Education Week - January 29, 2014 - (Page 22)

LETTERS to the EDITOR School Violence Coverage Should Be Measured, Limited To the Editor: I commend the media for respecting the wishes of those in Newtown, Conn., by staying away from this community on the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. ("Media Restraint on Newtown Anniversary?," Education and the Media, www., Dec. 12, 2013). Hopefully it can be a starting point for addressing the overwhelming issue of school shootings that have persisted in our country. As the superintendent of a school district in Wisconsin, I tell our staff, faculty, and students that having a well-rehearsed comprehensive emergency plan is only a start. We need to be vigilant and aware of unusual behavior of anyone who comes to our schools, which includes students and parents. When I was in high school in the 1970s, an older schoolmate of mine committed suicide. I recall that the funeral was held in the school auditorium and covered by the local media. We later learned that by publicly glorifying such stories, by putting their faces and life stories in the media, we may have been inadvertently feeding and encouraging the same actions by other teens who contemplated suicide. For the most part, we no longer publicize information about individuals who commit suicide. I applaud the media for choosing to step back and avoid drawing attention to these deaths. If the media adopted the practice of dealing with mass shootings in a similar fashion, the number of subsequent occurrences may decrease. The recent shootings at Colorado's Arapahoe High School, however, attracted the usual media attention. The shooter was quickly identified. A picture of the shooter, with a smiling face, sporting a shirt and tie, has appeared countless times in news reports. I believe the media want to do what is best for our society and report the news as fairly and accurately as possible. Journalists have proven they can balance the need to report and cover news events with the need to enhance safety for everyone in the future. We need to stop giving unnecessary coverage to these incidents, or we risk providing a platform for despicable notoriety for the impulsive person who contemplates the next evil plot. Ronald J. Walsh Superintendent Elk Mound Area School District Elk Mound, Wis. The author serves on the board of directors of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, which recently named him Wisconsin's 2014 superintendent of the year. The United States Can Learn From Others' PISA Successes To the Editor: Demographics don't have to become destiny, despite how people have interpreted the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's recent Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, report ("Global Test Shows U.S. Stagnating," Dec. 11, 2013). The analysis of the places where students do well in mathematics-the focus of the most recent PISA in 2012-found that highperforming students are more likely to be found in educational systems where: *Education funds are distributed equitably so that learning for low-income students is funded in the same way as for higher-income students; *Students are not segregated by their performance, but are mainstreamed; *Low-performing students are identified early and given specialized help and resources before disengagement takes root; *Families are involved and encouraged to keep their children engaged in their education; *Positive teacher-student relationships are promoted, as are positive school climates where students feel they belong and students' views are solicited and listened to; and *Education is valued in the culture as in the national interest. Because the PISA tests 15-year-olds, it may seem as if the skills and knowledge it involves are for older students, but that's not true. Good age-appropriate early-childhood programs can build a strong foundation for learning. In all of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, member-countries children who attended pre-primary school for more than one year scored 53 points higher in math-the equivalent of one year of schooling-than those without a pre-primary education. The results of the PISA should give us pause in the United States. If we are teaching to the test, it is the wrong test. Like leading OECD countries, we need to promote knowledge and skills, focusing on helping children stay truly engaged learners by moving away from our current test-crazed approach that promotes rote learning. Instead, we should emphasize experiential discovery and the learning of lifelong skills and give children opportunities to solve real-life issues by thinking critically and creatively. Ellen Galinsky President and Co-Founder Families and Work Institute New York, N.Y. The writer is also the senior director of the institute's "Mind in the Making" initiative. Tough Conversation Needed On Teacher Training To the Editor: In his letter to the editor ("Indiana Dean Questions NCTQ Research Standards,"Jan. 8, 2014) Gerardo Gonzalez, a professor and dean at Indiana University's school of education, questioned the results of the recent National Council on Teacher Quality teacher-preparation study. As educators in Indiana, alumni of three Indiana teacher-preparation programs, and current Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellows, we felt compelled to respond. Rather than focusing on the methodology of the NCTQ study, teacherpreparation programs should voluntarily and publicly report the outcomes of their programs. Arguing over methodology removes focus from what we, as practitioners, know is important: ensuring educators are adequately prepared from their first day in front of students. We know this is currently not the case. Just as we are held accountable for our students' performance, traditional and nontraditional teacher-preparation programs alike should be held accountable for their teachers' performance. Accreditation councils should apply tighter standards on the programs they accredit. For public colleges and universities, states should require public reporting of alumni survey data and evaluation outcomes for alumni of preparation programs. While programs resistant to accountability may claim that they have little control over outcomes once students leave, we as educators could make 22 | EDUCATION WEEK | January 29, 2014 | the same argument about our own students. We feel responsible for students' performance in our classrooms and their achievement once they leave. Teacher-preparation programs should feel that same sense of responsibility for their alumni. It is time for a tough conversation about teacher preparation, but it should not get lost in a fight about research methodology. We would like to challenge Dean Gonzalez to take the lead in creating a framework that holds preparation programs accountable for their graduates' performance. Greater accountability for preparation programs is essential in ensuring that students have access to high-quality, effective educators. We know we can do better. Natalie Merz Jacob Pactor Jennifer Rogers Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellows Indianapolis, Ind. Caitlin Hannon Executive Director Teach Plus Indianapolis The founder and chief executive officer of Teach Plus, Celine Coggins, serves on the advisory board of the National Council on Teacher Quality. Common Core Will Bolster Foundational Knowledge To the Editor: In the next 10 or 20 years, virtually all Americans will have access to the Internet. That will be an important accomplishment, but it will have little to no impact on the achievement gap. Why? Because high-speed access to Google is not the same thing as access to knowledge-at least not in any meaningful way. Everyday examples abound: Your newspaper will tell you what the U.S. Supreme Court decided; it will not tell you what the Supreme Court is. You have to fill in the gaps. If you think you can just Google those gaps, take a look at the first sentence of Wikipedia's Supreme Court entry: "The Supreme Court of the United States (first abbreviated as SCOTUS in 1879) was established pursuant to Article III of the United States Constitution in 1789 as the highest federal court in the United States." Google is a wonderful tool for those who want to extend their existing knowledge of a topic; it is not very useful for those needing to start from scratch. Right now, only some of our children are being taught the broad foundation of knowledge needed to harness Google for lifelong learning. But the Common Core State Standards Initiative could change that. It calls for a "content-rich curriculum" and states that, "By reading texts in history/social studies, science, and other disciplines, students build a foundation of knowledge in these fields that will also give them the background to be better readers in all content areas." Implementing the common core will be tough, but those who adhere to the research underlying the standards will be rewarded with higher achievement. Lisa Hansel Communications Director Core Knowledge Foundation Charlottesville, Va. COMMENTARY POLICY Education Week takes no editorial positions, but publishes opinion essays and letters from outside contributors in its Commentary section. For information about submitting an essay or letter for review, visit Talking About A Reformation CONTINUED FROM PAGE 21 than the ride with our students, to take a cue from the Reformation and diversify the messages we send our students. Too often the disparity between the lessons we intend to teach and the lessons we actually teach causes angst and confusion for students. While we preach the idea of systematic conformity as a route to success, virtually every example of greatness, success, genius, innovation, or profound influence that we use in our classrooms is an individual who did not conform. The current shift to the Common Core State Standards will not change this. Our diplomas will continue to signify the successful completion of a prolonged course in conformity unless we insist on something more. The practical way to change this is to teach our students that systems (educational and otherwise) are both necessary and imperfect. Education is, after all, only the first of many systems that will affect their lives. We must encourage students to use school as a tool to help build themselves, rather than us using them as tools to sustain the system. We should ensure that they do not become a "product" of our system, or any system. Our curriculum should instill a belligerent refusal to define themselves as their transcripts. Students need to know that important questions lead to other questions-that conclusive answers are for game shows or courtroom evidence. They especially need to know that we don't have all the answers, while we reassure them that answers are not the same as wisdom. As teachers, we should mentor our students in the art of questioning and healthy skepticism-an art brought to life by that most famous (or infamous) of reformers, Martin Luther. If we lack the wisdom, or become too jaded or tired to live up to the intellectual challenge that teaching should be, we should quit the profession. We should help students put the biggest investment of their young lives into perspective and find a link between what is in their heads and what is in their souls. It's time for us to do some reforming of our own. n Josef Matyas Trenkwald/iStockphoto

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 29, 2014

Education Week - January 29, 2014
Ruling Raises Internet-Access Concerns
Cheating Case Implicates Phila. Educators
Graduation Disparities Loom Large
Business Groups Defend Common Standards
Report Roundup
News in Brief
Common Science Standards Are Slow to Catch On in States
Surge in Charter Schools Stirs Concerns in North Carolina
Blogs of the Week
Turnaround Program Receives Makeover In Budget Deal
Some Waiver States Feeling Common-Core Test Pinch
Needy Students, Tech Disparities at Issue
Blogs of the Week
Advocates Welcome New Federal Aid Aimed at Youngest
Collective-Bargaining Case Takes Spotlight at High Court
ANNA E. BARGAGLIOTTI: Statistics: The New ‘It’ Common-Core Subject
BEN ZIMMER & DANIELLA ROHR: Funding Students, Not Bureaucracies, For Early-Childhood Education
CLARKE L. RUBEL: Talking About a Reformation
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
LYNETTE TANNIS: Twice Punished: Education’s ‘Invisible’ Incarcerated Youths

Education Week - January 29, 2014