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   American students, as a whole, are smarter than they ever have been, based on the gold standard National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). This assessment began in 1971. Forty years later, our students are scoring as high, or higher in every category. Moreover, black students have made gains at a much faster rate than white students. The gap is closing. You can browse the executive summary HERE, or read the summary report HERE.

    Make no mistake, we have a shameful achievement gap. We need to get better at teaching and educating as a whole society. We need to do this because it is the right thing to do. We need to do this because it will make our country stronger. We need to get better because all kids can and should get a world class education. However, we don't need to do this because somehow we are losing our competitive edge.

   If you believed popular culture and the latest education deformers, you would think that no American education has gotten worse over the last forty years. You would have to think the achievement gap has increased. For example, Michelle Rhee and the A.L.E.C. aligned StudentsFirst released a despicable ad analogizing our education system with an obese, effeminate Olympic athlete. It was offensive on a myriad of levels. Just like the Olympics, the most obese nation in the world needs to improve its athleticism, but that doesn't mean we are not competitive. Heck, I am pretty sure we crushed the field.

     The bottom line is that the education deformers narrative is divisive and dishonest. It is a misrepresentation of the real landscape. We need to be honest about our weaknesses, and address them aggressively. It is not helpful to distort the entire system, tear down all of public education, and savage teachers in order to address our gaps. We will never stop trying to help ALL students get smarter. We can never quit until ALL students achieve at high levels. Supporting education, teachers, and students as a whole community is the way to do it. Burning the entire village to save it is certainly bold. Michelle Rhee, StudentsFirst, and A.L.E.C. are bold in this way. You can go with bold, or you can go with smart.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I believe that the achievement gap is decreasing (4+ / 0-)

    That make sense.

    I find it hard to buy the notion that kids are getting smarter.  Depth of knowledge is unquestionably decreasing.  And if intelligence is measured by testing outcomes--it stands to reason that educational systems geared towards passing tests will result in higher grades on these tests.

    However--I work with enough kids to see things like this:

    Students have rapidly declining number sense, but more are enrolled in (and passing) higher math classes.  They also don't know what they're doing, but they know what buttons to push on a calculator.  They believe that they will never use any of these skills again, so they don't try.

    Students are fine with the standard formula for narrative and persuasive essays. (intro, support 1-2-3, conclusion).  They know WHAT a thesis statement and a topic sentence are.  They can, at least with reasonable command of the English language, generally score a B.  However, even for bright students, their writing is generally mediocre.

    Students are fine KNOWING how to read.  However their comprehension skills at higher levels is generally sub-par.

    And finally, students--because of the information revolution--know where to go for basic research information. (hint: wikipedia and maybe 1 or 2 references).  They know not to plagiarize, so they know how to be careful.  But they don't know HOW to research.  And we see this in the new crop of journalists in our media as well--quick pool reporting to get (often incorrect) information out, rather than rigorous investigation.

    So no--I don't think kids are getting smarter at all.  I think the education system is really problematic--and it doesn't really measure anything.

    •  Press are Corporations, You Can't Tell Anything (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      intrinsic about a corporation's workers by observing their behavior on the job. They're not free agents.

      News corporations under our system have the job of promoting the corporate agenda, and their private Bill of Rights freedom exempts them from obligation or content restraint.

      The job of any corporation is to obtain its raw materials at the cheapest possible cost, add the minimum value the market will accept, and distribute at the highest possible profit. Serious investigation costs the corporation labor money and risks alienating sponsorship money. Annoying government cuts off cheap access to that line of news.

      It wouldn't matter how well trained and objective a journalist is, except that if they strive to practice serious journalism they wouldn't be hired in the first place. This particular issue has nothing to do with education.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 09:32:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't disagree with the crux of your argument (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        stevej, dewley notid

        and it was just one (probably somewhat throw-away) example--

        But I DO think that the shift from research to access is a deep cultural shift that does ultimately impact journalism and journalistic integrity, and the current educational system does very little to buck that trend--although I think it could.

        •  For sure, and that is an entire series of posts!! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          In 2000 Bushie released the report "A Nation Online", and considered the problem of information literacy solved because the physical infrastructure was there. However, the poor and underprivileged were most likely to use technology to access games and movies, while the more affluent were more likely to use it to access government services or quality of life enhancement services.

          Access does not equal literacy. It's worse because we think one solves the other. Huge problem.

    •  I think we have a romaticized view of yesterday (0+ / 0-)

      I think, if we do not quit this incessant focus on testing we will lose our critical thinking skills and creativity. That is a risk, and maybe an inevitability.

      However, most policy makers, educators, and educational leaders were successful in the traditional model of school. What they don't realize is that they were the top of the curve. Your experience in school was probably not the norm. Like most leaders, you probably have a romanticized view of how education used to be based on your own experience.

      truth is, most kids hate math or have math phobias or resistnce, and that has been true since Ugghh scratched tally marks on the cave wall.

      •  in addition... (0+ / 0-)

        the deformers "reform" involves a return to those traditional and back to basics methods that worked so well for them, and protected their place in society.

        the ironic thing about Students First and ALEC is that their reforms are actually a regressive return to methods that only helped those at the top of the curve.

      •  agree with part A--not part B. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sunny skies, historys mysteries

        Yes--my educational background was different--I'm from an upper middle class family, and we luckily lived in one of the top educational counties in the country, and I was involved in g/t programs and the like.  So you're right about the romanticized lens.

        I don't buy the idea that most kids hate math or have math phobias--they just think they do.  Since I've been tutoring math, the number of students who come to me and say 'I don't get it--and I don't care' is astounding...once I'm through with them, many of them do get it--and a lot of them do recognize the importance of math.  Math isn't integrated at all in our curriculum, and numerancy has gone out the window with the ubiquity of calculators even in the younger grades (I'm going to write a piece on that, but haven't gotten around to it).  Lose out on numerancy early on, and your math comprehension is pretty much out the window.  But even then, you can still get a good grade on a test wihtout knowing what the hell you're doing.  That's the problem.

  •  but can they spell? nt (9+ / 0-)

    "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

    by eXtina on Sat Aug 18, 2012 at 09:22:27 AM PDT

  •  Every generation thinks the new one is full of (0+ / 0-)

    idiots and it just isn't true. The type of knowledge people have changes because of what they need to know. Do kids know a lot of classic literature or how to conjugate Latin verbs or write in nice cursive? No. However, if I give my students a new piece of technology--like my phone---they can figure it out in a heartbeat, change my ringtone to something more pleasing, and show me how to turn it into a hotspot from which they can use the internet to find out a lot of what they need to know.
    It is probably true that in many ways American culture is becoming coarser and sometimes I have nightmares that the movie Idiocracy is coming true, but for the most part I see my students figuring it out and using their potential despite our corporate overlords pushing dumb on us at every turn.

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