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View Diary: On "Reform" and the "Public" in Education (6 comments)

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  •  Angst leading to conviction (0+ / 0-)

    that there is a need for reform comes, from my perspective, from four main areas of concern:

    Parents' observation that their children are not acquiring basic skills, especially in reading, math and knowledge of history;

    The Achievement Gap, as reported to the public, indicating lower income students in America persistently score below proficiency in basic skills;

    Colleges and universities having to provide remedial courses in reading and math to roughly half the incoming freshmen in their schools, indicating students are graduating with grades suggesting they have prepared for college level work while their skills are below that level;

    International tests of basic skills and knowledge in which American students score relatively poorly.

    For myself, parents' observations are the most important of these concerns. There's no way to misinterpret an observation that your child is struggling with very basic things, especially if you know those things are teachable.

    The international tests don't interest me per se, except that they demonstrate that basic skills are teachable, even in a democracy.

    The college preparedness issue is stunning and probably not fixable for the students who have been so fraudulently undereducated by their districts, but it's an important factor, especially about grade inflation and social promotion along with the failure to provide knowledge and skills.

    The Achievement Gap is a truly mysterious issue for me, not because I don't see the ability of higher income parents to provide tutoring, to benefit from what you point out, that wealthier districts have more experienced teachers, or at this point in time the cumulative effect of wealthier parents having themselves received a better education, some of which they can provide to their children at home. I see that.

    What boggles my mind about the Achievement Gap is that after reading Diane Ravitch's documentation that districts all over the country game the test score system, changing what constitutes "proficient" to suit their expensive but failing teaching methods, I wonder why they just don't just give everyone an "A" and leave it at that.

    Clearly, if half the college freshmen require remedial reading and math, we don't even know what the term "proficient" has come to mean during this period of questionable teaching methods. What I suspect is that parents' observation is the truth, that their children are being ill-served and that there is a need for reform. I have come to believe that the Achievement Gap is a way of distracting our attention, which is to say, the taxpayer's, attention, from failing schools and instead placing it on poverty. The truth may be that American children at all income levels are receiving an inadequate education and that scores demonstrating an Achievement Gap just point that low income families have fewer means with which to overcome failed teaching methods in the public schools.

    •  The college preparedness issue (0+ / 0-)

      has been bemoaned by college professors for at least 100 years.

      There is no golden age of education in our past where things were better than today. By any objective measure, we are doing better by all our students - both the most gifted and the least, the richest and the poorest - than we ever have. We expect far more academic achievement today than we ever have.

      It's just not good enough. (And it can always be better.) There is still more to be done. We have issues of equity.

      The biggest issue in equity is poverty, and all the disadvantages it creates. 25% of American kids live in poverty - that's around $22,000 or less for a family of 4. Those kids do not do well in our system. But their issues need to be addressed in ways other than different curriculum or any of the other "reforms" typically proposed. The kids need a safe, quiet place to sleep, read, and study; they need access to health care; they need reliable meals; they need time to study and read instead of babysitting their younger siblings.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Tue Oct 02, 2012 at 12:15:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I disagree with your statement, (0+ / 0-)
        By any objective measure, we are doing better by all our students - both the most gifted and the least, the richest and the poorest - than we ever have. We expect far more academic achievement today than we ever have.
        I have not seen any objective or even non-objective measure that shows we are doing better by our students. Even the advocates of the teaching methods being scrutinized and challenged with reform attribute their failure to poverty and to teachers not being trained well enough to implement these questionable methods, after decades of teacher education, training, conferences, workshops, purchases of materials and leveled libraries, school specialists, and advocacy. We're still working on how to implement this methodology thirty years out.

        My interest in this controversy started with hearing about it from parents and then from teachers. My reading about it has included the work of Hung-Hsi Wu, emeritus professor of math at U.C. Berkeley, whose interest in the problem of incoming students unprepared for calculus led him to study math teaching methods in public schools. His study of this problem is consistently respectful of the designers of these methods, always attributing to them the best of good intentions for the well being of students. But in one of his publications he describes the notice he had to give to his students before test-taking, that if he couldn't understand their writing, if they didn't identify an answer, even if they happened to mention the correct answer without identifying it as the correct answer, he could not give them credit. He mentioned this because so many of his incoming students, over the decade he was faced with this problem, would write incoherently about an array of possible ways of looking at math, without attempting to reach a correct answer.

        I realize that there are many educators who believe that this movement toward survey courses, as I call them, in which arrays of possible ways of looking at things are presented without work toward acquisition of skill, is a matter of doing better by students. I strongly disagree.

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