Saturday, December 28, 2013

A view from another David

Edmonton Journal's David Staples has been writing about 
Grade inflation and flex time harm education, high school teacher warns
Alberta schools are no longer the best

 and most recently, 

Students ‘cheated’ by way math is taught, say educators and parents

If you read all these articles, you will notice one important commonality...Staples refuses to write about the "other side" of the story.  Thus I offer a view from another David.

I invite you to read his articles to see one side, and then read below to see the other.

First, Staples wrote:

It’s common for students to get much higher marks in their classroom than they get on their diploma exams...the number of EPSB students who have been graded as “excellent” or “acceptable” on provincewide diploma exams has dropped by 1.9 per cent. In the classroom, however, the number who have been graded “excellent” or “acceptable” has gone up by seven per cent.
He creates an idea that this should not be the norm and the teacher mark should be the same on the diploma.  This is great in theory, but before you nod your head I ask you to remember some minor details: 

  • The teacher spends almost 5 months with your child, while the diploma spends 3 hours.  
  • The teacher has met, talked, and learned about the interests of your child, while the diploma was made in an office by people who have, most likely, never met your child.  
  • Your child is allowed to use real word devices, such as Dictionaries, Apps, Blogs, Web Articles, etc, in the classroom, while the diploma creates a false sense that knowledge is only valuable if you can memorize it, not apply it.
  • Lastly, because Staples writes about the Math diploma, the teacher gives various types of questions, in various formats, in various ways to your child, while the diploma only asks Multiple Choice and Numerical Response.
Now I ask, which mark should have more merit?  I pose a different problem... Why is the diploma mark lower than the mark given by the teacher?  Isn't it time we change our standardized assessment strategies? 

Next, Staples writes:

 Alberta students used to be ranked at the top of the world academically, but they are sliding...In 2000, Alberta ranked top worldwide in reading, third overall in science and math. Our teachers and curriculum were top notch and our accountability, through provincial exams, was state-of-the-art....Since then, however, Alberta has steadily dropped. This week when the 2012 PISA results came out, we ranked 11th in math, fifth in reading and fourth in science...

First, I don't believe we can put our faith in a two-hour exam, as my arguments from above still stand, however lets go beyond that.  

Staples will have you believe that this drop is due to the fact that the math curriculum has changed, and even that we need better teachers in the classrooms to be educating your child.  When I read this, I remember back to my Science class when we learned about constant, dependent, and independent variables.

Before we go witch hunting on the teachers, lets remember that these teachers are the same ones who were instructing in 2000.  Unless I am unaware, the graduation requirements to become a teacher in 2000 are the same as they are now.   Thus, teachers would be the constant variable in this. Now that we can't blame teachers, we can ask what changed?

Sure the math curriculum changed, but was there more?  Class sizes over the last year have also increased, funding of AISI projects have been reduced to 0.  I don't understand how if more than one thing has changed (independent variables), how can we point our finger to one of them and ignore the rest? 

My last debate comes from the fact that Staples will have you believe that because we don't teach memorization of math facts students won't understand math.

The reality is that being told number facts, and forced to regurgitate these facts, will not create an environment which is conducive to deeper learning.  The best way a student can understand, not just recite, mathematics is through discovering the facts on their own.  For some, this discovery process can take seconds, while for others it may take an entire class.  The role the teacher plays in this is by acting as a tour guide.  By keeping the students on the “path” towards the discovery, it will ensure that all students create their own individual, and innovative, techniques in learning mathematics. 

I often ask myself, which skills do I want for my own children?  Do I want them to be taught the skills to memorize, and ultimately be able to complete algorithmic tasks, or the ability to create and design which will lead them down a road towards a career with heuristic tasks?  

The reality is that the age old saying that “Practice makes perfect”, does not apply to deep learning in mathematics.  Traditionally, students have been given worksheets which have multiplication facts on them and are given a strict time limit to complete these (named Mad Minutes), but in actuality the mark given on these “Mad” sheets really does not indicate to anyone as to knowledge of the student writing them.  

The weak students truly suffer the most from this model of proficiency-driven, because they find these tasks dull, repetitive, and entirely unusable in the world outside the walls of the classroom.  I would agree that sometimes, knowing facts as the days of the week are important, but these facts should be a by-product of use and application not out of necessity.  

Another fact is, by spending time forcing these facts to be memorized is truly interfering with a child’s innovative and creative ability.  Most of these worksheets require low level thinking and usually can lock the thought process of a student into understanding simple algorithms.  Eleanor Duckworth summed it up the best, 

“Knowing the right answer requires no decisions, carries no risk, and makes no demands.  It is automatic.  It is thoughtless.” 

Is this the environment in which math students should be learning? 

The new math curriculum believes, among many things, that:

·         Students learn by attaching meaning to what they do, and they need to construct their own meaning of mathematics.

·         Students need to explore problem-solving situations in order to develop personal strategies and become mathematically literate. They must realize that it is acceptable to solve problems in a variety of ways and that a variety of solutions may be acceptable.

·         Curiosity about mathematics is fostered when children are engaged in, and talking about, such activities as comparing quantities, searching for patterns, sorting objects, ordering objects,  creating designs and building with blocks

I end with a link to a petition asking the Edmonton Journal to stop writing one sided, bias, articles, and until they do so you agree to stop reading their paper.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Henry Ford and Education

I would like to relate this to Education.  Over the last eight years, I have spent hours trying to create "better tests" (faster horses).  In the last two years, I started to question "Is there a limitation to these tests?"

Just like horses, you can create better tests, but there will always be limitations as to what you can do with these assessments.  Whether it is FOR or OF learning, tests, by their design, they can only give us a snapshot as to what a child can do.  As well, most tests limit the amount of knowledge a child can demonstrate to the knowledge of the test creator.

I often wonder, what if educators were like Henry Ford, and instead of making better tests they started working on something different?

Working with this question for quite some time, I have assessed students quite drastically in my class.  I refused to make "faster horses" and instead started working on "a car" for assessment.

First, I personalized assessment in my classes.
Next, I abolished grades in some classes.
Lastly, I even made my final exam a learning experience.

For a more in depth look, you can read through the links, for a quick snapshot here is what I have changed..

  • Students should be able to learn, and be assessed, at their own pace.
  • Students should be able to be assessed, retaught, and reassessed as many times as needed.
  • A multiple choice, numerical response, and written response test does not allow for as much creativity as an open ended, performance based assessment could.
  • Student choice, in how to demonstrate their knowledge, can allow students to bring their interests and passions into their own learning.
  • Students are more proud of work that is too large to fit on the fridge.

Were there problems with the first ford? Of course!  I do not think that my approach is the BEST, and just as a car still has limitations, so does this new approach towards assessment.  Just like a car and horse, my approach has the same goals as traditional assessments; to teach and assess students.  The difference...students in my class enjoy this new approach, and when I survey them at the end of each course 99% of them prefer this new assessment strategy compared to traditional assessments.

This journey has required me to ponder, as Henry Ford did, if we continue to think in the same mindset as all the people before us, all we will ever have is something a little quicker.  However, if we realize that our past knowledge may be holding us back, then we may create something more effective and efficient than we could ever imagine.

Lastly, as you read this I will leave you with another Henry Ford quote...


Sunday, June 16, 2013

My new Final Exam

Over the past years I have been trying to make the end of my courses a celebration not a date students dread.  I say that because, I have seen students cry, stress, and create all sorts of excuses, whenever I brought up their "30% final Exam".

This year, I have taken an entirely different approach.  Instead of a 30% exam, which consists of one part multiple choice, one part numerical response, and one part written, I have changed it to the following:

1 part entirely written worth 15%, and a presentation worth 15%.  In our school, there are certain criteria for which a student can exempt a final exam.  In my course I have made the presentation mandatory, and a student can only exempt the written portion.

How does the presentation work?

Students get the following BIG ROCK outcomes of my course:

Students are then required to create a presentation around these outcomes.

What does it have look like?  How long should it be? How many questions should they have? Does it have to have videos? 

The answers to all these are "Up to the student!"

Now, since I have over 40 calculus students, I do not have time to watch 40+ presentations, so I do allow students to collaborate in groups of up to 3.  HOWEVER THEY DO NOT GET GROUP MARKS.

During the presentations I ask questions and depending on the individual answers I differientate the assessment mark for each individual student. 

The presentations usually take 40-60 min in length with disucssions, questions, and even some learning occuring.

My students no longer dread the final and one even told me

"Mr. Martin I spent more time creating my presentation then I did preparing for my diploma in my other course, which is worth 50% of my mark"

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Personalized assessment

First, I want to make clear what my assumptions are about assessment.

  • Each student learns at a different pace
  • There should be no punitive action taken against a student who learns slower.
  • Students are allowed as many times as they want to demonstrate learning.
Also, you must know of my story around abolishing grading in my calculus class.

Currently we are three quarters through the course and running out of outcomes to assess and master.  This week I have tried something different.  Personalized assessment!

Each student is given a test but it is drastically different than anything I ever given before.  On the front page, there are questions which assess their knowledge of an outcome we have been working on for a week.  On the next pages, each student's exam is different.

On some, the pages are blank.  These are for the students whom have already demonstrated understanding of all the outcomes up to this point.  The cool part is that these students can be enriched with an activity, as they will most likely finish the test first.  For the rest, their pages are filled with questions on the outcomes they have yet to demonstrate understanding of. (Up to a maximum of 2)

Example:  Susie hasn't demonstrated understanding of outcome 5 and 7 and therefore on her pages, there are questions around outcomes 5 and 7.  Jason, on the other hand, has demonstrated these two outcomes but has missed outcomes 1 and 6.  Consequently, on his test there are questions around outcomes 1 and 6.

Next, I will assess this test under the following scenarios.

  1. It will be summative if the student correctly demonstrates all parts of the test. 
  2. It will be part summative and part formative for those who can only demonstrate learning of certain outcomes. 
  3. It will be entirely formative if a student can't demonstrate any understanding of any outcomes.

If I followed the philosophy that all assessment should be common, then all students would be writing a test around outcomes 1-10, which would take longer than a period, and be a complete waste of time for those who have already demonstrated learning.

Is this a lot of work?

Yes! However, it is worth it when I can say that this test is more about the needs of my students than it is to generate another "mark" in my gradebook.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

We all decide the weighting of our standardized exams.

In Alberta, our Grade 12 diplomas are weighted at 50% and the teacher awarded mark is weighted at 50% mark...on a child's transcript.  Now I will make a case that, even though the government has decided this, it is truly up to each stakeholder in education who determines how much this weighting truly is.

First off, the teachers:

It is up to the individual teacher how much the diploma is weighted in your teaching, your assessment, and your daily dealings with the students.  I have seen anywhere from 0%-100%.

What does 100% look like?

Well, very simple.  This classroom teacher puts emphasis on the same outcomes, which are emphasized on the diploma.  This teacher will give only multiple choice exams, as this is the style the diploma is.  The questions used on these assessments are mainly previously used diploma questions, identical to released items from the government, and only questions that will assist the child write the diploma.  This classroom is designed around the "competitive" nature of education.

What does 0% look like?

Again, very simple.  This teacher puts emphasis on the outcomes which will assist them in the next level of the course, or in life.  (Of course, both teachers could have overlap on some outcomes).  The assessments are mainly performance based or written.  The questions asked are created in a way that students can be creative in the solving of the problem, and the answer does not need to be a specific number to be correct.  This classroom is designed around the "collaborative" approach to education.

Lastly, you could have a a hybrid of these approaches in the classroom.

Next, Post Secondaries:

What does 100% look like?

Well these simply ignore the assessment of the classroom teacher and simply use the diplomas as their entrance requirement.

What does 0% look like?

We look to, University of Saskatchewan, which ONLY looks at the teacher assessment if a students mark on the diploma is less than the teacher awarded mark.  (Good Job U of S!)

Third, we have Parents and outside School:

What does 100% look like? 

We have things like the Fraser Institute which ranks schools districts based on standardized tests.  The Fraser Institute ignores the make up of the classes, the teacher's assessment, and only judges the quality of education based on how well the students do on a standardized exam.

There are also people in the public, who hold teachers accountable by the marks the students get on a standardized exam.

What does 0% look like?

We look to Finland, who has exchanged the "accountability" with "responsibility".  There are parents who ignore the mark their children get on a diploma, and are more concerned with "How much does my child enjoy going to school?"

As you can see, it is up to the individual person to determine how much the diploma is worth.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Not every child can learn

Lets face the truth now.  It is about time we stop talking about that "every child can learn".

After 8 years of teaching, I have realized that it is true that not every child can Friday.

Not every child can me standing at the front talking.

Not every child can working alone.

Not every child can reading the textbook.

Not every child can worksheets.

Not every child can passively taking notes.

So if we aren't going to talk about "every child can learn", we can then start talking about "what do we do when they don't".

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What's wrong with Math Education?

"You can't teach that now, because then what am I going to teach next year!"

Ever heard this?  Ever said it?  Ever been a part of a conversation with this used?

I know I answered "Yes" to all three.  When curriculum is designed linearly, then we encounter such problems.  You have to know Y before I teach you X.  However, what if curriculum was designed around the questions student asked in class?

In two of my classes this year, I have eliminated "Units".  I can now demonstrate how math flows from one concept to another instead of teaching through 5 disjoint units, and no longer do I have to answer "You will learn that later"

Check out the clip below

Friday, April 19, 2013

How I abolished grading.

Here is the story of one teacher who abolished grading in a highschool calculus class.

I started teaching highschool Calculus at my school a couple of years ago.  When I started teaching the course, I used a traditional assessment strategy.  I would assign homework daily, end the week with a quiz, and then end the unit with a multiple choice/written exam.

My classes would start around 30 students, and by the end of the semester the class size would be 20.  What I did was "weed out the weak".  One day I realized that I wasn't weeding out the weak mathematicians, but instead weeding out the weak test writers.

This year, after many talks with first year University and College professors, administrators, teachers, students, and parents, I am proud to say that I have abolished grading.  We are currently in the middle of our semester and I have not graded a single item of student work.

Before you continue, I want to remind you that this does not mean I have not assessed, but not one student in my Calculus classes has received a grade at this point.  (Other than the report card mark which I must give).

How does it work?

First, I went through my outcomes, given to me by the government, and identified what the "Rocks" are.  These rocks are the outcomes which I expect the students to master above all other outcomes.  I chose these certain outcomes after my discussions with others and as well as what will be helpful for students to succeed in the future.

Next, these outcomes were rewritten in student friendly language and then provided to the students on the first day of class.

My teaching schedule did not change, nor did the speed on which I have taught the course, but what has changed is the speed at which the students can learn at.  Once I had taught 2 or 3 outcomes at a level where I felt that the class has mastered the outcome, I administered a summative assessment.  For this assessment, each child wrote it as a traditional exam, but it looked drastically different than a traditional exam.  Each assessment was entirely written, broken up by outcomes, and tested only the basics of the outcomes.  There were no "trick questions", just simple questions that would assess "Can the child demonstrate this outcome, on their own, as a basic level of understanding?"

When I assessed these assessments, I would write comments only on them, and either a "Outcome demonstrated" or "Need to learn" for each outcome assessed (Not on the overall assessment).   It is very important to understand that "Outcome demonstrated" is not a 100%, as a student could make a minor mistake and still achieve this, as I am assessing understanding the outcome, not perfection. 

Next, if the child received a "Need to learn" he/she must do the following:
1) Demonstrate the understanding of the questions given at a later date.  This usually occurs after a lunch session, a quick conversation, or multiple conversations with the child.
2) A conversation explaining how he/she made the mistake earlier and how their understanding has changed now
3) Write another assessment on the outcomes.

If after completing these 3 steps, he/she can demonstrate the outcomes then I would I count this as "Outcome demonstrated" just as if the child had done it the first time.  I do not deduct marks based on the number of tries needed.

If the child still does not demonstrate, (which is extremely unlikely as I have seen) then he/she must repeat the same 3 steps.

After 5-7 outcomes have been taught, then each child is assigned an open ended project.  This project consists of each student creating a problem around the math in the 5-7 outcomes and solving it.  The expectation is the problem is one which is deep, relevant, and for a purpose.  This part is not always easy! 

An example:  A student to demonstrate his understanding created a Call of Duty video and determined the rate of change of a ballistic knife falling in the video. 

These projects usually range from 3-5 pages and must be handed in individually, but can be worked on with assistance from others and/or textbooks.

To assess these projects, I follow the same pedagogy from above.  I use comments only, and give guidance towards any errors I see.  The projects are then handed back to each student, who can go back, make corrections, and rehand it in.  This process is repeated until the child receives perfection on the project.

I have even abolished the traditional final exam.  The expectation is the students must give me a 30-45 minute presentation around the rocks of the course, and demonstrate their understanding of all rocks. 

How do I get a final mark percentage?

I simply take the number of outcomes and projects completed (at the end of the course) and divide by the total number of outcomes and projects.  This is not the best strategy, but it seems to work for me at this moment.  I do weigh projects twice as much. (I have 20 outcomes, and 5 projects, so the total is (20+5x2=30)

Here is my updated list of rocks. 

Let me know if your thoughts

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Student led in High School.

This now sparks the third pair of interviews where I didn't bring any grades into any conversations with parents.  I have been asked many times how I do it, below is one experience of how I did it.

Parent: How is my child doing in your class?

Me: He is a hardworking student, seems to really enjoy hockey, and how the statistics of it relates to the course. He has, however, struggled with relating the combinations of the way teams could be arranged in a tournament, to the ideas of the course..  I believe that he has demonstrated superior knowledge in how a graphical representation of the scores of team can be manipulated through transformational change.

Parent: How does he rank with the rest of class?

Me: Well he is at the top of the class, but honestly this is the weakest class I have ever taught.

Parent looked puzzled.

Me: I am not being entirely true.  When it comes to your son's interest of hockey he has demonstrated an understanding of it far superior than any other child in the class.  See, the rest of the class doesn't share this passion and interest of hockey and finds it hard to understand the applications of it.  Jim has demonstrated a keen ability to relate this passion to many assignments, and questions we have completed in class.

Parent: Ok, but on the report card his mark is XX%, and what can he do to increase it?

Me: What mark should Jim receive?

This is when Jim smiled and he said "100%".

Me: Awesome, now what have you done to demonstrate a full understanding of the material.

Jim: Well I completed a ---

I interrupted him and asked him not to tell me but his mother who originally asked the question.

Jim: ok... (now a little shy) mom I graphed a function which shows how the Calgary flames is not increasing over time (I laugh) Quiet Mr. Martin I am talking...

And then I listened to Jim explain to his mom about what he did, what he struggled with, and how he wants to go back and ensure mastery of all concepts. 

**I do have to give credit to another teacher, who minutes before messaged me about how she is giving student led conferences and I wanted to try one immediately**

The result was amazing.  The student took control, and marks were not the focus but his passions, interests and his own challenges were. 

I then explained that I am willing to reassess him if he does truly go back and learns the material for which he struggled on earlier.

Info about standardized tests

I have been asked many times if I will allow my own children to write optional standardized testing, which in our province we call Provincial Achievement Tests. Before I make a decision, here is some information about standardized exams.

First I would like to discuss the Evidence around standardized testing.

- The effectiveness of standardized testing as a means of improving education has been widely questioned and critiqued in the relevant research literature. Standardized assessments have not been demonstrated to improve teaching or learning in any significant manner (Hout & Elliott, 2011).

- Standardized assessments provide one-time snapshots that do not accurately measure how a student performs day after day and they are, by their very nature, summative, rather than formative. Teachers who perform regular assessments daily are best positioned to evaluate how a student is performing vis-a-vis curricular outcomes (Davies, Herbst, & Reynolds, 2008; Harris, Smith, & Harris, 2011; WNCP, 2006).
- Standardized testing diverts teaching time and monetary resources away from student supports, teachable moments and direct teacher-student contact time (Kohn, 2000, 2011; Sahlberg, 2011).
- Provinces including Alberta and British Columbia (Steffenhagen, 2012), as well as several American states (Bryant, 2013), including more than 600 schools in Texas alone (VASS News, 2012), are scaling back from standardized testing, opting instead for the less pedagogically harmful and less costly random sampling.
- Standardized tests are often culturally biased against those for whom English is an additional language, and have been demonstrated to be more reflective of depressed socio-economic neighbourhood conditions (Abedi, 2010; Sawa & Bouvier, 2010; VASS News, 2012), than the quality of teaching or learning of teachers and students.
- The results of standardized tests when published in newspapers carry negative side effects, including a significant drop in student and teacher morale (Paris & Urdan, 2000).
- The Finnish "fear-free" school system that eschews competition, failure, and standardized testing regularly tops the 34 countries tested by OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment and several provinces who have mandatory standardized testing perform less well than Saskatchewan on the same PISA tests (OECD, 2010).
- Many children experience increased anxiety as the standardized testing date gets closer and especially upon testing days (Gail Jones, Jones, & Hargrove, 2003; Segool, 2009).
- Standardized testing runs counter to the ministry's stated goal to improve retention and graduation of aboriginal students, since these tests often serve to further marginalize and push out students who are already vulnerable (Crandall & Kutz, 2011).
Next, I haven't found one, single, research based, reason to support using standardized testing before grade 7.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Repetition in math class

Practice makes perfect! or Perfect Practice makes Perfect!

These, and others, are comments I hear as to why we need practice in math classes.  This "practice" can be seen by worksheets, flash cards, and multiplication tables.  I, however, disagree with this notion.

The problem occurs when we look at what the students are supposedly practicing when they complete the above tasks. 

These tasks promote the idea of efficiency over understanding.  I remember back to when I used to administer "Mad Minutes" (basic questions which have to be completed in a minute or less, and their mark was based on only the ones which were answered correctly.  If a student did not answer it, or did so and was incorrect, this student would lose marks).  On multiple occasions, I saw students writing down numbers which made no sense, simply due to the pressure put on them during this timed exam. 

Of course, how can students complete deep math questions if they don't understand their basics?  Well I have a great story against this...and the main character in this story is me!  I still to this day, 30 years old with a bachelor degree in Mathematics, and 3 courses left in my Masters of Mathematics, cannot recite the multiplication tables.  I struggle deeply with my 7 and 8 times tables.  Does this make me a weak math student?  Does this imply I will not be able to answer deep questions?  I would hope not one person would answer yes to either of these questions.  However, the way I used to assess math, through repetition, would never allow myself to succeed in my own courses. 

If it was not for my own mother, who strongly refused to use flash cards at home, I would probably have grown up hating mathematics.

As a math teacher I needed to understand that the beauty of mathematics does not come from memorization of basic facts, but instead the use of basic facts to solve problems which a person may encounter on a daily basis.  Does understanding basic facts allow for students to solve problems quicker? Of course, but should we judge the quality of answer solely based on the time given?

I have given tasks to my students, some of which are upcoming blog posts, where students have chosen to complete multiple questions, of similar types, to come to a conclusion.  The difference in these tasks, however, is the word "choice".  If we allow students to decide how many problems he/she needs to solve, to demonstrate higher level thinking, then I guarantee your students will start to see the beauty of mathematics as a wonderful, sometimes chaotic, subject which is not limited to solving petty details.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Prime numbers and Cicada

Lost on how to find meaningful ways to introduce prime numbers?

Why don't we look at Cicadas 

These are winged insects that evolved around 1.8 million years ago.  What is interesting is that their life cycles follow prime numbers.  They emerge, mate and die quickly during the spring of either the 13th or 17th year.    On these such years, they build an exit tunnel where millions quickly exit and overcome any predators, such as birds, by using their vast numbers to their advantage.

Why every 13 and 17 years?

This way, it will be impossible for any other life cycle to line up with the life cycle of the Cicada.

For example, lets suppose they emerged every 12th year.  This would have animals with life cycles of 2, 3, 4, and 6 years to line up perfectly every time they emerged.

The life cycle being a prime number is, what scientists predict, what has been their greatest strength in their survival for over 1 million years.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

8th grade student creates a standardized exam

A 13-year-old eighth grader in upstate New York woke up on Sunday and decided that it would be funny if she designed a standardized test that made fun of standardized tests.  Below is her letter to the state:

Dear New  York State,

I am not fond of your tests. They do not show you who I am, or who my teachers are. For example, if a student is a bad test taker, you would look at her test and think she is a bad student. What happens if a kid is just having a bad day? You would only see that one test and and think he was an unsatisfactory pupil. Imagine how stressed the teachers are having to rely on their students’ test scores as a form of evaluation.

Not all students are the same,  therefore standardized tests are impractical. Albert Einstein once said, “Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” These tests can lower self-esteem and cause a lot of anxiety. The tests are so long that, by the last day of testing, some kids end up guessing, just so they can be done. How can you put eight-year-old kids through six days of testing over a two-week time frame?.

Children with special needs have even greater trouble with these exams. The tests are a total waste for them….
Sophia is a high-achieving student (she has a 97.2 average) at Saranac Middle School in Saranac, N.Y. Her mother said she came up with the idea for this test all on her own. She worked on it for hours, and then realized that it was more than a joke. “She has a great perspective,” Laura Stevens said about her daughter.

Sophia said she normally has no problem with all of the standardized tests she has to take in school, but this new Common Core-aligned exam was harder than the others. “I’m a little worried about this one,” she said.

Here’s Sophia Stevens’ standardized test that critiques standardized tests:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Kohn and Sahlberg Public Lecture

Transforming Alberta schools from good to great

 “Creating a great school for all - an evening with Alfie Kohn and Pasi Sahlberg,” Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at Red Deer College.

For too long Alberta schools have been over-managed and under-imagined. The evening presentations will bring together two of the world’s preeminent educational reformers to
explore the opportunities to improve Alberta’s already high performing school system. Based on their research and experiences internationally, the two speakers will explore timely issues facing educators, parents and policy-makers. Some of the questions they will engage include: What should be the role of homework in a student’s development? Why does testing and comparing schools continue to be over-emphasized ? What is the appropriate balance of local and government in shaping curriculum, instruction and school life?

Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The latest of his twelve books are “Feel-Bad Education and Other Contrarian Essays on Children and Schooling (2011), and The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing
(2006) and Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason (2005)."

Pasi Sahlberg is Director General of CIMO (of the Ministry of Education and Culture) in Helsinki, Finland. He has experience in classroom teaching, training teachers and leaders, coaching schools to change and advising education policy-makers around the world. He is an international speaker and writer who has given more than 250 keynote speeches and published over 100 articles, chapters and books on educational change.

Doors open at 6:30 with a reception until 7:00 pm. The lecture will run to 9:00 pm. The evening is sponsored by the Central Alberta Teachers’ Convention Board in partnership with its provincial Alberta Teachers’ Association.

Media are invited to contact David Martin 403-597-3394 to arrange for complimentary tickets
and interviews with the keynote speakers.