Monday, August 15, 2011

Teachers and Principals Cheat on Tests

In Atlanta, GA, a state investigation into 44 schools, involving at least 178 teachers and administrators, found rampant cheating on school test score results. Educators tampered with their students’ scores, “earning” praise for the improvements in difficult school districts.

Washington D.C. standardized tests have been found to have a suspicious number of erasures, with wrong answers changed to right ones. Principals and teachers received huge bonuses for their schools’ rising achievement on the tests.

And a Hartford principal resigned last week amid questions about scores from her school’s tests.

There’s something seriously wrong here.

Not all administrators and educators are engaging in unethical behavior around test scores, but it’s pretty disturbing to see this pattern developing. And perhaps the most disturbing part is that as test scores get doctored, kids are falling through the cracks and making the name “No Child Left Behind” sound (even more) like a sick joke.

The problem is a system that ties funding (and sometimes educator compensation) to standardized test score results. When there are penalties for low scores and rewards for high ones, educators and administrators are incentivized to do whatever it takes just to raise those numbers--not necessarily to improve teachers’ ability to serve their students’ needs, or students’ capacity for higher-order thinking and interaction with academic material.

Some standards are necessary of course, but the profound problems with our current standardized test system, and particularly its relationship to educational funding (and the lack thereof), are becoming more and more apparent. What works for one student won’t necessarily work for another in the same class, let alone for another student in a completely different context across the country, and we can’t keep asking schools to do more with less. How can we change things to shift the focus back to students and away from bubbles and multiple choice?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Stretch Your Brain

Research on neuroplasticity shows that when we use our brains, we actually create new connections and neural pathways! So solving problems is actually kind of like mental aerobics, building up your brain. There are lots of fun ways to work out your brain, of course, and once in a while it’s good to really do some stretching!

Try out these brain teasers (via to extend your brainpower.

Pouring water

If you had only a 5-liter bowl, a 3-liter bowl, and unlimited water, how would you measure exactly 4 liters of water?

Honestants and Swindlecants

There are two kinds of people on a mysterious island: The Honestants, who always speak the truth, and the Swindlecants, who always lie.

Three fellows (A, B and C) are having a quarrel at the market. A foreigner goes by and asks the A fellow: "Are you an Honestant or a Swindlecant?" The answer is incomprehensible so the foreigner asks B: "What did A say?" B answers: "A said that he is a Swindlecant." And to that says the fellow C: "Do not believe B, he is lying!"

Who are B and C?

Think you know the answers? Share them with us! Extra props for the most creative answers.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

“It’s not about the brand, it’s about the fit.”

In his book Acceptance: A Legendary Guidance Counselor Helps Seven Kids Find the Right Colleges – And Find Themselves (Penguin Books), Dave Marcus shares what he has learned from observing the guidance counselor Gwyeth Smith (affectionately known as Smitty), of Long Island High School.

“It’s not about the brand, it’s about the fit,” Smitty would tell parents.

Marcus writes about the pressure put on adolescents to succeed, and how Smitty’s approach to the college search helped parents find ways to help their kids slow down, take advantage of the present, and in effect, redefine the word “success” in a more personally relevant way.

Some of his advice is shared in an interview with TeenLife blog, and Acceptance is often cited by the NY Times college admissions blog The Choice. Reader response to “Slow Down and Savor Middle and High School” on The Choice included this comment from Debra Makar:

“Savor middle and high school? I was a gifted student (Mensa member) and counted the minutes until I could get out of those horrible places. My experiences were, for the most part, either excruciatingly boring or cruel. I wanted out and the sooner the better. If I hadn’t started college classes during my junior year, I would have been suicidal. High school is not the same for everybody, sometimes it’s your social world and sometimes it’s your nightmare. The worse thing someone said to me was to enjoy it all since it was the best years of my life. I now chalk it up as the worst years of my life.”

Unfortunately, Debra is far from alone in this experience. School can be unhappy and even excruciating for a great number of young people, especially during middle and high school, even for those who are fulfilling certain requirements for "success." This brings us once again to the importance of finding your passion and a place where you feel you really fit. Having adults—parents, tutors, mentors—who know you well and can help you find joy in learning and doing, and a welcoming place in the world, is especially crucial during this time. In the end, this is what helps students reach their true potential and paves the way for their greater achievements.

Relationships that help nurture your curiosities and talents are the best form of support and can affect the rest of your life for the better. Have a comment or experience to share? Please join the conversation and post your thoughts below!

Monday, August 1, 2011

We Have a Winner!

Congratulations to Andrew Lee! He won Tutorpedia’s Viral Video Competition with over 300 views, and got himself an iPod Touch!

Andrew has always wanted to learn 3D animation, because he wants to create cool special effects and he thinks it’s awesome to make videos that people watch and like.

He’d like to make YouTube videos with millions of views, and he is already well on his way! Check out his fabulous submission below, and you can find more of his fun creations on his YouTube Channel, moviesAKLee

Great Job Andrew, and thanks for telling us what you’ve ever wanted to learn!

What have YOU ever wanted to learn? We can help you! Check out Tutorpedia’s website for more info on how a Class of One can help you reach your goals.