Archive | March, 2012

Teacher Preparation Program Ranking System

27 Mar

Click the link below to listen to an NHPR report by Sheryl Rich-Kern about a new teacher preparation program ranking system.  Expectedly, it is a controversial idea and very few colleges or universities are participating.  UNH is the sole institution doing such in New Hampshire.  Give it a listen.  Let me know your thoughts.  We are faced very frequently with aspiring teachers with varying outcomes.  A system like this could be beneficial to both prospective teachers and schools.

NHPR Teacher Prep Ranking


Most people agree that good teachers help students succeed.
But how do good teachers learn to be effective?

One D.C.-based, private nonprofit is asking just that. They want colleges to participate in a study that ranks teacher preparation programs.

The results aren’t out yet. But many colleges, including those in New Hampshire, have voiced harsh criticism about the organization’s agenda.

Higher education experts in the state admit the controversy over teacher preparation is worth talking about.

About twenty-five seventh-graders shuffle into their English class at Parkside Middle School in Manchester.

They plunk their backpacks to the floor, open zippers and slide out their textbooks. Fade under ambi,..

Alisha Hansen-Proulx is writing questions on the blackboard.

Like a skilled emcee, her eyes dart around the room to make sure the group is engaged.

Hansen-Proulx: Hopefully the teacher is not just lecturing at the front of the classroom. Hopefully the teacher is helping kids facilitate their own education, letting them show what they know and what they can do.

Hansen-Proulx says a yearlong teaching internship took the blinders off any pre-conceived notions she had about teaching.

Hansen-Proulx It’s an interesting concept to think about servicing 30 people or more and who all want some piece of you at the exact same minute. And you have to be able to multi-task in a way that no class prepares you for. You don’t understand the depth of that until you’re in the classroom.

Hansen-Proulx has been teaching now for eight years.

But close to half of all new teachers leave the trenches after the first five years.

Why the low retention rate?

Some policy activists say that many teachers aren’t truly prepared to manage a class of diverse learners. And they argue that colleges don’t have high enough admissions standards.

Walsh: Do you know it is actually easier to get into a school of education in almost any state then it is to qualify to play college athletics? I think that’s just wrong.

That’s Kate Walsh.

She’s the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a private, non-profit think tank that advocates for reforms in teaching policies.

The Council is rating programs at more than eleven hundred teaching colleges.

Once they compile their findings, they’ll publish them in the U.S. News & World Report

Walsh says the Council wants to raise the bar on what teachers need to know in core subjects like math, reading and science.

To judge a program’s caliber, the Council’s team of experts looks at syllabi, textbooks and other coursework materials.

Walsh says the Council will also scrutinize student internships— especially since in a previous study they conducted, most didn’t measure up:

Walsh: Very few of them actually ensure that our next generation of teachers is being trained in a classroom with a highly effective teacher. You would never expect to see doctors trained that way. You’d never say – it doesn’t matter who trained that doctor, any doctor would do. In the teaching profession, that’s certainly been the case.

Walsh says she expects to provide evidence that low-performing programs shouldn’t even be in operation.

To get its data, the National Council on Teacher Quality may hit some roadblocks.

For one thing, many institutions oppose the study.

Deans from about 40 education schools sent a letter to the Council criticizing its methodology and lack of transparency.

Seven schools in the Granite State were asked to participate. So far, only the University of New Hampshire is cooperating.

Tom Shcram directs the graduate education program at UNH.

He applauds the study’s goals, but says its research doesn’t probe deep enough:

Schram: To simply ask for a copy of a syllabus and a copy of the list of books we use is such a small part. They’re not looking at what’s happening with our graduates, our placement rates. We have five-year surveys of our graduates. That’s a lot of good information. They weren’t asking for things like that.

To use a sports analogy, Schram says you can’t predict how well a football team will perform in a game just by viewing its training schedule and equipment.

The National Council on Teacher Quality may not get a pat on the back for its research methods.

But it is cranking up to full volume the disputes on how to train teachers.

In New Hampshire, a statewide task force is currently reviewing not only how to teach the teachers, but also how to evaluate and pay them.

Again, UNH program director Tom Schram:

Schram: Because we are preparing the teachers who will be teaching in the state, there will be some nod towards this teacher evaluation model within our teacher ed programs.

This is why, for the first time, Schram and his cohorts from at least ten other colleges are meeting regularly to raise important issues, like:

Schram: What could a university do to support a school district’s efforts to mentor beginning teachers in a way that didn’t simply follow, but built upon what they’ve done as pre-service interns?

As Schram explains, an education major’s schooling begins at college. But it doesn’t need to end there.

March Faculty Meeting

8 Mar

Today’s faculty meeting topic is the result of an amalgamation of events.  As you know, Ralene and I have conducted walkthroughs throughout the year.  We have been working on our teacher evaluation process (observations and summatives), Amelia Van-Name Larson has visited and provided feedback, Checker, Becky and Marge have conducted walkthroughs as well.

We have gathered data and observations and have reached a crossroad.  We know what we need to do.

We have a series of videos to view today that helps explain, exceedingly well, where our focus as a staff needs to be.

Universal Design for Learning

UDL at a Glance

UDL: Principles and Practices

UDL: Guidelines

UDL: Guidelines in Practice 5th Grade

UDL: Guidelines in Practice 1st Grade


(Augmented 21st Century Learning Requirement)

Between now and the end of the school year, you will video an entire lesson of you instructing your class of students.    You will then watch and critique your lesson with a partner.  The videos above (UDL: Guidelines in Practice 1st and 5th Grades) should be a model of the discussion that should occur between you and your partner.  You will use the Guidelines Checklist 2.0 document to help guide your discussion.

A representative committee of teachers will meet to create reflection questions to answer for submission to Drew and Ralene.  You will submit your reflection along with your video to a secure website.  Drew will email you the directions for security.

Sample Lesson Plans from Cast:

Book Distribution

Better Learning Through Structured Teaching by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey

Corresponds directly with UDL and our intentions with the Video Reflection assignment.  Please read the first two chapters prior to our next faculty meeting.

Guidelines Checklist 2.0

Click above for the guidelines checklist.  We will use these criterion to evaluate your recorded lesson.


The Best Alternatives to Rewards

6 Mar

The Best Alternatives to Rewards

Edutopia: How to Motivate Learning: Alternatives to Rewards

Dr. Richard Curwin is the director of the Master’s program in Behavior Disorder at David Yellin College in Jerusalem and the author of 20 books related to motivation and behavior, including Discipline with Dignity.

One of the first and most important rules of behavior management is that when you take something away, you need to give something back. It’s not good enough to say, “Don’t” without saying, “Do this instead.” Alternatives must be provided for change to occur. In my last post (Why Giving Bonus Money to Better Teachers Is Wrong), I strongly rejected the use of rewards, incentives, bribes and other harmful gimmicks. Now it is my responsibility to offer viable alternatives so that educators have the ability to change. These alternatives are plentiful. I’m going to concentrate on the three most important and easiest to implement.

1) Show Appreciation

I once did a training session in San Francisco on alternatives to reward with Alfie Kohn andWilliam Glasser, two men whom I respect and mostly agree with. However, their position allowed no opportunity for teachers to make judgment on student work. I disagree with this position. I believe we have a responsibility and obligation as teachers to evaluate students’ academic performance and behavior. For me, the issue is what we do with these evaluations and how we express them. When we have positive things to say, there is a great difference between manipulating students to behave in a certain way by giving them things when they comply, and expressing true feelings of appreciation for something well done. Kohn and Glasser have said that in the final analysis, both have the same effect of influencing behavior to get students to do what we want. Again, I disagree. No one can work hard without validation, appreciation, being noticed or being thanked as long as these things don’t have a price tag attached. I can’t, and neither can most educators. We work hard and deserve recognition for it.

The difference between manipulation and appreciation is that the first has an ultimate pre-determined destination, while the second is an expression of genuine feelings. Rewards are typically offered before requesting results. (“If you do this, you’ll get that.”) They are conditional. They are part of a system that has been pre-determined. Appreciation is always given after a student’s behavior. It is neither conditional nor pre-determined. When we appreciate we are not looking for a repeat performance, although we wouldn’t mind it. Appreciation comes from the heart, not some system.

2) Introduce Appropriate Challenge

Imagine you are going to play a game tomorrow, any game of your choice, from a sport to a computer game, board game, chess or cards. You have your choice of two opponents. The first is someone who has always beaten you. You’ve gotten close to winning but never have done so. The second choice is someone you have easily beaten every time. Which would you choose?

People rarely chose the second. There is no energy, no thrill in winning, nothing to play for. If you have ever played your young child in Candy Land, you never say, “I’m going to beat that sucker again this time.” We usually pick the first because the challenge energizes us. Our whole body is focused, adrenalin runs through our veins. We are in a heightened level of consciousness. And if we win, the feeling of accomplishment is overwhelming. Have you ever beaten a parent or older sibling for the first time? It is an unforgettable memory. No reward can come close to the feeling of that victory.

We feel the same whenever we meet a challenge, be it mastering a computer skill, cooking a great meal or assembling a swing set in the backyard. Divorced people feel that way when they first do something that their spouse used to do. So it is in school. Providing appropriate challenge to students beats any form of reward in motivating students.

The trick is to find the most appropriate level of challenge. Too easy builds little pride, and too hard leads to frustration. The best way to do this is to offer various levels of challenge and let the student choose, like a video game with various difficulty levels. Of course, there can be no reward or punishment attached, or students will naturally go for the easiest level.

3) Get to Know Your Students and Show Genuine Care

Think of the best teachers you ever had from kindergarten through graduate school. They all had one thing in common; they genuinely cared about your welfare. They talked with you about your feelings around school issues, your successes, failures and needs. They laughed with you, encouraged you and, most importantly, touched your heart. How many teachers’ names can you still remember, visualizing their faces in your mind? No doubt it’s those who made you feel part of something bigger than yourself, like a family does. Can any reward or bribe come close to these feelings as motivators?

Obviously we have limited resources to develop relationships with all of our students. But I know firsthand that a classroom can be taught that way. I have had classes with up to 40 students and presentations with hundreds of participants, and we created a feeling of intimacy. How? By being genuine, expressing ideas from the heart and caring about their learning more than my teaching. I always remember that I teach for them, they don’t learn for me.

QR Codes and Audio Files

5 Mar

A few months ago, I began following Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano via her blog.  I highly recommend checking out her blog.  She creates very straight forward, visually pleasing how-to guides and focuses on globally connected learning.

Her most recent post outlines some very simple steps to follow to record audio files.  The next step she explains highlights a Google service I’ve not seen before.  It is a URL shortener/QR Code creator.  In order to use this service, however, you need to have a place to store your files on the cloud (blog, dropbox,, etc…), all free options.

Click the link below for the guide to download as a PDF.

Audio Files and QR Codes a How-To Guide

Gamification in the Classroom

1 Mar

I’ve posted before on the gamification of our society (search for Gabe Zicherman in this blog) and the brain based research on why video games are so “addictive.” An obvious question is, why can’t we make education addictive in the same way? Below is Andrew Miller’s How-To guide on creating units with gamification in mind. It just, plain makes sense. If you want to engage students, see below!

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