Wednesday, June 26, 2013

China Poised to Dump Standardized Tests

From the Raising Modern Learners newsletter this week comes this provocative tidbit which they gleaned from the Washington Post's education page:

At least there’s one country that seems to rethinking the whole education process in light of these global changes by drastically reducing the importance of standardized test scores. It says that “the obsession with test scores ‘severely hampers student development as a whole person, stunts their healthy growth, and limits opportunities to cultivate social responsibilities, creative spirit, and practical abilities in students.’”
The country?

How ironic that China is unchaining its educational system from standardized tests so that they will come to resemble the system we here in the US had before the Clinton/Bush/Obama reforms came along.

Educators are refusing to administer standardized tests in some parts of the US. Hopefully others will find the courage to follow their example. 

Link to the whole article in the Washington Post

Monday, June 24, 2013

How to Raise a Brilliant Kid

I recommend an interview about raising successful kids of two parents who've raised a very successful kid. The interview appeared in Forbes magazine. Among the suggestions they offer:

  • Encourage your children learn independently. Let them do the thinking.
  • Learn by doing.
  • Let your children make mistakes, and then think deeply about them.
  • Ask more questions than you answer.
  • Be involved in your child's life and projects. Stay connected.
  • Limit rules. Encourage independence.
  • Help your children learn to see problems as opportunities in disguise.
You can read the whole article here: The Genius of Raising Brilliant Kids

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Schools Kill Creativity

Here is one of the most watched videos on the TED website.

It features Sir Ken Robinson talking about how schooling kills creativity. He argues that schools wrongly emphasize mathematical and language arts skills (skills measured by standardized tests) over creative arts.

Though he doesn't say so outright in this talk, Ken would rather see schools transform themselves to look more the good old-fashioned kindergartens of yesteryear. Sadly, instead of that, the current trend of education reformers is to transform kindergartens so that they resemble English boarding schools—places where the left brain is cultivated above all else.

If you haven't seen this talk (given in 2006) I think you'd find it worthwhile. Here's his talk:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A video worth watching

Here are some ideas from the video by professor Chris Tienken:

School reform initiatives are founded on myths fears and lies.

Efforts to nationalize and standardize curriculum including Common Core have done and will do enormous damage to public schools. They are ideas and values that should have disappeared along with the Soviet Union. They are narrowing curriculum to not much more than basic language arts and math skills.

Does the chef at my favorite restaurant, my financial planner, my architect, my accountant, my dentist, my yoga instructor, my doctor, my mechanic, plumber, and electrician, all need the same high school education? Really? Do we really want everyone to master Algebra 2 to the same level? Is reading informational text really so important for everyone? So important as to preempt music, art, industrial arts and close schools that might be teaching these things well?

American schools were once locally controlled and diverse. Out of those schools came generations of Americans who innovated and created much of what has made the United States world leader.

Rather than narrowing curriculum NATIONALLY to a small selection of skills in math and language arts, we should find ways to radically expand, enrich, diversify the curricula in our schools.

Most of what Common Core Standards measure are made obsolete by smart phones. We don’t need knowledge regurgitation; we need knowledge creation. Instead of asking all students to become proficient to the same level in the same subjects, we should  be helping students to explore their passions, develop their interests, and hone their abilities. 

Schools should foster students to develop qualities that will serve them across careers and throughout their lives, qualities such as empathy, creativity, resilience, risk tolerance, collaboration, cooperation, socially-conscious problem solving, and critical thinking. Instead of these things, school reforms are teaching students to regurgitate knowledge on standardized tests.

Watch this video:

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Income Achievement Gap

If you listen to corporate media, you might believe something for which there is little evidence: that teachers unions are what is wrong with public schools today.

There is much more evidence that what makes schools work or fail are societal forces that exist outside of school, especially poverty and income maldistribution.

Income inequality correlates strongly with school achievement. Schools serving rich children amazingly! are doing just fine. Of course they have not had to cut their curricula to the bone, oh no. Rich kids have music, art, drama, sports, tutoring when they need it, and vacations to Europe and Asia in the winter, spring, and summer.

School serving many of the rest of us are struggling to do much more than test prep..... School like mine have parent organizations and foundations to raise enough money so we can avoid cutting all the so-called enrichment activities from the school day.

The article you can read here goes into greater depth on this.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Photos from Thursday's Carnival

Just about everyone carries cameras these days, and many of you already have your own photos and videos of yesterday's Carnival.

For readers of Mr. Kindergarten who were not able to be at the Carnival, I would like to share a sampling of the photos I took yesterday morning.

Cakewalk on the playground circle

The line for cotton candy

Take aim at the metal cans

Popcorn—all you can eat

Toss into the bucket

Water balloons through the red rocket

Wyatt and the ring toss

Speed checked by radar

Sack races

Face painting & tatoos

A Gold Ridge Fire truck came by

Aidan comes down the jumpy slide

A pirate ship jumpy

Sidewalk chalk art

Mr. Shaible gets his mohawk

A half dozen angels of kindergarten
What a great year it has been.

Thanks for all the help you've given through the year.

Have a great summer, and

Be well.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Washing the Mat/Carnival Tomorrow

Your children are very near to the end of the kindergarten year. Tomorrow morning we will gather one more time to sing the songs we know and to talk about the year just past. It's been a good year.

It will, of course, be hard to say goodbye to Mrs. Everson as she leaves her service to our school as she embarks on her training to become a respiration therapist. We will miss her. And we wish her well in her new career.

Today was Wyatt's day and he wanted to read his sharing book to the class. He did a very good job indeed.

He read each page and then....

showed the pictures to the class

We had our final "Tribes" gathering today. It was the occasion to say goodbye to the departing sixth grader in our Tribe. We celebrated (as Dunham school tends to celebrate) with plenty of sweets, in our case, vanilla ice cream, cookies, and root beer.

Mrs. Everson serves up her tribe

While Rachael served up my tribe.

I had been hoping that we could wash the mats in warm sunshine, but thick morning overcast from the coast was unusually persistent today, lasting late into the morning. At 11:00 I decided that we would go ahead under gray skies anyway.

Before going outside, I asked the kindergartners to find the quiet place and imagine a sunny blue sky. Maybe, if we visualized the sunshine we hoped for, it might come. Well, we did that, but the skies stayed cold and steely gray.

"Mr. Gurney, we should all hold hands in a circle and then wish for blue skies," Austin suggested. I could think of no reason not to try Austin's suggestion, so we did. It couldn't hurt—the skies were still gray. It took a while to circle up because one child didn't want to join us. Since everyone is important to the class, we persisted in inviting him until he finally allowed himself to join the effort. His resistance and the delay it caused helped the magic was just about to happen.

Hands linked, we closed our eyes and wished harder for blue skies. Our visualization went on for maybe three minutes. And lo, like the real magic it was—when we opened our eyes there were shadows under the trees and sun shone brightly down on earth. You can't make this stuff up.

Excitement filled our room as we lined up at the door to put our sponges and buckets to good use cleaning the mats.

The kindergarten kids each washed off their own green square, and then turned to help those who needed some help. It took quite a bit of elbow grease to scrub off their names, which although written in washable marker, seemed to want to hang on to kindergarten as long as possible.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tuesday, June 4.

First off:

Jennifer Chang asked me to ask for parents or other family members to volunteer to help at the carnival on Thursday. We need help from 10:30 to 11:30.

We started the day in the Community Room to join the school's monthly assembly. We left early when the awards for the track and field day began.

We finish the year as we began it, with some time to choose our own activities.

Some photos from Tuesday:

Monday, June 3, 2013

2 Year Old plays John Lennon on the Uke

Check this out:

(With my apologies for whatever advertisement that Yahoo! will inevitably assault you with before letting you see the too cute two-minute clip.)

Bikes in Summer Storage

One of the end-of-the-year rituals in the late spring is to put the kindergarten bikes away in summer storage. They'll stay inside the metal shed warm and snug till school reopens in August.

Sleep tight, bikes!

I/we tried to leave all the bicycles brought from home in the bicycle racks outside of the kindergarten room (pictured here). Please take them home sometime this week. Any bikes still here on Friday will be put inside in the shed with the others already there.

These bikes want to go home.

The kindergarten class ventured across the courtyard to the first grade classroom to learn about what's in store for them next year. They didn't have much to tell me about their visit; perhaps they will have more to say to you.

Tomorrow we'll have our final day with Ms. Campbell for PE and with Ms. Burger for library.

Be well.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A thought about testing...

Luckily, we don't see these in kindergartens...yet

I have now come (almost) to the end of the final assessments of the kindergarten year. It takes a good deal of time to carry out these assessments—time I could more usefully spend teaching and learning with & from the students.

There's a strong tendency to use assessments to reduce student learning into numbers, you know, 93% is an A and so on. (My own schooling was full of such "measurements." I played that game well enough to get my fair share of A's. I even convinced myself that I had learned a lot and accomplished something important in classes where I was given an "A" grade. Now I know I was kidding myself.)

At this point in my teaching career I've taught long enough to know the folly of using numbers (or letters) to measure student learning. Learning is not something that can be captured by numbers. For example, does it make any sense at all to say, "I've gotten better at playing the ukulele. I used to be a 43 player, but now I'm a 65 player?" Of course not.

The best person to evaluate learning is the learner him or herself. This is why the kindergarten report card asks at least a few questions that the learner answers, like the question about what Toolbox tools are most useful to the learner.

I came across a quotation attributed to Albert Einstein today that I think aptly applies to the efforts afoot these days to measure student learning, teachers, and schools:

"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."