Klingbrief May 2016
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A Place for Justice
Teaching with Conscience in an Imperfect World - An Invitation, by William Ayers

Bill Ayers' newest book is refreshingly provocative and reminds us why we teach. Part of the Teachers College Press Teaching for Social Justice Series, this small book for teachers, parents and policy makers expands on three main themes. First, Ayers believes, as Dewey did, that the way we educate our children is a true and unwavering reflection of society as it is, and that there is no better route to societal change than through the teachers in our schools. Second, Ayers knows that conditions for good learning require social justice to be a focus of each day and every decision. And third, Ayers has written an invitation. Releasing us from received wisdom and conventional thinking, the entire book invites us to imagine and embrace what our schools can be. It also delineates obstacles with a clarity that rings true. We are encouraged to avoid simply swatting the flies away from the truths we know keep us from achieving broader social justice in our teaching. And we are implored to gather up the seeds of desire, effort, desperation, willfulness and enthusiasm and to begin planting a more fertile place for justice to prosper.

Elizabeth Morley, Kobe Shinwa Women's University, Kobe, Japan
Teachers College Press, April 8, 2016
Klingbrief is a free, monthly publication of recommended articles, books, research reports and media selected by and for independent school educators.  The Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership provides graduate programs and professional development for independent school educators throughout their careers. For information about submitting to Klingbrief, please click here.
May, 2016 VOL 62

Coordinating Editor, Assistant Head, Upper School, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ

PK-12 Director of Studies, The Walker School, Marietta, GA

Klingenstein Center Director, New York, NY

Head of the Park School of Buffalo, NY

Assistant Head, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM

Visiting Scholar at the International Educational Research Centre at Kobe Shinwa Women's University, Kobe, Japan

English Department Chair, Windward School, Los Angeles, CA

Head of Lick-Wilmerding High School,
San Francisco, CA

Operations Manager, Klingenstein Center,
New York, NY

1.Civics What Do We Know?
Why Civics Is About More Than Citizenship, by Alia Wong

Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now? What is one power of the federal government? Ten such questions, from a pool of one hundred, are asked of immigrants applying to become naturalized U.S. citizens. Eight states now require high school students to pass some version of this test in order to graduate. Spearheading the effort is the Joe Foss Institute, an Arizona nonprofit, that is hoping to bring this requirement to all 50 states by 2017. Opponents regard the test, a multiple choice test about facts, as an empty symbolic gesture that sends a message that a multiple-choice exam is the key to being a successful citizen. And while the Joe Foss Institute claims to be bipartisan, others see it as a right leaning organization with an all-white board and executive leadership. Still, the evidence points to a failure of schools to realize their historic mission of preparing citizens capable of participating in a democracy. Independent schools would likely be exempt from state requirements for the citizenship test, but the schools may want to seize the opportunity to lead. The absence of bureaucratic entanglements allows independent schools to develop a meaningful test and follow students after graduation to assess civic engagement and voting participation. Establishing this kind of requirement, as a sector, could set a high bar for all schools to consider.

Pearl Rock Kane, Klingenstein Center, NY
Atlantic, September 17, 2015
2.Feedback Cause Better Learning
The Secret of Effective Feedback, by Dylan Wiliam

Teachers in the United States collectively spend millions of hours writing and giving feedback to their students. But how much of this feedback causes better student learning? Dylan Wiliam clarifies the purpose of feedback - the primary method for moving learning forward and improving future performance - and the purpose of assessments - a tool for teachers to know what to teach next and how to do it based on first seeing what the student knows. Reminding us that feedback will only be meaningful if the students feel like they belong in the classroom and trust the teacher, Wiliam outlines three methods for making feedback more effective: make it useful, turn it into detective work and move toward self-assessment. Including useful examples and methods that can be readily adapted by teachers, this article is a pithy amalgamation of what many others have written about effective feedback, and it can serve as a primer for teachers wishing to improve their own future performance in the classroom.

Danielle Passno, The Spence School, NY
Educational Leadership, ASCD, April 1, 2016
3.Emotionally Man Up
Teaching Men to Be Emotionally Honest, by Andrew Reiner

Citing research from a host of universities, Andrew Reiner, a cultural studies professor at Towson University, offers us a glimpse into what's happening on college campuses across the country on the subject of "men and masculinities." He explores aspects of male identity, normative masculinity and "whether these norms encourage a healthy, sustainable identity," considering for example that female enrollment in college has significantly surpassed male enrollment and that boys often underperform in school. Reiner explains that men's studies is growing as a discipline in its own right (not simply as a subset of women's studies), citing among other things boys' need for "the very thing they fear" in our culture: deeper emotional honesty. On college campuses, while many young women have friends, family and partners with whom they can be emotionally intimate, many young men's "romantic partners are their primary sources of intimacy." Reiner raises some compelling questions about male identity today (whether linked to the "perceived threat" of an "erosion of male privilege" or not), ultimately advocating for emotional honesty as integral to boys' education.

Meghan Talley, Windward School, CA
The New York Times, April 4, 2016
4.DifferentiatePD Is it Time to Consider Differentiated PD?
Why Don't We Differentiate Professional Development? by Pauline Zdonek

Good teachers know that each activity or lesson will not equally engage or excite every student. Differentiation in the classroom has been an understood necessity for successful classroom teachers. So why would we approach "teaching teachers" any differently? In the classroom, you have established goals and objectives your students work to achieve. In the broader context of the school, you have strategic goals and priorities that drive professional development efforts and initiatives. Valuable time and energy is often wasted in schools that introduce professional development to the faculty as if such a group is a single entity. Just like our students, our faculties are made up of unique learners. This article offers four imperatives, often used in successful classrooms, to help differentiate professional development: 1) Gauge teachers' readiness, 2) utilize teachers' interests, 3) get teachers involved, and 4) provide opportunities for continual assessment. Finally, and decisively, instead of providing a "one-shot" PD opportunity, part of ongoing teacher evaluation and professional development should be assessing how teachers are applying their learning in the classroom.

Heather Robinson, St. Andrew's Episcopal School, TX
Edutopia, January 15, 2016
5.Handwriting Hand-to-Hand Learning
Can Handwriting Make You Smarter? by Robert Lee Hotz

In "Can Handwriting Make You Smarter?" Robert Lee Hotz argues what many teachers already believe: that students who hand write their notes learn better than those who type. According to Hotz, faster note-taking does not correlate with deeper understanding of the material. Researchers have found that "the very feature that makes laptop note-taking so appealing - the ability to take notes more quickly - was what undermined learning." Interestingly, digital note-taking does appear to result in short-term gains for note-takers. But after 24 hours, those who type notes start to forget the material they transcribed. To arrive at these conclusions, researchers at Princeton and UCLA compared the work product of students who took longhand notes and found that they not only retained knowledge for longer, but also more readily understood new concepts. Adds Michael Friedman of Harvard, when we take notes, we actually "transform" what we hear, making information acquisition both dynamic and personal. Based on this research, the sharpest edge appears to still belongs to the student who can distill and synthesize information as he/she hears it and commit it to memory through writing notes by hand.

Jessica Flaxman, Charlotte Country Day School, NC
The Wall Street Journal, April 4, 2016
  Of Bits and Bricks
Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, by Michael Horn and Heather Staker

If you ever wondered what "blended learning" really means and what it may look like in schools, this book will be an informative read. It dispels several misconceptions about blended learning. First, it is important to differentiate a blended-learning school from a technology-rich school. Just providing access to electronic devices is not enough. Second, blended learning does not advocate for the obliteration of face-to-face teaching by technology. Instead, it aims to blend online learning with traditional brick-and-mortar school environments in order to take advantage of both while creating an integrated learning experience. The focus of this book is not about software or other technical logistics, but rather the necessary considerations schools should deliberate when exploring blended learning options. Although blended learning may not suit all, it is nonetheless worth knowing about because it sheds light on the ways in which we can enhance student-centered, personalized, and competency-based learning in our schools.

Meng Lusardi, Riverdale Country School, NY
Wiley, Janaury 1, 2015
7.Social Profit
Social Prophet
The Social Profit Handbook: The Essential Guide to Setting Goals, Assessing Outcomes, and Achieving Success for Mission-Driven Organizations, by David Grant

How does a school measure its success, beyond collecting quantitative data? How can a school community articulate its vision and design useful formative assessment tools to see how well it is meeting its goals? In The Social Profit Handbook, David Grant, founder of the Mountain School of Milton Academy and former president and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, offers an exciting, effective framework for schools to define, realize and measure their core purpose. Grant puts his beliefs out in front, stating that "how practitioners in the social sectors think about measurement and assessment, and how they act upon assessment and evaluation," holds the keys to their success. More concretely, he advocates for creating "mission time," during which constituents gather to ask questions such as: Are we measuring what really matters? How do we define success? He then suggests that teams collaborate to create specific indicators of success and to develop rubrics designed to improve future work. Accessible, purposeful, practical and incredibly helpful, Grant's text offers a process for school leaders, board members and teachers to boost their performance and effectively measure how well they live up to their school's mission.

Jen Hyatt, Burr and Burton Academy, VT
Chelsea Green, March 1, 2015
8.Improve   What's the Problem?
Learning to Improve: How America's Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better, by Anthony Bryk, Louis M. Gomez, Alicia Grunow and Paul G. LeMahieu

In Learning to Improve, Anthony Bryk et al. explore a new model for improvement that engages practitioners in guiding research-based change in schools. The authors recognize the failure in top-down fad initiatives that often do not address the real needs or causes of problems that teachers face day-to-day. They suggest that school improvement should be a partnership between educators, administrators and researchers that asks, "What is the problem we are trying to solve?" By exploring variations in performance, participants reveal what is or is not working within schools. This candid problem analysis scrutinizes the entire educational system in order to form theories of improvement that will guide incremental changes. As small-scale implementation of correctives is introduced, participants test and measure results to gauge improvement or possible retrogression. Throughout the process, educators continue to ask inquiry-based questions that allow them to learn quickly as they introduce ideas that eventually might lead to systemic change. The authors cite several examples of bringing this research model into schools and classrooms, noting that accelerated timelines are very possible when schools with similar problems connect.

Robert Jackson, Tirana International School, Tirana, Albania
Harvard Education Press, March 1, 2015

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