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nicksiewert's Comments

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The War at Home: Let's Fix U.S. Schools Before Exporting Them

Commented Nov 3, 2009 at 07:36:20 in Impact

“Strong one Jenifer. I find it deeply disappointing that the President talked so eloquently about reexamining how we would spend out precious resources during the election, but now has essentially opted for the status quo. Or rather he has avoided making any hard choices about reallocating resources. It's both and. The "Race to the Top" seems as naive to me as the thinking that got us into Iraq and to a lesser extent Afghanistan. It is a lack of respect for the problem. If we just use the the same old tactics (no strategy), in this case reducing the problem of creating better schools to test score comparisons, we will solve it. The school problem in this country is a wicked one, in that when broken down to its component parts, each is just as knotty as the original problem, not more easily dealt with. It requires sustained attention, which as you point out it will not likely get as long as the President and his administration spend their hours obsessing over next steps in Afghanistan.”

hp blogger Jenifer Fox on Nov 4, 2009 at 21:38:55

“"Race to the aTop." Who was int he room when they coined that? Don't get me wrong--I favor the President. I just think he needs to listen to the innovations here.”
huffingtonpost entry

Parent-Teacher Conferences, a Time to Celebrate Strengths

Commented Oct 15, 2009 at 10:28:53 in Healthy Living

“Right on Jenifer. Any way we can close the gap between parents and teachers is helpful to schools. We need to cultivate a "team approach" to educating kids. What better way to do that than by engaging in empowering strengths discussions about student work in school? How nice for the child to know in advance of the meeting that it would be focused on learning strengths. Better yet, have the child at the conference serving as the "strengths guide" explaining the work. I've seen student led conferences work in schools and they can be really powerful.”
The High Cost of a Brand Name College

The High Cost of a Brand Name College

Commented Oct 2, 2009 at 13:47:26 in Healthy Living

“This is definitely a topic parents should be talking about more. The secret reality of college admissions is that 80% of the kids apply to 20% of the schools. The mad rush for a "brand name" education has blinded many people to the true issues of quality of program and instruction in colleges and universities, let alone the issue of finding a good fit for one's college-bound child. A study a few years back asked students to rate their learning experiences in college based on professor quality and access, quality of instruction and so on. Not surprisingly many of the "brand name" schools were well down on the list. Harvard has just revamped its entire undergrad program to make the classroom experience more interdisciplinary and student centered. It's still no secret the best learning is at many of the places which are not as selective. In many cases, great teaching professors prefer to teach there because they can actually teach as opposed to publish or perish. And don't even get me started on how the AP warps the high school curriculum.”
huffingtonpost entry

What's Wrong With Our Schools?

Commented Sep 22, 2009 at 23:26:05 in Healthy Living

“I think it's great that you are posting on this. Frankly, I believe the new administration has gotten off on the wrong foot on education. The "Race to the Top" is yet another standardized test driven attempt to impose a marketplace competition model on our nations schools, which are an entirely different endeavor from a business.

I think that the basic literacies of Emerson's time still apply. The better kids can read critically, write fluenty and compute quickly and easily, the better prepared they will be to participate fully in life- that means the job market, civic life, personal life, the gamut. But they also need a new set of skills as you enumerated: the ability to sift efficiently and critically mass amounts of data and information, the ability to deploy technology to collaborate with others across the globe, the ability to synthesize meaningful narratives and trends out of large streams of information, and not least the ability to evaluate arguments and points of view in the increasing flood of media.”
huffingtonpost entry

Obama is Right, Developing Talent is Key in Education

Commented Sep 12, 2009 at 20:44:13 in Healthy Living

“Right on Jenifer. Finally the President is speaking about education from the bully pulpit. And it's high time. All the bloviating about how he is trying to indoctrinate the children rings false given the substance of the speech. How the focus on children's individuality and strengths in this speech squares with his big push for national standards remains to be seen. But at least he's focused on the kids, just like you are.”
Smart Kids Can Do Poorly in School

Smart Kids Can Do Poorly in School

Commented Jun 24, 2009 at 08:36:02 in Healthy Living

“Great post. As you point out, one of the reasons there is so much emotion attached to this issue is that time is such a weighted factor. Parents can watch their children "falling behind" and realize that the chances of them catching up fade with every day. There is really so little time to educate children that each moment seems precious. So time becomes the enemy, just as it is for the history teacher desperate to "reach the Civil War before Christmas." Hopefully we can find some creative ways to rethink the pacing of education and even individualize it for different learners. Each learners developmental spectrum is different so the timing should be too.”

hp blogger Jenifer Fox on Jun 24, 2009 at 18:15:01

“If we can make it to walk on the moon, and invent iPods the size of your thumb, you'd think we could get this right. Maybe nobody sees it as a profit source worthy of longterm attention.”
School's Out, Kids Can Feel Smart Again

School's Out, Kids Can Feel Smart Again

Commented Jun 11, 2009 at 15:29:51 in Healthy Living

“Hear hear, Jenifer. The odd thing is that as children grow and mature and become more versatile as learners, schooling becomes less imaginative and less diverse in its approaches. So frequently the most monolithic, standardized teaching is found at the high school level, when kids should really be spreading their wings as learners.”
Our Education System Needs Transcendence, Not Fixing

Our Education System Needs Transcendence, Not Fixing

Commented Apr 1, 2009 at 14:07:27 in Healthy Living

“I think it's so funny that you feel the need to remind Fox that she is not a teenager. Given that she has been working closely with teenagers every day for the last 25 years in a bunch of different school settings, there is a good chance that she has a sense of how today's teenagers are thinking. There is actually much to be said for expertise, for the opinions of people who are professionals and have first hand knowledge.

We tend to teach the way we were taught or in the way that worked best for us when we were in school. Today most of us are digital natives, teaching kids who are digital immigrants. Either we work our asses off to keep up and see things through contemporary kids eyes, or we are all fossils. School boards are just citizens and they vary widely. Not sure it's particularly useful to see them as some monolithic problem. But school as a rule tends to be conservative, not in the political sense but as in concerned with preserving a set of values and institutional and community goals. The question is "What should the values and goals be?"”

RobinSeattle on Apr 1, 2009 at 17:23:56

“The problem with school boards isn't that they are populated by citizens. They are amateurs who have usually never been a teacher and have no idea what teachers deal with in a concrete manner nor do they have personal experience with keeping kids in line and progressing through the curriculum on a day to day basis and yet are allowed to have power over budgets, teacher hiring and discipline and textbook selection. In the business world, you just do not allow amateurs to run the show for you. So why should we do so with something as important as educating the future of our country? It's insane.

My idea is to have teachers own the results of their school by being allowed to form a committee to run it. In other words, I am for the pros being allowed to do their jobs unimpeded by outsiders with wacked out political or religious agendas or political ambitions. Plus my idea removes a big layer of bureaucracy.”
Our Education System Needs Transcendence, Not Fixing

Our Education System Needs Transcendence, Not Fixing

Commented Mar 31, 2009 at 16:38:35 in Healthy Living

“Spot on, Jenifer. One of the biggest problems has become the various assessments which are imposed on schools. That would include the slew of standardized tests which accompany "accountability" measures like NCLB. But also the SAT and the monster of all, the AP exams. We have essentially attempted to substitute "rigor" for real work. All of these things have conspired to make schools more "rigorous" within a very narrow band of skills and types of achievement and simultaneously much less relevant to the lives young people are leading and the work working people are doing. Does anyone seriously believe that we can get an accurate sense of what 8th graders know about science throughout the United States given the primitive metrics we are using? Much less a metric which we can accurately compare to other countries.

Every good teacher will tell you that assessment drives instruction. Until we can drag our assessment methods into somewhere near the 21st century with things like electronic portfolios and virtual assessments of simulations, we are stuck with an inventory model of measuring learning. Items on a checklist, no real world, collaborative work. The opportunities afforded kids to do real things in the real world by technology have made "school" increasingly irrelevant.The primary American value is, I think, engaging in hard, real and relevant work. Until our schools adapt to present kids with that kind of work, kids should rebel. And our "founding fathers" would see that as the proper thing to do.”