Other Journal Responses

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Responses to other journal articles:

-- Anonymous, January 18, 1999


Response to: Far and Wide Developing and Disseminating Research- Based Programs by: Robert Slavin from: American Educator -Fall 1998

In this article, Mr. Slavin reviews several widely known education reform programs and offers his theory as to why they are sometimes not as effective in bringing about positive change as we expect them to be.

His first point is that we cannot always replicate the work of a certain exemplary schools because their success is due, in part, to a certain set of circumstances (financial means or controlled student populations) that can affect success of the program.

The second point he makes is that some high quality programs are difficult to replicate. Specific training or materials may not be readily available to all who may wish to try them.

Slavin also points out that externally developed programs sometimes have limited success unless the school or district implementing them has an enthusiastic and committed attitude toward its implementation. (Some programs are forced.)

The U. S. congress recently passed a bill to support the adoption of Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration (CSRD) which would support adopting programs that affect all aspects of school function and that are easily replicated. The main difference between this and other reform attempts is that these new reform programs must back up their claims of effectiveness with research before they are funded.

Slavin contends that education reform will continue to go from fad to fad until we adopt reform based on evidence rather than fashion.

I agree with Mr. Slavin9s statements in regard to school reform because all of us , as teachers, have been told to implement programs which we are 3told2 we must implement. These programs tend to come and go. Each having value, but none being a cure all. After 15 years of teaching, I have come to believe that no program,package, adoption,or method will be best for all children. The art of teaching , in my opinion, involves knowing many methods of teaching and using them to individualize and customize in order to best meet the needs of my students.

-- Anonymous, January 18, 1999

Response to: 7 Habits of Good Teachers Today by: Dorothy Rich from: Education Week August 6, 1997

Dorothy Rich began her teaching career in 1956 . She says that by all the usual standards of that era, she was considered a good teacher. She said that her students at that time, entered her 12th grade English class ready to learn. She describes the scenario as a classroom with desks arranged in rows facing forward , a set of text books , and tests, with a teacher front and center expected to 3cover2 the material. Ms. Rich says that at that time she was focused on teaching, not learning.

The author goes on to explain why she feels those 3good old days2 may not have been so good for all students. She says that today9s teachers are much more interested in students as individuals and what they are actually learning.

Ms. Rich then outlines what in her opinion are the 7 habits of good teachers . They are as follows:

1. Teach students the relevance of the subject. Sell through enthusiasm. 2. Have a high level of knowledge of your content. 3. Use a variety of teaching methods in order to accommodate learning styles. 4. Build on family and out-side-of-school experiences. Make connections. 5. Involve the students as learning partners. 6. Collaborate with other adults. 7. Make sure students know that they are cared about.

I think the author does a good job of identifying the essential elements of good teaching . It is not enough to teach as we were taught. The world is constantly changing and educators must be willing to learn and grow for the sake of our students. We must be willing to view our profession as one that will require flexibility , adaptation and openness to change. Each year we have different students. Last year9s plan may serve as a framework, but it should not be replicated from year to year. It will not fit the needs of this year9s students. Our student9s needs must be the catalyst for change and growth. We must learn to see this challenge as that which makes our job exciting and makes us professionals.

-- Anonymous, January 19, 1999

Kristina Downs Cohort III Journal article #3

Response to:

The Schools We Have. The Schools We Need. by: Richard Allington from: The Reading Teacher - Sept. 1994

I enjoyed this article because , as the title infers, Mr. Allington chose to go a step beyond criticism of education today and offer some sound advice about how it may realistically be improved in order to better meet the needs of today9s learners.

The first half of the article discussed some of the problems currently affecting our schools with a focus on early literacy. Mr. Allington makes an interesting point by saying 3American schools are doing quite well at what society once wanted them to do , but today , society wants more.2 He says that not only do we now educate larger numbers of students than ever before, but we are expected to help them reach higher levels of proficiency. Historically , a high level of reading and writing proficiency was expected of only a portion of the student population. In today9s world it is necessary for virtually all our students to attain high skill levels in these areas.

Mr. Allington next explains that educators must not confuse the issue of limited experience with that of limited ability. He says that research has repeatedly shown students who enter kindergarten with few literature experiences are often labeled early on as students with low ability. He contends that all children will learn to read and write well , but will require varied instructional methods.

In regard to instruction, Mr. Allington says that our education system should spend less effort 3sorting2 children, but instead spend the energy supporting them. He contends that the quality of instruction far outweighs the curriculum that is used and that students need opportunities for sustained practice of reading and writing and that instruction of these must include authentic models , demonstrations and explanations of the thinking processes that proficient readers and writers engage in.

The second portion of the article explains how educators can actually work toward resolving some of these issues. -Mr. Allington suggests that support staff ,(including special education specialists) should spend more time helping students to succeed within the regular classroom as opposed to pull-out programs.

-We must reorganize the school day in order to allow for blocks of time to work on sustained reading and writing projects.

-Classrooms must be equipped with generous collections of a variety of reading materials.

-Instruction must be more individualized . Some students will require more one-on -one instruction than others. (This should replace small group pull-out programs which research has attributed only limited success.)

I agree with Mr. Allington9s assertions regarding educational needs as well as the possible solutions he offers. Common sense tells us that there are not 3magic programs2 that will 3cure2 children who struggle with literacy. The answer is what it has always been, in my opinion, students will come to us with a wide variety of background experiences. Some students will learn easily ,in spite of the methods we use to teach them. Other students will learn if we work with them individually and build upon their experience base. With these students, we will have to teach in a very direct, purposeful way . We will have to give them strategies and skills to implement and time to practice . Our schools must allow time for this process and be willing to change some of the old paradigms regarding when and how 3all2 children learn. Children may all learn differently , but I agree with Mr. Allington who says, 3It is simply not necessary that some children fail to learn to read well.2

-- Anonymous, April 06, 1999

Professional Journal Review #4 Kristina Downs -Cohort III

This article relates the experiences and insights of Library /media specialist , Barbara Jansen , who advocates using self-evaluation with students as a means of improving learning. She says that leaving self-evaluation out of the learning process , denies students the opportunity to understand the way they learn as well as respect for the way others learn. She goes on to say that not only do students learn more about the learning process, but they learn a lot about interpersonal relationships as well, by evaluating group work.

Jansen believes that self- evaluation techniques should be used before, during and after lessons to achieve maximum benefit. She provides the following guidelines:

Before the lesson, students should be provided with a predetermined set of standards. She says when they know the expectations up front, most students strive for excellence. She also says exemplary models are important at this point so that students can evaluate them against the criteria that has been set.

During the lesson: They should have opportunities to think introspectively and make adjustments in their work. They should be encouraged to evaluate at several steps during the process rather than waiting until the work is finished. Many assignments are set up to be evaluated when they are completed. Students often feel discouraged and unmotivated to go back and make adjustments at that point.

After the lesson: At this point, students should be evaluating not only their product, but how well the process worked for them or their group. They should think about changes they could make to make the process/product better next time around. This may include simple discussions or questionnaires.

Jansen admits that although it may take more time to allow students to evaluate, they will learn the techniques and ask themselves questions about their work quality eventually. In my opinion, it would seem well worth the effort to teach our students such a valuable, life-long skill.

-- Anonymous, May 20, 1999

Hi Kris, Your article on self-evaluation by Barbara Hansen sound very interesting. I agree with the point you made that is important to invest the time in teaching and modeling these self-evaluation techniques. This article supports our research for self-reflection to improve student learning. I hope you will share this article with our group. Thank. P.S. Have a wonderful family vacation next month. Linda.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 1999

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