This is a proposal I wrote for Seth Berg, who had a rough manuscript that we shaped intensively. The proposal DID include sample chapters, although they are not in this document, out of deference to Seth. On this webpage I have cut and pasted pages from the proposal, so the formatting is slightly different than in the Word document.

Berg Cover.png

Don’t Ruin the Kids: An Award-Winning Teacher’s Prescription for Bringing Joy and Success into Schools.

By Seth Berg

Overview………………………………………………………………………………….3

The Author………..………………………………………………………………………4

Audience…………………………………………………………………………………..6

Competition…….…………………………………………………………………………8

Special Marketing and Promotional Opportunities……………………..……………….11

Manuscript Specifications……………………………………………….………………14

Outline…………….……………………………………………………………………..15

Sample Chapters….…………………………………………………………………..….24

Chapter 1…………………………………………………………………………………25

Chapter 5……………………...………………………………………………………….38 

Overview

Don’t Ruin the Kids: An Award-Winning Teacher’s Prescription for Bringing Joy and Success into Schools.

A fresh look at education highlighting intangible traits such as humor, insightfulness, and camaraderie instead of massive testing, content standards, and accountability reports.

My rebellious career as a subversive educator culminated in being honored as Colorado Teacher of the Year. I love teaching but am often aghast at blunders I witness … and participate in. America is determined to improve its schools, yet policies over the past few decades have shown disappointing results because they fail to address the dual nature of teaching as both a science and an art. Schools have a tendency to deplete the joy of learning, reducing rather than energizing academic engagement. The key to raising student achievement is to make classrooms a marketplace for epiphanies providing delight for the students and teachers who spend years and years of their lives confined in school buildings.

A wake-up call for educational change, this book provide an array of personal encounters that include motivating students in a school without grades, lecturing as a lost art, rescuing a difficult adolescent through homeschooling, transferring lessons from ski racing to the classroom, and exploring how the worst math students get to be that way. These true stories, some optimistic, some less so, will be of interest to curious readers wondering what goes on inside schools, anxious parents worrying about academic quality, educators looking to shake up the status quo, teachers seeking insight into their challenging profession, and anyone concerned about the future of our nation’s education.

The Author

During Seth Berg’s 31 years as a classroom teacher he was always peering behind the curtain to seek out the sources of his students’ strengths and weaknesses. In 2008, he was named Teacher of the Year by the Colorado Department of Education. The following year, when he was assigned to reteach academic skills and revitalize the attitudes of remedial sophomores he started to wonder, “What has schools done to ruin these kids?”

Unlike many of the experts who analyze education policy and study research reports, Seth Berg has been in the trenches with a generation of students. When Seth gave a data presentation about student growth to his school board, the state’s Education Commissioner, William Maloney, was in attendance and commented, “Every school district needs a Seth Berg.”

Currently working as an education consultant, Seth Berg meets with school administrators implementing new curriculum, teachers revising instruction, and students preparing for math competitions.  He has defended education in the Op-ed section of the Denver Post and published a math puzzle in the New York Times “Numberplay” column.

He gravitates towards progressive schools with undergraduate work in Biology and Art History at Oberlin College (Oberlin, Ohio), and earning a Masters in Education from Goddard College (Plainfield, Vermont) with a specialty in K-12 Curriculum and a concentration in Gifted Education. Goddard encourages alternative thesis projects, and Seth wrote and directed a 30-minute fictional comedy about 13 gifted students from kindergarten through grade 12.

Working in elementary, middle and high schools, Seth wore a lot of hats, and sometimes met with kindergarten and high school seniors for back-to-back classes. His background is unusual because he taught Math, English, Science, and various other disciplines including Humanities, PE, and Music. He worked with classes of remedial students as well as gifted pupils and high achievers in three different AP courses. Moreover, he started at an independent private school in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, moved to a New England boarding school, and then spent the bulk of his career in Colorado public schools where he was licensed to teach math and science and was certified by the rigorous National Board program for adolescent mathematics.

He has worked for the Colorado Department of Education consulting on assessment projects and piloting teacher evaluation programs. Also in this role, he has evaluated the teacher training programs at education colleges for the Department of Higher Ed. Naturally, has has served on dozens of committees, often willingly, and attended scores of conferences. Having taught so many grades and so many subjects at so many schools, Seth Berg’s viewpoint encompasses a startling range of student ages, interests and abilities.

Many former students continue their friendships with Seth dating back from the early 1980’s to the present day. At his first job, Seth founded the ski club at St. Andrews Episcopal (Bethesda, Maryland) and later followed his alpine dreams to Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont. Searching for better snow, he finally settled in Telluride, Colorado where he worked as a classroom teacher while taking on additional responsibilities including Curriculum Coordinator, Gifted and Talented Director, and District Assessment Coordinator.

He lives with his husband, Christopher Beaver, just outside Telluride, and collects fossils, photographs of rain, and lurid paperbacks from the 1950’s.

Audience

Teaching is the third most popular profession in America with more than 3 million public school teachers. Although this is slightly fewer than the total number working as retailers or cashiers, teachers are all book lovers. According to the Huffington Post, “Last year, teachers spent an average of about $500 of their own money” on books and supplies for their students.  With this much shopping, teachers always buy themselves a few good books, too. Just as restaurant workers enjoyed Anthony Bourdain’s candid reflections in Kitchen Confidential, many teachers will appreciate seeing versions of their schools in Don’t Ruin the Kids

There is an established book market for both new teachers getting started and seasoned veterans continuing their professional development. These titles sell steadily on Amazon, in specialty bookstores, and at well-attended education conferences in every state. But these books tend to be a bit dry and academic: Don’t Ruin the Kids, with lively anecdotes from the front lines, will be a welcome addition.

There are currently 3 million members of the National Education Association and another 1.6 million in the American Federation of Teachers. Membership in these organizations denotes concern for the future of schools and an affinity for books like Don’t Ruin the Kids with sensible steps for positive change.

In addition to active teachers, there are approximately 400,000 college students majoring in education. Don’t Ruin the Kids will become a popular text in these courses because it is not only entertaining but also broad in its sweep of educational issues and technical in its suggestions. The College Board estimates that every college student should budget $1200 a year for textbooks.

Education is the second most popular Masters program trailing only MBAs. There are 155,000 students a year graduating with education Masters degrees, and a similar number completing their first year in these programs. Many graduate classes will find provocative ideas for research or discussion in Don’t Ruin the Kids. I fondly recall reading tons of books while earning my Masters in education.

Public school principals, numbered at 1.25 million nationwide, are another strong audience for books about improving student achievement. Don’t Ruin the Kids includes lists of questions for principals to discuss both with other administrators and with their faculties. Unlike typical books for principals, these queries promote deep reflection by asking poignant questions such as, “How would we comment on a competent but dull lesson presentation?”

Don’t Ruin the Kids is not solely for educators and education students; it will also be of major interest to parents and policy makers. With stories about elementary school and middle school, as well as high school, Don’t Ruin the Kids will appeal to grade school parents who have historically been strong consumers of books pertaining to child development. There are currently 4 million members of the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) nationally, and almost 14,000 school districts, each with its own school board. The Colorado Association of School Boards has an annual meeting with over 1000 members attending, and these elected officials enjoy keynotes by authors and experts like Seth Berg.

Finally, Don’t Ruin the Kids is about current affairs because education is a societal issue connected to employment opportunities and the economy.  Along with Business, Health, and Technology, The New York Times includes an Education section directed at a wide audience. Informed citizens, even those without children in school, follow stories on American education because it’s part of our national fabric. 

Competition

Educators and parents who read books about education tend to read more than one. There are several popular titles currently on the market addressing similar problems, yet the subject is rich enough that the different books are all unique and their ideas reinforce each other rather than seeming redundant. Don’t Ruin the Kids will strengthen this bookshelf by interweaving strong criticism with viable suggestions based on the colorful experiences of an insightful, veteran teacher.

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

Paul Tough, 2012

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Agent: David McCormick

Written by a magazine reporter who visits schools and interviews interesting educators, this book’s premise is that overprotected children must learn how to cope with failure, and disadvantaged children must develop strong character skills that will fortify their ability to succeed in school. This book is a New York Times bestseller because it resonates with parents. Don’t Ruin the Kids also provides advice for schools and parents, but promotes making schools more interesting and rewarding rather than just making students more resilient

The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way

Amanda Ripley, 2014

Simon & Schuster

Agent: Esmond Harmsworth

Written by an investigative reporter who outsources her research to American students spending a year abroad because they have the inside perspective to contrast the world’s best schools with the high schools they left at home. Extremely engaging, though sometimes depressing, this is a great compliment to Don’t Ruin the Kids. Both books tackle similar issues, but the perspectives differ from student to teacher. Ripley is clear that teaching is a complicated profession that requires smart, hard working professionals who should be top students themselves. Don’t Ruin the Kids goes deeply into these traits and describes how good schools can be designed with these advantages in mind. Ripley’s appendix brings her international analysis home and advises parents how to look for good schools. The appendix in Don’t Ruin the Kids is also for parents but advances learning activities that occur at home.

Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education

Ken Robinson, Ph.D. and Lou Aronica, 2015

Viking

Robinson is a New York Times bestselling author and a TED talk superstar. He and his collaborator, Lou Aronica, visit schools all over the world, and synthesize the highlights. Ultimately they arrive, by a different pathway, at conclusions quite similar to Don’t Ruin the Kids. Both books describe the limitations of testing and suggest alternatives, but Robinson and Aronica just mention the drawbacks of “teaching to the test,” while my book goes deeply into an actual classroom preparing successfully for the state assessment and describes the nuances of that experience. Robinson and Aronica are expert researchers who write well, but they are most interested in innovative international programs while Don’t Ruin the Kids looks closely at the frustrations faced by students and teachers and describes how better lessons can make schools more effective.

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

Cathy O’Neil, 2016

Crown

Written by a working mathematician, this powerful book clearly explains how data is being dangerously overused and causes widening gaps in inequality. Big data, O’Neil writes, reverses our national motto E Pluribus Unum, dividing us into haves and have-nots. Like Don’t Ruin the Kids, O’Neil uses colorful anecdotes instead of technical language to make math interesting and explain complex ideas in order to paint a picture of a societal problem and suggest a solution. Both books cover grading and how test data can be misused, but my aim is to improve education while her goal is to warn everyone that big data has infiltrated all areas of society.

The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education

Diane Ravitch, 2010

Basic Books

A doom and gloom story that needs to be told. Ravitch is an education historian who served as the Assistant Secretary of Education under George H.W. Bush in the early nineties. Her deep knowledge and intelligent writing exude expertise. She concludes, “Efforts to reform public education are, ironically, diminishing its quality and endangering its very survival.” Ravitch would agree with many of the ideas in Don’t Ruin the Kids, but is less hopeful about America’s capacity to improve teacher quality because no one knows how to define or measure quality except with imprecise test scores. Don’t Ruin the Kids is not dissuaded by this reasoning and outlines the intangible traits of quality teachers. Although important for educators to read, Ravitch’s pessimistic book does not appeal to hopeful parents interested in boosting their children’s success.  

Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56

Rafe Esquith, 2007

Viking

Rafe Esquith is arguably the best teacher of all time. This book explains his process and is likely to make everyone else in the world feel like an underachiever. His fifth grade students learn grammar and author their own books. They learn the fundamentals of baseball and chart their statistics to use in math lessons. They learn to read music and perform classical guitar and classic rock. And in addition to excellent instruction with science, social studies, and economics, students are mainly taught to work hard and demonstrate compassion. This book is an excellent portrait of how a single great classroom operates, and produces full Shakespeare productions, but does not tackle broad policy issues in education. Don’t Ruin the Kids outlines changes schools could make to create an atmosphere that supports and cultivates teachers like Esquith who bubble with vitality.

Special Marketing and Promotional Opportunities

Telluride is a tiny town (population 2300) but attracts half a million visitors per year from all over the country, and trends that appear in Telluride soon spread from coast to coast. Oscar winners like Moonlight, La La Land, and Spotlight all premiered here.  Telluride has 2 local papers; Telluride Daily Planet and The Watch. The first prints 3000-5000 copies and estimates 1.5 readers per paper, and the later prints 11,000 and also estimates 1.5 readers per paper. The online edition of Telluride Daily Planet reaches 18,000 readers per week, and more in certain seasons. As you can see, the readership extends far beyond the local population. It will be easy for me to get coverage in these papers when my manuscript is published. Telluride also has a very active bookstore and library. Both would certainly invite me to do readings and book signings.

Previously I published an Op-Ed piece in the Denver Post that got some nice attention. The Post ranks 12th in daily circulation in the United States and 10th for Sundays. Average weekday readership is 1.2 million, and Sundays are 840K. The Denver Post website gets 6 million monthly unique visitors according to comScore.

I have also published a math puzzle with the NYTimes NumberPlay column and have a new puzzle I’d like to publish soon, but that column is no longer running and I’m looking at the Monday Puzzle feature in the Guardian that does an excellent job with recreational mathematics.

There are many popular podcasts about education, my favorite is Educate, produced by APM Reports in collaboration with the Hechinger Report, a prestigious research organization for education. The same story is often covered two ways, once by a journalist in the Hechinger Report, and again with interviews and sound bites on the podcast. The local Telluride radio station, KOTO, has a popular local news show, and I’m certain they would interview me. Colorado Public Radio also does a lot of stories about authors in the state as well as stories about education. Sometimes NPR picks up these stories for national airtime. 

Several journals specialize in education; the most prominent is Education Week with 700K registered users who pay a yearly fee. Their daily updated e-newsletter is sent to 220,000 subscribers. The print edition has a circulation of 27K and the online edition gets 1.1 million unique visitors per month.

Within Colorado there are important education groups with their own newsletters who would be interested in my book. These include COmath, sent from the Department of Education, and Chalkbeat Colorado which follows education news in the state and is part of a Chalkbeat network with coverage of four other regions (including New York) as well as a national edition. I have also worked with multiple nonprofits who promote education on a state and national level and post regular newsletters and email updates including Colorado Fellowship, Climb Higher Colorado, Core Advocates, and NSTOY (National State Teachers of the Year). Typically, a teacher or principal follows a particular site and shares interesting links with their entire building. Each of the nonprofits have active twitter communities with a few thousand followers each. Alfie Kohn, an outspoken education expert who has advised me on my book, has 64.4K twitter followers. Good ideas in education catch on through teacher networks and spread from state to state quite quickly.

Educators gather every year for major conferences at the state and national level. I have given workshops at these conferences and see myself becoming a keynote speaker once I am published. The NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) conference has 2 regional events per year with 2500 teachers each, and their national conference draws 8-10K attendees. Educators come to these conferences primed to hear new ideas and return home with bags of new books. CASB (the Colorado Association of School Boards) has an annual conference with 1000 new board members every year, and these policy makers return to their home districts with suggestions for both speakers and books. After presenting at CASB, I would like to branch out and join the circuit of speakers who appear all around the country at education summits. These appearances are always followed by book signings and invitations to present in more and more states.

Magazines like The Atlantic publish good stories about education, and I am ready to hire a public relations expert to open doors and help me garner publicity for my book. Finally, I have a former roommate who is an editor in Washington, D.C., of a major national magazine and he will assist me in getting a piece published by his magazine or make the connections if he deems there’s a better fit for my ideas within that world.

Manuscript Specifications

The completed manuscript is 84,700 words. It has been revised based on recommendations of a structural editor (Harlan Clifford) who was hired to help with several drafts and then copy edited and fact checked by an additional editor (Shannon Lee).

Each chapter concludes with a summary box of bulleted questions. There is one black and white illustration of a classroom, and a bar graph with test results. Also included are five geometry diagrams of polygons, a pair of graphed equations, one table of numbers, and a number line diagram. 

A graphic designer has created a preliminary draft for the book’s cover based on a superb color photograph available from Getty Images.

The completed manuscript is ready and can be delivered in Word format within 48 hours of signing of the contract. 

Outline

Introduction: Rebels

            Surprisingly, most award-winning teachers are rebels who work against the system to do what’s best for their students. National policies, by contrast, neglect the dynamics of teacher/student interactions and fall short. By observing the most successful teachers, we can envision a different approach to education reform.

·      A Brief History of Education Reform

·      Why NCLB Failed

·      International Comparisons Are Not Flattering

·      Introducing the Common Core

Part I: Understanding the Difficulties

It’s both humorous and painful to analyze the shortcomings of schools. America’s current education system requires more than modification; a fresh approach is necessary. The six chapters in this section examine a variety of anecdotes not only from elementary, middle and high school but also from an adult cooking class.

1. Does School Make Us Dumber? Comparing Fourth and Ninth Graders

Observing back-to-back classes in grades 4 and 9 is like hitting the fast-forward button on a time machine to watch eager elementary students devolve into detached high school teens.  

·      Learning about pH in Grade Nine

·      Learning about Inference in Grade Four

·      A Thought Experiment: Flipping Grades Four and Nine

·      The Downward Trend

Chapter 1 ends with a “Summary Box” of discussion questions about student development. Here’s one;As our pupils rise through the grade levels, are they getting better and better at their job as students?”

2. Boredom and Repetition: The Importance of Lively Content

Students lose interest in school because their courses review too much of the same material every year. We falsely blame the drop in student interest on hormones. Instead we could energize students by providing more lively content.

·      Blaming Puberty

·      Mental Development

·      Repetitious Instruction

·      The Case for Stimulation

Chapter 2 concludes with a “Summary Box” of discussion questions about course content including, “What can we do to prevent student boredom?”

3. If You Only Knew: What Is an A?

Three students in the same math class illustrate the uncertainty of grading systems. Adrianne is the most conscientious, but Theo is a natural mathematician, and then there’s Jake who might be brilliant but doesn’t even know it is test day.

·      Grading’s Place in a Larger System

·      The Cloudy Meaning of Grades

·      A Plethora of Grading Practices

·      The Application of Knowledge

·      What Talent Looks Like

·      Grading Student Participation

Chapter 3 ends with a “Summary Box” of discussion questions about grading such as, “How important are participation and improvement compared with advanced mastery?”

4. The Hazards of High Scores: Inside Test Mania

As standardized testing has become more popular in recent decades we are accustomed to stories about teachers and students who feel misrepresented by their low scores. Here, instead, is the story of a successful science teacher and his top-scoring pupils whose education is still perverted by testing.

·      Unintended Consequences of Testing

·      Prepping for the Eighth-Grade Science Test

·      Receiving the Test Results

·      Test Scores and Socioeconomics

·      The Best Test Prep

Chapter 4 includes a “Summary Box” of provocative questions for schools to ponder including,  “What important topics have we neglected because they aren’t easy to test?”

 

5. Thai Cooking School: The Importance of Context

A day spent at cooking school demonstrates why hands-on learning is not enough to produce deep understanding. The context for lessons must also be explicit, and this omission explains why good students are often bewildered by low SAT scores.

·      Curriculum and Assessment Are Partners

·      Preparing Students to Apply Their Knowledge

·      When Curriculum Is Too Shallow

·      How Some Students Succeed

·      Listening Skills

·      Lateral Thinking and Making Connections

·      Learning about Insight

·      Teaching the Framework

·      Instruction without Deep Learning

Chapter 5 concludes with a “Summary Box” of questions about course design. For example, “How hard can we make the tests so our students will still succeed?”

6. A Tone-Deaf Choir: The Importance of Number Sense

A band of adolescent musicians performs at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Academy but their sound does not quite gel into music. Similarly, the 5th period remedial students drill particular math skills but fail to gain a cohesive understanding of connected topics.

·      Why Extra Review Is Not Effective

·      Defining Number Sense

·      The Importance of Patterns

·      Understanding Fractions

·      Algebra and Geometry Are Extensions of Number Sense

·      Changing Elementary Math Instruction

·      Our Best Shot

·      The Importance of Starting Early

·      New Standards Are Not Enough

The “Summary Box” of discussion questions for Chapter 6 pertains to math courses. One bullet asks,  “Do we reward our students for correct answers even if their chosen solution methods are wildly inefficient?”

Part II: Examining Important Models

Previous reform efforts have not gone far enough to create significant change. These six chapters look at experiences ranging from homeschooling to ski racing. Mistakes in scheduling and hiring are scrutinized, and John Warren, the consummate math teacher, is introduced as the hero of this book.

7. Tweaking the Bell Schedule: Unrealized Promises of Reform

Longer class periods can facilitate deeper explorations, but well-intentioned changes may be poorly implemented. Instead of improving student achievement, reform efforts get diverted by logistics and lose sight of student learning.

·      Lengthening Class Periods

·      How to Raise Achievement

·      Misdirected Efforts

Chapter 7 finishes with a “Summary Box” of discussion items such as, “When new standards are implemented, are old practices unambiguously discarded?”

8. Tailored Lessons: Learning from My Mentor

Some teachers get lucky and pair with a great mentor. Schools could do more to develop the instructional techniques for more than these lucky few.

·      Finding a Mentor

·      Tailored Lesson Plans

·      Anticipating the Obstacles

·      Supporting Teacher Development

A “Summary Box” to discuss mentoring concludes Chapter 8. One question asks, “Is video used to review instructional techniques?”

9. Who Is Your Favorite Mathematician? Classroom Management and Beyond

Very few teachers applying for a math department opening are able to name their favorite mathematician. Schools are so concerned about well-behaved classrooms that administrators fail to critique their teachers’ level of passion for the content material.

·      Evaluating Teachers

·      Improving Evaluation Programs

·      Creating the Right Atmosphere

·      A Sample Observation

·      Interviewing Math Candidates

·      Looking for Passion

The “Summary Box” for Chapter 9 asks administrators to examine their practices for classroom observations with questions such as, “Could some of the classroom behavior problems we see be attributed to a frustrating curriculum?”

10. Don’t Overlook Sparkle: Prioritizing Intangibles

 The Teachers of the Year, from each state, came together to help the College Board brainstorm a list of common qualities shared by successful educators. Personality traits such as enthusiasm were deemed essential, but these are easy for schools to overlook because they are difficult to define or quantify.

·      Positive Anomalies

·      Learning about Einstein

·      Self-Reflection as a Requirement

·      Innate Instincts of Excellent Teachers

·      Increasing the Supply of Sparkle

Principals will be interested in the “Summary Box” at the end of Chapter 10, which includes the question, “Do our most successful teachers have a rebel streak?”

11. Peeta Sets the Pace: Successes with Homeschooling and Explorations

Peeta, a homeschool student, completes two years worth of math in a few months. This is accomplished through constructivist teaching methods that can be used in traditional classrooms, too.

·      Accelerated Learning

·      Constructing Knowledge

·      Searching for Meaning

·      Understanding Subtraction

·      The Importance of Closure

·      The Importance of Intuition

Teachers can reflect using the “Summary Box” at the end of Chapter 11 with questions including, “Do some of our brightest students have attendance problems? Attention problems?”

12. Don’t Ruin the Kids: Insights from Ski Racing

Burke Mountain Academy is a high school without grades. An interesting combination of factors prevents these students from burning out early and enervates them to master the challenges of college.

·      Avoiding Burnout

·      The Advantages of Limitations

·      Teaching without Grades

·      Producing Academic Muscles

·      Popular Tour Guides

·      Pacing Students for the Long Haul

Questions in the “Summary Box” for Chapter 12 ask educators to consider ways to prevent burnout in students and teachers. A sample questions probes, “Why are some of our busiest athletes among our best students? Is there a connection?”

Part III: Prescribing Meaningful Change

The chapters in this section spell out specific ideas for classrooms, schools, districts and states when they are ready to make important changes.

13. John Warren’s Boat: What Good Teaching Looks Like

Efforts to define learning standards have distracted educators from reconsidering ineffectual techniques and updating stale teaching methods. Curriculum is only half the story; teachers must also deliver it artfully. John Warren pictured his classroom as a boat, and he coached his crew of students to row powerfully with a unified mission.

·      Making Classes More Compelling

·      How to Avoid Reteaching

·      How to Smooth Adolescent Friction

Teachers are asked to reflect on their classrooms in the “Summary Box” for Chapter 13. Included are eight questions such as, “What is the ratio in our classes between reviewing and reteaching old material and introducing and unveiling new content?”

14. Red Rectangles: Crafting Better Lessons

An expert at the National Gallery of Art holds visitors rapt with stories about a red image painted by Mark Rothko. Lectures have a bad reputation because they are often dull, but let’s consider how effective a great one can be.

·      Skillful Lectures

·      Lecture Skills

·      Advanced Teaching Techniques

The “Summary Box” that ends Chapter 14 targets professional-development. One of the eight questions asks, “When we think of improving instruction, do we think of improving the quality of lectures?”

15. War of 1812: Better Grading, Better Testing

Students can demonstrate their understanding of history on a test, but so much depends on who wrote the test and how it allows students to exhibit their thinking. Good tests coupled with good grading systems can stimulate the learning qualities schools intend to promote.

·      Standards-Based Grading

·      The Meaning of Report Cards

·      Ten Questions to Jump-Start a School-Wide Discussion on Grading

·      The Role of Testing

·      Authentic Assessment

·      How to Raise Student Achievement

What coursework can we beef up to make learning more interesting and satisfying in order to raise student achievement?” This is one of the six questions in the “Summary Box” that ends Chapter 15.

16. One School at a Time: A New Model for Success

Even if we developed and fine-tuned a perfect curriculum, the American education system does not have the capacity to implement new programs on a massive scale. Although educational reform may appear hopeless, shifting our approach could produce major improvements.

·      Implementing the Ideal Math Curriculum

·      Hiring, Recruiting, and Training

·      Build on the Success of Powerhouse Schools

·      Preparing the Soil to Develop a New Culture

·      Teaching Is Our First Priority

School districts will want to consider the “Summary Box” after Chapter 16. Seven questions are posed including, “Are our policies informed by teaching practices or the converse?”

Conclusion: Making Kids Smarter

Idealistic yet practical, here’s a plan to create schools that incorporate the recommendations suggested throughout this book.

·      Necessary Steps

·      Upgrading Our Good Schools

·      Teacher Training

·      Facing Our Inequities

·      Establishing a Pipeline

·      Stick to the Big Ideas

The conclusion ends with a “Summary Box” of tough questions to guide policy reform such as, “Which medium-sized schools should be upgraded first as we prepare to tackle the most challenging, large schools?”

Appendix: Karate and Math: Advice for Parents

It’s common for parents to worry that schools aren’t doing enough to educate their children. Making family time slightly more intellectual can ease concerns. 

·      What Parents Can Do

·      Supplementing Reading and Writing at Home

·      Supplementing Science, Social Studies, and Mathematics at Home

·      Schools Can’t Do Everything

This supplementary chapter includes a “Summary Box” for parents. Discussion questions include, “Are we willing to take on some of the responsibilities usually expected of schools and promote higher-order thinking skills at home?”

Further Reading

About the Author

Sample Chapters

Chapter 1………………………….…………………………………………………25

Does School Make Us Dumber? Comparing Fourth and Ninth Graders

Chapter 5……………………………………………………………………………38

Thai Cooking School: The Importance of Context

Author’s note: Three previous characters are mentioned in this chapter. Adrianne, Theo and Jake are students in my Algebra II class with contrasting academic profiles. Adrianne is a straight A student who studies diligently, Jake is a lackadaisical student but has much better intuition about mathematics than Adrianne, and Theo is a brilliant thinker who is totally lacking in study skills.