“Silence emboldens bullies.”
Allison Vaillancourt (see item #6)
“Savvy women learn that they must often do a masculine thing (which establishes their competence) in a feminine way (to defuse backlash).”
Joan Williams in “How Women Escape the Likability Trap” in The New York Times,
“Education is a form of social policy – a means by which society distributes power and privilege. Superintendents are held professionally accountable and morally responsible to fine-tune district programs and practices to ensure all students have access to a quality education.”
Demond Means, Clarke County, Georgia superintendent, in “The Perils of Equity-
Focused Leadership” in Education Week, September 18, 2019 (Vol. 39, #5, p. 16),
“I used low-level books for students with low reading levels, and when we finished, nothing had changed. Something seemed off.”
Laura Beth Kelly (see item #4)
“Of course, a teacher’s passion, charisma, warmth, and humor influence the way students experience a class. But teachers aren’t really ‘born’ knowing how to connect and inspire children in a classroom setting. Instead, they must grow these capacities by continually developing pedagogical and social-emotional skills. The idea that a great personality makes a great teacher is fantasy.”
Ariel Sacks (see item #1)
“Of course, a teacher’s passion, charisma, warmth, and humor influence the way students experience a class,” says teacher/instructional coach/author Ariel Sacks in this article in Education Week Teacher. “But teachers aren’t really ‘born’ knowing how to connect and inspire children in a classroom setting. Instead, they must grow these capacities by continually developing pedagogical and social-emotional skills. The idea that a great personality makes a great teacher is fantasy.”
Early in her career, Sacks saw a vivid example of this. An experienced teacher launched a seventh-grade summer school class by telling students that she was learning how to ride a motorcycle and loved the experience. She was from the same neighborhood and ethnicity as her students and they liked her immediately, diving into a writing assignment describing something they loved to do.
But after this strong debut, the teacher began assigning hum-drum worksheet packets every day, and students became bored and started acting out. Personality, affinity, and pizzazz weren’t enough as this teacher struggled with the class; she didn’t have the tools and curriculum substance to engage kids on a daily basis. “Likewise,” Sacks continues, “when a teacher is successful, we can’t just attribute it to personality… Teaching methods are critical to educational outcomes for students.”
Sacks cites the work of former New York City teacher Vanessa Rodriguez on five teacher “awarenesses,” each of which exists on a continuum and is developed by teachers at different rates over time:
“One of the roles of formal education – and particularly social studies education – has been to transmit the social norms and cultural values necessary to ensure the nation remains one unit, bound together for the purposes of democratic governance and maintaining domestic peace,” say Hillary Parkhouse and Bryan Arnold (Virginia Commonwealth University) in this Teachers College Record article. An enduring component in history textbooks has been an embrace of the “rags to riches” American Dream ideology that anyone can succeed through hard work.
Given the increasingly uneven distribution of wealth in recent decades, this ideology is a less and less accurate description of our economy. “Barriers to the realization of the American Dream,” say Parkhouse and Arnold, “include discrimination, inequitable education, the effect of wealth inheritance on future life outcomes, the decline of manufacturing, and the effects of corporatization on the potential for self-employment. The ideology remains strong, however, because it promotes a unifying and pacifying sense that the current system justly rewards those who are most deserving.”
At the heart of this belief system is the conviction that the nation is a meritocracy – that people make progress because of talent, ambition, and hard work rather than inherited wealth and other unearned advantages. This view is widespread, but so is the realization that family wealth, connections, and race play a role in getting ahead. This “dual consciousness” exists across the population, say the authors, but the less advantaged and people of color are more likely to embrace the latter belief, while the advantaged and white Americans embrace the former.
The authors report that national and state curriculum standards for economics totally fail to address issues of inequality, social class, or poverty, and many local curriculum standards focus on personal finance skills, with even less attention to macroeconomic topics. “In terms of social studies education as a whole,” they say, “inequality is almost entirely absent from the curriculum.” One study in California found that 60 percent of teachers address these issues on their own, but they are swimming against the tide of textbooks, standards, and state assessments.
Parkhouse and Arnold conducted a study of two social studies classrooms in a public high school in the Southeast to see what happens when teachers try to address the causes of economic inequality and get students thinking about possible remedies. The researchers found that while teachers’ efforts “did not immunize these students from the American Dream ideology, it may have helped them to identify flaws in that ideology through providing language and context for making sense of the counterevidence they had witnessed in their own lives… The ideologies of colorblindness and post-raciality were rejected by all students, regardless of cultural background, in their acknowledgements of the different obstacles that people of color face.”
But the bottom line was that fully dissuading students of the rags-to-riches ideology was a struggle. “The American Dream ideology,” conclude Parkhouse and Arnold, “may be particularly hard to dismantle because it is part of the cultural curriculum that shapes student understanding as much as the school curriculum does. It is also highly susceptible to motivated reasoning as it is much more appealing than the alternative (i.e., that we are, to a large extent, not in control of our own economic fates). Thus, rather than fully demystifying the American Dream ideology, critical history pedagogy seems to have bolstered dual consciousness, and in particular the top layer of awareness, that non-meritocratic elements such as race, language, and religion, drive differential access to upward social mobility… Students need more language to help them make sense of their dual consciousness of the myth of meritocracy alongside their lingering hope that their personal efforts will allow them to go from rags to riches.”
“‘We’re Rags to Riches’: Dual Consciousness of the American Dream in Two Critical History Classrooms” by Hillary Parkhouse and Bryan Arnold in Teachers College Record, September 2019 (Vol. 121, #9, pp. 1-40), https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1225413; Parkhouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, Arnold at email@example.com.
In this article in Educational Researcher, Thomas Fallace (William Paterson University) explores the genesis of the belief that students will learn better if instruction is tailored to individual learning styles (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic). Some assume that it sprang from the self-esteem movement of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Not true, says Fallace. He found that the idea originated in the 1960s notion that there was a distinct African-American learning style associated with this group’s economic disadvantages and cultural deprivation (the 1965 Moynihan report, The Negro Family, referred to the black experience as “a tangle of pathology”). Cognitive psychologists (notably Frank Reissman) coined the term “learning styles” and suggested that the lower academic achievement of African-American youth was partly explained by the mismatch between white middle-class pedagogy and black students’ learning preferences. This idea was criticized for implying that the theorized black learning style was inferior to its mainstream counterpart. Attempts to match instruction to learning style were not widely implemented.
But the idea of learning styles persisted, and as inventories of learning preferences were developed in the 1970s (notably by Rita and Kenneth Dunn), the language of deficits and race disappeared and the theory of matching instruction and learning styles was applied to students of all races.
Fallace doesn’t address the efficacy of teachers matching instruction to students’ learning styles. “Nevertheless,” he concludes, “advocates should be aware of its problematic early history.” Specifically:
“How Hard Should the Books Be in Small-Group Reading? It Depends” by Laura Beth Kelly in The Reading Teacher, September/October 2019 (Vol. 73, #2, pp. 173-183), https://bit.ly/2nFJo6l; Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this Education Week article, Arianna Prothero reports that many educators feel overwhelmed by the scope and expense of full-blown social-emotional learning curriculum packages. Stephanie Jones and her colleagues at Harvard University’s EASEL laboratory (Ecological Approaches to Social-Emotional Learning, https://easel.gse.harvard.edu/people) saw this as an impediment to important SEL skills being taught in schools. “Folks wanted to do it,” she says, “but they wanted it to be integrated in the instructional work they are already doing. We began to think about the problem of implementation by brainstorming ways to do SEL in little bites, in small, routine, structure-based ways you could imbed in a school in a way that is harder to do with a curriculum.”
What emerged were 10-minute “kernels,” brief routines that teachers could squeeze into their busy days when the need arose – for example, students bringing recess conflicts into the classroom. Three examples:
• Magic 8 Ball, a discussion strategy building problem-solving skills (all grades) – The teacher asks, “If a person does X, what might happen?” Students then look into their imaginary magic 8 balls and give potential consequences of the action, as well responses in other situations. The teacher follows up by asking students if they see these actions as positive, negative, or neutral, and in which other situations they might need to imagine an outcome.
• Dear Abby, a discussion strategy that helps students make responsible, ethical, healthy choices in difficult situations (fifth grade) – Students read a real-world dilemma from an advice column and discuss solutions in small groups or in a role-play. Students are asked if they need additional information to better understand the dilemma, and how other characters in the scenario might see the situation.
• Belly breathing, a calming technique for emotion/behavior management (all grades) – Students breathe deeply through their noses, notice their bellies expand, then exhale through their mouths and notice how their bellies contract. Do they feel differently? When might this be a useful strategy?
In this Chronicle of Higher Education article, Allison Vaillancourt (University of Arizona) bemoans the fact that many meetings are unpleasant and unproductive. Why? Because of agenda hijacking, loquacious colleagues dominating discussions, some participants being ignored or silenced, and people not listening. Here are her suggestions for breaking these all-too-common problems:
• Establish ground rules. Doing this is often met with “heavy sighs and eye-rolling,” says Vaillancourt, but she encourages leaders to persist because “an agreed-upon set of discussion rules is a powerful expression of values that significantly improves meeting dynamics.” Some possibilities:
• Respect different thinking styles. “Some people think on the fly and rarely know what’s going to come out of their mouths until the words have been uttered,” says Vaillancourt; “they think by talking. Others need time to consider possibilities and are uncomfortable voicing opinions or sharing ideas without extended reflection.” To accommodate both styles, it’s helpful for everyone to have a detailed agenda in advance.
• Track who’s talking. A simple strategy is making a list of participants and checkmarking every time someone participates. When Vaillancourt first started doing this, she was chagrined to see too many checks by her own name; the data made her talk less. There’s also a helpful app, Are Men Talking Too Much? that tracks gender differences in participation.
“10 Ways to Better Manage Your Meetings” by Allison Vaillancourt in The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 27, 2019 (Vol. LXVI, #4, pp. A37-38), https://bit.ly/2mPQNzH; Vaillancourt can be reached at email@example.com.
In this New York Times article, David Deming (Kennedy School at Harvard University) reports that computer science and engineering majors earn an average of $61,744 right out of college, compared to $45,032 for history and social science majors. But liberal-arts majors who graduated twenty years ago now average $131,154 annual income in careers like business, law, and management, compared to $124,458 for STEM majors. The story was slightly different for women: applied STEM graduates make 50 percent more than liberal-arts majors right out of college and 10 percent more by age 38-40. What’s going on here?
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About the Marshall Memo
Mission and focus:
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 50 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.
Individual subscriptions are $50 for a year. Rates decline steeply for multiple readers within the same organization. See the website for these rates and how to pay by check, credit card, or purchase order.
If you go to http://www.marshallmemo.com you will find detailed information on:
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• Publications (with a count of articles from each)
• Article selection criteria
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• Headlines for all issues
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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)
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