A global village or a global mindset?

What makes us internationally minded? What does that even mean?

Why does it matter?

Are there any ways to “be” internationally minded?

Are you living overseas, maybe bringing up children overseas as well? Then head over to  http://dskobe.org/education-blog/what-is-international-mindedness/ to read my thoughts on it.


The Benefits of Children Speaking Multiple Languages.

My article on Multilingualism was featured on the Education Blog over at Deutsche School Kobe (DSK).

It is an intriguing topic and it is heartening to see some schools in Japan showing a real interest in ways to develop children to their full potential.


Catching some Z’s

After a walk this morning and some playtime at home a bit of quiet time is welcomeđŸ‘đŸ»

Walking around my Osakaan neighbourhood this morning and I realised how sights I would have been surprised by are now are now routine and normal. Must remember to appreciate things more!

Off to a party in Nara with friends now.
Cheers 😄

Teacher Leadership and Collaboration

For the last 10 weeks, I have been teaching to the 10 CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers) inTASC Standards. I have been assessed on how well I have demonstrated each standard for a 10-week clinical practice.

These standards outline what all teachers across all content and grade levels should know and be able to do to be effective in today’s learning contexts, they are designed to meet the needs of the next of generation learners.

This week`s assignment was on Teacher Leadership and Collaboration. This week I have the opportunity to compare and contrast two articles on school and teacher leadership and describe how they relate to me. This leads me to think about Standard 10 and this topic`s connection to me, my school and my role within the school.

The first article, Teacher Leadership: Leading the Way to Effective Teaching and Learning. link here (Barry, B., Daughtrey, A., Wieder, A. January 2010).

In relation to standard 10, there are multiple connections to my school and my role within it. inTASC Standard 10 is divided into 4 strands;
a. Involvement in School-Wide Efforts.
b. Schools as Organisations.
c. Respect of Families.
d. Advocates for Students

This first article`s aim is to “consider the ways in which teacher leadership is key to present-day teaching effectiveness and a healthy future for the teaching profession” (Berry, Daughtrey & Wieder, 2010)

The authors make their initial statements on how self-efficacy and their sense of response are connected and positively associated with teaching effectiveness and improved student achievement. Self-efficacy and a teacher`s sense of collective responsibility is also strongly associated with soliciting parent involvement, communicating positive expectations for student learning, improving instructional practice, and being willing (and able) to innovate successfully in the classroom

I feel this stance has some similarities with the belief that when teachers hold high students expectations those students academic achievements improve. Essentially, when a teacher is invested in a school, in the students and in the school’s community, he or she improves and, accordingly, their students improve too.

Both sources detail how a teacher who feels responsible for creating the culture of a school and is empowered to be involved with school-wide efforts is a more effective teacher and their student’s achievement improves.

In the first source – Teacher Leadership: Leading the Way to Effective Teaching and Learning, the authors attempt to prove their 5 beliefs.  With the support of the Ford Foundation, the Teachers Network undertook a national survey of 1,210 teacher leaders, to better understand the role that participation in teacher leadership networks plays in supporting and retaining effective teachers in high-needs urban schools.

The Teacher Network Teacher, a national nonprofit organization of 1.5 million classroom teachers consisting of over 20 network affiliate communities for professional development, generated and tested 5 statements on Teacher leadership. I will address each and write about how they relate to my teaching situation.

1. Teachers’ leadership and collective expertise are tightly linked to student achievement.

If good teachers are given the opportunity to lead and change the way services are delivered to students and the wider community, and then go to develop policies that sustain these changes then they will be improvements, particularly in high-needs schools. The survey found that “Teacher leadership is a critical component of effective teaching and school success. A sophisticated new study has found that schools staffed by credentialed and experienced teachers who work together over an extended time generate the largest student achievement gains.” (Berry et al, 2010)

In my situation, I can also see this in action. Through my meetings with my mentor, who is credentialed and experienced, I have developed my practice. Myself, my mentor and other colleagues, seek each other out for conversations and allow us to develop as teachers. These meetings are evidence of me, the candidate demonstrating strand d. – The candidate advocates for Students.

It is worth noting that, when compared to my less qualified or experienced colleagues, my credentialed colleagues are much more interested in collaborating and discussing how to improve as teachers.

2. Teachers search for innovative strategies as instructional and school leaders but are often stifled by prescriptive policies that drive them from the profession.

The survey found that from the respondents that there were opportunities to lead and that when the teacher-leaders took them they took great satisfaction from doing so.
“many teachers reported receiving a great deal of satisfaction and professional motivation from working as leaders and innovators in their schools– contributing both to their effectiveness and retention
.” (Berry et al, 2010)

However, as can be seen in figure 2, when the teachers felt they were not included in decision-making the teacher turnover rate climbs steeply.

“Despite the importance of teacher empowerment,fewer than half (45 percent) of the respondents in our CTQ survey reported that they played central roles in decision-making in their schools.” (Berry et al, 2010)


Another aspect to teachers leaving the profession is an overly prescriptive peer review and review procedure, which includes critical and high-stakes review. I live and work in Japan, and my Japanese colleagues have a system of peer review that seems to work for them.  “in other nations (e.g.,Japan), lesson studies—where teachers jointly craft specific classroom techniques and critically assess each other’s practices—have been found to be drivers of higher student achievement gains.”(Berry et al 2010)

The need to have a similar system of review to improve a teacher`s practice was also addressed in the second article, “By using a system to look at lessons and student work, the teacher and I were both comfortable in knowing that our conversation wasn’t personal. We were problem-solving together to help students” (Rizvi, 2016)

In my situation I have consistently, and in good faith, tried to demonstrate strand – a. Candidate shows involvement in School-Wide Efforts. As evidence, I would submit my IBO Professional development certificates, my serving on school committees and my attendance at staff development or in-service meetings before, during and after the school year.

3. Teachers identify missing supports for leadership in their schools as barriers to their empowerment and effectiveness.

In my experience, there are barriers to empowerment and effectiveness. There are issues which dis-empower a number of teachers, such as nationality, lack of tenure and administrative impotence. The net result of being ignored leads many teachers to simply adopt the mindset of simply working in the school and to stop trying to effect change. The Center for Teaching  quality discovered something similar, “policies and practices adopted by some policymakers or administrators may communicate distrust of teachers’ professional leadership, and prevent teachers from searching for and developing and using the approaches their students need” (Berry et al 2010)

4. Teachers who are empowered to lead within their schools are more likely to remain in the profession.

There are a number of reasons why a teacher may change schools, or indeed leave the profession. The survey indicates that the criteria teachers use to gauge their professional satisfaction include, how their professional leadership is perceived and the respect they are accorded by the school community. The teachers then become either “stayers” or “leaders”, based on the school environment rather than different sets of satisfaction criteria.

“these two groups of teachers do not have different motivations but rather are prompted to make different career decisions based upon the types of school environments they experience” (Berry et al. 2010)

It would seem logical that a teacher with a heavy teaching load may not welcome the extra responsibilities of roles like; Coach or specialist, instructional leader or department head, Union responsibilities or Other leadership responsibilities. However, the responsibility and empowerment that I gain by being my schools Union Representative is worth the extra time and other commitments required.

The survey returned similar results, “no differences in career intentions based upon the type of leadership role held. This finding suggests that teacher leadership matters more than the shape of that leadership.” (Berry et al 2010)

5. Teacher leadership beyond the classroom walls facilitates the spread of effective teaching practices and breaks down barriers to effective teaching policies.

Due to my teaching schedule, I attend the activities (talent show, speech contest etc.) planned for outside the classroom, as often as I can.

Until recently it was difficult to schedule the “foreign” non-Japanese teachers into the parent-teacher conferences. Thankfully, in part due to the PYP accreditation process this has changed so I can now use conferences to promote conversation and dialog. Whilst the changes to conferencing are welcome, some non-Japanese speaking teachers would welcome translators. Obviously, this makes it very difficult to include all parents/guardians as partners in student learning. Whilst working to improve this situation I have been taking the time to discuss the monthly classroom newsletter with my teaching partner, to create a way to communicate with the non-English speaking parents.

The second article, Teacher Leadership as Professional Development. (Rizvi, M. July 26, 2016). ( Link here ) arose through a reflection of a teacher who was tasked with assuming a leadership role in her school. Although she had some reservations about this, “When my principal asked me to lead a team of social studies teachers at my school, I hesitated. It’s not my natural instinct to be in charge. ” (Rizvi, 2016). She was able to detail the benefits of accepting the extra responsibility and leadership in three lessons.

Ms Rizvi details the three lessons she learned on school leadership as;

Lesson 1: Continually Improve My Own Skills.

In my situation my regular planning meetings and collaborations with other staff, my desire to continually learn and shares my knowledge or best practices allow me to demonstrate strand b. Schools as Organizations. We regularly attend IB PYP workshops, we have whole school planning meetings every unit of work (every 6 weeks) and grade level meetings are scheduled every week.

Lesson 2: Connect New Ideas, Tools, and Materials.

Our school is the first school in Japan to achieve dual Article one status whilst becoming a PYP World school. As such there are a number of challenges, one is integrating curricula and the PYP framework. To make this process go more smoothly we work together to understand the cyclical nature of the Japanese Math curriculum and it`s scope and sequence. This allows us to better communicate the learning outcomes to the students and to teach the Math outcomes in the unit of inquiry, thus ensuring the trans-disciplinary nature of learning required in the PYP. Through reading the article I became aware of the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) link here. Given our progress in planning and teaching Maths, a logical next step would be more focus on literacy in different subject areas and the LDC is something I will study to help me do this.

Lesson 3: Find Ways to Discuss Each Other’s Work.

Through the unit planning meetings, our teachers are able to reflect on the unit as a whole and are encouraged to discuss the positives and areas for improvement. We use examples of student work to observe how well a student has demonstrated their understanding, detailed their action and described their reflections. Using the tool of the students work to discuss the teacher’s performance reminds teachers that the overall goal is student learning and allows us to reflect on our performance.

These regular meetings make it easy for me to demonstrate strand d. – Advocates for Students. We consider individual students during lesson and curriculum planning and share good news about students with other staff and we deal with facts about the students and take responsibility for students learning.


Berry, B., Daughtrey, A., & Wieder, A. (2010). Teacher Leadership: Leading the Way to Effective Teaching and Learning (1st ed.). Center for Teaching Quality. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED509719.pdf

Goddard, R., Hoy, W., & Hoy, A. (2000). Collective Teacher Efficacy: Its Meaning, Measure, and Impact on Student Achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 37(2), 479. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1163531

Rizvi, M. (2016). Teacher Leadership as Professional Development. Edutopia. Retrieved 22 January 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/teacher-leadership-as-professional-development-marium-rizvi

21st Century Learning.

The Hallmarks of 21st Century Learning Strategies:

  • Project Based Learning

Hands-On, Collaborative, Multi-Disciplinary, Student Centered, Real-Time, Real-World, Flexible

  • Student Ownership/Engagement

When students are interested and invested in the completion of a school-based project, they begin to own their educational processes. With ownership, all aspects of their school career, including mastery of curriculum become important to them. With ownership also comes: personal responsibility, strategies like critical thinking and generating hypotheses and extension of learning becomes commonplace and finally, motivation to succeed

  • Collaborative Teaching/Cooperative Learning

Teacher collaborations present powerful opportunities for educators to learn from each other, which can increase the strategies available to them in their pedagogical toolboxes. With technology, it is now just as possible to collaborate virtually with the teacher across the globe as it is across the hall. Students working cooperatively in small groups to achieve project-based goals is a powerful strategy to achieve curricular and standards based objectives. Moreover, when students are focused on the goals of a project, they are more inclined to negotiate with their peer, which clarifies their understandings and solidifies their learning. The cooperative nature of small groups working together for successful completion of the project also has an extremely positive effect on the classroom climate and behavior issues are significantly mitigated.

  • Citizenship/Leadership/Personal Responsibility

Development of good citizenship skills as part of the fabric of teaching and learning is critical to the long term, real-life success of our students.

Leadership involves having the inner strength to make decisions and to take personal responsibility for the consequences of those decisions.

Leadership is enabling those whom you lead to be innovative problem solvers. Leadership is being able to buffer and protect those you lead from distractions and impediments so they may carry out their responsibilities unimpeded by those distractions.

Leadership is the ability to turn mistakes into “teachable moments” rather than “blamable moments”.

Leadership is knowing when to step back to give opportunities for those in your charge to take the lead, while understanding that ultimate responsibility rests with you.

Leaders understand that leadership is a way of life and therefore unbound by the time constraints of the school or business day/week

  • Community Partnerships

Community Partners are the heart of Project Based and 21st century teaching and learning. Having real-world professionals and others in the community work with our students to help address real-world problems present powerful opportunities for students to get involved and engaged as citizens and leaders while achieving and retaining, curricular and standards-based proficiencies. Community Partners also model good citizenship/leadership and provide opportunities for taking class trips that are fun and demonstrate real-world learning skills.

  • Mastery of Curriculum/Development of Higher Order Thinking Skills

The primary rationale to employ Project Based Learning is, in fact, as a tool for student achievement, both academically and socially. A project’s success is ultimately determined by whether the project-based activities are connected to grade appropriate curriculum and state standards and more importantly, whether these connections enable students to achieve mastery across a range of academic disciplines. We have seen that when students work within the Project Based methodology they own their educational processes, are engaged in a project’s activities, work cooperatively to achieve success, and see citizenship modeled by the Community Partners, then mastery of curriculum becomes more likely.

  • Technology/21st Century Skills

Any good project will be embedded with a wide array of real-world technology-based applications. We still, by and large, teach interminably about how to use tech applications with our students. Well, that ship has sailed given the fact that the younger we are, the greater our ability to use technology in an agile way. So now, more than ever we need an educational paradigm shift away from learning how to use technology and towards using it.

  • The Teachable Moment

Agile educators nimbly take advantage of those “off the curriculum grid” spontaneous learning opportunities when they occur. These teachable moments are powerful opportunities for effective, authentic teaching and learning to take place. Being able to identify and use real-time teachable moments is one of those transcendent qualities that good educators possess.

  • Reporting Out/Celebration

Students will report out to peers, school staff, and the larger community: What they learned, how they addressed the problems or issues, their final products and they will be celebrated for their important, authentic, real-time work

  • Fun

School and Fun? While the terms are usually perceived to be in diametric opposition to each other, students having FUN within the framework of their school-based activities is an integral aspect of Effective Teaching and Learning and is one of the overarching links that facilitate academic and civic success. This short video is a compilation from 2 elementary schools conducting on-site water monitoring and having FUN: https://youtu.be/4VaI_LWu8mY.


10 Hallmarks of 21st Century Teaching and Learning. (2016). Edutopia. Retrieved 25 October 2016, from https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/10-hallmarks-21st-century-teaching-and-learning

Building Schema – Monitoring for Meaning. (2016). Sites.google.com. Retrieved 25 October 2016, from https://sites.google.com/a/share.wilsonsd.org/freedom/building-schema

Differentiated Instruction for English Language Learners | ColorĂ­n Colorado. (2012). Colorincolorado.org. Retrieved 25 October 2016, from http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/differentiated-instruction-english-language-learners


A good teacher?

As a teacher I have become accustomed to grading student performance against certain criteria. This is an integral part of my role, but how about if the shoe was on the other foot? What criteria are or should be used to evaluate teachers?

Teachers are generally evaluated on an annual basis at a minimum by administrators in their schools. In some school districts, teacher unions or organizations have negotiated that these evaluations be conducted by other teachers.

One example of a teacher evaluation system is the Danielson framework.

This Framework for Teaching is a research-based set of components of instruction, aligned to the INTASC standards, and grounded in a constructivist view of learning and teaching. The complex activity of teaching is divided into 22 components (and 76 smaller elements) clustered into four domains of teaching responsibility. Click here for the link.

Teachers should mange the classroom well to lay the foundation for all to succeed, they should develop positive relationships with students, they should teach clearly defined learning outcomes well, the students should understand why they are learning and the reasons for the grades, the teachers should teach entertaining, stimulating classes which the students enjoy, students in need of extra help should be able to receive it, by the same token students who can be extended should be (within their Zone of proximal development), finally all students should achieve the learning outcomes and show mastery.

The question then becomes, who do we check that all this is happening and how do we help the teachers and students if it`s not?

Another question many teachers have is related to who will evaluate them and how the evaluation will be used;  to retrain and help struggling teachers, or to fire and replace them?

What criteria should teachers be evaluated against?

Should classroom observation be used to evaluate teachers?

Traditionally, observation by principals or administrative personnel have been used to assess teachers. How do you feel when your boss watches you work? I guess it depends on the boss! I generally feel nervous, and don`t enjoy the process. I also hope for some actionable feedback from a knowledgeable teacher. I always try to make sure that I have a clear understanding of what I want to achieve for that particular lesson and plan accordingly. However, this type of evaluation can be described as not a usual lesson, due to the fact that the teacher (and potentially students) don`t behave as they normally would.

Should the test results be used to evaluate teachers?

Yes, but not only this. Test results cannot be the only criteria for evaluation. Test scores can reveal when kids are not learning; they can’t reveal why. They might make teachers relax or despair—but they can’t help teachers improve. In addition, most teachers still do not teach the subjects or grade levels covered by mandatory standardized tests. So no test-score data exists upon which they can be judged.

Should Student happiness be used to evaluate teachers?

Yes, but not exclusively. A person can go into an elementary/middle school/high school classroom and “make children happy”, it is a simple thing to go into a classroom, armed with fun activities, games and multimedia for the children to use and play with. It is easy to allow students to be happy with average work products and not push the students to strive to do their very best, through self and peer editing of their work and going through multiple drafts until their product is excellent and error free.

Should understanding the curriculum be used to evaluate teachers?

Again, yes this is important but it should not be the main part of an evaluation. Especially as some teachers do not actually teach to a set or assessed curriculum.

Should collaboration skills and relationships with colleagues be used to assess teachers?

Whilst good interpersonal skills are important in any workplace, and collaboration a 21st century skill that we want our students to develop. I believe that the conditions have to be set to allow for collaboration and building good relationships. The factors affecting these include more than the teacher – the administration of the school or district have a responsibility to create a workplace and environment for good relationships and collaboration.

What is important and what should teachers be evaluated on?

All of the above examples are important, but not only those things. A study was conducted in 2002 by Ronald Ferguson. He went to Ohio to help a small school district (Shaker Heights, a Cleveland suburb) to figure out why black kids did worse on tests than white kids.Through his research and data a clear picture emerged.

Ferguson gave the kids in Shaker Heights a survey—not about their entire school, but about their specific classrooms. The results were counter intuitive. The students gave differing responses depending on which class they were in – not which race they were. In fact, black and white children largely agreed.

In one classroom, kids said they worked hard, paid attention, and corrected their mistakes; they liked being there, and they believed that the teacher cared about them.

In the next classroom, the very same kids reported that the teacher had trouble explaining things and didn’t notice when students failed to understand a lesson.

Students were better than trained adult observers at evaluating teachers. This wasn’t because they were smarter but because they had months to form an opinion, as opposed to 30 minutes. And there were dozens of them, as opposed to a single principal. Even if one kid had a grudge against a teacher or just blew off the survey, his response alone couldn’t sway the average.

Student feedback is important and in many ways more authentic than feedback from peers or administration. A colleague or superior may sit in on your class occasionally, but the students are there every day, and have a lot more data and experience they could share.

Overall, I think teachers have an incredibly challenging, rewarding and important job to do. I think that teachers should be evaluated with that understanding in a holistic way, as described in this blog, that also includes student voice.

Talking about Children.

Developing partnerships with parents and guardians is a critical factor in promoting student learning. Positive relationships with parents can be developed by reaching out to them to introduce yourself early in the school year.

Following up with them to provide positive feedback on their children’s performance begins to develop trust. Working together requires teachers to listen to parents and collaborate on strategies that support student learning. Periodically throughout the school year, teachers should meet with parents to discuss the academic and social development of their children.

As a rule of thumb:
1. Be specific with material that student is struggling with.
2. Be inviting with your tone.
3. Already have a relationship with parent.
4. Have the student’s work available for viewing.
5. Have others present if you are expecting trouble.
6. Sit on the same side as the parent.

At Parent Teacher Conferences, start by telling the positives. Then, tell the problem areas and next steps leading to solutions.

Sitting on the same side as the parent is important because it seems less adversarial and more cooperative.

Click here for a Flipsnack on this topic.


ASCD Express 612 – Tips for New Teachers: Making the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences. (2016). Ascd.org. Retrieved 2 October 2016, from http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol6/612-wilson.aspx

Clark, M. & Smitherman, D. (2012). Communicating Achievement Test Results with Parents (1st ed.). Retrieved from http://pdp.acsi.org/PDP/images/contentpageimages/TN%20Fall%202013%20Information/CSE16.3_CommunicatingAchievementTestResults.pdf

Davis, M. (2013). 5 Resources for Parent-Teacher Conferences. Edutopia. Retrieved 2 October 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/parent-teacher-conference-resources-matt-davis

Education World: Tips for Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences. (2016). Educationworld.com. Retrieved 2 October 2016, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/successful_parent_teacher_conferences.shtml

Parent-Teacher Conferences. (2016). NEA. Retrieved 2 October 2016, from http://www.nea.org/tools/parent-teacher-conferences.html

Parent-Teacher Conferences: Before, During, and After. (2016). TeacherVision. Retrieved 2 October 2016, from https://www.teachervision.com/new-teacher/teaching-methods/48464.html

Parent-Teacher Conferences: Tips for Teachers. (2016). Kidshealth.org. Retrieved 2 October 2016, from http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/parent-conferences.html?WT.ac=ctg#

The secret to comparing schools based on test scores. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.greatschools.org/gk/videos/school-test-scores-video/

Praising students and the growth mindset.

Studying Carol Dweck`s (her site) work recently and I came across this video.

Research evidence shows that praising students for their effort rather than their intelligence can either make or break a child`s development.

Quality feedback is one of the most important tools a teacher can use to help student learn. To be a powerful tool, the feedback will need to be specific and provide students information about how they are doing at reaching a goal. According to assessment guru, Grant Wiggins (2012), the most effective feedback is “goal-referenced; tangible and transparent; actionable; user-friendly (specific and personalized); timely; ongoing; and consistent”(1). For explanations and examples of effective feedback, read the Wiggins’ article online at ASCD’s website (www.ascd.org).

(Quote from Wiggins, G. (2012, September). Seven keys to effective feedback. Educational Leadership, 70(1): 20-16)

Check out my storyboard on feedback.



What do our students already know?

Pre-Assessment for Differentiation

My pre-assessment was developed using Kahoot. For a link to the Quiz, please follow this link.

It is a 21 question multiple choice quiz on safety. This was written to establish which students understand the fundamentals of keeping safe both on the commute to / from school and whilst at school. This connects to a larger Project Based Unit on Safety, incorporating the standard:

Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.

One of the objectives is for students to discuss safety issues and create ways to prevent dangerous situations from occurring using their senses and present their ideas.

For the mindmap that outlines an innovative differentiation strategy for students at three levels of academic readiness and identifies assessments for tracking those students learning please follow this link.



Testing: are the stakes too high?

What is High Stakes testing?

Often, in many schools, student learning is measured on an annual basis.

Increasingly, in many places in the USA, student performance on these assessments can be tied to the evaluation of teacher effectiveness. However, there is conflicting evidence about the effect that high stakes assessments is having on student and teacher creativity and motivation.

My school, as compared to a typical American Elementary School

Many schools in the US have adopted assessments that are created for the Common Core and Advanced Placement (AP).International schools often use AP, the Cambridge system, and/or assessments created for International Baccalaureate (IB) curricula (among others). The results of these tests are often used to determine whether students should be promoted to the next grade and/or graduate from school. Assessments are also used to place students in levels of RTI when they need extra support.

 Schools may also use the results of high stakes exams to show grade level and school improvement. Assessments like the SAT and ACT are used for college entrance while TIMSS (i.e., Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and PISA (i.e., Programme for International Student Assessment) are used for international achievement comparisons.

Our School has recently discussed a number of areas for improvement and we are in the process of improving how and what we assess. In the report “Appropriate Use of High-Stakes Testing in Our Nation’s Schools” by the American Psychological Association (APA), it states, “Measuring what and how well students learn is an important building block in the process of strengthening and improving our nation’s schools.” (APA, 2010).

However, I hope that, at our school, we implement more than simple standardized tests, like High Stakes testing, so as to not put undue pressure on our students.

At my school, in Kyoto, teachers and students are rarely evaluated using high stakes testing. The use of standardized testing is limited to the Eiken Test (which is voluntary) and, at the end of Elementary school, Junior high entrance exams. The student`s receive a report card every term, which contains grades and comments for every subject`s criteria. So, in terms of high stakes testing, our teachers and students experience relatively little when compared to typical American public school.

Our school seeking improvement in our assessment practices is a very positive step. As suggested in this video, “The secret to comparing schools based on test scores“, signs of improvement are important when evaluating a school. It also suggest that test scores from High Stakes tests are not the only indicator of teachers and students performance.

Indeed, groups like The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) are seeking to replace High Stakes Tests altogether. PARCC is a group of states working together to develop a modern assessment that replaces previous state standardized tests. Groups like the  Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium seek to change assessment and gain a more holistic understanding of children, instead of a narrow focus on literacy and numeracy. At my school, we teachers are able to teach with more freedom as opposed to having to “teach to the test”

Implications of High Stakes testing and its effect on teaching.

  • In America, a majority of state and district officials report that NCLB (No Child Left Behind) testing requirements have led them to increase time for math and reading and reduce time for other subjects. Some view this as a negative while others see it as a positive move to help low-achieving students. (Center on Education Policy, 2006)
  • Teachers report contradictory effects of testing in their classrooms. While a large majority of teachers—79 percent—believe testing will have a negative impact on instruction, a similarly large majority—73 percent—said it has not affected their own teaching (Public Agenda, 2003). [View chart]

Does Instruction Affect The Results On High-Stakes Tests?

  • Teaching to the test can be good or bad: good if it means teaching a focused and aligned curriculum; bad if it reduces instruction to the memorization of test items (Popham, 2001; Baker, 2004).
  • New empirical studies show that given the right conditions, high-stakes testing can increase student learning.  They indicate that teachers can both prepare students for tests and for deep understanding  (Langer 2001, Greene, et al., 2003, Yeh, 2005, Williams, et al. 2005).
  • Aligning the curriculum to state standards combined with using test results to inform instruction will produce higher test scores than focusing on test-taking skills (Langer, 2001; Yeh, 2005; Williams, Kirst, & Haertel, 2005).

Will more High Stakes testing mean more pressure?

Another worrying aspect of high stakes testing is the pressure it can put on students, which can lead to low morale. Last year, suicide was the leading cause of death for Japanese children between the ages of 10 and 19. Among teens and young adults ages 10–24, there are roughly 4,600 suicide deaths in each year, and another 157,000 instances of hospitalization for self-inflicted injuries. According to research by Hokkaido University professor Kenzo Denda, 1 in 12 Japanese elementary school-aged children, and 1 in 4 junior high school students suffer from clinical depression.

Japan`s perennially high performance in PISA, suggests that we are doing quite well with few high stakes tests. ( Japan`s performance in the OECD`s PISA test is detailed in my infographic).

South Korea prides itself in the academic achievement. The country’s 15-year-olds have the highest reading scores among developed countries, they rank third in proficiency in science and mathematics, and more than 80 percent of them will go to college. The glowing statistics, however, have a dark side: Korea’s youth has one of the highest suicide rates. Suicide, in fact, is the leading cause of death among Koreans aged 15 to 24.

Youth suicide is on the rise in modernising India. In south India, where literacy rates, incomes are the highest, suicide rates are 10 times higher than in northern states, according to a study published in The Lancet medical journal in 2012. I wonder how much expectations of academic success in south India contribute to this.

So, in analyzing the information on high stakes testing, we have to ask ourselves 2 questions:

Is more high stakes testing something Japan needs?

How great are the risks to our students` mental health?

The etymology of “high stakes” stems from the world of gambling, and given the already high standards of achievement of Japanese students and the very sad suicide statistics, I have to wonder if high stakes tests are really worth the gamble.


(2016). Wilsonquarterly.com. Retrieved 17 September 2016, from http://wilsonquarterly.com/stories/the-mystery-behind-japans-high-suicide-rates-among-kids/

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