So, Mr. Gates, How Can We Get K12 Help Where The Learners Most Need It?

RE@L logo_Corp_color_RGB-high-REZIt was announced this past week that Bill Gates would be reporting on his and Melinda Gates Foundation results with improving their key goal of teacher performance in K12.

Many have awaited this report, especially teachers whose teaching lives since have been under the standardized testing microscope and many of whom have been cited as the primary cause of poor student performance, especially among minority groups. Unknown Click on the photo at the right to see the link to Mr. Gates’ presentation.

Unknown-1There is no question in our minds that teachers make a great difference in how well their students learn. But, we at RE@L, many of us having been professional educators ourselves, remain convinced that the biggest academic difference is caused by the students themselves, by giving them a more active role in and responsibility for their own achievement.

All success flows from engagement. In other words, if the student is not engaged, very little happens. Common Core cannot change this.We believe that testing, in particular, is one of the primary reasons that far too many of our young Black males are not succeeding in school. Moreover, we know that students will not bond with and follow the lead of a teacher, unless they are first motivated to learn. This personal responsiblity for learning has more to do with “why” they should learn than “how” they are taught. Therefore, the primary link to better learning does not lend itself to the over-comprehensive standardized testing of our many non-standardized kids.

Unknown-2How must follow why, so the first thing we need to do in K12 learning is engage the learner. Research at Saturn School 20 years ago showed that putting each learner in charge of their Personal Learning Plan resulted in far greater engagement and achievement. It even helped lagging students work even more effectively with their teachers in improving their achievement, even their achievement on standardized tests. But more importantly, it was manifested in the quality of their project-based learning and the collected artifacts of achievement from their Personal Learning Portfolios.
Bill Gates himself identifies the problem perfectly
, and we quote from his report: “This subject (standardized testing) causes concern among teachers, and I can see why. Test scores are a useful way to measure what students know, but they are not a diagnostic for teachers. They tell you very little about what skills you need to improve—and they don’t tell you anything at all about how to improve. I’ve never heard a teacher say, “I got those test scores and now I know what I need to change.RE@L would onlyadd that the scores are even less helpful for the student.

We believe Mr. Gates is right on with this observation
, but he fails to note where the onus for greater improvement should be placed. The student should be the primary focus to improve learning, followed next by the skills of the teacher, and then the encouragment and expectations of the parents. We also applaud Gates’ sponsored research that shows that peer review and videotaping teacher performance can cause the greatest, positive change in the effectiveness of the teacher. It works for athletes, too. Students know it works, too.

As our Chairman of the Board and fellow Blogmeister Dale LaFrenz points out so well below, this is precisely why we believe that RE@L has the right answers to these tough questions of how to use EdTech effectively to help teachers teach and their learners learn.
Mr. Gates needs to read this RE@L passage:“Our RE@L approach is far more realistic to the K12 world:

We are embedding the teacher training improvement directly in the software product itself, by providing the tools teachers need for their professional development.  

Our RE@L tools not only address lesson plans, they also offer operational suggestions for alignment with standards, effective student learning materials and much, much more.

The use of the teaching/learning activity RE@L promotes in the classroom is subjected to teacher feedback and we use it to improve our products and student learning.

The magnitude of the STEM efforts already underway across the country will soon be buttressed by RE@L software to produce far more positive outcomes for far more learners. Here’s where our focus for students lies:

-Effective career exploration/preparation
-Classroom/Field/Practitioner-connection experiences
-Application of the skills and content taught to all students: science/technology/engineering/math
-Using the power and presence of current technology.”

RE@L also wants to add this  piece of good news from our CEO and President, Paul Gullickson:

“We will soon be deploying what we call Just-in-Time Learning™:  It’s a new approach for teachers and learners to find the right information, in the right place, at the right time, for the right problem. Our new RE@L Online Access Portal will support Just-in Time Learning through the use of  clear, how-to videos and by timely, direct communication with both teachers and students!”

RE@L help for K12 is on the way, Mr. Gates.
Let’s all work together to make it happen for both students and teachers!

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Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.