Thursday, March 04, 2010

The fired this time -- teaching or perishing in the USA

An entire school of teachers fired in Rhode Island because of low test scores. This is what seems to pass for educational reform these days -- blame the teachers. Or shut down the schools you don't think are doing well enough and start new ones. Or pay more to teachers who manage to make their kids -- by hook or by crook -- score a bit higher on a standardized test.

So, amid all this craziness, I was cheered to read this New York Times article. It's about people who are taking a different tack -- instead of blaming teachers, they're looking for ways to help them become better teachers. They're doing this by studying the one thing in education no one, if you can believe it, seems to think is worth studying anymore -- how kids actually learn (and how teachers can address that). The article gives an example about learning and teaching math:

It’s one thing to know that 307 minus 168 equals 139; it is another thing to be able understand why a third grader might think that 261 is the right answer. Mathematicians need to understand a problem only for themselves; math teachers need both to know the math and to know how 30 different minds might understand (or misunderstand) it.

The counterproductive overfocus on standardized test scores -- and the related overfocus on so-called basics like math and reading at the expense of art, history, literature and critical thinking -- is also brought to mind by the about face of education historian, and former darling of the Conservative pundits, Diane Ravitch. She now thinks the standardized testing championed by George Bush's No Child Left Behind act is counterproductive.

Maybe the times are changing!

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