Of Note: Results and Practice

    How are US Students Doing in Science? by OECD Programme for International Student Assessment
    PISA Results in Focus, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 
    August 2016

    Every three years the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) issues a test to evaluate education systems worldwide by assessing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-olds. While any test has limitations and critics, PISA warrants our attention as it is one of the few means of comparing U.S. student achievement to global peers. Results of the most recent test, administered to almost half a million students and representing 28 million students in 72 participating countries, were released in December. PISA 2015 focused on science, with reading, mathematics and collaborative problem solving as minor areas of assessment. Singapore outperformed all other participating countries in science. Japan, Estonia, Finland and Canada, in descending order of mean science performance, are the four highest-performing OECD countries. The U.S. ranks in the middle, about the same as the last time the assessment was administered in 2012. An analysis of the findings indicate that what matters in science outcomes is how much time students spend learning science and how science is taught. In almost all education systems, students score higher in science when they reported that their science teachers frequently explain or demonstrate scientific ideas, discuss students’ questions and adapt lessons to students’ needs and knowledge, or provide individual help when students have difficulties understanding a topic or task. While these findings may not surprise independent school educators they may serve to reinforce the importance of these instructional practices in advancing student learning.

    Submitted By Pearl Rock Kane, Klingenstein Center, New York, NY


    With Trust in Mind

    The Neuroscience of Trust by Paul Zak
    Harvard Business Review,  January 2017

    If we accept the decades of data that show that high engagement leads to positive outcomes, it is worth knowing more about another bank of research, the data on building trust. What does science tell us about how to create and sustain trust, a key contributor to engagement in our workplaces?  Neuroscientist Paul Zak has written extensively about the science behind trust, specifically what happens in the brain when trust is present, and his most recent work then analyzes the promoters and inhibitors of trust as shown in brain analysis. In this article, Zak summarizes strategies that build trust such as recognizing excellence, creating “challenge stress,” and communicating in ways that reduce uncertainty.  He is perhaps most compelling on the strong impact for leaders of building trust by showing vulnerability. Secure leaders who ask for help from their team, and are honest about what they themselves don’t know, evoke high trust, rather than low regard, from colleagues and staff members. If we accept the adage that “trust begets trust,” this article earns its place in this month’s Harvard Business Review and as recommended reading for school leaders. In the process, it further points the way to building robust trust and sustaining it in the form of increased commitment and engagement.

    Submitted By Elizabeth Morley, Kobe Shinwa Women’s University, Kobe, Japan


    Race, Stress, Achievement

    How the Stress of Racism Affects Learning by Melinda D. Anderson
    The Atlantic, October 11, 2016

    As the achievement gap between whites and blacks and Latinos persists, researchers continue to probe for explanations and possible solutions. The adverse relationship between stress and academic achievement is well established, and this article describes how perceived racial discrimination and stereotype threat are increasingly understood to be sources of stress. The stress hormones produced when students experience discrimination or stereotype threat, or have to negotiate “racial indignities,” adversely affect their concentration, motivation, sleep, and ultimately, learning. One way to mitigate the effects of racial discrimination is for students themselves to participate in activities that work towards its elimination. Educators must also seek to foster environments that promote positive identities for all of their students, to allow all students to feel included and accepted, and to teach effective ways to manage stress. Ultimately, as students and their teachers work toward social justice on a large scale, the goals are to eliminate racial discrimination and improve race relations. Until those goals can be achieved, however, this article suggests ways that students and educators can address pertinent issues at the school level to improve students’ performance.

    Submitted By Shelby S. Hammer, River Oaks Baptist School, Houston, TX


    You are not Creative

    Participatory Creativity by Edward Clapp
    Routledge, December 1, 2017

    Edward Clapp believes that individuals are not creative; ideas are creative. While traditional perspectives reserved creativity for a select few, Clapp’s capacious view welcomes all to the creative process. This text reveals a systems-based perspective where creativity is socially distributed and involves the merging of individual agency and collective participation. According to this perspective, no one person is ever being creative or “doing creativity;” instead, everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the creative process with his or her unique skills and perspectives. Most important, everyone must contribute because creativity cannot be achieved in isolation. The development of creative ideas is “purposeful work” that is neither “fixed nor unidimensional.” So, for educators to foster this participation, we need to embrace social and cultural agility and thoughtfully facilitate collaboration. The latter is especially crucial because creativity is not immune to social tensions. Embracing Clapp’s perspective will help educators to build agency in, and a sense of community among, their students. Creativity, Clapp concludes, is “neither a spark nor a flash of insight” but a system that unites parts, people, connections, thoughts, and feelings; creativity encourages all to rethink how things, ranging from objects to speeches to organizations, are made. In dynamically reframing innovation, this text assists educators in providing a more equitable creative learning experience for all.

    Submitted By Sarah Shepherd, Ed.M. Candidate, Klingenstein Center, New York, NY


    Talking the Talk

    Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle
    Penguin Press, October 6, 2015

    In Reclaiming Conversation, Sherry Turkle bemoans the effects of technology on children, noting that students today are markedly less empathetic than those of the past. Constant digital engagement, according to Turkle, makes children less available for in-person conversation and less able to practice reading the cues in the expressions and gestures of others. Turkle rejects the assertions of some scholars who state that hyper attention will replace the “deep attention” that used to characterize academic work. Instead, Turkle asserts multitasking is a myth, and she chronicles several professors who, having come to ban laptops and other devices from their classrooms, now report greater student engagement. Turkle interviews students whose schools have issued them iPads in an effort to make learning more efficient. These students report an opposite effect: fractured attention as they use the device to surf the web and respond to texts and posts on Facebook. Turkle tackles efforts to shift classes to online environments, as well. She finds mixed results, highlighting how such environments cannot yet provide the real-time, in-person milieu for students to have the messy conversations and intellectual give-and-take that have always been the cornerstone of academic life.

    Submitted By Laurie Piette, Rodeph Sholom School, New York, NY


    Minding the Body

    How the Body Knows Its Mind: The surprising power of the physical environment to influence how you think and feel by Sian Beilock
    Atria Books, January 1, 2015

    If you’ve ever taken a break from your work and suddenly had an important insight, or focused on your breath as you struggle to manage a flood of emotion, then you’ve already lived the truths explored in How the Body Knows Its Mind. Author Sian Beilock makes a convincing argument that our bodies greatly affect and influence both what and how our minds think, whether we are aware of those influences or not. Proceeding on the reasonable grounds that it’s better to understand this body-mind relationship, Beilock gives a quick tour through the most relevant research from the last century plus of neuroscience, and then goes on to explore how facial expressions create emotions, how gestures reveal feelings, how movement and creativity are connected, and why elite athletes can predict performance simply by watching one another, among many other related strands. The book concludes by exploring issues of mental and physical health, making a strong case that mindfulness and the natural environment can improve memory, focus, and self-regulation. Without getting overly technical, Beilock gives copious food for thought to educators and parents alike about why curriculum and instruction should pay more attention to the physical and sensorial experiences of children.

    Submitted By Zachary Roberts, Gateway School, Santa Cruz, CA


    Breaking Math

    Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil
    Crown Publishing Group, Penguin Random House, September 6, 2016

    Educators score, weigh, and measure achievement using data to quantify and evaluate every aspect of teaching and learning. In Weapons of Math Destruction, Cathy O’Neil, a self-proclaimed lover of mathematics, argues that our over-reliance on data maintains systemic inequity instead of providing a mechanism for change. O’Neil offers examples of how “Weapons of Math Destruction” (WMD) such as the value-added model for teacher evaluation are flawed and lead to teaching to tests rather than innovative pedagogy. She discusses the frantic and anxiety-inducing college admissions process wherein schools use algorithms to meet external ranking qualifications and college coaches use models to determine an applicant’s chances of admission. She cites examples of WMD that hurt students, including zip codes, and concludes that the system “tilts against needy students, locking out the great majority of them – and pushing them down a path toward poverty.” WMDs impact our criminal justice system, job applications, voting, and the future of our democracy. O’Neil challenges us to redefine success and move away from a cultural model of prizing profits and efficiency over fairness and true accountability. O’Neil reminds us that humans, not data, must be decision-makers and that “mathematical tools should be our tools, not our masters.”

    Submitted By Louisa Polos, Ed.M. Candidate, Klingenstein Center, New York, NY

    Leaders Eat Last book cover


    Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't by Simon Sinek
    Portfolio/Penguin, January 7, 2014

    In Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, Simon Sinek turns on its head the definition of a thriving organization. Imagine the audacity of offering lifetime employment in spite of performance reviews or financial and economic downturns. How could an organization, such as an independent school, possibly sustain itself while committing to employees in that way?  Well it happened, and it worked. Sinek analyzes Next Jump, a tech company that has been around for twenty years with lifetime employment in place. Through such examples, Sinek shows patterns among some of the most successful organizations; leadership driven by empathy, cooperation, and trust helps such organizations outperform peer institutions on key measures. Sinek’s charge to “lead the people, not the numbers” stands as a counterclaim to the kinds of supremely quantitative and data-driven policies currently saturating discussions of tuition, curriculum, and hiring for independent schools. Teachers, leaders, and policy makers need to know the importance of “making people feel safe” and the measured benefits such practice offers. The implications for student achievement and diversity initiatives are multifarious for independent schools, making Sinek’s book essential to today’s dialogue about education.

    Submitted By Vanessa Taglia, The Columbus Academy, Gahanna, Ohio

KlingensteinCenter Teachers College Columbia University

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