Pigs Can’t Fly 1

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29 thoughts on “Pigs Can’t Fly 1”

  1. MERCI MERCI MERCI, BEN! This is the exact thing that stopped me dead in my tracks. I will be reading each and every word with care. I cannot wait to hear what some other members say about this. I also wanted to ask (but wasn’t sure where to ask it) exactly what sort of materials you give to students when you start new structures. For example, since grades are an unfortunate part of the teaching process and it is our duty to plug them in, do you give kids supplementary vocab or is your Word Wall enough?

  2. The Word Wall is not a factor in my grading. I give short quizzes at the end of class, not every class, and those are most of my grades. In my school absenteeism is the problem, with parents working two and three jobs, so kids to watch at home, and/or jobs to go to so that food is on the table, parents in other states or in Mexico, etc. So what I do is connect grades to being in class. Almost everyday I think how wonderful it is to be giving these kids confidence by making myself clear and making those little quizzes easy. It really helps them. They know, after their propensity to be absent led to an overall 37% fail rate in the first six weeks, that they can pass if they just come to class. By being in class everyday, many of those kids now have B’s and A’s. Just the quizzes and anything else – they listen and succeed. There are also common assessements at the end of each grading period, school mandated, and the end of the year district assessment that Diana has crafted over seven years of work with us (traditional teachers, for some reason, don’t attend our June writing team sessions – how odd!). But those big tests are rare and unimportant. I’ve tossed the Thematic Unit tests. Jennifer the big breakthrough on grading for me came about three years ago when I realized that administrators and parents could care less what kinds of grades we put in the book (I used to put SO MUCH ENERGY into that), nor do kids want all that complexity, as long as we have some grades in the book. Nobody, since I started going with the simple quizzes, has raised an eyebrow that they are so simple and take a fraction of the time to create (the Quiz Writer does it) and assess (the Scantron machine does it). Simplify, simplify.

  3. I appreciate that you took the time to write back so soon. I wanted to clarify something that you assumed in response to my introduction blog, that the students in my school are coming from rich parents. The opposite is true. I would say that the majority of students here live in the middle to low-class range whose parents work late (latchkey kids). We had a guest speaker on Friday, trying to recruit kids for a total immersion exchange program and I had a boy (that originally began his HS education precariously) show extreme interest in traveling to Portugal…but when the presenter mentioned that his parents had to spend $4-$8,000 for the trip, he ripped up the brochure…..

    The majority of students don’t have an absentee problem. In our department, however, the grading is set up as such: Level 1 (Assessments 50%, Participation 25%, Homework 25%) Level 2 (Asessments 60%, Participation 20%, Homework 20%). It’s difficult because one assessment can really impact the grade. I feel the pressure to get as many grades from each category as possible.

    Also, I had the privilege of attending Piedad’s webinar this past Saturday and I discussed with the attendees how our rotating schedule is driving me nuts. It’s an A-H rotation, 5 classes (we call them Blocks) per day. Sometimes, you see a block back-to-back and sometimes it skips a day. It’s confusing for everyone but especially makes it more difficult to have that relaxed feeling I’ve gotten the impression is necessary to teach anything TPRS-style. On top of that, kids that try to be shadows….

  4. Jennifer,

    If I may make a suggestion, take a look at some of the threads for standards-based grading. Since language is a “production-based” class (I say that ironically because we don’t force output), it will give you the freedom not to have to follow the grading scales forced by your department.

    I’d be happy to show you how to do this using only one standard at first until you get the hang of it and want to add more. It might become a trend at your school and if you ever need to defend CI+Standards Based Grading you can show your principal Marzano’s research [insert wink face here].

    You can’t change the rotating schedule so find something else to worry about that’s worth your time.

    Pull kids out of the shadows. I’ve used the 10-point participation rubric with success in the past. One of Matava’s stories in the book is America’s Got Talent so as a warm up in one of my classes we started “Nuestra clase tiene talento.” Someone does something. We have had a yo-yoer yo-yo, a singer sing, an impressive rapper (who had to be cut short because of his use of motha…) rap (Now he is Tay-Tay que dice palabras malas). It gives you an opportunity to introduce some new vocab and attach it to a student. It becomes that fodder for a personalized class.

    Adopt my new slogan: It’s just [insert language here]. Teach kids and be happy to see them. The P is the key: personalization. Teach them French second.

    1. Jennifer,
      Drew has some good advice. If may add to it a little bit . . .

      Besides the fact that giving students a grade for homework is totally bogus (See what Alfie Kohn has to say in The Homework Myth), a key to doing this is letting the people “in charge” think they are “in charge”. So . . .

      Homework is 25% of the grade? (How absurd; my district mandates that no more than 10% of the grade may be homework.) Do they also mandate what the homework must look like? I sure hope not. But here are some things you can do:
      1. Students take home a story from class and tell or teach it to their parents; you can either get a parent’s signature or ask students to repot back on their experience teaching a foreign language. Give everyone who does this 100% because teaching is a tough job.
      2. Do “Cultural Participation and Research”. Culture’s important, right? So let students “explore” the culture outside of class: make a cultural dish (they have to eat, right?); watch a TV show about the culture; read a website about a cultural practice (e.g. día de los muertos); play a video game set to the target language; watch a soccer game that involves a country from the target culture; borrow a book in the language and read it; learn a song in the target language. There’s lots more, those are just starter ideas.
      3. Help you prepare materials for a class – gives you a chance to “hang out” with some students as well and speak the Target Language casually.
      4. Teach a younger brother or sister (they have to babysit, right?) some of the language and tell you about it.
      5. Come to language club (if you have one).

      Call all of this “Homework” and be generous when grading. You’re playing the game and still not letting homework destroy your students.

      BTW, I was in charge of a workshop on Saturday. Among other presenters, Jason Fritze demonstrated doing PQA based on photographs. My favorite comment from the evaluation forms was, “I was inspired to . . . . . . ‘blow off the school curriculum'”.

      Oh yes! Another potential “Homework” assignment: students bring in a picture of themselves or family or a vacation. Better if it’s digital, but if not then you scan it. Show it in a PowerPoint and talk about the students. Give a 100% on homework to every student who brings in a photograph. Once they know you’re going to feature them and make them the stars of the class, they’ll get those photos in. And it’s a wonderful springboard to compelling Comprehensible Input.

      And as Drew says, don’t spend your time worrying about something you can’t change.
      God grant me the serenity
      to accept the things I cannot change;
      courage to change the things I can;
      and wisdom to know the difference.

      Living one day at a time;
      Enjoying one moment at a time;
      Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
      Taking, as He did, this sinful world
      as it is, not as I would have it;
      Trusting that He will make all things right
      if I surrender to His Will;
      That I may be reasonably happy in this life
      and supremely happy with Him
      Forever in the next.

      –Reinhold Niebuhr

  5. I really felt the truth of what you said today, Drew. We have a short four day week, so no song on Friday, but today I did PQA, tomorrow we go to a story, we’ll do a big embedded reading plus discussion/grammar based on the story on W/Th. It’s so simple.

    Whoever said to use the personalization piece for classroom discipline in the PQA – thanks! We were using He Talks Too Much today and so I got like over a hundred reps on “talks” and it was all about these two guys with whom I’ve had trouble with blurting out in Spanish all year. They were angels because not once did I take the focus away from them.

    Another thing I learned today was how PQA really is the time to personalize. I know, duh, but what I mean is that if you “stay with” those little comments that are really invitations by the student to get you to know them better, it is like magic. The personalization and sense of fun skyrocket. You just stay with them a moment longer. Explore where that thought was going before going off to another. Fear makes us move away from getting to kids better. Don’t be afraid, keep asking questions to the same kid. Feel the burn. If they cave, of course move to someone else in the PQA, but, if not, stay with it a moment longer.

    Today I got a name on a kid, Buddha. It’s the best. He called me a liar because of something I said I did this weekend on my bike. He has not trusted me yet. Now he is an ally. He can’t wait to call me a liar tomorrow and I can’t wait to call him Buddha. A lot of people think this is too free form, but can it really be called too free form when every single sentence I said in talkign to this kid contained at least one of the three target structures in it? That is I would call focused instruction.

    It’s the simplicity of my week that brings me the joy. Pure simplicity. Some PQA, a story, a reading, done. The thing that throws people off is what you allude to above Drew, your advice to Jen to worry about only the things that she has control over. Such good advice. I guess that our job as comrades in arms in this blog space is to convince Jennifer that she can simplify everything. But when you haven’t been doing it that long that is a tall order!

    I do feel, Jennifer, that you are getting thrown off by too much “stuff” that you have to think about. It is so typical of teaching, that there is so much to do that we end up going way shallow and wide and never get things simple enough to go narrow and deep. But if we are not clear and focused and present, then our kids won’t be.

    A good example is this you wrote Jennifer:

    …I feel the pressure to get as many grades from each category as possible….

    If this is true, then assessment is driving your instruction. That needs to change. Comprehensible input, all you can get of it, is what should be driving your instruction, in my opinion.

    1. I missed the comment about feeling pressured to get “as many grades from each category as possible”.

      As Ben mentioned above, neither administrators nor parents really care how many grades you have or how you arrived at them. For years I have used a rule of thumb to have 1-2 grades per week per class. (Not per category, per class) No one has ever complained that I had too few grades. If I have about 25 grades in an 18-week class, including the final and an overall “Interpersonal Communication” grade, everyone is happy. I could probably get away with fewer than that.

      And since we’re talking about pigs, remember this old bit of sage advice from a pig farmer: “Weighin’ the pig [i.e. testing] don’t make it grow.”

  6. This is not too free form Ben. THIS IS WHAT REAL USE OF THE LANGUAGE LOOKS LIKE. No wonder many people cannot speak the language after years of “scripted instruction”. Conversation is not a scripted dialogue. As long as the conversation is (as Susie always says) Comprehensible and Personalized, as long as everyone is engaged, as long as we, as directors of the conversations bring in new structures to be used and re used and rere used until they are part of the acquired structure and vocabulary of the group…we are giving our students EXACTLY what they need.

    with love,

  7. Laurie you are right. Pigs CAN fly. And the proof is that the student who, in harder times since August, has tried to hog tie me with inappropriate behavior, was the star of the show today in our PQA class. You are always right. Now I have to change the name of the 10 blog posts that are going to follow this one. Maybe “Porky 2” etc. or “Porky Can Fly 2” etc.

  8. Just my humble opinion here but I think the Drew post followed by the Harrell post is a bombshell….. I will have to chew on in for at least a week – there is so much there!

    What you are describing Drew is the “zone” – it is “compelling” I LOVE the idea of “la clase tiene talento” When I stop doing the cards (in two months:) I think I will go there…

    Let’s frame the slogan. So many have said it so many ways and it boils down to the slogan!
    Tay tay dice palabrotas REALLY made me smile…. Thanks!

  9. So, the department had come together my 1st year at a meeting. We had been told that parents wanted to see more equally graded categories in their students’ classes. The theory was that if Mom and Dad have 2 children and Sally is placed in my class, her homework grades/test grades/participation grades should be worth the same as her brother John, in my colleagues class.

    Drew you did not sound harsh (and even if you had, truth hurts and heals). I would love it if you would give me some advice on Standards-grading. I really plead total ignorance. I’m a teacher because I love kids and I love language and most people I meet told me I was a ‘natural’ at it, whatever that’s supposed to mean. It’s all this other worry that makes me think I could soon become one of that statistic who leaves within 5 yrs. I don’t want to do that because I think I have something special for the kids.

    With regard to worry: you’re all correct. I worry about EVERYTHING, ALL OF THE TIME. I mean, I have a kid who lost 1 or 2 points on about 4 quizzes and scored perfectly on homeworks but he has a 76ish%. Below a 70 in our school is failing. His mother wants to know what can be done to improve the grade in the next few weeks (Marking Period 1 is almost over). All I can think is, Well I need to start doing more PQA (since I dropped it these last 2 wks) so I can give more listening quizzes…so it can all even out for everyone. IT’S 50% OF THEIR WHOLE GRADE!!!!! How can I NOT worry?

    I see the beauty of TPRS. I see the possible simplicity. I see a class period FLY by my face when I PQA with my kids. I see my colleagues chugging along in the book and I worry, Will I have to deal with their questions next year about why Student A doesn’t know exactly how to conjugate a regular present-tense verb with every subject pronoun? I am lucky in one regard, my department is small only 5 of us…and we are all very close, even outside of school. We respect and appreciate each other. I’m receiving well-wishes from them all…..but (is it me?) I think I see that little something behind their eyes that wonders what the HECK I’m doing, that thinks it is naive…..

    1. Jennifer said, “I worry, will I have to deal with their questions next year about why Student A doesn’t know exactly how to conjugate a regular present-tense verb with every subject pronoun?”

      In my own experience, teachers don’t expect anyone but 4%ers to know anything about grammar. Just sit in the teachers’ room and listen to them complain. They have theories to explain why their students aren’t learning anything in their classes. They remind me of horse riders who blame everything on the horse. Really, honestly, I stopped worrying about what my colleagues thought about my teaching a long time ago. All that counts is what my students think. You can be sure that if they are acquiring the language with you and feeling successful, the word will get around. And you may have some colleagues who realize that there’s something rotten in the kingdom of Grammar and come to you to ask what you’re doing, hoping that you can help them.

  10. Jennifer the entire thing is in this post by Robert a little while ago from:


    It’s all here, and when I say it’s all here, I mean that it is ALL HERE:

    Standards-based Grading

    What is Standards-based Grading?

    SBG emphasizes mastery of a standard rather than merely doing a certain amount of work or accumulating so many points in order to get a grade. Students should not think that by doing extra work or getting “extra credit” they will improve their grade. Instead, they need to compare their work to the standard to see if they exceed, meet or fall below the standard. Think of it as being similar to learning to ride a bicycle. It doesn’t matter how many extra times I get on the bike; what matters is whether I can ride the bike.

    Standards-Based Grading focuses on the three Modes of Communication (Interpretive, Interpersonal and Presentational) and how well students use them. Instead of categories like “reading” and “speaking” or “tests” and “homework”, assessments evaluate one of the three modes of communication and indicate the student’s level of competence while communicating in that mode.

    What are the Standards?

    California State Standards for the World Language Classroom: Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve gives California’s World Language Standards. Coupled with the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) Proficiency Guidelines for K-12, these standards state what students should be able to do and how well they should be able to do it at various stages of acquisition.

    What sets the World Language Standards apart from standards in other subjects is that they do not describe discrete-item knowledge. Rather they describe communicative competence. Students do not learn a language by talking about the language, its parts and structure in English. They acquire a language by talking about other things in that language. This is different from all other disciplines. The California Standards state, “We . . .must provide students with opportunities to learn languages and cultures by participating in communicative interactions that prepare for real-world language use and global citizenship.” Consequently, I must speak German at least 90% of the time in class.

    What do Standards-based Grades Look Like?

    In Standards-Based Grading, students do not receive a percentage or number of points. Instead, they receive a notation that indicates how closely their performance aligns with the standard for that mode of communication. As a result, performance indicators will look different. I will be using the following markings:

    A = Advanced; the student’s performance exceeds the standard
    P = Proficient: the student’s performance meets the standard
    B = Basic: the student’s performance partially meets the standard
    L = beLow Basic: the student’s performance fails to meet the standard
    F = Far Below Basic: the student’s performance falls significantly below the standard

    Access rubrics through your parent code at Edmodo.com. See Mr. Harrell for parent code.

  11. Ben, thanks for the direct link to all of that info. I read everything. I’m going to print out some of the resources attached there. Needless to say, my head is spinning and I think I’ll still need help. I’m not the best grader and I don’t understand how to apply this. Will I totally be ignoring and/or abandoning the 50%/25%/25% as mentioned above? There are things I’d like to discuss with my colleagues but I just have this feeling that it is how it is….you know?

    Drew, I’d still like to take you up on your offer for help. Also, I feel like I hijacked your blog, Ben. Sorry… 🙁

    1. Jennifer,
      If you are doing Standards-Based Grading, you ignore the categories set up by your colleagues because they measure things other than performance. As set up by most teachers, “participation” is really the citizenship grade and “homework” is part of the work habits grade. Those should not be academic grades.

      Let’s start with Homework:
      What is the purpose of Homework? If it is to give students extra practice in the language, then it is unethical to grade it. Do your colleagues in fact grade every homework assignment? If they simply check off that it was done, then they are grading work habits, not performance. How many of them complain that “John would have an A or B in my class if he would only do his homework. He does fine on tests and quizzes, but his lack of homework is killing him.” Quite frankly, if he can get As and Bs on quizzes and tests without doing homework, why should he be forced to do homework? Wasn’t the purpose to give him practice so he could demonstrate ability? If he has the ability without the added practice, why should he do it? How many of your colleagues go to coaching sessions and practice their teaching skills outside the classroom? Why do they have a different standard for students? (BTW, I feel the same way about grading student notebooks)

      If it makes your colleagues fell better, tell them that Interpersonal Communication is basically another name for participation. Where it differs is in the rubric. How many of them have an actual performance target for participation? How many students can analyze their own participation – or is “participation” another weapon in the arsenal of power held by the teacher? Can the teacher articulate why she gave a student a particular participation grade other than “he contributes to the class”? I have a student (actually several) whose Interpersonal Communication grade went down because several times in a row I asked, “What did I just say?” and he couldn’t tell me, and he didn’t signal that he didn’t understand. He was also playing with a pen that he had taken apart. So I can point to the following standards that he missed:
      – signals 80% of the time when he doesn’t understand
      – uses body language to show engagement
      – responds appropriately to teacher’s questions
      – follows conversation conventions
      That’s four of six that he missed. Ouch. Not good. The student is a “good kid”, and his citizenship grade isn’t going down, but his academic performance grade took a hit because he wasn’t meeting the standard for Interpersonal Communication. On the other hand, I have a student who is acing most of the standards for communication but is very obnoxious and just generally a pain in the patooty, so his citizenship grade is low while his academic grade is high.

      That leaves us with grades based on assessment of how well students meet the standards. Most teachers put these assessments into categories of listening, reading, speaking, writing, culture, grammar. Whew! It just makes far more sense to me to use the ACTFL and College Board standards of the Modes of Communication (although College Board has another name for them). [N.B.: This is one of the few places where I believe College Board has actually done us a real service. If these are the basis for grading the AP exam, then Vertical Teaming suggests we should be using them at all levels.]
      Interpretive Communication: How much do students understand when they listen and read without the opportunity to interact with the author? If you want to really get into things, you can design assessments around Costa’s Levels of Inquiry.
      Interpersonal Communication: See the discussion above.
      Presentational Communication: How well do students present information when they will not be able to interact with the audience?

      Since CI teaching is geared to input in the lower levels, presentational communication should not count for very much in levels 1 and 2. Interpretive and Interpersonal Communication should be the two key areas of assessment. In the upper levels students are ready for output and can be assessed on Presentational Communication. There was some discussion earlier about the exact percentages, but Interpersonal Communication should be by far the largest of the three and Presentational Communication the smallest (again by far). I suggest the percentages as follows for Level 1:
      Interpersonal: 60%
      Interpretive: 30%
      Presentational: 10%
      I think Ben thinks Presentational should be even less.

      One further issue is the relative weight of early and late assessments (formative and summative). If the criterion is mastery of a standard, then it shouldn’t matter when the standard is mastered, as long as it is mastered. Considered the following two students in a parachute-packing class with pass = 100 and fail = 0:
      Student 1 – 0 0 0 0 0 100 100 100 100 100
      Student 2 – 0 100 0 0 100 100 100 0 0 100
      They both get the same grade in the class (50%) – but who do you want to have pack your parachute?

      Another analogy: If the class is in bicycle riding, and someone has never been on a bicycle before, should all the times he falls off at first count against him if by the end of the course he can ride a bicycle? “Oh, I’m sorry, you got an F in bicycle riding because you fell a lot at first. Of course, now you are doing BMX and winning prizes, but that doesn’t offset those low early grades.” Put in those terms I think a lot of grading practice is pretty bogus.

      Okay, I’ll step off the soapbox now.

    2. If this is a hijack, bring a thousand more. This is why we are teaming up here, why we are working together. I don’t know where else I can get answers to my own questions except from y’all. Maybe at a conference, but they don’t last a year. The work you are doing now, the points you are raising, Jennifer, are greatly shortening the time it will take you to gain mastery of this stuff.

      Something astounding happened today, and shows that we are all just infants in this process of learning about what comprehensible input is. I showed what Robert wrote to Annick Chen, my colleague at Lincoln High School who with Linda Li is a true master of teaching Mandarin Chinese. Annick and I huddled over Robert’s text on Standards Based Grading this morning, the same one I called your attention to, and Annick just stared at it for about two full minutes at least. There was total silence. When we finally processed what that was all about, I could see that what Robert addresses here is about something that is so different from what we have come to regard as “grading” that even masters of the method can’t quite get it. I may be wrong on that, but I believe it. It is an amazing thing, to say that we will now assess kids on how they interact with us and not what they know. I told Annick that the Interpretive Mode, to me, meant the daily quick quizzes I give and that the Interpersonal Mode, as Robert says, is that all-important piece that he has defined as the ability of the student to interact with us, SINCE IT IS A LANGUAGE, in our classrooms. To answer your question about whether to retain the old way of assessing that is expected of you, I would say no, for the reasons that Robert gives above.

    1. Your email didn’t come through and I checked my spam box. I’ll just post here.

      Getting Started
      Think about it like this though to get started. We are only going to take 1 standard: Listening Comprehension. It should be a Monday/Wednesday activity in a CI-based class.

      The California Standard is B: Communication; B x.2 Students interpret written or spoken language.

      In my gradebook the standard reads:

      Comprehension: Student describes the critical or essential elements of the text or audio source. The student exhibits no major errors or omissions

      We want our goal to be 80% of students score 80% or better on a quick 5 question quiz.

      According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, answering True/False question is measuring a low level of learning. Being able to restate the plot/problem is a higher level of thinking.

      So to score a 2.0 (approaching standards) on a quick quiz, a student needs to answer 4/5 or 8/10 questions correctly on the quick quiz.

      To score a 3.o (meets standards) the student needs to score 4/5 on the T/F but needs to write a 2 sentence summary of the problem or plot in L2. If we are doing our jobs staying in bounds using the target structures, and our story revolves round the target structures, this should easy.

      These are a breeze to grade and my TA (a Spanish III kid) can do them because she has the quiz book and the notes. She write 2 or 3 on the quizzes and goes on to the next. (Most kids score 3’s which is NOT a bad thing. I have a standard and they know how to meet MY standard).

      Voila. I have data that actually proves how my students can comprehend.

      Jason has an averaged score of 3.0 on the 15 comprehension assignments that we have done. If I had to defend that grade to a parent it means that Jason can answer T/F questions and can restate plots/problems.

      Daniel has an average score of 2.5 on the 15 comprehension assignments. I can tell Daniel’s parents that he can understand almost all of what’s happening in class but he needs to focus on the target structures and restating plots.

      June has an average score of 2.0 so that means she can get those T/F questions down.

      This is a tool for learning: June, stay for a second after class. Do you understand what I say in class? No? Oh no, let’s move you to the front so I can pay special attention to you, Wink at me when you need me to repeat it. I really want to see you get into that 3.o range and we can do this together.

      Easy Grade Pro also tells me the average class score by standard. I know that my average comprehension score is 2.9. It means I’m too easy or my class understands me. I prefer the latter.

      Those are real data.

      Can you do X?
      Holy Crap look at you=4.0 (This comes later)
      You can do it but I have to help you=1.0 (This comes later too)

  12. Robert,

    I’m sorry. I didn’t see your post to me initially. Thank you for the very detailed description of each piece of the Standards-Based puzzle. So, I want to know…..do I tell my colleagues I’m doing this or do I just change things in the grade book? I mean, the percentages are really supposed to be the same and the categories, the last time I checked, were supposed to be the same. I’m beginning to see many obstacles and problems ahead if I try this.

    1. The obstacles will be there. The question is how we, not you, react to them. You won’t go through this alone. Like the original people of the land I am now living didn’t have a word for “I”, just “we” (source: Ken Burns: The West).

      I suggest that you keep giving those people what they want. But, slowly, as you and the rest of us come to understand what Robert seems to understand ahead of us, the changes will come. They will come because they have been defined by ACTFL, which is essentially what all state standard are or will become in the next five years (even Georgia).

      Take it slow. Don’t go yelling about this. Let the change happen naturally. Protect your job. Soon the idea of assigning percentages like they are asking you to do will seem just stupid. Kudos, applauso, to our wonderful Chevalier de l’Ouest for his vision and intelligence and ability to articulate both for the good of the order, and, most importantly, for the good of more kids than we may have any idea at this point.

    2. Jennifer,
      If you take hold of this, you will rock the boat and rock it hard. That will bring a reaction because it’s new and you will be perceived as threatening the power structure at your school. You have all the research and professional organizations on your side, but when the struggle is with entrenched ways of doing things and a sense of power, that is often not enough to create change. TCI threatens not just smaller power bases but also the money factory of the textbook companies, and your district has probably bought into the “educational commercial” complex.*

      I am fortunate to be in a situation where I can pursue these “radical ideas” without a lot of interference. (I had district “suits” visit yesterday, and the class was engaged, knew what we were doing and speaking German exclusively – what can they say?) Ben had a much different experience at his last school. He and others who have that kind of experience can give you better advice than I.

      *Most of us are unaware of the extent to which money interests influence – even dictate – what happens in schools. For years I have looked for ways to provide my students with the opportunity to travel to a German-speaking country without success. Beyond the concerns of liability, I am not permitted even to tell my students about summer travel opportunities because that would be “promoting an outside company” (apparently an educational no-no). And yet, every year our sophomores go to a mandatory ring assembly so that Josten’s can pitch class rings to them. Why? Because Josten’s underwrites part of the cost of the school’s yearbook and wouldn’t do so if they didn’t get to have essentially exclusive rights to ring sales. As the saying goes, “Consistency, thou art a jewel.”

  13. Of course, the fact that the Gates Foundation just gave Denver Public Schools and seven other major metro school districts upwards of $40M each will not affect the kinds of computers we in these eight districts purchase. At least that is a relief.

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CI and the Research (cont.)

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Research Question

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We Have the Research

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