The OECD has released the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results. Visit our collection of resources to help you interpret them in context.
21st Century Skills
A Partnership Between the Military and Education: A Conversation with Lieutenant General Benjamin Freakley
Lieutenant General Benjamin C. Freakley is the commanding general of the United States Army Accessions Command (USAAC) and oversees recruiting for the U.S. Army's officer, warrant officer and enlisted forces. USAAC has joined forces with the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) to support young people and boost graduation rates. (We wrote about this partnership in a blog posting several months ago. NASBE is a member of LFA.)
LTG Freakley recently spoke with us about the promise of greater collaboration between the military and schools.
Education: A National Security Issue
Public School Insights: Why do you think the military is getting involved in K-12 education?
LTG Freakley: I believe that the preparedness of our youth through education, health and conduct is a national security issue. Right now our young people, regardless of the tact they take for postsecondary, are limiting themselves. They are limiting themselves because they are not getting a good foundational education in K-12. They are not as healthy as they should be, with childhood obesity becoming an epidemic. And they get off track in their conduct, limiting what might be brilliant careers because they chose to get involved with gang violence, drugs, teenage pregnancy, etc.
It is disheartening to see all of this potential being limited. We believe that we have got to help our youth to achieve success through supporting our educators who, I believe, are undervalued in America—not recognized like they should be or supported like they should be. We ought to be as close to education as we can so we can sustain our all volunteer force and also so we can have an economically ...
Ashley Merryman and Po Bronson recently penned a Newsweek cover story called "The Creativity Crisis." They cite new evidence that American creativity is on the decline, but they also suggest that we can turn things around.
Regular readers of this blog may recall our earlier interview with Merryman about Nurture Shock, the best-selling book she and Bronson published last year. That book argued that many of our most cherished strategies for nurturing children are failing because we overlook key lessons from science.
In their Newsweek piece, Merryman and Bronson find themselves on similar ground. There is a science of creativity, they write, and we ignore that fact at our peril. We can't just pin our hopes on a vague sense of American ingenuity. Nor can we simply enjoin students to let their inner creativity out.
But science can point us toward concrete strategies to boost creativity, Merryman and Bronson write. In an interview last Friday, Merryman told us more.
Is American Creativity on the Decline?
Public School Insights: You and Po Bronson write that measures of creativity in the United States are falling. How bad do you think the situation is?
Merryman: Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) were developed in 1958 by E. Paul Torrance. He and a colleague tracked kids for 40 and 50 years. They found the TTCT predicts lifetime creative achievement more effectively than IQ. It is a three-time stronger correlation.
These tests are continually re-normed because scores are based on, what answer is most original? In 1970, if someone had drawn an iPod, they would've scored off the charts. But a kid who drew something as an iPod today might not be considered original. So the tests are constantly reevaluated in terms of what kids understand and are familiar with.
Kyung Hee Kim, a researcher at the College of William and Mary, is one of the people responsible for re-norming these tests. In May, when analyzing over 300,000 scores, she found a pattern that showed a decline in scores since 1990. Before 1990, scores were going up, but they've been going down since. The decline is the steepest for young children, specifically school-age children. They are still working on the data, so I cannot say “It has declined X percentage.” But what we can say is that the decline is significant, and Kim considers the ...
Most people believe we can't be a prosperous nation if we're not a creative nation. But can we teach creativity without giving in to the gauzy, shallow, I'm OK, You're OK creativity exercises that drive traditionalists round the bend?
A recent Newsweek cover story by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman suggests that we can. In fact, its authors say we must, because our young people have been getting less creative over the past twenty years. What's worse, they claim, we don't seem to have any national strategy to tackle the problem.
In this country, we tend to believe that our Edisons and Gateses will come to us as naturally as the leaves to a tree. Our children's math scores may not always top the international charts, but darn it, we're a naturally ingenious bunch.
But new research is starting to shake that confidence, Bronson and Merryman report. Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary reviewed some 300,000 Torrance scores from the past half century and found that they have been declining since 1990. (Torrance tests are a common measure of creativity. They correlate strongly with "lifetime creative accomplishment," Bronson and Merryman report.) The decline is worst in young children.
But it won't do just to get in touch with our inner poets or to move all our mental furniture into our right brains. Creativity depends on steady commerce between the left and right ...
We all know that new media are changing our lives. If there was ever a reason to hone our 18th-century skills, this is it.
Steven Pinker's recent piece in The New York Times drives this point home. "Yes, the constant arrival of information packets can be distracting or addictive, especially to people with attention deficit disorder," he writes:
But distraction is not a new phenomenon. The solution is not to bemoan technology but to develop strategies of self-control, as we do with every other temptation in life. Turn off e-mail or Twitter when you work, put away your Blackberry at dinner time, ask your spouse to call you to bed at a designated hour.
And to encourage intellectual depth, don’t rail at PowerPoint or Google. It’s not as if habits of deep reflection, thorough research and rigorous reasoning ever came naturally to people. They must be acquired in special institutions, which we call universities, and maintained with constant upkeep, which we call analysis, criticism and debate. They are not granted by propping a heavy encyclopedia on your lap, nor are they taken away by efficient access to information on the Internet.
The new media have caught on for a reason. Knowledge is increasing exponentially; human brainpower and waking hours are not. Fortunately, the Internet and information technologies are helping us manage, search and retrieve our collective intellectual output at ...
Mike Town is a man with a mission. This Washington state environmental science teacher has spent the past 25 years educating students on environmental issues. His students do real-world projects designed to show the relevance of science, get them thinking about the environmental impact of their actions, and introduce them to the emerging green job sector.
One such project is the Cool School Challenge, a model he helped develop that engages students and teachers in reducing their school's greenhouse gas emissions. Now available for free on the web, this approach has saved over 1.6 million pounds of CO2 nationwide (and saved Redmond High School more than $100,000 over the past three years). And he and his students are scaling up the concept in their community, joining forces with the local government for the “Eco-Office Challenge.” ...
A new Kaiser Family Foundation study (PDF) suggests that young people are developing an unhealthy obsession with their TVs, laptops, mp3 players and cell phones. Some might see these findings as a blow to the claims of ed tech boosters. I'm not so sure.
The study found that children ages 8-18 spend every waking moment outside of school in the thrall of media. They're watching TV, playing video games, hooked to ipods, trolling Facebook, gazing at smart phones, or doing any number of other things that are a complete mystery to people over 40. And they're doing these things a staggering 7 1/2 hours every day, on average. That's up from just 6 1/2 hours five short years ago.
Even tech zealots should find cause for concern here. The more time kids spent on media, the more likely they were to get bad grades, feel bored, get into trouble, or feel unhappy. The KFF study didn't ponder the impact of all these media trends on public health. Just last week, an Australian study found that people who watch at least four hours of television a day were much more likely than moderate tv watchers to die of heart disease. (Shocking.) American students watch an average of four and a half hours a day. Not much time left over to go outside and ...
David Kelley is a legend in technology and design circles. Decades ago, he founded a design firm that dreamed up the computer mouse as we know it today. That firm has since evolved into IDEO, a global design company that has left its unique stamp on everything from consumer goods to social innovation. IDEO's work has probably touched your life in ways you don't even know.
For years, Kelley has brought his passion for design into the classroom as a professor at Stanford's famed Institute of Design (or D.School, for those in the know). More recently, Kelley has set his sights on the K-12 classroom. He and his Stanford graduate students are working with schools to help teachers and students master "design thinking." He recently told us what that means.
Public School Insights: Let's start with a big question. What is "design thinking?"
Kelley: To me, design thinking is basically a methodology that allows people to have confidence in their creative ability. Normally many people don't think of themselves as creative, or they think that creativity comes from somewhere that they don't know—like an angel appears and tells them the answer or gives them a new idea.
So design thinking is hopefully a framework that people can hang their creative confidence on. We give people a step-by-step method on how to more routinely be creative or more routinely innovate.
Public School Insights: So you are not talking about something that only artists or engineers would use.
Kelley: No. I struggled with what to call it when we first started out. The reason that we put the word design in it is that this really is the way that designers naturally think. It's not necessarily the way that doctors, lawyers or teachers think, ...
Dan Pink has written several bestselling books on the future of work. His most recent book, Drive, is already lighting up the blogosphere a scant week after its release. Drive explores what motivates us to do our best work. These days, carrots and sticks will do more harm than good, Pink argues. The time has come to tap "the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world."
Pink has earned his chops as a business writer. He has become a regular in the pages of magazines like Fast Company, the Harvard Business Review and Wired. But his work is at least as relevant to schools as it is to business.
Pink recently spoke with us about his book and its implications for school reform.
Public School Insights: Given that this is the age of Twitter, can you summarize your book in 140 characters or less?
Pink: I can summarize the book in 140 characters, although it is kind of hard to measure characters in audio….
The 140 character summary of this book Drive goes like this: Carrots and sticks are so last century. Drive says for 21st-century work we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery and purpose.
Public School Insights: Thank you, that does the trick. Let's dig into that and create a few more characters. [Along with] this notion of autonomy, mastery and purpose, you give a bit of a history. We have moved from motivation 1.0 to motivation 2.0, and then to motivation 3.0. What are these stages and why are they important?
Pink: Part of this book has a metaphor at the center of it. It is the metaphor of the computer operating system. All of us use computers. We use a whole variety of ...
Emily and Bryan Hassel have an idea: Don't get too hung up on plans to make teachers better. Instead, figure out how to help the best teachers reach far more students. After all, they argue, the top 20 percent of teachers are three times as effective as the bottom 20 percent.
Try as they might, though, they cannot escape the need to support teachers through good old fashioned staff development, curriculum and assessment. It's time the education economists paid much closer attention to these critical areas, which are just so déclassé these days.
Of course, the Hassels' argument raises all sorts of questions. How do you identify the top 20 percent of teachers? Do we trust test scores? Will teachers stay in the top 20 percent from year to year? Are the "top" teachers good in every kind of school? Are they effective with every kind of student?
But the Hassels face an even bigger challenge. Their plan will require nothing short of a massive investment in all those things their fellow educonomists find oh-so tedious: Teacher training. New curricula. Much, much better tests. If we pursue the Hassels' brave new reforms the way we pursue most reforms--on the cheap--then we're going to be in a whole heap of trouble.
The Hassels, like so many of their ideological brethren, seem to believe that great teachers are born, not made. Hence their relatively dim view of staff development. (I've always found it curious that so many reformers who insist that every child ...
“Although U.S. students in grade four score among the best in the world [on international literacy comparisons], those in grade eight score much lower. By grade ten, U.S. students score among the lowest in the world.” (emphasis in original)
A bit concerning, to say the least…
In response, the Carnegie Council for Advancing Adolescent Literacy has issued a call to action. Driven by the vision of comprehensive literacy for all, their new report Time to Act: An Agenda for Advancing Adolescent Literacy for College and Career Success argues that we need to re-engineer schools for adolescent learners. To prepare our students for success in the global economy, we must focus on their literacy.
This report paints a detailed picture of what literacy instruction in an ideal secondary school should look like. It goes in-depth on two vital, but often ignored, keys to making that image a reality: teacher preparation, support and professional development, and the collection and careful use of data. The report also ...
A VISION FOR GREAT SCHOOLS
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