12
   

I learned something new at school today

 
 
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 11 Nov, 2010 02:32 pm
@boomerang,
Quote:
Sure it does. But when a concept is taught out of any context it leaves the short term memory before any real connections are made.


And you know that this is what is happening in his classroom? What does the teacher do? Do you think she takes the test and just goes through the problems one by one making sure the kids know the specific answers to the specific questions?

How do you teach math out of context?

Quote:
I disagree. And so do most people who have studied the issue. They say the test measures the "size of the house" in the district:

I don't think that most people disagree that standardized testing gives important information about how a child or school is doing in relation to other children and schools - if they did, the huge majority of public school systems around the world wouldn't have been spending millions of dollars a year for decades to gather this data the way they gather it.

I'm not advocating education via testing - I view the process of educating and testing as two separate entities.
I'm just saying that I wouldn't automatically and in a specifically knee-jerk reaction to NCLB mmediately negate the efficacy and usefulness for data gathering that standardized testing CAN provide.

If it's norm based - it can tell you how your child is doing compared to other children his age and if it's criterion based it can give you an idea of what he does or doesn't know.
I think knowing both of these things can be valuable.

And if anyone can come up with a subjectively organized and administered and/or non-standardized method of testing performance of however many millions of children attend public schools - more power to you .

And if parents don't want to know how their child is doing at the end of the year - if they don't care to know whether their child is performing at grade level and have learned what they needed to learn to succeed and progress to the next step - yeah - we can dump the tests.
But I don't think most parents will go for that touchy -feely, subjective and perhaps biased, ' I think your kid is doing as well as he or she should,' or 'In my opinion, your kid looks to be right on target,' sort of information.

Most parents demand some sort of proof that the teacher and school have done their job with their child.

I don't know what to tell you - I never viewed these tests as a punishment of my child. I always found the information they provided me as valuable and helpful in terms of allowing me to see and understand my child's strengths, weaknesses, educational needs and progress.

Do you know what a fourth grader needs to know to successfully enter and participate in the fifth grade curriculum? If you do, that's great - but most parents rely on the school to make sure their child is prepared for the next step- and that's information these tests can provide.

And as far as I read in your opening post - you're talking about one test- and again, if it's not a hardship for him to take it - I'd let him be a normal kid and take the test- especially, if, as you said, he most probably will do well on it.
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  2  
Reply Thu 11 Nov, 2010 02:44 pm
@engineer,
Quote:
No, I am arguing that on average higher test results means higher knowledge levels and while that might not be true in every specific case, in aggregate, it is clearly correlated.


I will argue this point. The "knowledge levels" you refer to are a very specific set of knowledge, not general knowledge. This is why teaching to the test is an issue. Whether the "specific set of knowledge" being tested is appropriate is an interesting discussion.

But in this case the definition of "knowledge levels" is defined by the test, making your argument circular, unless you have some way of showing that the specific set of knowledge being tested is relevant to something else.

But that isn't the key of our disagreement.

No, this is the core of our disagreement.

Quote:
The objective of our education system is clear as well: transfer of knowledge and skills from one generation to the next.


I completely disagree with your statement. I would say it something like this...

The purpose of our education system is to prepare our students for productive, successful lives in our society.

Almost everyone reading this at some time learned to factor polynomials. Factoring polynomials is on these tests.

Most of us (except for engineer and I) have forgotten. Most people couldn't factor a polynomial if they wanted to, and most people couldn't even give an example of where factoring a polynomial is important.

Strangely enough, even the vast majority of people who have forgotten what they spent several weeks learning about factoring polynomials seem to live full, productive and happy lives.

Obviously factoring polynomials isn't necessary for anyone but a very few people.

What is necessary are things like critical thinking, problem solving, logic and being able to look at a problem in new ways.


engineer
 
  1  
Reply Thu 11 Nov, 2010 02:59 pm
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:

Quote:
No, I am arguing that on average higher test results means higher knowledge levels and while that might not be true in every specific case, in aggregate, it is clearly correlated.


I will argue this point. The "knowledge levels" you refer to are a very specific set of knowledge, not general knowledge. This is why teaching to the test is an issue. Whether the "specific set of knowledge" being tested is appropriate is an interesting discussion.

But in this case the definition of "knowledge levels" is defined by the test, making your argument circular, unless you have some way of showing that the specific set of knowledge being tested is relevant to something else.

I'd argue that the test is based on the system curriculum and what is taught is supposed to be the curriculum. The test doesn't drive the curriculum, the curriculum drives the test. If the test and the curriculum are in disagreement, by all means redesign the test, but that doesn't mean that tests are an invalid way of measuring knowledge.

maxdancona wrote:

But that isn't the key of our disagreement.

No, this is the core of our disagreement.

Quote:
The objective of our education system is clear as well: transfer of knowledge and skills from one generation to the next.


I completely disagree with your statement. I would say it something like this...

The purpose of our education system is to prepare our students for productive, successful lives in our society.

Almost everyone reading this at some time learned to factor polynomials. Factoring polynomials is on these tests.

Most of us (except for engineer and I) have forgotten. Most people couldn't factor a polynomial if they wanted to, and most people couldn't even give an example of where factoring a polynomial is important.

Strangely enough, even the vast majority of people who have forgotten what they spent several weeks learning about factoring polynomials seem to live full, productive and happy lives.

Obviously factoring polynomials isn't necessary for anyone but a very few people.

What is necessary are things like critical thinking, problem solving, logic and being able to look at a problem in new ways.

I think that is a wonderful sentiment and I hope you accomplish that with your students. If you can, you will be remembered the way I remember my favorite teachers. I disagree that that is what our public education is set up to do. In this, I feel like I'm shaky ground in that you are an educator (and it sounds like a passionate one) while I am not (but I can factor polynominals), but if a student graduates high school as a happy, healthy individual who has no knowledge of the history of our country or the world, isn't literate and can't do basic math, the school system has failed and failed miserably. Even if that student goes on to take over his parent's business, raise a great family and have a successful life, the education system was still a failure. I think the school system must not take actions that prevent a child from growing into a healthy adult (like allowing bullying, not providing a safe environment, etc), but IMO, the principle purpose of formal education is the transfer of skills and knowledge. Some of that can be life skills, but still, the transfer of skills and knowledge.
maxdancona
 
  3  
Reply Thu 11 Nov, 2010 03:28 pm
@engineer,
For the record, I am no longer an educator (I didn't mean to mislead). I am a software engineer. Being an educator was the most difficult job I have ever done. Let me tell you, engineering is a far easier (and better compensated) job.

Quote:
if a student graduates high school as a happy, healthy individual who has no knowledge of the history of our country or the world, isn't literate and can't do basic math, the school system has failed and failed miserably.


You are misstating my argument.

Obviously kids need basic math, literacy and knowledge of our country and the world. My position is that standardized testing isn't necessary to give this. Although, I will moderate my position a bit, I suspect that standardized testing can appropriately measure basic math and literacy skills-- although I think this is a shortcut. There are better ways to measure these skills (i.e. have kids read and solve problems).

But education is much more than this. In fact I don't think this basic literacy and math (although obviously essential) are the principle purpose of education.

The ability to understand is far more important then the knowledge of facts. Problem solving is the point of math and thinking skills are far more important than memorizing numbers or methods.

I am very happy when my kid learns about how the government works. When he talks to me, with interest, about why he thinks Lincoln freed the slaves, I am thrilled. I don't care so much that he knows about Lincoln, I care that he thinks critically, can process information and can come to his own conclusions. These are the critical skills that people need.

Sure, I will grant you that an educated person will have skills and knowledge, but these aren't the focus of education.

Education can and should be focused on giving students thinking skills, and an ability to develop a deep understanding. These are the skills that are most value as adult.

If an education focuses on developing a students mind and their ability to reach deep understanding and solve problems, students will develop the set of skills and knowledge they need as they need it.

Tests force students to memorize an arbitrary set of skills and knowledge that they may or may not need. This takes the focus of education from understanding and problem solving, to a set of "skills and knowledge".

In my opinion, education should be much more than this.
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Nov, 2010 06:24 am
I have test! OK, I only have A test. Just as we were discussing all of this, my child comes home with the second grade math assessment for the first nine weeks. This is the county test given to all second graders. I promptly scanned it and put is here for discussion. I'm a bit surprised (in a positive way) about the material covered, how the test is structured to test concept understanding and how it is about application. Comments.
ELIO
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Nov, 2010 06:49 am
@boomerang,
why shold you wory of that it is what everybody experiance by this age and beyond thjat you know that you are U not ...
0 Replies
 
CalamityJane
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Nov, 2010 10:24 am
@engineer,
That's exactly how my daughter's math papers looked in 2nd grade. Her math teachter then (great lady) used smarties to demonstrate it in the beginning. The kids were so enthused about math then ....

I wish all math teachers that followed could have been that great. Well, she's a freshman now and her current math teacher is also great. Ex-marine who has authority and has the kids attention and admiration, plus he knows how to teach math.

By the way, Danica McKellar, an actress (Winnie from the Wonder Years)
has a math degree from UCLA and has written several math books for
kids. Those books are great and easy to understand. She wrote her math
books with girls in mind, so they can overcome the old stigma of girls being
less understanding of math. We currently work on the "Algebra Exposed"
book of hers, it's great!
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Nov, 2010 11:05 am
@engineer,
That's how Mo's math papers looked in the second grade too. They're very similar to that now, just a bit more complicated.
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Nov, 2010 11:39 am
@boomerang,
So what's the call? If the test looks like this in that it tests basic concepts instead of just posing dozens of rote questions, I think you and Mo's teacher will learn something about Mo's progress if he takes it. Have you decided?
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Mon 15 Nov, 2010 11:49 am
@engineer,
No. I haven't decided. I'm still researching.

I know how Mo's doing and Mo's teacher knows how he's doing because we both see his classwork and his homework. We both know what he can do. I don't see how the test improves anything for me or for her or for him.

I don't really have to make a decision until Spring so I'm taking my time.

I'm reading a really interesting article right now....

Quote:
Heuristics are woven into the fabric of the standardized testing milieu. The
average citizen may be overwhelmed by the nuanced, organic, multi-faceted, and nonlinear nature of a student’s educational development. To the rescue is a simpler and more convenient answer to fill the void. Politicians, the business community and the media encourage the trade off of complexity for simplicity so that school and student progress can be reduced to “understandable” numbers that appear “legitimate.” Those
who advocate and support the one-size-fits-all testing mandated by the federal government call upon an array of strategies to support the simplified approach. Three premises which drive the public image of NCLB as a panacea for what ails the public schools are identified in this paper. Each relies and ultimately depends on the public’s needs for short cuts (i.e., heuristics) to understand school and student progress.

• NCLB is framed with the good intentions to “leave no child behind”
• Accountability is based on high-stakes testing
• Standardized tests yield results that matter

Each claim is specious when regarded in light of the deep, rich and supportive
experiences children need for healthy development. What follows are examples of what happens when schools focus on standardized testing in an attempt to provide simple answers to complicated issues. In order to see through the haze of “heuristics and biases” (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974), I enlist the support of perspectives from the trenches and from those who have studied the developmental needs of youngsters.


http://eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED506193.pdf
0 Replies
 
engineer
 
  2  
Reply Mon 15 Nov, 2010 11:57 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:
You are misstating my argument.

Looking back, I am. My problem with your statement is that it is too vague to measure against. In order to succeed, the system needs to take that goal and refine it down to something that can be taught and then develop feedback metrics to see if they are successful. I just can't see how anyone who hopes to continuously improve can succeed without feedback.
maxdancona wrote:

Obviously kids need basic math, literacy and knowledge of our country and the world. My position is that standardized testing isn't necessary to give this. Although, I will moderate my position a bit, I suspect that standardized testing can appropriately measure basic math and literacy skills-- although I think this is a shortcut. There are better ways to measure these skills (i.e. have kids read and solve problems).

So you have tests that have kids read and solve problems. The test I posted looks a lot like that. My belief is that if you define what you want the students to take away from education, you can test to see if they are getting it.

maxdancona wrote:
If an education focuses on developing a students mind and their ability to reach deep understanding and solve problems, students will develop the set of skills and knowledge they need as they need it.

Tests force students to memorize an arbitrary set of skills and knowledge that they may or may not need. This takes the focus of education from understanding and problem solving, to a set of "skills and knowledge".

Tests don't "force" students to do anything other than to demonstrate that deep understanding and problem solving skills. Tests measure, that's it. If you want to measure deep understanding, devise a test to measure deep understanding. If you don't want a test to measure knowledge of an arbitrary set of skills, devise a test to measure the skills you feel are necessary. The tests I've seen are like that. That may be our disconnect. I've never seen a standardized test that has students factor 100 polynomials. Part of the problem may be that the exact skills you will need later in life are unknown. My college dean used to say that only 10% of what we were learning in our curriculum would be used in our jobs when we graduated. The problem is that he didn't know what 10%.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Nov, 2010 11:10 am
I was following some links from the ERIC study I posted above and came across this:

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

It isn't about standardized testing but it fits very nicely into what we've been discussing.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Nov, 2010 11:31 am
Here's the speech he gave this year:

http://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution.html
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  2  
Reply Wed 17 Nov, 2010 12:10 pm
Here's one where he talks about standardized testing:

boomerang
 
  2  
Reply Wed 17 Nov, 2010 06:54 pm
Mo came home with a math question today and for the first time I thought it was a good one because it seems to involve some creative thinking and not just some rote process:

At the store, cupcakes are packed in boxes of 4, 6, and 24. Suppose a customer orders 64 cupcakes. Find three ways the order can be filled.
0 Replies
 
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Nov, 2010 08:18 pm
@engineer,
Engineer,

There are two issues here. I agree with you that tests measure. I disagree with you about what they measure. A test measures a students ability to take that test. Nothing more.

The problem is that I can teach students to pass a test, even the test that you posted, without teaching them what they are really doing. Of course this would be the wrong thing to do as a teacher. But, this is exactly what we are pressuring teachers to do by threatening them with dire consequences. In cases where the stakes are really high and the bar is unrealistic, you basically force teachers to be test preparers instead of educators.

This stems from the real problem-- the adversarial attitude that politicians take towards teacher. This, of course, comes a much from political benefit as from any concern for education.

Education works when teachers are treated as professionals and allowed to do their job and be confident in their results. Of course, school districts and principals have a role in supervision and setting direction, but we should take the national and statewide experts and the politicians that run them out of the equation.

I understand the appeal of having some way to measure education, but that isn't how humans work. The real goal of this type of testing is to give politicians control, and a way to pat themselves on the back with numbers they can show are "improving".

That these numbers improving don't really help kids doesn't really matter.

I am not against test that are derived by the teachers and schools that are involved with the kids being tested.

I am against the system of testing that is slapped on everyone with no regard to students and classrooms. And I am upset at the way that this type of testing is driven by political needs at the expense of what happens in the classroom.


hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Nov, 2010 08:23 pm
@maxdancona,
Quote:
There are two issues here. I agree with you that tests measure. I disagree with you about what they measure. A test measures a students ability to take that test. Nothing more.

Please explain why you do not think that tests document memorization skills.
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Nov, 2010 08:28 pm
@boomerang,
That's really interesting, boomerang!
Is there a follow-up video to this one?
I'd definitely be interested.
maxdancona
 
  2  
Reply Wed 17 Nov, 2010 08:56 pm
@hawkeye10,
They do. But, memorization skills do not equal education.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  2  
Reply Wed 17 Nov, 2010 09:20 pm
@msolga,
If there is I haven't found it.... yet.

I sent these links to Mr. B today and he was as taken as I was. It led to some great dinner table conversation tonight.
 

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