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interesting - BTW - the most recent Educational Leadership is solely dedicated to high school reform. Some interesting articles in there. Hopefully we will use some of them to spur us on at Abbotsford Christian.

I've found a couple of articles by Yong Zhao of the University of Michigan. In the May 2006 issue of Educational Leadership, he asks, “Are We Fixing the Wrong Things?”

“Whereas U.S. schools are now encouraged, even forced, to chase after test scores, China, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan—all named as major competitors—have started education reforms aimed at fostering more creativity and innovative thinking among their citizens. China, for example, has taken drastic measures to reform its curriculum. As the United States raised the status of standardized testing to a record high in 2001 with No Child Left Behind, the Chinese Ministry of Education issued an executive order to significantly minimize the consequences of testing (2002). As the United States pushes for more centralized curriculum standards, China is abandoning its one nation—one syllabus tradition. As the United States moves toward a required program of study for high schools, China is working hard to implement a flexible system with more electives and choices for students. As the United States calls for more homework and more study time, China has launched a battle to reduce such burdens on its students.
As indicators of crisis, the reformers often cite the lower performance of U.S. students in math and science, especially in international comparison studies; the declining interest and enrollment in math and science courses; and the growing number of college graduates in other nations. But the secret weapon that has helped the United States remain an economic leader and innovation powerhouse is the creative, risk-taking, can-do spirit of its people. This spirit is not normally measured in standardized tests or compared in international studies.
Sim Wong Hoo, founder and CEO of Singapore-based Creative Technology, pointed out this very fact. When asked in an interview with Newsweek about the advantages and disadvantages of having his company based in Singapore, Hoo answered,
The advantage is we come from a very conscientious culture. You tell our people what to do, they'll follow the rules, they'll do it. The downside is they are not as creative. We fixed that by having a U.S.-based R&D team that's doing more advanced research. (Levy, 2005)
Singapore, by the way, has repeatedly been the top-performing nation in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

I'm going to upload this entire article: available at Are We Fixing the Wrong Things?. Another one entitled, "What Knowledge Has the Most Worth?" is avaiable at
What Knowledge Has the Most Worth?

An article summarizing the ideas: Quote from article: “Like the leaders in other industries, the education establishment has crammed down technology onto its existing architecture, which is dominated by the “monolithic” processes of textbook creation and adoption, teaching practices and training, and standardized assessment—which, despite some efforts at individualization, by and large treat students the same, the book says.

The thesis of the accompanying book, Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns predicts that the growth in computer-based delivery of education will accelerate swiftly until, by 2019, half of all high school classes will be taught over the Internet. (I have not read the book – has anyone?)

Ideas That Pop up From Time to Time by tktk, 06 May 2008 20:50

From Joel Bratt, Shoreline Christian -

Some things I have been thinking about are:

Visions of hospitality in a post-enlightenment/scientific age.

The Toyota model for efficiency – I know it has a name, but I can’t remember it right now – but in the quest for efficiency, the company has tapped into something more holistic. If I recall correctly, the idea is that if there is a problem, anyone in the company can “pull the chord” which stops production, and then those who work in the area solve the problem together (everything is transparent – there is no hiding in the system because there is no system to be afraid of), so when a CEO leaves, nothing in the company changes – drastically different from US companies/schools where the right answer always stays at the top of the chain. When the ceo/principal/teracher leaves, the whole apple cart is turned over.

So, this begins with a shift in philosophy where the teacher interviews students to chart the course. I don’t know how it works, but the ground up seems more hospitable than the top down, and would require a systemic change that would be slow at first, but would reap tremendous benefits in the future.


Great video Elaine. I actually prefer the "Did you know version III" which is the next one listed … it has basically the same info but better music - The //Last of the Mohicians soundtrack! - up there on the best movies of all time list.

Jeff Kiers and I showed this to our Bible class (which is really an experimental class on school reform that I believe was discussed briefly at our meeting). We had a great class discussion (at least from our perspective) with the students. Some comments that resonated:
If China is the new "super-power" shouldn't we be learning Chinese as opposed to the Chinese learning English?
With the expectations put upon us - we have no alternative but to learn in the way we do. We need to change what is expected of to learn.
Organization of information as opposed to memorization of information, is like comparing an open book test to a regular test environment.
… Good stuff

That's great! I'm gonna connect with Dennis … I had shared it with him as well about a week ago. I'd love to hear the response from his staff.

Re: by jsiebengajsiebenga, 29 Feb 2008 00:35

Another interesting resource from NPR about the importance of PLAY in a child's ability executive function formation:

Here's a quote from the article: "It turns out that all that time spent playing make-believe actually helped children develop a critical cognitive skill called executive function. Executive function has a number of different elements, but a central one is the ability to self-regulate. Kids with good self-regulation are able to control their emotions and behavior, resist impulses, and exert self-control and discipline."

You can listen to the broadcast or read the article by visiting the weblink listed above.

NPR - The Importance of PLAY by tkrelltkrell, 28 Feb 2008 17:02

Inspiring video…I plan to show it to my staff next Wednesday in North Carolina. This has the possibility of challenging our discussion of "what is excellence." Excellence as it stands now is often academic perfection. Shutter! I am imspired by this video to think differently and challenge my staff.

Re: by ZooZoo, 28 Feb 2008 13:31

Awesome Video … was actually at Fraser Valley 2 days ago and learned about this video as Dennis was trying to get the projector to work for his staff meeting … response was varied … I'd love to see a study on the responses of our collective teachers on this topic, then follow-up with a "what do you feel you can do about it" question.

Could be interesting!

Re: by GerbsGerbs, 28 Feb 2008 07:35

The response from staff was basically … yeah sounds good … nervous grins that they all liked it … but generally speaking - and underlying sense that this kind of thinking is beyond our current comprehension. Somewhat depressing actually … yet I'm hopeful

Re: by jsiebengajsiebenga, 28 Feb 2008 05:01

The utube link- - provides a thought provoking context for discussing school reform. I would be interested in your responses.

Wow! Thank you. I found myself responding with yes, yes, yes! How did you find this resource? How did your staff respond?

Re: by elainebrouwerelainebrouwer, 27 Feb 2008 04:01

Wonderful! I think some of the most important conversations that will generate some of the most important ideas/practices will happen locally. I look forward to the fruits of you discussion. I also look forward to suggestions as to what would add fuel to further conversations.

Re: bringing it back by elainebrouwerelainebrouwer, 27 Feb 2008 03:16

If you haven't discovered yet its worth going to - the link above is a talk specifically about education - you need 20 minutes to watch - but well worth the time. I shared it with our staff at ACSS. by jsiebengajsiebenga, 22 Feb 2008 05:51

The day after our inaugural first time together, the staff at Abbotsford Christian Secondary spent the morning together for a staff meeting (previously planned). I threw out some of the things that had been passing through our discussions last week - whether we defined it as "tweaking or reforming"; to our staff. I came away feeling somewhat encouraged by the response (or lack there of - which is so often the case).

Jeff Kiers and I have spent some time pondering next year's schedule which has prompted some "bigger questions" like what about combined blocks? or what about a 3 week block?

I certainly have not allowed our discussions to go by the wayside in the thinking at ACS and this website and our discussions will hopefully continue to feed the fire!

bringing it back by jsiebengajsiebenga, 21 Feb 2008 06:52

I love the story "High School Teaches Thoreau in the Woods"! Makes you think about the whole conceptualization of "simple", doesn't it? Thanks for the link Elaine!

Click Reply to start chatting! Any thoughts or reactions?

Let's Talk! by GerbsGerbs, 20 Feb 2008 06:41

And if we are talking about students … about evoking a change for the betterment of students, there is much discussion about performance: performance standards, standardized tests, IQ testing, multiple inteligences, holistic learning, and more! I think these all have merit, and to spur on some thinking around this topic and the issue of what our communities might think (from all sides of the proverbial coin) … here is an enjoyable article from the Wall Street Journal.

Original source:

Intelligence Designer

February 15, 2008; Page W11

This year marks the 25th publication anniversary of Howard Gardner's "Frames of Mind," detailing his influential theory of multiple intelligences ("MI theory," to devotees). According to Mr. Gardner, intelligence is not limited to proficiency in math and language. There are other, neglected intelligences people might harbor: bodily-kinesthetic, musical, spatial, interpersonal (the ability to interact well with people) and intrapersonal (knowing oneself).

Denounced or ignored by most scientists — psychologist George Miller dismissed it as "hunch and opinion" — MI theory was nonetheless embraced by the education community. One educator told writer James Traub: "Howard is the guru, and 'Frames of Mind' is the bible." Alas, many of that bible's adherents rushed willy-nilly into a variety of practices that Mr. Gardner not only did not endorse but in some cases condemned. "They were not," Mr. Gardner later wrote, "divining what I had really meant."

MI theory was for parents, meanwhile, a blessing and a curse. The blessing was that even children who scored poorly on traditional IQ tests might be gifted in other areas of intelligence. The number of smart kids promised to grow overnight.

Most parents didn't have a complaint with traditional IQ, just its merciless mathematical propensity to render half our children below average. MI theory offered several new bell curves on which our youngsters might prove intelligent. But that was also its curse: What good is getting into the Smart Club if it admits every mouth-breather from your bus stop? Likewise, beneficiaries of gifted-and-talented programs feared MI would sully their enclaves. This wasn't necessarily snobbishness; I recall that my own school's gifted program spared me daily poundings from schoolmates I thought were dumber than houseplants but I now realize were simply blessed with high bodily-kinesthetic IQs.

I asked Mr. Gardner what he thought of my blessing/curse idea, and he said it was "intelligent" (I don't know if he says that to everyone). He noted that, while some parents might recoil from an intelligence theory that brings so many into the fold, others might dislike that it opens up new vistas in which their children prove to be below average.

I hadn't thought about that. Contrary to popular misperception, Mr. Gardner explained, MI theory doesn't mean that every child is outstanding at something. Some children can be below average at everything. My heart sank.

My wife and I are searching, you see, for signs that our four boys will be exceptional, or at least employable. Mr. Gardner's theory was just the tonic, I thought, because it meant that each boy could be a genius in his own way. We could have our own version of Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon, with all the boys not only above average but the smartest in the family — just at different things." Alas, here was the kindly Harvard psychology professor hinting that, while there are more avenues to genius, there are also more opportunities to prove oneself stupid.

Perhaps sensing my fear, Mr. Gardner assured me that, absent gross retardation, you'll become above average at something if you work hard at it. The question, he notes, is at what cost. MI theory encourages us to look for signs of innate precociousness and then to develop them. What you don't want is to spend all your precious educational energy trying to improve on a dimension you just weren't meant to be great at. If everyone understood this, of course, the "American Idol" auditions would be less entertaining.

Mr. Gardner drives some people mad because he won't be pigeonholed. He is a social democrat, but many of the education ideas that he believes flow from MI theory have the ring of reforms — e.g., focusing on traditional scholarly disciplines and cultivating practical experience and knowledge — that Republicans support when they aren't in office. His approach to children evokes the bumper sticker ubiquitous on Volvos throughout America: "At [Such-and-Such] Middle School, All Children Are Honored" — yet he believes that the real measure of education is the extent to which it prepares children to create value, a notion any devoted reader of The Wall Street Journal will approve of.

Mr. Gardner even holds in high regard the philosopher and scientist Michael Polanyi (1891-1976), revered in conservative intellectual circles, who explored the notion of tacit knowledge, or what Nobel economist Vernon Smith calls the difference between knowing what and knowing how. Attention to MI theory, Mr. Gardner argues, necessitates a greater emphasis on helping students develop know-how. Mr. Gardner also offers, inadvertently, some support for philosopher Robert Nozick's theory about why many intellectuals despise capitalism: Reared in a school system that still reveres cleverness despite what is often a surface-level acceptance of MI theory, intellectuals are subsequently thrust into a world that rewards value-creation, where they don't necessarily compete very well. Not surprisingly, Mr. Gardner notes that his detractors are often those who did better on the SATs than in life.

I asked Mr. Gardner what advice he has for parents who want to raise successful children. He warned that we should not try to make our children good at what we were good at, or good at what we did poorly. Our job is to help them become who they are supposed to be, not who we wanted to be. Conventional wisdom, to be sure, but not bad for a Harvard professor. Imagine the sports leagues and other extracurricular activities that would be eliminated in one blow were all parents to embrace that notion. The world might become less frantic on many fronts.

Still, I was puzzled by something that kept cropping up in Mr. Gardner's books, the notion that while those with high traditional IQs show greater ability to learn new skills, they are not guaranteed better performance in the real world. Not only does this suggest that old-fashioned IQ is still highly valuable, which Mr. Gardner acknowledges, but it also suggests that elbow grease matters, too. A person of average IQ who is motivated, he said, will do better in life than a high-IQ couch potato.

Yes! My wife and I may not be the brightest bulbs on the tree, but one thing we can't abide is the general layabout nature one finds inhabiting the otherwise healthy anatomy of your typical American teenager. What we can't bequeath to our children in superior genes we'll make up for with a strong work ethic. Honey, we're donating the TV to charity!

We'll certainly try to unveil our sons' latent intelligences with music lessons, basketball clinics and Boy Scouts (16 years after publishing his theory, Mr. Gardner added "naturalist" to his list). Businesses are now using MI theory; so discovering your child's intelligences might be increasingly important. But absent hard work, your kid still won't make it to easy street.

So much to worry about. A silver lining, however, is that Mr. Gardner recently came up with yet another intelligence: existential, which brings the total to nine. As I understand it, someone with this affliction ponders the meaning of life and worries over what will happen. Looks like I'm a genius at something after all.

Six Messages from Fullan about Change

1. If people cannot find meaning in any reform it cannot have an impact. Learning is about 'meaning making' and it requires a radically new way of approaching learning - one that guides the individual mind through the process of many minds working together.

2. Existing strategies will not get us to where we want to go. We cannot simply imitate principals of successful 'moving ' schools we must change the existing conditions in each school so that it is normal and possible for all people to move forward.

3. Although short-term gains can be achieved by standards based reform it is deadly if the conclusion is that schools should do more of the same. The learning community model will fail if teachers and principals do not have the capacity to act effectively. With numbers of schools struggling, there is a need to fast track phase one of change by pushing hard on standards , providing quality support material and examples of successful practice, and providing focussed professional development. As results begin it is then necessary to shift to 'capacity building', to encourage local ownership. This cannot be a simple linear process and phase one can be seen as pre- capacity building. The flow is from tighter to looser forms of control, from external to internal commitment, from control to guidance. A process that applies process at all levels.

4. The 'learning organisation/community' is more than a cliché. This phrase is one of the most superficially understood terms in the change business. Learning organisations are required because improvement is a function of learning to do the right thing in the setting where you work. Ultimately no amount of outside motivation can specify the best solutions for a particular situation.
It is about 'organisational knowledge creation'.
* People must work together to figure out what is needed to achieve what is worthwhile.
* You cannot get internal commitment and ingenuity from outside - expertise lies within.
* The only problems worth solving are the ones that exist in each and every organisation.
* Change is forever. Problems don't stay solved, so you have to learn to do the right thing over and over again.
All together these make up the 'learning organisation'.
Professional learning communities constantly worry about what is worthwhile and how to get there. They continually convert tacit knowledge into explicit shared ideas; they are 'energy and knowledge creators'.

5. We need to consider the collective good. The 'market forces' model that underpinned the educational changes of the 90s may have been efficient, generating competition and choice but it misses two fundamental matters. Firstly school systems and democracy are closely connected. Education has a strong moral component - education should enable people to work together to achieve higher purposes that serve both the individual and the collective good. Secondly we can only move forward by learning from each other's successes and failures. Schools have to share their ideas for the benefit of the students of all schools.
Transformational change cannot be achieved:
* if teachers identify with only their own classrooms - they must be concerned with the success of other teachers of the school.
* if principals identify only with their own schools - they must be concerned with the success of all other schools.
* if school districts identify only with their own areas only. And so on.
As well, now more than ever, we must identify with and help improve the surrounding community the school resides in. Everything is interconnected. All must all work together. This will be a new challenge both for schools and the wider community.

6. We have to learn to live with change. This means we have to take change both less and more seriously at the same time. Less, because most change is superficial and more because it is important to work through change until we get shared meaning and improvement. The best defence against the relentless pace of change, Fullan believes, is to build professional learning communities that are good at sorting out the worthwhile from the non worthwhile and to look for support and healing when ill conceived or random changes takes its toll.

Taken from

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