Monday, September 01, 2014

Education, Evaluation and College and Career Readiness

Michigan like many other states is considered losing ground in many areas in learning progress as it relates to our K-12 education system.

 Report that was recently published by the Education trust Midwest (ETM) continuously measures result findings as it relates to Michigan Education.

I am always curious when writers, editorials, educational experts and politicians use words like “Results” and ‘Systems.”

6/16/14 - Everyone keeps talking about Performance and Evaluation Methods for Teachers (I don't agree). Even if someone could come up with a method it would still not work without "Transforming" the educational system in whole. Adding and or Changing measures and numbers to a Broken system will not help the system. The current system was designed and built for the Industrial ERA and it works fine. The problem is we need an educational system for the 21st Century students, teachers, parents and administrators and that we have not done. We must also understand that when we use the word "Transform" that means brand spanking new. Unfortunately, what most people try to do is change the existing system and that is called continual process improvement. And, you only want to do that to a stable system.

“Results” should not be a stand-alone term. They should always be accompanied by “Process Measures” that indicate/predicts what is happening (Good and Bad) throughout (End-to-End) a process/system. Most don’t address/implement process measures. They mostly wait for the results and then write and comment in numerous websites, television shows and newspaper editorials over and over again each time a new educational report or test scores are provided by private groups or a state report.

“Systems” is used as an all-encompassing term that must be defined by the process/system owners. The problem is most owners only know a “Piece” of the system and they concentrate on that piece as it affects them as being the most important part of the system. Here is where the problem starts and continues to play out because the owner (Leader) has no idea what responsibility comes with being an owner (This cannot be delegated to a manger, supervisor or administrator). See my write-up on -

When I write about the “Piece” it can take many forms but what must be remembered is a system is made up of many pieces that must be interdependent to serve its purpose. See - and -

 I truly believe the conventional wisdom thinking when it comes to the education system in the United States is Medieval. Let me put it this way; thinking is flawed when people refuse to understand the whole system as it relates to education. Much like the Greek scientist Ptolemy in the 130s AD when he professed the Earth (Piece) was the center of the universe and everything revolved around it (Ha – many people still see themselves this way).

It took over 1400 years for Nicolaus Copernicus the Polish mathematician and astronomer in the 1530s to dispel this thinking and “somewhat” convinced people to realize the Earth was a “Piece” of the whole and to truly make strides in learning this valued concept. Today, many people call this Systems Thinking. 

Many people within the educational system see their (Piece) District, School or Classroom as the most important and best as it relates to their self-interests and then convince others within their realm to believe the same so parents can justify why they pay or send their child to a particular school.

No one defines the whole for College and Career Readiness. Colleges are telling K-12 schools what they expect from graduates (GPA, Test Scores, Admission Requirements, etc.) and many are not listening and the Career Companies are telling colleges/schools what they want (real World learning and Experiences) and many of them are not listening.

How can colleges effectively evaluate incoming students when so many schools (Pieces) establish their own grading scales that measure their students completely different from the school down the street, county or other state? That is why the SAT and ACT Test scores are so important because it is the only ‘Standard’ way of comparing students with measures. Other predictors (Not all schools do this) on the college application like activities, sports, clubs, letters of recommendation and essays also play a part.

Speaking of the non-standard way GPA is calculated I first wrote about this in 2005 If we have to have grades at least develop a fair system for how much effort a student puts in to learning as opposed to an "AVERAGE" which mathematically when used by itself (Should use measure of Central Tendency - Mean, Mode, Median and Range) is worthless. I say this because GPA by itself is a poor means of measuring one’s academic knowledge. In fact, the way a student's GPA is calculated depends on the school he/she attends. Averaging the GPA in my opinion is worthless. Why don't schools assign points per Grade ( A = 4, B =3, C = 2, and D=1). If you want a 5 for Honors or AP classes that is fine. Simply total up the final score 6 As, + 1 B = 27). The more points you have the better. This would also encourage more students to take more classes instead of the minimum in order to graduate. Is a student who takes 5 classes and gets all As (GPA = 4.0, Total 20) doing more than the student who took 7 classes in the example above who would have a GPA of 3.8 under the current way of calculating GPA (27/7). See-

Within in many schools where you have more than one teacher instructing the same subject (i.e., Algebra) have different means of measuring/grading how they evaluate their students. Some teachers give A’s like candy while other teachers are so hard you must give your right arm and left leg to get a C.
Thoughts I Keep Pondering (Updated 9/1/14)…
1)      First Updated 6/5/14 - Why so many “Punitive (Win/Lose)” consequences when it comes to education? In order to truly learn we must make mistakes and learn how to correct them in order to learn. We should be encouraging this behavior but instead we label students with grades like below average or failure. We encourage false learning by increasing our “Understanding (Not Learning) of subject matter by adding value (Repeatability) to things that we already know because of the positive feedback reward systems in place. Why do so many students hate Math/ because it is concrete with answers that either right or wrong. If I’m good at math I will continue my understanding. If I’m wrong I get criticized and feel failure and will continuously shy away because every wrong answer or mistake is looked at as a negative and not as an opportunity for learning. I’m convinced our education system is committed to teaching, but not to learning (There is a difference). Why do I say this? The reason is what I mostly learned in the classrooms over my years I have forgotten. Rote teaching (Memorization technique based on repetition) is not learning. Real learning comes from someone imparting their knowledge and wisdom through experiences and applications.
2)      Why do we not have different means/modes/instruments of learning? Too much emphasis is for everyone to learn in the same manner and speed. The problem is there have never been two people alike since the beginning of time.
3)      We continually measure what we have learned through the use of grades and grading scales. How come we don’t measure how much a person has the ability to learn and then develop means by which to gauge it through on-going improvement plans (Grade-by-Grade) established for that person?
4)      Why don’t more teachers embrace the Internet Age? Students today have a tremendous amount of resources and tools to have information and data at their fingertips in nanoseconds. There is no teacher today that can store and compete with all the available information. So instead of fighting and fearing this technology by not allowing computers, calculators, iPads, etc. you are restricting learning. Your survival as a teacher demands you understand this reasoning. Teachers need to make sure students are using these available resources and tools in the right and correct manner to ensure learning takes place. The “Real” Working World encourages individual workers and teams to use all available resources just as long as they know how to use them to work on their assignments.
5)      Why do we test and label our children at such early stages in their learning? Finland, who is considered to have the best education system in the world do not administer mandatory tests or exams until students are 16 years of age. In my opinion, this allows students to experience many things and situations helping them find what they are at good at without labeling at a young age thus inhibiting curiosity and growth. I can even agree to early testing if associated improvement plans are in place as I stated in number 3 above.
6)      I learned many years ago when conducting Root Cause Analysis on problems inherent within a process/system that some were so complex that it would take weeks, months and in some case years to resolve the issues. One day I decided to design with the  help of subject matter experts (In education this would include students) what would be the proper/best corrected way to do the work and then standardize it for all to measure and continually monitor through process measures to make sure the results did not vary from the expected requirements. This method was so much quicker and effective. Why do we take so much time to try and correct the unknowable?  The major obstacle was getting process workers to change the way they did their jobs. I finally had to tell them doing the wrong thing correctly is wrong! And, you don’t have to change; your survival is optional (Taken from Dr. Deming). I believe this is what Albert Einstein meant when he said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when creating them.”
7)      I realize some jobs require people to have to have different bosses throughout the day. Did you ever stop and think how many different bosses (Teachers, Administrators, and Parents) students have each hour of the day? They all have different set of rules, requirements, orders and evaluation methods on declaring what is right and what is wrong. Am I the only one who thinks this is not the best way for our children to learn? No wonder why I am often considered a rebel always questioning and challenging the status quo. Yes, some order is required but by so many conflicting views all thinking their (Piece) is right.
8)      College and Career Readiness continue to be buzzwords for today. K-12 education should be preparing students for College/School and Colleges/Schools should be preparing students for careers. I understand this reasoning but not all careers require a 4-year degree. Too much emphasis and credence is given to university degrees and now colleges/schools charge outrageous prices simply because they can. They are exhibiting absolute power and this is destroying our education system. This has, is, and will continue to cause the Demise of the American Educational System. The Student debt (1 trillion and counting) will make the housing bubble look like a burp when it explodes. Our society is driven by the education of our young and too many are being denied access.
9)      Sometimes I question how many courses/classes that are taught in K-12 and college really prepare students for a career. Maybe it’s not the type of classes but how much is enough. Does 12 years of History or Science, etc. prepare students for a career or just a well-rounded citizen? Does 2 years of a Foreign Language in high school allow a person to master a language? I believe the bigger issue is the amount of people who have personal monetary stakes (Pieces – like books, training material, etc.) in the educational system and will never let go of explaining the purpose of their efforts. We have moved beyond the Industrial Age but our educational system in many ways is still entrenched in the Agricultural Era (i.e., Length of School, Types of Classes). We are afraid of making mistakes (Yet this is how we learn) and of change (This is how we get better). So as I see it the “Bigger” mistake is to do nothing or to remain the same with simple solutions (Disguised as Change).
10)  Transformation of the ‘Whole” system is required. We can no longer do incremental or partial changes and expect quality results. We cannot afford to lose another generation of students to mediocrity or failing. Continuing to do the same things we already know is not learning. At best, we can only add limited value to our current understanding. In order to learn we must experience and do things that requires changes accompanied by mistakes and errors. But that is OK. That is how we learn and set quality change in motion.
11) I believe some Charter Schools have been created to truly try and transform in to a new student driven school that is needed for the 21st Century Student. The problem is the so-called standards and changes that are in place and the new ones that keep coming drive a horizontal/parallel change that keeps the school in tune with the current public and private school education system. There all on the same path and going in same direction just a different highway that runs the same way.
12) 7/4/14 - In my own state of Michigan good people continue to want a better education system but they keep doing the "Wrong Thing," Right! They keep trying to change a broken system by blaming people and politics. They want change on their terms but will not accept the fact the change required is Transformation and not spending more money on an outdated system. Trying blame and measure Teacher (Scapegoats) as the measure for success is ludicrous. I understand there are poor teachers but it is the responsibility of Leadership to correct this problem and they must do it fairly and it must be documented with proof of trying to corrective behavior and not punitive as what is being pushed today.
13) 7/4/14 - This would be the ultimate goal for a school system "Develop the Total Student from K-12 by creating a nurturing learning environment from K-12 so that when our student’s leave our school they still have the yearning, passion and excitement they entered our school with so many years ago."
14) 9/1/14 - So many opinions on Common Core Standards (CCS). I bet most people don't even know what the standards are or have ever read them. Next time the topic comes up ask the complainers what subjects are covered by the CCS? Just in case you don't know it is Math and English.


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