Larry Lezotte in Calgary

Help Me!  There’s WiFi in the Telus Convention Center in Cagary, but it requests an access code.  There’s no one to ask, because I have the only laptop in the entire hall — except for Larry Lezotte, who is sitting on the stage.  I’d go up and ask him, but he looks too comfortable.  I never look comfortable before I have to present.  I can’t even access the web with my phone, because data is switched off — wicked expensive outside the U.S.

OK, things are underway, with short speeches by directors, associate superintendents, etc.  One guy, who just got up and read a very clever digitalesque Dr. Seuss poem, is lamenting that millennials, by the time they are 21, will have watched TV for 11,000 hours, used their cell phones for 9,000 hours (etc.) but only 5,000 hours reading.  Those numbers are not exact, but the impact is the same.

I understand his sentiment, and I am not unsympathetic — and I wish our children were spending more time with extended examinations of large ideas and rich plots by reading.  But they are reading.  It’s just a different kind of reading and with a different goal.  I isn’t schooly style reading — but that doesn’t make it unworthy of our understanding and even respect.

Lezotte gets pretty feisty here about the need to change our schools

Now, we’re welcoming Lawrence Lezotte.  He says that education in Canada and the U.S. is heading toward the perfect storm.  There are three fources that are converging.

  1. Rising standards and expectations because of technology and competition
  2. More and more children present challenges to teachers for a variety of reasons
  3. We’re expected to do all of that with fewer resources (with or without a declining economy)

He says that, “Your school division or district is perfectly aligned to produce the results you are currently getting.  If you’re happy, then no problem.  But you aren’t addressing these converging forces.” (approximate quote)

First we have to frame the problem.  Part of the problem is changing expectations, accountability, and changing clients.  A futurist said that, “Your demographics are your desteny.”  This is true.  Demographics are an enormous influence on our future.  That point was made eloquently by a keynote speaker at NECC a few years ago.  Can’t remember his name.

Bell curve was perfect years ago, because the purpose of school was to sort people out. If we tested ourselves with standard IQ tests and then tested our children, Our children would out perform us by one full standard deviation.

Our clients are changing.  Increasing numbers are poor and economically disadvantaged and minority — especially limited English proficiency.

In order to bring those students up (close the gap), we have to be able to assure 30% more time on task than advantaged students.  He says that the U.S. insists on a sameness standard.  We want to treat everyone the same.  We have to find a way to break out of that.  This hearkens, in my mind, to my recent rant about Duncan’s call for more time in school for students.  I think that the time isn’t the issue, so much as what they are doing — what the “task” is.

He’s making a pretty passion point about treating kids differently based on their performance.  He says that if you look at the percentage of kids with profound handicaps of all types, it has remained constant, about 5%.  But if you look at the students who have been labeled with learning disabilities has increased constantly.  Lezotte, says that it’s because of “accountability.”

He quotes, “Form follows function.”  You design the system to accomplish the function.

Lezotte says, “You will never get J curve results from a a bell curve school.”

Think about having 1/3 of your students to be in tutoring about 1/3 of the time.  What does that look like.  Is that what we need.

He talks about a professor in Florida who says that the closer a school system gets to 100%, the more and more it costs to achieve each additional percentage point.  You reach a point where you need a new paradigm.  Lezotte suggests that the paradigm shift is to move from teacher-centered education to learner-centered education. Bingo!

Battery died shortly after this, as did my attention.  It was 10:30 PM my time.  But I did manage to scratch this into my conference program.

Authority is delegated from the top!
Leadership is delegated from the bottom!

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.