Monday, November 12, 2018

TCR SUMMER PROGRAM 2019


    The Concord Review Summer Program—2019 
              Priority Registration Is Now Open

TCR Summer Programs are intensive workshops in history, research, and writing that offer high school students an advisory structure in which to work on historical research projects on topics of their own choosing. Students arrive at the program with a research topic in hand that they then develop over the course of two weeks, with the end goal of writing a publication-worthy essay. They are given the opportunity to formulate productive research questions, to find and use primary and secondary sources, to take effective notes, to examine model historical essays, to pursue various analytical and narrative writing strategies, to confront problems of structure and organization, and to contemplate the larger philosophical dilemmas associated with studying the past; they are also given individual sessions with instructors, as well as ample study time on their own for reading and writing in a fully-equipped research library.

San Francisco: Monday, June 10–Friday, June 21, 2019
Tuition: Day program ($3,650)
Boston: Monday, June 24–Friday, July 5, 2019
Tuition: Day program ($3,650) / Boarding program ($4,750)
Oklahoma: Monday, July 8–Friday, July 19
Tuition: Boarding program ($4,750)
Seoul: Monday, July 22–Friday, August 2, 2019
Tuition: Day program ($4,500)

Priority application deadline: November 30, 2018, 11:59pm.

Admitted students will receive an email with registration instructions by December 14 and will be expected to complete their registration by December 31, 2018, 11:59pm.

Regular application deadline: Jan 31, 2019, 11:59pm

Admitted students will receive an email with registration instructions by February 15, 2019 and will be expected to complete their registration by February 29, 2019, 11:59pm.

Regular application form will become available on January 1, 2019.

If you have any questions, please see the Summer Program FAQ at tcr.org, or contact Steven Lee at steven.lee@tcr.org

Friday, October 12, 2018

THE WASHINGTON POST

The Washington Post
 
More reading and writing in high school? No time for that.


By Jay Mathews

Columnist
October 11 at 12:00 PM

Will Fitzhugh has been struggling for more than 30 years to persuade high schools to let students do something they rarely do—write.


His weapon in this battle is his quarterly publication, The Concord Review. It is the only journal in the world devoted to scholarly papers written by high school students.


The more than 1,300 history research papers he has printed have shown how much schools are missing by not encouraging lots of composition. In a new essay on the problem, Fitzhugh points out this is not only a blow to writing instruction but to what should be the center of any education—reading.


It never occurs to the people who run our schools, Fitzhugh said recently on his Concord Review blog, “that if students read more, they would know more, and in that way actually have some knowledge they wanted to write about.”


“But reading and knowledge never seem to find their way into discussions of Literacy in Our Time,” he said. “When teaching our students to write, not only are standards set very low in most high schools, limiting students to the five-paragraph essay, responses to a document-based question, or the personal (or college) essay about matters which are often no one else’s business, but we often so load up students with formulae and guidelines that the importance of writing when the author has something to say gets lost in the maze of the processes.”


This is an old-fashioned argument, which is one reason I am so taken with it. The most recent approaches to composition in the Common Core State Standards have shown little progress.


Many adolescents like to write. Self-expression helps them deal with the changes in their lives. But the jargon of secondary-school English departments kills the appeal. Here is the Common Core guidance for ninth- and 10th-graders writing an argument: “Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons and evidence.”

The following statement is not a joke: Many writing classes discourage much writing. The nonprofit Education Trust found that only 9 percent of 1,876 literacy assignments in six urban middle schools asked students to write more than a single paragraph. Fitzhugh’s 2002 research found that 81 percent of high schools never assigned a paper of more than 5,000 words.


Sadly, English teachers don’t have time to handle lengthy researched essays. They cringe at what Fitzhugh calls his Page Per Year Plan©: a five-page paper in fifth grade, adding a page each year until everyone does a 12-page paper in 12th grade. He wants students to address issues they have read about, maybe even tackling a nonfiction book or two, very rare in schools.


“Reading and writing are inseparable partners, in my view,” Fitzhugh said in his latest piece. “In letters from authors of essays published in The Concord Review since 1987, they often say that they read so much about something in history that they reached a point where they felt a strong need to tell people what they had found out.” That produced Review papers such as “North Korean Theocracy” by Ana Mariella Mundaca of the Sidwell Friends School in the District and “Socialist Realism” by Maya Krishnan of Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland.


How can schools carve out more time for reading and writing, and for editing by teachers? Retired teachers and journalists I know have offered free help, but outsiders make high school administrators uncomfortable. I have suggested a one-semester required class. No lectures. No homework. Students would only read, and then write about what they read. Teachers would sit with each student 10 minutes at a time to guide and edit their work. No papers for them to take home.
Over the course of a semester, that means students would wind up with about two hours of personal editing—two hours more than they usually get. (In case you’re wondering how I arrived at that estimate: The teacher would conduct four editing sessions a day—20 a week—over a 15-week semester for 25 students. Do the math, and it comes out to two hours per student.) 


Teachers could use the class time now spent teaching general sentence structure, paragraphing, voice, tone and other mechanics that Fitzhugh and teenagers hate.

How much more could students learn about writing by actually writing? That’s how I learned. Having seen what Fitzhugh has produced, I say it’s worth a try.


 =============


Jay Mathews is an education columnist for The Washington Post, his employer for nearly 50 years. He created the annual America's Most Challenging High Schools rankings of high schools and has written nine books.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

TCR SUMMER PROGRAM 2019


    The Concord Review Summer Program—2019 

              Priority Registration Is Now Open

TCR Summer Programs are intensive workshops in history, research, and writing that offer high school students an advisory structure in which to work on historical research projects on topics of their own choosing. Students arrive at the program with a research topic in hand that they then develop over the course of two weeks, with the end goal of writing a publication-worthy essay. They are given the opportunity to formulate productive research questions, to find and use primary and secondary sources, to take effective notes, to examine model historical essays, to pursue various analytical and narrative writing strategies, to confront problems of structure and organization, and to contemplate the larger philosophical dilemmas associated with studying the past; they are also given individual sessions with instructors, as well as ample study time on their own in a fully-equipped research library.

San Francisco: Monday, June 10–Friday, June 21, 2019
Tuition: Day program ($3,650)

Boston: Monday, June 24–Friday, July 5, 2019
Tuition: Day program ($3,650) / Boarding program ($4,750)

Seoul: Monday, July 22–Friday, August 2, 2019
Tuition: Day program ($4,500)

Priority application deadline: November 30, 2018, 11:59pm.

Admitted students will receive an email with registration instructions by December 14 and will be expected to complete their registration by December 31, 2018, 11:59pm.

Regular application deadline: Jan 31, 2019, 11:59pm

Admitted students will receive an email with registration instructions by February 15, 2019 and will be expected to complete their registration by February 29, 2019, 11:59pm.

Regular application form will become available on January 1, 2019.

If you have any questions, please see the Summer Program FAQ at tcr.org, or contact Steven Lee at steven.lee@tcr.org

Monday, October 1, 2018

READING BEFORE WRITING

SchoolInfoSystem.org, Madison, Wisconsin
EducationViews.org, Houston, Texas

Reading and knowledge never seem to find their way
into discussions of Literacy in Our Schools.


September 26, 2018 


Reading Before Writing

 
Will Fitzhugh, The Concord Review


The extra-large ubiquitous Literacy Community is under siege from universal dissatisfaction with the Writing skills of both students and graduates, and this is a complaint of very long standing.
The Community response is to request more money and time to spend on sentence structure, paragraphing, voice, tone, and other mechanical Writing paraphernalia.
 It never seems to occur to them that if students read more, they would know more, and in that way actually have some knowledge they wanted to write about.


But reading and knowledge never seem to find their way into discussions of Literacy in Our Schools.

When teaching our students to write, not only are standards set very low in most high schools, limiting students to the five-paragraph essay, responses to a document-based question, or the personal (or college) essay about matters which are often no one else’s business, but we often so load up students with formulae and guidelines that the importance of writing when the author has something to say gets lost in the maze of processes.


On the one hand writing is difficult enough to do, and academic writing is especially difficult if the student hasn’t read anything, and on the other hand teachers feel the need to have students “produce” writing, however short or superficial that writing may be. So writing consultants and writing teachers feel they must come up with guidelines, parameters, checklists, and the like, as props to substitute for students’ absent motivation to describe or express in writing something they have learned.


Samuel Johnson once said, “an author will turn over half a library to produce one book,” the point being, as I understand it, that good writing must be based on extensive reading. But reading is just the step that is left out of the “Writing Process” in too many instances. The result is that students in fact do not have much to say, so of course they don’t have much they want to communicate in writing.


Enter the guidelines. Students are told to write a topic sentence, to express one idea per paragraph, to follow the structure of Introduction, Body, Conclusion, to follow the Twelve Steps to Effective Writing, and the like. This the students can be made to do, but the result is too often empty, formulaic writing which students come to despise, and which does not prepare them for the serious academic papers they may be asked to do in college.


I fear that the history book report, at least at the high school level in too many places, has died in the United States. 


Perhaps people will contact me with welcome evidence to the contrary, but where it is no longer done, students have not only been discouraged from reading nonfiction, but also have been lead to believe that they can and must write to formula without knowing something—for instance about the contents of a good book—before they write.

A nationally famous teacher of teachers of writing once told me: “I teach writing, I don’t get into content that much…” This is a splendid example of the divorce between content [reading and knowledge] and process [techniques] in common writing instruction. 


Reading and writing are inseparable partners, in my view. In letters from authors of essays published in The Concord Review since 1987, they often say that they read so much about something in history that they reached a point where they felt a strong need to tell people what they had found out. The knowledge they had acquired had given them the desire to write well so that others could share and appreciate it as they did.


This is where good academic writing should start.
When the motivation is there, born from knowledge gained, then the writing process follows a much more natural and straightforward  path. Then the student can write, read what they have written, and see what they have left out, what they need to learn more about, and what they have failed to express as clearly as they wanted to. Then they read more, re-write, and do all the natural things that have always lead to good academic writing, whether in history or in any other subject. 


At that point the guidelines are no longer needed, because the student has become immersed in the real work of expressing the meaning and value of something they know is worth writing about. This writing helps them discover the limits of their own understanding of the subject and allows them to see more clearly what they themselves think about the subject. The process of critiquing their own writing becomes natural and automatic. This is not to deny, of course, the value of reading what they have written to a friend or of giving it to a teacher for criticism and advice. But the writing techniques and processes no longer stop up the natural springs for the motivation to write.


As students are encouraged to learn more before they write, their writing will gradually extend past the five-paragraph size so often constraining the craft of writing in our schools. The Page Per Year Plan© suggests that all public high school Seniors could be expected to write a twelve-page history research paper, if they had written an eleven-page paper their Junior year, a ten-page paper their Sophomore year, and a nine-page paper their Freshman year, and so on all the way back through the five-page paper in Fifth Grade and even to a one-page paper on a topic other than themselves their first year in school. With The Page Per Year Plan©, every Senior in high school will have learned, for that twelve-page paper, more about some topic probably than anyone else in their class knows, perhaps even more than any of their teachers knows about that subject. They will have had in the course of writing longer papers each year, that first taste of being a scholar which will serve them so well in higher education and beyond.


Writing is always much harder when the student has nothing to communicate, and the proliferating paraphernalia of structural aids from writing consultants and teachers often simply encumber students and alienate them from the essential benefits of writing. John Adams urged his fellow citizens to “Dare to read, think, speak and write” so that they could contribute to the civilization we have been given to enjoy and preserve. Let us endeavor to allow students to discover, through their own academic reading and writing, both the discipline and the satisfactions of reading and of writing carefully and well.


In 1625, Francis Bacon wrote, “Reading maketh a Full man, Conference a Ready man, and Writing an Exact man.” These benefits are surely among those we should not withhold from our K-12 students.


The Concord Review, 730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24, Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776
www.tcr.org    978-443-0022     fitzhugh@tcr.org

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

IN PRAISE OF

The Boston Globe

 September 17, 2018

 Jeff Jacoby



            In praise of The Concord Review
 


For years, Will Fitzhugh has deplored the fact that talented high school scholars get so much less recognition than talented high school athletes. Many newspapers publish lavish “all-scholastic ” special sections celebrating the achievements of young track, softball, and soccer stars, but there are no four-color inserts extolling high-school students who excel at academics. At colleges all over America, athletic coaches keep tabs on the most promising up-and-coming high school basketball, baseball, and football players. But is there a History Department chairman on any campus in the United States who could name the most gifted history student at any high school within a 500-mile radius?
 
Thirty years ago, Fitzhugh—a one-time history teacher in Concord, Massachusetts—set out to change this imbalance. I wrote about his efforts in a column last year:
 

Fitzhugh decided to blaze a path. He quit his job, cashed in his pension, and devoted himself full-time to producing a journal that would show what kind of scholarly writing kids were capable of. He adopted “Varsity Academics®” as his slogan and put out a call for excellent history essays. The journal’s purpose, he says, was to serve as a new kind of peer pressure: to demonstrate to high school students everywhere what kids like them could produce.
 

As word of The Concord Review trickled out, the superb history papers began flowing in. So did tributes from supporters as varied as Albert Shanker, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., John Silber, and David McCullough. So did modest financial support from a handful of donors who grasped the potential of what Fitzhugh was doing.

But it has always been a hand-to-mouth existence. Fitzhugh never saw anything like the tens of millions of dollars that are poured into after-the-fact remedial writing instruction and into gimmicky feel-good campaigns by foundations more interested in boosting self-esteem than in challenging students to work hard. Over and over, Fitzhugh’s grant applications have been rejected on the grounds that his journal is too elitist, or that it doesn’t have a politically correct edge, or that the study of history isn’t, after all, nearly as important as he seems to think it is. A few high schools have embraced The Concord Review. But far more want nothing to do with a journal so committed to high academic standards.

Through it all, Fitzhugh persists, cheerful and determined—and passionate as ever about student achievement. It remains the case that most high school students are never required to write a serious research paper. But now there are 30 years’ worth of Concord Reviews that open a window into an alternative universe. You want to see what high school kids can do? Spend some time with The Concord Review, and prepare to be inspired.


The papers published in The Concord Review bear no resemblance to the five-paragraph “essay” that millions of high-school students have been misled into thinking constitutes serious writing. The history essays Fitzhugh accepts for publication are typically in the 5,000-8,000 word range. But there is no word limit, and at least one essay (on the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre in Utah) ran to more than 20,000 words.

Nor is there any subject requirement. Students are invited to submit papers on any historical topic at all, and the range of subjects they have tackled is vast. The most recent issue includes essays on the Treaty of Lausanne, the Northern Wei Dynasty, the Election of 1916, the Trans-Siberian Railroad, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, and the Irish liberator Daniel O’Connell. The only thing the essays have in common, besides their brilliance, is that they were all written by high school students.

The Concord Review
isn’t splashy, and neither is its founder and editor. But what Fitzhugh lacks in razzle-dazzle and snappy jokes, he more than makes up for in charisma, good spirits, commitment, and a lifelong pursuit of excellence. A brief new video [https-//www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5MTYErq4y4] highlighting his one-man crusade is being promoted online by the Pioneer Institute, one of Boston’s leading think tanks. Take seven minutes to watch it, and you’ll be reassured that even in our era of dumbed-down, short-attention-span, lowest-common-denominator education, all is not yet lost.

 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

TCR VIDEO

EducationViews.org; Houston, Texas

Video Highlights Long-Running Journal that Publishes History Essays by High School Students


September 11, 2018 by
Pioneer Institute


https://youtu.be/B5MTYErq4y4


Try watching this video on www.youtube.com, or enable JavaScript if it is disabled in your browser.


BOSTON – A new video highlights the work of Will Fitzhugh, who for years has operated The Concord Review, a journal that publishes history essays by secondary students from across the country and around the globe

“Will Fitzhugh has dedicated his career to disseminating the superb work of high school students to their peers and the world,” said Jamie Gass, who directs Pioneer Institute’s Center for School Reform and is also a member of The Concord Review board. “His goal is to inspire as many students as possible by putting excellent history writing in front of them.”

In well over 100 issues since 1987, the Review has thus far published nearly 1,300 essays by students from 45 states and 40 foreign countries. There are no length or subject requirements beyond the history focus, which maximizes students’ freedom to pursue their interests.

Fitzhugh asks his student authors to let him know where they will be attending college. Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and Princeton are the most common destinations.

The Concord Review
has attracted a number of high-profile supporters, including the late American Federation of Teachers President Albert Shanker, who wrote two columns about it in The New York Times after reading an early issue of the journal. Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. said The Concord Review “should be in every high school in the land.” 


Other Concord Review boosters include Pulitzer-Prize winning historian David McCullough, education historian Diane Ravitch, and Jay Mathews of The Washington Post.

Earlier this year, Fitzhugh co-authored a review of Massachusetts’ new K-12 academic standards in U.S. History. In June, Pioneer Institute published the results of a poll showing strong support among legislators, parents, and teachers for reinstating a state requirement that students pass a U.S. History MCAS test to graduate from high school. 


 
================


About Pioneer—Pioneer Institute is an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that seeks to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civic discourse and intellectually rigorous, data-driven public policy solutions based on free market principles, individual liberty and responsibility, and the ideal of effective, limited and accountable government.

Monday, September 3, 2018

DONG HYUN KANG

Dong Hyun Kang
Republic of Korea

27 August 2018

Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 USA



Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,

This is Dong Hyun Kang, who received an Emerson Prize for the history paper, “Creation of Hangul” a few months back.


It is really my honor and pleasure to get such a positive evaluation from a highly respected institution like yours. 


I would like to inform you that I have received your check for $1,000 as well. After thinking about how I should spend the money, I have ultimately decided to donate it to The Concord Review.


While I fully understand that you have intended the money to be used for my purpose, I would like to contribute to helping inspire other high school historians to academic excellence, which is the very goal of The Concord Review.


My experience of writing “Creation of Hangul” by itself has been very rewarding, for it has allowed me to attain a new level of sophisticated thinking regrading critical analysis and synthesis of historical events and phenomena.


Once again, I cannot express my gratitude enough for the uniquely high distinction you have accorded me.

Cordially,

Dong Hyun Kang
[Seoul International School, Class of 2018
Oxford University, 2021]

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

PAGE PER YEAR PLAN©


Page Per Year Plan©


Will Fitzhugh, 11 May 2007 

Diane Ravitch recently pointed out that, “the campaign against homework goes on. Its success will guarantee a  steady decline in the very activities that matter most in education: independent reading; thoughtful writing; research projects.”

It is clearer and clearer that most high school students, when they do read a book, read fiction. The College Board’s Reading List of 101 Books for the College-Bound Student includes only two works of nonfiction: Night and The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass. Nothing by David McCullough, David Hackett Fischer, or any other great contemporary historian is suggested for the “College-Bound Student.”

The SAT, ACT, and NAEP writing assessments, and most state writing standards, require no prior knowledge and challenge students to write their opinions and personal stories in 25 minutes. Unless college history professors start assigning term papers by saying: “‘History repeats itself.’ See what you can write about that in 25 minutes and turn it in six weeks from now,” our high school graduates will continue to find that they have been sadly misled about the demands of academic writing they will face.

A study done for The Concord Review in 2002, of the assignment of high school history term papers, found that 81% of public high school history teachers never assign a 20-page paper, and 62% never assign a 12-page paper any more, even to high school seniors. The Boston Latin School, a famous exam school, no longer assigns the “traditional history term paper.”

One reason for this, I believe, is that teachers find that by the time their students are Juniors and Seniors in high school, they have done so little academic expository writing that they simply could not manage a serious history research paper, if they were asked to do one.

For several years, I have suggested, to those who doubt the ability of U.S. high school seniors to write academic history research papers, that schools should start on our Page Per Year Plan©, which would work as follows:

Each first grader would be required to write a one-page paper on a subject other than herself or himself, with at least one source.

A page would be added each year to the required academic writing, such that, for example, fifth graders would have to write a five-page paper (five sources), ninth graders would have to write a nine-page research paper, with nine sources, and so on, until each and every senior could be asked to prepare a 12-page academic research paper (twelve sources), with endnotes and bibliography, on some historical topic, which the student could choose each year.

This would gradually prepare students for future academic writing tasks, and each senior could graduate from high school knowing more about some important topic than anyone else in the class, and he/she might also have read at least one nonfiction (history) book before college. This could reduce the need for remedial instruction in writing (and perhaps in remedial reading as well) at the college level.

At each grade level, teachers would need more time to help students plan their papers and to evaluate and comment on them when the papers came in, but with our Page Per Year Plan©, all students would be likely to graduate from U.S. high schools with better academic expository writing skills and better reading skills.

In our public schools, the power over reading and writing belongs to the English Department, and many social studies and history teachers, perhaps especially those who are preparing students for AP exams, do not believe their students have the time to read a history book or write a history research paper.

While this is the rule, there are exceptions, and I have been glad to publish history papers written by AP history students in the last 20 years of The Concord Review. But all too often, those exemplary papers were written by students putting in the extra time and effort to do an independent study, of the sort that Diane Ravitch believes is now in steady decline in our schools.

Of course it is rewarding for me to receive letters, like one from Shounan Ho when she was at  Notre Dame Academy in Los Angeles, which included a comment that: “I wrote this paper independently, during my own time out of school. My motives for doing so were both academic and personal. Although history has always been my favorite subject, I had never written a paper with this extensive research before. After reading the high quality of essays in The Concord Review, I was very inspired to try to write one myself. I thought it was a significant opportunity to challenge myself and expand my academic horizons. Thus during the summer before my Senior year, I began doing the research for my own paper.” She is now a John Jay Scholar at Columbia University, and it seems likely she found that she had prepared herself well for college work.

But what about those students who depend on educators to set academic standards which will prepare them for the reading and writing tasks ahead? For those students, I recommend that teachers consider the Page Per Year Plan© to help their students get ready. Again, this plan would also make it somewhat more likely that our high school graduates would have been asked to read perhaps one complete history book before they leave for college or for work.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

EXIT-INTERVIEWS


8-13-2018

Exit-Interviews


Ishwar Mukherjee
[Student at Scarsdale High School, Scarsdale, New York]

 
A high school student on evaluating a high school education:

A number of secondary students ultimately learn how to read, think, speak, and write—skills essential for higher education and all professions. But with the backdrop of college admissions, standardized tests, and extra-curriculars, students are usually not much concerned about their classes “preparing” them for college academics or for later life. They are either worried about maintaining their grades, genuinely curious about the material, or fairly indifferent. Listening to these students, who are, after all, the most important variable in schools, might help explain and remedy the widening achievement gap between K-12 and college curriculums. What do the students think? Ask them!

Is there a better method to gauge student opinion on school curriculum than surveys? The problem with surveys arises from a combination of the educator’s fear of information and the student’s fear of consequences. Many high schools, including Scarsdale, administer a mid-year course feedback evaluation to students, promising complete anonymity. Yet comments are scant, given the time limit and reluctance to “soul-search,” and usually offer the fairly obvious: less homework, less readings, more group-work, etc. Why not shift the focus to exit-interviews for recent graduates and alumni?

Students who have just graduated from high school, or who have just “moved-up” from elementary or middle school, no longer have “skin in the game”: they have fulfilled their requirements and received their diplomas. And they are the most likely to speak without self-censorship and to pinpoint specific but genuine (not in-the-moment) information, ideas, and concerns about their time spent in classes and schools. These interviews should center on academics: favorite assignments, least effective class-time usage, interest and engagement, ideas for improvement, etc. They should not be exhaustively long or time-consuming either: a serious fifteen-minute interview can be much more useful than a lighthearted hour-long interview. Colleges are offering interviews during the admissions process to learn about the applicants; high schools should be offering exit-interviews to learn about themselves. The purpose of retrieving student information is not to shame educators or criticize individual teachers but to start a conversation about what works and what doesn’t while making use of the opinions of the ones with the most information about academic work: students.

Survey results (e.g. homework received an “8” or a “Needs Improvement”) are useful in identifying underlying trends but they can leave educators struggling to pinpoint specific concerns. "Additional Comments" sections can help, but they too can be hastily completed or overlooked. While exit-surveys provide an opportunity for students to opine freely and anonymously, exit-interviews are an avenue for students unconcerned about anonymity to make a more meaningful impact. With a personal, face-to-face interview, students receive an otherwise frequently neglected feeling of agency. A “we want to hear from you!” can make a big difference in improving the quality of student feedback. Board of Education members, teachers, and school administrators can all benefit from such interviews with departing students, before they take all their information and insights away with them.
 

Exit-interviews are, of course, not brand new. Companies and organizations often conduct such interviews with departing or retiring employees in order to investigate workplace satisfaction and efficiency. Even in high schools, including in Scarsdale, senior student-athletes receive an opportunity to reflect on the season, either with a coach or athletic administrator, in an end-of-season interview. These are quite successful, providing a closer look at the programs’ cultivation of sportsmanship, wellbeing, and engagement. The NFL Foundation’s InsideOut Initiative supports exit-interviews with student athletes wherever it can. Why not apply exit-interviews to high school academics?

Initially, I believe providing elementary, middle, and high school graduates with a class-wide optional exit-survey and piloting exit-interviews with only a handpicked group of students (e.g. 20 – 40 with various academic interests, talents, etc.) would work best. Upon analysis of the results, these feedback programs can be expanded accordingly. For instance, Scarsdale surveys a combination of recent graduates and older alumni on a 5-year basis (in addition to videotaping a handful of exit-interviews and organizing events to connect recent graduates with high school students), but think about what could happen annually. There would be more excitement, more engagement, and more participation; in other words, more information. Scarsdale’s Class of 2019 has about 400 students: aspiring athletes, artists, historians, doctors, lawyers, and everything in between. Those unique, intellectually diverse students have been learning from the Scarsdale school system all their lives. It would be a shame not to learn from them. 

 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

TEACHERS GONE

“Whatever you choose to call it—personalized learning, flipped learning, student-centered learning, or some other variation of screen-based education—teaching as we know it is about to become teaching as we remember it.”
The National Pulse
 
Is Technology Pushing Teachers Toward Extinction?
August 6, 2018
by Lisa Hudson
Education policy makers are vocal in their lamentations about the current teacher shortage. Although state school leaders across the country espouse their state has it worse than every other state, the reality is that nationwide, fewer and fewer students are going into teaching. Even Teach for America—which has notoriously staffed classrooms with non-teacher, Ivy League grads who don’t really want to be teachers, either—has shown a decrease in applications. “The erosion is steady. There’s a steady downward line on a graph. And there’s no sign that it’s being turned around,” said Bill McDiarmid, past Dean of the University of North Carolina School of Education, in an NPR interview. But, why?
Speculation is rampant about why this downward trend in teacher prep programs, ranging from low teacher pay, to teacher evaluations tied to student performance on standardized tests, to budget cuts, workload, and administrative headaches. Add to that a fairly accurate perception that the profession suffers from a lack of respect, and it’s no wonder teaching students are turning to greener pastures or that young teachers want out. One other thing that doesn’t seem to have been discussed in any meaningful way is the marginalization of teachers, as more and more often they are being replaced by artificial intelligence.
Historically, the education field has been a hotbed of change, dating back to the implementation of the chalkboard in the late 1800s or pencils in the early 1900s. Overhead projectors, the ballpoint pen, photocopiers, and handheld calculators have all made significant impacts in the classroom. But nothing to this point has turned the classroom, and education as a whole, on its head like the current trend in education reform to replace teachers with tech. Whatever you choose to call it—personalized learning, flipped learning, student-centered learning, or some other variation of screen-based education—teaching as we know it is about to become teaching as we remember it.
To a large extent, software-driven learning tools either minimize the time a teacher needs to spend with a student or, in some cases, eliminate the need for a teacher altogether. While education tech peddlers insist this is a huge leap forward for education, the threat of being minimized or eliminated can’t be having a positive impact on how college students perceive teaching as a vocation—especially when it’s feasible your job may ultimately be replaced by a computer. Computer-led learning, by design, re-brands teachers into facilitators. That’s all fine and good, with one undeniable caveat: facilitating is not teaching, and most teachers don’t sign on to be facilitators.
Students become teachers for a lot of reasons, but surveys routinely show that making a difference in students’ lives, and being able to share content knowledge, consistently appear in the top five answers. The latest push toward a classroom dominated by technology and digital learning effectively eliminates the need for teachers to be content experts. Even in my daughter’s private school, it’s rare to find a teacher who writes his or her own lesson plans. Whatever a teacher needs, on whatever subject they may be teaching (the word “teaching” being used very loosely) is available online. Videos, worksheets, tests, etc., can all be found with the click of a mouse. There no longer seems to be a significant need for content knowledge or specialization in instruction. Just Google it.
Teachers are also becoming little more than curriculum facilitators, reducing the amount of time they actually work alongside young people creating important personal relationships. Those connections are only developed with face-to-face communication. Curriculum facilitation leaves little time to inspire students and more time to make sure the WiFi is connected and students are paying attention. Those two things sound an awful lot like the responsibilities of my high school babysitting jobs: overseeing the selection of movies and making sure no one filled the VCR with peanut butter. You don’t need a college degree to do that for a living. In fact, most people go to college to avoid having to do that for a living.
Yet that’s what education reformers would have happen to teachers. Not only are college students being dissuaded from becoming teachers, and teachers marginalized to the point of being little more than glorified childcare workers, electronically governed classrooms could entirely eliminate the need for teachers within the next two decades, if not sooner.
Sugata Mitra, Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, was given the $1 million TED Prize in 2013, “…in recognition of his work and to help build a School in the Cloud, a creative online space where children from all over the world can gather to answer ‘big questions’, share knowledge and benefit from help and guidance from online educators.” Professor Mitra’s TED Talk was interesting, yet chilling. Mitra pronounced, “Schools as we know them now are obsolete.” The education system is not broken, as he said, “…it’s just that we don’t need it anymore.” He proposed a world where teachers are essentially non-existent, except for the nominal number of facilitators who would “lead” these virtual classrooms. As Mitra stated, “The teacher only raises the question, then stands back and admires the answer….The teacher sets the process in motion, then stands back in awe and watches as learning happens.” Based on Mitra’s prediction, the future of teaching will involve an awful lot of standing back and admiring in amazement without having to teach.
Remember those teachers who became teachers because they were inspired by a teacher? In the brave new world Professor Mitra envisions, you can forget about them. They won’t exist. Because you won’t find a teacher who became a teacher because he or she was inspired by a virtual instruction or the classroom facilitator. It’s just not going to happen. The teacher-student dynamic can never be reproduced with a machine.
Teacher wanna-bes with any forethought will recognize the increasing likelihood of extinction and jump from the sinking ship into private sector jobs. Policy makers with any forethought will stop scratching their heads in befuddlement and send out the lifeboats. Education fads come and go—good teachers should not.

[Lisa Hudson is a founding member of Arizonans Against Common Core and an advocate of classical Christian education and the protection of student privacy. She graduated from Michigan State University School of Law in 1996 and is an active member of the State Bar of Michigan.]

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

PSYCHOLOGYIZATION

PSYCHOLOGYIZATION

Will Fitzhugh, The Concord Review


16 March 2008

    At Harvard University, the Harvard Graduate School of Law is called Harvard Law School, the Graduate School of Medicine is called Harvard Medical School, but Harvard Education School is called the Harvard Graduate School of Education—surely that indicates something...


    In any case, Harvard Education School is kind enough to offer, on its website, an insight into the research interests of its faculty. Their centers for research include: “The Center on the Developing Child; Change Leadership Group; Chartering Practice Project; Civil Rights Project; Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education; Dynamic Development Laboratory; Everyday Antiracism Working Group; GoodWork Project; Harvard Family Research Project; Language Diversity & Literacy Development Research Group; National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy (NCSALL); NICHD Study of Early Child Care & Youth Development; Project IF; Project on the Next Generation of Teachers; Project Zero; Projects in Language Development; Project for Policy Innovation in Education; Public Education Leadership Project (PELP); and Understanding the Roots of Tolerance and Prejudice.”


    The mission of some may be less clear. The “GoodWork®” Project explains that: “The GoodWork® Project is a large scale effort to identify individuals and institutions that exemplify good work—work that is excellent in quality, socially responsible, and meaningful to its practitioners—and to determine how best to increase the incidence of good work in our society.” There is no indication that they are interested in good academic homework. Project IF is about “Inventing the Future.” Project Zero is home to work on multiple intelligences, among other things. 


     If you dig down further into the research interests of individual faculty, also kindly provided on the site, you may have the same difficulty I do in finding anyone interested in the work of the schools in teaching math, science, history, literature and foreign languages. There may be exceptions, but the overall impression is that academic work, of the sort we are asking students to do in our schools, gets little attention. 


    There is concern for finding and retaining teachers, but not too much for seeing that they have the academic preparation to be successful in promoting the study of math, science, history, literature, and foreign languages among their students.


    It would not be too much of an exaggeration to suggest that the focus of Harvard Education School is not on academics, but rather on a variety of social change, school management, “dynamic development,” and race, gender and ethnicity issues.


    Education has many important and significant aspects, and surely Harvard Education School devotes its attention to some of them, but it seems equally clear that student academic work, and the preparation of teachers to help students in doing it, should be fairly prominent among the concerns of faculty there.


    As far as I can see, they are not. In addition, it has been observed, from time to time, that other institutions may follow what Harvard does in organizing their own approaches to education. If this is the case in Education Schools, then there may be widespread national neglect of academic work in many of them.


    It has been noted elsewhere that those who pursue degrees in Education have much lower Graduate Record Examination scores, in general, than those who pursue graduate degrees in medicine, law, engineering, the sciences and even the liberal arts. 


    Which gives rise to the question, for me, of whether lack of success in academic pursuits may incline those who seek degrees at Harvard Education School actually to have less interest in academic subjects than other graduate students have. I believe that those who are considering work with children in our schools, if they are academically weak, sometimes decide that if they do not know much about math, science, history, literature, foreign languages and the like, at least they “know about people.” By some quirk of logic, they may think that “being good with people” is a fine substitute for knowing and caring about academic work in our schools.


    Perhaps academic schoolwork has comes to seem mundane, banal—really beneath them—so they decide to give their attention to “higher” concerns like multiple intelligences, child care, everyday antiracism, inventing the future, and “dynamic development.” To some, it may appear that many of these topics might better be studied in a school of social work or in a graduate department of psychology, but if Harvard Education School feels that academics are not that important for teachers and students in the schools, they have to do research on something, I suppose, and to me it seems that what has occurred as a result might be called the psychologyization of an education school.


    Now, if our public school students were already doing splendidly in academic work, perhaps there would be a need to look beyond plain academics as a subject of study, but my impression is that this is not yet the case in the United States.


    I think it would be great if Harvard Education School, and others, would, until our students are more proficient academically, spend more time working on ways to teach academics and to encourage our students to do academic work in the schools. Then, when our students are doing a lot better in academics, the Ed Schools can go back to roaming around in social justice, everyday antiracism, child development, inventing the future, and all the other subjects to which they are now devoting themselves.

Will Fitzhugh has an A.B. from Harvard College
and an Ed.M. from Harvard Education School