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Chapter 6 The Worst of Times, The Best of Times

James A Bellanca Solution Tree Press ePub

Chapter 6

The Worst of Times, The Best of Times

Tony Wagner

In 2008, I published The Global Achievement Gap, which outlined the new skills all students need for work, learning, and citizenship in the 21st century. The global achievement gap is the disparity between these new skills versus what is taught in the overwhelming majority of our public and independent schools. One conclusion of that book is that a test-prep curriculum increasingly dominated classrooms around the United States.

Since the book was published, we have continued to see fundamental changes and disruptions in our economy, as well as a dramatic increase in the number of so-called education reforms. Frighteningly, these reforms have done nothing to close the gap between the skills that all students need more urgently than ever and what is tested and taught in even our best schools. But we have also seen the creation of new networks of schools and districts that are genuinely innovating in learning and teaching. They are working together to reimagine—not merely reform—schools for the 21st century. Borrowing from Charles Dickens, education today is experiencing the worst of times and the best of times.

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Chapter 5 The Singapore Vision: Teach Less, Learn More

James A Bellanca Solution Tree Press ePub


Singapore’s visionary education framework—Teach Less, Learn More—was created for the nation’s entry into the 21st century (Singapore Ministry of Education, 2004). It is part of a larger framework consisting of four separate but interrelated components: (1) a vision for the whole nation, (2) a vision for Singaporean education, (3) a vision for implementing school change, and (4) a vision for the collaborative constructs—the professional learning communities—that are necessary to anchor the change in each school.

The synergy created by these four distinct, yet interdependent, visions provides the catalyst for significant change efforts in Singapore’s schools. In fact, it is the blending of these components that makes the country’s journey of change an educational exemplar. Together, these four visions propel substantive change to previously accepted practices, and they support the transformation of Singapore’s education system to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The visions create a landscape for others to contemplate as they begin their own journeys of 21st century change. The framework is shown in table 5.1 (see page 98).

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4 Comprehensive Thinking

James A. Bellanca Solution Tree Press ePub

When applied to how people think, the adjective comprehensive signals the type of thinking that is both broad and deep—all encompassing. Comprehensive thinking provides us with a full grasp of the subject matter. In short, comprehensive thinking enables us to get the whole picture and comprehend it fully. For instance, if the topic of a seminar investigates the relationship of two different cultures, attendees will need to think comprehensively to understand the topic’s full ramifications, infer connections that are not immediately apparent, and compare or contrast the similarities and differences in each culture. In these ways, attendees discover the full meaning of the relationships between the two cultures.

The three thinking skills in this proficiency are essential for the development of student comprehension: (1) understand, (2) infer, and (3) compare and contrast. The first, understand, is the skill that enables the student to dig deep into a significant topic or to answer a big question. The skill leads to the “I got it” element regarding the relationship between content and process.

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Chapter 11 Searching for Excellence in a New Age: Rethinking Teacher Qualities to Promote Student Success for 21st Century Learning

James A Bellanca Solution Tree Press ePub

James H. Stronge, Leslie W. Grant, and Xianxuan Xu

Bill Scotti, the regional education officer for Latin America at the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Overseas Schools, offered opening remarks for a 2014 conference presentation to international school leaders, challenging the audience with an insightful and intriguing question: If you had the choice of having a world-class curriculum and a mediocre teacher or a mediocre curriculum and a world-class teacher, which would you choose? Of course, the audience selected the world-class teacher. We all would.

Bill was making the point that teachers make the most powerful, dramatic, and lasting impact on learning. His point doesn’t suggest that curriculum is unimportant. His point isn’t insinuating that textbook and material selection, the quality of the school building, and a host of other school-related factors are irrelevant. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that we have a simple and singular pathway clearly marked as the best way to improving students’ lives and learning: great teachers. Great teachers result in great schools.

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Chapter 9 Assessment Systems for Deeper Learning

James A Bellanca Solution Tree Press ePub

Chapter 9

Assessment Systems for Deeper Learning

Linda Darling-Hammond and David T. Conley

Reform of educational standards and assessments has been a constant theme around the world. As part of an effort to keep up with countries that appear to be lengthening their educational lead over the United States, the nation’s governors and the Council of Chief State School Officers issued a set of Common Core State Standards in 2010. Their purpose is to specify the concepts and skills needed for success in the modern world. These internationally benchmarked standards seek to create fewer, higher, and deeper curriculum goals that ensure more students are college and career ready.

This goal has profound implications for teaching and testing. Genuine readiness for college and 21st century careers, as well as participation in today’s democratic society, requires, as U.S. President Obama has noted, much more than “bubbling in” answers on a test. Students need to be able to find, evaluate, synthesize, and use knowledge in new contexts; frame and solve nonroutine problems; and produce research findings and solutions. The rapidly evolving U.S. workplace increasingly requires students to demonstrate well-developed thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, design strategies, and communication capabilities. These are examples of so-called “21st century skills” that education reformers, business spokespeople, higher-education leaders, and others have been urging schools to pursue—skills that are increasingly in demand in a complex, technologically connected, and rapidly changing world. Yet college faculty have noted that first-year college students are often lacking these critical-thinking and problem-solving skills (Conley, 2005, 2014; Lundell, Higbee, & Hipp, 2005).

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