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Thread: Valuing Teachers

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    I'd say that your statement below about painting bleak pictures exemplifies our disagreement on this point.




    Yes we must measure, but against an aggressive objective like the standard I suggested.



    No one is painting pictures, Jeff. I suggested a standard against which most schools rate in the low single digits. You haven't argued that this standard is unattainable, or provided evidence that my assessment of today's schools against that standard is low by a significant factor.
    I would argue that schools worldwide do poorly against this standard because by its very nature it's overly labor-intensive. We cannot provide teams of dedicated instructors to every student. When available education technologies improve then this sort of education might be available to all students. We can and should strive toward this. I'm not clear on what a small individual school district can do to make this happen faster but I would certainly support efforts in this direction generally.

    Dave, do you have some other method in mind to achieve your target outcome?

    To all, if you want to learn a new language it's never too late to begin (though I agree earlier is better)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Dave, when you call our schools terrible, you paint a picture. And when our schools are not in fact terrible (Wayland ranks among the best in Massachusetts, Massachusetts tops the US and ranks among the best in the world), your unwarranted slight runs the risk of harming the effort to make the very change for which you're advocating. In my opinion, you are too quick to discount the impact of human nature.
    We'll have to agree to disagree. However, I cannot resist pointing out that the relativistic "as long as we're doing better than our neighbors, we must be doing fine" strategy has not prevented education from largely stagnating over the past century. Setting highly aggressive objectives, in contrast, has proven effective time and again. Kennedy said "First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth", not "Sputnik is no big deal, and besides our cars are much better than theirs".

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    A question about your standard--are you proposing to measure the outputs (what is learned), or just the inputs (who teaches, what is taught)? I didn't find your description to be clear on this point.
    To make my point, I characterized a process so that readers could more easily contrast it to current practice, and appreciate the vast improvement that such a process might deliver; obviously, the process as described would not scale to a neighborhood, much less a planet. I suggest that the measure be the "the fraction of graduating students demonstrating complete mastery of a specified set of core domains and a specified minimum number of elective domains". In my view, the core domains would include at least three languages with their associated literature, music theory, art appreciation, world and national history, and the major branches of mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics -- but we don't yet know how much could be mastered given an optimal process. I suspect we're seriously underestimating what's possible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    I would argue that schools worldwide do poorly against this standard because by its very nature it's overly labor-intensive. We cannot provide teams of dedicated instructors to every student. When available education technologies improve then this sort of education might be available to all students. We can and should strive toward this.
    Exactly!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    I'm not clear on what a small individual school district can do to make this happen faster but I would certainly support efforts in this direction generally.

    Dave, do you have some other method in mind to achieve your target outcome?
    Technology is certainly a necessary component, but it won't be sufficient. We also need a better understanding of how learning works, what promotes it, and what inhibits it.

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    Here's an interesting web-based assessment tool.

    Maybe we can also use it for electronic voting...

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    Dave, let's say for the sake of argument that your standard enables us to realize the outcomes we want (by whatever definition). Will you share your thoughts on how you think we might get from where we are to reach that standard (for instance, in the areas of governance, teacher preparation, instructional materials, labor negotiations, finances, and others)?

    And, regarding your standard, a few additional questions.

    • You mention 15 years--are the 2 additional years PreK? If not, where are they?
    • Are you imagining class sizes of 20 at all grades? If not, what does your class size profile look like?
    • How do you expect the ratio of administrators to teachers changing relative to today?
    • Will any of the learning be online or blended, and if so, how might that alter the cost structure?
    • What does the school day (in hours) and year (in days) look like?
    • How will professional development be delivered relative to today?
    • What average salaries are you anticipating? Higher or lower than where we currently stand?
    • Do you think that it's a reasonable assumption that curriculum costs will be equal or lower than what we see today?
    • How might our spend on technology change?
    • What elements of the curriculum (academic, athletic, arts, activities) do you think would be fee-based?

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    http://blog.beaufortes.com/2007/05/ratholing.html
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Dave, let's say for the sake of argument that your standard enables us to realize the outcomes we want (by whatever definition). Will you share your thoughts on how you think we might get from where we are to reach that standard (for instance, in the areas of governance, teacher preparation, instructional materials, labor negotiations, finances, and others)?
    Top-down synchronous change is futile in a system as large and entrenched as the US Education System; landing men on Mars and returning them safely to Earth would be a far easier task.

    Viral propagation will be effective for successful "point improvements" that can be locally explored and tuned via evolutionary changes to the current system. The Khan Academy videos and online assessments fit this criterion.

    Abandoning chronological age as a primary factor in curriculum planning, accommodating neurological limits to start time and attention span, compensating for suboptimal family environments, disentangling the day care mission from the education mission, locating and tagging and rating relevant content, developing a business model that incentivizes the development of content and the means to assess its mastery -- each of these are likely beyond the scope of most local systems. Perhaps organizations like the Gates Foundation will take on these challenges, but without coordination and collaboration, evolving a set of mutually-consistent solutions will take time.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    And, regarding your standard, a few additional questions.

    You mention 15 years--are the 2 additional years PreK? If not, where are they?
    Classifications like "PreK", "Kindergarden", and "Grade N" that are based on chronological age should be discarded. Students should begin as soon as they're emotionally, physically, and intellectually capable. I don't know where that will place the peak of the "starting age" distribution - 3 or 4, perhaps.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Are you imagining class sizes of 20 at all grades? If not, what does your class size profile look like?
    Fixed class sizes are an artifact of the current system that I expect will disappear. The number of students working together with a teacher will depend on the domain, the intensity, the tools in use, and the purpose of their collaboration. I used "20" in the earlier description just to make the point that students will often work together, not to propose a specific parameter.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    How do you expect the ratio of administrators to teachers changing relative to today?
    Our first, second, and third priority is to design/evolve a practical, attainable system that will ultimately be ~100x more effective at educating our students. If that can be accomplished, figuring out how to administer it will not be the show-stopper. In this area, automation will be our friend.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Will any of the learning be online or blended, and if so, how might that alter the cost structure?
    I'm no expert, but I'd be very surprised if the solution doesn't include many modalities - online applications, online collaboration, on-site lectures, on-site collaboration, 1:1 coaching - and some more not yet identified.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    What does the school day (in hours) and year (in days) look like?
    Ultimately, nothing like what we have today.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    How will professional development be delivered relative to today?
    Professional development of who/what?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    What average salaries are you anticipating? Higher or lower than where we currently stand?
    Harking back to the article with which this thread began, it should be recognized that the most valuable thing this planet can produce is a well-educated human mind. Given the impact a teacher can have on this "product" -- in either a positive or negative direction -- the process of becoming a teacher should be highly selective, even more selective than the process currently employed in medicine (but without the dogma and 36-hour shifts). Successful teachers would be among the most highly-compensated individual contributors across all professional occupations.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Do you think that it's a reasonable assumption that curriculum costs will be equal or lower than what we see today?

    How might our spend on technology change?

    What elements of the curriculum (academic, athletic, arts, activities) do you think would be fee-based?
    Worrying about the allocation of costs at this stage of the development process is irrelevant and counterproductive.

    When exploring transitions of this magnitude, rat-holing on the details is all-too-seductive, and inevitably results in analysis paralysis. Abstraction, by which I mean ignoring all the details to focus exclusively on a small number of critical drivers, is essential.
    Last edited by DHBernstein; 04-20-2011 at 02:00 AM.

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    Dave, thanks for your thoughtful responses. I've continued the conversation below. Apologies for the double-nesting--the "interspersed" model may be about to reach its practical limits.

    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach
    Dave, let's say for the sake of argument that your standard enables us to realize the outcomes we want (by whatever definition). Will you share your thoughts on how you think we might get from where we are to reach that standard (for instance, in the areas of governance, teacher preparation, instructional materials, labor negotiations, finances, and others)?
    Top-down synchronous change is futile in a system as large and entrenched as the US Education System; landing men on Mars and returning them safely to Earth would be a far easier task.

    Viral propagation will be effective for successful "point improvements" that can be locally explored and tuned via evolutionary changes to the current system. The Khan Academy videos and online assessments fit this criterion.

    Abandoning chronological age as a primary factor in curriculum planning, accommodating neurological limits to start time and attention span, compensating for suboptimal family environments, disentangling the day care mission from the education mission, locating and tagging and rating relevant content, developing a business model that incentivizes the development of content and the means to assess its mastery -- each of these are likely beyond the scope of most local systems. Perhaps organizations like the Gates Foundation will take on these challenges, but without coordination and collaboration, evolving a set of mutually-consistent solutions will take time.
    Two thoughts here.

    One, at least some of the elements of your standard might be able to be addressed locally: for instance, moving away from chronological age as the primary basis for grouping and school start times (the latter would best involve all schools in the same athletic conference).

    Two, are you suggesting that schools be in the business of curriculum development? I'm not sure that I agree, as relatively few educators are trained in this discipline and schools don't have the ability to test efficacy. Yesterday afternoon, I attended a webinar by Michael Horn, co-author with Clayton Christensen of "Disrupting Class." Mr. Horn made this same point.

    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach
    You mention 15 years--are the 2 additional years PreK? If not, where are they?
    Classifications like "PreK", "Kindergarden", and "Grade N" that are based on chronological age should be discarded. Students should begin as soon as they're emotionally, physically, and intellectually capable. I don't know where that will place the peak of the "starting age" distribution - 3 or 4, perhaps.
    Two thoughts here as well.

    One, there are challenges beyond logistical ones in moving a developmental (as opposed to chronological) basis for grouping students. Students who are intellectually equal may not be emotionally equal (physical equality may only be a strong driver on the playing fields). To be sure, chronological equality leads to two potential mismatches: intellectual and emotional, so developmental grouping may be an improvement. I suspect that developmental grouping has been tried--it would be interesting to see what the results have been.

    Two, a recurring theme in my thinking is cost. Imagining an ideal learning environment is a worthy exercise, but if we're not thinking about the realities of making strides toward such an outcome, we're just imagining. Adding two years to a thirteen year education means a baseline cost increase of 13%. Other aspects of the change may offset this increase, but it's an increase that makes the change harder rather than easier.

    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach
    Are you imagining class sizes of 20 at all grades? If not, what does your class size profile look like?
    Fixed class sizes are an artifact of the current system that I expect will disappear. The number of students working together with a teacher will depend on the domain, the intensity, the tools in use, and the purpose of their collaboration. I used "20" in the earlier description just to make the point that students will often work together, not to propose a specific parameter.
    What I'm getting at here comes back to cost. If the average class size in your standard is lower than what we currently have, then we've introduced another hurdle to overcome.

    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach
    How do you expect the ratio of administrators to teachers changing relative to today?
    Our first, second, and third priority is to design/evolve a practical, attainable system that will ultimately be ~100x more effective at educating our students. If that can be accomplished, figuring out how to administer it will not be the show-stopper. In this area, automation will be our friend.
    My question again had to do with cost. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on where automation might come into play on the administration front. A partial list of administrative functions includes the superintendent, the curriculum/professional development leadership, the HR function, the financial management, and the support staff. I can see automation having a stronger impact in the "back office" areas such as HR, finance, and support.

    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach
    Will any of the learning be online or blended, and if so, how might that alter the cost structure?
    I'm no expert, but I'd be very surprised if the solution doesn't include many modalities - online applications, online collaboration, on-site lectures, on-site collaboration, 1:1 coaching - and some more not yet identified.
    Agreed. By the way, in yesterday's "How Digital Curriculum is Transforming Learning” webinar, Mr. Horn elaborated somewhat on the premise of "Disrupting Class" that by 2020 (I think I have the date right), half of all K-12 (or was it 9-12?) courses would be online. The elaboration struck me as something of a backing off of the original prediction, although I suspect that Mr. Horn would say that it's a refinement of what "online" means. In the webinar, he spoke more about blended learning (with the bulk of student time being spent on campus for interaction and custodial reasons).

    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach
    What does the school day (in hours) and year (in days) look like?
    Ultimately, nothing like what we have today.
    My question was again addressing cost. If we're increasing the number of hours (all else being equal), we're increasing cost. Of course, if the student:teacher ratio during those hours increases, the cost increase may be more than offset.

    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach
    How will professional development be delivered relative to today?
    Professional development of who/what?
    Professional development of teachers. There are two components to PD: pre-service (time in college or elsewhere that takes place before the teacher first sets foot in a classroom/learning environment) and in-service (time once the've become a practicing teacher). Clearly, schools have much more control over the latter than the former. Unfortunately, one of the reasons that there are issues with teacher quality today is that pre-service training isn't as good as it needs to be. As a result, school districts end up spending too much of their limited PD time and funding on topics that their teachers should already have mastered.

    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach
    What average salaries are you anticipating? Higher or lower than where we currently stand?
    Harking back to the article with which this thread began, it should be recognized that the most valuable thing this planet can produce is a well-educated human mind. Given the impact a teacher can have on this "product" -- in either a positive or negative direction -- the process of becoming a teacher should be highly selective, even more selective than the process currently employed in medicine (but without the dogma and 36-hour shifts). Successful teachers would be among the most highly-compensated individual contributors across all professional occupations.
    I'd love it if this could be, but have a hard time imagining a business model that allows this. It requires either very high student-teacher ratios or very high costs.

    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach
    Do you think that it's a reasonable assumption that curriculum costs will be equal or lower than what we see today?

    How might our spend on technology change?

    What elements of the curriculum (academic, athletic, arts, activities) do you think would be fee-based?
    Worrying about the allocation of costs at this stage of the development process is irrelevant and counterproductive.
    I disagree--it's certainly possible to focus on what the standard should look like and how to get there while also thinking about what the cost implications will be. The latter task takes up almost no time, yet provides context for the viability of the end result.

    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    When exploring transitions of this magnitude, rat-holing on the details is all-too-seductive, and inevitably results in analysis paralysis. Abstraction, by which I mean ignoring all the details to focus exclusively on a small number of critical drivers, is essential.
    I agree that the interesting and potentially productive part of the changes that you are proposing centers on "a small number of critical drivers." The fact that the bulk of my remarks have to do with cost doesn't mean that the bulk of the effort needs to focus on cost. In fact, simple spreadsheet models allow us to keep track of cost implications almost for free as part of the meaty part of the discussion.

    Here's how I see your standard (or something else designed to reach the same end goals) playing out.

    1. Schools will do more to educate families so that the students arriving at the door are best prepared to learn (small added cost)
    2. Schools will organize students and the day to best support learning (no added cost)
    3. Schools will somewhat expand the learning hours per year (moderate added cost)
    4. Schools, through departments of education, will demand higher quality teachers arriving at the door (no added cost)
    5. Schools will provide more effective in-service professional development to their teachers (moderate added cost)
    6. Schools will revolutionize their curricular framework (content and process skills/knowledge; academics, athletics, arts, activities, ...)
    7. Schools will purchase and deploy better curricular materials (no added cost)
    8. Schools, through better teachers and technology, will be able to increase student-teacher ratios while improving outcomes (lower cost)

    I hope that I've addressed at least the majority of the elements of your standard. A lot of what's needed is outside of the ability of a single school district to drive, but a lot is within such a district's control.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    One, at least some of the elements of your standard might be able to be addressed locally: for instance, moving away from chronological age as the primary basis for grouping and school start times (the latter would best involve all schools in the same athletic conference).
    Abandoning chronological age? Possibly. Changing school start time would likely requiring disentangling education from day care, which I suspect is beyond the capability of most local systems.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Two, are you suggesting that schools be in the business of curriculum development?
    No.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    One, there are challenges beyond logistical ones in moving a developmental (as opposed to chronological) basis for grouping students. Students who are intellectually equal may not be emotionally equal (physical equality may only be a strong driver on the playing fields). To be sure, chronological equality leads to two potential mismatches: intellectual and emotional, so developmental grouping may be an improvement. I suspect that developmental grouping has been tried--it would be interesting to see what the results have been.
    Students in a developmentally-matched group studying Chinese may not be in the same Linear Algebra group, much less the same Soccer group.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Two, a recurring theme in my thinking is cost.
    Imagining an ideal learning environment is a worthy exercise, but if we're not thinking about the realities of making strides toward such an outcome, we're just imagining. Adding two years to a thirteen year education means a baseline cost increase of 13%. Other aspects of the change may offset this increase, but it's an increase that makes the change harder rather than easier.

    What I'm getting at here comes back to cost. If the average class size in your standard is lower than what we currently have, then we've introduced another hurdle to overcome.
    As I said before, worrying about cost at this stage is hugely counterproductive. When seeking discontinuous innovation, constraints are the enemy of progress; they smother the creative process, cutting off branches of decision trees before they can be fully explored.

    The economic benefit of improving the effectiveness of our educational system by ~100x would be enormous, but that economic benefit would be dwarfed by the resulting improvements in quality-of-life. This potential is more than large enough to warrant an initially exclusive focus on the changes required to achieve the outcome without worrying about “details” like funding or administration. If we succeed in identifying a scalable educational process that demonstrably delivers a ~100x improvement over today’s system, there will be lots of momentum behind figuring out how to fund it.

    Constraints imposed by properties of matter and human physiology must of course be respected.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    My question again had to do with cost. I'm curious to hear your thoughts on where automation might come into play on the administration front. A partial list of administrative functions includes the superintendent, the curriculum/professional development leadership, the HR function, the financial management, and the support staff. I can see automation having a stronger impact in the "back office" areas such as HR, finance, and support.
    Those aren’t administrative functions, those are job titles. Automating a system starts by fleshing out its use cases – which is neither possible nor appropriate at this stage.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Professional development of teachers. There are two components to PD: pre-service (time in college or elsewhere that takes place before the teacher first sets foot in a classroom/learning environment) and in-service (time once the've become a practicing teacher). Clearly, schools have much more control over the latter than the former. Unfortunately, one of the reasons that there are issues with teacher quality today is that pre-service training isn't as good as it needs to be. As a result, school districts end up spending too much of their limited PD time and funding on topics that their teachers should already have mastered.
    As I’ve already said, the process by which teachers are trained and selected must significantly change. Unless circumstances were extreme, no one would let a first-year medical student work on their child’s brain, but we routinely allow teachers with equivalent training to work on our children’s minds.

    Professionals are generally responsible for their own post-graduate development. Some organizations provide funding and/or paid-time-off for professional development as a recruiting enticement or retention perk, and large organizations may directly deliver some training. Given the quality of teachers that the “next generation” selection and training process should deliver, I would expect a similar approach.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I disagree--it's certainly possible to focus on what the standard should look like and how to get there while also thinking about what the cost implications will be. The latter task takes up almost no time, yet provides context for the viability of the end result.

    I agree that the interesting and potentially productive part of the changes that you are proposing centers on "a small number of critical drivers." The fact that the bulk of my remarks have to do with cost doesn't mean that the bulk of the effort needs to focus on cost. In fact, simple spreadsheet models allow us to keep track of cost implications almost for free as part of the meaty part of the discussion.
    “Taking up time” isn’t the issue. Preventing progress is the issue.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Here's how I see your standard (or something else designed to reach the same end goals) playing out.
    1. Schools will do more to educate families so that the students arriving at the door are best prepared to learn (small added cost)
    2. Schools will organize students and the day to best support learning (no added cost)
    3. Schools will somewhat expand the learning hours per year (moderate added cost)
    4. Schools, through departments of education, will demand higher quality teachers arriving at the door (no added cost)
    5. Schools will provide more effective in-service professional development to their teachers (moderate added cost)
    6. Schools will revolutionize their curricular framework (content and process skills/knowledge; academics, athletics, arts, activities, ...)
    7. Schools will purchase and deploy better curricular materials (no added cost)
    8. Schools, through better teachers and technology, will be able to increase student-teacher ratios while improving outcomes (lower cost)


    I hope that I've addressed at least the majority of the elements of your standard. A lot of what's needed is outside of the ability of a single school district to drive, but a lot is within such a district's control.
    None of those are bad things, but together I doubt they’d produce more than a 10-20% improvement over the current state of affairs.
    Last edited by DHBernstein; 04-22-2011 at 01:21 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    None of those [below] are bad things, but together I doubt they'd produce more than a 10-20% improvement over the current state of affairs.
    Dave, I'm a bit surprised that you'd raise doubts, as I designed my list below to encompass and expand on the standard you outlined (your elements added in blue italics).

    1. Schools will do more to educate families so that the students arriving at the door are best prepared to learn (small added cost)
      Consider a well-nourished 3-year old from a stable, supportive family

    2. Schools will organize students and the day to best support learning (no added cost)
      Now consider twenty such students, each with their dedicated array of instructors and team leader

    3. Schools will somewhat expand the learning hours per year (moderate added cost)
      who receives 15 years of personalized education (my intent was to include the added two years here, but I didn't do so explicitly)

    4. Schools, through departments of education, will demand higher quality teachers arriving at the door (no added cost)

    5. Schools will provide more effective in-service professional development to their teachers (moderate added cost)
      from a large, dedicated set of instructors chosen for their mastery of domain knowledge/skill (art, biochemistry, Chinese, ...) understanding of developmental neuroscience, patience, and love of teaching

    6. Schools will revolutionize their curricular framework (content and process skills/knowledge; academics, athletics, arts, activities, ...)
    7. Schools will purchase and deploy better curricular materials (no added cost)
      with the addition of collaboration, social skills, physical skills and game play to the curriculum.

    8. Schools, through better teachers and technology, will be able to increase student-teacher ratios while improving outcomes (lower cost)


    I didn't include administration, but should have.
    all coordinated and optimized by a team leader who continuously assesses the student's progress and budding interests

    Administration is the only material difference between your standard and my expansion of your standard, so I find it curious that you'd attribute only a 10% to 20% improvement to the way that I've framed it compared with the the ~10,000% you give to your framing.
    Last edited by Jeff Dieffenbach; 04-22-2011 at 06:59 AM. Reason: Formatting

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Dave, I'm a bit surprised that you'd raise doubts, as I designed my list below to encompass and expand on the standard you outlined
    I didn’t “raise doubts”, I said that your proposals taken together would undoubtedly produce only a small fraction of the progress desired.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Schools will do more to educate families so that the students arriving at the door are best prepared to learn (small added cost)
    Consider a well-nourished 3-year old from a stable, supportive family
    A large number of malnourished, mistreated children raised in unstable, unsupportive family environments enter the US Education system each year. Enabling these children to overcome this severe handicap and achieve educational outcomes no different than those attained by “a well-nourished 3-year old from a stable, supportive family” will require far more innovation and effort than your proposal to educate families at a small added cost.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Schools will organize students and the day to best support learning (no added cost)
    Now consider twenty such students, each with their dedicated array of instructors and team leader
    Simply organizing students and the day to best support learning will not remotely enable schools to deliver an education to twenty students comparable to what those students would receive if each student were assigned a team leader and a dedicated array of instructors. This is pure hand-waving.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Schools will somewhat expand the learning hours per year (moderate added cost)
    who receives 15 years of personalized education (my intent was to include the added two years here, but I didn't do so explicitly)
    When your proposal employs phrases like “somewhat expand”, you shouldn’t be surprised when it’s judged as falling short of producing a massive improvement in outcome.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Schools, through departments of education, will demand higher quality teachers arriving at the door (no added cost)
    At no cost, we can develop, establish, and staff a completely new nation-wide teacher selection and training process superior to the one currently used in medicine, and transition to its use by having both current and prospective teachers matriculate? More hand-waving.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I didn't include administration, but should have.
    all coordinated and optimized by a team leader who continuously assesses the student's progress and budding interests
    Your conflation of a team leader dedicated to the education of one student with "administration" implies that you either don't understand the just how high the bar must be set, or you aren't taking it seriously.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Administration is the only material difference between your standard and my expansion of your standard, so I find it curious that you'd attribute only a 10% to 20% improvement to the way that I've framed it compared with the the ~10,000% you give to your framing.
    Besides suggesting that large, complex, long-lived problems can be solved with trivial low-cost solutions, e.g. “educate families", you also neglected a few critical efforts, to wit
    • abandoning chronological age as a primary factor in curriculum planning
    • accommodating neurological limits to start time and attention span
    • disentangling the day care mission from the education mission
    • developing a business model that incentivizes the development of content and the means to assess its mastery
    • locating, tagging, and rating relevant content


    And the above list is almost certainly incomplete.

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    My apologies, Dave, for interpreting your statement "None of those are bad things, but together I doubt they’d produce more than a 10-20% improvement over the current state of affairs" as raising doubts. I must have been thrown off by your "raising" the word "doubt."

    The rest of your objection is semantic quibbling in the face of my granting that you've posed an interesting standard to which to aspire. Here's that standard as I excerpted it from you initial post laying it out.

    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein
    Consider a well-nourished 3-year old from a stable, supportive family who receives 15 years of personalized education from a large, dedicated set of instructors chosen for their mastery of domain knowledge/skill (art, biochemistry, Chinese, ...) understanding of developmental neuroscience, patience, and love of teaching -- all coordinated and optimized by a team leader who continuously assesses the student's progress and budding interests. Now consider twenty such students, each with their dedicated array of instructors and team leader, but with the addition of collaboration, social skills, physical skills and game play to the curriculum. The outcome achieved by this kind of educational process would be a reasonable standard against which to assess our current education system and drive its improvement.
    Now, if that's not your full standard, so be it. But in your last post, you erroneously said that I omitted the following.

    • abandoning chronological age as a primary factor in curriculum planning
      JEFF: Not part of your initial standard, but I included this when I wrote "2. # Schools will organize students and the day to best support learning (no added cost)"

    • accommodating neurological limits to start time and attention span
      JEFF: I included this when I wrote "2. # Schools will organize students and the day to best support learning (no added cost)"

    • disentangling the day care mission from the education mission
      JEFF: Not part of your initial standard, but in my opinion, not only do we not need to get rid of the custodial element that schools offer, we benefit when we bring students together. That doesn't mean that they need to do all of their learning together.

    • developing a business model that incentivizes the development of content and the means to assess its mastery
      JEFF: Not part of your initial standard, and moreover, you agreed that this isn't really the role of schools. If by content you mean curricular materials, well they and assessments are most effectively and efficiently developed by outside parties with the skills and resources to do so.

    • locating, tagging, and rating relevant content
      JEFF: Ditto.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    My apologies, Dave, for interpreting your statement "None of those are bad things, but together I doubt they’d produce more than a 10-20% improvement over the current state of affairs" as raising doubts. I must have been thrown off by your "raising" the word "doubt."
    I plead guilty to sugar-coating my initial characterization of your proposal. Said proposal would undoubtedly fall far short of producing a 2x improvement in educational outcome using the measure suggested here earlier, much less the ~100x improvement being sought.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    The rest of your objection is semantic quibbling in the face of my granting that you've posed an interesting standard to which to aspire.
    Semantic quibbling? Objecting to your claim that the bleak educational future faced by millions of children from unstable, unsupportive environments can be overcome at low cost by "educating families" is semantic quibbling? Rejecting your claim that by simply improving their organization, schools can at low cost deliver an education comparable to providing each student with an array of dedicated instructors coordinated by a dedicated team leader is semantic quibbling?

    The last time I witnessed hand-waving on a scale this massive was when Bush the Younger invaded Iraq, promising that we'd be greeted with rose petals and oil revenue. If you want to raise substantive objections, fine, but one more riposte of semantic quibbling and I'll stop wasting my time in this discussion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    abandoning chronological age as a primary factor in curriculum planning
    JEFF: Not part of your initial standard, but I included this when I wrote "2. # Schools will organize students and the day to best support learning (no added cost)"
    "Abandoning chronological age" is absolutely a part of the process I suggested as a way to convey the educational results sought: a student's dedicated team leader is responsible for continuously assessing his or her student's progress in order to bring to bear just the right "next steps" from the array of dedicated instructors.

    Claiming that schools across this country could make a change of this magnitude at "no added cost" severely damages your credibility.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    accommodating neurological limits to start time and attention span
    JEFF: I included this when I wrote "2. # Schools will organize students and the day to best support learning (no added cost)"
    And you lost all credibility when you characterized it as "no added cost".

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    disentangling the day care mission from the education mission
    JEFF: Not part of your initial standard, but in my opinion, not only do we not need to get rid of the custodial element that schools offer, we benefit when we bring students together. That doesn't mean that they need to do all of their learning together.
    Removing the "custodial element" does not mean "students will be taught in isolation", as you imply above. It means that the educational process will be optimized for education and education alone. Among other things, we won't be interrupting students' sleep hours before they are capable of learning anything - a point made by Dr. Burton during our happenstantial first conversation while I was setting up the Middle School Gym for electronic voting the week before last.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    developing a business model that incentivizes the development of content and the means to assess its mastery
    JEFF: Not part of your initial standard, and moreover, you agreed that this isn't really the role of schools. If by content you mean curricular materials, well they and assessments are most effectively and efficiently developed by outside parties with the skills and resources to do so.
    Earlier in this thread, I asserted that most of what must be done to achieve the suggested standard is beyond the ability of local systems to accomplish on their own, suggesting that such tasks would require concerted effort from organizations like the Gates Foundation. Why are you limiting the discussion to what can be accomplished by local systems, and why are you surprised when my appraisal of your "local system only" proposal is so dismal?

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    To assist anyone who's still following along, here's my stab at compiling the various pieces of Dave's standard into a single, cohesive statement (updates to your original in italic, different colors representing different points). Please feel free to correct me if I haven't captured everything.

    Consider a well-nourished 3-year old from a stable, supportive family who receives 15 years of personalized education from a large, dedicated set of instructors chosen for their mastery of domain knowledge/skill (art, biochemistry, Chinese, ...) understanding of developmental neuroscience, patience, and love of teaching -- all coordinated and optimized by a team leader who continuously assesses the student's progress and budding interests. Now consider twenty such students, each with their dedicated array of instructors and team leader, grouped by their developmental needs rather than their chronological age, with the addition of collaboration, social skills, physical skills and game play to the curriculum. The organization of this education will accommodate neurological limits to start time and attention span and disentangling the day care mission from the education mission. Supporting schools undertaking this mission, outside organizations will create a business model that incentivizes the development of measurable best-in-class content and the means to assess its mastery. The outcome achieved by this kind of educational process would be a reasonable standard against which to assess our current education system and drive its improvement.

    A fine vision, but without a path to get their, just that, a vision. I'll deconstruct the different elements of this vision and comment on possible ways to get to each.


    1. Consider a well-nourished 3-year old from a stable, supportive family

    While schools can and should create school-community partnerships to encourage the best out-of-school preparation for a child's learning, the bulk of reaching this goal is well beyond what schools can provide (between the ages of birth and age 18, students today spend only 13% of their waking hours in school).

    2. who receives 15 years of personalized education from a large, dedicated set of instructors chosen for their mastery of domain knowledge/skill (art, biochemistry, Chinese, ...) understanding of developmental neuroscience, patience, and love of teaching -- all coordinated and optimized by a team leader who continuously assesses the student's progress and budding interests.

    Adding two years of schooling would add 15% in cost, all else being equal (which it doesn't necessarily have to be).

    Pre-service improvement of teachers and administrators is in large part beyond the ability of schools to affect. That said, schools can improve their recruiting practices to better identify top educators, and they can lobby their state departments of education to increase teacher and administrator certification requirements. Ultimately, it's these state departments that are in the best position to force teaching colleges to improve their programs (not that teachers should necessarily have to come from teaching colleges).

    From an in-service perspective, schools are much better positioned to help their educators improve, whether through traditional continuing education or more targeted on-site, blended learning, and distance professional development opportunities. Where outside organizations are providing these services, of course, schools have only their market power to demand more effective PD services,

    3. Now consider twenty such students, each with their dedicated array of instructors and team leader,

    Schools can control class size/student-teacher ratio, but the level at which they set these targets will have a strong cost impact.

    4. grouped by their developmental needs rather than their chronological age

    Grouping students by readiness rather than age creates scheduling challenges, particularly given that students will have different academic, emotional, and physical abilities in different subject areas, but these challenges may not be insurmountable. This is a change that might come at little to no added cost. A major caveat may come down to facilities. Having a campus that accommodates students across the PreK-12 spectrum makes this type of grouping more feasible. Otherwise, the schools may be challenged by a student who has a "level 5" need served in an elementary school in one part of town and a "level 6" need served in a middle school in another location.

    5. with the addition of collaboration, social skills, physical skills and game play to the curriculum.

    These additions don't necessarily require more funds, but might instead require only a different allocation of those funds. That said, these curricular materials need to exist. Today, these "non-content" aspects of curriculum are far less well developed than the content side, so creation, perhaps by outside organizations, is important.

    6. The organization of this education will accommodate neurological limits to start time and attention span and disentangling the day care mission from the education mission.

    Within the last decade, Wayland explored the changing of start times to reflect that younger students perform better earlier in the morning than older students. Essentially, this would have involved the no-cost flipping of the ES and MS/HS schedules. One obstacle to consider is after school athletic schedules at the MS and HS levels. If an entire sports league (in our case, the DCL, although not all of our competitions are confined to the DCL) decided to pursue a change like this, it might be workable.

    The question of the "day care mission" is a good one. Today, schools serve both curricular and custodial needs (the latter reflecting the desire on the part of families to have their children in the care of adults during the workday). It may be that the custodial nature of schools is too important to give up. Even so, the fact that students are together in a "chaperoned" environment isn't necessarily educationally bad, and in fact may be educationally good for academic and social collaboration reasons.

    7. Supporting schools undertaking this mission, outside organizations will create a business model that incentivizes the development of measurable best-in-class content and the means to assess its mastery.

    This task falls to publishers, research organizations, and others. The creation of curricular materials requires a sound research basis for their design and the efficacy testing of their implementation. Schools have neither the funds, the time, or the expertise to undertake this task. Today, there are many strong curricular, PD, and assessment offerings from numerous sources, and the organizations creating them are incentivized to continue improving and expanding them.


    Dave, a question for you. When you say that today's schools could improve 10,000%, are you referring to the best schools in the US/internationally, the median school in the US, the worst schools in the US, or something else? And a follow-on question: is there a path toward your standard that involves improving our current system, do we need a new system started from scratch, or is there another path that you see?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    To assist anyone who's still following along, here's my stab at compiling the various pieces of Dave's standard into a single, cohesive statement (updates to your original in italic, different colors representing different points). Please feel free to correct me if I haven't captured everything.

    Consider a well-nourished 3-year old from a stable, supportive family who receives 15 years of personalized education from a large, dedicated set of instructors chosen for their mastery of domain knowledge/skill (art, biochemistry, Chinese, ...) understanding of developmental neuroscience, patience, and love of teaching -- all coordinated and optimized by a team leader who continuously assesses the student's progress and budding interests. Now consider twenty such students, each with their dedicated array of instructors and team leader, grouped by their developmental needs rather than their chronological age, with the addition of collaboration, social skills, physical skills and game play to the curriculum. The organization of this education will accommodate neurological limits to start time and attention span and disentangling the day care mission from the education mission. Supporting schools undertaking this mission, outside organizations will create a business model that incentivizes the development of measurable best-in-class content and the means to assess its mastery. The outcome achieved by this kind of educational process would be a reasonable standard against which to assess our current education system and drive its improvement.

    A fine vision, but without a path to get their, just that, a vision.
    No, Jeff, what I posted is not a vision; it is a hypothetical approach to education intended show that there is enormous room for improvement in current educational outcomes – not just 10% or 20% or even 100%, but ~100X. Here’s the original:

    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    Consider a well-nourished 3-year old from a stable, supportive family who receives 15 years of personalized education from a large, dedicated set of instructors chosen for their mastery of domain knowledge/skill (art, biochemistry, Chinese, ...) understanding of developmental neuroscience, patience, and love of teaching -- all coordinated and optimized by a team leader who continuously assesses the student's progress and budding interests. Now consider twenty such students, each with their dedicated array of instructors and team leader, but with the addition of collaboration, social skills, physical skills and game play to the curriculum. The outcome achieved by this kind of educational process would be a reasonable standard against which to assess our current education system and drive its improvement.
    Note the last line: what I proposed is that the outcome produced by this hypothetical approach be the kind of goal we set in efforts to improve the current system.

    Later, I made this even more explicit:

    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    To make my point, I characterized a process so that readers could more easily contrast it to current practice, and appreciate the vast improvement that such a process might deliver; obviously, the process as described would not scale to a neighborhood, much less a planet. I suggest that the measure be the "the fraction of graduating students demonstrating complete mastery of a specified set of core domains and a specified minimum number of elective domains". In my view, the core domains would include at least three languages with their associated literature, music theory, art appreciation, world and national history, and the major branches of mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics -- but we don't yet know how much could be mastered given an optimal process. I suspect we're seriously underestimating what's possible.
    As described, each hypothetical student’s educational process would by construction be optimized around their personnel development, undistorted by groupings based on chronological age or by any “day care” requirement. Thus your proposed in-color modifications above are entirely redundant.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I'll deconstruct the different elements of this vision and comment on possible ways to get to each.
    It’s silly to deconstruct a hypothetical approach to education whose only goal is to show there’s far more upside – like ~100X – than many would imagine. Whether you’ve truly missed the point or just can’t resist exploring rat-holes, I’ll leave to the reader.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    1. Consider a well-nourished 3-year old from a stable, supportive family
    While schools can and should create school-community partnerships to encourage the best out-of-school preparation for a child's learning, the bulk of reaching this goal is well beyond what schools can provide (between the ages of birth and age 18, students today spend only 13% of their waking hours in school).
    This is a wonderful example of how to suppress innovation. Here we are contemplating a ~100X improvement in our educational process, and you start by drawing lines in the sand about what schools can’t provide. Pretend there’s no sand, Jeff.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    2. who receives 15 years of personalized education from a large, dedicated set of instructors chosen for their mastery of domain knowledge/skill (art, biochemistry, Chinese, ...) understanding of developmental neuroscience, patience, and love of teaching -- all coordinated and optimized by a team leader who continuously assesses the student's progress and budding interests.

    Adding two years of schooling would add 15% in cost, all else being equal (which it doesn't necessarily have to be).
    This is a wonderful example of false precision. At this point, you have no idea what “schooling” will mean, but you can predict to within 1% the incremental cost of a 15-year education?

    It’s also a wonderful example of extraordinary myopia. An educational system whose outcomes are ~100X better than today’s system would generate enormous reductions in a wide range of social costs, e.g. welfare, medical care, and incarceration. Facing an opportunity of this economic magnitude, you’re worried about a 15% cost increase?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    3. Now consider twenty such students, each with their dedicated array of instructors and team leader,
    Schools can control class size/student-teacher ratio, but the level at which they set these targets will have a strong cost impact.
    More myopia.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    4. grouped by their developmental needs rather than their chronological age
    Grouping students by readiness rather than age creates scheduling challenges, particularly given that students will have different academic, emotional, and physical abilities in different subject areas, but these challenges may not be insurmountable.
    Even your optimism is couched in pessimism.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    6. The organization of this education will accommodate neurological limits to start time and attention span and disentangling the day care mission from the education mission.
    Within the last decade, Wayland explored the changing of start times to reflect that younger students perform better earlier in the morning than older students. Essentially, this would have involved the no-cost flipping of the ES and MS/HS schedules. One obstacle to consider is after school athletic schedules at the MS and HS levels. If an entire sports league (in our case, the DCL, although not all of our competitions are confined to the DCL) decided to pursue a change like this, it might be workable.
    Pretend that optimizing the educational outcome were your highest priority, and that the economic benefit of accomplishing this would be so large that both the required funding and region-wide adoption are guaranteed. With all but physical and physiological constraints eliminated, how might we provide “start times” optimized to the needs of each student and provide competitive sports?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    The question of the "day care mission" is a good one. Today, schools serve both curricular and custodial needs (the latter reflecting the desire on the part of families to have their children in the care of adults during the workday). It may be that the custodial nature of schools is too important to give up. Even so, the fact that students are together in a "chaperoned" environment isn't necessarily educationally bad, and in fact may be educationally good for academic and social collaboration reasons.
    Suppose someone were to propose a practical, scalable educational system that would without question yield a ~100X improvement in educational outcomes, along with all of the economic and quality-of-life benefits that such a system would ultimately deliver. You’d argue against adopting this system on the grounds that “It may be that the custodial nature of schools is too important to give up”? Wouldn’t you first think about how to provide child care in a way that complements this system?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Dave, a question for you. When you say that today's schools could improve 10,000%, are you referring to the best schools in the US/internationally, the median school in the US, the worst schools in the US, or something else?
    US median.

    If you want to make the ~100X target seem even more difficult to achieve, you could express it in binary rather than decimal: 10011100010000%

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    And a follow-on question: is there a path toward your standard that involves improving our current system, do we need a new system started from scratch, or is there another path that you see?
    As I said at the outset, approaches that require “boiling the ocean” never work. I believe that the best course is a “four-phase staged change” model:
    1. Acknowledge where we stand today – bluntly, with no sugar-coating or defensiveness
    2. Develop and syndicate a Vision for where we want to be X years from now, and objective measures for the attainment of that Vision
    3. Develop and syndicate a Plan for achieving the Vision via a sequence of Stages, each of which is measurable
    4. As each Stage is completed, assess it, and adjust the Plan based on experience gained

    There’s a lot of Phase 1 activity around the country, but it’s fragmented and disorganized – not part of any cohesive effort to move forward. That likely won’t change until the outline of a feasible Vision emerges with a reasonable value for X.
    Last edited by DHBernstein; 04-23-2011 at 04:49 PM.

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