Nature of the ProblemPurpose of the ProjectBackground and Significance of the Problem
Specific Activities to engage students
Community Component of Education
Research QuestionsDefinition of TermsMethodology and Procedures
Discussion & ImplicationsConclusions & Application
The goal of present-day educational reformers is to produce students with “higher-order skills” who are able to think independently about the unfamiliar problems they will encounter in the information age, who have become “problem solvers” and have “learned how to learn, ” and who are on their way to becoming “critical thinkers” and “lifelong learners.” The method advocated for achieving these “higher” order skills” is “discovery learning,” by which students solve problems and make decisions on their own through “inquiry” and “independent analysis” of “real-world” projects — what Kilpatrick in the 1920s called the “project method.”
The oft-repeated goal of the educational community — to inculcate general thinking skills –is not, however, soundly based in research. The idea that school can inculcate abstract, generalized skills for thinking, “accessing,” and problem solving, and that these skills can be readily applied to the real world is, bluntly, a mirage. So also is the hope that a thinking skill in one domain can be readily and reliably transferred to other domains.
Yet broad-gauged thinking abilities do exist. Most of us know well- educated people, and ones who have high general competence, can think critically about diverse subjects, can communicate well, can solve a diversity of problems, and are ready to tackle unfamiliar challenges. The belief that our schools should regularly produce such people appeals to both experience and common sense. If the goal didn’ t make apparent sense, it could hardly have retained its attractiveness to the educational community and the general public. Rightly understood, then, the goal of general competence does define one important aim of modern education. The task is not to change that goal but to interpret it accurately so that it corresponds to the nature of real-world competency and can actually be achieved.
Two traditions in cognitive psychology are useful for understanding the nature of the critical-thinking, problem solving skills that we wish to develop in our students. One tradition has studied the characteristic differences between expert and novice thinking, sometimes with the practical goal of making novices think more like experts as fast as possible.( Larkin, et al.) Another tradition has investigated the differences between accurate and inaccurate thinking of the everyday newspaper-reading, bargain-hunting sort that all of us must engage in as non-experts.(Tversky and Kahneman) Both sorts of study converge on the conclusion that, once basic underlying skills have been automated, the almost universal feature of reliable higher-order thinking about any subject or problem is the possession of a broad, well-integrated base of background knowledge relevant to the subject. This sounds suspiciously like plain common sense (i.e., accurate everyday thinking), but the findings entail certain illuminating mg complexities and details that are worth contemplating. Moreover, since the findings run counter to the prevailing fact-disparaging slogans of educational reform, it will be strategically useful to sketch briefly what research has disclosed about the knowledge-based character of higher-order thinking.
The argument used by educators to disparage “merely” factual knowledge and to elevate abstract, formal principles of thought consists in the claim that knowledge is changing so rapidly that specific information is outmoded almost as soon as it has been learned. This claim goes back at least as far as Kilpatrick’s Foundations of Method (1925). It gains its apparent plausibility from the observation that science and technology have advanced at a great rate in this century, making scientific and technological obsolescence a common feature of modem life. The argument assumes that there is an analogy between technological and intellectual obsolescence. Educators in this tradition shore up that analogy with the further claim that factual knowledge has become a futility because of the ever growing quantity of new facts. The great cascade of information now flowing over the information highway makes it pointless to accumulate odd bits of data. How, after all, do you know which bits are going to endure? It is much more efficient for students to spend time acquiring techniques for organizing, analyzing, and accessing this perpetual Niagara of information.
The best research on this subject shows that neither fact-filled memorization nor large conceptual generalizations are effective modes of education for higher-order thinking about the complexities of the modern world. On the other hand, it has been shown that accurate factual estimates are necessary for understanding many issues. Norman Brown and Robert Siegler summarize the underlying problem for modern education:
Faced with the issue of how to inculcate such information, educators have oscillated between two approaches. One has been to require students to memorize large numbers of quantitative facts. The other has been to de-emphasize dates, magnitudes, and other quantities, and to focus on understanding of qualitative relations. Each of these approaches has major drawbacks, however. . . . There are just too many such facts for anyone to memorize a high percentage of them. On the other hand, it is difficult if not impossible to acquire more than a superficial understanding of a domain without some degree of quantitative sophistication about it.(Brown and Siegler)
The breadth – vs. – depth issue will always be with us and will always require compromises and common sense. The particular compromise one makes will depend upon subject matter and goals. In practice, an appropriate compromise has been reached by self-taught, well-informed people and by the fortunate students of particularly able teachers. One well- tested teaching method, already followed by many good books and teachers, provides students with a carefully chosen but generous sampling of factual data that are set forth in a meaningful web of inferences and generalizations about the larger domain. Researchers have shown that such generally selective factual instruction leads to accurate inferences not directly deducible from the literal facts that were taught.
Between 1973 and 1979, Brophy and his colleagues conducted a series of studies in which they first determined that some teachers got consistently good results over the years and others consistently bad ones. They made close observations of the teacher behaviors associated, respectively, with good and bad academic outcomes. Teachers who produced the most achievement were focused on academics. They were warm but businesslike.
Teachers who produced the least achievement used a “heavily effective” approach and were more concerned with the child’s self-esteem and psychic well-being than with academics. They emphasized warmth, used student ideas, employed a democratic style, and encouraged student-student interaction. The researchers further found that learning proceeded best when the material was somewhat new and challenging, but could also be assimilated relatively easily into what students already knew. The biggest contrast was not between modes of academic instruction but between all such instruction and “learner-centered” “discovery learning,” which was ineffective. Paradoxically, the students were more motivated and engaged by academic- centered instruction than by student-centered instruction.
In 1982, Brophy and his colleagues summarized some of their findings on the effective teaching of beginning reading. (Brophy and Evertson) These were the most salient points:
1. Sustained focus on content.
2. All students involved (whole-class instruction dominates).
3. Brisk pace, with easy enough tasks for consistent student success.
4. Students reading aloud often and getting consistent feedback.
5. Decoding skills mastered to the point of over-learning (automaticity).
6. In the course of time, each child asked to perform and getting immediate, nonjudgmental feedback.
While the argument rages within the academic community regarding the higher priority of depth or breadth of learning required in order to attain consistently satisfactory educational outcomes, children are progressing through the educational centers throughout the country who need to have their academic needs met. Each child must be educated to a level to function proficiently in society, or in higher education pursuits by the time they leave secondary education. Each child should be educated to a level that reflects his or her intellectual, social, and psychological cognitive ability. This means the student with exceptional abilities should be educated to the extent of his or her giftedness. Students whose special needs must be educated to a level at which (s)he can reach his or her academic and vocational abilities. Anything less is an admission that the educational system is not living up to the responsibility which our society has placed in its hands.
Toward that end, and in a step away from the stalled breadth vs. depth debate, this paper proposes a new model to use as a framework for teaching middle school students. This research focuses on a particularly problematic sector of students, inner-city, low performing schools, and students. This unique framework has 4 domains, and while this study investigates the Z-model’s use in the mathematics curriculum, this framework is focused on improving and enhancing students’ achievement in any course of study.
The four domains involved in the Z-model create a comprehensive educational understanding and framework for use in improving educational progress. They are:
Brain development, and efforts in the classroom which can enhance/promote brain development.
How project-based learning can be utilized in order to fully engage the student in the learning community.
Data-Driven instruction (the second half of the breadth – vs. – depth debate). The students must be held accountable to learn a specific knowledge base of facts, figures, and formulae. Without objective measurement of the educational progress, the new initiatives are failing to meet the presidential “No child shall be left behind” initiative, and the school is not meeting the responsibility which the community has entrusted to it.
Finally, this framework includes getting the student’s home, and the community involved in the educational progress. The definition of the community includes parents, extended family, and the larger commercial community. Many corporations have established programs to commit their resources to improve the educational progress of the community. Corporations benefit from the community which they serve by earning profit from the goods and services they provide. In response, many corporations, (Mc Donalds, Wal-Mart) have taken established programs to give back to the community by assisting in educational projects. The schools are ultimately providing a ‘product’ to the community, and educated future citizen. The community is the schools’ customer, and as such, the schools must consider themselves directly accountable to the community which they serve, and they are the heartbeat of the community as they prepare the next generation of citizens.
Nature of the Problem
The problems facing our nation’s education system are serious. There is no single cause, and therefore no single cure. There are no shortcuts to improving student achievement and creating a world-class workforce.
With this foundational understanding, it is important to recognize that education in America is not working. Even though the United States spends more money per student than any other country, our students still rank far behind most of their international peers in math and science — and well behind U.S. test scores of 20 years ago. Twenty-eight percent of our high school students drop out — the highest rate of any industrialized nation — and those who graduate are often ill-prepared to enter the workforce.
Drug and alcohol abuse continues to undermine our nation’s students and rob them of their mental clarity, motivation, self-esteem, and ability to focus. Moreover, juvenile violent crime has increased markedly during the past decade, especially gang and school violence using guns. According to the Centers for Disease Control, American youths are 12 times more likely to die by gunfire than their peers in other nations.
Further complicating the problem, is a decreasing attention span of modern youth. In the age of MTV and Nintendo, attention spans can be as short as the time between commercial breaks. Many students with learning and behavior problems are often characterized as being distractible and having short attention spans (Bos & Vaughn, 1994). These students spend less time engaged in on-task behavior and more time in off-task behavior. They are often inattentive, uninvolved, and impulsive. In addition, students with learning and behavior problems often waste time, accomplish little, and require increased instructional attention and effort from teachers and supervisors. As a result of these behaviors, school work is incomplete, students do not make hoped-for gains, and teachers are frustrated.
The U.S. government shells out billions each year to improve public education. Yet many students can’t read well or do basic math. While the past 15 to 20-year have been filled with debate within the academic community over the methods to create a stimulating educational environment and without compromising performance, President Bush took a down-to-earth Texan approach, and with the “No Child Shall Be Left Behind Act” identified three means by which to initiate the much needed educational transformation, to boost performance and close this achievement gap.
Mandate more testing.
Stiffen standards — and the consequences for failing to meet them.
Increase funds for teacher training, after-school programs, and early childhood reading initiatives.
While regulators still have yet to hammer out the details, the 1,184-page No Child Left Behind Act, which President Bush signed into law January 8, will redefine and expand the federal role in public education. It treats schools like businesses, requiring annual performance evaluations and data-driven results. It provides more money, with less red tape, to turn around failing schools which operate more like dilapidated factories than exciting learning environments. The Act also sets out a set of objective standards by which the ultimate customer of the school system, — the students and parents — a way to “comparison shop.” The Act has forced a change in the perception of the public school system. It is no longer satisfactory for the federal government, and the local taxpayer to pay for educational services; now the message had been given that those who spend the money expect a world-class return. They expect to be investing in achievement.
While states and schools can languish at the rising amount of federal red tape, many educators herald this bill as a much-needed stimulus for real educational reform. Most states have required annual math and reading assessments for years. And far from being a burden testing can illuminate problems that otherwise go undetected, allowing teachers to tweak their lesson plans or add hands-on projects. The strategy has helped lift many schools, which serves a culturally and economically diverse student body, from acceptable to exemplary status on the state assessment in just three years.
There has been a significant opportunity cost to the educational system. While the philosophy of education has been debated, the energy spent on the debate, and trying new approaches could have been spent on reinforcing a crumbling educational classroom environment and insisting on better performance from both teachers and students.
In urban settings, this problem has been experiences at higher levels. While increased educational funding and decreased class sizes have been held out as the goose which would lay the golden educational egg, evidence that would support these hypotheses is non-existent. In the cities which have the highest levels of spending, Washington DC, and New York, there exists the lowest level of academic performance. Parochial and private schools typically have the largest class sizes and spend the smallest amount on education per student. Yet these institutes consistently produce higher caliber students from all ethnic and social backgrounds
The need exists to create a framework for education which leaves the debates of ‘depth vs. breadth of education’, and ‘learning environment vs. learning community’ behind. The students need to be taught to be learners who follow instruction and attain full mastery of a specific knowledge base to the point of automaticity, as well as learners who will continue to learn for the rest of their lives.
Purpose of the 6th Grade Mathematics Z-Model Project
Engaging the student in educational activities is the process of developing creative exercises in order to engage the creative centers of the brain, and activate the natural curiosity which all students possess. This requires that the student be engaged at many levels. Education includes social and emotional growth. Schools have recently focused on the concept of the school as a community, and a learning environment. However, the primary community for each student is the family which entrusts the student to the school.
Whether the family is an intact, primary family, a family blended due to remarriage, single parent or another configuration, it is from this primary learning community that the child receives the building blocks with which they arrive at the school’s front door. This primary community from which the child finds acceptance, self-esteem, and identity in the family. As the school has focused on replacing the family community, it outsteps its purpose and spends valuable resources duplicating efforts of the student family. While it is true that many families experience difficulty performing these formative aspects in the students’ lives, schools have had a greater effect by involving the parents in the education of the children than attempting to replace the family as the center of the students’ health, nutrition, and provider of social security.
The students’ maturing process includes physical neurological growth in the students1 brain as well as the physical growth of the body. In the process- vs. – outcome debate on pedagogy, the only truly general principle that seems to emerge is that focused and guided instruction is far more effective than naturalistic, discovery, learn-at-your- own-pace instruction. This may be due to the truth that growth happens be overcoming resistance and thereby covering new ground, and attaining new goals. No athlete would assume that by doing what feels good and allowing the natural course of physical activity to take place in his life that he would become a world-class athlete. Physical growth takes deliberate effort, working toward planned goals, and overcoming the resistance of the existing state in order to reach new levels of physical ability. This same approach, when applied to education, reaps similar results. The education process, in the end, is a physical, and neurological process within the brain. The process takes place in an environment which we do not fully understand, but the growth of memory and knowledge is similar to the growth of any other muscle. When provided with the appropriate stimulus, fed with the needed nutrition, and exercised with the intent of reaching new goals, the brain ‘grows,’ and education occurs. While it is important to teach the student how to learn, data-driven instruction must also be included, and the student held accountable to learn a specific knowledge base at each level.
Within the context of focused and guided instruction, almost anything goes, and what works best with one group of students may not work best with another group with similar backgrounds in the very same building. For this reason, educators are continually looking for new methods to overcome the resistance to growth and keep the students on the path of higher achievement.
In order to continue the research, and development of new methods, and continue on the path toward educational growth, the school system, and individual teachers also need adequate resources for their tasks. To continue the athletic metaphor, a world-class athlete needs a foundation of world-class training, nutrition, facilities, and outside support. Therefore he must also have monetary resources to build this foundation. The community, family, and corporations provide the link between what is, and what can be by providing the resources. The family environment has been mentioned in prior pages, and the family structure, particularly in the urban setting has not always been able to provide the resources needed for educational progress. By involving the family in the Z-model, the teacher proactively leverages his or her resources in the education process. By reaching out to community business, and corporations, the schools can build toward a learning community which will surround the student at all times. By placing the student in a learning community environment, which includes the family, business community, and the school working in unison toward a common goal, the students will discover that education is not something that they are required to reluctantly participate in while attending a school for a few hours per day. They will build an attitude toward the need for lifetime learning and take significant steps back toward becoming a world-class student.
Within the overall context of focused and guided instruction, one method, and one followed by good teachers in many lands is for what might be called “dramatized instruction.” While the Z-Model is not based on this style, the similarities in the way each method reaches toward effective education deserve comparison. The class period can be formed into a little drama with a beginning, middle, and end, well-directed but not rigidly scripted by the teacher. The beginning sets up the question to be answered, the knowledge to be mastered, or the skill to be gained; the middle consists of a lot of back-and-forth between student and student, student and teacher; and the end consists of a feeling of closure and accomplishment.
The idea of teaching as drama or as storytelling gains a great deal of credence from its agreement with demonstrably effective classroom teaching and with an ancient and highly effective tradition, particularly in that subtle domain of teaching consensus values and virtues. How do we teach and model such values as independent thinking. toleration, respect, aspiration, civility, resistance to the mob, and at the same time teach subject matters and skills like history and science, reading and writing? From Plato to Sir Philip Sidney to Robert Coles to Kieran Egan, there is general agreement that dramatizing, telling, or implicitly enacting stories is a sound and sure teaching method. In early grades especially, no opportunity should be lost to combine skill instruction, which can itself be dramatized, with virtue-and-knowledge-enhancing stories.
Excellent classroom teaching has a narrative and dramatic feel even when there is a lot of interaction between the students and the teacher — it has a definite theme, and a beginning, middle, and end. This teaching principle holds even for mathematics and science. In the math and science fields, hand on learning projects take the place of the scripted drama. The teacher still sets the stage at the beginning of the class session, and is ressponsible for drawing clearly defined lessons at the final curtain call, but in the middle, each student is engaged in the performance. Each student draws from their personal resources, adds to the collective experience, and learns a specific knowledge base, arrives at a specific outcome.
The purpose of this thesis is to examine the use of the Z-Model of applied learning in the field of mathematics learning styles, and to evaluate how this model improves the academic achievement of 6th grade math students. The Z -Model includes and the use of hands on projects in order to increase students’ academic achievement. While academic debate continues, the teacher who resides in the trenches daily must grab their students attention, and form the minds ability to think, evaluate, decide, and grow. They must educate the children entrusted in their care. By evaluating the process of engaging the student in hands on projects, this researcher will investigate the effects of such programs on educational achievement. Do hands on projects increase students’ learning aptitude? Is there desires to increase their apptitude in the particular subject matter. This research project will limit itself to the field of information and technology education, althought the literature review will select examples of hands on learning projects from many sectors of the educational spectrum.
There are major categories of adaptations from a teacher-action/need-addressed perspective, which is common across much of the research. The following is intended as a representative illustration of the major categories of teacher adaptations (typical or substantial) appearing in the literature. Some of these are typical adaptations which are often used in the classroom. Many are substantial, and require a significant paradigm shift for the teacher. These are some of the methods utilized in the Z-Model:
Modifying instruction: typical (concrete classroom demonstrations, monitoring classroom understanding); substantial (adjusting the pace to individual learners, giving immediate individual feedback, using multiple modalities);
Modifying assignments: typical (providing models); substantial (breaking tasks into small steps, shortening assignments, lowering difficulty levels);
Teaching learning skills: typical (study skills, note-taking techniques); substantial (learning strategies, test-taking skills);
Altering instructional materials: substantial (using alternative materials, taping textbooks, using supplementary aids);
Varying instructional grouping: substantial (using peer tutoring, using cooperative groups);
Enhancing behavior: typical (praise, offering encouragement); substantial (using behavioral contracts, using token economies, frequent parental contact);
Facilitating progress monitoring: typical (read tests orally; give extended test-taking time; give frequent, short quizzes; provide study guides); substantial (retaking tests, obtaining direct daily measures of academic progress, modifying grading criteria).
“Parent involvement” refers to the efforts of any caregiver who assumes responsibility for nurturing and caring for children, including parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, foster parents, stepparents, etc. Many schools are now using the alternative term “family involvement.”
Background and Significance of the Problem
According to a new book released by the United Negro College Fund (The College Fund/UNCF), visible racial distinctions still remain in America’s public and private schools which negatively affect the academic achievement of African-American students in preschool through high school. The report titled, The Status of Education in Black America Volume II: Preschool through High School Education was compiled by the research arm of The College Fund, the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute.
Data released in the report illustrate a positive picture at the onset of African-American educational school experiences that declines dramatically as they progress through elementary and secondary levels. For example, African-American preschoolers enter school with verbal memory and social motor development skills comparable to their white counterparts and display positive attitudes towards attending school, but experience a decline in academic competitiveness and achievement relative to national testing standards as early as the 4th grade. By the time African-Americans enter the 12th grade, they experience lower graduation rates than they represented throughout their elementary and secondary school years.
This means that we must pay attention to our children at the earliest stages of their formal educational experiences…beginning with preschoool, and continuing through elementary and secondary education. Since the higher percentage of African-American students populate the inner city schools, this also meand that urban schools are at a higher risk of demonstrating educational decline.
The educational community has debated this problem, and searched for what it can do to change the falling educational rates. However, some of the reasons behind this educational decline are completely outside fo the school systems ability to affect change. Studies show that a male child who does not have an early father- figure influence has a high probability of developing adolesent social problems – such as drug abuse, delinquency, poor performance in school . Girls with absent fathers may grow to be women who are overly dependent on their mothers, who feel insecure and less focused on their future and who are more likely to become pregnant in their teens. When fathers play the key role in the spiritual, psychological, social and educational development of their children, delinquent behavior declines and academic achievement goes up.
Therefore a significant part of the solution to the difficulties facing the educational community is totally outside their ability to change. Challenges such as crime and other social ills in the African-American community cannot be found in improving schools and playgrounds, busing more children to the country to be integrated or putting blind faith in politicians or acedemians to come up with more solutions. Schools have no power to force a child to study an extra hour or two a night, six days a week, to become excellent students. That job legally and morally belong to the parents or caregivers. None the less, schools must find ways to proactively address these societal roadblocks, and affect positive change on the students entrusted to their care.
When state governments are strongly influenced by academic institutions, legislation which would inject market-based competition into the educational monolith, and thereby creating positive forces for change, is often killed before it sees the light of day. State legislatures are gaining a reputation as a roadblock to educational change. Until the debate over public schools – vs. – charter schools – vs. – a voucher system is brought to completion, this polarizing force also has the ability to take valuable resources from teaching staff, and redirect attention away from what educators can to improve educational achievement.
What can be agreed upon is that educational progress in American public schools, urban schools in particular, has been in a significant state of decline for many years. We can agree that it will take the combined efforts of schools, teachers, families and community leaders to address this task. The learning community is not only one which must exist within the walls of the school building, but it must extend into the home, and to the community at large, which will ultimately employ the today’s students.
The Piirto Pyramid is a visual aid to understanding the interconnectedness of personality, community, and personal educational development. For years, the debate has continued in educational realms over whether an adult is the product of nature, his of her genetic endowments, or nurture, the collection of environmental influences collected over a lifetime. As a student approaches maturity, is his or her unique collection of talents, abilities, strengths and weaknesses the result of training and input of exterior stimuli, or the natural outgrowth of genetic and other inherited factors? The Pyramid identifies six categories of personal talent development, and uses a pyramid image to illustrate the manner in which one level builds upon the next. The pyramid also helps educators settle the nurture or nature argument. It recognizes that both have key roles to play in contributing to the educational progress of students. In the discussion of developing an effective framework for increasing educational achievement, the piirto pyramid helps educators identify those aspects of education over which they have direct control, and those which they do not control. When educators can leverage their time and energy in the direction of the aspects of student maturity and educational progress over which they have influence, their results will move significantly toward helping their student reach toward his or her potential. The six levels of personal talent development are:
The Genetic Aspect: the soil on which the pyramid rests.
The Emotional Aspect: the foundation of the pyramid, which contains many of the intangible personality attributes such as drive, passion, insight.
The Cognitive Aspect: The cement which holds the entire pyramid together. In a gifted student, this aspect often influences many other personal attributes.
The Talent Aspect: This represents the peak of the pyramid, and contains the different areas of vocation, or career, ranging from math, science, arts and entertainment.
The Vocational Aspect: the motivational ‘thorn’
The Environmental Aspect: affective influence outside the person.
The Environmental Aspect
In light of the discussion of educating urban students, it is necessary to discuss the last aspect of the Piirto pyramid first. There are five suns, or influences which shine into the students during his or her educational career. These are likened to “suns, ” because they influence everyone. These influences shine down into a person’s life experiences like the sun on a summer day. They are the sun of home, the sun of school, the sun of community and culture, the sun of gender, and the sun of chance. Like our sun, these influences can periodically be obscured by the clouds, or hidden in the night. The presence or absence of all or several of these make the difference between whether a talent is developed or whether it atrophies.
The “sun” of home and family is key. Talent seems to be nurtured in families (Feldman & Piirto, 1995). Family propensity or interest must be taken into account in considering the development of talent. Many people, however, demonstrate a talent that the family has not nurtured. These talents are developed with the help of the other “suns” in the pyramidal framework, especially the help of the school. But the school cannot take the place of, nor overcome the influence of the home. The school can only augment this natural influence.
The “sun” of community and culture is absolutely essential. Social psychologists describe the effect of the community on whether or not a person’s invention will be recognized or valued. For example, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who would today have been called an “at risk” child, credited his mother, his church, his school sports, and his academic participation for keeping him on the path to developing his strong rhetorical talents (Frady, 1992).
The “sun” of school is a given. The schools train scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, writers, and certain inventors through a process called course taking. Musicians, dancers, visual artists, and athletes need special talent development, usually through a coaching model. Allen (1992) differentiated between “two orders of artists — creators and performers.” He called creators “creative artists,” and performers “re-creative artists” (p. 199). Special schools, such as conservatories and studios, should exist to serve those who need intensive talent development in the arts or sports. Schools have a duty to find, and help, those children whose “luck” may not have permitted them to be born into an environment that will nurture their great potential. In all cases, the school is an environmental factor in the development of talent. The school can be either a powerful shaper or a deterrent. The school should also recognize that if it spends its influence in an attempt to “outshine” one of the other “suns,” the opportunity cost of its energy expense is that it reduces it’s influence as a school. Such a decision limits the schools effectiveness in all areas, and those who suffer most are the special needs students, both the gifted, and those who need additional help to reach average academic achievements.
The “sun” of gender is a very important factor. The “sun of gender” is both environmental, and genetic. Boys and girls may be born with equal talent, but differing levels of natural inclination toward different tasks. Trying to equalize these genetic differences is a waste of resources. Being aware of the differences so the educational process can be tuned to the benefit of both boys and girls is an effective use of educational resources.
The “sun” of chance may be essential. The mere accident of geography can have an important influence. For example, New York casting agents for theater, movies, and television visit schools because of the schools reputation. They would choose children to audition by seeing whether they had the “look” needed for the project: the children’s acting talent was second. The children’s luck for living in Manhattan was a mere accident of birth that launched several on their acting careers.
Piirto metaphorically calls these suns, outside the actual fabric of the learner because each of these is an outside influence and can have a large effect on the development of the students talent. These influences are discussed first because if a school attempts to change, or eliminate these influences, or substitute itself for any of these other influences, it is like trying to cover the sun, a misplaced expense of time and energy that can create problems in the educational process in other areas, especially for the struggling urban student.
The following five aspects of personal attributes begin with the foundational level of a person’s abilities. From the foundation, talent, ability, and eventual career are built. By understanding this breakdown of personal development, evaluating the needs of the learner will become clearer to interpret.
The Genetic Aspect
People begin with their genetic heritage. They have certain predispositions. Studies of twins reared apart at the University of Minnesota and elsewhere have indicated that as individuals become adults, genetic heritage becomes more dominant (Plomin, 1997). The early childhood environment is more important to children than to adults. Within the student population, the genetic aspect is the collection of physical elements which enable the student to reach toward his or her unique level of achievement. This is separate from positive environmental influences, and during the education, the teachers need to recognize that there is nothing that can be done to change the student’s basic genetic endowment.
The Emotional Aspect: Personality Attributes
These attributes are the affective, or emotional aspects of what a person needs to succeed. While some of these are traits or temperaments (that is, by and large inherited), others can be developed in people. In the case of the urban student, there may be many outside influences which are present, and create difficulty for this attribute to fully develop. Trouble in the home, lack of support, or perceived lack of concern for the student will retard the growth of the natural emotional balance which he or she needs to succeed in education. Parts of these attributes may be innate, but other parts can also be developed. These aspects of personality are present in some way in all people. One could call these the foundation, and one could go further and say that these may be innate, but this would be inaccurate. They can also be developed and directly taught, as some teachers have found.
The Cognitive Aspect: Intelligence
The cognitive dimension, or intelligence, may be over-emphasized. When the field of the education is a test-score driven field, we err in defining success for the student. A test score is only one descriptive aspect of a person’s whole being. The Piirto Pyramid uses the cognitive dimension as a part of measuring intelligence, but high intelligence scores are not necessary for the realization of most talents (Baird, 1985)
The Talent Aspect
The talent itself — inborn, innate, and mysterious — is absolutely necessary. Talent is the tip of the Piirto Pyramid. Which particular talent surfaces in any individual is a function of the three previous levels of the pyramid. Talent is present when a child can draw so well that he is designated the class artist, or when a boy can throw a ball 85 miles per hour. Most talents are recognized through certain predictive behaviors. For example, linguistically talented students often do extensive and passionate reading of fiction (Piirto, 2000); or mathematically talented students may prefer to do the statistics for the basketball games rather than be the cheerleaders at those games (Piirto, 1999). These talents are demonstrated within domains that are socially recognized and valued within the society.
The Vocational Aspect: Feeling the “Thorn”
Although absolutely necessary, the presence of talent is not sufficient. What is the impetus, what is the reason, for a person to choose to work on one talent and to develop passion and commitment toward the development of that talent? The reverie state common to all creative processing in the development of talent has recently come to be called “flow,” a term fortuitously coined by psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi (1990). Flow happens when a person is engaged in an activity that is challenging and rewarding at the same time. The person enjoys the activity and seeks to repeat it. The person experiences deep concentration, a sense of being removed from present worries and cares, a sense of control over the activity, and an altered sense of time. In fact, time flies by. This state is most often experienced in solitude or in working with a group with whom one has little conflict or creative conflict together. Helping a student recognize what talent to develop by noticing what puts one into a “state of flow” is the most important task of a teacher.
From the foundation of the Piirto Pyramid, understanding the needs and opportunities of all students can be kept in clearer focus. The school cannot change the suns of influence, but they can augment them. The school cannot change genetic disposition, or the raw talent which a students brings with them to school. The school must instead evaluate the student, and his or her areas of talent and/or desire, and then develop an effective approach to help this unique type of student succeed in today’s marketplace, and educational environment.
When we are born, researchers believe that our brains already have many neural connections. They believe the experiences we provide children at an early age will define the neural networks and help develop the foundation of all learning.
To understand neural connections and the role they play in learning, think of a sunflower. The dark center of the sunflower is like the neuron. The dendrites like petals attach to the neuron and serve as receiving sites for incoming impulses. The axon which carries the outgoing impulses is like the flower’s stem and at its base are the axon branches much like the roots attached to the stem. These axon branches act on the message sent down the axon and chemically send impulses to other dendrites which are attached to another neuron.
We are born with approximately one hundred billion neurons (cells). Each neuron has the potential to connect with ten thousand other neurons. That’s over a trillion possible connections. When a neuron is stimulated an electrical impulse travels through the axon to the axon fibers and is chemically released to the dendrites on another neuron. The dendrites and the axon fibers do not actually touch. This space between the axon fibers and the dendrites is known as the synapses. This is where learning occurs. The impulse then travels from the dendrites to the neuron and the cycle begins again. These connections allow information to be sent all over the brain in just milliseconds.
By the age of two a child will have formed most of the synapses he is ever going to have and will burn two times the energy of his parents (Jensen, 1997). Although learning is a life long process, there are windows in our development in which things will be easier to learn (Jensen, 1997).
How Do We Help the Garden Grow
One of the first parts of the brain to develop is the cerebellum. It is in the cerebellum that motor activities are believed to originate. Therefore, early emphasis on motor skills and experiences involving motor activities are essential. Some researchers estimate that children today have less opportunity for early movement activities than did children in the 1960’s. For example, it is estimated that in 1960 children spent approximately 100 hours in a car seat, versus the 1995 estimate of 500 hours (Jensen, 1997). Although we know car seats are very important and should always be used, this example shows that children today spend less time in open, spacious, movement-enriched environments. That being the case, we need to consciously plan for more movement opportunities for infants and toddlers. When a child is blind or visually impaired, movement is generally reduced, especially if the child has other disabilities. Taking your child through movement activities, even from infancy, is extremely beneficial to overall learning.
Another area of the brain is the limbic system which is a group of structures in the middle of the brain that play an important role in emotion and motivation (Russell, 1979). It is through emotion that we are able to retain information since it is one of the keys to getting the brain’s attention. We must have attention to have learning and the learner must determine what is meaningful. Emotions are believed to be key in the brain’s ability to start making more complex connections around the age of two months (Nash, 1997).
It is important to create a good environment for learning. An enriched environment with novel challenge, an absence of threat, and learner controlled feedback is just the environment we want to create. Challenge is important because learning takes place when we are outside of our comfort zone, in the presence of obstacles, resistance, and unmet needs. Combining novelty with routine or ritual is a good way to push the comfort zone without making a child feel threatened.
However, there is a fine line between challenge and threat (Jensen, 1997). When threat is present the learner does not feel safe, and can go into the “flight or fight” state. Learning is not taking place in this state. It’s just instinct. Slowing the pace a bit and making the environment safer for independent exploration can reduce some of the stress these children may feel. There is a dalicate balance to be attained between slowing the pace to encourage small steps of risk which bring development, and maintaining data-driven goals to which all students must attain.
Providing an environment of relaxed alertness stimulates the connections in the brain. Many times we focus on having the learner’s attention. Attention takes place in the conscious mind, but ninety-nine percent of learning is done unconsciously (Jensen, 1997). This means when we have the learner’s attention they are taking in information. However, formulating meaning from this information occurs when the learner has time to process the information.
Neurological impairment impacts learning, and since much of th neuron development is done in the first the years of life, urban children may come to school less than fully equipped to engage in the educational process. Often children neurological state require that they need a much more structured routine and more subtle novelty to meaningfully incorporate new information. This makes the learning process much slower and much more difficult for these children. Still the brain is driven to find meaning, and in an absence of stated, data-driven goals, the student is just as likely to detach from the educational process because he or she is not ‘learning’, or is ‘bored.’ We can assist this process by providing learning environments that involve emotional, relevant, and contextual learning (Jensen, 1996)
The brain is an awesome and amazing organ, and we are learning more about it all the time. In fact, some researchers say we have learned more about the brain in the past five years than in any other time in recorded history (Jensen, 1997). What we do know is that the blossoms of learning are just waiting to be stimulated. They grow with real world experiences, an environment without threat, activities that students find meaningful, novel ways of presenting information, challenge, affirmation, time for processing information, collaboration with peers, and choices in how feedback is given.
What is Thought-Provoking is Brain-Promoting
Research on the physical results of thinking has shown that just using the brain actually increases the number of dendritic branches that interconnect brain cells. The more we think, the better our brains function — regardless of age. The renowned brain researcher Dr. Marian Diamond says, “The nervous system possesses not just a ‘morning’ of plasticity, but an ‘afternoon’ and an ‘evening’ as well.”
Dr. Diamond found that whether young or old, we can continue to learn. The brain can change at any age. A dendrites grows much like a tree — from trunk to limbs to branches to twigs — in an array of ever finer complexity.
Nutrients Construct, Connect, Power, and Protect Your Brain
As human beings, we are profoundly connected with our world. The elements of this planet are incorporated into the structure of our bodies, the fluidity of our minds. Without an adequate supply of the essential nutrients that shape and sustain us, our very humanity disintegrates.
Your brain would be dead, if not for the energetic interplay of sodium and potassium ions across your brain cell membranes. The dynamic dance of these earth elements creates waves of biological lightning that pulse throughout your billion miles of nerve fibers — allowing your inner galaxy of neurons to fully network.
At the chemical level, food is the brain’s primary link to its environment and to its evolution. Diet affects the brain chemicals that influence mood and behavior, the thought processes and emotional reactions that ultimately create life. For this reason, in the Alexandria City Public Schools fifth-graders were treated to free taking their Standards of Learning writing exams. More than 500 youngsters dined on egg and sausage sandwiches, bagels, bananas, milk and juice, as part of the school district’s efforts to help the students feel energized and ready for the tests. “Research shows that if a student eats breakfast, they perform better in the classroom. Their attention span is better. They feel more alert, ” said Ralph Schobitz, director of food and nutrition services for the school system. The school system is able to provide the free breakfast through money raised by selling cookies and other foods that food services caters for classroom parties and teachers’ meetings (Wax). Each breakfast costs the school system about 50 cents.
A study conducted by the state of Minnesota found that students who ate breakfast before school had higher math grades and reading scores. The students also had longer attention spans and paid fewer visits to the school nurse. Studies by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston showed similar results.
Without control over the student eating habits, what can the average teacher do to strengthen his or her student’s minds? One approach is to actively involve his or her students in areas unfamiliar to them,” says Arnold Scheibel, head of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute. “Anything that’s intellectually challenging can probably serve as a kind of stimulus for dendritic growth, which means it adds to the computational reserves in your brain.” So pick something that’s diverting and, most important, unfamiliar. A computer programmer might try sculpture; a ballerina might try marine navigation. Here are some other stimulating suggestions from brain researchers:
Do puzzles. “I can’t stand crosswords,” says neuroscientist Antonio Damasio of the University of Iowa, “but they’re a good idea.” Psychologist Sherry Willis of Pennsylvania State University says, “People who do jigsaw puzzles show greater spatial ability, which you use when you look at a map.”
Try a musical instrument. “As soon as you decide to take up the violin, your brain has a whole new group of muscle-control problems to solve. But that’s nothing compared with what the brain has to do before the violinist can begin to read notes on a page and correlate them with his or her fingers to create tones. This is remarkable, high-level type of activity,” says Scheibel.
Fix something. Learn to repair your car or repair a shaver, suggests Zaven Khachaturian, a brain expert at the National Institute of Aging. “My basement is full of electronic gadgets, waiting to be repaired. The solution is not the important thing. It’s the challenge.”
Try the arts. If your verbal skills are good, buy a set of watercolors and take a course. If your drawing skills are good, start a journal or write poetry.
Dance. “We keep seeing a relationship between physical activity and cognitive maintenance,” says Harvard brain researcher Marilyn Albert. “We suspect that moderately strenuous exercise leads to the development of small blood vessels. Blood carries oxygen, and oxygen nourishes the brain.” But be sure the activity is new and requires thinking. Square dancing, ballet or tap is preferable to twisting the night away.
Researchers agree that it’s never to late. All of life should be a learning experience, not just for the trivial reasons but because by continuing the learning process, we are challenging our brain and therefore building brain circuitry. Literally. This is the way the brain operates.
So even though the majority of brain growth completes itself before the student arrives at school, and the school has little to no control over the students’ nutritional habits outside of the hours of 8:30 to 4:00, by continuing to introduce creative methods into the classroom, teachers can encourage their students brain to grow neuron – dendrite connections and increase both the students knowledge, and ability to attain future knowledge.
Specific Activities to Engage students – Project-based learning (PBL)
A common problem in this debate over the effectiveness of PBL in our society is either/or thinking. Some still debate the relative merits of an education based on symbols, or learning a static knowledge base when the knowledge base is always changing. The contrary position focuses on hands-on, or project-based learning. Noted Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor emeritus and physicist Philip Morrison realizes the value of both in his new book, “Nothing Is Too Wonderful To Be True.” He recalls his own undergraduate education that included time in a foundry, at a lathe and welding.
Educators at Madison Area Technical College, UW-Madison and the Madison School District understand the need for both symbol and substance. They’re both key elements in creating knowledge. That’s why MATC developed projects involving cooperation with UW-Madison and the school district, including a summer institute in dimensional metrology sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation. Another MATC project is the Advanced Biotechnology Education Partnership Program, also sponsored in part by the NSF. Both of these programs will combine symbols with applications for the real world. The NSF has recognized MATC’s innovative ideas with an award of three major grants to the state’s second largest technical college. Our children, our businesses and our communities will reap the dividends of this investment for years to come (Verona)
In a study which examined the relationship between student choice in project-based learning (PBL) and achievement, Alicia Yamzon created an ethnographic study which was designed to gain a better understanding of the effects of student choice in PBL on achievement. Data for the study came from personal interviews with 10 predominantly female teachers who were currently involved in PBL with their students. Each teacher had at least 2 years of teaching experience, and five of the teachers were PBL coordinators at their respective schools. The interviews consisted of five open-ended questions related to: their perceptions of student learning in PBL environments; the role they took with students engaged in PBL; what they did with students who were unengaged with the project; how student choice played a part in PBL; and the relationship between student choice and achievement. Results indicated that PBL varied depending on:
Each teacher’s personal style of teaching, $
The needs and interests of the students, $
The available resources, $
The physical environment of the school and its surroundings, $
The degree to which the school community was invested in PBL.
The study concluded that learning could be greatly enhanced by incorporating student choice through PBL (ERIC Document ED422404).
In a study entitled “How Teaching Matters: Bringing the Classroom Back into Discussions of Teacher Quality,” author Harold Wenglinsky explored how improving teachers’ classroom practice could improve teacher quality, and thereby improve academic achievement. Data were examined on 7,146 8th graders who took the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) mathematics assessment in 1996 and 7,776 8th graders who took the NAEP science assessment in 1996. Three types of teacher quality were measured:
Teacher inputs (e.g., education levels and years of experience);
Classroom practices (e.g., use of small-group instruction or hands-on learning);
Three chapters examine: “Proposals to Improve Teacher Quality and What We Know about Their Effectiveness,” “A Portrait of America’s Teachers and Their Classroom Practices,” and “Linking Aspects of Teacher Quality to Student Test Scores.” Results supported the notion that conveying higher-order thinking skills leads to improved student performance and supported the effectiveness of individualizing instruction to accommodate the differing knowledge and skills which different students bring to the classroom. Professional development in cultural diversity and awareness was linked to higher mathematics test scores. There were no measurable benefits for the students from working in small groups, and students suffered academically from lack of point-in-time testing. This survey measured no appreciable benefit for the student derived from working in small groups, or working on hands on projects (ERIC Document ED430940 ).
In another study entitled “Building Their Future II: High School Girls in Technology Education in Connecticut, authors Suzanne Silverman, and Alice M. Pritchard examined the factors affecting Connecticut high school students’ decision to enroll in technology education (TE). Data was collected from the following sources: focus group interviews with 134 boys and 107 girls from TE classes at 4 high schools across Connecticut and a quiz administered to 320 boys and 196 girls in both academic and TE classes.
Many reasons cited as motivations for enrolling in TE, including the attraction of hands-on learning, exposure to technology outside the school, and interest in a technological career, applied equally to boys and girls. Several factors, however, were directly related to gender equity. Because of the sex stereotypes associated with many technological jobs, for example, only those girls who were willing to be “path breakers” and challenge stereotypes were likely to enroll in TE. Many girls interviewed expressed a reluctance to be “one of the few girls” in TE. The following actions were recommended to increase enrollment in TE:
Provide better information to middle school students about TE course offerings in high school,
Find role models for girls in TE,
Have TE teachers develop strategies to attract more girls to their classes (ERIC Document ED376309)
Finally, a study entitled “The Benefits of Math Manipulatives vs. Standard Curriculum in the Comprehension of Mathematical Concepts, Amanda L. Rust attempted to determine which teaching method, mainly manipulatives (hands on projects) or the standard curriculum, best allowed the students to learn first grade math concepts. The manipulatives consisted of objects such as unifix cubes, personal chalkboards, work mats, and various other articles, which allowed the students to see the math that they were calculating. These students did not use any of the standard workbook pages. The standard curriculum used was the Mathematics Plus workbook by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. This book does use manipulative concepts, but it was not supplemented with anything extra. Both methods of instruction were used with one first grade class. The methods were both used simultaneously but with different concepts; for example, the students were taught one concept using manipulatives and the second concept using the math workbook.
Two methods of assessment were used during the study. The Knox County Math Skills Test was the first test given, and the second test was a Teacher Checklist Manipulative Evaluation that one of the teachers performed orally with each student. The Knox County test was a pencil and paper test that did not use any hands-on manipulatives. The Teacher Checklist was a test that was developed using solely the manipulatives that the students used during their manipulative concept. The students were asked to “show the teacher” each skill using the manipulatives. The concepts tested by the Teacher Checklist followed those tested by the Knox County Skills Test, but the student demonstrated them physically with the manipulatives used for learning.
This study found that the combination of text base learning, when used in combination with the manupulatives had the greatest success in teaching the math concepts and skills, as well as transmitting a specific knowledge base. Using either of the methods alone, either manipulatives, or the text-based learning, was not as effective as the combination of the two (ERIC Document ED436395).
The technological revolution that has transformed industry and commerce worldwide is based on advances in mathematics and science. However, technological education has institutionally been kept distinct from its constituent subjects. The reason is historical. Technological education has grown out of the vocational sector, which addresses the needs of students preparing to enter the workplace directly, while mathematics and science are part of the academic sector, traditionally concerned with preparing students for advanced education in academia.
This fact is one of the primary reasons that the need for technological education has not been successful in bridging the gap between generations. Parents of children who are currently in middle school utilized technology as a less significant tool to assist their educational progress than today’s students. Most career paths in the modern business environment include significant dependance on technology, computer based application, digital image, and recording devices. Even the check out counter at Mc Donalds is computerized. The student who is not familiar with computers and technological applications is at a significant disadvantage when they are faced with entering the job market.
The vocational education sector is recognizing the changed nature of the workplace. Many 19th century industrial skills are irrelevant to the current workplace. Moreover, with the rapid advance of technology, specific current skills will become irrelevant by the start of the 21st century. Technological education must meet the needs of business and industry for workers who are flexible, adaptable problem-solvers. In short, the objectives of technological education and of science and mathematics education are merging rapidly.
The Image Processing for Teaching project was developed at the University of Arizona in response to the NSF’s call for projects to introduce high technology into classrooms. Begun six years ago, the project’s original objectives were to explore how state-of-the-art digital image processing might be used to give students an attractive entree into the study of science and mathematics, and in particular, used to reach those students not traditionally motivated in these subjects.
So the Image Processing for Teaching (IPT) project began as an experiment. It seemed plausible that image processing would serve as an effective and exciting way to attract students to science and technology, and to offer open-ended opportunities for exploration, discovery and quantitative analysis. On the other hand, we recognized that not all good ideas come to fruition in practice.
Thus, it has been gratifying that evidence points to the remarkable effectiveness of image processing in education. Exciting things are happening with IPT in the classroom. While image manipulation is attractive and fun, it also inevitably leads to meaningful exploration of the image’s content, and appreciation of the mathematics built into thy process on many levels. IPT nurtures the processes of investigation and problem-solving. The research found great success and interest among students who might not have been expected to do well in conventional academic classes.
In a New Zealand studies, through a series of “process-outcome” studies between 1970 and 1973, researchers from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand found that time spent focused on content and the amount of content taught were more important factors than the teacher behaviors that were used to teach the content. With seventh graders, it did not matter whether the teacher used questions and student responses or gave straight lectures. But younger students, for example, third graders, learned better with the question-and-answer mode.
The researchers found that the questions asked needed to be narrow in focus, clear, and easily answered. High expectations and occasional praise were more effective than indifference or matter-of-factness. Whether the lecture or the question format was used, careful structuring of content by the teacher, followed by summary reviews, was the most effective teaching method. (Brophy and Good)
In “Follow Through” studies to this same project, Jane Stallings and her colleagues observed and evaluated results from 108 first-grade classes and fifty-eight third-grade classes taught by different methods. Programs having strong academic focus rather than programs using the project-method approach produced the highest gains in reading and math. Brophy and Good summarize the Stallings findings as follows: “Almost anything connected with the classical recitation pattern of teacher questioning (particularly direct, factual questions rather than more open questions) followed by student response, followed by teacher feedback, correlated positively with achievement,” As in the New Zealand studies, students who spent most of their time being instructed or guided by their teachers did much better than students who did projects or were expected to learn on their own. (Stallings and Kasowitz)
From this study, a pattern begins to emerge. As the debate of content-based verses outcome base rages, student achieve positive academic gains when they are given the knowledge base first, and then are expected to build understanding on the knowledge base. The project-based learning, when used as a primary teaching tool, falls significatnly short of the pedagogical progress atttained by rpoject-based learnign combined with ‘old fashioned’ learning of facts, figures, and specific-based materials.
Returning to the drama mataphor, expecting students to attain significant acedemic achievements without demanding that they master a knowledge base of specific facts and figures is like asking a student to perform the lead in a musical production without first teaching him how to sing on key.
How can we improve student learning in the classroom and raise student performance on high stakes tests? The key is continuing assessment and evaluation throughout the school year, as well as a commitment to the success of all students. Many schools across the country receive student performance data from its state assessment, test after students leave for the summer. However, to increase student achievement in the classroom and on the state test, teachers need current and accurate data today. They need to see the relationship between student performance on curriculum and performance on the state tests. In addition, they need to see it in real time, not months later.
In 1998, long before the No Child Left Behind Act became part of the lexicon, Lead Mine Elementary in N.C. set out to build a data-driven education framework to encourage academic growth for all students. This framework, “The Lead Mine Elementary School Curriculum Design,” was created through a team effort, combining the expertise of teachers, curriculum specialists and administrators. The framework’s four components are:
1. Curriculum alignment
2. Curriculum mapping
3. Curriculum benchmarking
Using the Curriculum Design framework, teachers, students and parents can see student expectations for each grade level; track student progress; identify student needs; provide focused instruction and interventions; and, ultimately, improve student achievement in the classroom and on the state mandatory tests.
Curriculum alignment. This first component of the Curriculum Design framework shows what will be taught in all subject areas and at each grade level. To begin, teachers put together their curriculum for the grade levels, and aligned it with the state’s Standard Course of Study. Then, they organized the curriculum, listing the skills students should be able to demonstrate in every subject at each grade level.
Curriculum mapping. The curricalum map illustrates when the skills will be taught. It lists the skills in the order they will be taught in each grade level from kindergarten through fifth grade.
Curriculum bench marking. Next, the school developed quarterly assessments and minimum standards of achievement for all grade levels, known as curriculum benchmarking, to determine if students were learning the skills that were taught. These multiple assessments, which are correlated with the curriculum alignment and curriculum map, allow teachers to collect objective data throughout the year. This helps them determine where children are – and where they need to be – to successfully pass local academic standards and the EOG Test, which is administered in third, fourth and fifth grades. Further, it gives teachers the opportunity to provide timely interventions in the classroom or even enroll students in special programs to deliver assistance wherever they need it.
Differentiation. As teachers review the assessment data and evaluate student performance, they try to determine what teaching methods would be best for all learners. They find the integration of technology to be a very valuable tool in differentiating instruction for students based on their individual needs. While developing the Curriculum Design framework, Lead Mine searched for a curriculum solution that would support its efforts and provide ongoing embedded assessment and detailed student performance data. According to school administrators and teachers, Pearson Education Technologies’ (formerly NCS Learn) comprehensive courseware, SuccessMaker, offered the best system, aligning with what the school was doing and providing real-time data correlated to the state test.( Decker)
This pattern has proven a successful for the North Carolina Schools. Many factors have been important to the school’s success, and by having a united goal, and a focused framework, the teachers have built the habits and programs which are passing their succdess on to their students. The results of this approach have included:
An outstanding curriculum design
Data-driven decision making
Quality curriculum courseware
People open to new ideas
The key to success is to always put the child first. It is the school’s responsibility to determine each child’s needs and provide whatever support is needed to ensure the child’s success. By maintaining their focus on data driven instruction, insisting that the student not only learn how to learn, but that they also learn a specific knowledge base, the child’s success is the inevetable product of their efforts.
At Enrico Fermi School, teachers coach their class through the day’s reading lesson. Her students don’t know it, but their lessons are part of an experiment in teaching reading to kids in struggling urban schools, and this school is a good place to test the concept. Last spring, Fermi students on average ranked in the 29th percentile in reading on the national TerraNova test. And until recently, some observers said, Yonkers Public Schools have focused more on social reforms, such as busing, which this year cost the district $17 million, than on curricular changes. Coming from predominantly low-income Hispanic neighborhoods, Fermi students are battling the demographic odds: Of the 842 students at the school-of whom 70% are Hispanic, 14% are white, and 13% are black-76% are living in poverty, and 48% don’t speak English at home.
Because parental and political pressures to close the educational achievement gap are on the rise nationally, schools such as Fermi are willing to try anything that might give their reading scores a lift. At Fermi, Principal Linda Vergara hopes she has tapped into the next big thing — a revolution even-in reading instruction. “Reading Revolution,” as this program is called, combines phonics and physical exercises to help children sound out words and comprehend them. The children participate in a morning two- hour reading and writing block, and some children are picking up the lesson immediately, while others are more tentative. This approach to learning is alomost unheard of in a school environment in which attention spans are not much longer than a MTV video, but the conbination of phonics-based edcuation, creative involvement of the students, and positive coaching from the teacher, everyone gives the lessons there full attention.
Vergara, who took over as principal last year, is more focused than ever on results. After witnessing surprisingly strong growth in her 80 summer school students-nearly 30% gained the equivalent of a year’s worth of reading skills, or more, in the 18-day session; and another 30% or so gained from four to eight months’ worth of reading skills-Vergara implemented the entire program for all prekindergarten through third-grade students at Fermi. The school believes the program has the potential to eliminate illiteracy in her school in the next few years.(Gorman)
Community Component of Education
Many successful strategies for family involvement used by schools and districts demonstrate the capacity of families, schools, and communities, working together, to improve children’s learning. Because families, schools, and communities vary, however, a strategy that works in one setting may not work in another. Thus, there is no one best model that can be easily transplanted from place to place. Stakeholders must understand the conditions of their communities in order to select and tailor approaches that meet local needs. Stakeholders must also recognize that parent involvement takes many forms; it may not necessarily require, for example, parents’ presence at a workshop, meeting, or school. The emphasis should be on families helping children succeed in school, and this can happen in schools, homes, and elsewhere in local communities.
Creating an effective partnership in which parents feel welcome and valued requires that schools work to break down many of the common barriers to effective partnerships, including barriers related to time, school structure, and training. The following sections present strategies that schools and districts have employed to overcome each of these barriers to parent involvement and to help build productive relationships with parent.
Help parents develop parenting skills to meet the basic obligations of family life and foster conditions at home which emphasize the importance of education and learning.
Promote two way (school-to-home and home-to-school) communication about school programs and students’ progress.
Involve parents, with appropriate training, in instructional and support roles at the school and in other locations that help the school and students reach stated goals, objectives, and standards.
Provide parents with strategies and techniques for assisting their children with learning activities at home that support and extend the school’s instructional program.
Prepare parents to actively participate in school decision making and develop their leadership skills in governance and advocacy.
Provide parents with skills to access community and support services that strengthen school programs, family practices, and student learning and development.
These six types of parent involvement roles require a coordinated schoolwide effort that has the support of parents, teachers, students, and administrators at each school site. Furthermore, research indicates that home-school collaboration is most likely to happen if schools take the initiative to encourage, guide, and genuinely welcome parents into the partnership. Professional development for teachers and administrators on how to build such a partnership is essential.
The issue of parent involvement in the education of their children is much larger than improving student achievement. It is central to our democracy that parents and citizens participate in the governing of public institutions. Parent involvement is fundamental to a healthy system of public education.
A program used in many elementary, middle and high school students connects community volunteers with students to assist the students to imporve their reading and language arts skills. The initiative is a volunteer program known as HOSTS.
HOSTS, which stands for Help One Student To Succeed, was introduced by school superintendent Nathaniel Clay to his home district after visiting a similar program in Texas. Founded by Bill Gibbons of Vancouver, Wash., the 28-year-old HOSTS program is active in more than 1,000 schools in 41 states, the District of Columbia and El Salvador. And the program is in its fourth year in the Hempstead Union Free School District.
“The average gain in the reading level is two years,” said Franklin Street HOSTS instructor Joan Monteverde. “Also, the students’ self-esteem is elevated through the one-on-one attention and instruction.” (Ommerman)
Restructuring Schools to Support Family Involvement
Developing a successful school-family partnership must be a whole school endeavor, not the work of a single person or program. Traditional school organization and practices, especially in secondary schools, often discourage family members from becoming involved. For example, survey data show that parents of older children are less likely to attend a school event or volunteer at their child’s school than parents of younger children. Sixty-one percent of principals of Title I elementary schools report that most or all of their parents attend regularly scheduled parent-teacher conferences, compared with 22% of principals of Title I middle schools (U.S. Department of Education, 1997).
To create a welcoming environment for parents, one that enlists their support in helping their children achieve, schools sometimes adopt changes that make them more personal and inviting places. Schools can reorganize, dividing into schools-within-schools, or adopting block scheduling (which includes longer class periods), for example, to promote closer interaction between teachers and students and, by extension, between teachers and families. Schools can solicit parental input to help make decisions on curriculum, course scheduling, assessment, and budget matters. Traditional parent participation events can be redefined to create more meaningful ways to welcome and involve parents in school life. Whatever steps schools take to develop close partnerships with families on behalf of students’ learning, schools that are most successful are prepared to reconsider all of their established methods of doing business and to restructure in ways that will make them less hierarchical, more personal, and more accessible to parents. Restructuring schools to create a more personalized environment for students and their families is an especially important issue for secondary schools, where parents face special barriers to becoming involved and where parent involvement does in fact drop off significantly.
For many successful schools, the first step in the restructuring process is to assess families’ interests and needs. By asking parents to share their interests, needs, ideas, and goals for family involvement on an ongoing basis, families and staff members can work together to make family involvement a centerpiece of school reform. By contrast, families that hesitate to become involved in schools often complain that administrators and teachers develop parent involvement strategies based on what they think parents want and need, and not on what parents say they want and need.
Schools can address this concern by conducting needs assessments through parent surveys, focus groups, or door-to-door neighborhood walks to gather ideas from parents about how best to promote family involvement.
Staff members at the district-sponsored Buffalo Parent Center develop and plan their services based on surveys and information gathered from monthly “town meetings” where parents voice concerns and suggestions.
As already noted, Roosevelt High School conducted a Walk for Success event, where teams of faculty, parents, and other community members walked door-to-door to talk with parents about their needs and gather ideas about how to improve the school.
Successful schools include parents as active partners in the school restructuring process. Rather than the traditional hierarchical relationship between families and schools, where school staff make unilateral decisions, successful parent involvement approaches work to develop parents as leaders and equal partners in the schooling process. One way to do this is to create organizational structures for parent participation, such as parent and volunteer committees. Parents can also serve on other school decision-making committees, such as site-based management councils and school improvement teams. As members of these committees, parents can, for example, share ideas and help make decisions on school policies related to the budget, teacher and principal hiring, schoolwide plans, and parent involvement activities. Together, parents and staff members develop school reform initiatives to facilitate closer student, teacher, and parent relations and to increase student achievement.
Parents at Roosevelt High School serve on “core teams” to address school reform issues. Recently, parents played an active role in curriculum reform by helping secure a waiver from the Texas Education Agency to implement block scheduling, a plan they anticipated would improve both student attendance and achievement. (While both have risen recently, this may be due to many factors.) Core team parents also work closely with the community to assess family needs and strengths and to develop an action agenda for the school. A school organizer for the Alliance Schools Initiative in Texas said, “The most challenging aspect of getting parents involved is to help them understand that they don’t always need to be at school for a particular problem, but they can also be part of a constituency that develops a broad-based plan to improve the school.” This message is apparently getting through to Roosevelt parents; while approximately 10 parents attended the first PTA meeting in 1993, about 200 attended the first meeting in 1996.
Turnbull Learning Academy involves parents on decision-making committees such as the parent leadership committee and the school-site council. Parents on the school-site council help develop the school improvement plan, a process that includes planning new programs and reviewing existing programs as well as the school budget. After scheduling a vote to determine whether parents were interested, parent leadership at Turnbull developed a proposal for a voluntary school uniform policy. An overwhelming majority of parents voted in favor of the policy, which the school board approved in the spring of 1995.
At Atenville Elementary, parents stressed to parent leaders and school staff on a community-wide steering committee that they were concerned about the difficult transition for students as they moved from elementary schools to seventh grade at the local high school. As a result, a subcommittee on transitions was added to the community-wide school improvement steering committee. The subcommittee recommended block scheduling, similar to the scheduling that students encounter in high school, for fourth- through sixth-graders. The proposal was accepted and students now receive instruction in three blocks: (1) language arts, (2) math, and (3) social studies and science. All state-required subjects are integrated into these three areas.
New Uses of School Space
Schools can take simple steps to make parents feel welcome. For example, hanging a welcome sign or posting a parent volunteer in the entrance hall to welcome visitors, sign them in, and direct them to classrooms or the office makes a much more comforting first impression than the ubiquitous sign instructing visitors to “report to the office.” Similarly, many parents express uneasiness over the elaborate security measures schools use to combat violence and drugs. Schools could consider creating alternative entrances for parents where security measures are less obtrusive.
Several schools have taken additional steps to make their schools physically welcoming for parents. They have turned unused classrooms into on-site family or parent centers, giving parents a space in which to convene for parent-teacher meetings, borrow books and other learning materials, hold workshops, conduct volunteer activities, or simply have coffee and lunch with other parents and school staff.
Listening to parents and working with them to build family involvement often leads to innovative, meaningful participation activities that extend beyond the traditional back-to-school nights and bake sales. For example, Buhrer Elementary’s Block Parent Meetings take school events to families who live far away from school, enabling them to become informed about school issues and stay in touch with teachers, principals, and other parents. Ferguson Elementary’s Parents Make a Difference conference offers parents an opportunity to form ties with teachers and other parents, take a close look at classroom life, and attend workshops on student learning. Roosevelt High School’s Walk for Success program takes teachers and other school staff out into the surrounding neighborhoods to talk with parents and begin to develop meaningful parent-school partnerships. Other examples of events that bring parents, students, and teachers closer together include:
Bridging School-Family Differences
Language and cultural differences as well as differences in educational attainment separating families and school staff can make communication and family participation in school activities difficult. For example, survey data show that parents who do not speak English at home are less likely to participate in school-based activities, and more likely to participate in fewer activities over the course of the school year (U.S. Department of Education, 1997). Still, many schools with innovative leadership and creative, hard-working staff have found ways to bridge these differences and cultivate meaningful school-family partnerships.
Schools today work with a diverse group of parents, some of whom may not easily understand all of the written communications sent to them, and may see themselves as unprepared to help their children with homework or schoolwork. In addition, parents who have bad memories about their own experiences in school may have trouble helping their children with schoolwork, especially in subject areas that they themselves did not master. Among the schools we studied, some creative solutions to this barrier included parent meetings that review activities non-readers can carry out with their children to promote literacy.
At South Delta Elementary, school staff focus on home learning activities for non-reading parents by using newspapers. For example, parents and children look at ads and make price comparisons or discuss the weather, which often includes pictorial representations of the weekly forecast. At Turnbull, the bilingual parent involvement coordinator makes telephone calls to relay written information about student progress to non-readers on a weekly basis.
Even for parents who read well, the prospect of helping with their children’s schoolwork is often daunting. Many parents are haunted by their own memories of school, and are uncomfortable in a setting that brings those memories back.
Parents may also doubt their ability to help their children master new content, especially in math and science. Schools can help allay these fears by giving parents a chance to experience first hand what their children are learning in an environment that is pleasant and non-threatening.
Effective school-family partnerships benefit all involved school staff, parents, and students. Research demonstrates that parent involvement can be an important contributor to student achievement. Effective school-family partnerships can have important benefits for parents as well, helping them to perceive their children’s school in a more positive light, enhancing their sense of efficacy as parents, and changing their perceptions of their children as learners (Ames, 1993; Epstein, 1991).
The Z-Model is built on 4 domains:
The research questions are based on how building a classroom’s educational plan around this framework will improve the acedemic achievement of the students. What will be the academic advancement of the students when teaching methods include new and creative exercised designed to stimulate their brain growth compared to the academic progress of non-adjusted classrooms? Will there be a significant, measurable increase in the learning performance if the student during the time (s)he is exposed to these initiatives? Will there be a significant, and long-term measurable increase in the academic performance for the student after (s)he is exposed to the Z-Model, as (s)he proceeds through the educational system? Will the brain / learning ability of students exposed to the Z-Model be improved for the duration of their educational career?
In the second domain, how will project-based learning exercised, in which students are allowed to work together stimulate academic growth? Will students in the Z-Model curriculum demonstrate greater academic achievement thatn students who learn and complete exercises via the traditional methods of individual assignments.
Data driven instruction
Data Driven instruction has been considered obsolete by many acedemic reformers. While there are other factors which have affected the downward spiral of educational performance, the correlation between the departure of data driven instruction and the declining acedemic performances cannot be ignored. By returning to a data driven instructional platform, in which students are required and expected to master a specific knowledge base, in addition to develop learning abilities, will the students’ academic performance increase?
The community, specifically the family, is one of the most important factors in the effort to enhance the students’ academic performance. How can the teacher involved the family in regular involvement in their students educational career? What will be the direct and measurable performance improvement for the student when a parent or caregiver is directly involved in the educational progress?
Methodology and Procedures
Testing, or “assessment,” plays a vital role in education today. Test results are often a major force in shaping public perception about the quality of our schools. As a primary tool of educators and policy makers, assessment is used for a multitude of purposes. Educators use assessment results to help improve teaching and learning and to evaluate programs and schools. Assessment is also used to generate the data on which policy decisions are made. Because of its important role, educational assessment is a foundation activity in every school, every school district and every state — a vital component in innovation, higher standards and educational excellence.
Testing has been a pivotal part of education since early in this century when educators began to seek more reliable and valid means to evaluate students and programs. In the past 40 years, there has been explosive growth and profound change in education. At every step of the way, educational assessment has responded with innovation in measurement and technical expertise. In the past ten years alone, the field of testing has undergone tremendous change because of the emphasis on education reform and development of new education standards.
Local and state education agencies are called upon to make many crucial decisions regarding how students and programs are assessed — decisions often involving significant time, effort and public resources. Making the right decisions about testing begins with having a basic understanding of the need for assessments that are valid, reliable and fair, and that fulfill their designed purposes.
Domain #1: Brain Development
The key to promoting new brain growth, and dendrite development as far as is withing the power of the teacher is to encourage new thought, and new thought pattern. Iin mathematics, it is also imperitive that the students learn a specific knowledge base of information so that in future years, the advancing math studies have a solid foundation on which to build. This means that memorization of facts, formulae and figures is an important part of the educational directives for the 6th grade mathematics class.
Adding to this knowledge base is empowering the student to think creatively about mathematics through group work, and project base learning.
The procedure used in the classroom was to begin the year with a standardized evaluation test, to determine the academic levels of each student. The students were then divided into groups of similar abilities. The group format helped students learn from each other, while being in groups of similar academic abilities is designed to encourage the students to work together without risk of becoming criticezed by a team member of significantly better, or lesser ablities. Throughout the year, each group is given premission to approach the educational lessons from their unique perspective. For example, in the lesson plan on surface area, each team was requested to develop their own manipulatives to represent the concept of surface area. The groups made their own models of pyramids, spheres, rectangular cubes and assigned values to their created tools. Throughout the lessons, the students were then requires to use their own models to facilitate understanding of the mathematic principles. If a student failed to deomstrate mastery of a given topic, he was taken from the group, remediated with the basic concepts, and then allowed to reenter the group to cvomplete the projhect. If the student still was not functioning as a working part of the group, (s)he was changed to a group which was closer to his or her level of mastery of the given subject.
This approach is designed to address many of the facets of promoting a positive educational environment, and promoting new thinking in order to encourage brain growth.
Allowing students to build their own manipulatives encourages them to think about the lessons in new, and personally stimulating ways.
Using these strudent created manipulatives reinforces both the student’s understanding of the math princpiles, and that they have the ability to understand, postulate, and calculate with the material they have participated in creating. This moves the student both toward mastery, and toward confidence in his/her progress.
Forming groups of similarly performing students places the student in an environment which is non-threatening, encouraging and fun.
Domain #2: Project-Based Learning
Engaging the student in educational hands on activities is the process of developing creative exercises in order to engage the creative centers of the brain, and activate the natural curiosity which all students possess. In the process- vs. – outcome debate on pedagogy, the only truly general principle that seems to emerge is that focused and guided instruction is far more effective than naturalistic, discovery, learn-at-your- own-pace instruction. Yet the example of the engaged student exists, and is more desirable than the student who feels that he or she is being pulled through the educational process kicking and screaming. The goal of hands on activities is to transform the student from the passive, or inactive student to the creative co-learner who is engaged with the teacher, and his or her classmates.
This Z-model for educational achievement addresses these issues as the students are moved from the semi-passive classroom environment into learning groups of similarly achieving students. While the student have specific lessons, they can interact, and build their own manipulatives for the classes. This format pulls the best elements out for the discovery-based learning theories, and maintains the class’ footing on focused and guided instruction.
In a project-based learning setting, teachers have the ability to use the peer group to assist student who may have difficulty controlling their behavior, or staying on task. Self-monitoring refers to behavior change programs that promote self- monitoring of behavior (e.g., on task, in seat) and/or performance (e.g., accuracy, pace) and ultimately delivery of self-reinforcement at specified time increments. It can be used to document whether or not a target behavior was displayed during a period of time or to record completion of a specific activity (Quinn, Swaggart, & Myles, 1994), but is of little value in ultimately changing the student bahavior. This approach is opposed to the reality that student need leaders to guide, teach, and form educated behaviors, whether that behavior is understanding mathematics data, reading well, or overcoming the tendency to disrupt the class and stay on task. Just as schools needed firm boundaries, established by the No Child Left Behind Act, to ensure successful educational training, student need firm boundaries as to what is successful behavioral habits in the classroom. So while self-monitoring is an interesting new academian buzz-word, the reality of teaching successful student bahavior as part of the classroom is accomplished by setting, and enforcing consistant boundaries. Toward this end, the project-based learning, in a group setting can be a valuable tool.
Domain #3: Data Driven Instruction
What the data driven domain is suppose to do is give a teacher direction on the area of strengths and weaknesses of the individual students. It will also show several things.
After a length of time, data driven instruction identifies how much progress or regression a student has done under a teacher’s instruction.
It will provide needed information in the area of that teacher’s pedagogies as it relates to the teacher’s strengths and weaknesses in any particular skill.
The data driven instruction measures how the teacher imparts the needed information so that the student can not only understand the information but to think at a higher level of understanding, and so the student can acquire master.
Data driven instruction can also needed information for developing (ILP) individualized Learning Plans. These plans are useful in the long and short-term of developing strategies for the students.
These plans also help in tracking information on the progress of the student base as compared to the standards and objectives of the school.
After the student has been assessed and enough knowledge has been acquired for movement of the student the data that is gathered can be used in parent teacher conferences.
This same information can be use by the next year teacher this process is called Looping. The data can also be used to develop a ILP of the upper level students. For example, if you have a student who has scored in the all of the upper quarterlies on an achievement test, the model will help teacher drive instruction through the use of data.
The gifted teacher will develop an understanding regarding how to help the gifted student perform up to the level of his abilities.
Data driven instruction by the Z-Model can even be used at the school level. This model can be used to get a clear understanding as to what kind of leadership style the administration team of the school has.
By measuring the teachers performance through the performance of his or her students, it can also show whether that leadership style of a particular teacher, or administration is conducive for the demographic composition of the students in the community is sending that school.
The same data can be use at the school level from a comparison to year. For the administrative team makes a commitment to use this model over an extended period of time, the “Z-Model” will teach the administration team to read and understands the data from kindergartens students through the upper grades. Students who enter their school under their leadership and methodology of the Z- model can be compared to students who were not educated under the Z-model. Over time the classes educated under the Z-model can be compared to those who were not, and the progress of students which are educated throughout the elementary years can be compared to previous years students. Over time, the effectiveness of this program will be measured by the overall achievement of the entire school.
Domain #4: Community and Caregiver Involvement.
The Fourth and final domain for the Z-model of academic excellence is an initiative for involving the students’ caregivers in the daily activities of the classroom. Urban children often suffer from a complete lack of involvement of care givers in their educational activities. While the reasons for this vary widely, the message communicated to the student is always the same. If educational progress and achievement is not important in the home community, it will not be percieved as important by the student in the scholastic community setting.
To affect change in this domain, the Z-Model for academic excellence created a project called the “Community Outreach for Mathematical Involvement.” At the beginning of the 6-month test period, a letter is sent out to each students home, inviting the caregivers to get involved in the day-to-day review and progress of the classroom at a variety of levels. The selection of a variety of activities is meant to offer each care giver an event or series of events in which they feel comfortable, and non-threatened. Point value are assigned to individual activities in which the care giver can participate, and these activities earn points for their student. At the end of the test period, the student are awarded certificates of recognition for the points earned by their caregivers. Every student receives an award, as each class has 10 first place, 10 second place, and 10 third place “winners.”
The letter clearly identifies that the points earned are not applied to the student’s grade, nor are the care givers being graded on their active participation in the classroom. Rather the students have the opportunity to earn recognition in the class for the involvement of the parents / care giver. This approach places the student and the parent on the same team. They are contributing together to further the student’s recognition in the classroom. The indrect byproduct of this point award system is that care givers who become involved also become more informed as to the progress in the classroom, and thereby are more likely to place importance on the student’s academic achievement within the home environment.
The point system is as follows:
Classroom visits for 1 hour
Participating in culminating activities
Participating in field trips
Participating in luncheons with teacher, or class
Written Communications with teacher
Other interaction with the class room, or teacher
This approach is a concept borrowed from marketing studies. Businesses often offer rewards, free givaways for coming in and signing up for a credit card, or test driving a new vehicle. The incentive pulls the customer into the business, and the byproduct is that the business is likely to receive new busienss, if not immediately, in the future. The student and his or her care giver are drawn together by this program. They become a team for the betterment of the child’s educational progress. The school and student receive the byproduct of increased attention and parental involvement, which in turn benefits both the stundet and the school.
The assumptions for this study are as follows:
The students will participate in the learning groups, and apply themselves to at least a minimum level which they would have use if left in individualized instruction.
The Standardized Test Prep for SAT 9 is a viable measure of the matnematics abilities of the 6th grade students
There will be some parents / care givers who will participate in the study
Class size will affect the effectiveness of the methods used.
Student gender does not affect the effectiveness of the methods used.
The students’ familiarity with the test, between the first application of the McGraw Hill test and the second administeration of the same test, will not adversely squew the results.
Educational testing, or assessment, is a key component of all education systems. Assessments can be used to monitor educational systems for public accountability; help improve curricula; evaluate the effectiveness of teaching and instructional practices; measure student achievement; and determine a student’s mastery of skills. Although educational testing is a complex field, there are several basic principles that provide a foundation for further understanding.
When states and communities set out to reform their education systems, it is imperative that a logical sequence of events be followed toward setting and achieving goals. First, goals for each education system must be set. Second, standards need to be adopted that outline what children should know and be able to do at certain levels. These standards should be written in a way that will help students meet the stated goals. Following the setting of standards, curricula need to be produced that will help teachers help their students meet the standards. And lastly, assessments should be developed to measure students’ progress toward meeting the standards. It is important that assessment follow, not lead, the movement to reform our schools.
The purpose of tests is to deliver accurate and reliable information, not to drive educational reform. While some politicians and policy makers have called for new tests, what they are really looking for is better results. It is important for school administrators and policy makers to understand that a new assessment system cannot cure an ailing education system. Tests do not create better students. Good teachers and good schools do.
No single test can do it all. A diagnostic test to determine a car’s emission level will not tell you if the tires need air. A different procedure will provide the mechanic with that information. The same goes for tests in education. No single test can ascertain whether all educational goals are being met. A variety of tests — or, “multiple measures” — is necessary to provide educators with a well-rounded view of what students know and can do. Just as different tests provide different information, no one kind of test can tell us all we need to know about a student’s learning. This “multiple-measures approach” to assessment is the keystone to valid, reliable and fair information about student achievement.
All tests and test types — whether they are standardized, multiple-choice achievement tests or performance assessments — should be held to the same high technical standards for delivering accurate information. No test should be selected and administered to students without first determining how its results will be used and its appropriateness to the subject matter being assessed. Furthermore, no test should be used without reviewing its technical strengths, including fairness, validity and reliability.
All assessments should be designed, piloted, and published using nationally accepted technical standards such as those developed by the American Psychological Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the National Council of Measurement in Education. In recent years, many new assessments and test formats have been developed. These tests, too, must be held to these same high standards.
For these reasons, the test instrument chosen for evaluating the students at the beginning and end of the study is the McGraw Hill Success on Standardized Tests for Mathematics. This 48 question multiple choice test is designed to test a full spectrum of mathematics concepts. The test measures student understanding and mastery of fractional and decimal manipulation, measuring time, distances on a map, spatial relationship, and geometry principles, in both straight calculations and word problem formats. Each question has 4 answers, including a “Correct answer not present” option.
The results for this test are tabled, and graphically respresented in the following charts. There are four classes, and each have participated in the Z-Model for Academic Excellence. Each class was tested with the McGraw Hill test within the frist quarter of the school year. The results are listed in the pre-test column. The Z-model was applied as a framework for delivering the class instruction dfuring the school year for 6 months.
The post test value represents the students achievement on the same test at the end of the 6-month period. The Value-added column records the difference in the two test scores, and represent that the positive effects of the Z-Model on the academic achievement. These results will be compared to testing results of similar students, of the same grade of similar demographics and academic achievement levels. The difference between this set of performance records and the set of the base line group will be an effective evaluation of the success of the Z-Model for achieving academic excellence.
Second Math Class
Statical Report for CRCT
Mr. Zanders 2ND Math Class
1. Alexandria, Omari
2. Allen, Ashley
3. Anderson, Pual
4. Blythe, Garfield
5. Brewington, Timonthy
6. Buggs, Kelvin
7. Cooper, Kyle
8. Crew, Stephanie
9. Doward, Alexia
10. Fairman, Jessica
11. Fisher, Mark
12. Jones, Chadwick
13. Lavergne, Melchised
14. Nyahbingi, Ross
15. Warren, Rickcoy
16. Woods, Ariadne
17. Woods, Nicholas
Third Period Math Class
Statical Report forCRCT
Mr. Zanders 3rd Math Class
1. Anthony, Nathaniel
2. Atkinson, Somara
3. Brown, Bryanna
4. Bryant, Jasmine
5. Cooper, Leon
6. Daley, Roxanna
7. Duhaney, Christophe
8. Freeman, Kristen
9. Freeman, Raymond
10. Green, Donavon
11. Green, Willie
12. Hamler, Benjiman
13. Houser, Wesley
14. Mayfield, Eugene’
15. Miller Dante’
16. Nolton, Leandria
17. Tennison, Tereon
18. Willis, Joseph
19. Wilson, Alicia
20. Wilson, Sheley
Fourth Period Math Class
Statical Report forCRCT
Mr. Zanders 4th Math Class
1. Justin, Adams
2. Beasley, Natassia
3. Betts, Ariel
4. Bullock, Tikia
5. Cooper, Justin
6. Dobbins, Raketa
7. Clark, Kyland
8. Gaston, Joseph
9. Harper, Lakeyonsha
10. Hasan, Tony
11. Holston, Kenyon
12. Jones, Tony
13. McKee, Davone
14. Singleton, Candace
15. Stryker, Motrianna
16. Taylor, Kareem
17. Winfrey, Marquisha
Fifth Period Math Class
Statical Report for CRCT
Mr. Zanders 5th Math Class
Discussion & Implications
Conclusions & Application
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