3 de junho de 2018

Whatever Happened to Effective Schools? by larrycuban

Nothing. They are still around but with many aliases. As a label for a movement that began in the late-1970s to demonstrate that urban schools can overcome the ill effects of poverty a coalition of researchers, practitioners and policymakers distilled the features of a small number of schools with largely low-income and minority students that exceeded predicted levels of academic achievement into a recipe for "success" for all schools. That was then. Effective Schools  exist today but has switched labels.
When did the idea of Effective Schools originate?
In the mid-1970s, a small number of researchers began working to disprove the then mainstream policy wisdom that what largely determines students’ academic performance—as measured by standardized achievement tests—is family background. Research studies on the inability of public schools to overcome the effects of poverty and race had led national policymakers to call for reduced federal funding of programs (see herehere, and here)
Within this social milieu of pessimism about the failure of public schools to make a difference in the lives of poor minority children, the Effective Schools Movement was born. Believing deeply in the value of equity and expecting that urban schoolchildren would be especially harmed were such a prevailing consensus of opinion among policymakers to persist, this small band of activist researchers led by Ron Edmondsidentified a handful of big-city schools enrolling large numbers of low-income minority children who scored higher on standardized achievement tests than would have been predicted by their socioeconomic status (see herehere, and here)
These researchers-cum-reformers extracted from these schools certain factors (e.g., clearly stated academic goals, principal’s instructional leadership, concentration on basic academic skills, strong emphasis on maintaining order in school, frequent monitoring of academic achievement, connecting what is taught to what is tested, etc.) that they believed were linked to the students’ higher-than-expected academic performance on standardized tests.
In creating the Effective Schools’ ideology and model programs, Ron Edmonds and others prized four values: All children, regardless of background, can learn and achieve results that mirror ability, not socioeconomic status; top-down decisions wedded to scientifically derived data can improve individual schools; measurable results count; and the school is the basic unit of reform.
What problems did Effective Schools aim to solve?
Primarily, the problem was that in the late-1960s most policymakers, practitioners, researchers, and taxpayers believed that largely minority and poor children because of where they lived could not learn or achieve what their white peers learned and achieved. Even though President Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society" included the path-breaking law--the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965)--that sent money into districts across the country enrolling poor and minority children and youth, this social belief held by most national, state, and local policymakers, reinforced by research studies in the late-1960s, permeated educational decisions. Ron Edmonds and colleagues across the country and in Europe identified high-achieving elementary and secondary schools enrolling mostly poor and minority students to undermine that belief.
What is an Effective School?
The common definition of an Effective School in the 1970s through the 1990s was one that possessed certain features extracted from those schools that exceeded predicted levels of achievement on state standardized tests. These common features, of course, are correlates--they are associated with test score success not what causes a largely minority and poor school to become a "success."
These correlates expanded and changed over time. For example, Larry Lezotte, a staunch advocate of effective Schools and colleague of Ron Edmonds, added one feature to Edmonds's list:
  1. Instructional leadership.
  2. Clear and focused mission.
  3. Safe and orderly environment.
  4. Climate of high expectations.
  5. Frequent monitoring of student progress.
  6. Positive home-school relations.
  7. Opportunity to learn and student time on task
The amending and deleting of these common elements to Effective Schools occurred time and again as the Movement spread to secondary schools, became targeted on middle-class white venues, and traveled to Europe.
Did Effective Schools work?
According to advocates who focused on rising test scores in inadequately resourced minority and poor schools that year after year posted higher-than-expected results, the answer was "yes.". Such results led to a rapid spread of the nomenclature and common features throughout U.S. urban and rural low-performing schools in the 1980s and 1990s. The federal government began using the vocabulary and by the end of the 1990s the U.S. Congress had passed the Comprehensive School Reform Act what embraced fully the rhetoric and features of the Effective School Movement (see here, here, and here).
Researchers, however, began to raise serious questions beginning in the 1970s and since about the constantly shifting features of supposedly "effective" schools, the definitions used, the demographics of schools labeled, and the stability of those schools initially labeled as "effective" but in a few years lapsed back into low test scores (see herehere,and here)
What has happened to Effective Schools?
If Edmonds’s work in the late 1970s spawned a cottage industry of Effective Schools aimed at ensuring equity for low-income, minority students, the linkage of public schools to the economy with the report, A Nation at Risk (1983), in effect, nationalized the Effective Schools movement while dropping the brand name. Federal and state policymakers, believing in education as the engine for the economy and using the same Effective Schools research, sought a broader and speedier impact on the nation’s schools than the slower school-by-school approach. They called for national goals, curriculum, and tests.
Throughout the 1980s, U.S. Secretaries of Education William Lamar Alexander and William Bennett talked about “good schools” and “effective schools” in the same breath. Assistant Secretary of Education Chester Finn spearheaded the production of a popular pamphlet called "What Works" that drew directly from the effective schools research.
President Bush and his policy advisers organized the nation’s governors to endorse six national goals in 1989. A movement toward national goals, curriculum, and tests received the stamp of approval from a Republican president who styled himself the “Education President."
When administrations changed, top policy advisers to Democrats also drew from the same well of Effective Schools ideology and research. Within an article that became a script for national and state policy elites, for example, Marshall Smith and Jennifer O’Day (1990) made clear that the ancestry of “systemic reform” was in the Effective Schools movement. “The most effective schools,” they said, “maintain a schoolwide vision or mission, and common instructional goals which tie the content, structure, and resources of the school together into an effective unified whole” (p.235). Moreover, the school mission provides the criteria and rationale for the selection of curriculum materials; the purposes and the nature of school-based professional development, and the interpretation and use of student assessment.
Smith later served in the Bill Clinton administration as Deputy Secretary under U.S. Secretary Richard Riley. Smith drafted many of the Clinton administration’s bills on national goals and testing and accelerated the shift toward nationalization of the Effective Schools movement without once using the phrase "effective schools."
The Comprehensive School Reform Act (1998) leaned heavily on the ideology of Effective Schools and the strategy of whole-school reform, that is, changing one school (rather than district or state) at a time.
The bipartisan reliance of policy elites on Effective Schools research continued into President George W. Bush's administration with the No Child Left Behind Act (2002) that laid out clearly that all schools, regardless of neighborhood, could become "good" schools without once mentioning Ron Edmonds or the Effective Schools Movement three decades earlier.
Under President Obama, NCLB was enforced and efforts to turnaround "dropout factories" into "successful" schools, often invoking features trumpeted by the Effective Schools' literature.
With parental choice expanding since the 1990s and the spread of charter schools, the label Effective School seldom appears. What does show up are "No Excuses" schools and networks of schools that embrace many of the features listed by an earlier generation of Effective Schools champions such as KIPP, Aspire, Success Academy, etc. These are the present day aliases for the half-century old Effective Schools movement.

larrycuban | June 3, 

31 de maio de 2018

Educational technology: Skeptic or Cynic? An Interview

by larrycuban

Two years ago, I had just begun research on The Flight of a Butterfly or the Path of a Bullet?: Using Technology To Transform Teaching and Learning (2018). Mary Jo Madda, then Senior Editor at EdSurge, interviewed me for a podcast and column in EdSurge. I had been observing lessons of exemplary teachers who had integrated technology into their daily lessons seamlessly. The edited interview appeared herein February 2016.
Q: Larry, thanks for sitting down with us. You’ve a lot of references and titles—you're a researcher, a professor, a former teacher, a blogger. But who do you consider yourself first and foremost?
I would call myself a teacher at different levels. I’ve taught in high schools, I’ve taught at the university, and I teach through my writing. You teach through writing because you’re getting ideas out there, and if it’s a post on a blog, you’re getting comments and you can have a back-and-forth. It’s not the same as a face-to-face interaction, but it’s the next best thing. You’re starting a conversation, and you never know where it’s going to go... I call writing a form of teaching because it’s another way to get ideas out in the arena and have interactions with people.
Speaking of your writing, when I talked to some of my team members, they said they like reading your blog because they sense a note of “fresh cynicism” when it comes technology. So, your honest opinion. The growing interest in edtech—how do you feel about it?
What’s happened is that the interest in classroom technologies has accelerated and expanded, but remember—the desktop computers came out thirty years ago. The first Apple, the Atari, those Macs came out in 1981-84, and it exploded. But the access on the part of teachers and students was very, very limited for the first 15-20 years. In the 1990s with laptops coming out, it really accelerated.
But I think what has given edtech a huge push has been the larger reform ideology, which is informed by business interest and trying to increase public schools efficiency and effectiveness. That was triggered a lot by the Nation at Risk Report (1983), where basically the CEOs of the nation combined with civic leaders said, “American schools are lousy.” They used international test scores as proof. Well, technology was going through the economy and changing the job structure and industries. So, the application of technology to public schools seemed natural.
When the money became more and more available, and as the technology improved student access, you had not an “explosion” but rather an “evolving” interest in technology that fit in with the reform ideology.
So the two—reform ideology and technology—mutually catalyzed each other?
Exactly. It started with the assumption that public schools were failing… and that the application of efficiency devices and attitudes were what schools needed. And we’re still there!
The pattern of hype leading to disappointment, leading to another cycle of overpromising with the next technology, has a long history to it.
In all of this history, do you see more evidence of failure with technology or promise with technology?
Well, I’m not a cynic, as your colleagues say. I’ve never been a cynic. I wouldn’t be in education. To be cynical means that the disappointment is so severe, and you have no energy to do anything about it. I’m skeptical. Being skeptical is very different. Skepticism and curiosity are very close in my mind.
I’ve been skeptical of technology because the early technologies in schools that I studied began with the film. That morphed into radio, instructional television, and then the computer. By looking at all the hype that surrounded each one of these, the access to those early ones was very limited. When I started teaching history in high school, there was one 16mm projector in the department’s store room, back in 1956. The pattern of hype leading to disappointment, leading to another cycle of overpromising with the next technology, has a long history to it. If I cite MOOCs… that’s just the most recent incarnation of hype in technology.
There are a long of things about teaching that can be automated. A lot of teachers’ administrative stuff—like attendance and gradebooks—can be very helpful. But to replace teachers? No.
I get the question constantly of whether technology will ever replace teachers. Can teachers and edtech coexist peacefully?
If you look upon teaching as a helping profession like medicine, social work, psychotherapy… those are completely dependent upon interaction. Now, all of those have had new technologies applied to them. But if you believe that teaching is anchored in a relationship between an adult and a student, then that can’t be replaced.
Now, there are a lot of things about teaching that can be automated. A lot of teachers’ administrative stuff—like attendance and gradebooks—can be very helpful. But to replace teachers? No. That’s a rosy scenario that borders on fantasy.
Look, you’ve got cyber charter schools, and some of them are for-profit. There’s a lot of evidence that shows that they’re trying to eat at the trough of public funding. But the nonprofit virtual schools and a lot of online schooling provide services for different groups of people that are isolated or have full-time jobs. I think that’s terrific! But that will not replace teaching. When I was a superintendent, personnel was 70% of the budget. The dream of cutting back on that, of making education less expensive, now that’s hardly talked about publicly. But that’s part of the rhetoric surrounding online instruction in schools.
Now, let’s talk about where you are right now. Back in January, you laid out your reasons for shifting focus from disappointments and failures in use of new technology to best cases of such use in districts and classrooms. Why the change?
Well, I’ll be a skeptic until I go into the ground. But in reading about teachers who are using technology, another way to find out about the strengths and shortcomings of edtech is to look at best cases. The disappointments and failures won’t go away because technology is so embedded in our culture as a positive good that there will always be overpromising. I’m more interested in the best cases, and I want to see them at the classroom level, at the school level, and at the district level. There are individual teachers who are exemplars that anyone who loves technology would embrace. But whether you can scale it up to a school, that’s harder… and then at a district, that’s even more difficult.
I’ve been in this area for 30 years, and I know a lot of people. Currently I’m in the San Mateo High School District, and I’ve been observing some teachers. And then I’ve contacted Dianne Tavenner, founder of Summit Public Schools, who was a former student of mine. When I had this idea, I contacted her and she welcomed me in. And then another friend of mine runs an upscale, private Catholic school. She was talking about the cultural principles that motivates a Catholic school, and whether technology reinforces that, undercuts it… I think that’s very interesting.
You know, it’s funny. I came here expecting I was going to get a lot of answers, but I’m coming away with more questions!
Well, that’s the difference between skepticism and cynicism. Cynics have the answers; I don’t have answers. I have a lot of hunches.
I don’t believe that there is a technical solution to teaching, to running a school, to governing a district. Education is far too complex.
What’s fascinating is that we just featured Dianne Tavenner on the EdSurge podcast in a debate about personalized learning. That must be coming full-circle for you! And I have to ask—do you believe in personalized learning with technology involved?
Well, I want to see it at work at Summit. I had a nice conversation with Dianne and CAO Adam Carter, and I was really taken with the fact that they came to [technology] very late as a way of dealing with an issue that crept up on them. [Years ago] they graduated all these kids to go to college, and just over half are finishing. What I admire about what Dianne and the staff is doing was that they said, “Let’s take a look at what we’re doing to see how we can strengthen the experiences of kids while they’re here, so that they’ll have the skills and attitudes necessary to finish college.” And that’s where personalized learning comes in.
Before I let you go, my final question has to do with entrepreneurs and investors—the people that are making and funding the tools. You’ve mentioned technology not being the be-all, end-all. But are tools being made without the users in mind?
Well, that’s been a pattern in the industry. There are some startups and firms that are user-friendly. Dianne told me that Facebook sent four software engineers over to Summit, and the engineers started with “We don’t know what you guys know, so we have to learn from you.” That’s very rare in my experience.
Getting back to your question, I see it as a fundamental dilemma. There is a clashing of two highly-prized values. There’s the desire for profit—you’re not going to give a small company $10 million unless you believe there’s a 1 in 10 chance that it’ll pay off. The other is the highly-prized value that technology is indeed the answer to educational problems. People believe that deeply. A lot of venture capitalists believe that. People who do startups in the education realm believe that. I’m not critical of that—that’s a belief system. But when it comes to schools, the complexity of teaching and the complexity of relationships is not often thoroughly understood by those folks.
I don’t believe that there is a technical solution to teaching, to running a school, to governing a district. Education is far too complex.

26 de maio de 2018

Cartoons on Using Data to make Decisions by larrycuban

Go anywhere in education, medicine, justice system, and, of course, corporate America and evidence-based decision-making and Big Data are the rage. Cartoonists have joined the fray. Enjoy!











larrycuban | May 26, 2018 at 1:00 am | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: https://wp.me/pBm7c-6Xa
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20 de maio de 2018

Democracy Prep: “No Excuses” Schools that Build Citizens? by larrycuban

Professors, pundits, and Cassandras intone that democracy is dying. Global surveys of nations show that democratic processes, rights, and responsibilities have taken hits over the last decade. No longer is the U.S. A Nation at Risk (1983), now democracies are at risk. Including America, say  historians and social scientists (see here).
Since the early 20th century, Progressive educators--think John DeweyElla Flagg YoungGeorge CountsWilliam Kilpatrick, and later in the same century Ted Sizer and Deborah Meier--have seen schools as cradles, nay, crucibles of democracy. And over the past century, such schools committed to civic engagement and building citizens out of children and youth have, to varying degrees, made that commitment part of their daily program (see herehere, and here).
With the shadow cast from A Nation at Risk, preparation for global competitiveness has turned U.S. schooling, both K-12 and higher education, into a new vocationalism where students are expected to emerge equipped with knowledge and skills to enter the information-saturated workplace. All well and good since preparation for jobs has historically been part of the American Dream and mission of tax-supported schools. But so has building citizens been a priority in that mission--as parents, educators, and tax-payers have said repeatedly (see herehere, and here).
One charter school network has elevated that commitment to its central mission: Democracy Prep.
History of network
Beginning in 2006 with a handful of sixth grade classes in various schools, the network of Democracy Prep schools has grown to 6,500 students--called "scholars" by DP staff--in 22 schools (with most in New York City and the rest spread across various states. In these lottery-driven, open enrollment schools nearly all are minority and eligible for free and reduced lunch--the measure of poverty used in public schools. The network's goal is:
Our mission is to educate responsible citizen-scholars for success in the college of their choice and a life of active citizenship.
Its motto is: "Work Hard. Go to College. Change the World."
Democracy Prep is a "No Excuses" school--- of a kind such as the national charter network of Kipp schools and Success Academy (New York City charter school network)--closely managing student behavior and a teacher-directed manner of classroom instruction. As one article put it:
At Democracy Prep Harlem Middle School, a sixth grade math teacher started her class by giving her students exactly four minutes to solve a problem involving ratios. When her watch beeped, homework was collected and all eyes turned to the front of the room.
"Pencils in the groove and you're tracking me in three, two, one and zero," she said, using a term common among charter schools where students are frequently instructed to "track" a speaker with steady eye contact and full attention.
Almost everything on a recent visit to a Democracy Prep charter was highly disciplined. Students spoke only when their teachers allowed them. They could lose points for talking out of turn, or chatting in the halls between classes.
Democracy Prep is among several charter networks with a "no excuses" philosophy. Like other charter schools the days are long, running from 7:45 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., and the academics rigorous. But there is also a culture of discipline that can cut both ways. In some schools, and with some families, the tough approach has worked well while for others it has prompted students to leave....
"No excuses means that there’s no excuse for our kids not being successful in the college of their choice and a life of active citizenship," said Seth Andrew, founder and Superintendent of Democracy Prep....
"Active citizenship" is wrapped into the school curriculum, classroom instruction and regular activities in the community. As the evaluation report said (for full report, click "download publication"):
Democracy Prep encourages civic behavior in students through a variety of curricular and experiential means, including visiting legislators, attending public meetings, testifying before legislative bodies, and discussing influential essays on civics and government. Each election day students participate in a “Get Out the Vote” campaign. Students receive tee-shirts and pamphlets with the slogan “I Can’t Vote, but You Can!” and canvass highly frequented street corners to distribute the message.... As seniors, students enroll in a capstone course in which they develop a “Change the World” project to investigate a real-world social problem, design a method for addressing the issue, and implement their plan....
The clearest indicators of Democracy Prep’s success in promoting civic engagement are the extent to which its students register to vote and participate in elections after they reach age 18. In this report, we measure the impact of Democracy Prep on the key civic outcomes of voter registration and participation in elections. We use Democracy Prep’s randomized admissions lotteries to conduct a gold standard experimental analysis that distinguishes Democracy Prep’s effect from the effects of families, students, and other outside factors....
Does concentrating on civic engagement in such "no excuses" schools, then, --where behavioral rules are strictly enforced and teachers' direct instruction dominate--make a difference in Democracy Prep's graduates' behavior in registering to vote and actually voting?
According to an independent evaluation released recently, the answer is "yes."
Two key findings are:
  • We find a 98 percent probability that enrolling in Democracy Prep produced a positive impact on voter registration, and a 98 percent probability that enrolling produced a positive impact on voting in the 2016 election.
  • Democracy Prep increases the voter registration rates of its students by about 16 percentage points and increases the voting rates of its students by about 12percentage points.
Yes, this is only study of Democracy Prep's outcomes on actual civic participation. And, yes, again the positive effects on adult graduates behavior in registering and voting in an election is one striking outcome but how many served on juries, participated in community organizations, ran for local office, met with neighborhood and city officials, wrote letters, etc. --remain unmeasured outcomes for these alumni.
I also was puzzled by the contradiction between the 'no excuses" regime in the school and the lack of efforts to introduce democratic practices into classroom and school cultures. Life in school, as Dewey's Lab School and other similar schools over the past century have shown can have strong student participation and voice.  Yet in such "no excuse" schools without such student voice and participation, there were positive outcomes in registering to vote and actual voting. I wonder how those past and present progressive educators would explain this apparent contradiction.

larrycuban | May 20, 2018 at 1:00 am | 

11 de maio de 2018

Can You Be a ‘Good Teacher’ Inside a Failing School? (JennyAbamu) by larrycuban

This article appeared in EdSurge, April 2, 2018
“Jenny Abamu is an education technology reporter at EdSurge where she covers technology's role in both higher education and K-12 spaces. She previously worked at Columbia University’s EdLab’s Development and Research Group, producing and publishing content for their digital education publication, New Learning Times. Before that, she worked as a researcher, planner, and overnight assignment editor for NY1 News Channel in New York City. She holds a Masters degree in International and Comparative Education from Columbia University's Teacher's College.”
Here’s a popular movie plot: Great teacher goes into a troubled neighborhood and turns around a low-performing school. Educators love the messages from these films, and even children are inspired. Unfortunately, many school districts never find the Coach Carters or Erin Gruwells who bring such happy endings. In fact, in a broken district such as Detroit’s, schools in hard-bitten neighborhoods sometimes go from “turnarounds” to closure.

Fisher Magnet Upper Academy is a middle school located within one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city, stricken with poverty and crime. In 2013, local news reportsnamed the area the third most violent zip code in America. In 2016, Fisher was named one of the 38 campuses at risk of closure after the Michigan legislature passed a bill saying any school ranked at the bottom 5 percent of state campuses for three years in a row would be subject to consequences.
Despite a relatively new building, constructed in 2003 as part of a former superintendent’s turnaround project, Fisher has suffered from consistent low performance—falling far below state standards on exams and adjusted growth targets designed specifically for the school. During the 2015-16 school year, only 0.7 percent (3 out of 451) of students met state standards in math, and only 4.5 percent met English Language Arts standards.
Carl Brownlee, a former United States Marine officer, is a middle school social studies teacher at Fisher Magnet Upper Academy. He has been teaching at Fisher for over 10 years. He believes changes in academic performance can happen in a struggling school like Fisher but says he has only seen it happen in the movies.
“The only person I have seen that had the ability change this type of climate and culture was Joe Clark, or Morgan Freeman in that movie, ‘Lean On Me,’” says Brownlee. That doesn’t mean he thinks improvements are implausible, though. He says: “I think there were some good ideas that movie that you could translate into schools.”
Brownlee believes that he is a good teacher, in spite of what test scores may reflect. And he feels as though his students have been slighted by ineffective teachers in the past. So he plans to stay at Fisher, where he hopes to bring advanced teaching skills to students that other educators may ignore.
“My children are being cheated because they are not given the same experiences as their counterparts in other schools, and that’s not fair,” says Brownlee. “That’s one of the reasons I stay where I am at.”
As students trickle in Brownlee’s classroom on a Friday morning, he stands by the door to greet each of them. He instructs them to grab their work folders and get into groups. The 6th, 7th and 8th graders entering Brownlee’s class in their uniforms are respectful, quiet and—though naturally distracted from time to time with whispers and giggles—appear to be on task. They ask questions and support one another as they move around in groups through learning stations Brownlee has set up in class.
Technology has a role to play in Brownlee’s effort as well. Using the free version of tools such as Edmodo, Kahoot, and Google Forms, Docs and sometimes Slides, Brownlee varies his lessons on topics such as Chinese history and the Missouri Compromise. He opens up classes with hip-hop education from Flocabulary, then goes into worksheets, videos, group assignments, and desktop assignments—incorporating cell phone apps and music in the activities. He constantly walks around the room, refocusing off-task students and offering feedback on their work. His classroom does not fit the “before” image in most romanticized school turnaround stories.
“The skill sets that I have, I like to use them with these young people instead of going to another school where you might get the test scores that people are asking for,” Brownlee continues, noting that he is not looking to teach the “ideal student” in an exemplary school. “My kids don’t come from that, so I try to hang in there and do my best. They need it. They deserve it.”'
By “doing his best” Brownlee means constantly learning, often looking for resources outside of the district for support. He is also trying to incorporate more personalization into his classroom, noting that the State Department of Education has embraced the implementation of such instructional models.
Since Fisher does not have enough Chromebooks for every student, teachers share a cart of laptops that travel from class to class. Teachers also combine technical and non-technical ways of personalizing instruction. For Brownlee, part of personalization means gauging the social and emotional well-being of students each morning, so he knows how to approach them throughout the lesson.
“Are they ready for school work? You might have [a student] come in who just had a loved one die the night before. We have had that on many occasions. They still come to school,” explains Brownlee. “You can’t just go into teaching when they come into the classroom if you don’t know where they are at.”
To meet students where they are, Brownlee has a couple of go-to tools. He uses apps such as Quizlet to encourage students to learn independently. In addition, he uses Edpuzzle when students are having a hard time with particular topics in class. The app allows them to rewatch annotated video lessons.
“I have done it with several of our resource students,” Brownlee explains, noting how one struggling 7th-grader has been showing improvement since using apps like Edmodo and Edpuzzle. “He comes to class every day, and you can see that he is trying. He wants to understand what is going on. He likes to look at the videos, and his effort is starting to show in his work. You get a little joy when you see them getting it.”
Brownlee also has digital portfolios that he uses to track student mastery and growth, something all teachers in his school incorporate. Yet, he notes that this method has yielded mixed results, particularly since many teachers serve a large number of students--and struggle to keep records up to date.
Brownlee works with 198 students daily and admits its difficult for him and other teachers to add student work to the portfolios consistently. “It’s just very difficult when you have so many students to try to personalize for each one,” he says. “You can tailor for each student, but only to a certain extent.”
Despite the difficulties, Brownlee has not given up trying to tailor instruction for his students. He makes time to celebrate the small gains he sees students making, like the lessons he teaches that students remember long after they graduate. But he admits that there are days that he gets tired, particularly noting the difficulties keeping up with changes in the district.
His district has flipped between state and local control over the years and has had a number of different superintendents and principals; most of them bring new initiatives with them. This school year Brownlee has a new superintendent and a new school principal, but real-world challenges facing students in and out of his school continues. He is cautiously hopeful that things can in improve, but the familiarity of changes that don’t yield academic results is haunting— causing him to work overtime with his happy-ending out of sight.
“No matter what you do you are still going to be accountable for the test score. It does not matter if the students just came from another school or district. It does not matter if they came to you four grades behind, if that child’s family is impoverished, or if the child has any type of learning disability that may be undiagnosed,” says Brownlee. “It is more like a professional football team. If the team does not win, it is the coach’s fault, and the coach is fired.”

larrycuban | May 11, 2018