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LeoBa Media, New York

Educational Research: Article Reactions

LeoSuresh, New York




Leo's Article Reaction about John O'Neil's
"The Promise of Portfolio"(Article No: 4)

Vermont Education Commissioner Mills was impressed when he examined the portfolios of students in his Vermont State as they were very capable of understanding their own performance in relation to standards and the specific standards they could meet, and their goals. The portfolio assessment is one of the most important educational progresses of the 1990's to assess students' ability to use higher-order thinking skills in real-world activities. When the students translate knowledge into action, portfolios are the products they create and teachers become collaborators in the students' learning experience. Portfolios are the vehicle for communication with students, parents and other authorities in conference situations.

When I successfully introduced the portfolio approach in Carrol Gardens School, New York last year, the results were remarkable as it happened in Vermont state. My students felt for the first time that they are part of the New York City Public School and they created(portfolio) and own something of quality to show off. The behavioral problems were reduced and students concentrated on their work to create more in the special education class. As the result of that, I was successful to send few of my students to the mainstream in a very short time.

I used portfolio assessment to prepare the Individualized Education Program(IEP) for all students in my classroom when I was a CSE member. Goal setting is a challenge as the abilities, interests and expectations of each student are different, and also goal setting should be realistic.

The article depicts the promise of portfolio, but it did not say what the portfolio is or what materials should be included in the protfolio. Portfolio shows the personal best work demonstrates students' self-evaluation skills and changes in skills in reading, writing, observation, mathematics and so forth. It reveals each student's abilities, strengths and weaknesses. Materials like the personal best work, conference notes, reflections, anecdotes, summories and suggestions by teachers and student must be included in the portfolio.

Four kind of portfolios will be used:
(a) working portfolio: to store all of students work throughout the year. Students review and revise their work whenever they choose to do so.
(b) Showcase portfolios: contain pieces of work selected from the working portfolis to display their best work.
(c) Teacher portfolios: contain grade cards, records of students' achievements and the teacher(s) notes about student.
(d) Cumulative records: hold long-term student records kept in school's or district's central office.

Collecting the best work is the first step in the portfolio. Assessing that work and sharing insight with student in conference is vital. Students will understand that they are partners in the learning experience-collaborative learning. I agree with the statement in the article that portfolios can be a potent force for improving classroom instruction. From my experience I found that portfolios will improve students' performance and involvement in learning process and also they motivates them. Because of these reasons I will continue using portfolios, though there exist certain assessment issues.


Leo's Article Reaction about Lynn Olson's
"On The Career Track"(Article No: 8)

Career academies are "schools within schools" that combine vocational and academic instruction. In other words, "they are at the crossroads between the school restructuring and the school-to-work movements." State finance many of the career academies across the country. Students in career academies must meet the states' high school graduation requirements according to the states' curriculum, though they emphazise career themes and inter-disciplinary work. This is something like a double load on students' shoulders at the academies.

The positive aspects of the career academies are many. "They teach you how to go out in the world, how to get a job, how to keep one," as one former academy student said. When graduating all students will be certified in at least one entry-level occupation, and many in two or more. "These students are somebody, they really have an occupation behind them." Smaller setting and innovative pedagogey is the success of these academies . Academies were designed to save mainly at-risk teenagers. They make them from the potential dropout to the gifted.

Economic viability: Studies in California shows that the estimated net benefit to tax payers, from dropout prevention alone totalled $ 1.75 million. Studies factoring in the societal costs associated with continuing high dropout rates show that the long-term benefits far outweigh the investments required by academies(2). The most advantage of the career academies are the graduating students could tell you where they would be next year.

Career academies guarantees only an interview, not a job is one of the cons. In addition to mastering many skills, students have to take additional academic courses for graduation. Since career academies can not risk the relation with the industry(who are partners of academies), they can provide only the best candidates to the job market. The question still remains about the success of the less competent academy graduates.

Since the establishment of the first career academy in 1969(The Electric Academy) at Thomas Edison high school in Philadelphia, thousands of similar academies were built in urban districts across the country. In recent years academies have attracted a broad cross- section of students interested in a career and they developed a high degree of pride and sense of belonging(1).

As an Educational Progressivist, I do support the concept of career academies since the students attend the academies and select the branches by their choice. What is important to them is most valued. And students are applying their knowledge and skills learned in the real-life situations. They are problem solvers in a smaller sense. Academy community includes industry, business, and services which are main parts of the big spectrum.

1. Archer, E., Weinbaum, S., & Montesano, P. Parnerships for learning : School competition and employment preparation in the high school academies. New York: Academy for Education Development (ED 328 630) (1989)
2. Stern, D., Raby, M., & Dayton,C. Career Academies: Partnerships for restructuring American high schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Boss (1992)


Leo's Article Reaction about Mike Rose's
"On Values, Work, and Opportunity
We May Be Selling Our Young People Short" (Article No. 10)

In the article the author is introducing few young people one by one and he proved these students' values about utility and craft direct their behavior. But today there are so many concerns about the young people entering the workforce such as their literacy, numeracy, problem-solving ability, their weaknesses in "soft" job skills, punctuality, responsibility, sense of workmanship, and their character.

In the wake of school yard murders, and the national lamentation over the loss of values, the author blames the society for not providing the young individuals the opportunities to develop and exhibit right behavior and values. Not all the young students are a threat, but a very few occasionally. The author did not say anything about the causes or what went wrong with these school yard murderers but advising us first to think hard what opportunities we did not provide to enrich their behavior and values.

In my opinion, value the invaluables and dissatisfactions are the causes of many problems in the society. Covey, the author of one of the decade's most widely read books, "The Seven Habits of Famous People," says that, "we are shifting paradigms from a concern for our personalities to a concern for our characters and questions of who we are. We are grown dissatisfied with the mere social savvy of "winning friends and influencing people(1)" from Hollywood, Wall-street to Albany.

Voices from within and beyond our schools are calling for "character education" something that has been missing-in-action from so many schools for few decades. The renewed and urgent interest in character education is the "schools' latest fad and oldest mission" to bring students from the high levels of youth pathologies(violent crimes and suicides), drug use, and promiscuity, to normalcy. Today, at one end of the spectrum, a small percentage of high- achieving students with a "me-first-at-all-cost" approach to school and life and leave them to understand in later years that the cost they paid for it is not worth their so called success. On the other end much larger percentage with all kinds of negative qualities and self-destructive approach or "labeled."
Good character building can occur only if we focus on values, views, and virtues. If one's values are good, his character will also be good. If he views good things as bad and bad things are good as, "fair is foul and foul is fair," his character will be bad. How could a bad tree produce good fruit?

Creation of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions(our virtues), and not on our circumstances. People believed long before, that virtues could be learned. Plato said that in mind education, "we should be consumed with awakening a love of the good."
A person with high values, view and virtues will never go wrong. As an educator, one of my main focus is to show my students the right values, views and virtues to build and modify their character. As Heraclitus put it, "character is destiny."

1. Covey, Stephen R. "The Seven Habits of Effective People". New York: Simon & Schuster (1989)


Leo's Article Reaction about Kevin Bushweller's
"Teaching to the Test" (Article No. 15)

The emerging new perspective is curriculum alignment which means teaching knowledge and skills that are assessed by tests designed largely around academic standards set by the state. In other words, teaching to the test. Many states in the U.S. reward the schools perform well in the standardized tests and punish the shools which perform badly. Principals and board members can cost their jobs if the test results are bad. Instead of focusing on real-life situations and practical applications, focusing on standardized tests is not acceptable(but no choice as bound by law) for me as an Educational Progressivist.

As a matter of fact, in this sort of tests, where is the application of Gardners' theory of multiple intelligence(1) and intelligence characters and dispositions? In standardized tests, only two types of intelligences, namely linquistic intelligence and mathematical-logical intelligence are tested. Gardner specified six more intelligences including naturalistic intelligence. But today, the standardized tests are the only one used extensively for decision making in our system.

The proponents of the standardized test say, "we don't want to loose sight of our primary mission to give kids a solid academic foundation." In some places teachers are accountable for standardized test scores, which is one of the most controversial things we have ever seen in the academic field. The proponents add, "we have to look at student performance and relate it back to teacher performance. And if the tests are measuring higher-order thinking and problem solving skills, then there is nothing wrong in it(teaching to the test)." Multiple choice standardized tests require mindless regurgitation and do not evaluate problem-solving skills. A good test tell teacher how to improve their teaching.

Commercial tests are constructed by taking a national sample of what is taught at a particular grade in a subject. The tricky problem here is that the teachers may not have taught everything sampled or they may have taught many things not sampled. In these cases, my opinion is that the teachers can not hold responsible, as the lessons be taught did not test. But many states hold schools accountable for the standardized test scores.

Teaching to the test is exactly the right thing to do, when the test is measuring what students are supposed to learn. As a supporter of Gardner and being an educational Progressivist, the standardized tests are not the way to go. Since it is mandatory in many states, we left not many options except to accept it as we are bound by the law.
It is high time to think about other efficient assessment alternatives. Portfolio assessment can be used which is one of the successful proven assessment methds. I do not fully agree with teaching to the test as it does not give much opportunity for students to learn many important other aspects like character education. Students' values, views, and virtues are going to be a big issue when teaching to the test is the school motto. Numbers in the standardized tests can not quantify all the necessary qualities of a student.

1. Gardner, Howard. "The Disciplined mind". New York: Penquin Group (1999)