Tag Archives: January Model

Alabama strikes a blow to understanding…

Ah, my good ol’ home state shines again–not in the best way, of course…

Editorial by Anthony Dallmann-Jones, PhD

The Alabama Legislature gave final approval Wednesday (3/18/15) to a bill that would authorize charter schools in the state of Alabama, sending the bill to Gov. Robert Bentley.

It has been a beacon of shallow thinking for all to see…and that is a good thing. We need someone to bite the bullet and stand up and be an Idiot for Education to show us how to NOT think when it comes to what is best for our nation’s kids.

The first wrong turn…

The legislation, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, would allow the establishment of up to 10 start-up charter schools a year for five years, and allow an unlimited number of conversion schools. Teachers working in charter schools would not be required to have certifications.
Hmmm, wonder why we have insisted on certifying teachers for so long? Could it be so they Knew How to Teach with Best Practices? Could it be so they understood child development and knew how to match curriculum to kids’ levels and needs? Could it be because they develop a versatile toolbox of teaching and assessment strategies? Could it be because they are trained on the effective way to encourage internal as well as external discipline in children? Being a trainer of teachers I would say yes to all of those most emphatically. So just WHO are they going to put in the teacher’s role in these Alabama schools? None of that was decided…or even discussed. Why? I guess because everyone knows teachers are not that important. Somebody needs to remember their years in school.

The second wrong turn…

Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, a former chairman of the Alabama House Ways and Means Education committee, said that the bill was the “most damaging piece of legislation” to public education. “Ultimately, the people who are going to have control of these charter schools are for-profit corporations rather than local boards of education,” he said. [Ah a voice of sanity…but wait…]

Here it comes: A lesson in shallow thinking by people who control our schools

Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Albertville, said many public schools already contract with for-profit companies for services, such as transportation. “When they sell them computers, all those companies make money,” he said. “I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

Not the point, Representative Rich. You not only missed the bulls-eye on the target…you missed the field it sits in!

OF COURSE we have always had for-profit companies selling schools furniture and equipment, transportation and food services, etc. What IS new and damaging is for-profit companies controlling staff, curriculum and testing – FOR PROFIT. Selling computers and furniture does not alter children’ future for profit. Hiring unqualified teachers (cheaper), selling your own curriculum to the school (making money from what is taught), and mandating teaching to the tests – that will determine how much profit is made – by the uncertified staff, is less than conscientious to say the least.

Another way to say it: “Making money from kids as if they are ATM machines without giving a hoot about their future success after graduation.”

Here is the nucleus of WHY professional educators should be in charge of school and curriculum

Professional educators teach and assess for the improvement of learning. They care about kids and know them as individuals with diverse needs, strengths and interests. They are up on the latest trends, programs, materials, effective schools and the learning brain research. They are in touch with parents all the time. They UNDERSTAND how schools work (and don’t). Legislators are basing their decisions on the least amount of knowledge about the science of teaching and, just as importantly, they know little or nothing about how schools really function on the inside…the “informal organization” that truly runs most everything and is not what the public usually sees. Teachers see it every day and know how to maximize utilization of that environment for the benefit of kids – not profit figures. Basically, certified teachers base their decisions on what is best for EACH of the kids. For-profit companies do not.

So, thank you Alabama legislators for showing us how not to think progressively and compassionately about kids and their welfare. Just because you sat through 12-16 years of school does not mean you understand teaching and true education of our young.

I wonder, is anyone asking professional educators, including professors of higher education who know the research and effective practices, what is best for kids when making these decisions?

Probably not.

[NOTE: All comics were created for this column by Zak, Wisconsin graphic artist.]


Individualizing Instruction – Simple (not easy)

111Alaska Perfect Mood Food 2I was just teaching a unit on working with discouraged learners and discussing tailoring teaching…whereas I heard: “I don’t have time to do that many lesson plans!” Ummm, who said you had to have 28 lesson plans for 28 students? But that is a common ‘reason’ to avoid doing it. Could it be an excuse? Or maybe simply people do not KNOW HOW…and as we are in education, it is okay not to know something – even if you are a teacher. But the best learner in the room should be the teacher or they are not a true educator. So, let’s at least remove ignorance of what can be done…

I have been an ardent fan of “tailoring instruction” since 1969 when I was suddenly by right of being a graduate student at FSU involved in the Elementary Teacher Preparation Project where we trained every single student in teacher ed. to individualize and then in the school where we were filming these “kids” doing their clinicals (with smaller kids ;-) the teachers on staff got so excited they asked us to train them! So we had an add-on grant and trained every K-3 teacher at Walter T. Moore School to be able to individualize. We explained to them a good teacher accommodates learners recognizing that each is different, i.e., AFFIRMING diversity. One way a school has done individualized instruction is not the same as another…so let’s talk about that.

I reckon there are – as my nine-year old buddy, Ira, used to say – “lebbenty-lebben ways”* to individualize instruction. You can do IPI – Individually Prescribed Instruction – where you look at what is “wrong” or “deficient” in a kid and then “build bridges” of curriculum to where he or she is supposed to be (according to some charts somewhere, or common core standards, or the state standards, or scope & sequence of the content provided by curriculum publishers). Delivery systems are boring workbooks (like Wisconsin’s famous DPI Bluebooks – Yawn!); or, buying content provider’s work kits, like the SRA Reading Kits, or make up your own. I prefer an online delivery system for at least some of it because there is so much content on the Internet now…but you have to screen kids as not many kids have the self-discipline until they are 30 or so.

Those are “deficiency-based” models…or “pothole pedagogy”…filling in what is missing or what the kid is “behind on” and not very motivating or positive in nature. And boring, to boot!

Then there is my preference, the strengths-based model, like the January Education Model** that is also learner-centered but where we begin with building curriculum around students’ natural interests, talents and abilities…THEY help by proposing projects at some age….later they can file a “green sheet” which is a template for a self-designed project…it can be with other students also, such as I used to do with gifted kids…they had to have an individual project and a group project everyone in the room worked on.

Learning or Interest Centers work well, too, where you have “Stations” set up for, say, Science, Math, Reading, History, Art, etc. and kids can choose from a list or learning activities and do their own record keeping.

There are a lot of options that allows teachers who MUST teach CERTAIN content do it in their way. No one says it MUST be Sit’nGit or SageontheStage, i.e. lecture. One can work in small areas in any course where students get a choice to tailor the course to THEIR ideal way of learning. Look below in the PS at one of my graduate students said.

Think on it.

Let me know if you can add anything to this list of possibilities for individualizing instruction.

Dr. DJ

PS – A teacher a year or so ago listed how she individualized instruction. Pretty creative: [This will all be a quote from that teacher, but note she says “a FEW I have used”]:

Individualization can be accomplished in an almost infinite number of ways. A few I have used are listed below:

    1. Using a pretest to determine prior knowledge
    2. Allowing proficient students to design their own exploration.
    3. Modifying delivery of content based on student needs, learning styles, etc.
    4. Providing choice in student demonstration of mastery. (test, project, verbal answers, etc.)
    5. Changing the environment to promote success (standing desks, preferential seating, lighting, etc.)
    6. Providing choices in daily academic tasks (ex. leveled assignments, number of problems)
    7. Modifying tasks (length, size, format, font, etc.)
    8. Creating learning contracts.
    9. Changing location to promote success. (ex. quieter room)
    10. Use of supplemental tools (ex. iPad, calculator, times table)
    11. Collaboration (small group, pairs, peer tutor, etc.)


*CRABAPPLE – A True Story of Hope & Miracles – The magical ninth year in boys by Anthony Dallmann-Jones – soon to be an eBook!

**FIXING PUBLIC EDUCATION by Anthony Dallmann-Jones and Nine Extraordinary Educators