Here are some interesting articles we received and discovered this past week…


Knowledge Is Power: Why Our Students Need Less of Franklin’s Wit and More of Madison’s Wisdom

Quote from Article:

Jamestown, Valley Forge, the pioneers’ Conestoga wagons, and so much more—the skills of survival are woven into the American narrative. Our heroes include Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs, and today’s national conversation about education focuses on giving students the technical and career-ready competencies that ensure rewarding and fulfilling employment. Our renewed interest in “practical” learning recalls Benjamin Franklin’s sardonic take-down of the academic kind: “He was so learned that he could name a horse in nine languages; so ignorant that he bought a cow to ride on.”


More recently, our enduring focus on skills over content knowledge has received a double boost. Given the explosion of technology and access to information, it feels right to suppose that today’s students need “to learn how to learn,” to “think critically,” rather than mastering specific domains of knowledge. Second, we are told that social and emotional learning (SEL) is as important—some would argue more important—than academics and the results of academic assessments.

A few voices, such as E.D. Hirsch and Daniel T. Willingham, have long cautioned that this is national folly. Even as students are learning to read, which necessarily involves skills such as decoding, their greatest need is to build content knowledge. America’s reading gaps are not caused by skills shortages but by knowledge vacuums. When we provide even very weak readers with a story about a topic they know, finding the main idea is a snap. By contrast, give strong readers a passage about something they know nothing about, and they can stare at it forever with little chance of finding that same idea. As Hirsch recounts in Why Knowledge Matters, detailed data from France show that when that country abandoned its national, content-rich reading curriculum, the performance of all students declined, and the poorer the student, the more precipitous the loss. In the U.S., while we’ve seen reading scores rise in the early grades, NAEP twelfth-grade reading performance remains essentially unchanged from the early 1990s, and the tragically wide racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps show no signs of closing.


At the same time, we should build assessments that enable students to answer questions using specific content. For years, the Latin Advanced Placement exam announced the texts it would examine in advance (perhaps they figured that Latin was just so esoteric that no one would notice). More recently, the AP American Literature exam added an essay question that requires students to answer using concrete knowledge of the books they have studied. It is exactly wrong to conclude that such essay questions—which are also asked in the International Baccalaureate—are suited only for the strongest of students. It is our less privileged students who most need the background knowledge that deep and wide reading provides.

In an age when fewer Americans study foreign languages, there’s probably no point in wishing that children knew the word for “horse” in more than just their native tongue. Our students need less of Franklin’s wit and more of Madison’s wisdom. “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance,” he argued, “and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” America loves proxies in education—multiple intelligences, focus on the whole child, metacognition. In the end, however, what counts is what is actually taught in actual classrooms, and how effectively children learn it. There should be no separation between the two: Enabling teachers to bring compelling, demanding content to their students is the healthy heartbeat of a good education.

District Deeds Synopsis:

An enlightening article that really allowed us to cut through all the “eduspeak” and education reform noise to the root of why our students are in school.

The article is capsulized in the Madison quote:

Knowledge will forever govern ignorance and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

It makes sense to us why teaching “skills” is so much more attractive that teaching “content”.  Skills are finite and can be measured  in a linear way.  Knowledge is much more amorphous.  Real knowledge is delivered and received on multiple planes of understanding and is very difficult to measure complete mastery.  It takes a professional…an exceptional teacher…to provide that to their students,  But that teacher cannot do it alone.  They need the full backing of equally skilled and professional site and district senior leadership.

Unfortunately in the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), the gross financial and management errors of incompetent Elementary School Superintendent (ESS) Cindy Marten have given Teachers erratic and inconsistent leadership that has harmed the education of thousands of Students….especially the Students that need the most support.

ESS Marten – what a disgrace!

Programs That Give Every Student a Computer Instead of Time With a Teacher are Misguided

Quote from Article:

In recent years, the state of Rhode Island has engaged in many innovative learning projects. This past semester I had the opportunity to observe two elementary classrooms using technology in new and exciting ways.

One was a fifth-grade class at Whelan Elementary School in North Providence, Rhode Island, that had just agreed to begin a commercial personalized learning program. The other was a third-grade blended-learning classroom at Lincoln Central Elementary School, in Lincoln, Rhode Island.


The differences in these two classrooms were stark.

In the first classroom, the students’ enthusiasm for the computers did not lead to visibly increased enthusiasm for learning — unlike the way that the harnessing of technology did in the blended-learning classroom. There were stacks of boxes in the back of the room that the teacher lamented held years of hands-on science experiments, math manipulatives and novels that wouldn’t be used this year.

In the blended-learning classroom, the students used manipulatives, whiteboards, scratch paper and modern technology to solve their word problems. In the personalized learning classroom, the teacher managed the technology: she searched for the right tasks for the students, policed their use of peripherals and constantly redirected attention. In the blended-learning classroom, the students managed the technology, and this freed up the teacher to focus on the learning of individuals.

District Deeds Synopsis:

We felt that this article was a perfect followup to the Madison/Franklin article above.  The first classroom seems to be the “Benjamin Franklin” personalized learning style and the second was a blended “Madison” content learning environment.

To be accurate, District Deeds is NOT a professional educator and we would love to hear from Teachers and Administrators how they see this comparison in the context of the Franklin/Madison premise.  Email us your thoughts at districtdeeds@gmail.com.

Revamping the School Report Card

Quote from Article:

Last year a group of parents, educators and representatives from nonprofit organizations and state agencies attended a workshop to develop ideas for creating more effective web-based school report cards — the kind that show how well schools are performing. Recently, the convener of that workshop shared a summary of the recommendations offered during the day.


The presentations focused on three areas related to the report card website: content, design and process.

In the area of content, the message was to make sure the developers of the website understood a few basics. First, report cards “can have multiple purposes.” Not only do they serve as “accountability devices” for the schools, which need to adhere to state ESSA education plan requirements, but they also are used by parents as a “school finder,” which means non-ESSA information such as school address, distance to the school and availability of transportation options might be important to include as well. 


Regarding design, the moderator noted that people typically spend just a few minutes on a school report card site. For that reason, developers need to “think carefully” about what “story” is being told by the report card. One suggestion: Before jumping into the development of the report card, brainstorm and gather ideas for defining the audience, develop a list of the priorities and how the results will differ from the existing report card and clarify goals and requirements. 


The process portion of the workshop examined how report card developers gather input from the stakeholders. This feedback “is critical to building and improving” the school report card site, the facilitator stated. 

District Deeds Synopsis:

Anyone who has accessed the current school report cards can understand why this article is relevant to all SDUSD Stakeholders.  Although the progress on improving the school report cards over the past few years has been progressing gradually there is a long, long way to go.

We highly recommend that our readers access the “Implementing Online School Report Cards: Research-Based Best Practices Workshop” videos and transcripts to really understand what we should expect and demand from school reports cards for ALL Student groups.

Now, in honor of February being Black History Month, our Quote of the Week:

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Have a great week!!!



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