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It’s ERIC!


Last week, we talked about the importance of data gathering starting on day 1 of a class.  Grading exams is not simply writing a percentage down on the first page and circling it. “High stakes” assessments should be broken down into smaller items, allowing us to assess various skills to more effectively remediate student weaknesses. Using Excel filters makes item analysis easier.  Here’s my most recent assessment, a midterm for a shop math class I am teaching.

And more importantly, the item analysis of that assessment.

The spreadsheet allow includes a histogram, homework grades, and TABE test scores that each student took prior to being admitted to the class.


As a warmup for this class, make sure you are logged in, and post your comments below to the following questions:

  1. Did the TABE and Midterm produce consistent results?  If so, where there any exceptions (students who did well one one test but not the other)?
  2. Did the homework scores add anything to understanding student scores?
  3. If I need to have a reteach class on items assessed on the midterm, which items should be retaught?
  4. Based on the histogram, describe the “diversification” of student math skills in the class.
  5. How should I address student successes and deficiencies moving towards the final?

Your comment should begin, “Question #___:”.

If you finish early, you can upload your seating charts and log (Homework #1). The following Instructions link will explain all of the computer techniques needed to upload your assignments for this class.

“But I Googled it!”

Google bombing” is the easiest way to observe how search engine results can be manipulated to questions as simple as finding a picture of Michelle Obama. The following websites came up in various Internet searches I was using:

Many world leaders have fallen victim to a Google bomb. Sarah Palin groupies have been documented skewing Wikipedia’s Paul Revere page.  Even a public event like the 2010 World Soccer Cup, can be revised to present biases opinions as objective facts. Until a semantic, Web 3.0 is built, educators should start with particular, well-designed websites specifically serving educational needs.  The best place online for education research is the the Education Resources Information Center.

It’s ERIC!

Maintained by the Institute of Education Sciences, funded by the Department of Education, ERIC is the world’s largest and most frequently used education digital library, composed of more than 1.4 million bibliographic records dating back half a century.  In the last couple of years, however, most of its online resources have been segregated offline, and it is likely that most of those rich resources will never see the light of day again.  At its heart is a “controlled vocabulary” index that contains concepts actually found in the literature of the database.  These concepts are called Descriptors and are listed within the ERIC Thesaurus.

It's ERIC!

Besides Descriptor terms, the ERIC Thesaurus is framed by the following structures:

  • Leveling Descriptors
  • Publication Types
  • Group Codes
  • Hierarchical Relationships (Broader/Narrower)
  • Boolean Operators (OR, NOT, AND)
  • Identifiers

The Thesaurus of ERIC Descriptors is the lexicon ERIC uses to translate ordinary language into a controlled language, using index rules to catalog published and unpublished articles submitted to ERIC. So beware!  You can’t just google ERIC and expect a lesson plan gem to appear on the top 10 search results.  You have to use a structured, semantic search strategy to get anything good from ERIC.

Let’s look at the handouts, and see how a ERIC search works.

Once you find something in ERIC that you would like to teach in your classroom, you need to align the instruction to state educational standards, called the “Regents.”

Swimming in the Standards

Regents Notes

In New York, educational authority lies in the hands of the Board of Regents.  Its history dates back centuries.  The official entity, “Regents of the University of the State of New York,” was created by the legislature in 1784 and it is America’s oldest continuous educational agency.   Its power to inspect all New York schools dates back to a bill submitted by Alexander Hamilton in 1787.  Very early on, how and what students would be taught was established at the state, not local, level.  The justification for this decision was in part based upon the fact that in the early days of scientific investigation, it was easy for a self-professed teacher of chemistry to show up in a municipality, show off a few magic tricks, and disappear into the night with his school paycheck, the students learning nothing about the real science of chemistry.  Therefore, mandating at a state level what will be taught in schools helped prevent unknowledgeble municipal supervisors from hiring people who didn’t have content mastery of the required subjects.

The bottom line is that you can’t teach anything you want in the classroom, you have to make sure that the information you wish to convey to your students is state sanctioned.  Otherwise you could lose your job, period.

Let’s look at an example of a science lesson plan, aligned to state and national standards. Even though state standards are the final word in determining what you can and cannot teach in a NYC classroom, federal standards are slowly encroaching, due to strings attached to the disbursement of federal monies into state school districts.  Let’s look at how this PBS Nature lesson plan is set up.

After a list of objectives is a description of the National Science standards that are aligned to the lesson. Next are the New York State Living Environmental standards.  New York State Core Curricula is organized into outlines that include “Standards,” which are broad summaries of the general topics that are explored over a semester, “Key Ideas,” which are parts or phrases of a Standard that offer more detailed explanation, “Performance Indicators,” which can be covered over a couple of classes, and “Major Understandings,” which offer examples of model lessons.  So for example, this lesson addresses the

  • New York State Living Environment Core Curriculum,
  • Standard 4
  • Key Idea 1
  • Performance Indicator 1.1
  • Major Understanding a

or in code format, LE S4 KI1 PI 1.1a.  Or even more simply, LE 1.1a.

Science Standards

Ele. Sci. S4 LE 3.1a

Whenever you’re “aligning standards,” what you’re doing is looking for pieces of text in a standards curriculum that sound like what you what to do in the lesson.  If you can’t find any pieces, the odds are the lesson you want to do in the class isn’t sanctioned by the state.  For example, can we have a lesson about the birth of a baby in an elementary science class?  Looking in the Elementary Science Curriculum, for mention of “reproduction,” we can see that

  • Standard 4, “Living Environment,”
  • Key Idea 3, “Individual organisms and species change over time.”
  • Performance Indicator 1, “Describe how the structures of plants and animals complement the environment of the plant or animal,”
  • Major Understanding a, “Each animal has different structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, and reproduction.”

The NY K-6 Science Core Curriculum, specifically S4 KI3 PI1a, or LE 3.1a makes no mention of human reproductive structures, only “plants or animals.”  Therefore, a lesson about human reproduction is not appropriate in a K-6 science class setting, pursuant state Regent education standards.

Given all the battles going on over education standards these days, teachers need to use technology to access online materials and aligned standards to make sure what they are teaching in the classroom is what their supervisors expect them to teach.  Doing this process yourself will protect you from all of the nonsense surrounding “standards.”  So long as you do the heavy lifting, finding worthwhile online educational materials, and aligning them to well established standards, you can protect yourself from outsiders who think they know more about teaching than you do.

Homework #2

  1. Use ERIC to find some curriculum/lesson plans/instructional materials about a lesson you would like to do in your classroom.  Fill out the ERIC search form, documenting the Primary Descriptor, Leveling Descriptor and Publication Types used to narrow your search.  Make sure to writing down the ERIC number for the document  (ED######)
    NOTE: Only choose a ‘Full Text’ article, one that you can actually read.
  2. Read the ERIC article! Choose a lesson in the article that you would like to use in your classroom.
  3. Align your lesson to Regents, NYC and if possible Common Core and National standards, using the links on the left side of this page.
  4. In your log, explain how you found your ERIC article, including the Descriptors chosen, ERIC number and grade level.  Also include which state/city/national/common core standards are aligned to the educational materials in the ERIC article