Four Lessons from This Week: February 3

Setting Standards Isn't So Different From Making Sausage
According to Dan Koretz, you probably won't feel very good about how it's done. It's rarely a good sign when a process is defended as arbitrary, but not capricious. We learned about a number of different methods districts and states use to set performance standards, and disturbingly, they all produce very different results.

There's a Lot of Research to Support Community-Family Engagement
 It seems very easy schools, organizations and leaders to pay lip service to the importance of community and family engagement. It seems equally easy for others to dismiss these as "touchy-feely" ideas with little practical application, but to do so is to ignore a growing body of research - qualitative and quantitative - that shows that improving parental involvement has real effects on student learning. In fact, those dedicated to improving schools should recognize that doing so requires parental involvement.

Another Way to Think About 'Vision' is a 'Unifying Framework' 
"The 'new initiative every year' model doesn't work. Teachers need to be involved in articulating the framework, and a school must be willing to commit to the implementation of the framework over the long haul. Finally, I would argue that schools without a unifying framework still have an unspoken one - a defacto assumption of what this school is about.... To honestly answer the question 'What does your school stand for?' takes a willingness to ask again and again how your practices are improving, what students know and can do, and how day to day realities in the classroom match the ideals you have articulated." - The Hardest Questions Aren't on the Test, Linda Nathan, 2009

There's a Lot Education Can Learn from Neuroscience
In some ways, neuroscience just supports a lot of practices that are already popular. Differentiation is basically another way of thinking about Universal Design for Learning. At the same time, I feel like neuroscience adds another layer to this type of instruction by providing a scientific rationale for providing multiple representations of content, multiple ways for students to express ideas and multiple ways to engage. This quote from Teaching Every Child in the Digital Age, by David Rose and Anne Meyer explaining the way strategic processes are distributed is a good example:
Different layers of an action are added on at the same time and mutually influence one another. For this reason, skill instruction is often more effective when the various components of the process are learned simultaneously rather than one at a time (Gopher, 1996). Thus, a tennis instructor may model the whole serve and encourage the learner to try it out, only analyzing individual steps (ball toss, backswing, step forward, swing, and follow-through) when particular aspects must be corrected. Likewise, each subcomponent of a task like writing an essay makes the most sense to our students if it is taught in the context of the whole task.


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