If Teacher's Unions are So Bad...Just Asking.

     The three highest achieving states in the U.S. are Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey. In all of these states, teachers are protected by unions. If teacher's unions are the problem, as is so often posited, why do states like Virginia, North Carolina, and, of course, Texas, have such a poor showing when it comes to any measure of student achievement? Just asking. Wonder if it's poverty, that most stubborn of correlative statistics between all kinds of poor educational markers (test scores, dropout rates, teen-age pregnancy) that's the culprit.

How Studying for Announced Tests Undermines Assessment

      Although the "pop quiz" emblemizes the ultimate in unfairness, really, when you think about it, isn't the unannounced assessment the only authentic one? Studying for a test is like cleaning up the house for company. The guests get to enjoy a nice, orderly living room and leave with the, maybe false,  impression that the hosts keep things nice and tidy like that all the time. That's fine for the expectations of hospitality, where a little straightening up is a sign of respect for invited guests, but when it comes to assessing learning, the prepared-for snapshot is all but useless.

The Light is Better Over Here: What's Wrong with Worksheets Part 1

     Remember the old chestnut about the drunk who was searching under the lamplight one evening? He was approached by a police officer who asked him, "Lose something, sir?" "Yeah," replies the drunk. "Lost my eyeglasses." "Where you standing when you lost them?" asks the police officer. "Way over there," replies the drunk, pointing to a dark area. "Then why aren't you looking for them over there?" asks the police officer. "The light is better over here," says the drunk.

Vocabulary Instruction: Even more important than I'd thought

     Anyone who has ever worked with me knows how seriously I take vocabulary instruction in building academic, social, literary, and technical knowledge. Vocabulary makes the world make sense, not only to those to whom we wish to communicate, but also to ourselves: vocabulary builds the brain.

Revisiting Harvey

     I'm a Jim Parsons fan, and so when I heard  that he was starring in a new production of Harvey, I immediately bought a ticket. This particular play holds some memories, as I saw it as a high school kid when it starred  Jimmy Stewart and Helen Hayes. It was also the first play I directed, back in the late seventies when I taught middle school, and then again just a few years later, when I taught high school.

The Seven Labors of Obama, plus a few more

1. Ending the Iraq War
2. Enacting the Affordable Health Care Act
3. Saving the auto industry, and thus the economy of the entire Midwest
4. Enacting the Lily Ledbetter law, ensuring equal pay for women in the workplace
5. Supporting full rights for gay Americans, including ending DADT and supporting marriage equality
6. Giving the incredibly courageous order to Navy Seal Team Six to kill Osama Bin Laden
7. Saving the American economy with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, although it wasn't enough money

On Toddler Ballet and PD Days

If you've ever attended a dance recital for pre-schoolers, you've surely noticed two things: One, it's adorable. Two, part of its adorableness is that there's always that one three-year-old on the stage who is doing her own thing. Whether it's her own twirls, her own tutu inspection, her own acknowledgement of friends and family in the audience, or her own drift towards others on the stage as if she were herself an audience member rather than a performer, what she is obviously unaware of, or maybe just doesn't care about, is this fact: We can see her!

Doing Problems: Life in Remedial Math

     Picture this: Nine middle school students are in a remedial math class, a class into which they have been placed because of sub-par performance on the state math test.


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