Friday, June 19, 2009

Scottish Education Awards: Going back to old methods helped me win honour, says teacher of the year

WE'RE used to hearing about schools employing the very latest technology in today's modern classrooms. But for newly-crowned Teacher of the Year Ian Houston, it was dusting off some old equipment which sparked the interest of his students. The physics teacher from St Joseph's College in Dumfries won the praise of pupils, colleagues and judges alike for his original approach to teaching, which included experiments that dated back to the 19th century.

He was just one of the winners announced yesterday at the 2009 Scottish Education Awards, which took place at the City Halls in Glasgow. Ian said: "The history of our school goes back more than 100 years. I found old stuff in our cupboards which no one had a clue how to use, so I bought some old books which had pictures of this equipment. "So we've been able to give them a new lease of life by showing students the old way of doing things, then working up to more modern ways. "A lot of modern science these days involve black boxes where you put stuff in one end and get a measurement out, but with older equipment you get to see what's going on inside."

Ian's teaching methods became so popular that pupils began asking to be transferred to his class, with parents also being struck by the enthusiasm of their kids for the subject.

But Ian himself was surprised to hear that he'd made such an impact. He added: "I was teaching the Advanced Higher class this year, so I made a big effort for it, but it didn't occur to me that I was doing anything unusual. "Like most teachers, I sit there worrying that I'm not doing it properly."

Also celebrating yesterday was maths teacher John MacKenzie. He picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award for 30 years of dedicated work as principal of the maths department at Oban High School. He said: "When I heard I'd been nominated, I was overwhelmed and humbled that my colleagues had gone to the effort of doing that. "So to win the award is wonderful. I'm even more humbled by it. "My colleagues have always said networking is one of my strengths, and if I come across an idea I think will be beneficial to our pupils then I'll certainly pursue it to motivate our young people."

While the day offered John a chance to look back on his career, for other teachers, their days in the classroom are only just beginning. They include chemistry teacher Alice Thompson, of Eastbank Academy in Glasgow, who was named Probationary Teacher of theYear for a mammoth amount of work which included organising a crime scene investigation project for the school's chemistry club. She said: "I applied to the British Science Association for a grant and that allowed us to do some work on forensic techniques. "We set up a fake crime scene, we had a mock murder trial and a lot of different departments got involved. The maths department were looking at the velocity and angles of blood spatter patterns and things like that. It was fantastic."

The Head Teacher of the Year Award went to Paul McLaughlin of St Ninian's High School in Bishopriggs, East Dunbartonshire, for the huge impact he has had on the life and culture of the school since he took over there five years ago. Last year's Teacher of the Year, David Miller, also came from St Ninian's. Paul said: "I feel great to have won this award, but I don't believe that this award is really for me, it is for the whole school. "The school won two awards last year, so it is just amazing to be back again at such an exciting event which is such a great celebration of teachers and teaching." ...

The staff and pupils of Perth Grammar School also went home happy after winning the Ambition award in recognition of their work to improve the school. Head teacher John Low said: "We had a issues in the school in terms of behaviour and morale, but we tackled it head-on and within a matter of weeks, things had improved as the staff and the vast majority of pupils wanted things sorted out. "We worked on the themes of pride, respect and ambition as they were the three things that were missing, and it's worked to the extent that winning has now become a habit within the school. "The energy of the school is now going in the right direction."

More here

'Mom, dad better than certified teachers'

Report says it's 'myth' that 'qualifications' help

Not only do a long list of studies show that mom and dad can teach their own children as effectively as any "certified" teacher, there are indications that for some subjects, those "qualified" instructors actually deliver a negative impact to the performance of their students, according to a new assessment assembled by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

The organization periodically assembles information for its constituency, the hundreds of thousands of families across the United States that teach their own children at home. This new report by Chris Klicka, senior counsel for the HSLDA, is titled, "The Myth of Teacher Qualifications."

He reported, "Educational research does not indicate any positive correlation between teacher qualifications and student performance. Many courts have found teacher qualification requirements on homeschoolers to be too excessive or not appropriate. The trend in state legislatures across the country indicates an abandonment of teacher qualification requirements for homeschool teachers. In fact, Americans, in general, are realizing that the necessity of teacher qualifications is a myth. The teachers' unions and other members of the educational establishment make up the small minority still lobbying for teacher certification in order to protect their disintegrating monopoly on education."

He said homeschoolers need such information to deal with issues such as that raised in Kansas a few years ago, when the state school board association tried to obtain a law that would have required homeschool teachers to be subject to state certification and licensing requirements.

The assessment reviewed literally dozens of studies that looked into the issue. For example, a 1999 Thomas Fordham Foundation study called "Better Teachers, Better Schools" looked at data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study survey of 24,000 eight-grade students.

Two key questions were whether teachers with "standard" certification outperform teachers with alternative or probationary credentials in terms of student achievement and are different teacher licensure components related to achievement.

In that study, the authors found, "Although teacher certification is pervasive, there is little rigorous evidence that it is systematically related to student achievement. Contrary to conventional wisdom, mathematics and science students who have teachers with emergency credentials do no worse than students whose teachers have standard teaching credentials, all else being equal. This result should, at the very least, cast doubt on assertions that standard certification should be required of all teachers."

According to the HSLDA report, "The study also found that having a degree in education has no impact on student science test scores and, in mathematics, having a B.A. in education actually has a statistically negative impact on scores in math!"

According to the evaluation of studies, "Most education officials publicly claim that teachers need special 'qualifications' in order to be effective. As a result, public education organizations often promote legislation or an interpretation of the law which would require home school parents to have one of three qualifications: 1) a teacher certificate, 2) a college degree, or 3) pass a 'teacher's exam.'"

But, the HSLDA report said, "Although this seems reasonable on the surface, such requirements not only violate the right of parents to teach their children as guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments, but virtually all academic research documents that there is no positive correlation between teacher qualifications (especially teacher certification requirements) and student performance."

"I have talked," wrote Klicka, "with hundreds of school officials who cannot understand how a 'mere mother' with a high school diploma could possibly teach her own children. These officials literally take offense that parents would try to teach their children and actually think that they will do as well as teachers in the public school who have at least four years and sometimes seven years of higher education.

"Unfortunately, critics in the media have also believed this myth and will question the validity of homeschooling by asking, 'But are the parents qualified?' What is so laughable about this belief in teacher qualifications by public school authorities are the statistics which show the appalling decline in competency among certified public school teachers and the failure of the teacher colleges," he wrote.

The assessment said, "One of the most significant studies in this area was performed by Dr. Eric Hanushek of the University of Rochester, who surveyed the results of 113 studies on the impact of teachers' qualifications on their students' academic achievement. Eighty-five percent of the studies found no positive correlation between the educational performance of the students and the teacher's educational background. "Although 7 percent of the studies did find a positive correlation, 5 percent found a negative impact," the report said.

Sam Peavey, professor emeritus of the School of Education at the University of Louisville, also concluded: "I wish I could tell you that those thousands of [teacher certification documents] contributed significantly to the quality of children's learning, but I cannot. ... After fifty years of research, we have found no significant correlation between the requirements for teacher certification and the quality of student achievement. He said the one way to identify a good teacher is to look at the performance of the students.


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