Five Things We’re Reading Now

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With the school year entering the final stretch, it’s time to reflect on what has and hasn’t worked this school year. In this spring edition of 5 Things We’re Reading Now, the stories we’re sharing include a discussion about the curriculum choices we make and rethinking growth mindset. If these resonate with you, we encourage you to share them with your colleagues and have a conversation offline.

1. How to sort the good from the bad in OER

In this article, The Hechinger Report reports on panelist Rebecca Kockler’s comments about OER at our recent SXSWEdu session. Kockler, assistant superintendent of academic instruction at Louisiana’s Department of Education, is concerned about the many hours teachers spend online searching for good curricula. “There’s more bad OER out there than good; that’s a fact,” she says. “We need to find the quality stuff and elevate it, for everyone.” Her team has worked to identify and sort out quality materials to include in an integrated curriculum, available to all educators in the state on the department’s website. The state also provides professional development supports, which are critical to using OER effectively. So far, the state is seeing improved student outcomes with the integrated curriculum. “According to a RAND study released in January 2017, the state has seen record growth in the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses, as well as in its high school graduation rate and its rate of college attendance. Louisiana’s fourth-graders also had the highest learning gains in the nation in the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test.”

2. When It Comes to Equity, Expertise Matters

In this piece, Josh Parker, 2012 Maryland Teacher of the Year, writes about how building expertise, as well as empathy, is critical for teachers who want to advance equity in the classroom. Reflecting on his early years of teaching, he realized that his passion and love for students did not translate into learning for them. “I had to learn my content so well that I could stand in front of a group of 26 students at varying levels of proficiency and differentiate the process without watering down the content…As teachers invested in equity—we must increase the depth of our expertise in the content of the curriculum, the standards of our state and the culture of our children so that we can give every child what he/she needs to produce complex and meaningful work.” Connecting with students on an emotional level is not enough. If teachers do not regularly work to develop their content knowledge, Parker warns that “we will grow a teaching force that is well-versed in empathy and bias but lacking in the knowledge required to move the students who we love into lives they can lead themselves. You really can love a child to death.”

3. Innovation Road Trip: At This Rust Belt Grade School, a Curriculum Centered on Texts Is Defying the Effects of Generational Poverty

In a Rust Belt town plagued by generational poverty, a curriculum centered on texts that are “beautiful inside and out” is helping buck the status quo. Part of a new travel blog series, The 74 ventures to Saville Elementary School in Riverside, Ohio, to see the impact of an educator-developed consistent curriculum. Katie Luedke taught for 15 years at Saville and was distressed to see that her students “couldn’t look at a passage and understand it.” She went on to describe, “a lack of ‘connection to what they’re reading,’ insufficient vocabulary,’ and little knowledge of the world.” Leudke and other teachers in the school developed Wit & Wisdom, a “unified” curriculum. “The texts were intentionally selected to serve as both “mirrors and windows.” They provide opportunities for students to see themselves reflected in the texts and also open up for students a knowledge of the world and the world of ideas.”

4. For Teenagers, Praising ‘Effort’ May Not Promote a Growth Mindset

A recent review of research published in Child Development suggests that the theory of praising students’ effort to increase growth mindset has negative effects. The authors say that when students reach middle and high school, praise from teachers and parents become insufficient. The authors—Jaime Amemiya, psychology researcher and Ming-Te Wang, associate professor of psychology and education, both at the colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh—are not alone in this conclusion.Even Carol Dweck, the Stanford University researcher who coined the term “growth mindset,” has re-evaluated her initial findings and “come to consider a focus on effort praise alone to be a ‘false growth mindset.’” Instead, researchers recommend substantiating the praise with what was effective about the student’s strategies so they can continue to improve.  

5. 50 Years After the Walkouts, Los Angeles Latino Students Are Still Fighting for Educational Equity

Fifty years ago, 15,000 Latino students walked out of their East Los Angeles classrooms protesting a 60 percent dropout rate and low expectations from teachers. This piece by The 74 investigates what’s changed—as well as what hasn’t changed—in the school district since that historic walkout and compares it to today’s Dreamers movement. Fifty years ago, the Mexican-American students were isolated in classes where teachers did not look like them and textbooks erased them from American history. Today, Latino students make up 75 percent of the LA Unified school district, but only 39 percent are college-ready when they graduate, and the state now has the largest Latino teacher-student gap in the nation. This disparity shows ] that there’s still much to be done to include these students, many of whom still feel isolated as children of immigrants. Once again, it’s the students speaking up to ensure their culture is integrated into the classroom. “I can’t imagine how hard it would have been for students like me to have been forbidden to express their culture or speak Spanish. It would be so hard for me,” said 10th-grader Natalie Macías.

What have you read lately? Send us a link on Twitter the next time you read something impactful–we want to hear your thoughts!