Sunday, February 23, 2014

Update on senate bill

Thank you all for your time and energy in reaching out to the legislature regarding SB 619 and AB 617.  I know that many people made calls, forwarded my initial email, and made their voices heard.  Several things have happened since I wrote, and I'd like to update you on them and make another call to action.

On Wednesday, Assembly Bill 617 was amended to match Senate Bill 619, which in brief is the bill intended to create a legislatively-appointed board to create new model academic standards.  On Thursday, the Assembly Education Committee indefinitely tabled consideration of the bill, but it could be reconsidered at any time (and I understand it is likely to be brought back next week).  There is still some significant push behind bringing this bill to a vote.  I do believe that our efforts in part slowed down this process and gave us more time and opportunity to be heard.

Erin Richards, the excellent reporter at the education desk of the Journal Sentinel, managed to uncover who is behind this bill.  According to her story, the bill was drafted by the Walker administration, in consultation with legislators, and was handed to Senator Vukmir for introduction. See story here:

Tony Evers, on Wednesday, issued a call to action, describing the bill and its impact. Watch his 3 minute message here:

Senator Paul Farrow, in response, wrote a scathing open letter to Dr. Evers with a number of stern accusations.  I'm attaching that memo.  In it, he cited NEA opposition to the Common Core, in the form of a letter from NEA President Van Roekel.  You can read his letter here, which is in my view inaccurately represented in Senator Farrow's letter.

We also know that Representative Theisfeldt was instrumental in not only bringing the Assembly bill into line, but leaking the details to the Common Core opposition (Stop Common Core in Wisconsin Facebook group) to ramp up support.

Finally, DPI's attorneys has reviewed the bill and weighed in on the implications. They concur that the bill as written gives the legislature the power to set standards. See memo attached.

We are still at risk and we need to make our voices heard. 
Here is my request for action.
-Read the bills and the supporting documents I've linked here.  Also read Senator Farrow's memo and my annotations in red with rebuttal points (link below), and the DPI legal memo on the implications (link below).
-Contact your senator and representative again.  My own were completely uninformed about the two bills when I called on Wednesday.
-Make two more calls if you can to members of the Senate and Assembly Education Committees.  (If you can contact them all, contact them all.)  Links below.
-Distribute this information far and wide.

I've drafted a set of talking points that you may find useful in crafting your argument (link below).  At the end are some questions that we should be asking of any legislator we talk to, and encouraging others to ask.  Calls are best, but if you can't call, emails are an excellent option. I know you are all very busy people and you may not have time to set aside to make the calls.  Many offices now have the ability to take voice messages, so you may be able to get some work done on this over your weekend.

Please don't hesitate to contact me with questions.  Remember also that DPI, by rule, cannot lobby for this, so our colleagues at the Department are counting on us to be their voice in this fight.

Have a great weekend, and thank you for all that you do for the children of Wisconsin.

Links to resources:

Michael D. Steele
Associate Professor, Mathematics Education
Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Highest effect sizes in the Math Classroom

As teachers we always believe we know what is right for students in the classroom.  We work hard, practice our skill, and care about kids.  However, if you take the time to look from classroom it is apparent we go about our skill in different ways.  This is fine for the most part but as more studies are done, and the results repeat themselves it becomes obvious there is a science to our art called education.  The studies have been done irregardless of grade level and there is some background to understand the numbers.

     - An effect size greater than 0.4 has a positive effect.
     - An effect size between 0.5 - 0.6..."your crazy not to do it."
     - and an effect size of 0.7 needs to beg the question "why are you not doing this already."

As it turns out, the teacher staple that smaller class sizes help instruction holds no merit.  Good teachers succeed in any class size.  The statistical effect for class size is 0.27.  This correlates to showing no positive effect at all.  Sorry...

On the contrary, if you would like to start off simple get your kids up and around.  The simple act of physical movement shows an effect size of 0.54 (your crazy not to do it).  The trick is, how can we structure the time with our students that gets them up and moving?

The three highest effect sizes should come as little to no surprise if you have been engaging in professional development.  

  1. Spaced vs. Mass Practice (0.71)  -  Mass practice is all students do 1 - ???.  Spaced is differentiated.  Some students do #1, ...  Other students do a different set or an entirely different practice depending on their level of understanding or areas of interest.  By doing this practice it opens the door to knowing your students well enough to differentiate.  
  2. Assessment as a Process of Formative Feedback (0.75) - Everyone knows what formative assessment is.  However, lots of teachers (math in particular) are still stuck on the summative assessment being the be all end all of student learning.  Challenge yourself to consider when learning is completed and what our job is as teachers?  If my sole job is to rate/rank my students then I am drastically selling short my abilities.  We are hired to inspire learning and engage students in a manner that causes them to dig deeper and do things they don't always feel comfortable doing.  Something called learning.  Formative assessment gives me the information necessary to know exactly where my students are at and determine the instruction necessary to get them to where we need them to be.
  3. Classroom Discourse (0.82) - Getting a discussion going in your classroom about the topic you are working on has an effect size higher than the category labeled "why are you not doing this already."  To often as math teachers we feel teaching is us talking.  In reality, the more we talk the less they learn.  Clearly there are those topics we need to describe.  The challenge is how you can get a deep discussion going about the topic.  These discussions, if done properly by letting the students do the talking will greatly increase the depth of your topic while also performing a large degree of the formative assessment needed to understand where your students are at.
The basic gist that everyone needs to hear is simple.  Do not "try" these classroom strategies.  DO THEM.  The better we do them the higher the effect.