Monday, July 5, 2010

"Thinking Skills"

On another post Anonymous wrote:

The Harlem's Children's Zone appears to be wonderful project and is certainly providing for the needs of children____educational and otherwise. We could replicate that here in Pittsburgh with results that would astound since in PA there is real clarity about the "Thinking Skills" needed to do well academically and in life. (In future posts I will list those skills, specifically.) If teachers were aware of those skills and taught them situationally as well as textually across content areas (including art, music and phys ed) we would see significant academic and life skills improvement___in the first year anywhere from 16% to 25% (personally accomplished with school districts) to 35% improvement. Professional Development for teachers on how people learn and strategies for teaching PSSA and PSAT "THINKING SKILLS" would see immediate 'quantum' leaps. Let me show you the way at no cost to the district! Nothing ventured nothing gained. We have the knowledge, but not the process____most likely due to greed and self-agrandizement._____It is not "laugh"able!


Questioner said...

Re: The Harlem Children's Zone- how does the Homewood Children's Zone, which was begun over a year ago, compare? Has anyone seen the recent Memorandum of Understanding that the PPS signed w/ the Homewood Children's Zone? A major point that Geoffrey Canada made when speaking in Pgh about the Harlem Children's Zone is that it costs. A lot. How much money is coming in to the Homewood Children's Zone, from what source, and when?

As to the Thinking Skills- Anon, you note that "in PA there is real clarity about the Thinking Skills". Who or what group possesses this clarity?

Anonymous said...

As one who while a teacher in PPS served on the PA committees that created the PA Standards and PSSA in the early years prior to it being 'vended' out to DRC, I have the knowledge, understanding, strategies, and skills to communicate and embed these "thinking skills" situationally as well as textually across all grade levels and all content areas. Where I have done district-wide Professional Development with teachers the improvement has shown leaps of 16 to 23% in the first year_____as opposed to 5 to 10% over eight years. As stated: it is doable now in no uncertain terms. The key is teaching simple strategies applied in any situation and across any and all textual materials. You do not need to purchase anything!

Anonymous said...

International Program Catches On in U.S. Schools

The difference between AP and IB has always been explained to me as "AP teaches students WHAT to think and IB teaches students HOW to think."

Questioner said...

From the article noted above:

"Last fall, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave the program a three-year $2.4 million grant to prepare low-income and minority students to participate in the I.B."

- It seems like virtually every change made by PPS is something the Gates Foundation is interested in trying out- and that almost everything the Gates Foundation is interested in testing is being tried by PPS. At this point you have to wonder why the Gates Foundation doesn't just offer to run a school district directly.

Anonymous said...

So, are you suggesting we teach to the test? And, why do you keep puting "Thinking Skills" in quotes. Because they are not really thinking skills but test taking skills? Where is the "specific list"? That would answer my question. Sounds like you are applying for a job! Have you made your presentation to the Board? To Jerri Lippert (the head of curriculum)? Maybe it should be a course.

Teaching your "thinking skills" is nothing like what is done in Harlem. Harlem addresses everything about the child - not just the thinking skills. It addresses the family, the health care, the mental health issues, etc.

Questioner - many of the programs that I have learned about that appear to be effective for urban education are also costly. Gates just gave us $40 mil that we have to match to equal $80 mil. Hmmm - that is a lot of money. What did our leadership do to get that money? Institute merit pay. How ridiculous.

Philidelphia Public schools has a program that addresses many of the mental health issues of the students. I apologize that I cannot remember what they call it. It costs around $10 mil. It is just one strategy, but it begins to address some of the issues that we know exist and have a difficult time dealing with in the day-to-day classroom when we are so comsumed with test scores and curriculum pacing.

Anonymous said...

Questioner - If Bill and Melinda Gates ran a school, it would no longer be "public". It would most likely be charter since they would not charge tuition. And, their self-less mission is to help the public (sarcasm).

Also, if it fails the way they do it now, they don't look bad - the district does.

Their mission seems to be the rich white people coming to save the day of the poor minorities. While I am being sarcastic, there is a lot of controversy about what they do. Here are a few links about Gates. The first one is their website. The second one touches on the controversy surrounding them.

Anonymous said...

Yes, that is true," Harlem addresses everything about the child - not just the thinking skills. It addresses the family, the health care, the mental health issues, etc." Sorry, that was not clear nor it seems were the comments about thinking skills which are NOT "test taking skills" nor "teaching to the test." I can see how you were mislead and you are correct, finding an efficient way to post a "specific list" will take care of the issue.
And, NO I am not looking for a job, I have more than one, currently; but I can see how you might make that inference. Any adult can teach the thinking skills and do___if and when they have acquired those skills themselves____ at a conscious level. The work, the teaching is its own reward !

Anonymous said...

Those commenting on the Harlem School have overlooked an important fact that a wealthy patron is financing the entire experiment. It is his way of paying it forward for his success and for showing appreciation of his heritage. Kudos! Harlem is blessed to have raised a compassionate patriot!

However, urban public schools are not as fortunate and are accountable to the taxpayerssss, the many, who all have different views and opinions. Under the NCLB on super steroids, urban public schools do not have the luxury of dropping students who refuse to perform or have absentee parents like the Harlem Experiment can. The wealthy patron of Harlem hand picks his students for whom he will provide from cradle to citizenship. If the student a/o parents do not keep their end of the bargain, then they are dropped from the program. And believe you me, these parents will do anything to keep these wonderful benefits. It is a dream come true.

In addition to the hand picking, there is limited space too; not so, in public schools. If the enrollment goes up, then more desks are added to the crowded class room. So much for the importance of class size in providing an excellent education for our children; something this district does not value, but apparently the wealthy patron of Harlem understands.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 1:40 - I brought up the topic of the Harlem project. I agree with your post. The only thing I heard differently is related to space. A friend of mine visited Harlem and met Canada. He said that anyone can get in as long as the family signs a contract and holds up their end of the contract - which you mentioned. He did not get the impression that there was limited space.

That contract - if it is true - is related exactly to what you stated and is really the point I have been trying to make but maybe was not clear enough. There are programs and people out there that know of ways to make education in an urban setting successful. The problem is that we cannot implement them in a public setting!! Isn't that crazy!

Take City High Charter school - As a charter school, it has many of the elements that you mentioned: limited enrollment, ability to throw students out, ability to limit class size, etc. So, does PPS do? They go in and pick out one part of the many things that are giving them success - looping. Then they don't even do that that same way. They only do it half! At least one of the directors of City High was a PPS employee and stated publically that he had to leave the district to be able to implement what he knows to be successful.

For every GOOD idea, there will be a reason that it cannot be done in a public setting. So, what does PPS do, implement a bunch of half @!X ideas and say that we are doing something "progressive".

As you stated so well, we are at the mercy of tax payers. We are also at the mercy of individuals who think they can tell teachers what to do and have never been in a classroom (I mean administrators as well as others who never took a class related to education in their life and have never been in a school except for when they went themselves, but get on here and say how it needs to be or how it should be). We are at the mercy of parents who don't send their kids to school and then complain when their kid is not "promise ready".

It is beyond frustrating. My point in bringing the Harlem project was to say that just worrying about curriculum and merit pay is not going to solve the problems of urban education. We need to look at the problems facing the kids we teach - like this program does. The decision makers in PPS need to look at programs such as this one and make some important decisions. Once they make those decisions, they need to develop the backbone to fight for what is in the best interest of the students we teach. Current administration does not and will not do that. They make decisions based on money first. Then they jump on the trend of the day in education second. Everything that they are trying to put in place now has already been implemented to some degree somewhere else. We are not being innovative or progressive.

As someone stated on the blog about the superintendent looking for jobs in other districts - we are on a sinking ship. He is our captain who is taking us right into the iceberg. The difference is that he will jump ship while those of us who either chose to live in the city and/or chose to work in the city will be stuck cleaning up his mess.

Anonymous said...

Sorry - they said runaway train. I say sinking ship! Same idea - all out of control.

Questioner said...

Re: everything PPS is doing having been tried somewhere else- that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, if many approaches being tried elsewhere were truly evaluated and the best methods for students in PITTSBURGH were chosen. Because school districts vary in size, demographics, history, neighborhood structure and issues, job markets and many other issues, one size does not fit all. Instead, we seem to be serving as a laboratory for whatever idea the Gates Foundation would like to try out.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:13

Well your friend has mislead you about limited space. Yes the Harlem school would like to be able to educate all the students in the neighborhood, but unfortunately some are put on a waiting list if they did not win the lottery for placement. To me, 'lottery' means 'limited.' Sorry, no one said that life was fair. Fairness cannot be socially engineered. It is best to make lemonade out the lemon you were given.

Anonymous said...

I don't think he purposely misled me. It would be more likely that I misunderstood him or that I assumed wrongly. I guess I am just always hoping for the best.

Thank you for the clarification.

Anonymous said...

I think the problem is that you're talking about two different things.

There's the zone and there's the charter school. They are both under the auspices of Canada, but they aren't one and the same.

The school is by lottery and yes, it can kick kids out, it can require all sorts of contracts, etc.

I get peeved when I see those schools held up as the answer though. "Those who can, go to a charter, those who can't, get sent back to their neighborhood school." And once they're back at that school, everything is the teachers' fault. But, those teachers at the charter, who couldn't teach that kid? They're held up as the shining models for the teachers back at the public school.

What's wrong with that picture?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Anon 10:00 pm. There is no comparison. Urban public school teachers rock!

Anonymous said...

Wonder if we will be able to post such info on our walls for the next learning walks. After all, PPS administration is certain that the district has teachers who "rock".