What's Happening in Character?

Empowering Students Through Self-Assessment

Posted by Svetlana Nikic on Thu, Apr 28, 2016 @ 08:04 AM

By Svetlana Nikic, Academic Instruction Coordinator & Algebra Teacher, Busch Middle School of Character

In these times of great technological change and computer apps, teachers are inundated with data and therefore often puzzled how to revise their approaches to assessment that often fails to inform about direct learning, teaching and the whole child. To resolve this dilemma in my Algebra 150 class, I developed a scorecard for daily lessons, skills, activities and homework.

Students grade themselves using a point system for every activity based on modeled exemplary answers. I found this assessment tool to be a best fit for my students because it aligns with our school’s core values and mission statement in terms of commitment to inspire our students to value academic and personal growth through character education.

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Topics: testing, student voice, assessment, assessment and character education, student engagement

Book Review: The End of Average

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Wed, Apr 13, 2016 @ 13:04 PM

Book Review: The End of Average, How We Succeed in a World that Values Sameness by Harvard scientist Todd Rose

By Becky Sipos

You might think a book about the story of “average” would be arcane and uninteresting, but I was hooked from the opening anecdote. The book begins with the story of the Air Force in its early days when planes kept crashing. In fact, 17 planes crashed on a single day. Investigators kept saying “pilot error.” But one researcher kept digging. The cockpits had been designed for the average dimensions of pilots, but researcher Lt. Gilbert Daniels found that out of the 4,063 pilots, none had all the “average measurements,” not one. Even if you took only three of the measurements, less than 3.5 percent of the pilots were “average.” That may not seem significant, but taking a split second longer to reach a control or to make an adjustment to a piece of equipment just slightly out of reach could make the difference between flying or crashing. To their credit, the Air Force took that knowledge and created flexible cockpits—adjustable seat belts, mirrors, helmet straps and foot pedals—things that we take for granted in our vehicles today. The Air Force created a radical plan: to design environments to fit the individual.

Today that concept of individual fit is being applied to medicine as oncologists, neuroscientists, geneticists and more try to design medicine and treatments best suited to match an individual’s DNA. Some successful businesses also have begun to implement these principles. Google found relying on standard measurements did not help them find the creative employees they sought. There is even a new interdisciplinary field of science known as the science of the individual. With the “average” philosophy, we aggregate and then analyze; the science of the individual says analyze and then aggregate

And yet, this mindset is not everywhere. It is not widespread in schools. The age of average persists.  

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Topics: testing, Sipos Rebecca, Book Review

Why I'm Still Worried About Testing

Posted by Rebecca Bauer on Mon, Apr 11, 2016 @ 05:04 AM

by Rebecca Bauer

When I was in college, my professor told me that education reform is like a pendulum. It will swing to one side, but eventually it swings back to the other. This explanation was his attempt to offer assurance to his classroom full of pre-service teachers, who were already worried about our country’s reliance on high stakes standardized testing.

Last fall, when President Obama called for reduced testing in schools, I grew optimistic. Maybe the pendulum was finally swinging back the other way. Maybe ESSA would successfully deviate from typical testing indicators and encourage classroom observations, student portfolios and other methods of formative assessment.

Fortunately, there were some improvements. As Anne O’Brien’s article, “5 Ways ESSA impacts Standardized Testing,” lays out, states have the power to limit the amount of time spent on testing. In addition, the elimination of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) somewhat reduces the stakes of high stakes testing.

However, the problems with standardized testing are not limited to the amount of time students spend on them or how high the stakes are. The quality of the test matters, too. That’s why I’m particularly concerned about another way that ESSA changes testing:

The new law allows states to use a nationally recognized test, like the SAT, instead of a state level test.

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Topics: testing, Education Policy, Education Reform, Equity

Tired of Testing? Let Your Voice Be Heard

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 @ 11:02 AM

By Becky Sipos, President & CEO

Last week, two of us from Character.org attended ASCD’s Legislative Advocacy Conference. The conference focused on empowering educators to voice their opinions on education policy, and more specifically the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). While ASCD’s legislative agenda has many facets, most of the discussion revolved around the importance of reducing standardized testing and creating multi-metric forms of assessment.

On the final day, we had the opportunity to bring our concerns to a variety of congressmen and congresswomen on Capitol Hill. Throughout the conference, we had discussed the phrase educating students to be “college, career, and citizenship ready.” As I visited my senator and representatives, I kept thinking about that phrase “citizenship ready.” What does that mean exactly?

 
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Topics: testing, Advocacy

Tips from the Trenches: Student Services

Posted by Sweta Haldar on Tue, Feb 19, 2013 @ 10:02 AM


By Dr. Stephen Sroka
During the last few months, I have had the chance to talk with several speakers who strongly affected their audiences. I started to think about the remarkable leaders with whom I have worked over the years and how they have made huge differences with their incredible wisdom, insights, and actions. I contacted some of them and asked them to comment on working in education in these difficult times. I asked them to share some take-away messages, things that if they were speaking, they would want their audience to remember.

Students are more than grade-point averages. Often they are faced with many barriers to effective education. Dealing with the whole child, and not just the academic child, can help  facilitate learning. Safe and healthy students learn more. Here are some "Tips from the Trenches" about the value of supporting students.

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Topics: school climate, school safety, testing, bullying advice

15 Serious Facts about High School Stress

Posted by Michele Borba on Tue, Feb 21, 2012 @ 16:02 PM

Every parent and educator must know these troubling facts about our teens. Each fact is a wake-up call, but together they should mean: “Time for Code Red”

This blog was written by the Bachelor’s Degree Online and published with its permission.

One of the greatest lies ever perpetuated about the teen years is that they’re supposedly “the best years of your life.” Ask any high schooler these days how he or she genuinely feels about this statement and the opposite sentiment might very well end up relayed instead.

Every year, more and more pressures regarding classes, getting into the right college (or deciding if college is even the right choice), families, jobs, extracurricular activities, friends, relationships, and other stimuli just keep burbling away beneath their still-developing forms.

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Topics: testing, what works in education, character education in high school, Michele Borba

Does 'Teaching to the Test' Actually Encourage Cheating?

Posted by Mark Hyatt on Fri, Jan 27, 2012 @ 16:01 PM

“Teachers matter,” said President Obama this week in his State of the Union address. “Instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.”

We at the nonprofit Character Education Partnership (CEP) share this concern because “teaching to the test” can deceive stakeholders into thinking students are doing better than they really are. But in the current environment, we are even more alarmed by how the testing status quo seems to be adversely affecting the integrity of our education system, itself.

Recent revelations of widespread testing fraud in Atlanta's public schools are just the latest examples of a disturbing national trend that should finally force all of us who care about education to ask some uncomfortable but unavoidable questions. Chief among them: Has a national over-emphasis on standardized testing actually created a monster that is eroding the character of K-12 education?

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Topics: character, cheating, testing, no child left behind

Save our Schools March in Washington

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Sun, Jul 31, 2011 @ 17:07 PM

Yesterday more than 5,000 teachers and supporters gathered on the Ellipse for the Save Our Schools  rally and march to the White House. I decided to attend along with my son, his wife and her parents, who came down from New York City to show support. Quite frankly, I thought there'd be an even bigger crowd, but I'm sure the nearly 100-degree heat deterred many. Nevertheless, it was an enthusiastic group, and  we heard some excellent speeches.

I was struck by Linda Darling Hammond's statistics--we have 5% of the world's population, but 25% of its prison inmates. She compared how little we spend per pupil for education t

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Topics: character education in curriculum, testing, student voice, teachers

Assessing the Challenge Index

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Wed, May 25, 2011 @ 17:05 PM

Once again Jay Mathews, a reporter for the Washington Post, has released his Challenge Index, the ranking of high schools determined by calculating the number of college level tests taken in a given year divided by the number of graduating seniors.

I was happy to see that McLean High School (where I taught before retiring from teaching and coming to work for CEP) was ranked 13th on the list of schools in the Washington, DC area. It was the highest ranked school in Fairfax County Public School District, a fact that I’m sure made the folks on the McLean faculty proud—especially since they were also ranked high in the national list of the top 200 high schools.  I’m sure there is lots of celebrating going on in schools all over who consider themselves to be among the best high schools in America because they made the list.

But is that legitimate? I agree with Mathews on the need to offer challenging courses to anyone who wants to try. As a former Advanced Placement English teacher, I’ve seen kids who had never taken an advanced class before rise to the challenge in my class. Even if they didn’t pass the test, the introduction to the advanced curriculum and the struggle to learn pays dividends in college, which is what Mathews has found through his research. But being a good school requires so much more than that.

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Topics: Education News, testing, National School of Character, character education in high school, challenge index

The Greenfield Way: Transforming our School Culture with Character-Based Discipline

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Mon, Jun 7, 2010 @ 18:06 PM

By Claudia St. Amour, counselor

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Topics: CEPLeaders, Character Education News, character education in curriculum, discipline, testing, student voice