Education Corner 12 - Commitment to ongoing training

Commitment to ongoing training - FEB 2016

The matter of what to teach usually comes before aspiring teachers learn the how to teach. That is teachers learn most of their science and social studies standards content in before tackling the methods of teaching. The Data for Decision Making (DDP) project allows us to see where our teachers can benefit most from On Going Teacher Training in the content areas of science and social studies. When teachers are hired they are expected to teach five different sciences each year in our elementary schools. We know that some teachers have taken coursework in some of these sciences and not others. But recall that PDOE follows the FSM Science Standards which require each teacher to teach; Science as Inquiry; Earth AND Space Science; Life AND Environmental Science; Physical Science AND Technology; and Marine Science. The DDP asks teachers to self-identify their weak areas in the sciences (and social studies) and ask for On Going Teacher Training for improvement. We all see that only by improving teachers so we can we improve the students’ learning.
Last issue we went to great length on the importance of curriculum material,explaining the efforts to survey the curriculum available to students and teachers in the sciences (and social studies). To date have found very little and certainly less that is readable for a student. Remember when teaching sciences or social studies the teacher should have reading, writing, listening and speaking skills incorporated in every lesson taught. This will greatly improve our students reading scores on the FSM standardized exams to students. In the content standards teachers are asking for training in all sciences at every grade level. The DDP is quite revealing and it leads us to another purpose that being Professionalism. PDOE is calling for an attitude change and one that promotes one hallmark of the true professional teacher and school principal.
Commitment to Life-long learning: This is a simple phrase that means continuously updating of training. The necessary knowledge and skills of professionals needed in today’s ever-changing world is constantly changing. Readers need only read some current events in the world and one understands this fact. To meet these changes, formal and informal On Going education should be an important part of a professional teacher’s life. Why is this? It is simply because the answers to the basic daily questions of: What am I going to teach? And the ever changing question of how am I going to teach? ; change constantly. What do teachers teach? They teach the approved standards and benchmarks. For sure, the curriculum standards and benchmarks change as new content is added to the total body of world knowledge. Teachers must be current and aware of new content in their curriculum. How do teachers teach? For sure, teachers must be constantly updated to meet changes and new methods, strategies, and skills necessary to teach in today’s world. Presently what is known as “Best Practices” must be part of all On Going training. It’s all about “hands on: and active learning by students and teacher guidance rather than the old lecture- Teacher talks, students listen and take notes for the test. The use of technology for improvement is our most important example. How do teachers know students have learned what has been taught? New techniques for measuring learning are important for teachers to know but changes in what “the public” demands to be measured are equally important. Likewise, new ways to creating positive learning environments should always be sought out by professional teachers. With On Going education, teachers find ways to address gaps in weak areas of their day to day teaching lives.
Some continuing education is generally required for professionals to maintain professional licensing or certification. This usually means continuing education units or college credits recognized by the licensing agency. For teachers, this can often mean advancement on a professional pay-scale. This condition obviously serves as strong motivation when more paycheck money is tied to continuing education. However, sometimes this is not the case and teachers must take additional training just to maintain their certification. Naturally, it is always better when teachers develop the internal motivation and hunger for improvement and continue education because they want to improve and become better teachers for their students. The internal desire for improvement is certainly important. It is important when On Going education not is not paid for by the usual Pell Grant. When such is the case other national, state, or local tax money or outside funding sources will be needed. Is it worth it? Perhaps the following little story can illustrate.
The young man was attending a 25 year party for the worst professor he had experienced as a graduate student at the university. As he walked besides his wise old mentor he said “I did not know Professor X had taught for 25 years” to which the mentor quickly replied “He hasn’t taught 25 years. He has taught the same bad year 25 times”
Curiosity is the cure to boredom—there is no cure for curiosity womackandassociates765@gmail.com

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Education Corner 10 - The C-word Revisited and the DDP

18 JAN 2016

About 10 days ago I was informed that someone was expressing some serious disagreement with the W&A (2015) EC Column—the C-word in the on-line Micronesian Forum. It is a public forum so I immediately visited that site and indeed found a headline--COM-Professor Dr. Womac and his concept of culture and change. Is he real? The reader not only was disagreeing but was quite angry. At first I was taken aback because the interpretation was certainly not my intent. When this occurs I always take it to mean I was unclear and should try again. I did so and 7-8 others joined in and some real critical thinking occurred. But the whole exercise required the initial objections. Someone must challenge in this case the authority, me. As I mentioned in one EC (The R-word) when I taught at the college I always told the students how I wished someone would just stand up and say “Dr. Womack-I disagree and here is why”. I always pointed out it is one way to develop critical thinking skills. But my students always fell back on the R-word telling me that they just cannot be disrespectful to an old man-a professor-a doctor. This is actually why I enjoyed the criticisms and joined in the discussions and as always— learned some more about Pohnpeians and Pohnpeian Culture. EC readers can view the various discussions at the Micronesian Forum and see folk’s opinions on many topics. I will now visit myself at least monthly as I did several years ago.
However the discussions force me to repeat several points EC has mentioned earlier
• Dr. Womack is no longer a professor at COM-FSM
• Womack and Associates (2015) is simply a group of professors who are “standing ready” to help train teachers and write textbooks and other much needed curriculum materials as called upon.
• Dr. Womack is a voluntary point person for W&A (2015) and serves as spokesperson, develops specific training and curriculum proposals, and writes the Education Corner. He is the Senior Associate—because he is the oldest of all Associates and he is real
• Always feel free to mail us at womackandassociates765@gmail.com with questions or criticisms. These are always answered within 24 hours. We accept all questions even those we are unable to answer—when that happens we will say so. If you want to air complaints publically that’s fine too.
• W&A (2015) has only one current project with Pohnpei State titled Data for Decision Making Project (DDP)
Data for Decision Making
All the Education corners to date were written with this project in mind. We introduced you to little Willy doing first grade math and sister Willymina doing first grade addition problems. One had 80% and improvement was simple. The other missed four out of five and improvement may take more time. It was pointed out that it is the wrong answers that we actually want to look at. That tells us the improvement areas. Further, we introduced topics as need for evidence; FSM Accreditation; the R-word and C-word, standards and benchmarks; getting students to school and on time; Student Learning Outcomes; and assessment for improvement. But these were just preliminary to the project. We were trying to do a little education about Pohnpei schools, the teachers and the students and test scores on National examinations. We stated that educators, parents, and the community at large wishes to see improvement. Everyone does. But it is very possible. We firmly believe that improving students requires improving teachers. When we do this student scores will improve. This is an obvious truism but is sometimes ignored.
During the next several months we will test all elementary teachers on the science and social studies standards. This enables us to see the strengths of the teachers and weaknesses of the teachers. It is on these weaknesses where specific focus for Continuing Education can improve individual teachers. We can see individual school weaknesses and like groups of weaker teachers and treat them. We treat teachers as we expect teachers to treat students—that is when they don’t do well we offer a prescription—as do doctors. By focusing on teacher weakness we know where and to whom to offer Continuing Education. We know of no profession where Continuing Education in not found and usually it is required. At the same time the project focuses on the School Principal and the role of the school’s curriculum leader. This role is critical as we all work with a new system that grants all schools more independence. The demands on the school principal are almost over whelming. This project adds one more. Get your teachers into Continuing Education and see to their improvement.
And At the same time we shall inventory all science and social studies curriculum in each classroom in every school. We shall see where there are needs for new textbooks. These should be written at grade level using our local environment the reference. Next EC we will do “Making Relevant Curriculum. We think many of you will learn quite a bit from this upcoming topic.

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Education Corner 7 - More about Evidence

Readers, we think you have likely already guessed that recent columns have tried to introduce the idea of assessing or gathering evidence of student learning. This is the concern to all of us—what are the children learning in school and how well are they learning it. Further, as a community, what evidence or proof do we need from the schools our children attend? How do we know just exactly what our children are learning? Do student grades tell us? Or do test scores tell us? In fact talking with you about evidence that our Pohnpeian (and FSM) students are learning will be the focus for EC for months to come. But please remember if we are not happy with the grades or test scores it is just an opportunity for improvement. This is our Education Corner theme. Assessment should always be used for improvement
Last EC we left you with many frustrated parents at a graduation wondering how their children made the "B" honor role but did not pass the entrance test with a score high enough to enter the high school. Recall the test was based upon the 8th grade curriculum standards and the test was to give some evidence as to the students learning at the end of elementary school. A little review here— standards are what the students are supposed to be achieving–reading and writing at an 8th grade level; doing math at an 8th grade level; and understanding their social studies and their sciences at an 8th grade level.
Naturally, the parents in the story had every right to ask the question-how can this happen? And it is very understandable why the parents were upset. Can you figure out what happened at this school? Some might say that the teachers were grading too easy. But what does 'too easy' mean? Others might say teachers were not teaching the material, the curriculum properly. Many go as far as saying the 8th grade teachers are just "bad" teachers or even the 7th and 8th grade teacher were "bad". But, whatever, we can speculate this for sure. If the test was based upon the FSM Curriculum Standards and Benchmarks for 8th grade, then certainly these benchmarks were not learned by 2/3rds of the 8th grade class. The students were not learning the 8th grade standards. Perhaps they were still learning 5th or 6th grade standards. Or perhaps they did not learn the 7th-grade standards before they went to 8th grade standards. Many different things could have gone wrong but one thing was obvious. The students did not learn the standards, and the B grades did not indicate "above average" on 8th grade standards. But what does this mean? In keeping with the EC theme— Assessment Is For Improvement—it means this school had better get about improving something. And while we told you the story was not absolutely true, let's just say a few things were altered to protect those involved so many years ago.
However, the story had a very happy ending. With a little help the school principal analyzed the test scores and found out the areas of the test that the 8th graders failed. The principal then informed the 7th and 8th grade teachers to address all of the weak or failed areas the next year as the #1 priority. The principal reassigned teachers to their strongest subject. The 6th grade teacher was the school's best math teacher. She now taught 6th, 7th and 8th grade math. All teachers were ordered to teach the standards and the principal made this his number one school priority for the next school year. With hard work and concentrating on the 8th grade standards and benchmarks, in the following year, more than 80% of the 8th grade passed the entrance test to the high school.
All these standardized tests our children are taking are almost what we call high stakes tests. We say this because reporting and then improving our standardized tests scores are tied to funding. Not getting funding makes these tests very important.
For reader education, high-stakes tests are not really set up for improvement. They are set up to screen or filter the test-takers. They are sometimes pass or fail and sometimes a score will rank the test-taker against the others taking the same test. For example, an employment test as for government jobs given to 1000 applicants may only consider the top 10 in rank order of scores. Certainly, the NSTT is high-stakes as passing means a teacher license or certification. A 'no pass' means no certification and therefore no teaching position. If you finish and wish to teach in Guam or the U. S., teachers may run into teacher tests called the Praxis. The NSTT is similar in nature to the Praxis. The College of Micronesia Entrance Test (COMET) is high-stakes. Pass and you are in college. A 'no pass' means you will not be a college student until you can pass the COMET. Passing a General Equivalency Development Test (GED) means you are judged to be the same as a high school graduate and can enter COM-FSM (if you pass the COMET). Another high-stakes test for many Micronesians is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). To be accepted into the U. S. military requires the high school diploma or a GED and passing the ASVAB in order to enter the U. S. armed forces. And, to be sure, these high stakes tests are in the English language. So English proficiency is the real basis for success in these win-lose situations.
And very finally and with the highest respect to our vernacular languages, English is the key. Get evidence that the students are reading, writing, listening and speaking at the standard level of their grade in English and we are well on the way to improvement in all the school subjects.

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Education Corner 9 - the C-word

By Richard Womack, Ed.D - 31 DEC 2015

Last edition I wrote about the R-word- Respect. I wondered out loud about the difference between having respect (in one’s heart) and showing respect (by one’s actions). I was speaking about what we in the U S might call manners or social etiquette. By the end of the EC column I noted I was happy a Pohnpei Studies Program was being introduced next year and I am sure our Pohnpeian experts in Pohnpeian Culture will handle the R-word just fine. It is the C-word-Culture that is a good topic for the year’s final EC. It’s good because it comes with two other C-words- Confusion and Change. These are very good C-words as well. Culture is social studies with standards and benchmarks to be learned by students. And it is confusing as it is taught in an environment of cultural change. No one can stop change we can only make decisions how we will manage or cope with the change. We have already mentioned language. Language is a group’s primary cultural marker—the language in the FSM is English this shows you the first major change. A look at Trust Territory education gives us three other drivers of change.
American Schools—Trust Territory Times (1945-1986, taken from Micronesian Seminar) and directly from An Introduction to Professional Teaching and Student Learning
The educational thrust of the American administration for 40-plus years is difficult to summarize in a few sentences. Early policies, established under the Navy and the first decade of the Civil Administration in the Trust Territory, were later reversed during the 1960s, as hundreds of classrooms were built, expatriate teachers hired on, and English made the official medium of instruction in the schools. Additional educational programs for those outside of schools were implemented, largely through U.S. federal programs. The handicapped, the aged, unemployed, school dropouts, teachers with previous classroom experience, and others have been the target of these programs.
It is not easy to find a clear statement of the educational goals of the American administration, particularly one that is adequate to encompass the various kinds of educational activities that the U.S. has undertaken. There were, however, certain implicit goals that seem to underlie the direction (that education in Micronesia has) taken during the past ten years. In the first place, education was aimed at preparing young and old to participate in a democratic society, one in which their own choices are of great consequence. Hence, the school system aimed at providing the kind of information and mental enlightenment that would enable future voters to understand a democratic government and to make wise and constructive choices in the future. It should be noted that this is the same basic aim that education experts have ascribed to the public school system in the United States. Understandably enough, American education has been charged with the task of preparing the young for insertion into a democracy; and when American education travels abroad, it is likely to retain the same fundamental goal—even in those overseas possessions without a democratic cultural tradition.
Second, education in the Trust Territory seemed to be about directing Micronesians towards the larger world beyond their islands. In principle, at least, education was to prepare Micronesians to adapt to the inevitable changes that will be brought here in the future, as well as to adjust to new surroundings elsewhere if they choose to leave the islands. This goal was reflected in the orientation our college age students to the curriculum of the “great world beyond”. This resulted in the push to send as many young people as possible to colleges outside of Micronesia. The very decision to use English as the medium of instruction in the schools was partially based on the reasoning that it would provide an effective communication link with the outside world.
Third, education was geared to encourage people to fully enter the money economy. The young Micronesian, it was expected, would move directly from school into wage employment. One of the major concerns of education in recent years, in fact, has been furnishing suitable enough skill training in school so that the student will be able to find a job after his/her graduation (if he/she is not lucky enough to be able to attend still another school). At times, it began to appear as if the real purpose of school was to equip the young for future employment.
There are, no doubt, a number of other important characteristics of present-day education in Micronesia that could be added. These three, however, are enough to illustrate the fact that the major goals of education—and of political and economic development as well—have a distinctively American (U S) flavor to them. Democratic participation in society, an openness to the world-at-large, and entrance into the dollar economy imply certain values that are fundamental to a people. And it is these values—especially the one of freedom of choice—that underpins American education. These are new values and when adopted by education force us into an environment of cultural change. Just look around—change is all around us.
Finally, what do you think is the purpose of education in Micronesia today? Is it for employment or for skills to emigrate if there are no jobs? Perhaps it is. But to many educators the task of education is to help society cope with change. We cannot stop change but perhaps it can be managed a bit. As a student once told the author many years ago—“I am here at CCM to learn the new ways and my brother was left home to learn the old ways. I know that a lot of what I will learn about the new ways may not be good and that I will have to give up some of the old ways. The whole thing frightens me.” This gentleman is soon to retire with 30 years in the U S military and still greets Micronesians in Hawaii reminding them of their pride and the changes they are about to find. The brother who stayed home to learn the old ways learned of navigation from his uncle Pius "Mau" Piailug. Teaching and learning culture is not as easy as we might wish it were as these two brothers from Satawal taught me.

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Education Corner 6 - Questions at Graduation: An Almost True Story

09 NOV 2015

Quite a few years ago, an 8th grade graduation was held at a middle-sized Micronesian elementary school with two 8th grade classrooms and 60 graduating students. As is always the case at these graduations, the students were running here and there; boys in white shirts and black pants and girls in new white dresses. A few of the girls had been to the beauty shop in town but all of them had their beautiful hair all pretty and nicely done. The boys looked clean and handsome but, as is usually the case, a few shirt tails were hanging out. And while the boys were handsome, many did not look comfortable— all dressed up.
Families filled the school parking lot with their cars and it seemed everyone had mwarmwars, both store bought and handmade. The flowers were for the graduates and for parents and, of course, anyone who enjoyed the dressing up for a graduation. With 60 graduates, at least 120 chairs were reserved for mothers and fathers, or grandmothers and grandfathers, or aunties and uncles, or whoever the primary care-givers might be. The rest of the school was filled with brothers and sisters and the many cousins who happened to come that day. The mood was festive, but it was hot and people did mention that they hoped the speeches would not be too long. A big man already perspiring noted that the graduation the year before was almost two-and-a-half hours long. A woman beside him said she hoped it was shorter this year, and the few that overheard the comments all nodded in agreement.
Then some 7th grade boys and 7th grade girls acting as ushers and usherettes began to pass out the graduation programs. All the graduates were listed on these nicely printed papers along with a few honored guests and speakers. There was a Roman Catholic Deacon giving the opening prayer and a Protestant Pastor giving a Benediction. The school after all had both Catholic and Protestant families and both branches of the Christian religion were always welcome and the clergy always made themselves available. The main focus of the written program was naturally the graduates. As usual, they were listed alphabetically with a Susaly Amberdink at the top and Wheezly Zitterly at the end. Everyone searched the program for family and then friends for recognizable names. There was Limper Ramon listed as the Valedictorian and Pepperset Saboda listed as giving some welcoming remarks. All four of these eight graders Susaly, Wheezly, Limper. And Pepperset had asterisks placed next to their names. Anyone reading the program could see that many graduates had the "*" placed next to their names. And if one were to count, 40 out of the 60 students had the "*" next to their names. Even the 5th graders knew what to do when they saw the "*". It meant that they should look at the bottom of the page or the end of the program. There you would find the "*" and the explanation or meaning of the "*". In this particular program the "*" said, "Principal's Honor Roll 3.0 Grade Point Average (B) or above".
As the crowd grew restless for the graduates to begin their marching and the ceremony to begin, some parents began to remark about the size of the honor roll list.
"Look how many students made the honor roll this year," said Mrs. Ramon the proud mother of the Valedictorian.
"Indeed," said Mr. Saboda. "The teachers must be doing a good job this year. I remember only a few years ago, only 15 or so students made the honor roll."
"Well, perhaps," said Wheezly Zitterly's mother. "I am so very happy that Wheezly is on the honor roll, but I am equally disappointed that he did not pass the National Standards Test so he can go to high school. I don't know what to do with Wheezly. He is 14 years old and he cannot go to high school and is too young to get a paying job. Even clerks at the local stores must have a high school diploma. I guess he can feed the pigs and help on the land."
"What do you say Mrs. Zitterly?" whispered Mr. Amberdink. "Did you say that your boy did not pass the NST but is on the B-honor-roll? I was sitting here so embarrassed seeing my daughter Susaly's name on the honor roll and knowing she did not pass the NST. She was so happy. 'Daddy! Mommy' she exclaimed. 'I made the Principal's honor roll. Aren't you proud of me?' And both her mother and I were happy. Therefore I did not say anything to her because she was so happy about her B average and all."
"Exactly right, Mr. Amberdink," said Mrs. Zitterly. "I did not want to make my poor Wheezly feel bad. He struggles in school sometimes and when he yelled 'honor-roll, honor-roll' I did not want him to feel bad. I did not want to bring up the obvious question."
"I know it is too late now but we must ask. We must!" continued Mr. Amberdink. "how can our children be on the Principal's B honor roll and not pass the High School entrance test—the NST?"
This story was made for EC so we could continue to discuss with the public this whole idea of evidence and assessing our students in all the standards and benchmarks. Sometimes it is with grades and sometimes with standardized test scores.
Is our story true? No! Could the story be true? Absolutely! Can students bring home good grades and not do well on the National Standards Tests and other standardized tests for evidence of learning? Sure!
In our next EC we will discuss all the ways the story could be true and where the responsibility lies for improving. Remember all of these student scores should and will be used for improvement. This is the major purpose of assessment and this EC column.

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Education Corner 8 - Understanding Evidence in English

by Richard Womack, Ed.D - 10 DEC 2015

Several weeks ago I attended an FSM workshop to discuss results of the National Minimum Competency Test (NMCT) in Reading and Mathematics. These tests, developed by our good partners from the Pacific Resources for Educational Laboratory (PREL), are the only FSM nation's educational student assessment instruments developed for FSM use at present. In all the FSM schools reading tests are given to 6th, 8th and 10th graders and math tests to the 4th, 6th, 8th and 10th graders. The results of students, their scores, are our evidence of student learning in English Reading and English Math. I say English Math because it is taught and learned using words. You always hear that math is a "Universal Language" as if was spoken by everyone. While a formula y=mx+b is the same world-wide the teacher must explain using words. It must be explained that the formula is about the slope of a line-how steep a line is, the angle of the line and even if the line is backwards. The teachers teach this and the students learn this in English. To keep everything simple our students' academic achievement rises and falls on students' ESL skills. EC readers understand this—you do not have to like it and many don't. It does not mean we ignore our vernacular languages but English is the name of the game for academic success—like it or not. This has nothing to do with intelligence and there are many geniuses that do not speak English and many brilliant people who have never been in a school classroom. It's a skill to be taught and learned. If we want improved evidence it will come from improved English teaching. Moreover, I am considered fairly competent with English because people see me reading, writing, listening and speaking English at a high level. But I cannot teach English—I was not trained in this special skill. Not only must our teachers be highly competent in reading, writing, listening and speaking English they must teach the language-knowing English and teaching English are not the same. . And while I do not have such skills I admire our teachers as they work at this. But we must do more than admire effort we must improve the teachers so they can improve the students—and their evidence on tests as the NMCT. The U S Government would like improvement in FSM and Pohnpei and ties this improvement to our funding for education. While this is important we cannot think this way. We want improved scores because they indicate our children are building their foundation for academic success. We are going to improve—but we are not doing this for the United States—we must do it for ourselves.
Continuing, at the workshop participants reviewed the reading and the math scores data but most important the participants learned more about a very difficult subject, statistics. Important for and all information was presented in English. As said, English is my native language and I have even taught a little "basic statistics" to my students— of course in English. I do not know about the other participants but I had to keep my brain in high gear and listen very carefully. Because statistics is difficult but everything was in English and I was grateful. The PREL consultants and the group discussed a "Student Report Card" something that took the students' scores and could show parents (and the community) how the students performed in everyday language to everyday people. The question was asked— should this "Student Report Card" be in the vernacular language? I wondered to myself if statistics even in vernacular could be made clear to parents.
Continuing further, I slipped out of the workshop and headed for my Parent Club meeting at Nett School where we have a 6th grader. My wife Kanep had to attend to a family emergency and sent me on my own—armed with my college degrees but with only poor Pohnpeian language skills. I saw many of my fellow parents (and caregivers), friends, and family. I was greeted warmly as Kaniki not Dr. Womack and always in the vernacular. The Parents Club President was the only exception—he acknowledged me publically and I said in my weak Pohnpeian "I will help the school in any way I can" waived, sat down and kept my mouth shut. The rest of the meeting I could always "get the drift" but when they began talking really fast about specifics on some construction—I was lost. I can get by and understand the general but often get lost in the specifics. I thought about the "Student Report Card". Most of the folks at the meeting had English skills about like my Pohnpeian. A group of parents in the U S would not likely understand the "stats" in their own language so I am unsure just how this evidence on reading and math will made clear to my fellow parents at Nett-regardless of language.
Finally today EC concludes with old some news and some good news. The old news may be new news to EC readers. Imagine this-every teacher in every grade must teach standards in all the following besides reading and math. Every teacher in every grade (1- 8) must teach—science and social studies. Every year in every grade the standards require Science as Inquiry-Earth and Space Science-Life and Environmental Science- Physical Science and Technology-Marine Science-Civics/Government-History— Geography-Culture and Economics. Every teacher in every grade is responsible for teaching all of these. Are all of these taught by every grade and every teacher? Are there books for students and teachers for every subject every year-every grade?- Wisely in these subjects PDOE is beginning this month to test every single elementary school teacher on the science and social studies standards. We must be sure that our teachers understand before they teach. That data will show us where teachers are weak so we can provide Continuing Education. Together with the testing and we will survey all curriculum materials in every elementary school—every grade and every room. Then we make the appropriate books at the appropriate reading levels. EC will give you updates on this project and with data you will understand and show you exactly how PDOE intends to get good student learning evidence in science and social studies.

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Education Corner 5

The EC readers have some class work rather than homework so please do read carefully and participate today
Little Willy's Evidence
Look at Little Willy's math problems. Look the problems over, correct them and then make some comment on Little Willy's work. How did he do? What has Little Willy learned? Just comment about what you see here. Look carefully.
1) 2+2=4
2) 3+3=6
3) 2+4=7
4)4+4=8
5)1+2=3
Comment: __________________________ ___________________________________ __
If you are like most readers, you will see there are certain things you can say about Little Willy and these problems. You could say "Little Willy is doing addition." That would be true. You might go further and say "Little Willy is doing simple addition problems" and that is also true. You might also say "Little Willy is doing simple addition problems using one digit numbers" and that would be good and very true as well. However, if you are like most people you probably looked at Little Willy's problems and then said "Hey, Little Willy missed #3. 2+4 is 6 not 7." If you saw this, you likely said this right away and, of course, you are correct. 2+4 does not equal 7. Some people (most) are actually happy when they see this obvious mistake. They report that they thought the mistake was accidental and they like to find mistakes. They say they like to find out when something is wrong and point the error out. Students say they "feel smart" when they find mistakes made in books or by their teachers. We could also ask how we should mark Little Willy's paper. Some of you might say "Get a red pen and mark that #3 wrong." Let's let Little Willy know right away that #3 is incorrect—#3 is wrong. Yes, that would certainly show Willy that one was wrong—#3. A big red mark—an X. Finding out what is not correct is important but it is not everything.
Let's stop and think for just one moment. You could have said "Hey Little Willy got #1, #2, #4 and #5 correct." You could have looked at the problems and said "Four problems are correct." That is an equally correct answer, Right? Of course, it is true and correct but somehow to say four are correct does not seem as important as the idea that one was wrong. Think about four out of five being correct. That certainly is not bad. If you are playing baseball and you go to bat five times and get four hits—that's .800 or eight-hundred as baseball players call it. If you are playing basketball and you make four out of five in shooting that is 80% (the same as .800). And 80% in basketball is quite good even great. And all students know that 80% is usually a B or B- and that's pretty good. So maybe we could have looked at little Willy's paper and said "This is quite good Willy got four correct and only one incorrect. I think I will put four big C's next to #1 #2 #4 and #5. We look to correct the paper with numbers or quantitatively. In education we measure this way—quantitatively. If we measure with words—like Little Willy did good, poor or bad that is called qualitative assessment and words like these are not how we measure. Good, average and poor does not give us evidence where 90%, 70% or 50% gives us better evidence.
This is just a little activity to get you thinking about this idea of assessing or evaluating or even grading. The mistake was made on purpose. It was made for several reasons. First, it was made to show you that perhaps we all look for or zero in on the negative first and maybe that is not always the best way to see assessment and evaluation. The mistake was made so that you might think about assessment, evaluation and grading as seeing what is right or correct as well as what is wrong or incorrect. Second, the mistake was made so that you had something to correct and improve for Little Willy's paper for next time. We are happy for Willy and his 80%, but we cannot ignore the fact that Little Willy somehow believes that 2+4=7. We must help little Willy, and in this case it is very easy. "Hey Little Willy," you might say. "Next time you see 2+4, make two marks and then four marks on your scratch paper—then count them up. You will have six." Or "Little Willy, next time put up two fingers on one hand and four fingers on the other. Use your nose to count them and you will see that 2+4=6." We want beginning teachers to think this way. We want a parent to look at what is right AND what is not right. Then, we want you to look at all this through the "eyes of improvement." We know that if you look at evidence as how to improve teaching and learning you will be better for this. If there is something incorrect—what must we do to make it correct? If Little Willy misses lots of problems, like four out of five, then somehow we must say—can the teacher do something better? Can the teacher do better if he uses some manipulatives or rocks or marbles? Results of tests and scores that represent learning are far too often used for ranking students and schools or used to criticize teachers and the schools. When results are not good, the first thing we must say is—how can we improve this? This year EC will discuss some test scores of Pohnpei students. No one will be happy with the scores but if we think improvement we will not be discouraged. And EC will offer some ways to improve teaching so we can get about improving student learning. Student learning can always be improved. Evidence will show us some areas needs lots of improvement other areas not as much. But think improvement!
Lastly, how would you say Little Willy did—qualitatively (with words)? If you know Little Willy is in the first grade, you probably say he did pretty well or not too bad. If the student is called Little Willy because he is a short 12th grader, you might say not too well or pretty bad. This is because adding these simple numbers are first-grade benchmarks and not 12th. Either way, Little Willy gets 4 out of 5 or 80%—which is the quantitative answer but the fact that it represents a 1st grade benchmark is very important-so words do have a place here.

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