Dr. David Berliner presented several more times at the Texas Tech College of Education yesterday in addition to his morning keynote address. These are my notes from additional sessions where he spoke at lunch and in the afternoon.

—- my notes —-

US corporate taxes are at their lowest rates in decades
– Over the past 100 years in the US, our business leaders have never stopped complaining about the quality of the workforce, taxes, and the quality of our schools
– a list exists of 200 companies that pay almost no taxes (mainly because they depreciate so many things, Exxon is on this list)

Finland pays its teachers well, therefore they may get 800 applicants for a single teaching job
– here in the US we pay poorly, and consequently we have a teacher shortage
– no one in business would question the logic of: We have a labor shortage. If we increase wages, maybe we can solve the labor shortage. Yet this is dismissed by many when it comes to education and teacher salaries.
– we must pay teachers more to increase the talent in the education workforce pool

Administrators need to truly work with teachers
– The conclusion of exhaustive research comparing whole language to phonics-based approaches to reading instruction concluded that THE CURRICULUM does not matter, it is the teacher that makes the difference!

We need to give teachers more autonomy and monitor their performance
– the need for the monitoring role of the administrator will never go away


Teaching is an art. You can’t impose standards on artists or you get the same painting from everyone.

The worst thing about most educational administration (principalship) candidates is that they are mostly there to advance their salaries
– there is nothing wrong with wanting to advance your salaries
– however, we need campus and district leaders who are there for more than money. We need them there because they want to improve education, because they want to do things better, and because they want to make a difference above all

The default position with poor kids is failing schools (Reference: “Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools” by Jonathan Kozol

The teacher evaluation system Dr. Berliner advocates:
– a deficit evaluation model for the first 5 – 7 years (if there is something the teacher can’t do or can’t do well, whether it is classroom management, cooperative learning, etc, opportunities for remediation are provided)
– somewhere down the line you have to move to a “growth model” of personal growth for evaluation
— you have to honor the professional
— think of medial preparation, med school, when med students select their specializations and go on to residency)

We must recognize and honor, at a very basic level, how teaching is VERY complex work

I am an advocate for supporting a community of teachers, I am a real communitarian

Good topic for educational psychology research today: how students are solving complex, disjunctive problems via gaming
– try to smell topics that smell important
– this has been one of my talents during my career

Let’s talk more about love an affection in the classroom, and students’ need for both



teacher respect has gone down as our societal communal life has also gone down

When you teach a novice, you have to give them context-free rules, you cannot just say “it depends”
– yet every expert in many fields (especially education) knows that the answer is often “it depends”
– the more you know the more you realize this is true
– example of teaching his teenage daughter when to shift from 1st to 2nd gear

Respect has to be won district by district
– fights by teacher unions over wages can get in the way of the professional side of teaching

2.4 million children in our schools have a parent in jail

Reference: “Radical Education and Transformative Intellectuals” (Henry A. Giroux with Stanley Aronowitz), Canadian Journal of Social and Political Theory, 9(3) (1985), pp. 48-63.

For many studies on high stakes testing, variance within the groups is often so great that differences are very hard or impossible to attribute to a specific model of learning / intervention
– variance between models is often as great as between experimental and control groups


Another great quotation from Dr Berliner:

Every educational psychologist [researcher] should be mixed methods specialists. Every complex problem has both quantitative and qualitative aspects.

I am not against assessment, just high stakes assessment
– we need formative testing
– we must do diagnostic testing
– we need to use tests as information to tell us about students

You really want a lot of assessments that are very domain specific
– you need assessments that fit your purpose

The proper question we should be asking is, “Did kids learn?” And only a teacher can assess that.

Children are totally variable teacher to teacher. We have to remember this. (The same child can act like a completely different person in a different teacher’s class.)

The obvious solution to any complex problem is to create a simple rule, and that is generally the wrong approach.

Recent article by Dr. Berliner in Educational Researcher 4-5 years ago, “The Hardest Science of Them All” discussed the differences between “hard” and “easy” science
– easy science is like physics where you can repeat conditions and replicate results
– educational research is much harder because contexts and initial conditions are always different and unique

The “gold standard” in experimental research is to use as simple a design as possible that has lots of power
– it is the CONTEXT, however, that matters most

Email: berliner at asu dot edu

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One Response to More thoughts on high stakes testing

  1. Brian Crosby says:

    http://learningismessy.com/blog/?p=52 “…I am not against testing. Testing that helps evaluate where students are so you can make informed decisions on where to go next with them is just good teaching. But much of the testing we do is not well designed to do that and actually becomes counter-productive. Hence…”

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