Monday, May 25, 2015

Stop Pretending

I recently read a post by Bill Ferriter (Twitter handle is @plugusin) titled: "Here's What We Have to Stop Pretending." In this post, Mr. Ferriter does a great job of mentioning that we need to stop many unproductive truths in education if we want to see our profession improve. After some thought, actually several days of thinking, I have one area that as educators we need to stop pretending works. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest mistakes I see repeated throughout the country. Will stopping this cure all of our ails? No, but it is a start....

We need to stop pretending that we can copy and paste a success from one district and plop it into another. We seem to be so hard-pressed to find the "miracle cure" in education, that we are willing to just blindly copy whatever program a district/school/classroom has and mirror it in our own. We want success so badly that we assume this successful program can be copy and pasted into our own?

When will we realize that education can not and should not be carbon copied. We work in a community where humans interact constantly. With that interaction comes different thoughts, feelings, reactions and attitudes. These differences are what make our job so great and difficult all at the same time. These differences need to be taken into account when we try to just copy and paste a program that was successful elsewhere.

What would I like to see? I would love if education took a cue from the pharmaceutical world. We should provide a footnote after our success stories that explicitly list the possible side effects of using the program. We should be told that initially, only 75% of the kids were successful. We should be told it took 3 to 5 years of intensive planning and communication from the administration to have it be a success. I think we would get a much better picture of how hard it would be to replicate that program's success...

Does this mean I am against "borrowing" from others? Absolutely not. I think sharing ideas and successes is the great part of having a PLN and being connected. I think we just need to realize that the successes we read about should never be viewed as "quick fixes". There were years of planning and hard work that came before the success. You have to be willing to put that same amount of time in if you plan on being nearly as successful as the other one.

What are some things in education you think we need to stop pretending about?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What is a Mean Absolute Deviation?

The past couple of weeks have been filled with students working on projects ranging from measuring their height and shoe size for scatter plots, to students practicing standing long jumps for work in the area of measures of central tendencies. The 7th grade did a great job of working with the averages of smaller groups and comparing them to groups from a different class period.

This had me thinking of teacher evaluations and how our numbers might "stack up" against someone else's scores. Generally, we would be given the average of the scores generated from both announced and unannounced observations. The average of those visits would be put into a formula to determine my "effectiveness" as a teacher.

The above mentioned 7th graders also had to determine the Mean Absolute Deviation (MAD) from a set of numbers. This is where we determine how far the individual scores are from the average of the group. The smaller the MAD is, the less variability is in the set of numbers. The higher the MAD, the more variability there would be. I started thinking if this should be added to our teacher observations as well.

For instance, a teacher with a low MAD would show much more consistency than someone who did not. The teacher with a higher MAD may have spent more time planning for the announced observations than when someone just "popped in". In my opinion, this lack of consistency should not be taken lightly.

A teacher that is much more consistent, meaning a low MAD, would show much more consistency in their daily planning. In my opinion, this teacher would not just "put on a show" when it is announced observation time. I know this takes a great level of confidence, but I think this should somehow be added to our observation "score".

I apologize if this just seems like I am rambling, but I am trying to show my students how I would connect what we are working on in the classroom to a real-life situation.

Any thoughts on the addition of the Mean Absolute Deviation to our teacher observations?
Please share....