“COMMENTS ON EDUCATION“
September 24, 2014
A couple of times each year, I use this blog to share some especially interesting articles on education. Today, you’ll find two that were published late this summer. I certainly recommend these articles to you and not just the selections I have included.
In a WASHINGTON POST article by Valerie Strauss, “What 4 Teachers Told Obama Over Lunch,” we find the positions they advocated:
1. “There’s nothing wrong with the kids.”
. . . (Students) who walk into the classroom with greater challenges than more affluent students, are not the obstacle to attracting skilled teachers to high-poverty schools. They’re the motivation.
2. “Responsibility and delight can co-exist.”
The No Child Left Behind era still taints the system at every level. The creativity, curiosity, and sense of wonder that make students such a joy to teach have been stripped from students’ experience at school, particularly in low-income schools desperate to raise test scores.
In place of literature, science experiments, and engineering design challenges, students in these schools often receive scripted curricula, test prep booklets, and worksheets. Drudgery has been substituted for rigor.
. . . Passing poorly designed tests will not give them greater knowledge, skills to succeed in college and careers, or the opportunity to lead a meaningful life. . . .
3. “It’s not about good and bad teachers. It’s about good and bad teaching.”
. . . Yes, we want to recruit talented new teachers who walk in the door with high potential for perseverance, intelligence, and compassion. But we don’t need to swap out all the bad and mediocre teachers for better teachers, anymore than we should swap out our struggling students for more advanced students. We need to build systems that support every teacher willing to put in the work it takes to move from novice to competent, competent to excellent, and beyond.
4. “If we want students to innovate, collaborate, and solve real-world problems, we need to make it possible for teachers to do those same things.”
. . . The working conditions that matter most to teachers in Generation X and Y have to do with intangibles like autonomy, collaboration time, and the potential for innovation. Scripted curricula, test prep, and micro-management are anathema to that kind of school culture, and they have a devastating effect on both teacher recruitment and retention. . . .
There’s nothing wrong with the kids. There is plenty wrong with the system—but none of it is inevitable. . . .
And, from an article in SALON by Lindsay Abrams, “Neil deGrasse Tyson exclusive: “I don’t know what kind of democracy that is, if you’re gonna cherry-pick … science because it conflicts with your philosophy”
“ . . . I just don’t ever want a teacher to put the blame of a student not learning on the student. You’re not there to just put up a lesson plan and hope that they follow it. You are if you’re a college professor, because people are paying big money to attend the school, and if they flunk out, it’s not your problem. But in the public schools, I think we should measure teachers by how much improvement their efforts bring about in the progress of students. Not by how many straight-A students they might put forth as a display of the excellence of their educational talent. A straight-A student gets straight As because the teaching talent of the teacher is irrelevant. That’s what straight As means. It means you got an A in every class you took — and that’s only possible if the variation in the teaching skills in the teachers of each of those classes is irrelevant to you. You perform no matter how good or bad the teacher is. So the least illuminating student you can put on display at your school are the straight-A students. The one who is the greatest display of whether or not you’re a good teacher is the student who was flunking but is now maybe getting a C. Or the student who was getting a C and now is getting a B+ because of your intervention as teacher, because of your effort to think about how that student learns relative to someone else.”
Both of these articles provide substantive food for thought. If you can, I hope you find the time to read them.
More on Monday – – – – –
— Bill Walton, co-Founder, ITC Learning
www.itclearning.com/blog/ (Mondays & Wednesdays)
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