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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Assessments

Posted by on in Assessment

stencil.twitter post 86

The sun is setting on yet another school year.  It is about this time that teachers start talking about how kids have checked out, senioritis has kicked in, and spring fever is rampant.  I was lucky enough to be able to spend the last 27 years studying this problem.  I took blood samples from over three thousand students on the first day of school, and then again nine months later.  Every year I found the same thing...nothing.  No sign of spring fever, senoritis, or any of the other maladies that teachers were complaining their kids contract every year around this time.  When I dug deeper into the research what I found was shocking :)  Kids were slowly developing a common problem that was being misdiagnosed.  They were bored.  They did not want to be, they were just tired of doing the same thing over and over and over again.  

If your kids have caught boredom, I have some possible cures in this post.  Things you can do with your kids that are different than what they would normally expect to do.  Activities that allow them to be bold, have fun, and be themselves.  Some might even be considered challenging and difficult.  But don't worry, the most memorable experiences in your class will come when kids do things that they previously thought were impossible.  

A short warning before you continue.  Two years ago it was proven that kids can overdose on boredom.  They can become so bored that recovery is a difficult and slow process.  The same study showed that there is no possibility of overdosing in class on fun, creativity, courage, or being different.  There are two paths your kids can take to success, being like everyone else or being like no one else. Which one are you modeling for your kids in the final weeks?

Clicking on each title below leads to a boredom busting activity.

RSA Videos

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Posted by on in General


In an October Washington Post article, author T. Rees Shapiro reveals that Diane Ravitch, former U.S. assistant secretary of education, endorses Nikhil Goyal, 17, for the department’s top job.

Goyal’s prestige has skyrocketed since the September release of his book, One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School, which unapologetically condemns America’s education system. He has since appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC Nightly News, NPR, MSNBC, FOX, and Huffington Post—to name a few.

After being assimilated into the Syosset High School ecosystem, I noticed that I was bored as hell in class and absolutely nothing I was taught was relevant to real life. I was trained to be a drone. Outside of school, I was engaged with fascinating projects, having conversations with brilliant people, and enjoying life.

It would be foolish to dismiss Goyal as some disgruntled young hotshot. He’s a brilliant journalist, whose lucid reporting rivals that of the best in the business

I am eager to chat with Goyal via Skype, having recently spoken with Erica Goldson, the high school valedictorian who used her surprise graduation speech to condemn the public school education system.

Goyal comes across as extremely humble, excited to chat about the issue that means most to him. Our country’s education system remains unchanged since the 1800s, he says, still favoring obedience to authority over independent thinking and creativity.

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Posted by on in ShiftParadigm


It’s no secret that countless students eagerly wait for the final bell to ring—not to go home, but to play a team sport. Why is that, and how could we get students to show similar enthusiasm for learning during the actual school day?

Great coaches have an edge when it comes to inspiring today’s youth to greatness, and parents, classroom teachers, administrators, and reformers should take notice of the following traits of effective coaches:

  1. Encourage Failure: The best coaches encourage failure, and they don’t harshly penalize students for making mistakes. Instead, they review with an athlete what he or she did wrong and move on with the next play. In the classroom, the permanent nature of grades and high-stakes testing damages moral and reinforces futility and despair. Too often, well-meaning teachers do too much to ensure that students never fail. But if kids never encounter adversity in the classroom, it’s doubtful they will successfully manage it in real life. Like coaches, teachers should encourage students to try daring new things, and rethink how failure can turn into even greater, more meaningful success. 

  2. Acknowledge Individual Progress: On the field, coaches praise athletes for reaching their fullest potential—whatever that may be. In September, I spoke with legendary cross-country coach Joe Newton who over 50 years has led York Community High School in Elmhurst, Illinois, to 28 state titles. “I’ve got three guys on my team that are like 250 pounds,” Newton says. “They’re out there in front of the whole team at the team meeting. I said to two guys, I said, ‘Look at their bodies. They’re not made for running and they’re out here every day busting their butt.’ I said, ‘I just love guys like that. That’s what our program is all about.’ Then I gave them the old shot: ‘You choose to be average. You choose to be good. You choose to be great.’ Those guys don’t ever score a point for us, but in my eyes they’re great because they come out and they give me what they’ve got.’” How many teachers would say as much of a math or history student, trying equally hard, but only managing to earn a D?

  3. Affirm the Power of Hard Work: Great coaches help players see real improvement. I coach varsity cross-country, and at the start of the season, I discuss fitness goals with my athletes. It’s not long before many of them are sporting six-pack abs, along with impressive race times. Even my slowest runners revel in achieving new personal records, in turn motivating them to continue working just as hard—or harder. In the classroom, teachers should provide students with analogous goals and measurements for progress to encourage (rather than discourage) continued growth.

  4. Affirm the Power of Teamwork: On the playing field, no matter how talented an athlete, victory is impossible without teamwork. The best coaches cultivate productive relationships, and their athletes revel in accomplishing something they couldn’t do alone. More still, the entire team is only as strong as its weakest player, and it’s the job of that team to help that individual improve. In the classroom as well, pursuing individual academic competence must remain paramount, but teachers should encourage students to support each other. Too often, students compete against each other for high grades and standardized test scores. Just think of what happens when all of the players on the same team compete against each other for possession of the ball—they all suffer.

  5. Teach the Value of Struggle: During training, my varsity cross-country runners follow a strict diet. They aren’t allowed to have sweets or soda, except on special occasions. If they show repeated signs of struggle or a lack of progress, I know they haven’t kept to my workout plan and nutritional regimen. To ensure future compliance, I work them even harder. Eventually, those that stick with it quickly show signs of improvement, not just in their race times, but also in their overall health and appearance. With academic dishonesty reaching ever-greater heights, in the classroom we need to do a much better job of showing students the value of learning through struggle. Just as on the field, by taking shortcuts, they only cheat themselves.

If you’re a coach, what other lessons could teachers learn from your practices? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.


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Posted by on in Education Leadership

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Second Chances.

How do we make sense of our changing educational world when the only constant is change? Classroom scenes of Blended Learning, Flipped Classrooms and every imaginable combination come to mind.

Test scores were released, but we've been too busy to talk much about what happened in reading and math, in fourth and eighth grades. I trust NAEP as the Nation's Report Card. More importantly, what are we going to do now that NCLB is officially awash, to bring the joy back into classrooms, feature the arts, replace vocational courses yet meet the technology needs of our country?

Do we really have to be like Finland, or certainly not Korea, where exhausted children fall asleep at their desks, to compete. In my opinion, too much competition and way too early.

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Posted by on in Education Policy

Today I read that Michigan is pushing for struggling third grade readers to be retained. Other states have also been studying the issue. Obviously by retaining third graders, 4th grade scores will certaily look much improved! But, is that the option we really want? Traditionally, third grade is the cut. Numerous articles have discussed the issue, but please take a look at my commentary. 


Third graders need a summer break not retention
Third graders need a summer break--not retention

Data-driven instruction puts a lot of pressure on third graders to be proficient readers. Third grade has traditionally been considered a cut point, meaning until third, students learned to read, then kids read to learn, from then on. I do consider that to be true, based on my experience.

However, I have always believed we continue improving our reading all the way through school, and beyond, in adulthood. It's time to reconsider retention as the correct strategy to remediate children left behind in reading, at any grade level.

I am anti-retention in nearly all cases. Supposedly retention gives children the "gift of time" to catch up and become proficient readers. Truly, in all my years as an educator I cannot recall one case where I thought retention was a viable option.

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