Four Lessons from This Week: February 10

Making Meaningful Inferences About Test Data is Hard
This quote from the August 16, 2003 edition of the Palm Springs Desert Sun which Dr. Koretz presented to class on Monday illustrates what is common (and wrong) in the way test scores are interpreted:
Coachella Valley Unified School District posted the highest  overall percentage gain in the state, with a 33 percent jump in English language arts scores over the past year and a 62 percent increase since 2001.
It's a lot tougher to make valid inferences from test scores than we realize, and it usually involves looking deeper at data by examining scale scores and standard deviations in order to make valid comparisons.

"Ghosts" Need to be Interrogated
Having talked about the presence of "ghosts" at parent-teacher conferences and other meetings, I want to add the importance of interrogating those ghosts as teachers. That is, we need to examine the own experiences and memories we bring to our interactions with students and their parents as well those brought my parents. Ideally this gets us to a place of better understanding and thus, better communication.

There Are a Lot of Ways to Think About a Democratic Classroom
The video I watched of a Central Park East Elementary classroom was an interesting jumping off point for me as I read about different approaches to pedagogy in the classroom. Freire's work in rural Brazil exploring literacy and the meaning of culture was especially fascinating and made me think about applications to a classroom in the Bronx (or Brooklyn, Chicago, Baton Rouge...). All of the readings also challenged me to think about the extent I could or could not create a democratic classroom within a more traditional public school setting. This led to an interesting discussion with members of a panel on Thursday about the workshop model that could be a post unto itself...

Human Beings Weren't Born to Read
It's a rather obvious statement when you think about how recently print came along in in relation to human existence. That said, it's a profound idea when you think about our expectations for every child to be able to read at a certain level by a certain age. Furthermore, it's an idea that says a lot about the powerful plasticity of our brains in general to adapt and reorganize to develop completely new skills. Put simply: "We are, it would seem from the start, genetically poised for breakthroughs."
- Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, Maryanne Wolf, 2007


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