The following pieces on education are worth reading or keeping on your to-do list.
Susan Sparks wrote a piece that looks at the number of students who may not ‘drop out’ of school, but who step away for a period of time, only to return later to finish their experience. Of the students who entered high school in 2009, less than 3% were in school in 2012. Three percent may seem like a small number, but out of roughly 15 million high school students, 3% is 450,000 who left school. She writes, that a portion of those students do come back after time away. That’s the good news. However, the number of students still disenfranchised from school is considerable. Where are they and what are they doing.
The other disturbing fact which Sparks points out is:
The federal study found that students in the poorest 20% of families nationwide were generally more likely than those from other income groups to both stop out or drop out. They were more than twice as likely to stop school briefly, 12% versus 4.7% who left school permanently.
The fact that school does not engage and support a large number of students, nearly 500,000, suggests our society still has a significant challenge to solve. A problem that will not be addressed through traditional schooling. The encouraging news from the study Sparks references is that dropping out of school does not have to be the final word.
In Georgia, the graduation rate issue is improving slightly, but it still remains a challenge for our school systems. In the AJC, Ty Tagami wrote:
Georgia’s high school graduation rate continued to climb in 2016 though the growth rate was slackening. Nearly four out of five members of the class of 2016 graduated on time, according to preliminary data released by the Georgia Department of Education Tuesday.
While those are somewhat encouraging numbers, it still leaves 20% of students disenfranchised from school, left to find their way in an uncertain job market.
Marc Tucker, President of the National Center on Education and the Economy (firstname.lastname@example.org and blog link), wrote a piece in Educational Leadership’s December 2016 issue, Globally Ready or Not? He raises the question, are we preparing our students to be active and informed citizens in a globally-connected world? If not, he provides the reasons why we need to be attentive to the question and what schools might consider doing. He writes:
What has changed are the demands of the workplace. Not only that, but performance of high school students elsewhere (beyond the U.S.) has rapidly improved; the typical high school student in more than 15 other industrialized countries now posts scores on international comparative tests that far exceed the performance of the typical U.S. high school student. (page 31)
While test scores are not the only measure we should use, they do tell us that in many respects our students are not keeping up. There are other positive indicators regarding U.S. competitiveness. For example, just behind Sweden, the U.S. ranks as the second most creative country in the world using the global creativity index (click here for the article in Business Insider). So while collectively U.S. students may be struggling in math, science, and language arts as compared to their international peers, our society does promote and nurture an entrepreneurial and creative spirit.
Tucker poses a series of questions that he believes all schools should address.
- What it means to do the right thing when no one is looking?
- What deep learning is and how to produce and assess it?
- What it means to work independently against deadlines and meet them with high standards of quality?
- How to know when a student is a strong contributor as a team member?
- How the school will structure opportunities for leadership so all students get a chance to lead?
Addressing these questions may guide schools to build a strategy for helping students become globally ready for a constantly changing workforce. He then suggests some interesting ideas for how we might design curriculum that helps students see the world in new ways. For example, “divide the world into regions and require all students to take one full-year course introducing them to the achievements, aspirations, outlook, conflicts and sorrows of the people of that region (page 35).” I love the idea of creating space for students to develop empathy with the “conflicts and sorrows” of the people of a region other than their own.
Lynsey Gibbons, et.al. write an interesting article in JSD, Learning Forward’s journal, entitled, The Sandwich Strategy. They make the case that teachers need to think seriously about analyzing student work in a collaborative setting. Looking at the student work across a grade level in math provides powerful insights into math instruction. Teachers learn from each other when they share how their students have mastered the learning targets, expressed themselves through their products, and achieved on their formative and summative assessments. Examining the work collectively gives teachers insights into how their peers taught and evaluated learning. It provides a way to benchmark.
Hopefully, you find these pieces relevant and interesting to your work.