Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Driving Over Dooley by Bob Valiant

February 25, 2004

It was a warm summer day in 1951. The car was a 1938 Chevy and the road was the worst in our area. Seven miles of gravel with hairpin turns, no guardrail and a long way down. Alton said, “You drive.” It was my first time behind the wheel.


Teaching for Thinking by Bob Valiant

November 7, 2003


Several years ago I wrote (but did not publish) the following. Having recently rediscovered the manuscript, I thought it not only still fits, but may even be more appropriate today. For related articles go to the Topic “What’s Hot” and look for 21st Century Basic Skills and Higher Level Thinking or read “Higher-Level Thinking Skills” above.


Reform reports by prestigious “blue ribbon” committees, business round tables, economic development councils, and educators from around the world agree that to live successfully in the 21st Century will require citizens to be able to obtain, manipulate, and apply information. That is to say, they will need to use higher level thinking skills. The trouble is…

Solutions for Overcrowding

October 16, 2003



There are times when a district has a school housing emergency and needs space RIGHT NOW. At other times the need is developing rapidly or the district might not have the resources to build new or purchase portable classrooms. The purpose of this interactive article is to identify options and to assist in the planning processes required to implement the desired options. We will begin with some of the alternatives identified in the literature and expand to those innovative ideas being tried by practitioners in the field.


What is Your Life Score? by Bob Valiant

July 3, 2003

Ed news is dominated these days by testing and test scores. Articles abound promoting testing as an important school/teacher accountability measure with a recent backlash surge of items lamenting high-stakes testing and its impact on student drop out rates, etc.

At VALIANT, etc. we care little about test scores (other than as an indicator of a sample of the student’s knowledge and as a guide to further instruction) and are more concerned with what we call “Life Scores.” A high life score indicates that a person can cope with the things life presents at various stages of development. The individual knows how to confront the problems that arrive on a day-to-day basis, has a plan for learning the new things that will help them grow in a desired direction, and so forth. Others have called an education leading to the knowledge and skills required to achieve a high life score a “liberating education.” We advocate this type of education and are constantly on the lookout for instructional techniques and curriculum that promote it.

Higher Level Thinking: A Learner’s Perspective

January 26, 2003


Life is full of situations that require each of us to solve problems, make decisions, and deal with issues. This is true both in the workplace and in the rest of our lives. Such has been the case since the dawn of time but as the world has become more complex the demand on our intellect has increased immeasurably.

The problem is this: School programs are currently marginalizing higher order aspects of intellectual development. “Higher standards” translates to more standards, often of a trivial nature. Proponents argue that their standards include the higher order thinking skills called for here, but close examination reveals that low-level skills dominate the lists. Further, our classroom visits and discussions with teachers indicate the time spent is shifted far in the direction of rote memorization of content.


Site-Based School Improvement

November 16, 2002

School-based improvement, sometimes called site-based management or school-based management, has been actively promoted as a means to improve the quality of schools, but there is little research to support the efficacy of the intervention. After working with schools to implement innovations over a period of several years the author has come to the conclusion that a systems approach is required if real change is to be sustained. The present study reviewed literature in both educational change and site-based management to identify key factors that must be managed to to effect the reform. The prominent factors were grouped into Enabling Conditions, Implementation Considerations, and Capacity-Building Components (as adapted from the work of Noble). It should be emphasized that the factors identified here received prominent attention in the literature but may only be representative of a broader range of conditions that may not as yet be identified. A brief description of each of the identified factors follows.


21st Century Basic Skills

November 8, 2002

Living and working in the modern world is becoming increasingly complex. The basic skills of learning that have become part of the enculturation of our children and have enabled the general population to find and hold jobs, make a comfortable home, and follow individual interests, limit the horizons of those trying to make sense of this far more complex environment. Not only are new basics required, but new modes of delivery are needed to teach these skills to both the youth entering the system and to adults who need the skills but have not been adequately prepared. This article will focus on the new skills and on research that gives us clues as to what types of learning activities are most appropriate for learning these skills. (more…)

Recognizing Propaganda

October 31, 2002

Everyone living in the world today is bombarded with messages regarding what to buy, whom to believe, how to behave, etc. These messages come from advertisers, politicians, friends, and the media but they all have something in common. They contain information that may, or may not, be factual. Whether the signal is from a clearly partisan source or from a self-anointed “no-spin zone”, let the receiver beware.

Longitudinal Effects of the Washington State Assessment of Student Learning

September 18, 2002


Is There Any Longitudinal Effect of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) on Student Achievement? That’s the question asked in a recent study by Dr. Donald Orlich of the Science Mathematics Engineering Education Center at Washington State University.

Dr. Orlich states:

An accountability conundrum has emerged due to the passage of the “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001” in January 2002. States are now forced by federal law to show student adequate yearly progress targets, which will be met through high-stakes testing.

But the study conducted by Dr. Orlich calls to question the effectiveness and cost of the WASL in increasing the achievement of students in Washington. Read an on-line version of the study here

Responses to Growing Your Child’s Brain

September 1, 2002

Several people have responded to the article “Growing Your Child’s Brain.” We include here one response from a former student of Bob Valiant, Kristine Ellingson, who has had an extremely successful career in jewelry design and management, She now lives in the Yucatan where she and her husband operate a new Bed and Breakfast as well as other business interests. We remember her as a bright, hardworking student who always looked at things from a variety of angles and wouldn’t stand for “pat” answers. The second response is from a long-time teacher in the Kennewick, Washington School District, Dennis Sandmeier, who is a friend and colleague of Dr. Valiant. He is the kind of teacher we seek out for advice when tough decisions need to be made. As you will see, he thinks deeply about what he does professionally.