21st Century Skills

I just read a nice post that summarizes the idea of 21st Century Skills nicely.  I think many people automatically think computers when the term is brought up.  This article did a nice job reminding me that there is so much more to the skills than just tech.
21st century skills have been defined in many ways and include the following:
  • critical thinking
  • problem solving
  • collaboration
  • leadership
  • agility and adaptability
  • initiative and entrepreneurialism
  • effective oral and written communication
  • accessing and analyzing information
  • curiosity and imagination
How much of this is embedded in what you already do in the classroom? Where would you do more? Also:
Costa and Kallick have defined 16 habits of mind necessary for success.  These are:
  • persistence and perseverance
  • managing impulsivity and thinking before acting
  • listening with understanding and empathy – being able to perceive another’s point of view
  • thinking flexibly and being able to change perspectives
  • metacognition – being aware of your own thoughts and actions and how they affect others
  • striving for accuracy and precision
  • questioning and problem posing
  • applying past knowledge to novel situations – using what you have learnt
  • thinking and communicating with clarity and precision
  • gathering data through all the senses
  • creating, imagining and innovating
  • responding with wonderment and awe
  • taking responsible risks – living on the edge of your competence
  • humor – being able to laugh at yourself 
  • thinking independently and being able to learn from others and work together
  • learning from experience 
Much of that reminds me of the Common Core expectations. It’s worth 5 minutes to read the full post here.

The Effect of Good Teachers

The Effect of Good Teachers

How about this: the effects of a good or excellent teacher include lower teen pregnancy rates, greater college matriculation, and greater lifetime earnings as an adult.
Those facts come from a study that tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years. I don’t think we can really argue with the sample size.  The study was done by economists from Harvard and Columbia. They find that if an excellent teacher replaces an average teacher anywhere between 4th and 8th grade, the student will earn $4600 more in his or her life and be slightly more likely to attend college.
Modest right? But in a class of 25 students that is $115,000 more in the economy. Multiply that by a 30 year career and you’ve added $3.4 million. And the numbers work from worst to average as well- the same things happen when a poor teacher is removed and an average teacher added. Certainly significant, makes me want to digress to talking about rural teacher recruitment and retention.
So here’s the part that may start debate.  The researchers used “value-added” ratings to separate excellent, average, and poor teachers.  A value-added rating “measures an individual teacher’s impact on student test scores.” Yep, what they are saying is that better teachers lead to higher standardized test scores, which lead to college and earnings. The opposition would tell you that VA scores are unreliable, invalid, and unfair. That it is too difficult to measure the effect of one teacher on a class’s test scores with all the variables needed to be taken into account (poverty, ELL, SwD, maybe even prior teachers, etc.).
But VA scores are coming to NY, they are a part of the new teacher evaluation system. NYC already uses it. Check out the formula:

Crazy, right? So, what are the takeaways? I don’t think any of us doubt a good or excellent teacher has a lasting effect. I wonder if having a string of excellent teachers continues to add to the effects (earnings, college attendance, etc.). I wonder about the emphasis on standardized tests as well, especially in NY. What do you think?
Read more at The New York Times.

Let Them Play

From the “News You Knew” file: Time magazine had a short article on the benefits of letting kids get in an hour of physical activity each day. It’s worth a look: it’s brief, research-based, and it makes sense…
Just a few quotes:
“…the studies showed that the more physical activity the children had, the higher their scores in school, particularly in the basic subjects of math, English and reading.”
“Being more active, says Singh, may improve blood flow to the brain, which provides more oxygen to cells involved in learning and attention. Exercise also boosts levels of certain hormones that can improve mood and fight stress, both of which can also provide a better learning environment for children.”
“Shorter periods of activity that break up the hours-long school day may be just as effective as a single session, and may make it easier to work in physical education into school curricula.”

What Do You Make?

Hey Teachers,
Taylor Mali has the best, most inspiring answer for the question: as a teacher, what do you make?
I hope you all take three minutes to watch it. I found it on Teachingchannel.org (which is linked over there on the right).
Just a little pick-me-up…

Grant Wiggins Takes on VA Measures

A very wonky article, but hugely insightful.  Print it out, take some time with it…

From the Mouths of Babes

This from a 10-year-old:
“…my teacher says that we need to do good on them. She’s nervous about us taking the tests. Now here’s what I think. I am supposed to learn in school, right? But either you are test-taking or you are learning—can’t be doing both at the same time.”
A couple of interesting items from the article:
 The LSAT for Law School admissions takes 2.9 hours plus a 35 minute writing sample.
·        The NYPD Officer Written Exam designed to measure the cognitive ability, observational skills, and mental acuity of applicants to the NYPD takes one hour and 30 minutes to complete.
·        The NCLEX (National Council Licensure EXamination) is an examination for the licensing of registered nurses. Nurses are permitted up to six hours to complete it.
·        The Series 7 exam, which licenses stockbrokers, is a six hour test, too.

Just for Fun: Take a 100-Year Old Test for 8th Graders

This was making the rounds a while back. Perhaps you’ve already seen it.  It’s a test for 8th graders from Bullitt County in Kentucky...from 1912. It’s really worth a look. How well could you do?
To me, the spelling list looks difficult for today’s 8th grade. The arithmetic section looks like mostly real-world problems. Most of the rest- grammar, geography, physiology, civil government, and history- seem pretty low-level knowledge questions. “Name,” “Define,” List” questions abound. I only spot one “Why” question.
So, while the amount of “stuff” to know is great, it’s all Google-able. And really, if it’s Google-able, how much thinking are the  students doing?

Absenteeism Study

Ok, I try not to post raw research.  I know for most people, reading research is like watching paint dry.  However this time there were just too many good nuggets to make my own post out of.  Instead, I’m posting the PowerPoint that goes through point by point.  A lot of it proves what we already assume.
Economically disadvantaged? Probably more frequently absent.
Absent in Kindergarten? Absent at least through 5th grade.
Absent in 5th grade? Absent in 10th grade.
One item I found interesting for our purposes.  The researchers found that chronic absenteeism is higher in rural areas. In urban areas, absenteeism is higher in the upper grades.

ASCD's Emerging Leaders

Each year, ASCD selects a group of educators as Emerging Leaders. I’m honored to have been chosen as a member of the class of 2012.
The Emerging Leaders…
  • Have been in the profession approximately 5–15 years;
  • Demonstrate a passion for teaching, learning, and leadership;
  • Have not previously been involved with ASCD in a leadership capacity;
  • Collectively exhibit a broad range of diversity in position, location, cultural background, and perspective;
  • Hold promise as leaders; and
  • Are committed to ASCD’s beliefs and to pursuing leadership opportunities.
For me, I get to connect with up-and-coming leaders in the field over the next two years, share best practices, learn, and grow. This starts with the Leader to Leader Conference they send me to in July. I may also be paired up with a with a coach or mentor to create and implement a learning and leadership action plan for my two year commitment.
I’d like to congratulate my fellow “classmates” as well.  There are 26 of us from as far away as Hong Kong.


One of the things educators are going to address with Common Core is the new expectations for reading level.  Common Core uses Lexile level  to determine to appropriate grade range for a text.  Lexile, simply put, is a measure of how many syllables you find per number of words and how many words you find per sentence. More syllables and/or more words will generally give you a higher Lexile. Text with lots of dialogue is usually a lower Lexile.   
If you look at Page 8 of Appendix A of the Standards you see this chart:    

You can see that starting in about 4th grade, Lexile level changes significantly and continues through 12th grade.  
How can you find the Lexile of a given text? Here’s one resource: in the upper right is a quick book search. I plugged a couple of books in I used to teach 11th grade with. The Great Gatsby is a 1070L, middle of the road now for 9th-1oth grade CC range.  Same with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest- an 1110L.  
Give it a try. Start thinking about reading materials.

Network Team Site

I wanted to share another site full of good stuff related to our current work.  Our BOCES Network Team has a page set up focusing all Race to the Top.  You can find handouts, short webinars, training updates, and more on DDI, APPR, and Commonn Core.  Ther are also starting to collect best practices from around the area and post them as well.