About Thinks

Sometimes good thinks happen and sometimes bad thinks happen. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between the two.

Some thinks need immediate action and some thinks may remain as thinks forever. Thinks can be angry and heated. Thinks can be joyful. Thinks should never be cold.

These thinks are linked to many other wonderful thinks and I like to attribute these.

These thinks do not necessary reflect those thinks of my employer.

Think long, think on.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Who is fudging the data?

When I first thought about standards and their implementation I thought (like many others) that if National Standards were aligned with Performance Pay we would have cases where teachers could corrupt the data to suit their needs. I thought that if League Tables came into play, that principals could manipulate their school's data so that their school looked like a 'good' one compared to their neighbours (who are now their direct competitors).

Maybe I am naive, I dont know, but never in my wildest dreams did I think that the Government would fudge the data. I guess underneath it all I thought that they did have good intentions and that the did actually want to lift achievement for our children. 

However, I have learned an even worse truth. It is not the teachers and principals fudging the data, it's our Ministry. They don't want to lift achievement, they just want to be seen to doing it.
 Click here for Exhibit one:   This changes the pool of students who are reported as 'Maori'. Why would you do this?

So that your government can be seen as the one who lifts achievement for Maori students. 

But they are not. They are fudging the data.

Click here for Exhibit two:
How can you make it look like achievement is on the rise? Fudge the test! Why would you do this?

  So that your government can be seen as the one who lifts literacy achievement. 

Exhibit three -
This question is being removed from the JAM numeracy test because it is 'too hard'.  
It's not too hard - all it requires is discussion based and relationship building teaching. 
But we won't shift achievement that way. Why? It's not efficient!


Monday, November 5, 2012

Capturing Evidence

As you know, I often rant about the evils of standardised assessment. Primarily my big concerns are how it:
  • Narrows the curriculum
  • Encourages teachers to 'teach to the test' 
  • Reduces 'achievement' to mean 'successful at regurgitating what the test wants to hear'
  • Is a 20th century European industrislised modernist model in an increasingly 21st Century multi-cultural post-modern era.

But not only do I rant... I also try to do something about it. I think, I read, I watch, I research. I am also in a great team who listen to (and value) children.
I want to share a little something we do alongside our standardized assessment regime.
Every term, we sit with our kids 1 on 1 and they set themselves learning goals. If you do not have the time to do this, may I suggest you set 2 minutes aside after your next round of running records and co-construct just 1 goal.  It's a great start.

Once they all have a goal(s) it is important that reflection time is timetabled (thus valued) into your learning programme. We do ours every Friday. During this time the kids reflect upon their week, their goal, their learning behaviours, their friendships, and they have opportunities to raise any general questions with us.

This started off fairly simple. They were given a bunch of questions on a Google Doc that they would answer. The same thing could be achieved on ordinary paper. But we found the Google Docs great especially for giving feedback.

After a while we (us and the kids) got tired of the format so we played around with video responses and audio responses. We're also looking at 'drawing' your reflections where SMARTpens could be useful. But good old pencil and paper would be just fine.

Kids are amazingly onto it when it comes to using the 'best' rather than the 'newest' technology.
For example:

  • we taught the kids how to use the scan to email function on the school photocopier, (they showed us that you could achieve a similar result more efficiently) by snapping a page with an ipod touch. 
  • We taught them how to use the easi-speak mics, (so they used the voice recorder on the ipod touch). 
  • We taught them how to link their docs (so they instead started embedding them).

Then something amazing started happening. Kids started capturing 'evidence' of learning. So instead of writing about it. They started showing us excerpts of learning that they considered relevant.  They would find their best writing piece, they would submit pics directly from their maths books, we started receiving pictures of artworks, songs and song lyrics they had written, websites they had created, Google forms they had created at home for sports teams, YouTube vids of them learning the times tables strategies. Fridays are crazy and vibrant times!

Then one Tuesday, a kid wondered past with an ipad,
"What are you doing with that?" I asked in my best teacher voice.
"Oh," the kid said
"I just did some maths relating to my learning goal so I thought I would take a pic now so that I am not rushed on Friday..."
Another day a kid went up to Urs,
"Urs, I have achieved my learning goal. Here is my evidence. I think I am ready to move on ..."
By giving kids the technology and the knowledge of what learning evidence is, they are creating their own personalized assessment system. They are identifying their own next steps, and they are essentially creating their own learning portfolios. They won't be constricted by our oldfashioned ideas about how to capture because they are in a flexible environment. Just like there is no correct way to set out a maths book, there is no correct way to capture evidence.
Give it a go! Do it with what tools are available to you. It doesn't matter how your kids do it ... just let them do it!