Vygotsky vs. Piaget: A Paradigm Shift

When I was doing my initial teacher training, Jean Piaget’s theories of learning were a major focus of my required Ed Psych class.  I didn’t know it at the time, but Piaget’s theories had already been in decline for some years.  He was in our textbook, however, and textbooks are expensive, so we all studied […]

School, Reimagined

Despite NCLB, ESSA, Common Core, block schedules, and whatever else has come down the pike, education in the U.S. has not changed dramatically in the last 150 years.   Peek into any school in the country and you are likely to see desks in rows, with a single teacher at the front of the room dispensing […]

Scheduled Creativity

“Inspiration is for amateurs.”  —  Chuck Close, painter Although this title may seem oxymoronic, there is fascinating research supporting the idea that deliberately setting aside time without distraction can induce an optimally creative state in the human brain.  This is the central premise in a new book by Cal Newport, entitled Deep Work. Unfortunately, we […]

Early Education and the Achievement Gap

What would happen if a group of economists opened an experimental preschool, with the intention of providing impoverished children with the skills they needed to be successful in school?  And what would happen if they enrolled the parents of those children in a Parent Academy designed to help the parents better tutor their children in […]

What does Real World, Hands-On Instruction Look Like?

“No child rises to low expectations. ”       – Stephen Ritz Contexts, the “how” of student activities, can make or break a student’s ability to retain important information.  Some contexts – like things that only occur in classrooms and things that resemble tests – result in less engagement than others: they are intrinsically […]

Website Highlight: Curriculum Analysis

One of the things we encounter frequently during Curriculum Management Audits is the practice of adopting Common Core or state standards (such as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) intact – no local prioritization or refinement of them at all.  The problem with this practice is that these standards are often too vague to provide […]

Website Highlight: Assessment Alignment Analysis

The PARCC Released Item Analysis shows what auditors look for when comparing district assessments to the high-stakes tests in use. Ideally, district formative assessments should prepare students for what they will encounter on the PARCC, Smarter Balanced, STARR, or other state tests. In practice, however, many assessments don’t align with those tests in the level […]

Website Highlight: Gifted and Talented Education

An interesting piece of older research came to light when we produced a literature review on best practices in Gifted and Talented education.  Identifying giftedness is often a stumbling block for districts because traditional identifiers tend to produce GT populations that are fairly homogenous. In particular, they tend to produce populations that are lacking in […]

How High Is the Bar, Really?

“What Real High Performance Looks Like”  in the April 2017 issue of Kappan magazine addressed the all-too-common practice in classrooms of teaching content at a cognitively low level – even in schools labeled “high performing.”  The researchers found that in most classrooms, teachers taught the same three skills:  recall, application, and occasionally analysis.  As one […]

Come on a Little Journey with Me…

The Writing Journey, that is.  One of the critical practices that CMSi recommends in our Cognitively Complex Instruction workshop is to include writing in classroom activities, no matter what the content area is.  Writing builds cognitive skills, increases rigor, and enhances student engagement wherever it is employed.   You teach Art? Have them write about their creations […]