National Center for Educational Statistics

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP test, is commonly called “The Nation’s Report Card.”  The results of this test are commonly cited in news articles comparing states, noting areas of weakness in our students, and analyzing trends.

I think anyone with an interest in education would enjoy perusing the state profiles at the National Center for Educational Statistics.  The data at your fingertips is just amazing.  You can highlight your state and immediately see NAEP data for both 4th and 8th grades for the last ten years.  It’s interesting to see how many students in your state scored at or above basic, proficient, and advanced.

The real fun comes when you compare the states.  The website makes it so easy.  Say you want to compare the 4th grade reading data in your state.  Go down to the chart of scores and click on “compare.”  You are taken to a screen that looks like this.  Now the states are color coded to indicate which states had a higher average scale score, which states were not significantly different, and which states had a lower average scale score.  You can see the same score data in two graph types: bar and line graphs.

The NAEP website is a good place to find demographic data for your state.  Just scroll down and you’ll see it on the side of the screen: the number of students, teachers, the student-to-teacher ratio, the ethnic breakdown, and more.  Here is an example for New Hampshire.

Applications:

  • The data can be helpful for the just plain curious.  How does your state really stack up against all others?  Is the situation as dire as politicians would have you believe?
  • The data can help you with papers for advanced degree programs, professional development, or presentations.
  • The charts, graphs, and map-with-comparisons are wonderful examples of data for your class.  I really like how you can see the same data in a table, map, bar graph, or line graph.

 

Posted in Education Policy and Reform,Math by Corey Green @ Mar 20, 2012

 

The Edible Schoolyard from Chez Panisse Foundation

bookAlice Waters, the famous chef who pioneered the fresh food and local food movement, is ready to change how students think about food.

Many schools like to plant a garden.  Even better: an edible schoolyard!

The Edible Schoolyard is a one-acre garden and kitchen classroom at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California. It is a project of the Chez Panisse Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by chef and author Alice Waters.

The Edible Schoolyard is different from other school gardens, and not just because of the partnership with a world-famous chef.  The Edible Schoolyard began as a cover crop with once-monthly student participation, but now it is a whole acre, and each student participates in 12-30 sessions, depending on grade level.  Students enjoy eating from the Edible Schoolyard, but the project does not aim to supply the entire school with lunch each day.  For that, look to Alice Waters’ School Lunch Initiative.

In 2004, the Chez Panisse Foundation partnered with Berkeley Unified School District to change what the students eat at school and how they learn about food.  After three years, they have transformed the school lunch program.  The students now enjoy fresh, healthy, local foods made from scratch, with seasonal ingredients.  You can read about their success at School Lunch Reform. Be sure to click and read about their accomplishments and lessons learned.

Edible Schoolyard has an affiliate program with a few model Edible Schoolyards around the country.  You can read about the program and maybe even sign up for a workshop.

If you are ever in Berkeley, visit Chez Panisse and the lunch eatery, Chez Panisse Café.  It’s best if you can make a reservation—people book a month in advance.

During summer vacation, my family and I realized we were “in the neighborhood,” so to speak. We walked in to Chez Panisse and the place was packed.  The most gracious manager in the world, Renee, invited us to wait for a cancellation.  Lunch was worth the wait!  The ingredients were fresh and flavorful, the recipes inventive.  I had a strawberry sherbet packed with more strawberry flavor than I ever thought possible.

You can bring Alice Waters to your home with her cookbooks:

The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution
Edible Schoolyard: A Universal Idea
…and many titles with recipes from Chez Panisse

Celebrate Chez Panisse’s 40th anniversary the weekend of August 26 and 27thThere will be multiple events in the Berkeley area, mostly fundraisers aimed at increasing awareness of Edible Schoolyard.  If you can’t make it to Berkeley, perhaps you can attend one of the Eating for Education dinners at restaurants around the country.

Posted in Education Policy and Reform,Food by Corey Green @ Aug 22, 2011

 

Matt Damon at Save Our Schools Rally

Matt Damon spoke  on July 30, 2011 in Washington DC at the Save Our Schools march.   I’ll post the text of his speech below, as if we need more reasons to love this man!

I flew overnight from Vancouver to be with you today.  I landed in New York a few hours ago and caught a flight down here because I needed to tell you all in person that I think you’re awesome.

I was raised by a teacher.  My mother is a professor of early childhood education.  And from the time I went to kindergarten through my senior year in high school, I went to public schools.  I wouldn’t trade that education and experience for anything.

I had incredible teachers.  As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself — my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity — all come from how I was parented and taught.

And none of these qualities that I’ve just mentioned — none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success — none of these qualities that make me who I am … can be tested.

 I said before that I had incredible teachers.  And that’s true.  But it’s more than that.  My teachers were EMPOWERED to teach me.  Their time wasn’t taken up with a bunch of test prep — this silly drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn’t promote real learning.  No, my teachers were free to approach me and every other kid in that classroom like an individual puzzle.  They took so much care in figuring out who we were and how to best make the lessons resonate with each of us. They were empowered to unlock our potential.  They were allowed to be teachers.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I did have a brush with standardized tests at one point.  I remember because my mom went to the principal’s office and said,  ‘My kid ain’t taking that.  It’s stupid, it won’t tell you anything and it’ll just make him nervous.’  That was in the ’70s when you could talk like that.

 I shudder to think that these tests are being used today to control where funding goes.

I don’t know where I would be today if my teachers’ job security was based on how I performed on some standardized test.  If their very survival as teachers was based on whether I actually fell in love with the process of learning but rather if I could fill in the right bubble on a test.  If they had to spend most of their time desperately drilling us and less time encouraging creativity and original ideas; less time knowing who we were, seeing our strengths and helping us realize our talents.

I honestly don’t know where I’d be today if that was the type of education I had.  I sure as hell wouldn’t be here.  I do know that.

This has been a horrible decade for teachers.  I can’t imagine how demoralized you must feel.  But I came here today to deliver an important message to you:  As I get older, I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up.  And I’m not alone.  There are millions of people just like me.

So the next time you’re feeling down, or exhausted, or unappreciated,  or at the end of your rope;  the next time you turn on the TV and see yourself called “overpaid;”  the next time you encounter some simple-minded,  punitive policy that’s been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything. … Please know that there are millions of us behind you.  You have an army of regular people standing right behind you, and our appreciation for what you do is so deeply felt.  We love you, we thank you and we will always have your back.

Posted in Education Policy and Reform by Corey Green @ Jul 31, 2011