Real Schools for the Real World

Featuring Doug Reeves.

Award winning author, researcher, international speaker and Mathematics teacher, Doug Reeves has always been one of the most lucid voices in education, and his insights are today more relevant than ever. Join us as Doug shares with us his no-nonsense vision about what works, and, most importantly, what does not work in education and can actually harm children.

(Music by lesfm from Pixabay)

Episode notes:

  • 50 years from now how will classrooms be? Teacher in front, desks in rows.
  • Two big changes: change from 5 year perspectives to a 100 day perspective.
  • Another change is that you need evidence of impact before you buy in.
  • If you have to get buy in first, change never happens.
  • Teachers say that research is fine but it does not apply to them. Outside – in research does not work. Inside out research is what changes people.
  • What sustains research at the classroom level is if teachers have tried it and it works.
  • Grading is what teachers have left, they cling to their last power.
  • Punishing kids with F is akin to states that still allow corporal punishment.
  • Aside for the immorality, facts prove that both don´t work.

This is a health and safety issue, toxic grading practices are associated with failure leading to poverty and unemployment. They become a 30, 40-year problem.

  • Punish by grading is not OK, it´s like having their own standards for cafeteria or bus safety. They are in the same category to the people who say it is OK to beat children.
  • Critics use the issue of self-esteem against us, saying that we are educating a generation of soft children. Not against giving feedback. When they fail on a test in many classrooms settings, they are told “you are a failure” and that is a permanent sentence.
  • That is not legitimizing low standards. We want high standards and achievement, but with honest communication.
  • The real world is not about getting it right the first time.

The first thing to do is eliminate averages.

  • Use simplified systems for grading. Early 1900s came the 100-point scale, which is basically an aberration, at the dawn of the computing age and intelligent tests.
  • Even though we know that, people still cling to the 100-point scale.
  • It’s not getting it right the first time. It’s not always kicking the goal the first time. The real world is about making mistakes, getting feedback, respecting and applying that feedback, and then succeeding.
  • I assume that every student is going to need feedback and, most importantly, I expect that they will respect that feedback and apply it, not to engage in this fantasy that a good kid always gets it right the first time.
  • No averages: you evaluate students based on their performance at the time.
  • That is exactly the way that we evaluate students in sports and music and a variety of other competitions.

In education, we are all about evaluating the breakthrough, not about punishing the struggle.

  • Assessments have to be reliable and consistent.
  • The more points you have the less reliable and the less consistent any measurement is. The fewer points that we have on the scale the more consistent and reliable assessment will be.
  • Assessments have to be FAST: Fair, Accurate, Specific and Timely.
  • More and more effective teachers are stopping this ridiculous practice of assuming that work gets done at home, and starting to do the practice during the class with immediate feedback by the teacher.
  • One of the biggest misunderstandings is that equity is all about race, about class, or equity is all about language or about learning disabilities and it is not.

I subscribe to the Ken Williams definition that equity is giving students what they need when they need it with urgency.

  • Equity applies as much to giving a student who may be two or three grades behind grade level and reading as to your most advanced student.
  • Without a commitment to equity for your most advanced students, they will be bored and ultimately leave.
  • Critics hear it as low expectations, you are just feeling sorry for the poor kids you’re just feeling sorry for the government, that is why I titled my book for deliberately achieving equity and excellence.

Equity without excellence is low expectations; conversely, excellence without equity is just a code word for exclusion.

  • Real performance is not about the transcript. Performance is about being able to take feedback and apply it, and many kids can’t do that, including supposedly very high performing kids.
  • We need to redefine what success is, but I think students and parents both manifestly overestimate the value of that compared to leadership, service and kindness.
  • When people claim to be fearless I simply ask this question: what happened to the last teacher, what happened to the last administrator who publicly admitted a mistake?
  • For the most part mistakes are hidden, mistakes are covered up. Mistakes are something to be frowned upon.
  • The illusion of engagement is where you walk into a classroom and the teacher is giving this marvelous presentation and magically, when they are being observed, always calls on students who know the answer.
  • To some observers, a quiet classroom, all eyes front all the kids knowing the answer, might seem like a great classroom, but that in fact is a fearful classroom.
  • The fearless classroom is when they make mistakes joyfully, without fear, without inhibition, learn from them and get better.

Optimism is part of the price of admission to working in education.

  • As Oscar Wilde said, the lessons most worth learning can’t be taught.

Wish: That the hiring criteria for teachers is less about transcripts and certifications in more about love unconditional love for children, because I can teach you assessment, I can teach curriculum, I can’t teach you how to love kids.


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