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Posts tagged ‘state standards’

“Breathe. Don’t worry about the test.”

I’ve been saying this for years.

Don Gifford, Kansas Department of Education social studies consultant, has been saying it.

And now?

Diane Debacker, Education Commissioner for the state of Kansas, is saying it.

What are teachers supposed to do? Just teach. Breathe. Don’t worry about the test.

What we’re trying to do is change the conversation . . . But we have lived for the past 12 or 13 years with it being all about assessment results, so it’s going to take us a little bit of time.

In an article published in this morning’s Wichita Eagle, DeBacker shared her feelings and suggestions about the new type of test being rolled out this spring. Designed to reflect new Common Core state standards, the new assessments will feature more complex questions and “technology-enhanced” items that require students to enter numerical answers, drag and drop items into correct categories, or highlight portions of text that support a central idea.

The tests will be shorter this year but questions are richer and more complex, designed to better measure students’ critical thinking skills. Read more

Tip of the Week: MapStory. It’s Wikipedia for Maps

Okay. Not sure if I should be impressed or freaked out by the fact that the founder of MapStory was also one of the original officers of In-Q-Tel. In-Q-Tel, as we all know, is the venture capital group working to keep the CIA equipped with the latest in information technology.

I’m gonna go with freakishly impressed.

Because MapStory looks like a very handy tool for teachers looking for ways to incorporate high-level discipline specific thinking skills into their geography and history instruction. And I’m sure there’s not any chance of teachers getting caught up in some sort of illegal international information gathering syndicate through MapStory.

Pretty sure.

Yesterday I shared some thoughts about using maps to to help generate great questions related to the Kansas state social studies standards and the Common Core. Part of what I didn’t talk about was the last part: Read more

History Tech Podcast 5: Don Gifford, KSDE, and passionate teachers

I get the chance to work with all sorts of extraordinary people doing what I do.

Today you meet one.

Don Gifford is the Social Studies Consultant for the Kansas Department of Education and is responsible for the coordination of social studies standards, assessment, and instruction in the state. He spends much of his time working with Kansas districts and teachers to improve teaching and learning.

He’s been herding cats for the last 18 months getting the new state standards written and approved by the state Board. And as a member of the herd, I know how hard that has been! In this podcast, Don talks about the new standards, the perfect social studies classroom, and shares two pieces of advice.
Read more

Data, information, knowledge, wisdom

I often get the opportunity to talk with teachers about teaching and best practice. It’s one of my favorite things. Small groups, large groups, one on one. It doesn’t matter. Having conversations about the art and science of teaching is always a good thing.

And I hear myself sharing with teachers one particular catchphrase over and over:

data, information, knowledge, wisdom

It’s basically the steps we need to take when we plan instruction.

  • Train kids to collect data.
  • Train kids to organize the data into patterns.
  • Train kids to make conclusions based on those patterns.
  • Train kids to act on their conclusions.

Yeah. I know. Simple on paper, hard to implement in real life. But as teachers, it seems as if we often stop after the first or second step. Read more

Kansas State Social Studies Standards in home stretch

I had the chance to spend some time this week working with the Kansas social studies standards review committee. Our task was to begin and finish the final review process of the state standards.

We’ve talked about the new state standards before. It’s been an exciting year and we’re getting close to the final state board presentation. The document is very different than our current set of standards with much of our work focused around the philosophy and thinking of people like Sam Wineburg. We also worked to incorporate the ideas embedded in the Common Core literacy standards for Social Studies.

The result?

A document that encourages the teaching of social studies process rather than social studies content. It’s this shift of emphasis that makes the new standards such a cool document for me. After 10+ years of focusing on specific and minute details measured by a multiple choice test, we’re moving in the opposite direction – asking teachers to focus instead on helping kids to analyze, investigate, evaluate, justify, construct, and create.

What does it mean?

Two things. A totally different type of test and some uncomfortable classroom teachers. Both will require perhaps more work to fix than it took to create the new standards document itself.

Test creation is already in the works. Using an online writing tool, we will bank a ton of primary and secondary documents available to teachers and students throughout the year. A series of writing prompts will be created for each standard and course unit. When taking the test, students will select a prompt, access the documents, and create a pre-writing outline highlighting which documents they plan to use and how they will be used. This outline will be scored with a rubric. Students will then write a formal response to the prompt, using their pre-write document. This response will also be scored with a rubric.

The cool thing is that while these tests will be used at the state level, teachers can also score them at the classroom level. It’s this ability to have both summative and formative data that I really like. Obviously much work is needed on that piece – selecting documents, writing rubrics, creating prompts – but this is so much better than a multiple choice test.

The second thing about uncomfortable teachers is a whole other issue. We understand that asking teachers to teach this way will cause some problems. We know that a few teachers may choose to continue to teach in a “traditional,” stand and lecture style. But we also know that many teachers are more than ready for this sort of document. They will require some serious professional learning to help them understand what all of this looks like in the classroom and how to go about putting the document’s ideas into practice.

The good news is that the pendelum has shifted. Memorizing content is not good enough anymore. We’re moving in the right direction.

We didn’t finish our review, by the way. We had some great conversation and we made some changes. But more work remains.

Wanna help? Download the Mission Purpose and Standards. It’s the series of Benchmarks listed under the Standards that will be tested. Get a sense of the philosophy of the document. (This document does not reflect changes made this week. Some serious editing still remains.)

Then download the 8th grade Instructional Narrative and Content Outline. Every grade and course has one. These outlines provide guidance to teachers only and do not include any content that teachers are mandated to teach. The 8th grade has been edited and gives you an idea of the look and feel of what other outlines will look like.

Finally, download the course or grade you teach. These are much rougher and do not include any of the changes made this week.

Tell us what you think. A little extra help is a good thing!

(Sorry. The 1st grade draft is not ready to share yet!)

Download Kindergarten
2nd Grade
3rd Grade
Download 4th Grade
Download 5th Grade
Download 6th Grade
Download 7th Grade Geography
Download 7th Grade Kansas History
Download High School Geography
High School World History
Download High School U.S. History
Download High School U.S. Government
Download High School Economics
Download High School Psychology

Social studies teachers as subversives

I stepped back into the office this morning after being on the road for a week and got hit with this question:

What should the new state social studies document look like like?

No coffee. No danish. No prep. Just straight to educational theories.

During the conversation that followed and after I woke up a bit, another question popped up:

How willing should we be to create a standards document that makes teachers very uncomfortable?

(If you’ve been following our state standards saga, you’ll already know that the document is designed to be different than our current set of standards. With a focus on history / social studies “doing” skills rather than content, the still-in-process revision is already stimulating . . . hmm . . . discussion.)

We never really settled the question of whether making teachers uncomfortable is a good or bad idea but it did lead to a little bit of deja vu. I’ve had similar conversations in the past. And more than just a few of them seem to revolve around the writings of Neil Postman. His Teaching as a Subversive Activity in particular.

After some time to reflect, I started a bit of browsing on the Interwebs and ran across some stuff that, if not completely relevant, was at least interesting.

The best thing?

A very recent article by Peter Pappas over at Copy / Paste titled 13 Subversive Questions for the Classroom.

At the end of my recent keynote on the power of reflection at TechitU, I closed by saying something to the effect “… as a teacher you get to reinvent yourselves every year … if you want to change the status quo at school, know that everything is conspiring against you … testing, parent expectations, curriculum mandates, etc … so perhaps you’ll need to be a bit subversive.”

Since I made that “subversive” comment, I’ve been thinking about reflective questions that would challenge the status quo in school.

And that reminded me of a similar discussion that I was a part of several years ago led by tech ed guru Marco Torres. After asking teachers to describe their curriculum, he asked:

If I can Google everything you just said, what value are you adding to the learning that takes place in your classroom?

So . . . finally to today’s topic. What sort of subversive questions should history / social studies teachers be asking as they “think about their approach to instruction?” With a bit of help from Peter, here’s what I got:

What’s the difference between teaching and learning?

Do you ever ask your students questions you don’t know the answers to?

Do athletic coaches (and art teachers, drama teachers, shop teachers) know more about authentic learning than history teachers?

Should we ever ask kids to answer questions that have correct answers?

Should students learn more content information or skills in how to critically evaluate the information that surrounds them?

What would your classroom look like if there were no state social studies standards or state assessments?

Why should every history class be required to have textbooks available? Why should all textbooks be banned from history classes?

What “homework” should we assign?

What foundational knowledge is absolutely essential for social studies / history students to know backwards and forwards?

What place should movies and books like The Hunger Games and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter play in our classrooms?

What subversive questions are you asking?