“The point of a good education is to expose children to the best of what has been learned, spoken, or thought over the past ten thousand years of human civilization. It’s their intellectual paycheck. Enjoy it and spend some today. Invest the rest where it can mature and pay divi-dends forever. Not everything should or will be immediately or obviously useful or relevant.”
Robert Pondiscio in “Improving Student Motivation and Engagement” in The
Education Gadfly, November 28, 2018 (Vol. 18, #47), https://bit.ly/2PbLItI
“For me writing is a complete and total joy, and if I’m not writing I’m miserable… It’s such a strongly felt need that if it was something socially maladaptive it would be considered a vice.”
Harvard historian and author Jill Lepore in an interview with Evan Goldstein in The
Chronicle of Higher Education, November 30, 2018, https://bit.ly/2FonKvH
“There is no foolproof algorithm for life’s difficult choices. But the research shows that you can get getter at making them.”
Steven Johnson (see item #2)
“Women leaders are expected to be both personable and authoritative, both analytic and affable, both warm (including being open to any question, no matter how off-putting) and clearly commanding… [C]onversations with staff, faculty, and students can turn on a dime from inter-role (employer to employee) to interpersonal. When this happens, too often personal traits replace leadership capabilities as the metric by which women are judged.”
Mariko Silver, President of Bennington College, in “What Are the Biggest Challenges
You’ve Faced as a Female Leader?” inThe Chronicle of Higher Education, November
30, 2018 (Vol. LXV, #13, p. A8-10), no free e-link
“Trust gives school leaders the respect and credibility they need for educators to listen to, collaborate with, and follow them,” says author/consultant Jon Saphier in this article in The Learning Professional. But building trust is not an easy matter because teachers “mostly work individually and often see themselves as artistic, solo practitioners rather than working side-by-side in teams and being members of an organization.” Over the years, Saphier and his colleagues have crystallized the following description of what teachers would say of their leader in a school with a trusting culture. This kind of school, says Saphier, is an “engine for constant improvement in teaching and learning.”
• I trust that you are competent and can keep the wheels turning by staying on top of essential operations and handling crises.
• I trust that you think I am a worthwhile person because you consistently notice and comment on the things I am doing well and are interested in my life outside of school.
• I trust that you will make it safe for us to make mistakes by making yourself vulnerable; acknowledging what you don’t know and where you need help; acknowledging mistakes, righting wrongs, apologizing, and making restitution; showing loyalty by giving credit freely, acknowledging others, and not bad-mouthing anyone behind their backs; holding yourself accountable and sharing how you’ll communicate; and being a constant learner with us – and visibly so.
• I trust that you will be honest, meaning that you give me honest feedback about my performance; talk straight, let people know where you stand, use simple language, call things as they are, and not leave false impressions; create transparency, erring on the side of disclosure; confront reality, take issues head on, and lead courageously in conversations; clarify expectations, discuss and validate them, and renegotiate if necessary.
• I trust your integrity – that is, that your motives are in the interest of the students, not primarily your own career advancement, because you stand up for important values; keep your moral compass; maintain urgency for what needs to be done; keep your promises and follow through on your commitments.
• I trust that you will act courageously by protecting us from initiative overload and keeping us safe from toxic behavior.
• I trust that you will make legitimate decisions because you solicit input; explain how our input was used and why; can set limits and say no; and make decisions for the good of the school.
• I trust that you will deliver results by highlighting small victories and getting the right things done.
• I trust that you will show me respect by listening first and not assuming you know what matters most; using active listening skills; hearing out different points of view; valuing my time; having my back; sharing critical feedback because you think I can get better and deserve the chance.
• I trust that you will act in a caring and compassionate way by showing kindness in little things; being generous; and going the extra mile to show consideration to individuals.
Saphier suggests having a staff create vignettes for what some of these statements look like in everyday contexts. “These vignettes can become a playbook for any leader who wants to build trust and respect,” he says.
In this New York Timesarticle, author Steven Johnson says most people’s method for making important choices hasn’t changed over the centuries: they make a list of pros and cons and weigh their relative importance. Johnson suggests some better ways, drawing on cognitive science, management theory, and literary studies. “None of these new tools, of course, provide solutionsto the decisions you face,” he says. “They’re intended to help you see the current situation from new perspectives, to imagine new possibilities, to weigh your options with more sophistication. There is no foolproof algorithm for life’s difficult choices. But the research shows that you can get getter at making them.” His pointers:
•Generate additional options. Researchers have found that most people make decisions without looking beyond the alternatives on the table; they often consider only one or two. The evidence is that the more options considered, the more successful will be the ultimate decision.
•Consult with a diverse group. “Homogeneous groups,” says Johnson, “whether they are united by ethnic background, gender, or some other commonality like politics – tend to come to decisions too quickly. They settle on the most-likely scenario and don’t question their assumptions, since everyone at the table seems to agree with the broad outline of the interpretation.” Checking in with people of varied backgrounds increases the quantity of ideas, the rigor of deliberation, and the group’s persistence in pursuit of good decisions.
•Imagine different outcomes. One approach is conducting a “pre-mortem” – imagining a bad outcome and working backward to figure out what might have produced it. Another is to tell three stories about how the situation might work out: (a) things improve; (b) things get worse; (c) things get weird. Both of these strategies help one think through the possible consequences of a decision and avoid blind spots and a false sense of confidence.
•Weigh competing values. The decision maker writes down relevant values and gives each one a numerical weight. Each possible course of action is then scored on the values it serves, with the highest-scoring scenario emerging as the winner.
In this Cult of Pedagogyarticle, Jennifer Gonzalez describes California high-school English teacher Jeff Frieden’s attempts to get students engaging in productive conversations. He tried think-pair-share, groups of four, mixer-style activities, and appointment clocks, but none of them worked very well. Many students took advantage of such opportunities for off-topic chats with their friends, while others never learned the names of peers with whom they’d gone to school for years.
One day, Frieden hit upon a way to get students to dive deeper into the content, take more academic risks, and get to know each other better. Here’s how his “ongoing conversations” method works as students, for example, study a novel:
In this article in 4QMTeaching, Massachusetts high-school curriculum coordinator Gary Shiffman describes how a fellow teacher’s students froze when given this essay prompt: What’s the most important cause of the American Civil War?(Students also got an article describing five causes of the war and were asked to pick one and defend it in their essays.) Why were the students stymied?
Shiffman says it’s because the essay prompt was an ambiguous mix of different question types, making it virtually impossible to write about it in a coherent way. He and his colleague Jon Bassett believe there are four types of history questions (hence their Four Question Method approach):
•What happened? (narration) – for example, What were the major events that led to the American Civil War?
•What were people thinking? (interpretation) – What were the protagonists thinking on the eve of the War?
•Why then and there? (explanation) – What changes in economics, politics, and demography made a violent constitutional crisis more likely in the middle of the 1800s rather than earlier or later?
•What do we think about that? (judgment) – Who is to blame for the American Civil War?
The teacher’s question – What’s the most important cause of the American Civil War?– combined narration (the story of events leading to the war), interpretation (people’s thought processes), and a request to rank-order causes. Students who took the prompt seriously “would need to complete a number of challenging intellectual tasks,” says Shiffman. “They would need to distinguish narration and interpretation from causal explanation. Then they would need to compare factors. Then they’d have to rank them in order of importance. The first two tasks are quite difficult. The third is impossible.” That’s why students’ brains froze: the prompt made no sense to them.
Some students fake their way through ambiguous questions by substituting an easier question – for example, writing a narrative of events leading to the Civil War. “If it’s a good story – a proficient narrative – we may give them a good grade,” says Shiffman. “If not, we tell them they need to make an argument. If they do, it’s typically not a great one, or even a coherent one. But since our ‘causes of X’ prompts don’t compute for us either, we’re likely to substitute right back. Not having answered the question doesn’t mean you can’t get an ‘A’.”
In this case, students weren’t adept at fakery, and the teacher realized that her question was the problem. The next day, she told students she’d framed the question poorly and asked them to pick a cause and say how it contributed to increasing tension between North and South (narrative). It wasn’t the greatest prompt in the world, but it was clear and students started writing.
Shiffman’s advice: “Take your questions seriously. If you can’t tell which of the Four Questions you’re asking, assume you’re not clear yet. Whatever question you ask, try answering it yourself, conscientiously, before you ask your students to try it. The stakes are high.”
In this portion of one of Larry Ferlazzo’s question-and-answer columns in Education Week Teacher, Susan Brookhart (Dusquesne University) suggests five steps when giving students feedback on their writing:
•Make sure students know what qualities their writing should exhibit. For example, if they’re writing descriptive paragraphs, they should be clear that their writing should use adjectives that describe by telling what something looks, sounds, tastes, smells, or feels like, and that readers feel like they are “there,” experiencing whatever is described. Clear directions give students a self-assessment checklist for their writing:
In this Elementary School Journalarticle, Jacob Kirksey and Michael Gottfried (University of California, Santa Barbara) report on their study on whether elementary students who have more classmates from the preceding year might have better school attendance. Kirksey and Gottfried looked at three years of data from 13 public elementary schools in a small, diverse, urban district and compared the percent of classmates who carried over from the previous year to the number of unexcused student absences and the level of chronic absenteeism (missing 10 percent or more of school days for any reason). The percent of familiar faces varied from zero (for students who transferred in from another school and those who were promoted and placed in a different classroom than previous classmates) to 100 percent (for situations where an entire class moved up together).
The results? Having more of the same classmates from the previous year was correlated with slightly fewer unexcused absences. On chronic absenteeism, the correlation was much stronger: students with more familiar faces from the previous year had much lower odds of being chronically absent – as much as 62 percentage points lower and on average 18 points lower.
“Familiar faces may serve as a reference for children attending school from one year to the next,” conclude Kirksey and Gottfried. “Such consistency may influence positive attendance behaviors in elementary children, as these children begin to value peers and assign a higher value to schooling. Additionally, familiar faces may act as an added layer of peer networks that serve as a buffer for other changing aspects to the learning context for young children. Within this base of familiarity, children could experience stronger connections to school amid changing grades and changing teachers.” The implications are clear: schools and districts should maximize year-to-year continuity of student groups as one of a number of ways to improve student attendance.
“Familiar Faces: Can Having Similar Classmates from Last Year Link to Better School Attendance This Year?” by Jacob Kirksey and Michael Gottfried in Elementary School Journal, December 2018 (Vol. 119, #2, p. 223-243), https://bit.ly/2Q1lWxH; the authors can be reached at email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this article in Education Next, Kirabo Jackson (Northwestern University) reports on his study of the impact of teachers on their North Carolina ninth graders’ academic and non-cognitive attainment. Jackson analyzed English and math grades and test scores, student attendance, grades, behavior, suspensions, and on-time promotion to tenth grade. He also looked at downstream data: whether students took the SAT and graduated from high school on time, their grade-point average at graduation, and plans to attend a four-year college.
“I find that, while teachers have notable effects on both test scores and non-cognitive skills, their impact on non-cognitive skills is 10 times more predictive of students’ longer-term success in high school than their impact on test scores,” says Jackson. “These results provide hard evidence that measuring teachers’ impact through their students’ test scores captures only a fraction of their overall effect on student success.” Some additional findings:
In this article in Education Week, Sarah Sparks reports on a study of a school program that sent parents text alerts when a child was in danger of failing, or was frequently absent. A study found that how parents were recruited into the program made a big difference. Here’s what researchers from Columbia and Harvard discovered in a study in a dozen Washington D.C. middle and high schools:
“Make One Change to Parent Outreach, and Study Finds Fewer Students Fail Classes” by Sarah Sparks in Education Week, November 12, 2018,https://bit.ly/2KQzhTq
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About the Marshall Memo
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This weekly memo is designed to keep principals, teachers, superintendents, and other educators very well-informed on current research and effective practices in K-12 education. Kim Marshall, drawing on 48 years’ experience as a teacher, principal, central office administrator, writer, and consultant lightens the load of busy educators by serving as their “designated reader.”
To produce the Marshall Memo, Kim subscribes to 60 carefully-chosen publications (see list to the right), sifts through more than a hundred articles each week, and selects 5-10 that have the greatest potential to improve teaching, leadership, and learning. He then writes a brief summary of each article, pulls out several striking quotes, provides e-links to full articles when available, and e-mails the Memo to subscribers every Monday evening (with occasional breaks; there are 50 issues a year). Every week there’s a podcast and HTML version as well.
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Core list of publications covered
Those read this week are underlined.
All Things PLC
American Educational Research Journal
American Journal of Education
ASCA School Counselor
District Management Journal
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
Elementary School Journal
Harvard Business Review
Harvard Educational Review
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy
Journal of Education for Students Placed At Risk (JESPAR)
Kappa Delta Pi Record
Literacy Today (formerly Reading Today)
Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School
Middle School Journal
Peabody Journal of Education
Phi Delta Kappan
Reading Research Quarterly
Responsive Classroom Newsletter
Review of Educational Research
School Library Journal
Social Studies and the Young Learner
Teaching Children Mathematics
Teaching Exceptional Children
The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Journal of the Learning Sciences
The Language Educator
The Learning Professional(formerly Journal of Staff Development)
The Reading Teacher
Theory Into Practice