Professional Reading Options

Periodically I receive both books and magazines from a variety of professional organizations dedicated to the fine art of teaching. It occurs to me that you might well wish to read some of these publications as a way to keep up on modern trends in the business. Toward that end, when I receive these materials I’ll share them with you on the blog with a short description of each. If you want to read something, come to the office and get it. I’ll hand out what I have on a first come, first served basis.

In addition, I have some oldies but goodies that you may want to read. You can review those options on the document link you see below and sign those materials out as well.

Dr. I. Prof Library

On to the most current materials:

The Collected Writings (so far) of Rick Wormeli

Rick Wormeli’s new book is sure to inspire readers to take radical responsibility for challenging conventional methods and rules that surround students in schools.

Topics include:

  • Professional issues
  • Motivating and connecting to students
  • Differentiation
  • Literacy
  • Teaching techniques
  • Assessment
  • Grading

And more!

One of Rick’s many fans shared: “Rick Wormeli has the singular power to motivate me and make me want to better myself. Thank you.”

Middle School Journal, January 2013 Edition

The focus of this edition is the Common Core in the middle grades.

Interesting Article(s) for your Review

From Educational Research Newsletter <[email protected]>. I think this article has implications for all subjects, not just math. Please scroll to the bottom for links to more articles of interest.


Study says more math homework doesn’t increase student achievement

Building sense of self-efficacy more important How much homework should teachers give students?

This is a tough question for many teachers because they believe more homework means higher achievement but they need to be realistic about the time their students are willing to spend on homework. Teachers are also troubled by differences in students’ home and life circumstances, some of which lend themselves to supporting homework more than others.

A recent study on math homework in the Journal of Advanced Academics provides some new guidance for math teachers: It’s not the amount of time students spend on homework that is important in raising achievement, but the sense of self-efficacy they develop while carrying out assignments. Also important is that students have the resources they need to complete their homework, such as a quiet place to work, a computer, calculator, etc.

To develop students’ sense of mastery and self-efficacy, teachers should assign homework on material that has been adequately covered in class and should differentiate homework based on students’ ability levels. Teachers should be careful to progress at a reasonable pace from easier to more difficult tasks, verifying that students can solve problems before giving them assignments. Parents and teachers should be careful about the messages they are sending to students about their abilities in math (e.g. different attitudes towards girls and boys).

While educators have little influence on the homework support resources students receive at home, they can provide those resources at school, such as making available a quiet area where students can work on homework at school and making available needed supplies such as dictionary, computer, etc. Educators also can inform parents and tutors about how important it is to provide students with needed resources when they are doing homework.

“Given that these resources constitute a form of social capital, they also have the potential to enhance an individual’s self-efficacy beliefs. Although some of these resources seem to be characteristic only of a home site, increasing the number of these available at any site where homework support is provided should be viewed as important,” the researchers write.

Association with poorer achievement

Not only did time spent on homework have little beneficial impact on achievement in this study, it actually was associated with poorer achievement.

“Although this was a surprising finding, a lack of understanding of a subject can lead to inefficient and disproportionate effort as well as diminished motivation.

“…This observation fits the notion that students who have low mathematics scores and spend more time on mathematics homework do it precisely because of low self-efficacy and fewer support resources,” the authors write.

Girls spent approximately 5% more time on math homework compared with boys. Black students spent an average of 21% more time on math homework than their white counterparts and Hispanic students average approximately 16% more time on math homework.

The study analyzed data on 5,200 students (2,603 boys and 2,597 girls) from the 2003 Program for International for International Student Assessment (PINA) student and school questionnaires (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2003). The PINA assesses reading literacy, mathematics literacy, and science literacy skills of 15-year-olds in the U.S. Only one subject is surveyed in depth on a rotational basis each year while the other 2 are given relatively less attention. In 2003 the primary subject was math.

Students ranged in age from 15.25 to 16.33 years. Most math students were in grade 10 (3,249), but many were in grade 9 (1,618) and a few were in grade 11 (333). The ethnic breakdown was as follows: 3,097 Caucasian, 799 African American, 883 Hispanic, 169 Asian and 252 of mixed or other ethnicity.

Efficacy, amount of time, support The study focused on the impact of 3 variables: Time spent on homework, homework support resources and self-efficacy. Among the questionnaire items used for the study analysis were:

  • 8 questions related to self-efficacy. The questions assessed a student’s confidence in performing various math operations (e.g. “How confident do you feel about having to do the following calculation? Solving an equation like 3x + 5=17.” The students responded on a scale from 1-4 with 1 signifying very confident to 4 not at all confident.)
  • 8 questions on socioeconomic status that related to homework support resources. Students were asked if they had a desk where they could study, a room of their own, a quiet place to study, a computer for use with school work, a link to the Internet, their own calculator, books to help with their homework and dictionaries. A student who answered yes to all 8 questions had a value of 1 and a student who answered no to all questions had a value of 0.
  • Ratio of actual number of self-reported hours the student spent on math homework to actual hours the student spent on all homework.

In the questionnaires, only 0.7% of students reported having no access to the 8 homework support items. Most students reported having access to most of the items:                          

  • 69.5% reported access to 7 or 8 of the resources
  • 22.1% reported access to 5 or 6 of the resources
  • 5.8% reported having access to 3 or 4 of the resources
  • 1.9% reported having access to 1 or 2 of the items

Girls reported having 2.4% more homework support than boys. White students had 10% more homework support resources available to them than Black students and 13% more than Hispanic students. On average, Asian students had about 11% more homework support than Black students and 14% more homework support than Hispanic students.

Other previous research has found that the most potent factor affecting achievement was the amount of homework the student actually completed as opposed to the amount of homework that was assigned, the researchers report.

Based on this study, researchers say there’s evidence that developing students’ self-efficacy when doing math homework can help shrink the achievement gap between white students and black and Hispanic students.

“Mathematics Achievement: The Role of Homework and Self-Efficacy Beliefs,” by Anastasia Kitsantas, Journal of Advanced Academics, Volume 22, Number 2, Winter 2011, pp. 310-339.

Other most-read articles:

Teachers so focused on fairness issues when grading, they don’t follow best practices More math homework doesn’t increase student achievement, study says Reading fluency test measures silent reading rather than oral reading Why 9/11 should be taught more in school  Word wall in middle school hallway reinforces 8th-grade content vocabulary as students walk to classes Get a read on student engagement with these 21 measures (11 of them are free) Key to managing difficult students in cooperative learning groups is appealing to peers

In Search of Middle Level Curriculum Leadership

Mighty Middle School Team,

As you watch the issue of Common Core adoption unfold, I thought I might share with you an article from the latest issue of Middle School Journal. Hapy Reading!

January 2013 • Volume 44 • Number 3 • Page 5

In Search of Middle Level Curriculum Leadership

Q: Will the Common Core State Standards keep local teachers from deciding what or how to teach?

A: No. The Common Core State Standards are a clear set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed. … Local teachers, principals, superintendents, and school boards will continue to make decisions about curriculum and how their school systems are operated. (Retrieved from, emphasis added)

Standards may be here to stay, and standards that set common expectations for all learners can be a good thing if they help increase equity and quality in public education. However, academic standards undermine certain fundamental democratic principles when they lead to the wholesale standardization of education and foster heavy-handed, top-down decision making.

As the excerpt from the Common Core State Standards Initiative website affirms, the new standards are not designed to be the curriculum. However, as James Beane argues in the lead article of this issue, the Common Core State Standards are likely “to become pretty much the whole curriculum” (p. 9) because of the ways in which standards have, in recent decades, led to the standardization of testing systems, materials development and, ultimately, curriculum and instruction.

Too often, the people with the greatest stake in education—teachers, students, and parents—do not have a leadership role in developing curriculum from standards frameworks. They are not included in the process or they abdicate their responsibility for curriculum development, leaving it to state-level bureaucrats, professional development providers, textbook publishers, test developers, and other “experts.”

Where might these experts look for important concepts and questions to frame the curriculum? Two types of conversations take place when committees of experts meet to develop curriculum frameworks or testing programs. For 15 or 20 minutes before the meeting begins, committee members chat about family, work, and other matters of common personal interest. When the doors to the meeting room close and the “small talk” ends, the conversation focuses on determining the things that are most important for young people to learn so they can succeed in life. This is ironic, because the committee had already talked about things that really matter to people in their informal, so-called “small talk” before the meeting began.

The things that really matter to mature people—health, finances, the future, relationships—are the things that matter to young people too. For at least half a century, a handful of middle level scholars (e.g., Beane, Lounsbury, Vars) have championed the idea of planning curriculum with young people, using their questions and concerns as the organizing centers for curriculum development. A rich body of literature provides a clear, compelling rationale for this work and highlights positive outcomes for students in all areas of their development.

At the AMLE conference in November, James Beane, Sherrel Bergmann, Barbara Brodhagen, and Judith Brough led The Gordon Vars Curriculum Symposium, a forum in which participants reflected upon Vars’s scholarly work and reinvigorated his vision of a democratic core curriculum. Noticeably absent from the conversation were voices from the trenches, particularly early-career classroom teachers and school-based personnel. The field of middle level education has a critical need for curriculum leadership at the grassroots level. I know many teachers and principals who embrace the vision of a democratic, person-centered curriculum, but they work on the fringes and, often, alone. As a professional community, we need to reposition their good work from the margins to the middle and promote the idea that the public school curriculum in a democratic society does not belong to school boards, state departments of education, or testing companies. It belongs to the people, regardless of who they are, where they live, or how old they are.