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December, 2015

  1. Pathology in Education: Chapter 1

    December 18, 2015 by Tunya

    It’s Pathological — The Denial Of Fallibility By Educators

    There are yet to be published, articles and books on this topic — Educator Pathology: The Denial Of Fallibility By Educators.

    There used to be an excellent program to try to bring schools into standard proven practice — The Effective Schools Movement. Read about Ron Edmonds and Effective Schools in Wikipedia. This article lists 6 criteria, but I was involved at this time and a more expanded checklist emerged with a key #8 (Avoidance of Pitfalls) that Edmonds himself declared was essential. See:

    The checklist was effectively killed over time, and that’s a long story. Its revival is overdue.

    Now, to amplify on educator defensiveness. In 1953 Professor Hilda Neatby’s book — “So Little for the Mind” — engendered a country-wide (Canada) debate. Public and press received the book with enthusiasm, but educational leaders led a chorus of attacks. Neatby expressed disappointment, “. . . [they failed] to examine and to answer my arguments . . .” and instead attacked her “scholarship”, her “style”, and her “personality”.

    Roll forward 50 years when Jeanne Chall advocated for phonics in teaching reading. This is what Marilyn Jager Adams wrote:

    “ . . . reviewing the research on phonics, Chall told me that if I wrote the truth, I would lose old friends and make new enemies. She warned me that I would never again be fully accepted by my academic colleagues . . . Sadly, however, as the evidence in favor of systematic, explicit phonics instruction for beginners increased, so too did the vehemence and nastiness of the backlash. The goal became one of discrediting not just the research, but the integrity and character of those who had conducted it. Chall was treated most shabbily . . . “

    There is UNFINISHED BUSINESS folks! Children are harmed, society is harmed. AND, and the education establishment, especially teachers who ignore good research, are duped by false, ideological worldviews. Constructivism is currently at play. What needs to happen is not imposed reform so much as an IMPLOSION. The system needs to be seen, and to see, how its self-serving priorities are harming the education cause.

    For characteristics of teachers in denial see

    Yup, it’s the dogged avoidance of accountability that’s at the bottom of most of our education problems. Other professions have standard operating procedures; some have checklists, notably aviation and medical fields. But, educators somehow feel they can do no wrong; they are infallible; there are no casualties from their practice. Please read the delightful, captivating book by Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. 894 Reviews. Really easy read.

    BIG TIP: I got the urge to read this book from lurking in young teacher’s blogs. They are excited about this idea and this book. But, they largely remain progressives and constructivists; their checklists will be edu-babble to those who want basic skills and knowledge in schools. Better get in on the ground floor of this movement, when and if it comes to your community. Or better yet, start the ball rolling on checklists for effective schools.

  2. What Happened to “Effective Schools Checklist” ?

    December 14, 2015 by Tunya

    What Happened To The “Effective Schools Checklist” ?

    Ron Edmonds, Harvard 1978, initiated a promising move for systematic adoption of effective standard practice in schools with Effective Schools articles. This checklist emerged.

    Why is it that in aviation and medicine checklists have now become standard practice, but not in other occupations? What’s become of the idea of a basic Checklist in school systems? Atul Gawande, in his book Checklist Manifesto, says that some professionals think it’s beneath them to have checklists. That is a feeble reason to drop a useful tool that’s proven a savior in other fields.

    In view of the OECD’s most recent publication — UNIVERSAL BASIC SKILLS — the Checklist idea needs revival.


    “We can whenever, and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need in order to do this. Whether we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so far.” (Ron Edmonds, 1978)

    ___ 1. Instructional Leadership — Principal is an effective communicator (with staff, parents, students, school boards), an effective supervisor, & the instructional leader in the school

    ___ 2. Focused School Mission — General consensus by the school community (staff, parents, students) on goals, priorities, assessment, accountability. The mission statement is published and reviewed regularly.

    ___ 3. Orderly Environment — Purposeful atmosphere conducive to teaching and learning.

    ___ 4. High Expectations — Demonstrated high expectations not only for all students but also for staff as well. The belief is that students are capable and able to achieve, that teachers are capable and not powerless to make a difference.

    ___ 5. Mastery of Basic Skills — In particular, basic reading, writing and math skills are emphasized with back-up alternatives available for students with special learning needs.

    ___ 6. Frequent Monitoring of Results — Means exist to monitor student progress in relationship to instructional objectives (and results can be easily conveyed to parents).

    ___ Means to monitor teacher effectiveness

    ___ A system of monitoring school goals

    ___ 7. Meaningful Parent Involvement — Parents are kept well-informed re: programs, goals, etc. There is ample opportunity for them to keep in touch with their child’s progress. They are consulted for feedback about the school and when changes are foreseen. Parent-initiated contact with the school is encouraged.

    ___ 8. Avoidance of Pitfalls — Up-to-date awareness of good educational practice plus retaining currency in the field concerning promising and discredited practices.

    [to ECC, Greg Ashman blog ]


  3. Universal Basic Skills for All

    December 13, 2015 by Tunya

    How Many Schools Are “Out-of-control” ?

    This is a very disturbing picture — just from the bits and pieces in this story forwarded to ECC (Education Consumers Clearinghouse). A group of people who come under an umbrella of a “consumers’ clearinghouse on education” SHOULD welcome such reports, YES, be disturbed, analyze, and try and be helpful.

    We need to ask: How could schools become so dysfunctional in the midst of a Western rich country, so favored and privileged?

    “Every year kids reach the 12th grade with elementary-level reading skills”, so says the news story. That one sentence alone provides a BIG CLUE to some of the problem. Regardless of the poverty, the racial mix, immigrants unable to understand or speak the language, etc. NO-ONE should still be unable to read in High School !

    The international organization, OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) is determined to help all lagging nations in the world to reach UNIVERSAL BASIC SKILLS in the next 15 years. That is: “ . . . every student reaches at least the baseline level 1 of performance on the PISA scale — where students demonstrate elementary skills to read and understand simple texts and master basic mathematical and scientific concepts and procedures.” Access to schooling is not enough; the schools are expected to concentrate on “at least” these Universal Basic Skills to be acquired.

    Universal Basic Skills — 116 pg —

    This Citizen’s Group, BETTER ED, is right to promote the idea of releasing state funds directly to parents so they can find suitable schools for their children in their lifetimes. It seems the system, with all its knowledge of what effective schools do, has seriously defaulted.

    [See story —      Poster Time to Intervene Dec 12 '15 email]


  4. checklists — why don’t teachers use them?

    December 11, 2015 by Tunya

    Checklists — Why Don’t Teachers Use Them?

    Atul Gawande, in his book — The Checklist Manifesto — mentions several professions that use checklists as both proven standard practice and to avoid ineptitude (and its repercussions). He mentions doctors, lawyers, professors and engineers. Of course we’re familiar with aviation using checklists which Gawande references.

    Why don’t teachers use checklists? Especially teachers of Reading? Most people and certainly most parents see Reading as a very important subject for literacy, for knowledge, for problem solving and for a host of other pedagogical reasons. BUT, the KEY reason why Reading is important is that this skill, gained and fluent, allows the student to get on the very ramp of disciplined learning itself.

    Instead, resisting (defying?) proven practices, teachers cling to fallacious beliefs. Note, this term is no redundancy — beliefs can be truths or myths, but it’s when they are false that “fallacious beliefs” can do damage.

    In Preventing Reading Failure, Patrick Groff lists 12 fallacious beliefs that interfere with effective teaching of reading: “It seems incredible that the education establishment could have persisted in the folly of inappropriate reading methodology over so many years and with so many millions of failures. Had we not known how to teach children to read easily and well, this persistence in ineffective methods would have been understandable. However, we have had highly successful methods, programs, and techniques for many, many years . . . [with] conclusive research evidence of their efficacy” says Prof. Barbara Bateman, 1987.

    (I can find and list the 12 fallacious beliefs in a subsequent post if they are not readily available to our readers.)

    What I am pointing out is that there is some deliberate, entrenched stubbornness at play — innocent or malicious — it’s hard to say. It’s harmful, damaging, crippling. When will there be a multi-million dollar damages court award to shake up the teaching “profession”?

    Even Daniel Willingham who is, in my view, trying so hard to be diplomatic regarding the virulent Reading Wars, says that in any list of 16 reading activities (Mind: He does not say checklist.) 20 or 25% of the time should be devoted to phonics, “ . . . when kids are practicing phonics, that practice should be focused.” (pg 82, Raising Kids Who Read, 2015).

    If there isn’t a Teaching Students To Read in Primary Years Checklist, why doesn’t someone produce it?

    [published in Australian blog, Filling the Pail, ]

  5. Parents, Education Choices & Information

    December 9, 2015 by Tunya

    Parents, Education Choices & Information

    1 Right now, Nevada is the dynamic to watch. How the promise of universal choice via their yet-to-be-implemented ESA (Education Savings Plan) plays out is gripping. Can we get some behind the scenes reports?

    2 Yes, with the spread of actual models of choice plus the buzz around the idea, it is great that people are looking for ways to assist the process and inform parents of the opportunities.

    3 What is key to understand is that, in full gear as NV projects, we won’t be looking at “good schools” and “good choices” as such but “preferences” and good fit and unbundling of school services. Example: Specialized private tutoring for a dyslexic boy who is enrolled half day in a public hockey academy (my grandson).

    4 It is parents themselves who start helplines re how-to negotiate and customize, alternative choices available, positive/negative reviews of products and services.

    5 Education entrepreneurs see opportunities and behave accordingly. When we in BC (Canada) had an extended teacher strike and the government provided $40 day to parents of primary-aged students it didn’t take long for new tutoring services, parent-organized co-ops and posters on telephone poles to suddenly appear.

    6 This has all been foretold by Ivan Illich (Deschooling, 1971) with his skill exchanges, peer-matching, learning webs and directories of educators-at-large. To some extent this is already in place in some areas in the home education communities.

    7 The hype and buzz is already out for Nikhil Goyal’s forthcoming (Feb 2016) book — Schools on Trial: How Freedom and Creativity Can Fix Our Educational Malpractice. “He prescribes an inspiring educational future that is thoroughly democratic and experiential, and one that utilizes the entire community as a classroom.”

    8 YES, I think parents will be eager for good information once public funding truly follows the student; and parents are able to choose and mix and match as they see fit. NO, the community organizing style as proposed by Greg Foster is not encouraging — too expensive, too long, too typically bureaucratic and not loose, flexible and freedom-oriented. BUT, there would be a need, I think, for standards assessments especially concerning proof of proper methodologies and skills acquisition (e.g., reading, mathematics, science).

    [ published in JayPGreene's blog on topic — The School Choice Information Problem  — ]