Photo of the day

What could be cooler than a gallery of animals catching rides on other animals.  Not much, honestly.  So many good ones here.  I feel like there’s definitely some political allegory in this one.  From the Telegraph.

A crow has been photographed in a rare moment catching a lift on the back of a Bald Eagle 25-feet in the air.

Amateur photographer Phoo Chan managed to photograph a crow catching a lift on the back of a bald eagle, 25 feet in the air, in Seabeck, Washington, USA. The crow was trying to drive the bald eagle away in order to protect its chicks. The crow perched on the eagle for a few seconds, and then the two birds flew off on their separate ways.Picture: Media Drum World

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Republican voters reach new level of delusional

Interesting new poll from the Post.  Most striking, Republican voters find Donald Trump the most electable of the contenders.  Donald Trump is “the most” lots of things.  Most electable is sure as hell not one of them.  Alas:

Also, 32% find Trump unacceptable but 45% find Jeb unacceptable?!  Good lord, what alternate reality are these people living in?

And, as for the “establishment” looking to defeat Trump, this is bad news.  We know well that primary voters take candidate electability into account and this suggests that these delusional voters totally mis-perceive Trump’s electability.  Damn do we live in interesting times.

The non-secret to good teaching

Libby Nelson has a nice piece in Vox on what we could learn from Singapore to make our teachers better.  That said, it’s not just Singapore, it’s what we could learn from a lot of places.  After reading this, I went back and found my “I’ve got improving teaching all figured out” post, and discovered that basically this emphasizes my points 1,3, and 4, and I never knew a thing about Singapore.  Point being, let’s find a way to do this stuff!  Anyway, it’s important, so here’s Nelson:

How teaching is different from other careers — and why it’s a problem

There are two ways that teaching doesn’t look like other jobs in the United States: The job stays pretty much the same for as long as a teacher is in the classroom, and there’s little interaction with other adults. Experts argue that both are a problem when it comes to helping teachers improve.

If you started out teaching third grade 35 years ago and retired this year, your last day in the classroom easily could have looked a lot like your first. You might have been getting paid more for more years of experience, but the expertise you’d developed after decades in the classroom wasn’t formally recognized.

Most professions don’t work this way. Lawyers move up from first-year associate to managing partner; nurses can deepen their specialization in branches of medicine. Experts have argued for years that the lack of a similar path in teaching makes it harder to retain good teachers. The clearest path up is becoming a principal — which is essentially an entirely different job.

Teachers’ skills, perhaps as a result, improve quickly in the first five years they’re in the classroom. Then the research disagrees on what happens next. Some studies have foundteachers plateau completely; others find they continue to improve, but not as dramatically.

“There’s no reward for getting better at it,” said Marc Tucker, director of the National Center on Education and the Economy, which released the report today exploring how teachers’ professional development works in Shanghai, Singapore, and British Columbia. “There’s no career in teaching. There’s no high amounts of responsibility to aspire to.”

And although teachers are rarely alone, teaching in the US is a solitary profession: They spend most of their time with students, not other adults.

Compared with teachers in other countries, teachers in the US spend far more time in front of their classes, which means they have less time to work on lesson planning or collaboration. Teachers in the US teach about 27 hours per week, compared with 19 hours per week in Korea and Shanghai.

That means they have less time to discuss problems and techniques with each other and improve their skills.

“Teachers have no time to think, no time to learn, no time to study the kids, no time to study the curriculum,” Elizabeth Green, the author of Building a Better Teacher, told me last year. “They have no way of seeing anything that’s happening outside their own classroom.”

Research has found that collaboration is key to helping teachers improve — or at least that teachers think it is. A 2007 study found a link between teacher collaboration and higher student test scores in Tennessee…

Unlike many reforms meant to help the US catch up with other countries, this idea wouldn’t require a big, national effort. And Tucker suspects that it wouldn’t cost more than the billions of dollars that they’re already spending on less effective forms of professional development.

Creating a system like Singapore’s would still face huge hurdles. It would require reimagining how professional development works and, in some cases, reimagining what a teaching career looks like. It would require huge amounts of training to ensure that it’s effective. While teachers unions aren’t necessarily opposed to a system of master teachers, most teachers’ contracts aren’t set up for anything like this, and altering them would require tricky political negotiations.

Freeing up more time for teachers to collaborate also often means larger classes — common in Singapore and Shanghai but strongly resisted by American teachers

Hard work to implement reforms like this.  But far from impossible.  Mark Zuckerberg invested a ton of money in Newark schools and it hardly worked at all.  Maybe, because he invested in the wrong things.  I just want some billionaire who really cares about education to read this post (Vox, not me, I’m not that narcissistic) and decide it’s worth trying in a local school system.  If we can actually implement this somewhere, it will almost surely show strong positive results.  And that should hopefully inspire wider implementation.  The sad thing, is the smart education reformers really seem to be coming to a consensus on this stuff, but overall education reform is still way too hung up on charter schools, merit teacher pay, etc.

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