Monday, January 17, 2011

How to comment

I’ve tried to make commenting as easy as possible. Here’s how to do it:

To comment, just click on the title of the post you want to comment on, or on the line at the bottom that says how many comments there are. Then scroll down to the comment box and type your comment. When you’re done, go to the "Comment as" drop-down menu at the bottom of the comment form. Here, you have some options. The simplest one is to click on "Name/URL." Then just enter whatever screen name you want to use. You don’t need to enter any URL unless you want to link to your own site.

I’d prefer that people not use the “Anonymous” option, because it can get too hard to tell the various anonymous commenters apart in any given thread.

Then click “Post Comment.” You may then have to fill in a word verification box to make sure you’re not spam. Do that, then click “Post Comment” again. You’re done.

Your comment won’t appear right away. On this site, comments are moderated, which means they don’t appear until the site editor (that’s me) reads them. I’m pretty good about getting comments up quickly, but sometimes it might take a day or even two.

Thanks for commenting!


Anonymous said...

Chris, I like your blog, and thoughts which are along those of my own and other rebelling parents against what's going on in schools across the nation.

I like that you support the Save Our Schools March; there's some good momentum building! I am part of their inner circle although I am not very active (Diane Ravitch is in it too). I'm more involved with local activism,mentoring young moms (my two kids are grown),and posting articles of note on various Facebook Education sites.

I posted my blog entry about DIBELS on the Whole Brain Teaching Facebook site and it was removed almost immediately. They considered it SPAM.

I watched some of their teaching methods on Youtube and am appalled. It really looks like conditioning kids, so the scripted Reading First and DIBELS testing may be right up their alley.

See my post: "Doa way wit DIB ELS!

Check out and
Maybe there's something there you like.

Also, I jump started Authors and Experts against NCLB in the Yahoogroup Stop National Standards. Deb Meier, Yong Zhao, Alfie Kohn, Joanne Yatvin, Marion Brady, Susan Ohanian,Rog Lucido among others have joined that.

Others of note: Jesse Turner (Children are more than test scores), Anthony Cody (Teacher Leaders Network), Don Perl of the Coalition for Better Education; believed to have been the first teacher to refuse to give his students the state assessment test. He's a dear friend of mine and the kindest soul I have come across!

Please consider joining my Uniting 4 Kids Facebook group ( stay apprised of further action. It is now a national organization, launched out of Denver by author Angela Engel.

It seeks to serve as the glue between all other educational groups and activists who want to turn the tide on the standards and testing movement that resulted from No Child Left Behind and now also from Race to the Top. Either way, let's stay in touch!

Conny Jensen
Greeley Parent Advocacy Group

Raleigh said...

Hi, Chris--I'm not sure where to place this comment, but I'm wondering how you would react to this thought, as a parent--I'm in a closed circle, and don't know how parents feel about the best way to teach writing, but I've been teaching history now for fifteen years, and from what I've seen from this year, I’m wondering if the essay is dead, or was ever alive, and isn't just as destructive towards learning and self-expression as every other standardized format of assessment.

Several students score better on the graphic representations than from writing, so we know essay writing is not necessarily a better measure of “getting it.”

Could it be that writing is its own form of intelligence, like emotional intelligence, and either you are strong at it or you aren’t? I was ALWAYS able to write—even in elementary school—and cannot remember learning it. But I’m not the most artistically intelligent person. Who’s to say what’s better, or what makes you happier? What if some people will never write a great essay? Should it matter? Are those ideas less important? I argue that more people will value a message written with an artistic or emotional intelligence than an essay…

And the years I have spent as a high school teacher have always been identified as the struggle to teach essay writing. But is there a point? If a kid can express him or herself equally well by drawing their conclusions, aren’t we supposed to care more about higher level thinking than about the standard five-paragraph essay? How much more effective would I have been for all those years if I only had to worry about teaching insight than that essay structure?

Anyway, I posted my full thoughts at

Chris said...

Hi, Raleigh. Speaking as a parent, I do hope that my kids will be able to express themselves well in writing. I don't agree that written expression is becoming obsolete or significantly less valuable as a skill. I agree that there are aspects of understanding that can manifest themselves just as much in other forms of expression, but I think the ability to express oneself in writing is an important end in itself.

That's not the same as saying that I put much stock in the formulaic five-paragraph essay that is apparently what gets taught now. That way of teaching writing seems like a good way of divorcing writing from thought.

I do think written expression comes easier to some people than to others. I also think it's naturally going to be harder for someone to write well if they don't read a lot, and no one teacher can transform a non-reader into a strong writer overnight.

But I do think people can learn to become better at expressing themselves in writing. The problem is that it's a labor-intensive endeavor, for both the teacher and the student. My feeling is that the best way to help someone become a better writer is to respond very closely, line-by-line, to his or her work -- "I didn't understand this because ...," and "when you said this, I thought you meant ...," and "what you said here seemed inconsistent with what you said up there," and "this just seemed like an assertion without any support," etc. Even better if you can do this through several revisions.

My sense is that writing instruction today is much more focused on getting students to follow a particular form (or formula) and then pointing out when they've failed to do so. That seems less valuable to me, since written expression can take all kinds of different forms. More and more I think that almost every problem in written expression can be traced to a specific moment in a specific sentence where something has gone wrong -- where the writer has lost his or her connection with the reader, or raised unanswered questions or objections in the reader's mind. Close reading seems like the only way to make people more conscious of how and when that occurs.

I teach writing to law students, and I'm very unfamiliar with the challenges of teaching it at the K-12 level, so I can only guess at what that must be like. But my guess is that there isn't near enough manpower to give the kind of feedback I'm describing. The whole five-paragraph formula thing seems to be a bargain-basement approach to getting people to the point where they can write something that looks enough like an essay to satisfy a test-scoring company. That seems like an awfully unambitious, or short-sighted, way to think about teaching kids to communicate well in writing. I can see why you'd feel that it has a limited usefulness beyond the world of school and standardized tests.

Raleigh said...

Thanks, Chris--you're right about the labor intensive part of it. I've been trying to use the mind-maps and graphic essays to help kids see the connections and then write them out, but there is a breakdown even then between the kids who can see it graphically versus in essay format. the only way kids can get that line by line feedback is if they pair up and work critically with each other. But that interferes with the content-driven mindset high schools have: i.e. any time taken for skill work takes away from content.
I just wonder if any thinking is taking place at the meta-level as to what effective writing is going to look like when the opportunities for incorporating graphic design are going to become more commonplace and easier to access.
In the meantime, the 5 paragraph essay is the standard operating procedure in K-12 education and the main basis by which we determine if a kid has "got it". further, could the decline in reading be linked to growth of reading homework by hours, or has there always been a minority of Americans who read, and these conversations are just red herrings?
Anyway, thanks for taking my question seriously and giving it a thoughtful response.

Jean Rickert said...

Why does it sound like the emphasis is on giving students feedback about their mistakes or what doesn't work? In my writer's group, after listening to someone read their work, we talk more about what works and what parts we like and what parts have touched us and why. Such an emphasis seems to produce much better results, as well as much more motivation to keep working on it.

Chris said...

Hi, Jean -- Thanks for commenting! I think you probably intended to put this comment on a particular post, rather than on "How to comment" post, so I'm not sure which post you're referring to . . .

Duane Swacker said...

Hello Chris,

Just came across your blog from a reference on Diane Ravitch's blog. I will have to now go back and read your thoughts-thanks, that much more reading to do this summer as I'm already up to about six-eight hours a day. Maybe I should have become a lawyer instead of becoming a public high school Spanish teacher so I could get paid for reading so much-ha ha!!

By just looking at the titles and quickly scanning an entry (article?) or two I can see that you are indeed, at least in my mind, a "teacher" even if you haven't been specifically trained in that area. I am looking forward to reading and responding to your thoughts and comments.

Duane Swacker

Chris said...

Duane -- Thanks for visiting. I am not a K-12 teacher, but I do teach (at a law school) for a living.

Duane Swacker said...


Again, thanks for hosting this blog. I am in the middle?, beginning middle? of writing a book on what I consider to be the problems facing public education today, and my concerns are quite a bit different than what the vast majority of folks are lead to believe are the problems.

I hope you don't mind me posting what are, hopefully, going to be parts of chapters in my book as I am trying to get as much feedback on my thoughts as possible. It's just that it seems that many of your concerns are very similar if not the same as my concerns. If you feel that I am posting too much let me know.

Thanks again for the blog,

Chris said...

Duane -- I'm all in favor of comments, but I doubt they're well-suited for getting feedback on a larger set of ideas like you're describing. I really think you're better off setting up a blog of your own for that purpose. Setting up a Blogger or Wordpress blog is really easy, and costs nothing. I wish more education dissenters would do it!

AnneT said...

I'm so happy you wrote this blog. The board's decisions have seemed strange from the very beginning. I'm heartbroken that everyone seems to be sending Hoover to the dogs, just so we can build some more plastic palaces way out of town and bus city kids to them. And then the Hoover site will become a parking lot for City High, making Court Street impassable two times a day. I know, I know... But when you can't get the real facts it's hard not to leap to conclusions.

Chris said...

AnneT -- Thanks for commenting! There is still a chance that the board may hear what people are saying. I agree that the prospect of a parking lot at that corner is nightmarish.