A Clearinghouse for Martensdale-St. Marys Community Schools Professional Development

Monday, October 11, 2010

Whatever It Takes, Chapter 2

We continue our study of Whatever It Takes with chapter 2: "What Do We Do When Kids Don't Learn?" If you recall from last week's reading, this is one of the three essential questions of the PLC theory. The content of this chapter might challenge us a little by asking some difficult questions. It is important work, however. Use the time today to really dig in and address some of those tough questions with your peers. I applaud you for your work on previous chapters and it is my hope is that you and your team members will continue to work together and get the most out of your PD time. I will also encourage you to take time to read comments from the last two chapters. You'll find that the staff at MstM is a collection of conscientious, deep-thinking educators committed to student achievement. Happy reading!

1. This chapter describes the different responses of four schools that confront students who are not learning. Are there other responses you can identify?

2. Do you agree with the assertion that “in the real world of schools, we have all four of these responses occurring in the same school at the same time. . . . Students in the same school who experience difficulty in learning will be subject to very different responses based upon the beliefs and practices of their teachers”? Cite evidence from your own school to support your answer.

3. The authors contend that PLCs approach time and support for learning from a very different perspective than that of traditional schools. Summarize that difference in your own words.

4. Educators could argue that time and support for learning have always been variables in school. They could point to retention, summer school, remedial programs, and schools that design curricula to stretch 1 year of algebra into a 2-year program as examples of traditional approaches that give students extra time and support for learning. Why would the authors reject these strategies as inconsistent with their message?

5. The chapter concludes with the scenario of what happens to Johnny Jones when he is not learning. Do you agree with the idea that “this situation represents the norm in most schools?” Why or why not?

An Interesting Article

While this is certainly not required reading, this op-ed piece from the Des Moines Register echoes a lot of ideas shared in the commentary from last week's PLC Forum posting. It seems that educators all over Iowa - and probably the US - share the same sentiments when it comes to accountability and the "teaching to the test" mentality. If you are so inclined, feel free to post your thoughts.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Whatever It Takes, Chapter 1

Good afternoon!

First of all, thank your for your contributions to the previous posting. Your comments were concise yet indicative of good discussions among your team members. If you have not done so already, I would encourage you to read other groups' comments before beginning the next chapter. I look forward to even more in-depth and insightful commentary on Whatever It Takes as the year progresses. Keep an open mind as we continue reading and discussing these issues and ideas. Nothing ever changed by staying the same.

The following questions should be used as a starting point for your discussions over chapter one. You and your group may elect to simply answer the questions as they are posed, or you can put your responses in paragraph/essay form. Do what works for you, and enjoy the process!

1. Do you agree with the assertion in this chapter that “contemporary public
schools in the United States are now being called upon to achieve a
standard that goes far beyond the goals of any previous generation—high
levels of learning for all students?” If this represents a new goal, what
were the goals of schooling in the past?

2. This chapter introduces three critical questions the authors maintain
schools must consider if they are to fulfill their stated mission of “high
levels of learning for all.” Do you agree with that assertion? Do you feel
any of the questions are not “critical,” and that a school could help all
students learn at high levels without the collective consideration of that
question? Are there other questions you feel should be added to the list?

3. This chapter introduces the topic of formative versus summative
assessments—a topic that will be referenced repeatedly throughout the
book. What is the distinction between the two?