Suppose you are a student in a high school or college course and a magic fairy offers you the following choice: (1) You will learn the material in the course well, but will get a low grade (a D). Or (2) you will not learn the material at all, but will get a high grade (an A). Which would you choose? Be honest. ” Peter GrayAre schools good for learning, or for more Pavlovian purposes? Peter Gray explores whether schools are as effective as they ought to be.
– by Peter Minde
At Unity Charter School, homework has been a simmering debate for a two or three years. Do our kids get enough homework each night, or do they get too much? Over the years we’ve had Laurel in UCS, I’ve heard arguments both ways.
The Whole School Viability committee, of which I’m chairman, is considering a model homework policy. Recently, the teaching staff kindly shared their opinions on what an appropriate homework policy should look like. I thank them for their time.
This policy is under consideration and hasn’t yet been adopted. Please feel free to attend one of the committee meetings – they’re in the school’s Google calendar – or a full Board of Trustees meeting to share your opinion.
The homework debate isn’t unique to UCS. The Morristown Patch recently published an article about student homework loads. They link to a couple of scholarly pieces as well as an Economist piece about homework in China that rings similar to what we read in the China Daily when we were there this summer.Jillianne Zimmerman pointed me to this scholarly analysis on homework’s place in educating our kids. Most definitely worth the read.
In The Atlantic, former teacher Jessica Lahey expounds on the idea of getting rid of homework altogether.
On a lighter note, I couldn’t help but share about Fairbanks, AK’s Watershed School. Like Unity Charter School, Watershed is a K-8 school looking to teach their students about the local environment. In that frigid clime, their take on keeping kids active? Getting them to ski, of course. Be still my beating heart. Is it too late to plan for a ski jump in our new outdoor space?
We’re elementary and middle school parents, but college is staring our kids in the face some years down the road. Since retiring from Microsoft, Bill Gates has spent $472 million of his foundation’s money to change higher education, in ways that often go undocumented or unnoticed by the general public. Not everyone in academe is thrilled with his approach. This story in the Chronicle of Higher Education is longish and definitely worth reading: it has impact on our children’s future. And Bill? We could use a smidgen of that dough for our outdoor space.
A little-noticed provision of New Jersey’s charter school law allows mainstream public school and private schools to convert themselves to charter schools. The former Saint Philip’s Academy in Newark is the first institution to take advantage of the law. The renamed Philip’s Academy Charter has one commonality with Unity Charter School: they’ll have students from multiple sending districts. But in other ways, it’s quite different. John Mooney writes about the transition.
On the lighter side, here’s another essay about leveraging Minecraft in the classroom.
Historically, the UCS community has taken a dim view of standardized testing. This has evidenced itself consistently in the year-end survey: of the assessment tools the community is asked to rate, standardized tests always get the poorest ratings. This year, the communications committee didn’t ask the community to rate standardized tests. It’s a moot point: we’re legally required to administer them. Retired teacher Frank Breslin offers an incendiary essay on standardized testing in New Jersey. Check it out.
Clicking in high heat was what happened last Friday when I tried starting my car, and the battery gave up the ghost. To put it charitably, that was inconvenient But today, the clicking is about some worthwhile summer reading on the world of education.
Many of the educational posts I’ve come across recently has fallen into two categories. One seems to be, “telling teachers how to do their jobs.” That’s neither the purview nor the intent of this blog. Much of the remainder seems directed towards older students, beyond Unity Charter School’s K – 8 range. If you find an article on education that you feel is worth sharing, please forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do we create critical thinkers? While it might be directed more towards high school and college, this useful infographic cuts to the chase.
At dinner for a few nights, Laurel regaled us with her adventures in Minecraft. When I asked her what Minecraft was, she rolled her eyes. Once again, Dad’s out of touch with the reality of the fourth grade. Although I’m skeptical about online learning, this is a fascinating piece on the use of Minecraft in the classroom. Check out the accompanying video, too.
If you’re looking for outdoor education ideas for your family this summer, read Matt Davis’s ideas on Edutopia. If you do get outdoors, remember to drink plenty of water. It’s easy to get dehydrated in the current heat wave.
The guys at Education Rethink have an iconoclastic side that gets my attention. I’m not sure I appreciate everything on their site, but these notes on the creative process are worth reading.
In June, the Unity Charter School Bobcats traveled to the Morristown Community Garden on Early Street to learn about bee keeping. In addition to the community garden plots, Farmer Shaun keeps bees at the far end of the Early Street plot.
The Bobcats started with a lesson from Farmer Shaun, complete with photographs. He described the queen bee, the drone and the worker and their respective roles in a colony. The Bobcats then had a spirited discussion over the relative merits of drone and worker bees.
After his presentation, Farmer Shaun brought the Bobcats down a narrow path on the overgrown back half of the lot. In the furthest corner were two beehives. Farmer Shaun ordered three pounds of bees by mail to start the colony. Who knew one ordered bees by the pound? His colony is now up to 60,000 bees.
The beehives stood on an old cement foundation in a lot overgrown with brush. Farmer Shaun told us that we were standing in an abandoned scrap metal yard. It had been reclaimed by nature, so to speak. It’s possible that in the not too distant future, the back lot will be cleared to provide additional garden plots for the neighborhood.