When all the dust settles and we’ve ticked all the boxes…

Buddhist Vision.

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What does OFSTED actually say about marking? More on marking – by Mary Myatt Learning

This is a very reassuring and helpful post from Mary Myatt.  I found the link in Ross Morrison McGill’s post entitled  “The Marking Frenzy”.  He calls her “the trusted, excellent and wonderful lead inspector for Ofsted” and I agree with him fully.

Visit More on marking by Mary Myatt Learning to read what she has to say about marking as “the latest pressure point”.

(You can also click on the screenshot below, taken from her website.  She kindly explains the three references to marking in the OFSTED handbook)

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How GERM is infecting schools around the world – The Answer Sheet – The Washington Post

 

 

As if we aren’t worried enough about Ebola, it seems that a very creepy epidemic is already well under way in our schools.  This is a very interesting article that certainly had me checking for each symptom in my current environment.  According to Pasi Sahlberg, education reforms in different countries have been following similar patterns.  He calls this common way of improvement the Global Educational Reform Movement or GERM.

“It is like an epidemic that spreads and infects education systems through a virus. It travels with pundits, media and politicians. Education systems borrow policies from others and get infected. As a consequence, schools get ill, teachers don’t feel well, and kids learn less.”

Check if you recognise any of the symptoms (excerpts from an article by Valerie Strauss http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/how-germ-is-infecting-schools-around-the-world/2012/06/29/gJQAVELZAW_blog.html )

  1. More competition within education systems
    Many reformers believe that the quality of education improves when schools compete against one another. In order to compete, schools need more autonomy, and with that autonomy comes the demand for accountability. School inspections, standardized testing of students, and evaluating teacher effectiveness are consequences of market-like competition in many school reforms today. Yet when schools compete against one another, they cooperate less.” 
  2. Increased school choice
    “It essentially positions parents as consumers empowering them to select schools for their children from several options and thereby promotes market-style competition into the system as schools seek to attract those parents. More than two-thirds of OECD countries have increased school choice opportunities for families with the perceptions that market mechanisms in education would allow equal access to high-quality schooling for all. Increasing numbers of charter schools in the United States, secondary school academies in England, free schools in Sweden and private schools in Australia are examples of expanding school choice policies. Yet according to the OECD, nations pursuing such choice have seen both a decline in academic results and an increase in school segregation.”
  3. Stronger accountability from schools and related standardised testing of students
    “Just as in the market place, many believe that holding teachers and schools accountable for students’ learning will lead to improved results. Today standardized test scores are the most common way of deciding whether schools are doing a good job. Teacher effectiveness that is measured using standardized tests is a related symptom of GERM. According to the Center for Public Education, standardized testing has increased teaching to the test, narrowed curricula to prioritize reading and mathematics, and distanced teaching from the art of pedagogy to mechanistic instruction.”

Read more:

 

Teaching Maths Tricks – A free e-book for teachers

Even though I am a veteran fighter for focusing on learning through understanding rather than tricks, I am still having to weed out a few old habits after reading this interesting e-book.  Good luck if you think that you are innocent.  I am sure that you will find at least one “technique” that you are guilty of teaching in your classroom!  Having said that, I am not totally convinced about every one of these proposed items.  I believe that you must make the right decision for your classes and your individual students based on your own expertise, experience and intuition.  Some students (and dare I say the ones who tend to “struggle with maths”) will not simply flourish under perfect learning conditions where understanding is everything, because we work in a climate where testing is the measure of our effectiveness.  As long as tests, exams, rigid schemes of work, pacing, box-ticking and clipboard carrying “learning walks” prevail, we are all going to be tempted to get a student through their GCSE’s with a few tricks up their sleeves.

I teach A-level students.  I am fully aware of the damage that these tricks can do to students who need to develop robust skills and insights while going through their secondary school years, but I am also aware that many students, parents, schools and systems are totally focused on the final grade that appears on a set of GCSE results regardless of how the child got it. If anyone or anything is to blame, we need to first accept that it is the result of a system that is focused on “teaching to the test” and then worrying about the damage later, or letting someone else (usually the A-level maths teachers) deal with the consequences of this goal-oriented, competitive, business-like highway that demands that we get more and more A* to C grades every year from students who are tired of being the passengers on our runaway buses.  Take away the idea that it’s all about the grade, and we will certainly end up having more students who enjoy and want to learn mathematics because it’s interesting, not because the school needs to show that it has met its target for the year.

Nix the Tricks.