The maker movement is encouraging entrepreneurs to share ideas, and the city is the central place where it lives, breathes, and succeeds.
Makers draw production back into the cities where consumption occurs, which can have profound economic and social benefits.
The untapped skills and knowledge unleashed in a makerspace now have the potential to become part of the creative economy of the city as a whole.
Public investment in the maker movement is critical. City governments help ensure that not only does this effort continue and grow, but that there is a focus on jumpstarting the local economy through increased entrepreneurialism and building local businesses.
The maker movement cannot exist without a physical space where people can design and prototype creations. Cities can help meet this need by donating unused buildings or funding infrastructure projects that house collaborative makerspaces.
Cities play a key role in moving the maker movement forward. One of the critical outcomes of this investment and support are the numerous companies and partnerships that have been formed as a result of unleashing the creativity of makers.
Nationally, 26 percent of cities currently have makerspaces and 13 percent have hosted a Maker Faire.
Strict teachers are nothing new, but the no-excuses approach evolved in the 1990s to address the challenge of chaotic classrooms and disrespectful students in high-poverty schools. The approach was partly inspired by the “broken window” approach to community policing, which held that “sweating the small stuff” (fixing broken windows and other symptoms of disorder) created a climate that discouraged more-serious crimes.
On the other side of the debate are those who argue that no-excuses tactics are abusive, racist, and not an effective way to close the achievement gap. Green summarizes three arguments in this vein:
The end doesn’t justify the means. Even if students make significant academic gains in no-excuses classrooms, the argument goes, harsh treatment by teachers and administrators leaves emotional scars. Most no-excuses schools advocate “warm-strict” – a balance of high expectations within nurturing relationships.
No-excuses tactics perpetuate racist forms of control. The concern here is the impact of white educators harshly disciplining children of color. Although no-excuses schools were all founded on the principle of dramatically improving the life trajectories of their students, critics charge that overly strict discipline tactics – even in the hands of educators who are African American and Hispanic – have the effect of controlling and diminishing the bodies, cultures, speech patterns, and creativity of students of color and feed the school-to-prison pipeline. The definition of “disrespect,” frequently given as the reason for suspensions and other punishments, is particularly open to racial bias, say the critics.
No-excuses discipline doesn’t teach the habits of success. “The absence of misbehavior doesn’t mean the presence of high levels of learning,”
Another charter administrator worries that strict, controlling discipline during school hours doesn’t prepare students to handle themselves responsibly in less-structured environments.
The same argument is made about teaching very structured procedures in English and math classes. It might produce high scores on standardized tests, but students can fail to develop the independent thinking skills that are essential for success in college and life.
Green then presents three arguments that are made by supporters of the no-excuses approach:
• Structure is actually anti-racist.
College retention has also been impressive – one study showed that 44 percent of KIPP graduates earned four-year college degrees compared to only 8 percent for low-income students generally. “The obsession with small details and perfect compliance that no-excuses fosters might not feel like liberation,” Green continues. “But, defenders argue, subtracting freedom in the short term is actually the more radical path to defeating poverty and racism in the long term.”
No-excuses consequences don’t have to hurt kids. If practiced with skill and within a day-to-day climate of warmth and high expectations, strict consequences can be very helpful to students, the argument goes.
The challenge for rapidly expanding charter networks is ensuring that balance of warmth and strictness in every classroom.
No-excuses schools are capable of change, and they are changing. Green reports that the schools in question are learning from early mistakes and fine-tuning their approach to discipline. She’s seeing more-careful staff training, close monitoring of classrooms, and clear statements by school leaders
Green concludes with her own opinion on the debate. The no-excuses approach to teaching “needs radical overhaul,” she says. “The behavior first, learning second formula prescribed by broken-windows theory – and for that matter, by most American schools – can successfully build compliant, attentive students, at least in the short term. But it cannot produce students who think creatively, reason independently, and analyze critically. Students cannot just ‘track’ the teacher, follow every direction, and repeat right answers in choral back-and-forths; they also need to learn to track arguments, pay attention to their work, and evaluate evidence in order to agree or disagree respectfully. And they need to have ample opportunities to make mistakes, both behavioral and academic, no matter how uncomfortable that makes their teachers… I’m saying that educators need to embrace new, more complicated structures that feel messier in the short term but build more permanent learning in the long term.”
“PLC Lite” is the most accurate way to describe the current state of professional learning communities around the country. “Educators rename their traditional faculty or department meetings as PLC meetings,” say DuFour and Reeves, “engage in book studies that result in no action, or devote collaborative time to topics that have no effect on student achievement – all in the name of the PLC process.
They list the characteristics of a true professional learning community:
<!-- [if !supportLists]-->-<!--[endif]-->A teacher team takes collective responsibility for students’ learning;
<!-- [if !supportLists]-->-<!--[endif]-->A guaranteed and viable curriculum is established, specifying the knowledge, skills, and dispositions students are expected to acquire, unit by unit.
<!-- [if !supportLists]-->-<!--[endif]-->Frequent, common, team-developed interim assessments measure students’ mastery of the curriculum.
<!-- [if !supportLists]-->-<!--[endif]-->These assessments identify the students who need additional time and support; students who would benefit from enriched or extended learning; teachers’ individual strengths and weaknesses based on what their students learned; and areas where none of the team members were able to bring students to proficiency.
<!-- [if !supportLists]-->-<!--[endif]-->A system of interventions guarantees that struggling students get additional time and support in ways that don’t remove them from new instruction.
All this flows from the four questions school staff are continuously asking themselves:
<!-- [if !supportLists]-->-<!--[endif]-->What do we want students to learn?
<!-- [if !supportLists]-->-<!--[endif]-->How will we know if they have learned it?
<!-- [if !supportLists]-->-<!--[endif]-->What will we do if they haven’t learned it?
<!-- [if !supportLists]-->-<!--[endif]-->How will we provide extended learning opportunities for students who have mastered the content?
“We recommend that faculty members keep a very simple one-page protocol that helps them focus on these questions,” say DuFour and Reeves.
With interim assessments, team members give students a test or performance-based assessment and use the results to identify struggling students, provide timely, systematic support, give students another chance to demonstrate their proficiency, and use the data to improve their classroom skills. DuFour and Reeves are scathing in their assessment of the “uninformative” interim assessment process they see in many schools. It often amounts to little more than shallow test prep including very brief team conversations concluding with, “Thank goodness that’s over – now we can go back to what we were doing.” Even if state tests consist largely of multiple-choice questions, teachers’ job “is not to mimic state tests but to challenge students to show what they know in ways that exceed traditional tests.”
Data analysis – “Many PLC Lite schools have no process for collective analysis of student learning,”
The best examples of data analysis lead to specific actions by teachers and administrators so that an examination of the data leads to interventions and changes in instruction, feedback, and support.”
Interventions – The key question is, “What happens in your school when students don’t learn what you have deemed is essential?” say DuFour and Reeves.
What does work? Systematic, intensive, focused, immediate follow-up instruction at the individual or small-group level. “These interventions do more than improve student success,” say DuFour and Reeves. “They also dramatically improve faculty morale.
In this New York Times article, Andrew Hacker (Queens College) makes the case for rethinking our high-school and college math curriculum to focus on quantitative literacy. Researchers have found that U.S. adults are embarrassingly inept at solving everyday math problems – for example, computing the cost of a carpet given its dimensions and the square-yard price. An OECD study ranked the U.S. a dismal 22nd out of 24 countries in basic numeracy skills, behind Estonia and Cyprus.
What citizens do need is to be comfortable reading graphs and charts and adept at calculating simple figures in their heads. Ours has become a quantitative century, and we must master its languages. Decimals and ratios are now as crucial as nouns and verbs.”
“It’s not just the difficulty of the classes. They can’t see how such formulas connect with the lives they’ll be leading.”
The reason for all this arcana, says Hacker, is that many mathematics educators look down their noses at “easy” citizen statistics courses, which they believe are dumbing down the curriculum. College math professors tend to be purists – the content has to be done at their level or not at all – and they don’t think they’ll get promotions and tenure for teaching real-world courses.
n fact, Hacker argues, solving everyday problems is not only more interesting and relevant to students, but it’s also quite demanding. In the college course he teaches in New York City, for which the only requirement is middle-school arithmetic, students wrestle with comparative statistics on cell phones and landlines, trends in birth rates in different states, and measuring time using decimalized days and weeks. “What’s needed is a facility for sensing symptoms of bias, questionable samples, and dubious sources of data,” says Hacker.
He believes this kind of math should take the place of algebra and geometry in high school – except for students who want to pursue a more-abstract, advanced math track. For most students, says Hacker, “all those X’s and Y’s can inhibit becoming deft with everyday digits.”
According to a 2015 study in The Journal of Pediatric Psychology, parents are four times more likely to tell girls to be careful than boys because of an unconscious belief that females are more fragile than males.
“When a girl learns that the chance of skinning her knee is an acceptable reason not to attempt the fire pole,” says Paul, “she learns to avoid activities outside her comfort zone. Soon many situations are considered too scary, when in fact they are simply exhilarating and unknown. Fear becomes a go-to feminine trait, something girls are expected to feel and express at will. By the time a girl reaches her tweens no one bats an eye when she screams at the sight of an insect. When girls become women, this fear manifests as deference and timid decision making… Books on female empowerment proliferate on our shelves. I admire what these writers are trying to do – but they come far too late.”
“[B]y cautioning girls away from these experiences, we are not protecting them. We are failing to prepare them for life… We must embolden girls to master skills that at first appear difficult, even dangerous. And it’s not cute when a 10-year-old girl screeches, ‘I’m too scared.’”
“Teaching perseverance depends heavily on the questioning skills of teachers,” say the authors. “Teachers need to understand the how and why of good questions so they can help students dig deeply and avoid superficial responses.”
Effort. Some educators think Dweck is saying they should reinforce effort, not outcomes. Not so! says Dweck: “Our work shows that you can praise the outcome as long as you also talk about the process that led to the outcome… Telling kids just to try hard is not helpful. It doesn’t tell them all the strategies, resources, and input they’ll need to get there.”
False mindsets. Some teachers give lip service to the growth mindset but secretly hold fixed beliefs about some students’ ability to succeed. Or they might frown on mistakes rather than treating them as integral to learning, or make the work easier so students won’t have to struggle.
Often, when kids feel confused about something, they feel like they’re back to square one.” She suggests giving a pretest and using it later to show struggling students the progress they’ve made.
Triggers. All of us, teachers and students, are a mix of fixed and growth mindsets, says Dweck. Acknowledge that.Fixed thinking is part of you but it’s not you!
the 50th- percentile scores of English language learners are lower than the 10th-percentile scores of non-ELL students. “Low levels of science achievement are no longer a ‘gathering storm,’” say the authors, “but now are rapidly approaching a ‘Category 5’ in their potential to derail the nation’s long-term global competitiveness. If left unaddressed, and given the nation’s increasing economic disparities, low science achievement may be experienced by growing segments of the U.S. adult population.
The result may be an electorate with more limited ability to understand pressing public policy issues necessitating greater scientific literacy as well as lower employment and economic prosperity.”
Morgan, Hillemeier, Maczuga, and Farkas investigated the degree to which several factors affected science achievement: family characteristics; parenting quality; school demographics; school academic climate; students’ general knowledge; reading and math achievement; and approaches to learning. They found that parenting quality had relatively little impact on students’ science achievement, but their math and reading proficiency were key factors as they moved through the grades, along with self-regulation, the degree to which their school had a high concentration of poor and minority students, and the instructional resources teachers had at their disposal.
These findings point to the importance of intervening early to fill in knowledge gaps – in early-childhood and preschool programs and parent education – and then working on a broad front in elementary and middle schools to bolster students’ reading, math, and behavioral proficiency.
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