Author Archives: Noam

Confessions of a Former SAT Hater

standardized tests
facebook Confessions of a Former SAT Hatertwitter Confessions of a Former SAT Hatergoogle plus Confessions of a Former SAT Haterlinkedin Confessions of a Former SAT Haterpinterest Confessions of a Former SAT HaterShare

high school furniture 1 180x300 Confessions of a Former SAT Hater

 Ask a progressive educator about standardized tests, and more often than not you will receive a negative response. Ask more specifically about the SATs, and you will receive similar feedback. Many teachers assume that the SATs are the epitome of the folly of standardized testing. They will tell you that colleges and students would be better off if the SATs were completely abandoned in favor of other methods of evaluation.


 I myself have been a proud standardized test hater for quite some time now.  If asked for my opinion, I would happily share with you my thoughts on the educational irrelevance – and even harm – of such exams. I would confidently let you know that most standardized tests are skewed in favor of higher socio-economic brackets, or perhaps against ethnic minorities. The SATs and other standardized tests are fundamentally flawed, I would pontificate. And anyone who cares to argue is probably an antiquated relic of decades past, a teacher stuck in his ways, unenlightened and obtuse.

read more

Eliminating Racial Inequality in our Schools

Below view of cheerful students looking at the camera.

 “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

diversity awareness1 300x199 Eliminating Racial Inequality in our Schools

Just one month ago, the United States celebrated Black History Month. The nation has much to celebrate, as great strides in racial equality have been made across various planes of society. However, recently reported on a study by the Department of Education, which indicates that the work is far from finished. In fact, according to the report, fundamental racial inequality persists in the world of education.

read more

Just Google it! Education in 2014


arts education 300x199 Just Google it! Education in 2014

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education” – Mark Twain

Do grades matter anymore? According to one of the most influential companies on the planet today: not really. In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman interviews the Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google Inc., Laszlo Bock. The interview is a fascinating window into the work culture of the internet’s leading search engine, as Bock discusses the traits that the company seeks in its new employees. The bottom line: we are no longer living in the employment market of the 20thcentury. A college degree –once an assumed necessity for professional advancement- is simply not what it used to be. On some teams in Google, nearly 14% of the members have received no college education.

read more

A Modest Proposal: Pump Up the Homework*


sad child portrait use2 300x198 A Modest Proposal: Pump Up the Homework*

America is in a state of crisis. It isn’t what you think. Yes, the country is polarized politically, and congress is earning some of the lowest approval ratings in history. Sure, the economy has seen better days and our debt is astronomical. Crime and poverty continue to plague many of our cities and towns. But I’m focused on the biggest problem of all, on the source of all of our problems: homework. We simply aren’t assigning enough of it.

If only our teachers would stop and think for a moment: How can we better educate our youth? How can we develop young men and women with character? How can we raise leaders for the next century? If they were asking these questions, they would clearly come to the one, and only one, conclusion: homework. Homework is the answer to all of our woes! Let’s briefly review (as if it requires explanation…) just a few of the benefits of menial tasks homework.

read more

Open Door Policy? The Teachers Room and School Culture

chains_lock_doors blog
You can feel it the moment you walk into the building. Every school exudes a certain aura, an overall mood: it is the school’s culture. Some schools are warm and welcoming, while others are more rigid and formal. Either way, the school culture wafts through the hallways like a cloud of smoke, enveloping everything and everybody in its path. You can sense it in the way students walk down the hallways, in the nature of the conversation between a teacher and his students, and in the presence of the principal as she walks into the cafeteria. The school culture is created by a combination of factors: the administrators, the teachers, the students, the physical environment, and the dynamic between them all. But the issue that most powerfully reflects, but also determines, the school culture is the faculty room door policy.

Five Lessons from Football for Teachers

Football and Education
This is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s not the winter snow that has me excited; it’s football. Over the next two glorious weeks, football’s four best teams will battle it out on the gridiron to determine this season’s champion. It recently dawned upon me that are some striking parallels between football and education. True, the salaries of a starting running back and a seventh grade math teacher aren’t exactly identical, or – ok, let’s be honest - anywhere near each other. However, I think we educators have much to learn from the game of football. Here are the five lessons that football teaches teachers:

Five Hours of Community Service in Forty-Five Minutes: Thoughts on Moral Education

School Community Service Ideas
Picture the scene: It’s Final Exams Week in a local high school. Students are scampering down the hallway, rushing from their lockers to their classrooms. Amid the bustling, nervously looking at his watch, one student complains to another: “Great. I have forty-five minutes to perform my five hours of community service.” The panicked student is referring to the hours of volunteering that the school has included in its high school curriculum. Each student is obligated to fulfill these five hours of volunteer service any way he sees fit, at any time, before the end of the semester. In fact, students are only admitted to their final exams after submitting their community service form, which lists the time and location of their community service. Apparently one student has neglected to serve his community for five hours that semester. This is a true story I recently heard, one that touches upon some fundamental questions about how we educate our students in the moral and civic realms.

My New Year’s Teacher Resolutions

teacher professional development
Like the rest of America, I thought this would be an opportune time to generate my New Year’s Resolutions. Unlike the rest of America, I will not be including cleaning out my basement or organizing my garage. (Seriously, is there anyone out there who has ever followed through on those resolutions?) Instead, I thought I’d take a stab at formulating some resolutions with my teacher’s hat on. If there is any profession that requires constant reevaluation and reflection, it is education. What are some areas that we teachers should be thinking about as we head into 2014? Here are my 2014 New Year’s Teacher Resolutions:

An Educator’s Tribute to Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
It has been over a week since Nelson Mandela’s passing, and the world continues to mourn and pay tribute to the man who fought to end apartheid in South Africa. Of course, Mandela’s legacy will be defined by the values that his life embodied: promoting social justice and eradicating racism. However, it struck me that there are three valuable lessons that we in particular, as school administrators and teachers, can draw from this man and his life.

In Praise of Penmanship

I have a confession to make. This could cost me serious street cred in the field of education, but it’s time I spill the beans: I am not obsessed with technology in the classroom. That’s right. I do not believe that tablets are the answer to every challenge that our educational system faces. And I don’t think it is absolutely critical that Twitter plays a part in our students’ projects. In fact, I think our fixation on technology in the classroom leads to some unintended negative consequences: Teachers lose sight of content in the name of packaging and delivery. Technology overshadows learning. New gadgets and new apps that ought to faithfully serve in the role of medium, usurp a role for which they are wholly unfit – the learning objective itself. The means become the end, and student learning is stunted.

Preventing Teacher-Cheating through Improved Teacher Evaluation

Teacher-cheating, Teacher Evaluation
In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, David Tomar describes his checkered past as an accomplice to teachers who were cheating. For over a decade, college and graduate students paid Tomar to do their school work. His was a somewhat surprising cliental: young men and women working towards obtaining their teaching degrees. Tomar writes that these aspiring teachers would turn to him to complete their assignments, including papers, lesson plans, and even classroom observations. Shocking? It gets worse. Recent allegations of teacher-cheating have surfaced in cities like Washington, LA, and Atlanta. This time, they are not cheating with their own work. They are cheating on behalf of their students, changing answers on exams in order to boost their students’ test results.

Is “Teacher Transfer” the Answer? How to Improve Low-Achieving Schools

Teacher questions pupils at mathematics
Just like in real estate, the field of education can be boiled down to three words: location, location, location. Certain districts consistently score better than others. While there are no doubt many reasons that we can point to in order to explain the disparity between different districts, one factor is indisputable: teachers. Low-achieving schools tend to have a very difficult time attracting the most qualified teachers. After all, in addition to the academic weakness of the students, sometimes other challenges confront teachers in a low-achieving district, such as drugs or violence.

Bullying: Taking Off the Kid Gloves

School Bully
Sordid details continue to emerge in the harrowing tale of Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. As has recently been widely reported, Richie Incognito, a nine-year veteran guard for the Miami Dolphins, has been suspended indefinitely from the NFL for conduct detrimental to the team. Incognito is alleged to have verbally, and perhaps even physically, harassed fellow teammate and second year offensive tackle Jonathan Martin.

Environment Matters

Children in their learning environment
I’ll never forget the time I walked into a third grade classroom and discovered that the desks had been rearranged into a series of rows. The teacher had previously set up her room with five or six clusters of desks, each cluster functioning as a mini-community in and of itself. When I asked her why she made the switch, she said: “They’re not in second grade anymore.” I walked away sadly, mourning the fact that this teacher had - overnight - pushed these kids from first grade into college.