During times of family transitions such as divorce and remarriage, schools can provide continuity and stability for children.

More mothers with children under 18 are working outside the home than ever before. Most studies show no negative effects on children’s development if the mother’s work is not associated with decreased monitoring of children’s activities, and if children receive high quality child care. After-school child care programs can lead to improved school attendance and achievement, particularly for low-income children.

Active parental involvement throughout their children’s education is important for school success. Teachers and schools should strive to involve parents at school through regular communication, recruiting classroom volunteers, encouraging parents to help children with learning at home, and including parents in school governance.

Chapter 9 Overview:  Supporting the Development of Children and Youth in School

The ecological model of human development introduced in Chapter 1 has been particularly influential in the recent school-reform model of James Comer and Edward Zigler, which have been combined into a single model referred to as CoZi. In keeping with the ecological model, emphasis is being placed on quality teacher-student relationships as integral to the school and life success of children and adolescents.

It is just as important that teachers do what they can to foster these relationships as it is for them to develop effective curriculums, instructional practices, and classroom management strategies. An understanding of child and adolescent development is essential to achieving this goal.

Classroom teachers actively participate in identifying the special learning needs of their students and figuring out how to accommodate them. These accommodations can take the form of teacher-directed, peer-assisted, or self-directed learning.

Together with families and neighborhood communities, schools play a vital role in fostering resiliency and promoting healthy development in children and adolescents. Middle schools and high schools that are successful in doing this have many factors in common, including, among other things, positive student-teacher relations, high expectations for all students, active partnerships with families and communities, and policies that promote the overall health and wellness, as well as the academic progress, of their students.

There are a number of active national and local organizations that can help teachers become more effective advocates for children and youth.

Medina’s 12 Brain Rules

Taken from his book Brain Rules.  All content is Copyright © 2008 by John Medina.  You may also want to check out http://www.brainrules.net [although at this current moment it is down for me]


Brain Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power (Medina, 2008)

· Our brains were built for walking—12 miles a day!

· To improve your thinking skills, move.

· Exercise gets blood to your brain, bringing it glucose for energy and oxygen to soak up the toxic electrons that are left over. It also stimulates the protein that keeps neurons connecting.

· Aerobic exercise just twice a week halves your risk of general dementia. It cuts your risk of Alzheimer’s by 60 percent.

Brain Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too. (Medina, 2008)

· We don’t have one brain in our heads, we have three. We started with a “lizard brain” to keep us breathing, then added a brain like a cat’s, and then topped those with a thin layer of Jell-O known as the cortex—the third, and powerful, “human” brain.

· We took over the Earth by adapting to change itself, after we were forced from the trees to the savannah when climate swings disrupted our food supply.

· Going from four legs to two to walk on the savannah freed up energy to develop a complex brain.

· Symbolic reasoning is a uniquely human talent. It may have arisen from our need to understand one another’s intentions and motivations, allowing us to coordinate within a group.

Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently (Medina, 2008)

· What you do and learn in life physically changes what your brain looks like—it literally rewires it.

· The various regions of the brain develop at different rates in different people.

· No two people’s brains store the same information in the same way in the same place.

· We have a great number of ways of being intelligent, many of which don’t show up on IQ tests.

Rule #4: People don’t pay attention to boring things. (Medina, 2008)

· The brain’s attentional “spotlight” can focus on only one thing at a time: no multitasking.

· We are better at seeing patters and abstracting the meaning of an event than we are at recording detail.

· Emotional arousal helps the brain learn.

· Audiences check out after 10 minutes, but you can keep grabbing them back by telling narratives or creating events rich in emotion

Rule #5: Repeat to remember. (Medina, 2008)

· The brain has many types of memory systems. One type follows four stages of processing: encoding, storing, retrieving and forgetting.

· Information coming into your brain is immediately split into fragments that are sent to different regions of the cortex for storage.

· Most of the events that predict whether something learned also will be remembered occur in the first few seconds of learning. The more elaborately we encode a memory during its initial moments, the stronger it will be.

· You can improve your chances of remembering something if you reproduce the environment in which you first put it into your brain.

Rule #6: Remember to repeat. (Medina, 2008)

· Most memories disappear within minutes, but those that survive the fragile period strengthen with time.

· Long-term memories are formed in a two-way conversation between the hippocampus and the cortex, until the hippocampus breaks the connection and the memory is fixed in the cortex—which can take years.

· Our brains give us only an approximate view of reality, because they mix new knowledge with past memories and store them together as one.

· The way to make long-term memory more reliable is to incorporate new information gradually and then repeat it in timed intervals.

Rule #7: Sleep well, think well. (Medina, 2008)

· The brain is in a constant state of tension between cells and chemicals that try to put you to sleep and cells and chemicals that try to keep you awake.

· The neurons of your brain show vigorous rhythmical activity when you are asleep—perhaps replaying what you learned that day.

· People vary in how much sleep they need and when they prefer to get it, but the biological drive for an afternoon nap is universal.

· Loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning, and even motor dexterity.

Rule #8: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way. (Medina, 2008)

· Your body’s defense system—the release of adrenaline and cortisol—is built for an immediate response to a serious but passing danger; such as a saber-toothed tiger. Chronic stress, such as hostility at home, dangerously deregulates a system built only to deal with short-term responses.

· Under chronic stress, adrenaline creates scars in your blood vessels that can cause a heart attack or stroke, and cortisol damages the cells of the hippocampus, crippling your ability to learn and remember.

· Individually, the worst kind of stress is the feeling that you have no control over the problem—you are helpless.

· Emotional stress has huge impacts across society, on children’s ability to learn in school and on employees’ productivity at work.

Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses at the same time. (Medina, 2008)

· We absorb information about an event through our senses, translate it into electrical signals (some for sight, others from sound, etc.) disperse those signals to separate parts of the brain, then reconstruct what happened, eventually perceiving the event as a whole.

· The brain seems to rely partly on past experience in deciding how to combine these signals, so two people can perceive the same event very differently.

· Our senses evolved to work together—vision influencing hearing, for example—which means that we learn best if we stimulate several senses at once.

· Smells have an unusual power to bring back memories, maybe because smell signals bypass the thalamus and head straight to their destinations, which include that supervisor of emotions known as the amygdala.

Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses. (Medina, 2008)

· Vision is by far our most dominant sense, taking up half of our brain’s resources.

· What we see is only what our brain tells us we see and it’s not 100 percent accurate.

· The visual analysis we do has many steps. The retina assembles photons into little movie-like streams of information. The visual cortex process these streams, some areas registering motion, others registering color, etc. Finally, we combine that information back together so we can see.

· We learn and remember best through pictures, not through written or spoken words.

Rule #11: Male and Female brains are different. (Medina, 2008)

· The X chromosome that males have one of and females have two of—though on acts as a backup—is a cognitive “hot spot”, carrying an unusually large percentage of genes involved in brain manufacture.

· Women are genetically more complex, because the active X chromosomes in their cells are a mix of Mom’s and Dad’s. Men’s X chromosomes all come from Mom, and their Y chromosome carries less than 100 genes, compared with about 1,500 for the X chromosome.

· Men’s and women’s brains are different structurally and biochemically—men have bigger amygdala and produce serotonin faster, for example—but we don’t know if those differences have significance.

· Men and women respond differently to acute stress: Women activate the left hemisphere’s amygdala and remember the emotional details. Men use the right amygdala and get the gist.

Rule #12: We are powerful natural explorers.  (Medina, 2008)

· Babies are the model of how we learn—not by passive reaction to the environment but by active testing through observation, hypothesis, experiment and conclusion.

· Specific parts of the brain allow this scientific approach. The right prefrontal cortex looks for errors in our hypothesis (“The saber-toothed tiger is not harmless.”), and an adjoining region tells us to change behavior (“Run!”).

· We can recognize and imitate behavior because of “mirror neurons” scattered across the brain.

· Some part of our adult brains stay as malleable as a baby’s, so we can create neurons and learn new things throughout our lives.

EDU6989 Final Paper

Can be found here.

Esquith on Peer Relations

I have learned that before I decide if a kid is truly special, I had better observe and listen to his peers. They are a much better judge of a child’s worth and potential than I. They are the ones who know if the child is nice to play with, easy to get along with, and honest and decent. As teachers or parents, we have a very limited view. Yes, we have a lot to say, but so do our children. (Esquith, 2008).

There is a riveting section of There are no shortcuts where the author describes three students of whom he was particularly fond.  That’s not the riveting part, of course, since Esquith is known for his charismatic, no-nonsense classrooms.  The riveting part is his description of how one of these students later went on to write a scathing criticism of their former teacher and his methods.  The vitriol in this one letter shattered Esquith, and he took quite some time to recover from the blows dealt him.

The portion germane to this week’s discussion in EDU6132 is how completely oblivious this gifted teacher was to the real events and the real character traits of students in his classroom.  The lesson I take from this chapter in the book is how poor a judge the teacher can be of the true peer dynamics going on in the classroom.  That’s the gist of the quote above.

What then is the teacher to do?  All that perhaps can be done is to recognize that a teacher will always see some of what they want to see in the classroom and ignore the rest.  As the quote above indicates, the teacher needs to corroborate any judgment of character with a students’ peers.

The other part I take from this story is the real inability any teacher has to make students like one another.  Respect is a pretty high bar when you see that one young adult in the classroom really does *not* want to be sitting at a table with this other young adult.  You can enforce positive peer relations through rules, but you can’t make a student like another.

Finally, Esquith relates that his class mission statement:  “Be nice, work hard.” was developed in direct response to this episode in his teaching career.  The quintessential statement embodies his hope not only for students and their academic growth but also their character development.  And that, of course is at the bottom of peer relations.  And although we will all fail, we need to see the way forward is growth.

I was no longer anguished about the [three students]; I was upset with myself for not having given them a chance to see a different type of human being. I did not want these children to be like everyone else, but I had never clearly shown them the possibility of a different kind of existence. I was upset because I had been a poor teacher. (Esquith, 2008).


Esquith, R. (2008).  There are no shortcuts.  Anchor Books.

This post is also here:

John Mighton and his JUMP Program

also posted on my bportfolio


I’ve been doing some research lately on John Mighton and his JUMP Math program.

David Ornstein wrote an article on JUMP in the New York Times. Mighton, the founder of the program, has written a curriculum for grades 1-8 in which he has broken down key mathematics algorithms into steps that ensure more mastery and learning.

Mighton states "Before children can read, they must acquire an extraordinary number of visual, auditory and cognitive skills. But children can master a great deal of mathematics simply by counting on their fingers (something we have evolved to excel at)." For example, the JUMP method teaches multiplication by repeated addition on fingers. As students get proficient with this, they can learn division and are soon passing standardardized tests on fractions with ease.

Mighton argues that all children can succeed. This has been supported by some preliminary studies and by the success of the program in some schools that have been early adopters of JUMP. The results have shocked some teachers who are not used to giving out all A’s to their *whole* class. This has been observed in classes with children of diverse abilities and SES. Mighton makes particulary strong claims that his curriculum can help even those who have long given up on mathematics, i.e. adults.

The part that I thought particularly relevant to our EDU6132 discussions was the cognitive justification that Mighton makes for his methods. By using micro-steps to teach algorithms and processes and by not moving on until everyone in the class has successfully achieved competency, he argues that the cognitive overload is decreased which fosters more learning. This intense scaffolding of the procedures to be learned ensures student success, which increases confidence. By building upon a chain of successes, all students are able to achieve at higher levels.

For more information, i.e. free download of teacher workbooks, see http://www.jumpmath.org


Mighton, J. (2004). The myth of ability: Nurturing mathematical talent in every child. Walker & Company.

Ornstein, D. (2011, April 11). A Better Way to Teach Math. The New York Times. Retrieved online April 30, 2011 from


What Works Clearinghouse Has Issued A Quick Review

The U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciens has issued a Quick Review entitled “Achievement Effects of Elementary School Math Curricula on First and Second Graders.  Check it out here:



Check out the Best Evidence Encyclopedia from Johns Hopkins School of Education



April 27 Journalizing




Taking Sides

Issue 8:  Should School Discipline Policies Be Stricter and Include “Zero Tolerance” Provisions?

Public Agenda, from “Teaching Interrupted,”  Public Agenda.  (May 2004)

Russell Skiba, from “Zero Tolerance:  The Assumptions and the Facts,”  Center for Evaluation & Education Policy (Summer 2004)

“It’s almost unanimously accepted among teachers (97%) that a school neds a good discipline and behavior in order to flourish, and 78% of parents agree.”

“Lack of discipline in schools engenders other serious costs as well.  The findings in Teaching Interrupted reveal that problems with student discipline and behavior are driving substantial numbers of teachers out of the profession.”

[type summary of arguments here]

Personal Opinion (before reading):  I think the difficulty here will arise from the inability of one person or a limited number of people to carry out effective due process.  Emotions flare, time is tight, there are many observers, and so fairness is not often guaranteed.  For justice to be effective it needs to be swift.  Zero tolerance allows for sentencing to be quick and to not quibble over the level of involvement in the infraction of all parties.  I do not want to see a school bogged down in legal procedures, but I also do not the education process hindered by a relatively small percentage of those who need more intensive direction and attention.  As such I am probably leaning here towards the yes side.  There are a majority of students for which stricter policies are no issue.  There will be a few caught in the gray area that might have heretofore not been affected.  There are a few caught in the wrong that need to get a appropriate message.

Personal Opinion (after reading): 

Issue 15:  Does Participation in Sports Provide Positive Benefits to Youth?

Jordan D. Metzl, and
Carol Shookhoff, from “The Benefits of Youth Sports,”  eNotAlone (2002).

Josephson Institute of Ethics, from “What Are Your Children Learning?  the Impact of High School Sports on the Values and Ethics of High School Athletes",”  Survey of High School Athletes, (February 2007).

[type summary of arguments here]

[type summary of arguments here]

Personal Opinion (before reading):  Anyone who has taken EDU6120 from Dr. Scheuermann knows how he feels (very PRO!) about athletics for students.  Thus I must tread lightly here!  But first, let me give some context.  I myself did not participate in school sports, at any level.  I became interested in cycling first in college and enjoyed a few years of regular activity.  I suppose the PRO side of this argument will posit that competition and teamwork, victory and defeat are lessons that students need to learn in life as well as in school.  Anyone who has ever been the “best” at something knows the elation of that achievement and the arduous path it took to get there.  It takes singlemindedness.  It takes dedication.  However, sports without academics is a powerful temptation as is academics without some sort of physical exercise.  No truly great athlete neglects their mind.  No academic genius can do so without some physical exertion or knowledge of self.  My only question is:  do we need to be so competitive at all levels of school sports?  Is there some other physical activity that does not compete with academics for students’ time?  There was also a recent study

Personal Opinion (after reading): 

Evans, D. (2008).  Taking sides:  Clashing views in teaching and educational practice.  (3rd ed.).  New York, NY:  McGraw Hill.


Teaching to Change the World

Part IV:  Teaching for the Long Haul

Chapter 12:  Teaching to Change the World:  A Profession and a Hopeful Struggle

Personal Opinion (before reading):  This is the last chapter of the book and thus I expect it will be rife with powerful reflection and motivational quotes.  Teachers should be in the game for the long haul, and should go from strength to strength, from success and growth, to recognition and acclaim.  That does not happen in all cases, and the defection rate for new teachers is still significant.  Looking forward to reading the chapter to see if there are some antidotes or preventatives suggested for burnout and frustration.

Personal Opinion (after reading):

I love the quote from Judy Smith (pg 507)

Hey, don’t get me wrong. There was a cost moving from high tech to high school.  In corporate America, luxuries such as fabulous holiday parties and access to the latest technology seduced me for a while.  I love the fast pace, salary, travel, and interesting problem solving.  I learned about business, professionalism, and working with others.  All valuable.  However, that cost, when evaluated in heart and soul dollars, changes.  In high tech, we did not take much time to examine values, biases, and different cultures.  High tech didn’t teach me about human suffering and triumph at the same time.  High tech didn’t expose me to our children and to their critical role in our future and our democracy, or offer intellectual stimulation on history, literacy and politics.  High tech didn’t teach me to be a better human being.  Teach high school does.

This chapter does a good job of highlighting some coping mechanisms a teacher might use to survive in what is admitted by all to be a pathologically dysfunctional career.


At the end of the chapter there is a sidebar excerpt from an essay by Herb Kohl.  Here’s another excerpt that spoke to me from Kohl (




[Bonus]  Chapter 10:  The Community:  Engaging with Families and Neighborhoods.

Personal Opinion (before reading):  I am adding this chapter since I believe this is a key topic, and I was impressed in our class on Diversity (EDU 6133) that we were asked to “throw in the kitchen sink” to get at how we might engage families and neighborhoods.  I think some creativity here is needed, and I am looking for some ideas.

Personal Opinion (after reading): 

Oakes, J. and Lipton, M. (2008).  Teaching to change the world.  (3rd ed.).  New York, NY:  McGraw Hill.

April 20 Journalizing




Taking Sides

Issue 17:  Is the Practice of Providing Accommodations to Children in Special Education a Good Idea?

MaryAnn Byrnes, from “Accommodations for Students with Disabilities:  Removing Barriers to Learning”.  National Association of Secondary School Principals Bulletin (2000)

James M. Kauffman,
Kathleen McGee, and
Michele Brigham, from “Enabling or Disabling?  Observations on Changes in Special Education,”  Phil Delta Kappan (April 2004)

Accommodations “can be used to create equal access, not excuses (p.317),” where an accommodation is defined as “an adjustment to an activity or setting that removes a barrier presented by a disability so a person can have access equal to that of a person without a disability (p.317).”

“It all comes down to deciding what is important.  Think about assignment and expectations.  Think about the student’s disability.  If the combination creates a barrier, the accommodation removes it.  The accommodation does not release a student from participating or demonstrating knowledge.  It allows the student to participate equitably and demonstrate knowledge.  And isn’t that what school is about (p.323)?”

“The emphasis in special education has shifted away from normalization, independence and competence.  The result has been students’ dependence on whatever special programs, modifications, and accommodations are possible, particularly in general education settings.  The goal seems to have become the appearance of normalization without the expectation of competence (p.324).”

“The full inclusion movement did have some desirable outcomes.  It helped overcome some of the unnecessary removal of students with disabilities from general education.  However, the movement also has had some unintended negative consequences.  One of these is that special education has come to be viewed in very negative terms to be seen as second-class and discriminatory systems that does more harm than good.  Rather than being seen as helpful, as a way of creating opportunity, special education is often portrayed as a means of shunting students into dead-end programs and killing opportunity. (p.327)”

Personal Opinion (before reading):  Since we used a book by Kauffman in our class EDSP6644 Exceptional Learners, I am curious why he is on the on the “No” side here.  I think the point that will probably come out in this debate is the real value of any type of special treatment of the special needs  student, when we desire to show that they are capable of much more than we initially might expect of them.  Thus, I could see where accommodations become a crutch and prevent a truly equitable classroom.  Can’t wait to read this one.

Personal Opinion (after reading):  I see now that Kauffman is not arguing against accommodations in principle, but he is arguing that this special ed system (like any system) can be abused. I think Byrnes side is a well-written summary of accommodations and the general process of IEP and 504.

Kauffman states:  “Like general education, special education must push students to become all they can be.  Special education must countenance neither the pretense of learning nor the avoidance of reasonable demands (p. 332).”

I think this is an good article to accompany the detracking chapter from Oakes & Lipton (2007).  I agree that special education cannot be a holding area for students of whome we have low expectations, or through inequities in the system have lost a sense of wonder and expectation themselves.

[BONUS]  Issue 14:  Does Homework Serve Useful Purposes?

Robert J. Marzano and
Debra J. Pickering, from “The Case for and against Homework”.  Educational Leadership (March 2007)

Diane W. Dunn, from “Homework Takes a Hit!”  Education World. (2005).

The authors quote Cooper, Robinson, and Patall (2006) “With only rare exceptions, the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant.  Therefore, we think it would not be imprudent, based on the evidence in hand, to conclude that doing homework causes improved academic achievement.  (p. 48).”

Although teachers across the K-12 spectrum commonly assign homework, research has produced no clear-cut consensus on the benefits of homework at the early elementary grade levels (p. 264).

Although research has established that the overall viability of homework as a tool to enhance student achievement, for the most part the research does not provide recommendations that are specific enough to help busy practitioners.  (p. 266).

Article is an interview with John Buell, co-author with Etta Kralovec of The End of Homework:  How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children and Limits Learning  (Beacon Press, 2000).

“Buell:  We are not suggesting that students shouldn’t work hard or that there shouldn’t be rewards for hard work, but even work has its limits.  hard work is most effective when it is done in the context of appropriate support and assistance for that work. (pg 271).”

Personal Opinion (before reading):  I am personally of the opinion that we might want to turn the model on its head.  Students should view lecture and content based media presentations or do reading at home, and then the class should come in and do exercises and problem solving together.  I wonder how many days of a teacher finding that the next day a student hadn’t viewed the content from the previous night, before launching into the problems that were to be covered that day.  The crushing load of mindless homework without some real learning or group work going on just seems problematic.

Personal Opinion (after reading):  I remain convinced that homework is appropriate, that it should be taken seriously by the teacher, i.e. rich comments if not fully graded, and that it should complement the course and not be an afterthought in lesson planning.

Evans, D. (2008).  Taking sides:  Clashing views in teaching and educational practice.  (3rd ed.).  New York, NY:  McGraw Hill.

Cooper, H., Robinson, J.C., & Patall, E.A. (2006).  Does homework improve academic achievement?  A synthesis of research, 1987-2003.  Review of Educational Research. 76(1). pp. 1-62



Teaching to Change the World

Chapter 7:  Classroom Management:  Caring, Respectful, and Democratic Relationships

Personal Opinion (before reading):  I think that if we hope to prepare students for full participation in a democratic society, we ought to practice democratic principles and processes in the classroom.  As far as caring goes, I do think that it is possible for those who understand a concept to help those who don’t yet understand.  I think that it is also good for a student to admire or recognize a good contribution from their fellow students, which is the basis of respect.

Personal Opinion (after reading):

[I didn’t have time to do this chapter justice, let me come back to it momentarily.]

Chapter 8:  Grouping, Tracking, and Categorical Programs:  Can Schools Teach All Students Well?

Personal Opinion (before reading):  It is essential that students learn that there are high standards and expectations of them at *every* level.  The minute you group or track without the express goal of bringing them up to the level of their peers or back on the cadence of the school, then you are shunting those students of on a siding and hoping they eventually go away (graduate).  Schools must raise all boats.  Schools must exercise creativity and resources to teach and keep students integrated.  The alternative is degrading of standards or degrading separation of students.  Neither of those alternatives are acceptable.

Personal Opinion (after reading):  I was pleased to find ample support in this chapter of my theory that keeping students together allows the struggling student to strive to meet a high bar, and allows the proficient students to get even better by helping out their colleagues.  The quotes that spoke most powerfully in the chapter were the ones that reminded me that we want a society where all can contribute, and all can succeed and get better.  By building a segregated classroom (grouping, tracking, specializing) how do we expect anything different in society. 

Key Quotes

Spear-Swerling and Sternberg (1996) “believe that LD students and others would be better served if teachers and other learning specialists were allowed to address students’ specific cognitive difficulties, such as in reading, and not become distracted by labels (p. 305).”  I like this quote since it drives home that I as mathematics/science teacher need to master my curriculum and then strive consistently to differentiate those lessons for a diverse classroom.  That is the key first and foremost, labels help but this is the key.

“Homogeneous grouping is not necessarily good for high achievers, either.  In fact, students can become destructively competitive among a very small population of the highest-achieving students—particularly in classrooms that stress individual achievement and grades (p. 315).”  I found this quote as powerful as the case study that was reported from Rockville Centre School District in 1990 where the achievement gap was narrowed dramatically by detracking reform.  I think I will need many examples like this to be armed for parents and others that are inclined to oppose detracking.

Speaking of resistance…”if resistance to end tracking is not caused by racial attitudes, it is indisputable that most resistance has racial consequences (p. 316).”  That is the ugly underbelly of tracking, that students on color and traditionally marginalized populations are disproportionately represented in the tracked classrooms.

And finally I have another idea that I am thinking about pursuing which is asking my principal, school board, superintendent if one teacher could teach pretty much the same kids through a sequence of classes from arithmetic to algebra so that they were all on a track to get to calculus in high school.  I need to know what an innovation like that might be called, but it occurs to me that it has some real advantages.

Oakes, J. and Lipton, M. (2008).  Teaching to change the world.  (3rd ed.).  New York, NY:  McGraw Hill.

Spear-Swerling, L. & Sternberg, R.J. (1996)  Off track:  when poor readers become learning disabled.  Boulder, CO:  Westview Press.


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