Usually, we feature a column on how to be a better teacher, administrator or trainer. This month, we’ll pause for a moment and work at the other end of the process. What do STUDENTS NEED to be doing to become far more effective learners? Some of the research tells us things we already knew.
We all know that teaching kids HOW to get more organized for study is important. But there might be a few surprises that are downright counter-intuitive. For example, you’ll be surprised to find out that quizzing MORE OFTEN actually promotes learning. But that’s just one of the 10 powerful steps for improved learning. If you are in a position to share these with staff that can reach students, please share this upcoming list. The research for this month was collected by the following scientists:
Harold Pashler (Chair)
University of California, San Diego
Patrice M. Bain
Columbia Middle School, Illinois
Brian A. Bottge
University of Wisconsin–Madison
University of Memphis
Carnegie Mellon University
Washington University in St. Louis
Typically, I use this area to fill your brain with the “why” behind all the action. This month, it’s posted, so you can look it up. The full research document is posted on the web. Only one of 50 of you either: 1) work with students in this capacity, or, 2) are hungry enough to look it up. The document can be downloaded here (pdf).
The research tells us that the following suggestions have reasonable scientific support for them. If something’s not a good idea, you won’t hear it from me. But wait, there’s more! The online research posted 7 ideas and I have added 3 of my own, for a total of 10. (more…)
By popular demand, we feature a teacher this month, not an entire school. After all, teachers make the difference. This teacher works at an “Extreme School.” Her high school is one of many underperforming schools in this low-performing district, within a high-poverty area. Another teacher in her place might feel like she has the deck stacked against her and every excuse to give up on her kids. Every other teacher at her school already has their excuses lined up, but this teacher doesn’t give up. In fact, the achievement scores that HER kids get are.
“In fact, the achievement scores that HER kids get are… so awesome that 100 percent of her students passed their state-mandated, end-of-course exams despite data from the state’s predictive model suggesting that over a third would not.” In short, she out-teaches every other teacher in her district.
Her school, Ben Smith High School, has 1,200 kids and 80% of its kids are from poverty. Academically, the school performed worse than 75% of the schools in North Carolina, meaning that Ben Smith is in the bottom 25%. About 96% are children of color. As a school, it struggles. But, is the problem with the kids or the staff?
First a bit of background about HOW this teacher succeeds… (more…)
Kimberly, a veteran teacher, has to make a big decision at the end of this school year. She’s either going to “re-up” and stay another year, or quit her job and seek another teaching job elsewhere. I am going to describe her work in a minute. But go ahead and put yourself in her shoes and ask yourself, “What would you do?”
First of all, Kimberly’s (I have changed her name; this is a true story) classroom kids all come from poverty. Every one of them has home issues, some have disabilities and all of them were struggling every year in school until this year.
Yet, her students alone outscored ALL other students on district-wide assessments by more than 25% points on average and 100% of her students passed their state-mandated and school mandated exams. In short, she is an “over the top, amazing teacher.” Many would call her an “irreplaceable asset.”
She has spent her entire 15-year teaching career actively seeking out schools where the students need her most, and her current school is one of the lowest-performing schools in the area.
So, what is the big decision that Kimberly, an amazing teacher, has to make at the end of this school year? It’s simple; “Should I stick around this school another year or not?” (more…)
This month our featured “Extreme School” is a school like many, on the “cusp.” That means, their student population is right on the edge for qualifying for this update. Just under 50% of their students are from poverty.
What this school does with their kids is amazing…
This elementary school is in Oklahoma City and has a diverse population, with an increasing segment of Hispanics every year. Just under half of the students are from poverty and the challenge is to prepare kids for secondary education and for life.
How does this school rate in the top 10% of all schools in their district and in the surrounding areas?
1. Decision is made. The school staff begins with a simple question: “Are we 100% (not 90%) committed to the success of our students?”
2. Support. Instead of complaining about what kids can’t do, they tutor students after school and provide resources necessary to individualize instruction. They ensure their kids CAN do what they need to do for success.
3. Focus. Naturally, they use research-based methods that they know will get results. They are a Great Expectations’ School and the majority of their professional development has been from the Great Expectations organization. This company raises the vision of what can be done and they provide clear, practical strategies to reach the miracle.
The school is in the top 5% in the entire state! They are a National Blue Ribbon School, an A+ Arts School, a Core Knowledge School, and a model school for the Great Expectations process. In short, kids LOVE going to this school.
Outstanding Teacher: Paula Washington
Nichols Hills Elementary
Oklahoma City, OK 73116
Now, you’ve read about another “Extreme School” success story, we have a question for you. How many school successes do you need to see and hear about before you BELIEVE that it can happen at your school? And, if there’s anyone on your staff who does not think it can happen, please forward these monthly bulletins to them.
Second, what can you learn from the true story mentioned above? The only good that happens in this world is when you move things from inside your brain to the outside world. What ideas, principles or strategies were affirmed OR, what was new to you? Could this be a topic of discussion at your next staff meeting?
Finally, miracles do happen every day. Are you ready to be one of them?
Lets focus on something that is so simple it slips by most educators. In fact, it is easily the most non-predicted, surprising “Top 15 factor” for student achievement. That’s partly because it is happening everyday, all day, in your work. It’s ubiquitous. It’s almost like the joke that 8-year olds tell:
“Help, help, it’s all around me!”
The friend says, “What’s the problem? What’s all around you?”
“My belt” he says, with a grin.
Actually, this factor is so powerful, it’s finally getting the research done that it deserves. Can you guess what it is?
Few words are thrown around more often during the second half of the school year than “stress.” But what you’re about to find out is that… most of what you’ve heard about stress is dead wrong! For example…
Our featured school is actually several schools: The King/Chavez is a system of five schools in “Barrio Logan” in San Diego. This month is time for a reality check. If you work at a public school you may have thought, “Those charter schools have it easy; they can break all the rules!”
Actually, it’s no different.
Yes, I know of charter schools that do quite well. But being designated a charter school does not, by itself, raise school performance. That’s not the reason they do well. Good teachers working in good schools are how a school does well.
Today, the school is different; it’s a higher achieving school that does far better. The kids are the same, but the school is different. How did they do it? Their formula was… (more…)
3 year old Jonathan conducting to the 4th movement of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. This piece was conducted by Herbert von Karajan and the Berliner Philharmoniker, one of Jonathan’s favorite conductors and orchestras. Jonathan’s passion for classical music became apparent when he was only eight months old. Shortly after that he began conducting on his own.
This month, we’ll focus on how you can get your brain (and your students’ brains) to work better. There are countless ways we could go about this process, but since it’s the beginning of a new year, we’ll focus on what contributes to us feeling happy, smarter and even losing weight. Best of all, every one of these insights are free!
In a moment, I’ll share some of the brain-based insights in human behavior. There are just TWO (out of 50+) brain chemicals that do 90% of the work in your brain. These two are the “uppers and downers.” These two must have a poor PR agent, since most educators don’t know much about them or how important they are. They are named glutamate and GABA (gaba aminobutyric acid). (more…)