AP can be about more than just tests

At the end of one of my design thinking workshops this fall, a participant said she found it strange that I present workshops to promote divergent thinking and classroom innovation, then turn around and present AP workshops for the College Board. She asked: Isn’t this kind of teaching exactly the opposite of what AP requires?…

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What is a 3, anyway?

In the world of standards-based grading, a 3 means proficient. Does that means it’s kind of like a C? Or more like a B? Don’t tell me it doesn’t matter. It does. It has to go in the gradebook. In late August, I wrote this post about my first foray into the world of proficiency-based…

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Have you done your homework on homework?

Take this quick True/False quiz: T/F Homework in high school should be limited to 10 minutes per night, per class. T/F Most high school students do about two hours of homework per night. T/F Research has found no correlation between homework and achievement. T/F Homework is always beneficial to students. T/F Homework is never beneficial…

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Will later start times = more sleep? We’re going to find out.

Will a later start time help our high school students get more sleep, foster better academic performance and reduce rates of anxiety and depression? I think so. But a few weeks ago, I was championing our school’s new start times — the first bell now rings at 8:35 a.m. instead of 7:25 a.m. — and…

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Time to assess this new grading system

At my high school, we’ve changed our grading practices at least six times in recent memory. It all started with requiring common assessments and grading scales for each course. Then came a school-wide grading scale, with 93% for an A. Then we removed behavioral and other non-academic considerations from grades. That meant even truant (or…

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‘I don’t know this word’… Why student knowledge and context matter

My friend Mary, a bookseller in Chicago, told me I need to read Educated, a memoir by Tara Westover. Westover was was raised by American survivalists, and her story explains how she broke with her family’s extremist ideology and left home to seek her education, culminating in a Ph.D. from Cambridge. The part that stuck…

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Grit offers good – but not great – insights

I just finished reading Grit, and I have to say I’m disappointed. I know Angela Duckworth’s argument that passion and perseverance can overcome obstacles and lead to success has met with mixed reviews — especially from those who believe the focus on grit discounts the impact of poverty — and I have to say I…

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Relationships: Necessary but NOT sufficient for student learning

“They don’t care what you know until they know you care.” “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” “Great teachers focus not on compliance but on connections and relationships.” “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” It’s that time of year when the teacher-web is heating up with inspirational reminders that we have…

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Let’s stop emphasizing ‘nice’ for girls

What is your first response when someone makes an unreasonable request of you? Hell no! With all due respect, a firm no No, but… (feeling guilty) OK, I guess I’ll do it Be honest. Is it easy to stand up for yourself, or do you hem and haw and feel guilty later? This might surprise…

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Is boredom good for us?

I’ve been hearing a lot recently about the “benefits” of boredom. One of the teachers honored by the Minnesota Council for the Social Studies said she tells her high school students they need to feel bored. They need to unplug, unwind, step back from the world of constant stimulation and just let themselves BE. Even if it’s…

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