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teacher at a school 150 years ago

Last March, when I was interviewing a few teaching candidates, one told me that “Teaching was a Woman’s job” and that men “should find themselves something better.”

 

I have often wondered what some of the historical reasons for the predominance of women in our classrooms are. Last week, while researching American Education History, I came across an interesting fact that throws some light on this.

 

The Carnegie unit and the Graded classroom are typical of schools all over the world; so it is the case in America. But it has not always been so. Before Horace Mann, American Educator and Politician went across the pond, visited schools and came back with the idea of the graded school, American education and classrooms were vertically grouped.

 

What that meant was that students aged 5 to 20 were schooled together in the same class. Because of presence of older students, men were required to maintain order in the classrooms. As the graded classroom evolved and students of the same age started being schooled together to the exclusion of other ages, managing them because easier. This ushered in women into American classrooms.

 

The same is seen even today – the percentage of men teaching High School is significantly higher than the percentage teaching elementary school.

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A few weeks ago, Ryan mentioned he the only male primary teacher in his school. My theory (in his comments section) was that in several countries (like in India) teacher pay is graded by class taught, with those teaching higher classes getting better pay. Moreover, teaching a higher class may have a longer, or more strenuous work-day. The two facts combined with the traditional role of the man as the primary bread earner results in men choosing to teach higher classes (or alternately, the long hours keep some women off this vocation).

 

Now it seems that part of the reason may be attributed to a selection bias. It seems that the stereotype of the male sexual offender is making men are less attractive to school Boards and Administrators an/or making teaching in elementary school less attractive to qualified male teachers.

A Wall Street Journal article has more:

Are we teaching children that men are out to hurt them? The answer, on many fronts, is yes. Child advocate John Walsh advises parents to never hire a male babysitter. Airlines are placing unaccompanied minors with female passengers rather than male passengers. Soccer leagues are telling male coaches not to touch players.

Child-welfare groups say these are necessary precautions, given that most predators are male. But fathers’ rights activists and educators now argue that an inflated predator panic is damaging men’s relationships with kids. Some men are opting not to get involved with children at all, which partly explains why many youth groups can’t find male leaders, and why just 9% of elementary-school teachers are male, down from 18% in 1981.

I’m not sure I agree with the reasoning here. I feel it may be a selection in favour of women not a selection against men that leads to the skewed percentage of male elementary-school teachers. You can however, read the entire story here.

Further Reading (click on numbers)

#1 Sex Offender Alert: Know when a Sex Offender moves into your area (Couldn’t help noticing that all the offenders profiled on this page were male!

#2: Men’s Awareness: A blog that showcases several examples to flout the male sex offender stereotype

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YOUNG GIRL WITH VIOLIN

I took music lessons from age six to fourteen, but had no luck with my teachers, for whom music did not transcend mechanical practicing. I really began to learn after I had fallen in love with Mozart’s sonatas. The attempt to reproduce their singular grace compelled me to improve my technique. I believe, on the whole, that love is a better teacher than sense of duty.

– Albert Einstein

Image Courtesy: Bill Viccaro

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carnival of education

Welcome to the Carnival !

I am honoured to host the Carnival of Education, now in its 133rd avatar. Thanks Ed! It’s been quite an exercise, but I’ve tried my best to make it fun by including everything that was submitted to me and organising it into categories.

 

Thanks to all those who contributed and took the time to fill up the survey questionnaire I sent out. I am including the results at the end of the post post.

 

Next week’s carnival will be hosted by Matt Tabor. Mail him at mktabor@gmail.com by 11pm EST on Tuesday, August 29, 2007 or else use this handy submission form. Thanks to Lennie for last week’s carnival.

Hang on now for Here we Go!

 

Leading Schools

The first chapter of Freakonomics, a huge bestseller (read a superintendent’s post on it here) talks about how incentive govern economics. Incentives are it says, simple means to urge people to do more of a good thing and less of a bad one, they are bullets, levers and keys: tiny objects with astonishing power to change a situation. Dave Johnston brings Economics into school with a post on why School Districts Need the Right Incentives.

Teacher Salaries have always been a huge source of debate. Paying his employees well is a must for every Leader. IB a Math Teacher presents a comparison between US and Finnish (the country consistently ranked #1 in OECD surveys on student achievement) teacher salaries. After you read this, you may be surprised to find out that several Indian teachers are paid between 20-25% of what teachers in the US are (adjusted for exchange rates and purchasing power).

In an article that will shock every school leader, I was surprised to learn that 1 out of 8 children in US schools are on retalin, a drug that impacts behavior, cognition, appetite, and stress and can have negative impact on the brain major impact in adulthood. Lennie contends that Ritalin is used in Government Schools to modify the behavior of students to make them fit into the one-size-fits all systems that these schools employ.

This post was not written for teachers or administrators in school, but can help all of us. Phil presents 13 Steps to be Productive saying”Ever wonder why some people are so productive all of the time while other people never accomplish anything?” I’m sure Christian over at Think: Lab was reading- I wonder how he finds the time to write several quality posts a day!

 

Oh My God, This Cannot be Happening

Is that a Bird? Superman? No its an Elementary School Principal! Jo Scott-Coe introduces us to a Principal who thinks that spending a day on the roof may encourage teachers to get better ‘fodder for lessons’ Head over to School Performance Anxiety–No More Gimmicks! for some Laughs!

I’m putting this post right under the one about our Fiddler-on-the-Roof Principal above, because it talks about a stand taken by the British Univeristy and College Union that’s equally stupid and egregious (or both). Read Darren’s post about the boycott of Israeli Universities here.

 

In the Classroom

Here is one thing that you would not believe closes achievement gaps. Getting children to Chew Gum in Class! A teacher was persuaded to do this even when when the policy strictly prohibits it because it (brace yourselves) helps the children think. I’d have put it in the ‘crazies’ section above if it weren’t for the teacher’s concern for her student’s achievement that made her break the rules and try it.

Asking questions is at the heart of a learning organisation and learning classrooms. Joanne Jacobs suggests that it might be the best way to go when teaching History (which she says is way better as a theatre for the higher reaches Bloom’s Taxonomy than Social Studies).

Several kids trip on word problems because they can’t translate the question being asked into a mathematiucal equation. What does it mean to find two-thirds of six they ask? If your kids are have trouble with this and more, read Denise’s post on Pre-algebra problem solving tools. The comment on the post (and maths problem) with the 3 salesman is worth a read too: its a variant of a classic problem that foxes most at first go.

A teacher’s influence can last a life time. Sometimes it is due to a negative incident that leaves a lasting impression. That’s what Ms.Teacher wrote when she submitted her post to the carnival. Check out her very readable reflections over in her post, The Influence of Teachers

Giftedness is a concept and term that most Educators love to use. Jeremy. in his excellent Conceptions of Giftedness, in light of DVD finding informs us that unfortunately, most of these educators may not agree or know what giftedness means. He presents an overview of scholarly definitions and a series of links to a recent finding that instructional videos aren’t effective in teaching language skills to infants.

Ever wonder why teachers in NYC are so psychotic? (!??!) Head over and check with Dr. Homeslice who’s surprised by the keywords that have driven traffic to his site.

 

Back to School after the summer?

Summer means Teacher Development. Carnival newbie Jennie, who’s just endured this version of Teacher Hell and is probably happy to get back to school, wonders why so many seminars are scheduled when Conferences are what really get the teachers going.

Joel, who’s become a bit of a 10-Tips and 7-Ways-To-Do-Things Guru, presents The Twelve Days of Teaching – a series of articles that may be be interesting to read before you start teaching again.

You may also want to consider visiting a wiki set up by Dan Myer to help you get prepared for a new term of teaching (this is not a carnival contribution, I’ve added it).

If you are a new teacher or are advising one this year, it would be helpful to read Graycie’s e-mail exchange with a New Teacher that has some excellent tips and the Right Wing Professor low-down on getting it right the first time around.

Ms. T talks about engaging lower-income and minority families in the school this year, using her dismay over the poor-attendance at her school’s recent back-to-school Open House as a context.

Former Wilmington Mayor Jim Sills shares her concern as he claims that “absence of parental participation plans (meaning budgeted finances and assigned personnel) has contributed to African-American and low-income parents (a) not feeling any “significant sense of ownership” of public schools, and (b) having low levels of parental participation in Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meetings. Unfortunately, we are left with a very large contingent of low-income parents, who feel ill equipped to give their children sufficient personal support in school settings.” Hube thinks that Sill’s enthusiasm may be misplaced and presents his own view on the subject in Once again: Teachers “not doing enough.

Best of luck to all of you starting the new school year! As you do so, read California Teacher Guy’s rather humorous poem on what he didn’t do last summer and Why He Is Rested and Ready to Go.

 

Grading

The best thing about blogs is sometimes the open-source stuff that gets shared- the Science Goddess has put out a draft of her standards-based grading policy on her blog. She’d like your comments! Go have a look- its definitely worth a read as is the discussion developing on the post and this wiki set up by Eric, Repairman, Miss Profe, Exhausted Intern and others on Grading.

A few weeks ago, there was a debate about Austin Lampros and his resignation from a Manhattan School that was activated by a ruling that no student should be given less than 45% marks, irrespective of performance. Now, R.Pettinger, an economist from across the Atlantic presents Are British A Levels Getting Easier? where he examines how lowered standards have doubled the percentage of students getting an A on their national exams.

 

Achievement Gaps and Standardised Testing

Here’s a Quiz for you- the winner gets a Testing for Dummies Handbook. What could the passage below be referring to?

We implemented a national literacy strategy in primary schools, followed quite rapidly by numeracy using the same model: Large-scale reform driven from the top down; designing all the materials at the national level and training everybody in a cascade out; using the accountability system to publish results and school inspection to check that people were adopting better practices.”

NCLB did you say? Nope, it’s the British version that now been imported to the US Shores in Ohio. Read more about it at Middle Shool World

What causes achievement gaps? Race? Parental Income? IQ? Expectation? Parental Pressure? Chanman’s got the lowdown on his post Quotable Crap about the “Achievement Gap”

One person who doesn’t need to read Chanman’s post is Margaret Spellings who seems to have got it all figured out. In a recent statement she asked, “How do we close the achievement gap and prepare all children to succeed in the global economy? To me, the answer is clear—the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Building on the success of this landmark law will help ensure we keep our promise to have every child learning on grade level by 2014.” Read all about it over on EduWonk’s post The Spellings Report: Margaret Heads South!

 

What Schools can Learn from Businesses and Funding in Schools

At a (private) school I worked at, parents were customers and so were students. Fees were income. Annual Days were Marketing promotions and Parent Relations was under a Public Relations Department. I hated the terms but liked the premise. Nancy Flanagan gets into the details on what schools can learn from big business in Business as Usual while Jose Vilson says that “much of the relationships we have in the educational setting have scary similarities to politics, corporate or otherwise” in his review of the book 48 Laws of Power.

Bill Ferriter, who writes for the same network that Nancy does, also handles a similar issue- the question of Funding, Accountability and Donor Relations in Schools- all things we can learn from business about. His post, Just What is a Republic Anyway?, is in response toone on the DeHavilland Blog titled The Upside of Less Education Funding.

I humbly present another post on state funding for education, arguing that higher-ed subsidies that are keeping large numbers out of primary-school should be re-evaluated and maybe, done away with.

Staying with funding and money; Norm Scott presents Oh man, did your readers leave stuff out! that tells you where dues money goes in the largest local teacher union in the nation

 

Essential conversations with our children

What should we tell our children and what should we not? Presenting three articles that touch different angles on this- NYC Educator talks about discussions with children on homesexuality and sex. I present a post on the death of Adnan Patrawala a 16-year old student in Mumbai who’s death may have been abetted by Orkut, an incident that calls for a more careful exposure to social networking sites. To round up is Jeff’s post Putting them in a Bubble (this is not a carnival contribution, I’ve added it).

In India, several schools are attempting to bring in grandparents into schools- acknowledging that the contribution of these elders in the children’s education can be significant and that in Inidan families where generation stay together it’s important that the Elders are on board with the school their grandchild goes to. Dana talks about a British example where elders are encouraged to come to school and share experiences with kids and adds that this may be an implicit vote for homeschooling. Read about it on her post – Bringing intergenerational experiences to the schools.

Emilie Buchwald once said, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” If you want to know what she meant or how to get there read 30+ Teacher’s post on Eleven Ways to Help Your Child Read Well.

WordMama writes a straight-from-the-heart letter to parents who may discover their child needs Special Education.

 

College

Got students or children going to college? Judy’s got some Health Tips, Pinyo talks about the 7 mistakes he made when he went to college, Robert provides you 5 tips on how to get that Calculator to function like a dream while Zantor provides tips on working smarter. If they still haven’t got the financing tied up, look at Robert has got tips on Scott’s post on 32 Weird Scholarships Almost Anyone Can Get.

 

Blogging about Teaching and Education

If you were inspired by Karl’s “Did you Know” Film and want the inside scoop on how Friedman’s World is Flat, Dan Pink’s A new Kind of Mind and speakers the NECC Conference collaborated to kickstart it in his head- go on over to Dr. Jan’s Blog to read The History of “Did You Know” with Karl Fisch and to listen to her podcast interview with him.

Almost 3 weeks after Scott McLeod posted his research on the Top EduBlogs, debate on its methodology and veracity rages on. I am enjoying the debate! You can too by reading Scott’s riposte to the suggestions, comments and questions raised.

We all know teaching can be tough and writing in the little time it leave you with can be tougher. So, when one shares experiences about it through writing on blogs, its frustrating when it gets you pilloried. Andrew, over in Britian, talks about his teaching and experience with blog critics at Just For The Record, I Don’t Hate The Kids

In a related post, Isabella Mori, a counsellor over in Vancouver, talks about her experiences with blogging about Education and Psychology as she debates the difference between blogging and research.

To round up the Carnival, Mister Teacher suggests that I should thank you all for reading and also Thank the custodians who make our teaching duties a lot easier and happier.

One last thing before we go. If, like me, you too wonder who contributes to the Carnival- you have your answers here. Of the 50 contributors to this Carnival, 30 returned my small survey form- I have included the analysis below.

 

 

USA Bloggers Dominate the Carnival of Education

50% are Teachers

50% have been blogging under a year

Blogging in Class is Alive and Well

 

All Contributors were also asked to send in the names of 2 blogs they read daily. Of the responses we received, Joanne Jacobs had the highest Readership (8 votes). Her blog was followed by The Education Wonks and EduWonk (Education Sector Blog) with 4 votes. California Teacher Guy, Weblogg-ed, Edspresso, Right on the Left Coast all got 2 votes each while Education Intelligence Agency, April May, College and Finance, NYC Educator, Principled Mom, NYC Public School Parents, AcademHack, EdWeek, Ms Whatsit, The Thinking Stick, Second Hand Thoughts, Eduholic (Teacher Magazine Blog), It Shouldn’t Happen to a Teacher, Homeschool Buzz, Why Homeschool, Tutor 2u, MathNotations, JD2718, Sicheii Yazhi, Repairkit, What It’s Like on the Inside and The Red Pencil got 1 vote each.

Hope you enjoyed the Carnival. You can access an archive of the previous carnivals here. Thank you all for reading!

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I came across this in the Economic Times this morning:

 

The government has been asked by a parliamentary panel to consider the possibility of levying an ‘exit tax’ on graduates from the “premier institutions which are run on massive state subsidies”

The panel is of the view that money spent on those who work outside the country doesn’t benefit India. Hence they should be taxed for the same.

 

The report states that experts who appeared before the committee felt that when Indian students go overseas to work after receiving education at leading institutes, which are subsidised by the exchequer, the country gets no return for the expenditure incurred on these students. “The committee is of the view that students passing out from premier government institutions get the best education on payment of nominal fees. In the event of their leaving the country for good, imposition of exit tax on them must be considered,” it said.

But how will they impose this tax? If I am working in the UK and paying tax there, the government would find it difficult to get me to repatriate tax back to India unless it worked out a policy with other countries- a sticky proposition. An alternative method It could to tax my employer at the time of hiring (the employer may in turn deduct it from my salary) or make all entrants to institutes sign bonds that should they get a dollar job, they would repay their fees (with interest?) over time.

 

I want to take this argument further and argue that the government should consider removing subsidies from higher education.

 

The government in India today subsidises university education to a great extent. I remember paying Rs. 1500 (under $40) a year in annual fees at college- I spent more commuting to and fro from college to home.

 

During my MBA at an Indian Institute of Management (IIM), I paid Rs. 1,20,000 ($3,000) in annual fees when the actual spend for the government may have been higher by a factor of three of four.

 

The average salary for a graduate from an IIM is over Rs. 7,00,000 (nearly 6 times the annual fees paid by him for his degree). Similar proportions may be appropriate for colleges across the country.

 

Reading Atanu’s blog a few months ago, I learnt about 3 kinds of losses relevant to this scenario:

 

When an educated person leaves India, there is a first-order loss to the economy if the education was publicly funded. There is no comparable first-order loss if private resources were involved in the training. But in either case, the economy loses the life-time stream of economic contributions that the migrant would have made. This is a second-order loss. There is what can be considered a third-order loss that is harder to estimate but whose impact may be the most damaging in the long run. This arises from publicly subsidizing higher education at the expense of primary education.

Think of it. For every student subsidised at an IIM (a subsidy of 4-5 lakhs a year) over 25 -50 students can be comfortably educated in a government primary school. These students may not be able to pay the few hundred rupees as fees every month and in absence of government funding, may never go to primary school.

 

The Higher-education student, on the other hand can pay for himself. The most efficient way to make him do so is:

 

1. Give him a government loan to study at University

 

2. Upon Graduation and employment, tax him at a higher rate depending on salary and area of work. So, an Individual employed in a private sector firm earning in the top quartile of country’s income may be taxed at the prevailing tax rate + 5%. Another individual who earns the median wage may be taxed at base rate + 2%. These taxes hold till the student pay off the government loan + accrued interest. The idea behind the higher slabs for higher earners is improving the cash-flow of the government higher education subsidy kitty. A student employed in the civil services, government organisations, non-profit or development sector organisations may receive a fee-waiver.

 

In this manner student who have the capability to pay do so while government expenditure becomes more equitable and efficient. Incidentally, s similar taxation scheme is prevalent in Australia and a similar loan programme can be availed at leading US universities, most notably at Stanford.

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With only ten days to go before I head to the United States, I’ve been bust typing up odds and ends leaving me with little time in which to think about writing a thoughtful post.

Between all the assembling, wrapping and packing however a series of thoughts, some coherent, others less so; some connected others as different as the quiet of assembly to the ruckus of recess.

I’m going to jot down thoughts in random order. Here we go!

How can we improve our Knowledge Management?

Schools, as institutions for learning and knowledge-creation often do little to archive the creativity and potency of the materials that our teachers create. There are two primary gaps in our management of knowledge:

a) In accessing organisational knowledge and

b) In archiving accessed knowledge

– It surprises me how few of the teachers in schools visit other classrooms or other schools. There is so much to be gained by having two teachers collaborate on observing each other (maybe to solve a particular problem identified earlier while sitting in on a pre-determined session) or even by observing how other schools get their basics right. I would like to see Principals set a policy where every school year every teacher collaborates with another teacher for at least two half-days on peer observation.

– Rookie teachers routinely flounder through teething troubles that a well-organised experienced-teacher-written wiki could easily solve, as could a mentor at school.

– As a newbie teacher, I spent several hours designing experiments, crafting props to use in the classroom and making sure I got my hand-outs spot on. It took a lot of my time. It was easier back then without a wife to come back home to, with more energy and maybe more nerves. Sure, all of us would love to have children immerse into practical hands-on learning, we would love to wipe the dust of teacher resource books and create new materials- but if you are teaching a large number of classes (or worse, large number of students) even the best intentions can go awry. Moreover, many activities-for-teachers books are well-intentioned but often carry programs that are not-pilot tested, causing demonstrations to blooper and learning to falter.Some of us give a few classes our best, disadvantaging the others – the best of us try and give all classes our best and are forever running to catch up with own own schedules. Several of our classes then become ‘chalk and talk.’ It would be nice if schools kept teaching materials, curricular samples, worksheets from year-to year as a one-stop-resource for teachers looking for a handy resource. It would help the dull teacher make his classroom more exciting and help the reflective teacher think about improving student success rather than with cutting chart paper.

 

What makes a good teacher?

I spent some time crafting a personal vision for myself. At the very top of this assignment, I wanted help!

What kind of teacher did I want to be? Obviously the kind that motivates students towards a love for learning, that makes class fun. What did that mean? What traits would embody a teacher of that kind?

I reflected on my own days as a schoolboy and found myself remembering teachers who were as different as chalk from cheese; from the tough booming-voice Mr. Sharma who was soft on the inside, who set us dry assignments and made us read textbooks in class as a way of learning, yet who loved each of us dearly to Mr. Bhagat whose classes were an intellectual adventure like no other but who outside the classroom was unapproachable. Also Ms. Singh, who would feed us (I went to a residential school) cookies in the evenings and run an efficient classsroom in the mornings- yet who wasn’t even a trained teacher (she was a teacher’s wife subbing for a regular on leave). Why did each of them endear themself to us?

I realised that my year at Harvard would do nothing to make me a better teacher. It could probably make me a more aware teacher and a better-equipped one, but not a better teacher because teaching rises above what we are and comes alive in the moments when we reach out to a student and focus on him, not on ourselves.

Which is why most we had less hiring mistakes with those we hired post a Classroom demonstration compared to others hired through more conventional recruiting procedures.

I wonder if you could help me with this? What do you think makes a good teacher?

 

 

Who does the Principal learn from?

In this country, most Principals are captains of their own ships. Yes there are board meetings with experienced educators. Yes, there are workshops. But that happens one one or two occasions a year. A principal is coming from a context where as a recent teacher he has had a Principal/Administrator to guide him, workshops in collegial environments to share and learn from. With the elevation to Head, he moves from being to counselled to being the counsellor.

I know many people who find it rough. It can be difficult to provide all the answers when you are at sea yourself.

I call for a Learning Circle where Principals of a few nearby schools visit each other, observe, evaluate, comment, critique, learn and share. Apart from making the Principal a more able leader it would also send a strong signal to the staff about personal development and collaborative growth.

 

 

Better Writing and Better Assessment

This one could interest all you bloggers and creative writing teachers. I came across Creative Writing 101- tips on better writing by Kurt Vonnegut in the introduction to his excellent collection, Bogambo Snuff Box. I have included 4 of the 8 tips here:

1. Use the time of the reader in such a way that he will not feel that the time was wasted.

2. Every sentence must do two things- reveal character or advance the plot.

3. Write to please just one person. If you make love to the world, your writing will get pneumonia.

4. To heck with suspense, give your readers as much information as possible.

I found this interesting because I love to write and have penned several short stories. But his tips, especially point #2- every sentence must either reveal character or advance the plot, is relevant to every writing situation, be it blogging or even teaching- whether in class or while setting questions for student assessments.

1. Use the time of the reader in such a way that he will not feel that the time was wasted. Students know when the unexpected assessment in class means that you have not prepared your material and being unable to teach, are using the assessment as a diversion. Don’t waste their time. Ditto with asking them to read pages and pages of hand-outs that have little relevance to the learning objective, simply because as a teacher, its been difficult to find appropriate passages and reading material.

2. Every sentence must do two things- reveal character or advance the plot. Now wouldn’t that make for great teaching even if we were lecturing?

3. Write to please just one person. If you make love to the world, your writing will get pneumonia. A call to action for those differentiated instruction and differented assessment designed to meet the needs of individual students.

4. To heck with suspense, give your readers as much information as possible. Very often we either expect students to guess what we want in response to a question on an assessment. It tickles our ego, provides us with the thrill that beseiges a creator of a good puzzle, but it does nothing to advance student learning.

 

Other Random Thoughts

– One way to promote classroom collegiality may be to shift seating plans in classes around every few weeks. It will make students more comfortable with each other. The next time there is a problem, the student in question, will have several other to consult with rather than just one trusted friend; a situation that most teachers crave.

– If there is one thing I would like to do at the start of every school year it would be meeting every student of mine for a one-on-one chat where I learnt more about him as a person, as a member of a family and community, as a young man with hopes and dreams for his future. That would probably help me shorten the learning curve and understand him better than I could even after several conventional assessments or classroom sessions.

Reading five blog posts and offering thoughtful comments and engaging in dialogue is better than reading twenty without doing any of these. Holds true for any kind of reading. I plan to stick to this principle even when new carnivals and my Google Reader conspire to seduce me into reading several blogs at a go.

 

 

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summer tulips

Over the last two summers, I have been closely watching a K-12 school in North India. I don’t work there, I happen to have visited it on many occasions and keep in close touch with the Principal. Some stats:

 

  • The school has an average fee of $20 a month.
  • For 93% of the children, English (the language of instruction in School) is not the language of instruction at home.
  • Disposable incomes at home are limited: enrollment is low in Summer Camps/Schedules- the often mentioned resistors to summer learning loss.
  • In most families, the children are first-generation learners; parents (by training or due to work) are unable to help create learning opportunities for the children.
  • Teaching Staff is underpaid, plans to get them to work for a part of the summer met with fierce resistance.
  • Many students are unable to engage constructively with work set for completion over the summer.

The school has noticed the Summer Learning Slide in a majority of students in almost all classes.

 

ouch! that hurt. kids and the summer learning slide

 (Above: Ouuch! That Hurt! Lots of Kids are academically hampered by the long summer)

What is the Summer Learning Slide? Here is an excerpt from the John Hopkins University website:

 

 

Research from the Center for Summer Learning at The Johns Hopkins University shows that teachers spend a good deal of time in the fall re- teaching skills that were lost during the summer. Students fall an average of almost 2.6 months behind in math skills, but for low-income children, the slide in reading is particularly harmful: They fall behind an average of two months in reading while their middle- income peers tend to make slight gains. By fifth grade, low-income children can be as much as 2.5 years behind in reading. And a recent study of Baltimore students by Johns Hopkins researchers showed that 65 percent of the achievement gap between poor and affluent children can be explained by unequal summer learning experiences during the elementary school years.

But all accounts, several of the children at this school are low-income. The management and some of us well-wishers have been trying to negotiate the summer learning slide and as one antidote, have been considering Year-Round Calendars.

 

Look at this comparison from an ASCD article:

 

traditional calendar v/s year round calendar for schools

 

At first glance, the idea seems worth exploring further:

 

1. Shorter, more frequent breaks mean less loss of learning, especially in the languages. Hence, it also means more time learning as teachers will have to spend less time ‘catching up’ as they would have to do after a longer break.

 

2. Children who need remedial help can be brought to speed over these breaks. In a traditional calendar with longer terms they may have fallen behind and would continue to fall even further behind without help.

 

3. On-going development for teachers can be more effective with more opportunities for feedback over the breaks following implementation of new ideas learnt during term-time.

 

It does mean that the kids would have to endure a hot summer at school for longer. Also, timing vacations with Daddy’s time away from work may be difficult if Little Joey goes to a school that follows a traditional calendar.

 

A poll run by ASCD last year asked the following question: What is the most effective way for schools to maintain student success over the summer?

 

Option                                                      Respondents Favouring

Go to a year-round calendar                                     39.11%

Summer school for lower achievers                         12.4%

Encourage enrichment (camp, hobbies)                 8.43%

Assign work (packets, projects)                             40.06%

We need your help on this one! Have you debated this in your school system? Does your School or District work on a Year Round Calendar? What are your own thoughts on this?

 

Further Reading:

 

#1: Prisoners No More: An Educational Leadership article that debates Year Round Schooling

#2: Summer Tips from Johns Hopkins

#3: Homepage of the Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins. They have some excellent resources.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. Tulips by Jeandela via flickr.

2. Summer slide by Photoblog

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