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December 1, 2006
Vol. 64
No. 4

The Best of the Blog

Throughout the year, the ASCD blog provides a space for educators to comment on articles from ASCD publications, opinion polls, and current topics in education. In this column, we publish a few of the comments from the ASCD blog and from letters we have received. (Note: Some comments are condensed for space or edited for clarity.)
To join the conversation, go to www.ascd.org/blogor e-mail us at el@ascd.org.

Pop Quizzes

In response to “Celebrate Strengths, Nurture Affinities: A Conversation with Mel Levine” (Educational Leadership, September 2006) in which Levine says, “One thing I would ask high school teachers is, How do you justify pop quizzes and timed SATs?”
It depends on the nature of the pop quiz. There is nothing wrong if a pop quiz is given the day after material is covered. Students have had a chance to reflect since initial instruction. But if a pop quiz is sprung on new material in the middle of a class or used as a punishment, it is terribly inappropriate.
I always plan so that the typical student can complete a test in 75 percent of the allotted time. My thinking rests in the laws of physics: Work is measured as force multiplied by distance. Power, however, is work divided by the time required to accomplish the work. As educators, we should be interested in the work accomplished, not in the “power.”
E-mailed by William Rieck
It would be so nice if standardized tests were scheduled randomly and not given every year. We wish we could simply do our jobs, teach well, and establish relationships with students beyond the classroom. This would enable us to pull in individual interests and diversify instruction to better engage students in their individual learning.
Posted by teachers from Scio Central School District, New York

The Gender Gap

In response to “Do you think there is a gender gap in education?” (“ASCD Poll: Teaching to Student Strengths,” August 2006)
The characterization of a gender gap is not at all helpful. We have solid scientific evidence that boys and girls learn differently. In addition, each gender experiences different socialization processes. However, we live in a two-gender world and it is not helpful to have gender-separate schools. We do need to learn how best to teach each gender. The end result will be classrooms that support both genders, while informing each about the other.
Posted by Dave Kommer
I haven't seen so much of a gap between the sexes as I have seen a difference in the classroom climate when students are separated. When the boys are together in the back of the room, or the kids of color are in a corner by themselves, there is an obvious difference in the level of engagement and the interaction with the materials and the staff member. You can get as deeply into the physiological, chemical, and social differences as the research goes, but without the right climate in the class, the study is merely academic, and student success is doomed.
Posted by Ruth Rossi

School Reform

In response to “On what area should high school reform efforts focus?” (“ASCD Poll: High School Reform,” August 2006)
So much needs to be done in reforming high schools, but my experience tells me that all teenagers need at least one caring adult in their lives.
Posted bytsherer@culver.edu
Closing the achievement and course-placement gap is what I believe high school reform efforts should focus on.
Posted by Cresenda
“Reform” only addresses how to run the wrong model better.
Posted by Barry Wansbrough
If the effectiveness of classroom instruction has not been improved, no real reform has taken place.
Posted by James Dominguez
In a century where communication is overwhelmingly “visual,” why do we even consider the elimination of visual arts programs, where students learn to develop and decipher international symbol systems, both critically and creatively?
Posted by Rick Lashe

Class Size

In response to “Special Report: Accelerating the Learning of Low Achievers” (Educational Leadership, February 2006)
The Special Report noted that schools that reduced class sizes provided more attention to struggling students. I currently have 35 students (22 boys) in my classroom. In the past, I had as many as 40 7th graders in my science class. That is too many students for any teacher to teach. My question to you is, How do we convince our districts that class size is a serious problem? We are given lots of tasks designed to help children achieve, but one thing we are overlooking is class size.
E-mailed by Marcine Coburn

Laura Varlas is a former ASCD writer and editor.

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