Monday, August 27, 2007

“Questions Clarify Our Thinking”: A Great Little “Find”

“The process of deciding what is relevant, what is of interest,
what is legitimate, what is authentic ,and what requires further
investigation demands the ability to ask questions. “ -Sally Godinho

We have known for a long time that asking the right question can spark deep thinking on a subject or idea. Designing powerful questions is a skill that does not come easily to many educators. I have discovered a little “Gem” of a publication, completely available on line, that may help teachers to design and ask better questions of their students, and educational leader or lead teachers to ask better reflective questions of themselves and their colleagues.

“Out of the Question”, written by Sally Godinho and Jeni Wilson, offers many starting points for guiding students to critically evaluate what they read, see, hear, and do. It includes 19 practical activities and strategies plus an assessment rubric. And you can browse the entire flipchart online:

The classroom culture needs to encourage students to be both question-askers
and question-answerers. Students were asked to write statements about their beliefs and values about what a question-friendly classroom is and is not… here are their remards:

A question-friendly classroom is a place where

  • different responses to a question are encouraged

  • students build on each other’s responses

  • students are prepared to challenge or contest a response

  • students generate questions for discussions

A question-friendly classroom is not a place where

  • student responses to questions are put down

  • teachers are seen as the question-askers and students as the question-answerers

  • students recite a response to a question rather than discuss it

Ask Yourself:

How are my skills at writing thoughtful questions which engage thinking?
How can I make your classroom more "question-friendly"?
What can I do this year to deepen student understanding?

Monday, August 06, 2007

“Do You Know the Graduation-rate Goals Set by Your State? Should We Know?”

Under No Child Left Behind’s accountability provision, high schools must meet graduation-rate goals set by their states. But the law allows states to set their own goals, and the range of these goals varies widely according to a study released by the Education Trust in Washington.

“Because the law allowed states wide latitude, the goals for graduation rates vary widely. Nevada, for example, says its goal is to graduate 50 percent of its students; Iowa sets a target of 95 percent”, said Jennifer Medina of the New York Times, in her article, “A Study Finds Some States Lagging on Graduation Rates” published August 2, 2007.

This is the New York Times map “Setting the Bar” which illustrates the differences in state goals for graduation-rates. How does your state stack up?

Daria Hall, the author of the report, that criticizes states for not doing enough, said “We need targets that provoke action on behalf of the students, not ones that condone the status quo.” while representative George Miller, chairman of the House Education Committee and an architect of the original No Child Left Behind legislation, said “reauthorization of that law should include changes so that graduation rates were used as a key measure of performance”.

Ask Yourself:
Could just the awareness of the graduation-rate goals for your state, whether high or low, create a reflective dialogue that educators should have?
Do you believe raising the goal would improve graduation rates?
Have you and your colleagues had this discussion?
Were you just as surprised as I was?