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Category Archive for 'Research'

Next live-blogging event will be from 5:15-6:15: “Eight Strategies for Using Humor to Improve Learning”. Please join us!

The event below was hosted by Spence Rogers of Peak Learning Systems. Some of the exhibitor’s sessions are like long infomercials: this one was excellent, full of quality content and take-away ideas.

ASCD Conference Coverage

It has to be a special occasion for me to be coherent, much less posting a blog entry, at 8:00 on a Saturday morning. And special it is. I’m at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development’s annual conference in Orlando. It’s much more interesting than it sounds.

I am honored to be covering the event as a member of the press for the In Practice blog. Because of the blog’s outstanding reputation, its contributors were invited to attend the ASCD conference as members of the media. So in a wonderful stroke of providence, I have the opportunity to represent the blog and cover the event as a journalist. Ahh, the benefits of living three hours from the conference location.

I’m currently in a rather dull general session (which, so far, has been only a bunch of awards and acceptance speeches). I understand the New York Times #1 bestselling author Greg Mortensen (3 Cups of Tea) is about to speak, so I’m sticking it out.

HOWEVER this morning I attended an amazing presentation about counteracting the effects of poverty in the classroom. I live-blogged the event using it Cover It Live, meaning that readers can follow along with the conference session as it happens. And because most of you have more relaxing ways to spend your weekend, each live-blog event is archived so you can peruse my notes at your leisure. It’s unedited, so you can read exactly what I was learning and thinking as the session progressed.

The preview you see below is NOT my session. Click it to view my actual notes.

The presenter was absolutely amazing, deeply grounded and focused on her vision and helping others create their own. We had an immediate connection, and I am thrilled to have secured an interview with her tomorrow morning! I’ll post info on that later.

Be sure to check back for other live events, summary recaps of conference sessions, and more as the weekend progresses. I’ll also be posting some reflections on my own blog, The Cornerstone.

Conveyer Belt and Contamination

These two words are not typically seen as positive. However, as Geoffrey Canada uses them, in regards to his Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), they are quite hopeful.

The book about his work, Whatever It Takes, by Paul Tough has gotten a lot of press in a range of places. (I’ll link to some at the end of the post.) Tough spent a significant amount of time with Canada and in the various HCZ programs in the process of researching the book. He is an editor for the New York Times Magazine and has written quite a bit on education and on poverty. He knows his stuff.

The book follows the HCZ from fairly early stages through its first couple of years. You can find brief or detailed summaries in many other locations. Amazon’s page has quite a few readers’ reviews as well as brief interviews with Paul Tough and Geoffrey Canada.

NPR’s Fresh Air has an interview with both men from September of last year. It’s about half an hour long and quite powerful because Canada is passionate about his topic. At one point near the end he says, about children living in poverty, “We’re trying to save them in groups of twenty, or forty, or one hundred while we are losing them by the tens of thousands.”

He wants to save them by the tens of thousands and he has created his ‘conveyer belt’ to achieve that end. It begins with Baby College, designed for expectant parents through parents of two-year-olds. At three, there is another program for parents designed around the developmental needs of their children. At four, children will enter the Harlem Gems pre-school program followed by Promise Academy for kindergarten on. Obviously not all children will be able to benefit from all of this. However, Canada’s goal is to get children from the beginning and support them all the way through college.

He is aware that not all children in Harlem will be lucky enough to have their parents attend Baby College or they might not win the lottery to get into Promise Academy, a charter school. Canada’s expectation is that enough children and families will be participating in parts of the HCZ that it will ‘contaminate’ Harlem with its set of values. He expects to see attitudes towards learning and intelligence changing as a result of his work.

One aspect that fascinated me was Canada’s take on KIPP schools.

“If Canada’s model was one of contamination, in which positive ideas and practices spread within a family and throughout a neighborhood, the KIPP model sometimes seemed by contrast to be one of quarantine, walling off the most promising kids from a sick neighborhood’s contagion. As Canada often said, he was tired of programs that helped a few kids ‘beat the odds’ and make it out of the ghetto; his goal was to change the odds, and to do it for all of Harlem’s kids. The idea of success in the middle of Harlem’s ocean of failure – that felt entirely wrong to him.”

I think his work has many implications for schools serving students living in poverty. I have heard criticisms of him and his work in Harlem, but I have to admit, I am quite impressed. He made decisions during those first few years that I did not agree with, but typically they were decisions he did not want to make. Some decisions were made to ensure that the money kept coming in. He also puts significant weight on test scores. His reasoning is that the children in Harlem must be able to compete with middle-class children on standardized tests if they are going to get into colleges. While the focus on testing frustrates me, I am able to see his point.

Geoffrey Canada’s programs cost a lot of money. They require significant time and energy from a lot of people. However, I think that is what is necessary to create real change in the academically neediest areas. Investing in those areas is the only way those children have a fighting chance, on a grand scale. The book is definitely worth reading.

PRI’s This American Life episode narrated by Paul Tough This half hour segment gives the basics of the book and includes clips of events at the HCZ and interviews of involved individuals. The quote that most hit me referred to a young mom at Baby College, “For most middle class kids, the path that Taisha struggled to find is so straight and well paved that they barely even notice it’s there.”
Geoffrey Canada on The Colbert Report
Paul Tough’s website and blog
Harlem Children’s Zone’s website
Geoffrey Canada’s autobiography, Fist Stick Knife Gun, on Amazon

Choice is nice, but…

Dangerously Irrelevant: Beware outside consultants? – Part 2, Ruby Payne started a whole slew of arguments about poverty. Can education “fix” poverty? Can eduction be effective without addressing the underlying poverty of the poor? There were a lot of assumptions, especially among those with a deficit view, that I’ll sum up as “poor folks, have poor habits”. The lefties in the bunch had arguments that seemed divorced from the reality of teaching in high poverty because their answer was, you need to address poverty first, which most teachers do not feel they are in a super position to address. I just think they don’t know how, and that school leaders have not yet recognized that the importance of schools to do just that.

Here is an example of that vagueness:

“The best possible thing we can do for low-income students is to fight for their basic human rights, such as equitable access to fully-equipped schools, healthcare, safe and affordable housing, and the sorts of things their wealthier peers take for granted.”– Paul Gorski

I’ve decided to do a series on poverty. The posts will start with theory, look at an anecdote from my or another teachers experience, and last, will finish with approaches that can be used in those situations. While the “solutions” may not always work, but they are more helpful than talking about how lacking poor parents are, or saying the answer is to fight poverty. This first post will be on the overall theories of poverty, next up will be on choice, and the third will be on parents and communities…

“Conservatives say if you don’t give the rich more money, they will lose their incentive to invest. As for the poor, they tell us they’ve lost all incentive because we’ve given them too much money. “– George Carlin in brain droppings

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