Tuesday, March 30, 2021

In Massachusetts Vocational Schools Become The Latest Front In The Battle For Educational Equity


The headline in the Boston Globe magazine read Civil Rights groups urge state to change ‘discriminatory’ vocational school admissions policies to lottery. I had to read it. I was a Civil Rights Specialist with the Massachusetts Department of Education 1978-1980. I had a role in reviewing the admissions policies for the public regional vocational-technical high schools.

At the time, many of the VocTechs had a set of hoops students had to go thru to get accepted. One was a Differential Aptitude Test (DAT).  At the time, the test had separate scoring for males and females. It had been normed by having adults in a variety fields take the test and then creating profiles for them. It was never designed to be a screening test. That it had separate norms made its use questionable. That it was never designed to predict success in a field made its use questionable. That it had been normed on adults rather than junior high and senior high school students made its use questionable. As a result we said the DAT could not use as part of the admission screening process for VocTechs.

The Massachusetts Department of Education had a role then, in working to ensure that VocTech admissions were free of bias. We worked with those programs to ensure that all programs were open without regard to student’s race, sex, color, or national origin. The department was also working to ensure that students with IEPs were not arbitrarily excluded from admission.

At the time I was with the Department Greg Anrig was the Commissioner, and he wanted the Department to monitor LEA compliance. That approach didn’t sit well with the Superintendents who were on having to ensure that their programs were in compliance with state and federal legislation. The next Commissioner had been a Superintendent and was determined to take the Department out of the role of compliance monitor.

I believe that empowered Superintendents and significantly undermined the role of the Department. And, looking at the Globe report, I’d say the Dept of Education has continued to avoid protecting  students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities, and English learners.

Friday, February 05, 2021

How to Become a Critical Reader of Online Research

Distance education has existed for a long time. Think correspondence courses and the pony express. Education at a distance has evolved as new technologies have been created. Radio and television played a role in distance education sometimes used to reach students who were unable to attend classes in a brick-and-mortar setting. Often the technology has been used to attempt to reflect as close as possible the traditional instructional brick-and-mortar models. Early email instruction resembled first correspondence and then lecture classes.  In the mid-90s a new approach to education at a distance provided an alternative to the synchronous satellite television and proliferation of satellite dishes that were used to show that the school was advanced.

Virtual education started, not as a replacement for the brick-and-mortar school but as a supplement. And primarily was asynchronous. Quick move to 2020 and the COVID pandemic where schools were closed to help prevent the spread of the disease. Because virtual education had grown from the first few programs to over thousands of schools and programs reaching millions of students and there were many different approaches to online learning in play, school leaders quickly instituted remote learning options generally with little thought to preparing or supporting teachers to operate in this new environment (and I use the term “remote learning,” and not “online learning” here purposefully). Sometimes they looked critically at the distance learning field, but more likely just felt if there were lots of virtual education programs it had to be easy.

Recently we’re seeing a good deal written about remote instruction with much of it being critical. Rightly so. What was missing, was the clear statements that online learning isn’t as simple as posting PowerPoint slides online or recreating the brick-and-mortar class activities in Zoom. And some of that needs to be owned by stakeholders in the field of virtual schooling at all levels who have been involved for over two decades, was what is actually required to provide quality online learning experiences. There are now a myriad of approaches to online learning. There is not a single instructional approach. But if you don’t study online learning broadly then it’s like the blindfolded feeling the elephant and having a limited experience but thinking they know what an elephant is like.

The educational research on distance education, online learning, and remote learning all suffers from the same problem. Many researchers will report their results as generic for all online or remote learning contexts. That paints the field with a very wide brush and the research tends to reflect the inherent biases of the researcher. There is a limited amount of research findings for many different approaches, but seldom does the research describe the approach used for the subject of the research.

Selective use of research to write about online, virtual, or remote learning can paint most any picture the writer wishes to portray.  And then, that research is used to present a generic view of the learning, without characterizing the specific approach or stating that they are not talking about the entire field. In many instances the author themselves have such limited knowledge of the broader field they don’t even know what they don’t know.

It is impossible, within the current range of research on online, virtual, or remote learning to make blanket statements about the field beyond the observation that online and hybrid instruction can deliver strong results, but like anything in education there is no guarantee of good outcomes. No matter what the claim, there’s always some study that shows a conflicting result. Any claim about the field, other than to point to the diversity, needs to be tempered with some qualifying statements. A critical look at the tenor of an article can actually provide the reader with a sense of the bias of the writer in most cases. A knowledgeable writer will state their bias or experiences to help provide transparency and provide the reader with perspective.

Friday, January 08, 2021

Teacher Educator Technology Competencies (TETCs)

Teacher Educator Technology Competencies (TETCs)

 The TETCs should be viewed as a first step in a larger reform effort to better address technology integration in teacher preparation programs. The release of the TETCs provides future research opportunities including, but not limited to, implications for course design, relevant faculty development for teacher educators, and policy implications.

The TETCs have been written by insiders, and seemingly for insiders.  

There’s a lot hidden between the lines. The problem with that is that while it makes it easier to write a set of competencies with a team of people with different experiences and expertise, it is sometimes harder to know what the ideal would look like. 

The TETCs were supported by a number of organizations:

·         The United States Department of Education Office of Educational Technology (US DoE)

·         International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE)

·         Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE)

·         Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)

·         National Technology Leadership Coalition (NTLC)

·         American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE)

But what’s missing may have, in part, been determined by who’s missing.

When I look at the competencies, I see issues not addressed which are important components of  K-12 education  Here are terms I’d hope to see used in the next iteration of these competencies:

·         Accessibility,

·         Adaptive technology,

·         Disability,

·         Equity Online learning,

·         WCAG,

I know that the curriculum in teacher educator programs is largely determined by the state education agency (SEA) and their certification and program standards. That, unfortunately doesn’t guarantee it to be relevant to today.   When I was teaching the required instructional technology course in an undergrad educator prep program, I recommended that we incorporate instructional technology into the other courses as a way of having an option for a new course.  I proposed that I’d create the instructional technology modules for the other courses.  My offer was declined because the other professors weren’t interested in seeing that happen.  So instructional technology was siloed rather than integrated.   While I can see that the TETCs might be seen as encouraging integration within teacher education programs, it’s not explicit. 

I don’t see how the TETCs help teachers select the best tech tools for remote instruction.  One survey asked teachers how they selected the tools they used for during Spring 2020.  The overwhelming response was ease of teacher use, not student learning.  Administrators threw remote instruction onto teachers without support, and many districts still didn’t provide professional development for teacher use of remote instruction tools over the summer.  Did they not know that technology does require training and support, and remote teaching isn’t just something to be picked up and happen magically?  It’s no wonder many students and parents have been frustrated by the remote learning experience.


Thursday, December 03, 2020

This is what journalistic malpractice looks like

John Watson from DLC and I collaborated on this latest blog post from DLC. (If you don't follow them you should.)  And this saves me from writing a post today, which was on my to-do list.