AlterNet.org: Marion Brady http://nonreligious.alternet.org/authors/marion-brady en One Mother's Story: How Overemphasis on Standardized Tests Caused Her 9-Year-Old to Try to Hang Himself http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/perils-standardized-tests <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">There are major costs to corporate-driven &quot;education reform.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/9608807888_97f5bb3e88_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>“…</em><em>I received a note from my son's teacher telling me he</em><em>’</em><em>d failed the FCAT [Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test] by one point. The note said he</em><em>’</em><em>d have to take a reading class over the summer and retest</em><em>…</em><em>We weren</em><em>’</em><em>t alarmed as he only had to score one more point to be promoted</em><em>…</em></p><p><em>“…</em><em>a few weeks later his teacher called. [My son] had failed the test, again by ONE point!</em></p><p><em>“…</em><em>I didn</em><em>’</em><em>t tell him, but the next day [he] told me he knew he</em><em>’</em><em>d failed because if he had passed we</em><em>’</em><em>d have been told by the school and be celebrating. I lied</em><em>—</em><em>told him it takes several days and we</em><em>’</em><em>d know soon, but he insisted he</em><em>’</em><em>d failed.</em></p><p><em>“</em><em>It was dinner time. I called down the hall and asked what he wanted to drink with dinner. No response. I figured he was watching television in his room and hadn</em><em>’</em><em>t heard. A few moments later I called again. Again, no response.</em></p><p><em>“</em><em>I can't tell you what it was that came over me, just that it was a sick feeling. I threw the hot pads I had in my hands on the counter and ran down the hall to [his] room, banged on the door and called his name. No response. I threw the door open. There was my perfect, nine- year-old freckled son with a belt around his neck hanging from a post on his bunk bed. His eyes were blank, his lips blue, his face emotionless. I don</em><em>’</em><em>t know how I had the strength to hoist him up and get the belt off but I did, then collapsed on the floor and held [him] as close to my heart as possible. There were no words. He didn</em><em>’</em><em>t speak and for the life of me I couldn</em><em>’</em><em>t either. I was physically unable to form words. I shook as I held him and felt his heart racing.</em></p><p><em>“</em><em>I</em><em>’</em><em>d saved [him]! No, not really</em><em>…</em><em>I saved him physically, but mentally he was gone</em><em>…</em><em>The next 18 months were terrible. It took him six months to make eye contact with me. He secluded himself from friends and family. He didn</em><em>’</em><em>t laugh for almost a year</em><em>…”</em></p><p>Her son had to repeat the third grade. That happened five years ago, and she says the damage continues: <em>“</em><em>Currently, [he] could be driving with a learner</em><em>’</em><em>s permit but he refuses. Why? Because</em><em>‘</em><em>eighth grade kids don't drive.</em><em>’</em> <em>If new friends saw him they</em><em>’</em><em>d know he</em><em>’</em><em>d failed a grade... Retention is repetitive and lasts a lifetime. It's never far from his mind, just as seeing him blue and hanging from his bunk bed sticks in mine.</em><em>”</em></p><p>For years, this story was a family secret. A mutual acquaintance, knowing from my Knight-Ridder/Tribune columns that I had repeatedly attacked the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test not just as a waste of time, money and human potential, but as child abuse, gave this mother my email address and suggested she write me. I met with the mother and child personally and can vouch for the fact that they do indeed exist.</p><p>If failing to reach the pass-fail cut score by just one point wasn’t within every standardized test’s margin of error; if research hadn’t established that for the young, retention in grade is as traumatic as fear of going blind or of a parent dying; if standardized tests provided timely, useful feedback that helped teachers decide what to do next; if billions of dollars that America’s chronically underfunded public schools need weren’t being diverted to the standardized testing industry and charter promotion; if a generation of test-and-punish schooling had moved the performance needle even a little; if today’s sneaky, corporately driven education “reform” effort wasn’t driven by blind faith in market ideology and an attempt to privatize public schooling; if test manufacturers didn’t publish guidelines for dealing with vomiting, pants-wetting and other evidences of test-taker trauma; if the Finns hadn’t demonstrated conclusively that fear-free schools, cooperation rather than competition, free play, a recess every hour in elementary school, and that letting educators alone could produce world-class test-takers—if, if, if—then I might cut business leaders and politicians responsible for the America’s current education train wreck a little slack.</p><p>But all of the above are demonstrably true. And yet we keep subjecting children to the same dangerous nonsense, year after year.</p><p>I’ve no doubt that at least some reformers sincerely believe that America’s schools should be privatized, that educators are unduly attached to the status quo, that unions are a serious problem, and that teachers resist change and must be pressured to perform. I’m sure some are sincere in their belief that the Common Core State Standards actually identify core knowledge, that standardized tests can evaluate complex thought processes, that the reforms they’re pushing, although painful, are essential and right, and that teachers can’t be trusted to judge learner performance.</p><p>But willful ignorance from an unwillingness to talk to experienced educators is unacceptable.</p><p>Given the money and power behind current corporately driven education policy, few tools for resisting are available. Of those tools, refusal to go along is both the moral and most effective choice. Thoughtful, caring parents won’t be bullied by test manufacturer propaganda or threats from those in Washington or state capitols who cling to the quaint notion that test-taking ability is a useful, marketable skill.</p><p>Parents, do the right thing for your children, your children’s children, and America: <a href="https://optoutorlando.wordpress.com/">Opt your kids out</a> of standardized tests. Join the <a href="http://networkforpubliceducation.org">Network for Public Education</a>, <a href="http://saveourschoolsmarch.org/">Save Our Schools</a>.</p> Mon, 01 Aug 2016 05:00:00 -0700 Marion Brady, AlterNet 1060836 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education testing standardized testing FCAT education elementary education Who's Behind the Devastating Movement to Privatize Public Schools? http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/whats-behind-devastating-movement-privatize-public-schools <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A primer for pundits and politicians on just how education reform works.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_173378648.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>When, about 30 years ago, corporate interests began their highly organized, well-funded effort to privatize public education, you wouldn’t have read or heard about it. They didn’t want to trigger the debate that such a radical change in an important institution warranted.</p><p>If, like most pundits and politicians, you’ve supported that campaign, it’s likely you’ve been snookered. Here’s a quick overview of the snookering process.</p><p><strong>The pitch</strong></p><p>Talking Points: (a) Standardized testing proves America’s schools are poor. (b) Other countries are eating our lunch. (c) Teachers deserve most of the blame. (d) The lazy ones need to be forced out by performance evaluations. (e) The dumb ones need scripts to read or “canned standards” telling them exactly what to teach. (f) The experienced ones are too set in their ways to change and should be replaced by fresh Five-Week-Wonders from Teach for America. (Bonus: Replacing experienced teachers saves a ton of money.) (g) Public (“government”) schools are a step down the slippery slope to socialism.</p><p><strong>Tactics</strong></p><p>Education establishment resistance to privatization is inevitable, so (a) avoid it as long as possible by blurring the lines between “public” and “private.” (b) Push school choice, vouchers, tax write-offs, tax credits, school-business partnerships, profit-driven charter chains. (c) When resistance comes, crank up fear with the, “They’re eating our lunch!” message. (d) Contribute generously to all potential resisters—academic publications, professional organizations, unions, and school support groups such as PTA. (e) Create fake “think tanks,” give them impressive names, and have them do “research” supporting privatization. (f) Encourage investment in teacher-replacer technology—internet access, iPads, virtual schooling, MOOCS, etc. (e) Pressure state legislators to make life easier for profit-seeking charter chains by taking approval decisions away from local boards and giving them to easier-to-lobby state-level bureaucrats. (g) Elect the “right” people at all levels of government. (When they’re campaigning, have them keep their privatizing agenda quiet.)</p><p><strong>Weapon</strong></p><p>If you’ll read the fine-print disclaimers on high-stakes standardized tests, you’ll see how grossly they’re being misused, but they’re the key to privatization. The general public, easily impressed by numbers and mathematical razzle-dazzle, believes competition is the key to quality, so want quality quantified even though it can’t be done. Machine-scored tests don’t measure quality. They rank.</p><p>It’s hard to rank unlike things so it’s necessary to standardize. That’s what the Common Core State Standards do. To get the job done quickly, Bill Gates picked up the tab, important politicians signed off on them, and teachers were handed them as a done deal.</p><p>The standards make testing and ranking a cinch. They also make making billions a cinch. Manufacturers can use the same questions for every state that has adopted the standards or facsimiles thereof.</p><p>If challenged, test fans often quote the late Dr. W. Edward Deming, the world-famous quality guru who showed Japanese companies how to build better stuff than anybody else. In his book, “The New Economics,” Deming wrote, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”</p><p>Here’s the whole sentence as he wrote it: “It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it — a costly myth.”</p><p><strong>Operating the weapon</strong></p><p>What’s turned standardized testing into a privatizing juggernaut are pass-fail “cut scores” set by politicians. Saying kids need to be challenged, they set the cut score high enough to fail many (sometimes most) kids. When the scores are published, they point to the high failure rate to “prove” public schools can’t do the job and should be closed or privatized. Clever, huh?</p><p>The privatizing machinery is in place. Left alone, it’ll gradually privatize most, but not all, public schools. Those that serve the poorest, the sickest, the handicapped, the most troubled, the most expensive to educate—those will stay in what’s left of the public schools.</p><p><strong>Weapon malfunction</strong></p><p>Look at standardized tests from the kids’ perspective. Test items (a) measure recall of secondhand, standardized, delivered information, or (b) require a skill to be demonstrated, or (c) reward an ability to second-guess whoever wrote the test item. Because kids didn’t ask for the information, because the skill they’re being asked to demonstrate rarely has immediate practical use, and because they don’t give a tinker’s dam what the test-item writer thinks, they have zero emotional investment in what’s being tested.</p><p>As every real teacher knows, no emotional involvement means no real learning. Period. What makes standardized tests look like they work is learner emotion, but it’s emotion that doesn’t have anything to do with learning. The ovals get penciled in to avoid trouble, to please somebody, to get a grade, or to jump through a bureaucratic hoop to be eligible to jump through another bureaucratic hoop. When the pencil is laid down, what’s tested, having no perceived value, automatically erases from memory.</p><p><strong>Before you write…</strong></p><p>If you want to avoid cranking out the usual amateurish drivel about standardized testing that appears in the op-eds, editorials, and syndicated columns of the mainstream media, ask yourself a few questions about the testing craze: (a) Should life-altering decisions hinge on the scores of commercially produced tests not open to public inspection? (b) How wise is it to only teach what machines can measure? (c) How fair is it to base any part of teacher pay on scores from tests that can’t evaluate complex thought? (d) Are tests that have no “success in life” predictive power worth the damage they’re doing?</p><p><a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/documents/Problems-CCSS.pdf">Here’s a longer list of problems</a> you should think about before you write.</p><p><strong>Perspective</strong></p><p>America’s schools have always struggled—an inevitable consequence, first, of a decision in 1893 to narrow and standardize the high school curriculum and emphasize college prep; second, from a powerful strain of individualism in our national character that eats away support for public institutions; third, from a really sorry system of institutional organization. Politicians, not educators, make education policy, basing it on the simplistic conventional wisdom that educating means “delivering information.”</p><p>In fact, educating is the most complex and difficult of all professions. Done right, teaching is an attempt to help the young align their beliefs, values, and assumptions more closely with what’s true and real, escape the bonds of ethnocentrism, explore the wonders and potential of humanness, and become skilled at using thought processes that make it possible to realize those aims.</p><p>Historically, out of the institution’s dysfunctional organizational design came schools with lots of problems, but with one redeeming virtue. They were “loose.” Teachers had enough autonomy to do their thing. So they did, and the kids that some of them coached brought America far more than its share of patents, scholarly papers, scientific advances, international awards, and honors.</p><p>Notwithstanding their serious problems, America’s public schools were once the envy of the world. Now, educators around that world shake their heads in disbelief (or maybe cheer?) as we spend billions of dollars to standardize what once made America great—un-standardized thought.</p><p>A salvage operation is still (barely) possible, but not if politicians, prodded by pundits, continue to do what they’ve thus far steadfastly refused to do—listen to people who’ve actually worked with real students in real classrooms, and did so long enough and thoughtfully enough to know something about teaching.</p><p>Note: Marion Brady invites response, especially from those in positions of influence or authority who disagree with him. You can reach him here: <a href="mailto:mbrady2222@gmail.com">mbrady2222@gmail.com</a></p><p>You can see some of Brady’s earlier pieces <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/02/24/one-way-to-help-solve-americas-major-curriculum-problem/">here (One way to solve America’s major curriculum problem)</a> and <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/01/12/the-procedure-and-how-it-is-harming-education/">here (‘The Procedure’ and how it is harming public education)</a>.</p><p> </p><p><em>Reprinted with permission by author.</em></p> Wed, 13 Jan 2016 05:00:00 -0800 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 1048766 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education education privatization standardized testing charter schools The Big Problem With the Common Core That Keeps Getting Ignored http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/big-problem-common-core-keeps-getting-ignored <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">I oppose the Common Core State Standards primarily for a thus-far ignored consequence of their adoption.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_200191574_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The role of the Common Core State Standards in attempting to improve schooling has prompted countless editorials, op-eds, and letters to editors. Opinion about them has split political parties, faculties, and friendships, and even created an unusual progressive-conservative alliance in opposition.</p><p>Defenders of the standards have had considerable success convincing the public that those who reject them do so because they oppose education reform, are poorly informed, are under union thumbs, or don’t want to face the fact that their kids aren’t as smart as they thought they were.</p><p>I oppose the standards, and none of those apply to me.</p><p>My primary concern isn’t with the quality of the standards themselves. I don’t like how they were created and rammed into place, but what’s done is done. I think they’re part of an elaborate ideology-driven scheme to privatize public schooling, but that fad will probably have to run its course. It’s appalling that the life chances of millions of kids and their teachers hinge on the scores of tests that can’t evaluate original thought, but that will continue as long as most people think “educating” means “delivering information.”</p><p>I oppose the Common Core State Standards primarily for a thus-far ignored consequence of their adoption.</p><p>My objection begins with the superficiality of the standards’ stated aim—to prepare the young “for college and careers.” The bottom-line reason societies educate their young isn’t to support the world of work, a particular economic system, or the educational status quo. As H.G. Wells pointed out, civilization is a race between education and catastrophe. Societies—at least the thoughtful ones—educate to survive.</p><p>Change—environmental, demographic, technological, institutional, and so on—is inevitable, continuous, and unpredictable. To survive, societies must either control changes or adapt to them, both of which require new knowledge. New knowledge is created by the discovery of relationships between parts of reality not previously thought to be related. For example, as infants, we discover a relationship between crying and getting attention. Most adults discover a relationship between personal autonomy and job satisfaction. Societies discover (or don’t) a relationship between differing societal cognitive systems and misunderstanding and conflict.</p><p>Maximizing the relationship discovery process—not mentally storing secondhand information—is Education Job One.</p><p>Reality is complex, which makes the 1893 core curriculum appealing. Specialized study—breaking knowledge apart and creating a school subject to study each part—has a long and impressive history of yielding benefits. But ignoring reality’s holistic, systemically integrated nature and the seamless way our minds make sense of it comes at a huge, even deadly cost. We’re poorly equipped to make sense of the big picture, the trends of the era, and the unintended consequences of our actions because we literally can’t imagine possible, probable, and preferable futures.</p><p>We can’t imagine alternative futures because they’re products of complex dynamic, systemic interactions, and a curriculum that compartmentalizes knowledge—as the core curriculum does—blocks the basic relating process that imagining requires.</p><p>The Common Core State Standards didn’t just stop the effort in the 1980s to explore the knowledge-integrating potential of General Systems Theory as it developed during World War II. It locked the fragmented 1893 curriculum—the curriculum I believe is the major reason academic performance has flat-lined for decades—in even more rigid place.</p><p>If we care about the future, the core curriculum can’t take us where we need to go. Don’t take my word for it. I’m merely saying what <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/documents/QuotesFragmentation.pdf">well-known and respected scholars</a> have been saying for many years.</p><p>###</p><p>Note: My email address is <a href="mailto:mbrady2222@gmail.com">mbrady2222@gmail.com</a>. I invite criticism, dialogue, and inspection of a course of study my brother and I have assembled for adolescents to help them build (with a little teacher help) a comprehensive, systemically integrated mental model of reality. It’s simple, but it can’t be taught in the usual sense of the word—as “delivered information.” To be adequately understood and become a permanent tool for making sense and creating new knowledge, each learner has to build a mental model of reality for herself or himself. The course is free, and can be downloaded at <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/CIR.asp">http://www.marionbrady.com/CIR.asp</a></p><p>For those unable or unwilling to abandon the comfort of traditional school subjects, here are links to two familiar ones—<a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/AHH.asp">American history</a> and <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/WorldHistory.asp">world history</a>—that use systems theory as the basic organizer. They’re also free, along with provision for users to communicate to improve them.</p><p> </p><p><em>Republished by permission of the author</em></p>  Wed, 28 Oct 2015 05:00:00 -0700 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 1044742 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education common core education kids What Bill Gates Doesn't Understand About Education http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/what-bill-gates-doesnt-understand-about-education <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Stagnation in learner performance is the fault of the system, not the learners.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_155863793.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>Editor's note: A long-time educator and advocate for curriculum reform, Marion Brady brings deep historial context to his evaluation of our current educational conundrum. Here he shares his thoughts on what he might tell billionaire funder Bill Gates about what schools and students really need, if he had the chance.</em></p><p>Mr. Gates:</p><p>Walking past the TV in the kitchen several weeks ago, I caught enough of your <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/id/102641393">May 4 appearance</a> on CNBC to hear you say that of all the Gates Foundation’s work, education was the most difficult, the most resistant to change.</p><p>I share your frustration. Over the last hundred or so years, the rate of progress in medicine, engineering and other fields has been nothing short of phenomenal, while education doesn’t look much different than it did when my parents enrolled me in kindergarten in the fall of 1932.</p><p>There are a lot of reasons for poor academic performance. I’d like to think you don’t share the myth that good teachers can cancel out the negative effects of poor prenatal care, early language deprivation, family instability, unaddressed sight and hearing problems, chronic hunger, mercury and lead ingestion, psychological stress, limited personal experience, and so on. I’d also like to think you don’t assume that merely “raising the bar” via tougher subject-matter standards and high-stakes tests will unleash previously neglected learner potential.</p><p>But your small schools initiative, teacher research and push for the Common Core State Standards suggest you think (or at least hope) that in the drive to improve learner performance, “one particular thing” could be done that would make a real difference in the quality of American education.</p><p>I believe there is something that could be done— one thing, among others, that could make a radical difference where it matters most: in kids’ heads. The idea came to me in 1964, not long after I was recruited by Florida State University to teach in their school of education. I’ll get to the idea in a moment.</p><p>The 1960s were an exciting time for those in education. Fears that Russia was out-educating America in science and technology loosened government purse strings. Federally financed <a href="http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/2359/Regional-Laboratories-Research-Development-Centers.html">regional education laboratories</a> were created to promote education research and development. University faculties designed all kinds of new teaching programs and hands-on instructional materials for elementary and secondary schools, and commercial publishers marketed them. Enough fresh thinking emerged to propel the institution far into the future.</p><p>And then it stopped. Dead. We reformers had screwed up. Teachers hadn’t been trained to use the new materials and methods. Administrators hadn’t been brought along, so they weren’t supportive. Parents weren’t happy about unfamiliar-looking homework. Activity-based textbooks (two of which my brother and I had written for Prentice-Hall, Inc.) didn’t sell well. Conspiracy theorists thought reformers were socialists or communists, and said so loudly. School board members got nervous. The education pendulum swung from the future to the past. Hard.</p><p>I learned from that experience. Now, trying to move the institution, I work bottom up, an effort, incidentally, made much harder by the “standards and accountability” reforms you’ve spent several billions promoting. (Few teachers are free to step off the approved Common Core State Standards path.) Notwithstanding that handicap, the instructional activities and supporting materials my brother and I write and give away are being downloaded from my <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/">website</a> at an average 650 items per week.</p><p>But about that concern you and I share—decades of near-flat institutional performance. You think it’s primarily a people problem—too many teachers aren’t up to the challenge, and too many kids lack the self-discipline necessary to do what’s expected of them.</p><p>Your cure: For the institution, competition via market forces—vouchers, charters, school grading, rewards, penalties, school closings, and other privatizing strategies. For teachers, advice in the form of conclusions from the research you’ve funded about what makes a teacher effective. For kids, rigor or grit, primarily in the form of preparation for standardized tests that officials deliberately make harder and harder because they blame poor performance on the "soft bigotry of low expectations.”</p><p>I’m impressed by your willingness to put major money where your mouth is, but I think you’ve misdiagnosed the problem. I say flat performance isn’t a people problem, it’s a system problem — and that system is the core curriculum adopted in 1893. Since you picked up much of the tab for reinforcing that curriculum with the Common Core State Standards, you obviously take its adequacy for granted.</p><p>Decades of classroom experience tell me that’s a mistake. The curriculum that shapes the education of just about everyone suffers from many serious problems. Let me try to explain one—one that back in the ‘60s many of us realized was critically important but now is ignored.</p><p>An analogy may help. Think of kids’ memories as phone books, and the entries as information. For the book to work well, the entries need a) to include every name that might be called; and b) be accurate.</p><p>No argument there, right? It’s what educators have always tried to do—cover the material, and get it right. But a half-century ago we concluded that wasn’t enough. The learner’s "phone book" could list every name and number, and be absolutely accurate, but if the name appeared in random rather than alphabetical order, the book would be all but useless.</p><p>To be learned, really learned, what’s taught needs to be a) comprehensive; b) accurate; and c) ORGANIZED — not just in its presentation, but also in kids’ heads.</p><p>Most of what’s being taught today isn’t really being learned. Failure to make it part of what educators call a “structure or framework” of organized knowledge sends it to kids’ short-term memory, and as soon as the testing crisis has passed, they dump it.</p><p>Unorganized or disorganized knowledge is just one of at least a dozen really <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/documents/Problems-CCSS.pdf">fundamental problems</a> with the 1893 curriculum. I’m not minimizing the effect on learner performance of any other factor to which others have called attention; I’m just saying that millions of kids and teachers are taking heat for something over which they have no control: a seriously flawed curriculum.</p><p>If I’m coming across as some wild-eyed ivory tower sort, I have quotes from Leonardo da Vinci, Rene Descartes, Alfred North Whitehead, Felix Frankfurter, Buckminster Fuller, Albert Einstein, and dozens of other respected scholars living and dead who have said exactly what I’m saying about the uselessness of disconnected knowledge.</p><p>There’s a solution, though, one that can keep familiar school subjects in place but make them parts of an acceptable general education curriculum. That solution is <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systems_theory">General Systems Theory</a>. Figuring out how to use it to improve educating is what some of us were doing when you and other leaders of business and industry shoved us aside, took control of American education and professed that the key to quality was simply trying harder.</p><p>Mr. Gates, you swing a lot of weight in political circles. If you told policymakers that the current thrust of reform was blocking alternative ways of improving learner performance, and educators should have enough autonomy to explore those alternatives, those of us who have been working on them for decades might have a chance to show what’s possible.</p> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 18:04:00 -0700 Marion Brady, AlterNet 1039610 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education education bill gates curriculum reform k-12 education reform common core Why the Conventional Wisdom on Schooling Is All Wrong http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/why-conventional-wisdom-schooling-all-wrong <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Delivering information to kids isn’t the problem. They need information processing skills. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_154155689.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>I’ve spent a lot of time trying to pinpoint the root cause of poor school performance. Here’s a theory: Because education policy in America is made by non-educators in state legislatures and Congress, it’s shaped by the conventional wisdom. The conventional wisdom says schooling is primarily about “delivering information.” The conventional wisdom is wrong.<br /><br />Delivering information isn’t the problem. Kids are drowning in information, and oceans more of it is at their fingertips ready to be downloaded. What they need that traditional schooling has never given them and isn’t giving them now isn’t information, but information processing skills. They need to know how to think—how to select, sort, organize, evaluate, relate, and integrate information to turn it into knowledge, and knowledge into wisdom.<br /><br />How do kids learn information processing skills? The same way they learn to walk, read, swim, write, catch a ball, keyboard, ride a bicycle. They learn by doing—learn to process information by processing information.<br /><br />Let me try to explain why the delivering-information model of educating makes it almost impossible for schools to pursue the most useful, legitimate, important, satisfying, philosophically defensible aim of schooling: improving learners’ ability to think for themselves.<br /><br />Imagine a horizontal line representing a continuum of kinds of information. On the lefthand end of the line, insert the word, “Unmediated,” “Unprocessed,” or “Raw,” for information that goes directly to our brains by way of our senses—seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting. If a kid walks into a room and says, “It’s too hot in here,” she’s created firsthand, directly experienced information.<br /><br />On the right-hand end of the line, insert the word, “Mediated,” “Processed,” or “Refined” for information that’s the product of others’ thought. If I say, “Einstein said space and time are relative to the position of the observer,” I’m passing along secondhand (or fifteenth-hand) information that was the product of complex thought processes in Einstein’s head.<br /><br />The “too hot in here” information goes to the extreme left end of the information-type continuum, creating opportunities for speculation, investigation, and wide-ranging thought processes. Did she enter the room from a colder one? Is what she’s wearing affecting her perception? Is she sensing air temperature or radiated heat? Has she been exercising? What does her metabolism have to do with what she’s sensing? What does the thermometer say? What’s the best way to find answers?<br /><br />The Einstein information goes to the extreme right end of the continuum. All the heavy-lift thinking has already been done, and relatively few people know enough to do anything with the information except assume—based on Einstein’s reputation—that he was right.<br /><br />To help kids improve their ability to process information, they need information on or near the left-hand, raw end of the continuum, and the traditional curriculum isn’t giving it to them. Open typical textbooks to almost any page, listen for a few minutes to a lecture or teacher talk, check out the reference section of a library or seek information on the Internet, and it’s obvious that what’s being delivered is on the far right end of the continuum. Learners can’t process it—can’t improve their ability to infer, hypothesize, generalize, relate, integrate, and so on—because the information delivered has already been processed to levels beyond their ability to challenge or question.<br /><br />As my brother and I say in one of our short PowerPoints designed to stimulate thinking about big issues in educating, what delivered information gives kids is about as interesting and intellectually challenging as crossword puzzles with all the squares filled in. They can’t do anything with the information except try to store it in memory. And, not having thought through for themselves the delivered information to a useful level of understanding, and having no immediate use for it, it goes into short-term memory, then disappears.<br /><br />We’re kidding ourselves if we assume those “A” grades being hung on American schools based on scores on standardized tests mean that the students who attend them are being taught to think. We’re kidding ourselves if we assume the high test scores of students in Finland or Poland or South Korea mean they’re being taught to think. Standardized tests are sideshows on the periphery of effective schooling because they can’t evaluate original thought, without which humankind can’t adapt to continuous change and survive. What matters is our individual and collective ability to make sense of the world as it was, is, and could be, and the means to that end are far too varied and complex to be measured by machine-scored tests.<br /><br />There’s a solution to the problem. Choose any idea in any school subject for which a solid case can be made that every kid in the country needs to understand it, and within the property boundaries of her or his school are the kinds of immediately accessible real-world prompts that allow that idea to be studied firsthand. The prompts just need to be identified and examined until they emerge from environments ignored because they’re too familiar.<br /><br />Don’t hold your breath waiting for acceptance of the obvious fact that direct experience teaches best. It’s been 99 years since Alfred North Whitehead, in his Presidential Address to the Mathematical Association of England, said, “The second-handedness of the learned world is the secret of its mediocrity.”<br /><br />There are administrators and teachers not only willing but powerfully motivated to move beyond today’s emphasis on mere learner (temporary) recall of delivered information, but “the system” won’t let them. The system—district offices, boards of education, state legislatures, state bureaucracies, education publishers, chambers of commerce, colleges, universities, Congress, courts, philanthropic foundations, mainstream media—the system assumes that delivered information is what educating is all about, so that’s what gets taught and tested and scores treated as if they meant learning had taken place.<br /><br />It’s gratifying to see the growing student, teacher, administrator, and parental resistance to the present misnamed “reform” effort. The rate at which testing is wasting the potential of kids’ minds that don’t work in standardized, text-centric ways, is inexcusable. But resistance would be far more effective if demands to stop high-stakes testing were accompanied by demands to get serious about improving thinking skills.<br /><br />Given learner diversity, given the accelerating rate of social change, given an unknowable future, no one really knows what information needs to be delivered. Given the WorldWideWeb, delivering information isn’t a problem. Given abundant, daily evidence of humankind’s ability to create messes it doesn’t know how to clean up, helping learners improve their ability to think is Job One.<br /><br />Educators can solve this problem, but there’s no point in their even trying as long as the rich and/or powerful are on their stumps peddling the myth that what ails America’s schools are educators clinging to the status quo and kids with insufficient grit to do what they’re told to do.<br /><br />The “reformers” are the ones stuck in the status quo. The Common Core State Standards are the status quo with the screws tightened. High-stakes tests are the status quo with life-destroying potential for those who can’t guess what the test-item writer was thinking. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are the status quo with performance bars raised high enough to produce failures “proving” public schools need to be handed off to charter chains or privatized.<br /><br />Kids, teachers, and taxpayers are being taken for a very expensive ride to nowhere worth going.<br /><br />Here, from my younger brother Howard, is a link to a pdf for those who may be interested in re-purposing schools—turning them into living laboratories that capitalize on the teaching and learning potential of immediate, here-and-now, firsthand experience:</p><p><a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/documents/ExpandingCIR-RHRN.pdf" target="_blank">http://www.marionbrady.com/documents/ExpandingCIR-RHRN.pdf</a></p><p><em>Reprinted by permission of the author.</em></p> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 06:08:00 -0700 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 1034633 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education education schools information produce-processing plant The Important Things Standardized Tests Don't Measure http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/important-things-standardized-tests-dont-measure <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Standardized tests are destroying education and the teaching profession in myriad unsuspected ways.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_89679427-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>As my students were taking their seats, Myrna, sitting near my desk, said she’d just read a magazine article about secret societies in high school. What, she asked, did I know about them?</p><p>I knew nothing—had never even heard of them—but the matter was interesting enough to quickly engage my eleventh-grade English class, so I let the conversation continue. Someone suggested making it a research project and I told them to have at it.</p><p>The school library wasn’t much help, but somebody figured out how to contact the student editor of the school newspaper in a town mentioned in the article and wrote her a letter. She answered, other contacts were made, and kid-to-kid communication began. How did the societies get started? Who joined them? Why? How? Did they create problems? If so, what kind? Were the societies more than just temporary cliques? How were teachers and administrators reacting?</p><p>Answers generated more questions. My students thought, wrote, took sides, argued, learned. I mostly watched.</p><p>That happened in a class in a semi-rural high school in northeastern Ohio many decades ago. I’d be willing to bet that if any of the participants remember anything about the class, that research project would be it.</p><p>I wasn’t smart enough to realize it at the time, but I was seeing a demonstration of something extremely important, that real learning is natural and inherently satisfying. Myrna’s question kicked off genuine learning—self-propelled and successful not because the work was rigorous and the kids had grit, but because it was driven by curiosity, because satisfaction was immediate, because it was real-world rather than theoretical, because it was concrete rather than abstract, because it required initiative and action, and because it was genuinely important, dealing as it did with complex social and psychological issues shaping human behavior.</p><p>Even if it leads to dead ends, research—at least for the learner pursuing it—is intellectually productive. It’s also, obviously, non-standard. The skills it develops and the insights it yields aren’t predictable, even to those engaged in it.  That’s one of the reasons standardized tests assembled in the office cubicles of Pearson, McGraw-Hill and other test manufacturers can’t do the job that most needs doing. They can’t measure and attach a meaningful number to the quality of original thought.</p><p>Arthur Costa, emeritus professor at California State University, summed up the thrust of current test-based “reform” madness:</p><blockquote class="citation"><p> “What was educationally significant and hard to measure has been replaced by what is educationally insignificant and easy to measure. So now we measure how well we taught what isn’t worth learning.”</p></blockquote><p>The truth of that isn’t acknowledged by Jeb Bush, Bill Gates, Lou Gerstner, Arne Duncan and other business leaders and politicians responsible for initiating and perpetuating the standardized, high-stakes testing craziness. They either can’t see or won’t admit the shallowness of their claim that “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Challenged, they dismiss those who disagree with them as defenders of the status quo.</p><p>Using the scores on standardized tests to shape the life chances of kids, determine the pay and reputations of teachers, gauge the quality of school administrators, establish the worth of neighborhood schools, or as an excuse to hand public schools over to private, profit-taking corporations is, at the very least, irresponsible. If, as it appears, it’s a sneaky scheme to privatize America’s public schools without broad public dialogue, it’s unethical.</p><p>Figuring out how to measure original thought isn’t the only challenge test manufacturers need to address. Their tests:</p><p> </p><p>- Provide minimal to no useful feedback to classroom teachers</p><p>- Are keyed to a deeply flawed curriculum adopted in 1893</p><p>- Lead to neglect of physical conditioning, music, art, and other, non-verbal ways of learning</p><p>- Unfairly advantage those who can afford test prep</p><p>- Hide problems created by margin-of-error computations in scoring</p><p>- Penalize test-takers who think in non-standard ways (which the young frequently do)</p><p>- Radically limit teacher ability to adapt to learner differences</p><p>- Give control of the curriculum to test manufacturers</p><p>- Encourage use of threats, bribes, and other extrinsic motivators</p><p>- Use arbitrary, subjectively set pass-fail cut scores</p><p>- Produce scores which can be (and sometimes are) manipulated for political purposes</p><p>- Assume that what the young will need to know in the future is already known</p><p>- Emphasize minimum achievement to the neglect of maximum performance</p><p>- Create unreasonable pressures to cheat</p><p>- Reduce teacher creativity and the appeal of teaching as a profession</p><p>- Are unavoidably biased by social-class, ethnic, regional, and other cultural differences</p><p>- Lessen concern for and use of continuous evaluation</p><p>- Have no “success in life” predictive power</p><p>- Unfairly channel instructional resources to learners at or near the pass-fail “cut score”</p><p>- Are open to massive scoring errors with life-changing consequences</p><p>- Are at odds with deep-seated American values about individuality and worth</p><p>- Create unnecessary stress and negative attitudes toward learning</p><p>- Perpetuate the artificial compartmentalization of knowledge by field</p><p>- Channel increasing amounts of tax money into corporate coffers instead of classrooms</p><p>- Waste the vast, creative potential of human variability</p><p>- Block instructional innovations that can’t be evaluated by machine</p><p>- Unduly reward mere ability to retrieve secondhand information from memory</p><p>- Subtract from available instructional time</p><p>- Lend themselves to “gaming”—use of strategies to improve the success-rate of guessing</p><p>- Make time—a parameter largely unrelated to ability—a factor in scoring</p><p>- Create test fatigue, aversion, and an eventual refusal to take tests seriously</p><p>- Undermine the fact that those closest to the work are best-            positioned to evaluate it</p><p>- Don’t work. The National Academy of Sciences, 2011 report to Congress: The use of standardized tests “has not increased student achievement.”</p><p> </p><p>Most people—including many educators—don’t object to standardized tests but think there are too many, or the stakes shouldn’t be so high, or that some items aren’t grade-level appropriate, etc.</p><p>I disagree. I think standardized tests aren’t just a monumental waste of money and time, but are destroying the institution and the profession in myriad unsuspected ways.</p><p>Responsibility for evaluating learner performance—all of it—should be returned to those best positioned to do it: Classroom teachers. Period.</p><p><em>Reprinted by permission of the author.</em></p> Fri, 06 Mar 2015 05:00:00 -0800 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 1032815 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education standardized testing school education intelligence high-stakes testing Here's One Thing Schools Should Do to Boost Students' Intellectual Growth http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/heres-one-thing-schools-should-do-boost-students-intellectual-growth <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Don&#039;t blame the teachers -- the real culprit is information overload.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_89679427-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>America’s schools aren’t going to significantly improve until a main reason for their flat performance is correctly diagnosed and addressed.</p><p>The problem isn’t teacher incompetence. Neither is it poor subject-matter standards, too-short school days or years, kids’ lack of grit, inadequate teacher training programs, failure to unleash market forces, union protection of bad teachers, insufficient academic rigor, or any of the other reasons currently being advanced.</p><p>Much that affects learner performance—poverty, disability, education of parents, local culture, and so on—can’t be fixed by education policy. A fundamental performance- limiting problem that can be fixed in school but has never been adequately addressed is this: information overload.</p><p>The human brain is wonderful. Nobody yet knows the extent of its potential. But about one of the brain’s characteristics, there’s not the slightest doubt: it does a poor job of storing and retrieving what the traditional core curriculum gives it — random, unorganized information.</p><p>Every adult who has attended a typical secondary school knows that’s true, but the core is treated as if Moses had brought it down from Mt. Sinai along with the Ten Commandments. (Actually, it emerged from a three-day meeting of 10 school administrators in 1892.)</p><p>That the information being dumped on millions of kids by the core curriculum is “learned” is a myth, a fiction, a very expensive joke.</p><p>SKEPTIC: You’re not serious! Where’s the proof?</p><p>MB (Me): The end-of-course testing ritual.</p><p>SKEPTIC: How does that prove that learning isn’t happening?</p><p>MB: Learners prepare for the tests by cramming.</p><p>SKEPTIC: Cramming is what serious students do. It’s a normal part of learning.</p><p>MB: No, it’s a normal part of test-driven schooling, which has little to do with learning. Cramming of previously “covered” information isn’t learned. It’s shoved into short-term memory to meet a short-term goal—passing a test. When the test is over, the information is dumped.</p><p>SKEPTIC: Some of it will be remembered.</p><p>MB: That’s the hope of those who subscribe to the discredited learning theory that if you throw enough mud on the wall, some of it is bound to stick. America is spending well over a half-trillion dollars a year on schooling. That “some of it will be remembered” isn’t much of a return on that enormous investment. Even more alarming is the waste of learner time and intellectual potential, the costs of which are inestimable.</p><p>SKEPTIC: So what do you suggest?</p><p>MB: We need to face up to the information overload problem. It’s not the amount of information the core unloads on kids—the brain can handle that, and much more. The problem is the core’s lack of information organizers. Even if every subject in the core had a simple, workable memory-organizing system (and none of them does), it’s unreasonable to expect kids to cope, simultaneously, with five or six different information-organizing systems.</p><p>SKEPTIC: I don’t see an alternative.</p><p>MB: And neither will anyone else as long as the adequacy of the core is taken for granted. What learners must have in their heads if they’re to cope with the knowledge explosion is an information organizer that makes everything they know part of a single, simple, easily used structure of knowledge. Logic, not undependable memory, is the best tool for retrieving what’s in our heads.</p><p>SKEPTIC: How is that possible? The kinds of information the core subjects cover is just too different and too specialized to be stored and accessed by just one organizer.</p><p>MB: Thousands of years before the academic disciplines and the school subjects based on them became the organizers of schooling, humans were creating complex civilizations, dreaming up sophisticated theories and philosophies, completing vast engineering projects, building still-standing monuments. Could they have done that without organized thought? No.</p><p>SKEPTIC: Well, they might not have given names like “biology,” “geography,” “chemistry,” “economics,” and so on to specialized knowledge, but they were specializations just the same.</p><p>MB: True. But those specializations morphed out of organized general knowledge.</p><p>SKEPTIC: General knowledge doesn’t have organizers.</p><p>MB: Of course it has organizers. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be knowledge, just random information. Organized information—knowledge—is fundamental to humanness, survival, civil society, routine functioning.</p><p>SKEPTIC: And those organizers are...?</p><p>MB: The ones I’ve been pointing out for decades, the ones everyone uses all the time, the ones ignored by policymakers. The basic organizers of all knowledge—general and specialized—are the five elements of our best models of reality—stories and drama. We create stories, plays, and common sense by locating experiences in time and space, identifying the participating actors, describing what happened or is happening, noting, insofar as possible, the states of mind of the actors, then weaving the five together systemically. That’s five kinds of information—time, place, actors, plot, action— systemically integrated. Or, to put it even more simply—when, where, who, what, why— systemically integrated.</p><p>SKEPTIC: That’s too simple to be useful.</p><p>MB: Simple, yes, but only at the most general level, which it needs to be to provide initial access to everything stored in memory. Think of the five elements as the brain’s interstate highways, connecting to state roads (history, geography, government, etc.) which connect to county roads (time lines, topography, democracy, etc.) Everything connected to everything, on a single map.</p><p>For example, my morning paper tells me that Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the government to demolish the West Bank Settlement of Amona because it was built on privately owned Palestinian land. Kids coming to that news item “cold” wouldn’t be able to make adequate sense of it. Kids bringing the five organizers to the news item wouldn’t be able to make good sense of it either, but they’d know what they needed to find out. The news item tells them who, when, where, and what, but says nothing about the fifth element, the “why” that explains Palestinian and Israeli actors’ actions. Knowing what they didn’t know, kids would start down the “why” road searching for Palestinian and Israeli actors’ values, beliefs, world views. Eventually, they’d learn that Palestinians think the land belongs to them because it’s been in their families for many generations, and some Israeli settlers think the land belongs to them because “we were here first.”</p><p>If, before subjecting adolescents to the intricacies of specialized studies, they’re given activities that help them conclude, for themselves, how their brains select, sort, store, relate, integrate, and manipulate existing information and create new information, their intellectual performance will easily surpass that of every previous generation.</p><p>Don’t tell me I’m exaggerating the benefits of helping adolescents understand how they process information. Thousands of hours of working directly with them, reading their journals, listening as they generate explanatory hypotheses, postulate causal sequences, invent graphic representations of complex relationships, interpret unfamiliar data from other cultures, and much, much else, tell me I’m right.</p><p>Formal, deliberate use of the five-element information organizer we routinely use except in school would give us something we don’t now have—a true general education academic discipline. Not only could that discipline replace thus-far failed attempts to create coherent curricula using various mixes of specialized studies, it would radically enhance memory, make clear the holistic nature of knowledge, lay a solid foundation for life-long learning, stretch learners’ minds in ways the core will never be able to do, make apparent the importance of fields of study and ways of learning shoved aside by reading and math test prep, expose the superficiality of instruction limited by what commercial publishers produce—just to start a list of the benefits of a curriculum that respects the systemic nature of knowledge.</p><p>A true general education discipline can do all that and more, and do it better and quicker. Its efficiency would give magnet schools more time to focus on their specializations. Project-based schools could undertake more complex projects. Art, music, dance, drama, and other electives sacrificed to test-based “reform” could be reinstalled and expanded. Highly specialized classes could be offered. Learners could undertake field work and apprenticeships. And teachers could plan together, exploiting the richness of a curriculum that aligns and integrates their specializations.</p><p>Skepticism is acceptable. Rejection without a trial, isn’t.</p><p>###</p><p>An illustrative GENERAL education course of study for adolescents: <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/documents/Connections.pdf">http://www.marionbrady.com/documents/Connections.pdf</a></p><p><em>Republished by permission of the author.</em></p><p> </p> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 05:00:00 -0800 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 1030320 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education school education learning cramming information overload testing The Paradigm Shift Schools Need Now http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/paradigm-shift-schools-need-now <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A fragmented approach to education can never truly prepare students for the world outside the classroom.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_159048548.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Modern education, worldwide, has lost sight of its primary mission—helping humankind survive.</p><p>Survival requires adapting to change. Adapting to change requires new knowledge. New knowledge comes from the discovery of relationships between parts of reality not previously thought to be related. Because the math-science-language arts-social studies “core” curriculum ignores important fields of study, and fails to treat those it doesn’t ignore as parts of an integrated whole, it radically limits relationship-discovery options. Locking the core curriculum in permanent place with the Common Core State Standards perpetuates the most serious problem with modern education—its perspective-limiting boundaries.</p><p>Below, from my much longer list, nationally and internationally known and respected scholars weigh in on the problem.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Leon Botstein:</strong> “”We must fight the inappropriate fragmentation of the curriculum by disciplines . . .” <em>The Chronicle of Higher Education</em>, December 1, 1982, p. 28,</p><p><strong>Neil Postman:</strong> “There is no longer any principle that unifies the school curriculum and furnishes it with meaning.” <em>Phi Delta Kappan</em>, January 1983, p. 316</p><p><strong>John Kemeny:</strong> “The problems now faced by our society transcend the bounds of the disciplines.” Quoted by William Newell in <em>Liberal Education</em>, Association of American Colleges, 1983, Vol. 69, No. 3</p><p><strong>Ernest Boyer:</strong> “All of our experience should have made it clear by now that faculty and students will not derive from a list of disjointed courses a coherent curriculum revealing the necessary interdependence of knowledge.”  (Paraphrased by Daniel Tanner in his review of Boyer’s book <em>High School.  Phi Delta Kappan</em>, March 1984, p. 10)</p><p><strong>John Goodlad:</strong> “The division into subjects and periods encourages a segmented rather than an integrated view of knowledge.  Consequently, what students are asked to relate to in schooling becomes increasingly artificial, cut off from the human experiences subject matter is supposed to reflect.”  <em>A Place Called School</em>, McGraw-Hill, 1984, p. 266</p><p><strong>Harlan Cleveland:</strong> “It is a well-known scandal that our whole educational system is geared more to categorizing and analyzing patches of knowledge than to threading them together.” <em>Change</em>, July/August 1985, p. 20)</p><p><strong>Robert Stevens:</strong> “We have lost sight of our responsibility for synthesizing knowledge.” (<em>Liberal Education</em>, Vol. 71, No. 2, 1985, p.163)</p><p><strong>Arnold Thackray:</strong> “The world of our experience does not come to us in the pieces we have been carving out.” Quoted in <em>The Chronicle of Higher Education</em>, October 1987, p. A 14</p><p><strong>Buckminster Fuller:</strong> “American education has evolved in such a way it will be the undoing of the society.” (Quoted in <em>Officer Review</em>, March 1989, p.5)</p><p><strong>David William Cohen:</strong> “Testing companies, textbook publishers, teacher specialists, associations representing specific content areas, and other agencies all speak in different and often inconsistent voices…The U.S. does not have a coherent system for deciding on and articulating curriculum and instruction.” <em>(Phi Delta Kappan</em>, March 1990, p. 522</p><p><strong>Peter M. Senge:</strong> “From a very early age, we are taught to break apart problems, to fragment the world.  This apparently makes complex tasks and subjects more manageable, but we pay a hidden, enormous price.  We can no longer see the consequences of our actions; we lose our intrinsic sense of connection to a larger whole.”  <em>The Fifth Discipline</em>, Currency Doubleday 1990, p.3</p><p><strong>Theodore Sizer:</strong> “The fact is that there is virtually no federal-level talk about intellectual coherence. The curricular suggestions and mandates leave the traditional “subjects” in virtually total isolation, and both the old and most of the new assessment systems blindly continue to tolerate a profound separation of subject matters, accepting them as conventionally defined… The crucial, culminating task of <em>making sense of it all</em>, at some rigorous standard, is left entirely to [the student].” School Reform and the Feds: The Perspective from Sam. <em>Planning and Changing</em>, v22 n3-4 p248-52 1991</p><p><strong>Thomas Merton:</strong> “The world itself is no problem, but we are a problem to ourselves because we are alienated from ourselves, and this alienation is due precisely to an inveterate habit of division by which we break reality into pieces and then wonder why, after we have manipulated the pieces until they fall apart, we find ourselves out of touch with life, with reality, with the world, and most of all with ourselves.” <em>Contemplation in a World of Action</em>, Paulist Press, 1992, p.153)</p><p><strong>David W. Orr:</strong>[Formal schooling] “imprints a disciplinary template onto impressionable minds and with it the belief that the world really is as disconnected as the divisions, disciplines, and subdivisions of the typical curriculum.  Students come to believe that there is such a thing as politics separate from ecology or that economics has nothing to do with physics.” <em>Earth In Mind</em>, Island Press, 1994, p.23</p></blockquote><p>Forget the Common Core State Standards and high-stakes testing. Forget vouchers, school choice, charters, abolition of teacher tenure, and merit pay. Forget school grades, union busting, academic rigor, new technology, flipped classrooms, and most of what’s being written about educating in the mainstream media. And forget those lists that rank nations according to the purported quality of their educational systems.</p><p>Deal successfully with the problem that the above and dozens of other scholars have pointed out, and the curriculum that emerges will be so illuminating, so powerful, so relevant, so useful, so easily taught and learned, it will change everything it touches.</p><p><em>Republished by permission of the author.</em></p> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 07:52:00 -0800 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 1027567 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education education education reform common core public education k-12 curriculum reform What the Common Core Standards Can’t Do http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/what-common-core-standards-cant-do <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Educational amateurs have spent billions locking a deeply flawed curriculum into place.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_19525837-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>“Mr. Brady, you have to read this book!”</em></p><p>The year was 1961. Nancy Hoover was home for the Christmas holidays at the end of her first semester at Georgetown University. Earlier in the year, as a high school senior, she’d been one of my students. Now, she was standing at my front door, shoving a book at me in a way that said, “Read this! No excuses!”</p><p>The book was “The Evolution of Civilizations” by Carroll Quigley, one of her professors in the Georgetown School of Foreign Service.</p><p>I read it, so wasn’t surprised many years later when President Bill Clinton mentioned Quigley’s influence on him, or when  Quigley’s obituary in the Washington Star in 1977 said that many Georgetown alumni considered his two-semester course on the rise and fall of civilizations the most influential in their undergraduate careers.</p><p>Nancy picked her book up a few days later. I ordered a copy for myself.</p><p>Quigley wrote at length about a social process called “institutionalization,” arguing that it played an extremely important role in societal health. To solve problems, he said, societies create “instruments”—hospitals to care for the sick, police forces to control deviant behavior, highway departments to build and maintain roads, schools to educate the young, and so on.</p><p>But gradually, over time, those instruments become “institutions,” more concerned about perpetuating themselves than solving the particular problem that prompted their creation. Hospitals put procedures ahead of patient care; charitable organizations channel increasing amounts of money into administration. Generals and admirals cling to strategies and weapons that once worked well but are no longer effective.</p><p>Schooling—not just in America but worldwide—has institutionalized. School subjects took shape as means to the end of improving sense-making. Gradually, however, they’ve taken on lives of their own. We don’t, for example, ask if algebra is so central to adult functioning and societal well-being that it should be a required subject, so important that failure to pass the course is sufficient reason to deny a diploma. We treat the subject as a given, arguing only about how many years to teach it, at what grade levels.</p><p>What’s true for algebra is true for every school subject. The core curriculum adopted in 1893 moves inexorably toward ritual, largely untouched by classroom experience, research, and societal needs. Standards keyed to that curriculum—standards reflecting the biases of the writers, standards not subject to professional debate before adoption, standards not classroom tested—have been imposed top-down. Tests scored by machines, tests that can’t evaluate original thought, tests with built-in failure rates, tests that directly affect the life chances of the young and America’s future—are shielded from the eyes of parents, teachers and the general public.</p><p>Schooling is supposed to help the young make the best-possible sense of themselves, others, and the world. To that end, schools focus their attention on the core subjects, and those subjects can’t do the job. Trying to make sense, the brain doesn’t click from core subject to core subject. The information feeding into it from eyes, ears, and other senses, filtered by emotions and past experience, is far too complex to be explained by the subjects that make up the core curriculum.</p><p>I tried to illustrate this complexity in a column distributed to newspapers by Knight-Ridder/Tribune Information Services on April 3rd, 2000:</p><blockquote class="citation"><p>“…In the real world, the world we’re trying to help the young understand, everything connects to everything. We want a pair of socks. Those available have been knitted in a Third World country. Power to run the knitting machines is supplied by burning fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming. Global warming alters weather patterns. Altered weather patterns trigger environmental catastrophes. Environmental catastrophes destroy infrastructure. Money spent for infrastructure replacement isn’t available for health care. Declines in the quality of health care affect mortality rates. Mortality is a matter of life and death. Buying socks, then, is a matter of life and death.</p><p>“Making sense of this simple cause-effect sequence requires not only some understanding of marketing, physics, chemistry, meteorology, economics, engineering, psychology, sociology, political science and a couple of other fields not usually taught in school, <strong>it also requires an understanding of how all the fields fit together.</strong></p><p>“Preparing to put a jigsaw puzzle together, we study the picture on the lid of the box. It’s the grasp of the big picture—the whole—that helps us make sense of the individual pieces. Formal education doesn’t give kids the big picture. It gives them instead a little biology, a little poetry, a little history, a little of this, a little of that, but nothing about how the bits and pieces are connected…”</p></blockquote><p>The curriculum is to schooling as blueprints are to builders, as maps are to travelers, as patterns are to clothing manufacturers, as models are to designers, complicated by the fact that what needs to be understood is dynamic, therefore impossible to model with a static curriculum.</p><p>Common sense says that getting schooling right begins with getting the curriculum right, but that fact doesn’t seem to have occurred to the business leaders and politicians—educational amateurs all—now pulling the education policy strings. Instead of funding a rethinking of the blueprint, the map, the pattern, the model, they’ve spent billions locking a deeply flawed curriculum in rigid, permanent place with the Common Core State Standards.</p><p>In a properly functioning educational system, the curriculum isn’t fixed. It capitalizes on local resources. Its relevance and practicality are obvious to all learners. It reflects their infinitely varied needs, abilities, hopes, conditions and situations. It continuously evolves to adapt to inevitable environmental, demographic, technological, and worldview change.</p><p>The Common Core State Standards may or may not improve the teaching of math, science, language arts, and social studies, may or may not inch up the scores on standardized tests. <em>What the Standards can’t do is lift learners to the levels of intellectual performance that are possible when everything they know becomes an organized, systemically integrated, mutually reinforcing structure of knowledge.</em></p><p><strong>Note</strong>: In <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/Articles.asp">journal articles</a> and a recent <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/documents/WWL.pdf">book</a>, I’ve described a relatively simple, low-cost solution to the fragmented-curriculum problem. In a <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/CIR.asp">course of study</a> for adolescents, I’ve illustrated how the idea can be implemented. There are educators who’d like to make use of the idea, but the boundaries created by current reforms are so narrow, and the penalties for stepping outside of those boundaries are so severe, they aren’t free to do so.</p><p><em>Reprinted by permission of the author.</em></p> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 05:00:00 -0700 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 1024022 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education education common core public education k-12 curriculum reform What Do Standardized Tests Actually Test? http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/what-do-standardized-tests-actually-test <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Should we really care about what these tests are measuring?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_82970479_2.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>A headline in the January 26, 2009, issue of <em>Forbes</em> magazine reads: <a href="http://www.forbes.com/2009/01/26/bill-gates-letter-tech-enter-cz_vb_0126billgates.html">“Bill Gates: It’s the Teacher, Stupid</a>”</p><p>The <a href="http://www.forbes.com/2009/01/26/bill-gates-letter-tech-enter-cz_vb_0126billgates.html">article</a> that follows says that on a conference call with journalists, “Gates pointed out that experience (as measured by years on the job) and master’s degrees (which carry great weight in teacher hiring) show no bearing on whether someone will be a great teacher or a mediocre one.”</p><p>Gates’ opinions are important. He’s done as much as anyone or <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-bill-gates-pulled-off-the-swift-common-core-revolution/2014/06/07/a830e32e-ec34-11e3-9f5c-9075d5508f0a_story.html">more to shape current education policy</a>in America, and his focus on teachers — the good ones as miracle workers, and the tenure-protected bad ones as the main cause of poor school performance — has pushed aside interest in and dialogue about other social and institutional factors affecting school performance. He’s spent millions trying to pinpoint what makes a teacher great. He’s reached no firm conclusion, but thinks the great ones are easily identified. They’re the ones who raise scores standardized tests — and to school reformers like Gates, test scores are infallible indicators of quality.</p><p>The truth is that teaching—trying to shape minds—is hard, complicated work. Claims that class size, school size, teacher education, and teacher experience make no difference in performance is sufficiently at odds with common sense to require an explanation.</p><p>Like most people, Gates believes that <em>learning is a product of teaching</em>. That assumption is the bedrock of traditional schooling. It’s taken for granted by newspaper and magazine editors, syndicated columnists, and talking heads on television. It shapes nearly all commercially produced teaching materials. It’s how schooling is portrayed in movies and on television. It’s why traditionally arranged classroom furniture is in rows facing front, why most teachers talk a lot, assign pages in textbooks, ask questions about what’s been said and read. It’s the conventional wisdom.</p><p>Teachers teach, learners learn, and standardized tests monitor how well the process is going. The tests measure a quantity—the amount of information taught, minus the amount not learned or learned and forgotten. Subtraction yields a single, precise number convenient for sorting and labeling kids, teachers, schools, school systems, states, nations.</p><p>Simple and straightforward. Right?</p><p>There’s a now-familiar ancient Chinese proverb which, loosely translated, says, “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.”</p><p>That’s three very different approaches to teaching—telling, showing, and involving. The first two lend themselves to standardized testing. The third one—the only one that really works—doesn’t. It says that what needs to be evaluated are the outcomes of personal experience, and personal experience is very likely to be too individual, too idiosyncratic, too much a product of a teachable moment exploited or created by the teacher, for its outcome to be evaluated by machine-scored standardized test items.</p><p>Involved learners don’t just read about plants; they’re outside, identifying, examining, and classifying, the weeds and whatever else is growing around the school. Involved learners aren’t filling out worksheets about geometric principles; they’re determining the height of the school’s flagpole by measuring angles and lengths of shadows.</p><p>Teachers doing those kinds of things are usually older, better educated, and more experienced, but high-stakes testing’s single-minded focus on scores has reduced them to simply guessing what’s probably going to be on the test and hammering it to near death. Experiences that create understanding? When test scores can dictate what happens to you, your students, the school’s principal, and the school, understanding runs a distant second to filling in the right bubble on the answer sheet.</p><p>It took me about 15 years in the classroom—and a federally funded 1960s “think freshly” initiative—to accept that what mattered most wasn’t what I <em>said</em> but what kids <em>did.</em>When I made that radical switch, I began a search that continues, a search for experience-creating activities (a) so interesting, the teacher can leave the room and nobody notices, (b) so useful, the activity’s relevance is self-evident, (c) so complex, the smartest kid in the class is intellectually challenged, (d) so real-world, perceptions of who’s smartest constantly shift, (e) so theoretically sound, the systemically integrated nature of all knowledge is obvious, (f) so wide-ranging, the activities cover the core curriculum (and much more), (g) so varied, every critical thinking skill is exercised, (h) so scalable, concepts developed on a micro level adequately model macro phenomena, (j) so effective, when the activities themselves are forgotten, their benefits are fixed permanently in memory.</p><p>The raw material for creating a near-infinite number of activities that meet those nine criteria isn’t hard to find. It lies within the property boundaries of every school or randomly chosen slice of real life. Finding it is mostly a matter of looking at the too-familiar and the taken-for-granted until it becomes “strange enough” to see.</p><p>Modern school reform based on test scores as the main accountability measure — supported by the Business Roundtable; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the National Governors Association; the Gates, Broad and Walton Foundations; some big-city mayors, among others—have engineered an educational train wreck. They took over an institution struggling to replace the minimally productive 19<sup>th</sup> Century idea that <em>learning is a product of teaching</em> with the demonstrably better idea that <em>learning is a product of the activities of learners</em>. Then, instead of asking educators how they could help with the transition, they slammed the door in educators’ faces and wrote standards and tests that have locked the sterile 19<sup>th</sup> Century view of teaching even more rigidly in place.</p><p>For millions of kids, it’s too late to undo the damage they’ve done. But if parents and other concerned citizens make enough noise, the giant, tax-wasting, kid-abusing, craft-and-profession destroying, super-standardizing, multibillion dollar testing juggernaut that’s perpetuating a stupid idea of what it means to educate and be educated, can be stopped.</p><p>If that can be made to happen, teachers can pick up where they left off before they were rudely interrupted—trying to figure out how kids learn best.</p><p>Still, we will come away from this reform era having learned a couple of useful lessons:  One is that no machine can measure the quality of complex, emotion-filtered, experience-based learning. And the second: If you’re testing the wrong thing, there’s no reason to keep score.</p> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 05:00:00 -0700 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 1014127 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education education public education education reform curriculum bill gates standardized testing high-stakes testing Why the Common Core Can Never Do What Ed Reformers Claim It Will http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/why-common-core-can-never-do-what-ed-reformers-claim-it-will <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">We don&#039;t need standards for school subjects, but for the qualities of mind children need to thrive in today&#039;s world.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_92815237_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In a commentary in the July 21, 2014 issue of Time magazine, columnist Joe Klein takes aim at one of the usual targets of today’s education reformers—unions. In a dig at New York City mayor de Blasio, he says, “A mayor who actually cared about education would be seeking longer school days, longer school years, more charter schools…and the elimination of tenure and seniority rules…"</p><p>Like just about every other mainstream media pundit, Klein thinks he knows enough about educating to diagnose its ills and prescribe a cure. That he’ll be taken seriously testifies to the power of what’s become the conventional wisdom, that if America’s schools aren’t performing as they should it’s because teachers aren’t getting the job done.</p><p>What’s the teacher’s job? Raising standardized tests scores.</p><p>What’s the key to high test scores? Rigor.</p><p>What does rigor look like? No-excuses teachers doing their thing for as long as it takes to get the job done.</p><p>What’s “their thing”? Teaching to demanding standards—the Common Core State Standards.</p><p>The market-force-education-reform juggernaut set in motion by business leaders and politicians about a quarter-century ago is simple and easily summarized. (1) Adopt tough performance standards for school subjects. (2) Use high-stakes tests to measure performance. (3) Reward high-scorers; punish low scorers.</p><p>Which, when you think about it, is off the mark. School subjects are just tools—means to an end. We don’t tell surgeons which scalpels and clamps to use; what we want to know is their kill/cure rate. We don’t check the toolbox of the plumber we’ve called to see if he (or she) brought a basin wrench and propane torch; we want to know that when the job’s done the stuff goes down when we flush. We don’t kick the tires of the airliner we’re about to board; we trust the judgment of the people on the flight deck.</p><p>School subjects are tools. Kids show up for kindergarten enormously curious and creative. What we need to know is how well schooling is enhancing that curiosity and creativity. Kids learn an incredible amount on their own long before they walk through school doors. What we need to know is how much improvement there’s been in self-directed learning. Kids appear to begin life with an innate sense of what’s right and fair. What we need to know is how successfully that sense is being nurtured.</p><p>We’re on a wrong track. Standards? Of course! But not standards for school subjects. What’s needed are standards for the qualities of mind, emotion, character, and spirit the young must be helped to develop if they’re to cope with the world they’re inheriting.</p><p>The Common Core Standards, says the CCSS website, “provide clear signposts along the way to the goal of college and career readiness.” Just stick to the CCSS script to be prepared for college and career.</p><p>College? Years ago, the Association of American Colleges’s Project on Redefining the Meaning and Purpose of Baccalaureate Degrees said, “We do not believe that the road to a coherent education can be constructed from a set of required subjects or academic disciplines.” I’ve seen no evidence that the thoughtful among them have changed their minds.</p><p>Careers? We have no idea how the interactions of globalization, automation, climate change, clashing societal worldviews, and trends not yet evident will effect careers. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that nobody knows what careers are going to be available when today’s elementary school kids are looking for work.</p><p>Back in the 70s, in his book Reflections on the Human Condition, Eric Hoffer, philosopher, writer, and longshoreman, wrote something that the Common Core Standards don’t adequately reflect: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”</p><p>Standards? Sure. But not standards for solving quadratic equations, or for recalling the chemical formulas for salt, sand, baking soda, and chalk, or for interpreting Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail as some self-appointed “expert” thinks it should be interpreted. And not standards that make it easy to create machine-scored tests that perpetuate the destructive myth that quality can be quantified and turned into data to drive education reform.</p><p>Standards—proper standards—could work wonders. Consider, for example, the effect just one standard could have on teachers, on teaching materials, on kids, on the citizenry, on America:</p><blockquote><p><em>Schools will be held accountable for sending learners on their way with a deep-seated love of learning and a willingness and ability to follow where that love leads.</em></p></blockquote> Mon, 28 Jul 2014 05:00:00 -0700 Marion Brady, DianeRavitch.net 1013097 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education education common core highstakes testing education reform piblic education k-12 college readiness What Real Learning Actually Looks Like http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/what-real-learning-actually-looks <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">How do children learn best? It might not look like what you think.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_171300167.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><strong>Part One</strong></p><p>The main theory shaping traditional schooling says teaching means delivering information. Critics say that’s a poor theory, but its adequacy is so taken for granted that billions of private and taxpayer dollars are being spent, millions of kids and teachers are being battered, and the future of America is being put at risk, by schemes based on the theory. Incredibly, the No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top programs were put in place without a single pilot or experimental program to check the validity of the “deliver information” theory.</p><p>Like many long-time educators, I think the theory is simplistic at best and flat wrong at worst. That very wise teacher, the late John Holt, pinpointed the problem in a 1984 article in the magazine <em>Growing Without Schooling</em>. “Learning is not the product of teaching,” he wrote. “Learning is the product of the activity of learners.”</p><p>When I finally accepted that obvious fact, I stopped delivering information and started giving small teams of learners something difficult to do. I became an advocate of project-based learning (PBL) (<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project-based_learning" target="_blank">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/<wbr></wbr>Project-based_learning</a>). Its merit is firmly established. Research, common sense, and well-performing PBL programs in America and abroad make clear the merits of schooling that allows kids to move beyond the forced passivity of reading and listening, get up from their desks, and undertake real-world, hands-on tasks that teach as only firsthand experience can.</p><p>But acceptance is slow. Very slow. The conventional wisdom says teachers deliver information. Teachers are trained to deliver information. Media images of classrooms show teachers delivering information. Powerful people—Presidents of the United States, governors, chief state education officers, Congress, Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, the Waltons, and so on—think educating means delivering information. The publishers of textbooks are in the information-delivery business, and the manufacturers of standardized tests create tools to measure how much information is being delivered.</p><p>(There’s growing resistance to the testing juggernaut, but mostly because of over- testing, not because the “delivery” aim is being questioned.)</p><p>There is, however, a problem with project learning. Schooling that doesn’t teach the usual content of the core curriculum in the usual way isn’t acceptable, and projects don’t do that. They have intellectual depth but not the breadth to cover the information delivered (albeit poorly) by the core curriculum.</p><p>So I’ve a proposal—a project so all-encompassing and difficult that learners undertaking it have no choice but to make continuous use of the core subjects. They learn and remember because they’re involved in a project they consider important.</p><p>That project: Designing and carrying out a long-term study of the school they attend, and using their growing knowledge of their school to improve it.</p><p>Schools have histories, infrastructure, purposes, and problems. They have populations, patterns, and procedures. They have community relationships and responsibilities. They have a culture. The possibilities for description and analysis are vast and varied.</p><p>For example, schools use energy—electricity, and probably, directly or indirectly, some form of fossil fuel. Developing real, in-depth understanding of the sources of that energy, how the school uses it, how much it costs, how efficient it is, how it impacts the environment, and so on, doesn’t just lead to geology, chemistry, physics, economics, politics, and other fields, it relates and integrates them in ways not possible when those fields are studied in isolation from each other as schools ordinarily offer them.</p><p>Consider: The school models the larger world in all its incredible complexity. Making sense of it has learners doing, with help from professionals, what they’ll be doing for the rest of their lives in their jobs, in the organizations to which they belong, in their neighborhoods and communities, and in their country. It has them doing what all humans, consciously or subconsciously, continuously do—ask themselves, “What’s going on here, how can I make the most sense of it, and put that sense to good use?”</p><p>Consider: Asking kids to use their growing understanding of the school to propose ways to improve its performance not only shows a level of respect for their capabilities that pays off in myriad, often unexpected ways, it can be a major source of fresh thinking.</p><p>Consider: When what’s learned is concrete rather than abstract, when it’s immediately useful instead of “this will be on the test,” when knowledge is forged by dialogue with peers and coaches, so much more is accomplished in so much less time it allows the entire school day to be rethought. With the basic skills and concepts of a general education covered by the project, there’s time for advanced classes for those for whom they’re appropriate, time for electives discarded by present reforms, time for extra- curricular activities, time for magnet schools to expand instruction in their specializations, time for apprenticeships, work-study arrangements, and other, not-yet- invented alternatives to “seat time.</p><p>Finally, consider that schools are comprehensive, integrated sociocultural systems, and such systems, writ large and called “cultures” and “civilizations,” are the makers of meaning and the shapers of human history. What better way to grasp the “big picture” of life on planet Earth than by intensive study of a small-scale but near-perfect manifestation of it?</p><p>All that from a teaching resource that’s instantly accessible and doesn’t cost a dime.</p><p>***</p><p><strong>Part Two:  How “Active Learning” Looks in a Real School</strong></p><p>In Part One, I argued the merit of project-based learning, with particular emphasis on a project that had small teams of learners designing and carrying out a detailed, long-term study of the school they attend, and using their growing knowledge to improve it.</p><p>What follows are parts of an email from a working educator, Dr. William Webb, director of The Center for Educational Options in Henry County, Kentucky. His school, he says, “is heavy with students who’ve given up on schooling. Frustrated and often angry, they come to us as in-school drop-outs, present in body (because the law requires it), but absent in spirit.”</p><p>His first concern (as it should be for all educators) isn’t academics but in “creating a sense of community.” He does this by teaching a set of social skills (communication and assertiveness, emotion-management, problem-solving, conflict-resolution and working in groups) known to be central to positive, successful work and community interactions.”</p><p>Teaching life skills in the context of community, he says, “takes advantage of innate needs for belonging, competence, and efficacy. As such, students understand intuitively that the skills they are learning are useful and meaningful.”</p><p>But it’s a school, so the core subjects must be taught. For that, he described his experience using the course of study, <em>Connections: Investigating Reality</em>, in the manner described in Part One.</p><p>Here’s more of his post:</p><blockquote><p><em>"…we introduced our students to the notions of “patterns” and “connectedness” and the dynamics of “systems.” To grasp these abstract concepts as they apply to relationships between human behavior and physical environments, the students decided to acquaint themselves in a more mindful way with a small commons area located between our building and the high school. Working in teams of four, the students were first asked simply to describe the area linguistically.</em></p><p><em>"They were mildly surprised to realize that a simple verbal description was not simple at all. The boundary of the area was established beforehand, and yet descriptions varied considerably from group to group. Landmarks that seemed important to one group were virtually ignored by another. Estimates of distance were wildly inaccurate.</em></p><p><em>"Words chosen to describe some aspect of the environment were imprecise and vague (“There’s a small hill a little bit behind us that’s pretty steep.”). Listening to each group’s verbal descriptions, no one needed a curriculum or assessment expert to define the “lesson targets.” The important questions were obvious. How do we account for the differences in descriptions? How do we reconcile these differences to come to a shared perception of our environment? Why is it important to be precise in describing our surroundings? How do our differing perceptions of our immediate surroundings influence the way we interact with each other? These and many other questions were asked and answered in the follow-up discussion to this “simple” exercise.</em></p><p><em>"Moreover, student involvement during this discussion was profoundly different from typical high school classroom interactions. Freed from the cognitive task of memorizing facts, our students argued and conceded and elaborated and prioritized and paraphrased and deduced and just about every other verb that the Bloom taxonomists say are important to learning.</em></p><p><em>"And they were doing it in the context of an authentic task with real-life implications. Once the students had settled on a verbal description of the commons area, they were asked to draw a diagram of the area to scale. Not one student had any experience with that exercise. Most were math-phobic, having been spectacularly unsuccessful in the math courses taught in the traditional classroom. But having spent the past few days thinking about their environment in a more mindful way, they were motivated to tackle this assignment.</em></p><p><em>"Armed with 50’ tape measures, they had little trouble measuring the lines that defined the area’s boundary. But connecting those lines in a scaled representation of the area presented some challenges. One challenge was the way an adjacent building jutted into the space the students were detailing. In order for the scaled drawing to come out right, the angle that the building “interrupted” the space had to be accurately defined—and it wasn’t an obvious right angle. With no way to use a protractor, the students were stymied.</em></p><p><em>"Attempts to use their limited knowledge of geometry to find a mathematical solution were futile. Solutions on the Internet were too technical in their language to be helpful. And then, in a flash of insight, one student (whose math skills had been assessed by standardized testing measures as being in the lowest “novice” range) ran into the classroom and returned with a block of modeling clay which he proceeded to shape around the building’s corner. Once he had “modeled” the angle in this way, it was a simple matter of transferring the angle to a piece of paper which could now be measured with the protractor.</em></p><p><em>"Voila!! The satisfaction this student felt at finding that solution and the affirmation he received from his classmates was a brand new experience. He felt smart.</em></p><p><em>"He was smart—and Connections gave him a chance to demonstrate that smartness in a way the traditional curriculum never had.</em></p><p><em>"One other example:</em></p><p><em>"As previously mentioned, the students were asked to draw a scaled diagram of the commons area they had chosen to investigate. This, of course, was a ratio and proportions exercise most likely introduced to students in elementary school. But our math-challenged students approached the assignment as if they had been asked to prove the Pythagorean Theorem. A freshman girl (let’s call her Kayla) with a neurotic aversion to all things mathematic, watched quietly while the other three (somewhat mathematically challenged) members of her group struggled to work through the steps for converting their measurements to the scaled drawing.</em></p><p><em>"After looking at their measurements and the size of the graph paper they were required to use, they decided that 8 feet of measured distance should be 1 inch on the drawing. There were dozens of measurements—2’9’’, 47’3’’, 9’4’’, etc. The teachers were no help. The students were on their own to figure this out. Normally, Kayla tuned out when presented with an assignment from a math book, engaging in all manner of avoidance (and class distracting) behaviors. But this was different…a problem, for sure, but not just a math problem. So, Kayla listened differently and she watched as different strategies were tried, and then—she got it! 'We gotta make everything inches, and then we have to divide by 96!'</em></p><p><em>"She showed her group mates. It was a special moment and nearly impossible to describe. Normally a bit histrionic in her actions, Kayla seemed more centered, more authentic, in her excitement and enthusiasm at discovering this hidden skill. She was clearly enjoying feelings of competence that she rarely experienced in the school setting, let alone while doing math. She liked how it felt. She insisted on doing all the conversions herself, working without a break through part of her lunch period to finish.</em></p><p><em>"Connections, with its emphasis on creating the type of “sense-making” opportunities in which the brain strives innately to engage, provides a much broader landscape for their occurrence. For those truly interested in addressing the inefficiencies in our current educational system, this course of study is a sensible, doable place to start."</em></p></blockquote><p>Educators who feel their first obligation isn’t to raise test scores but to help the young make the most-possible sense of themselves, others, and the world, should find <em>Connections: Investigating Reality</em> worth exploring. It’s a first of its kind and begs for continuous inputs from working classroom teachers, but it’s a start. And it’s free, needing merely to be downloaded:</p><p><a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/CIR.asp" target="_blank">http://www.marionbrady.com/<wbr></wbr>CIR.asp</a>.</p> Thu, 19 Jun 2014 05:00:00 -0700 Marion Brady, The Answer Sheet 1004402 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education education curriculum reform common core teaching project based learning 10 Things Wrong with What Kids Learn in School http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/10-things-wrong-what-kids-learn-school <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Limiting what’s taught to what machines can measure isn’t just demeaning, it’s a recipe for societal disaster.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_175100246.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Mainstream media, cued by corporate press releases, routinely claim that America’s schools are markedly inferior to schools in other developed nations. The claim is part of an organized, long-running, generously funded campaign to undermine confidence in public schools to “prove” the need to privatize them.</p><p>Syndicated columnists, education reporters, editorial boards, and other opinion leaders interested in thoroughly understanding the campaign to privatize public schools should do two things. First, they should stop dismissing all the critics of the Common Core State Standards as Tea Party types opposed to change. As my books, articles, newspaper columns and blogs make clear, I argue that change is not only essential but decades overdue. What I oppose is superficial, dishonest change—change sold by misrepresenting the quality of what preceded the Common Core Standards, half-truths about the process that created the Standards, and hype that’s radically over-selling their value.</p><p>Second, before taking a position, opinion leaders should examine the <a href="http://www.edutopia.org/landmark-education-report-nation-risk" target="_blank">Sandia National Laboratory’s Report,</a> and read at least three books: <a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Manufactured-Crisis-Americas-Schools/dp/0201441969#reader_0201441969" target="_blank"><i>The Manufactured Crisis</i></a>, by David C. Berliner and David J. Biddle; <a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Manufactured-Crisis-Americas-Schools/dp/0201441969#reader_0201441969" target="_blank"><i>Why is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools</i></a><i>?</i> by<i> </i>Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian<i>, </i>and <a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Manufactured-Crisis-Americas-Schools/dp/0201441969#reader_0201441969" target="_blank">Diane Ravitch’s <i>The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Educatio</i>n</a>.</p><p>I’m an unequivocal supporter of public schooling, and think the historical record, fairly examined, justifies my support. This doesn’t mean, however, that I think all was well with America’s schools before corporate interests and politicians took control of them. Far from it. Educators have been handicapped for more than a century by a curriculum adopted to serve a too-narrow purpose—admission to college—and failure to address that curriculum’s problems has made the institution vulnerable to destructive corporate and political manipulation.</p><p>Below are brief descriptions of some of the more obvious of those problems.</p><p><b>1. The standard core curriculum is stuck in the past.</b></p><p>Adopted in the late 19<sup>th</sup> Century, the curriculum now shaping America’s schools reflects the “big idea” of that earlier era—the factory system, standardization of parts, mass production, centralized decision making, and passive worker compliance.</p><p>None of those fit the present era. Social change has seen to that, and the rate of that change is accelerating. Change requires adaptation, and adaptation requires creativity, autonomy, exploitation of differing perspectives, and continuous questioning of authority.</p><p><b>2.  The standard core curriculum is so inefficient it leaves little or no time for apprenticeships, internships, co-op programs, projects, and other ways of “learning by doing” (which is how most of us learned most of what we know).</b></p><p>How little most adults remember and use of what they once read and heard at the secondary level of schooling testifies to a level of inefficiency that wouldn’t be tolerated in any other field or profession.</p><p>The main obstacle to efficiency is the assumption that the most important task is “covering the material” in the core curriculum. Given the Internet and ease of access to it, given the vast range of learner abilities, interests, and needs, given the inevitable obsolescence of much existing knowledge, and given our ignorance about what the future holds, stuffing kids’ heads with what today’s adults happen to know is less important than helping them develop <i>knowledge-evaluating and</i> <i>generating</i> skills. Those can be worked into the familiar curriculum without difficulty, but today’s reformers, convinced that working longer and harder is better than working smarter, aren’t interested.</p><p><b>3.  The standard core curriculum gives thought processes other than recall short shrift, or no attention at all.</b></p><p>What gets tested, gets taught. Because, unlike all other thought processes, short-term memory can be measured with precision, traditional testing has emphasized it.</p><p>The ability to remember is, of course, important, but the main educational challenge—making better sense of real-world experience—requires the ability not merely to recall but to infer, generalize, hypothesize, relate, synthesize, value, and so on.</p><p>When we ask students to recall, evaluation of performance is based mostly on the <i>quantity</i> of their responses. But when they’re asked to hypothesize or infer, their responses will differ both quantitatively and <i>qualitatively</i>. Do two “good” hypotheses equal four “fair” and seven “poor” hypotheses? What’s a “fair” hypothesis? A “poor” one?</p><p>Recent tests take a weak stab at evaluating “higher order” thought, but the fact remains that machines can’t evaluate original thought, and neither can humans using “canned” criteria. Limiting what’s taught to what machines can measure isn’t just demeaning, it’s a recipe for societal disaster.</p><p><b>4. The standard core curriculum ignores vast and important fields of knowledge.</b></p><p>Give thought to the news of the day, or take a long view of human history, and it will be clear that the greatest threats to life, liberty, and happiness are conflicts stemming from differing value and belief systems within and between societies.</p><p>These systems—sometimes called “worldviews”—are the most important and useful thing we can know about ourselves and others, but the standard core curriculum lets learners go from kindergarten through graduate school without examining either their own worldview or those of others.</p><p>Neither are the young likely to study the principles of group dynamics (essential knowledge in the workplace). Or societal responses to loss of autonomy. Or the process of polarization.  Or the close relationship of economies and group stability. Or the effects of technological change on human relationships. Or the role of emotion in selective perception. Or the dynamics of social change—just to begin a list of critically important knowledge that lies outside the usual curricular boundaries.</p><p><b>5.  The standard core curriculum breaks knowledge—and the reality it seeks to explain—apart, ignoring its systemic, mutually supportive nature.</b></p><p>Understanding any major problem—war, poverty, oppression, crime, discrimination, resource depletion, energy sourcing, environmental degradation, taxation, labor-management disputes, corruption, international tensions, whatever—requires an understanding of links between myriad factors and forces. Because those factors and forces invariably cut across subject-matter boundaries, or deal with fields of knowledge not taught at all, the core curriculum fails to produce a citizenry intellectually equipped to cope with the problems it generates.</p><p><b>6.  The standard core curriculum emphasizes secondhand rather than firsthand knowledge.</b></p><p>The new big deal in education is “informational reading”—reading that informs. Is it important? Of course. Should it be the main thing that kids do in school? No. Reading and interpreting text is only one of many ways to learn, and not the most important.</p><p>The most explosive period of learning occurs in the first years of life, before we learn to read. There are lessons in that fact that our fixation on reading, and our stubborn insistence that play, art, music, theater, dance, and so on, are “frills,” keep us from understanding and appreciating.</p><p>Schools are still being built with classrooms rather than flexible workspaces. Schedules are still being imposed that keep kids in their seats and isolated from the larger world for most of every day. We’re ignoring research and common sense about how humans learn.</p><p><b>7.  The standard core curriculum costs a great deal to “deliver.”</b></p><p>Failure to explore and exploit the merit of integrated study, use of “canned,” commercial instructional materials rather than local resources, overuse of expensive technologies, excessive administrative costs, unnecessary testing and test prep, grade retention from inappropriate curricula and unreasonable pass-fail cut scores on standardized tests—these and other factors tied to an unexamined,  taken-for-granted curriculum, waste time and money.</p><p><b>8.</b>  <b>The standard core curriculum has no criteria establishing what new knowledge to teach, or what old knowledge to discard to make room for the new.</b></p><p>Knowledge is expanding at an ever-accelerating rate, but no agreed-upon aim, no overarching purpose, no philosophy, sorts through the near-infinite possibilities and constructs a coherent curriculum keyed to life as it’s lived.</p><p>Today’s reforms have us obsessing about the contents of school subjects, when the real challenge is figuring out how to <i>use</i> those tools (and subjects not now taught) to produce admirable people, thoughtful citizens, individuals able to capitalize on the potentials of humanness.</p><p><b>9. The standard core curriculum disregards the brain’s need for order, organization, and pattern.</b>The theory of learning that dominates traditional schooling is simple: “If you throw enough mud on the wall, some of it is bound to stick.” A little does stick, of course, but not enough to justify instruction based on the theory.</p><p>The main problem is the brain’s inability to cope with unorganized and disorganized information. School subjects organize information, but each one does so differently, and kids—lacking a “master” organizer to logically relate new knowledge to existing knowledge—store it in short-term memory, then erase it when the threat of testing no longer looms.</p><p><b>10.  The standard core curriculum is silent on complex ethical and moral questions.</b></p><p>This is difficult territory, which is why it’s unacceptable for the curriculum to ignore it.</p><p>—</p><p>Someone once said that moving the education establishment is harder than moving a Jell-O elephant. That’s an apt observation, but it doesn’t mean that change is impossible, just really hard.</p><p>As an administrator and consultant, I’ve been down the usual reform roads and found only one that actually changes, permanently, how most teachers teach. It verifies that what’s common knowledge in management circles is true, that genuine, lasting change can’t be imposed top down. If the process doesn’t actively involve those whose thorough understanding and acceptance is necessary to make it work, it won’t work.</p><p>In education, “those whose thorough understanding and acceptance is necessary to make it work” are teachers and kids. What do teachers and kids need to understand and accept?</p><p>1. An organized mind is more productive than an unorganized or disorganized mind.</p><p>2. School subjects use so many different information organizers the mind can’t cope.</p><p>3. Systems theory simplifies the organization of knowledge.</p><p>4. Systems theory can be learned.<a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/CIR.asp">Easily</a>.</p><p>What do policymakers and school administrators need to understand and accept?</p><p>Flying the Standards! banner, the Business Roundtable has been the primary organizer and coordinator of the present thrust of education reform. They’ve focused on standards for school subjects because, they say (correctly), that standards drive everything else—curriculum, teacher training, and assessment.</p><p>Many educators and I believe the Business Roundtable isn’t just wrong but spectacularly so. The standards coin has another side. The late authority on urban design, Jane Jacobs, in her book, <i>Dark Days Ahead,</i> summed that side up in just six words: “Standardization is the parent of stagnation.”</p><p>What policymakers and administrators need to understand and accept is that <i>standards keyed to a fundamentally flawed curriculum are fundamentally flawed</i> (as, inevitably, are tests keyed to the standards),</p><p>The members of the Business Roundtable—rich, politically powerful, and speaking with one voice—will probably get their way. I’m suggesting a way around the creeping but inevitable stagnation that will follow. Adopting the Common Core State Standards doesn’t preclude going beyond them by making use of systems theory. Neither does it preclude going beyond the educational performance of Shanghai, Finland, South Korea, or any other system of education anywhere in the world that arbitrarily and artificially fragments the study of reality without an integrating strategy.</p><p>Again—<a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/CIR.asp">here’s a  link to a simple, free,</a>adolescent-friendly tool for using systems theory as a “supra-disciplinary” organizer of knowledge.<br /><br /><br /><em>Republished by permission of the author.</em></p> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 05:00:00 -0700 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 977738 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education education public education education reform common core k-12 curriculum reform Want To Solve America’s Curriculum Problem? Here's How http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/want-solve-americas-curriculum-problem-heres-how <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Market forces have distorted how and what students learn. It&#039;s time for new approach to curricular design.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_115148425.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In my <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/01/31/why-common-core-isnt-the-answer/">January 31<sup>st</sup> contribution</a> to The Washington Post's “Answer Sheet” blog, I joined Rene Descartes, Buckminster Fuller, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Alfred North Whitehead, Felix Frankfurter, Thomas Merton, Neil Postman, John Holt, Harlan Cleveland, Ernest Boyer, John Goodlad, and dozens of others saying that the Common Core Standards are reinforcing an idea that's doing great damage to education. </p><p>Of course, most of the scholars I named, being dead, didn’t actually mention the Common Core, but they left no doubt about how they’d have reacted to education policies that ignore the fundamental nature of the world that schooling is supposed to help the young understand.</p><p>Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Peter M. Senge <a href="http://www.solonline.org/?page=FifthDiscipline" target="_blank">summarizes the problem</a> on page three of his best-selling book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Fifth-Discipline-Practice-Organization/dp/0553456342"><em>The Fifth Discipline</em></a>.</p><blockquote><p>“From a very early age,” he wrote, “we are taught to break apart problems, to fragment the world.  This apparently makes complex tasks and subjects more manageable, but we pay a hidden, enormous price.  We can no longer see the consequences of our actions; we lose our intrinsic sense of connection to a larger whole.”</p></blockquote><p>If Senge and the others are right that adequate sense can’t be made of the world by slicing it into little pieces and studying the pieces without regard for how they fit together and interact, it follows that modern education worldwide isn’t meeting its major responsibility.</p><p>What this means (at least to me) is something that almost nobody who has a stake in education wants to hear. Current controversial issues—standards, <wbr></wbr>accountability, benchmarks, teacher quality, evaluation, length of school day, the nature of rigor, school grading, test design and uses, value-added measurement, Race to the Top, international comparisons, etc.—are sideshows. They may have slight effects one way or another on performance, but by diverting attention from the main problem, they’re doing more harm than good.</p><p>Solving the problem of the traditional curriculum's too-narrow scope would change those issues so much, every one of them would have to be rethought.</p><p>That’s probably not going to happen, so I’m not optimistic about the future of American education. We’re a society that’s never been particularly interested in the life of the mind. Our sense of community—“us-ness”—has withered, and with it the ability to solve shared problems. We’re not embarrassed by a level of poverty that makes it almost impossible to adequately educate a quarter of the young. Dominated by corporate interests focused on short-term profit, we refuse to acknowledge the near-certainty of a future that will challenge humankind’s ability to survive. We expect good work from teachers locked at the bottom of a bureaucracy that gives them no voice in and no control over decisions central to their effectiveness.</p><p>And we think the rich and powerful know more about educating than educators. Most people, for example, still don’t know that manipulating test scores to flunk more and more kids is just one of many sneaky strategies engineered to convince the citizenry that public schools should be handed over to McCharter chains (with taxpayers continuing to pick up the tab, of course).</p><p>My expectations are low, but if, as I believe, a minor tweak can go far toward solving our major curriculum problem, if it can significantly improve what goes on in learners’ heads, if it costs nothing to adopt, if it requires no change in staffing, facilities, or equipment, and if it necessitates no special knowledge or training, I argue that the tweak deserves a trial.</p><p>Unfortunately, testing it is against the law, law supported by both political parties, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Center for American Progress, Exxon-Mobil, The Waltons, the mainstream media, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Mike Bloomberg, Jeb Bush, and many, many others. In educational matters, they’ve put their faith in market forces and their money on test-and-punish reform policies, and gotten Congress to bless that faith with the necessary legislation. Educators who don’t fall in line are likely to find themselves looking for other lines of work.</p><p>The tweak I’m advocating is below. It’s addressed to educators, but it’s in plain English because non-educators—particularly those who vote—are the only effective counterforce to those now setting education policy. The general public needs to understand the tweak and decide if it warrants pressuring politicians to allow educators to check it out.  </p><ol><li>Accept that something is seriously wrong with traditional schooling. Learning is natural, pleasurable, and satisfying, but what most schools do is so at odds with those emotions it requires all sorts of social and legal pressures to keep them operating.<br /> </li><li>Accept that myriad internationally known and respected scholars may be right. Think of school subjects as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that make a lot more sense to kids when they can see the whole that a simple system for connecting the pieces makes clear.<br /> </li><li>Add a class at the middle or high school level that uses the core subjects to do what everybody is already doing, and needs to do better—make sense of immediate experience. Personal interpretations of what’s happening “right here, right now,” determine what people do next, and what people do next determines the courses of lives and shapes human history. <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/UsingCIR.asp" target="_blank">Here</a> are several ways to put such a class in place without lengthening the school day or year or going outside the boundaries of familiar school subjects.<br /> </li><li>Find a teacher or teachers on staff willing to meet with the class, not to “teach” it, but to join it as “coordinator and co-learner.”<br /> </li><li>Accept that the unfamiliar nature of the classwork—making more sense of the everyday, of the utterly familiar, of life as it’s being lived—differs from traditional schooling enough to require a little handholding.<br /> </li><li>Download (it’s free) <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/CIR.asp" target="_blank"><em>Connections: Investigating Reality</em></a>, and see it as an example of a sequence of thought-provoking puzzles or problems that help learners organize knowledge and make sense of it in a simpler, more natural way than school subjects allow.<br /> </li><li>Consider the advantages of a general education curriculum that, unlike commercially produced materials, continuously evolves and improves as teachers and kids, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/RealityBasedLearning/" target="_blank">in electronic touch with each other</a>, talk about how to make that curriculum better.</li></ol><p>That’s it. Those who familiarize themselves with <em>Connections: Investigating Reality</em> or <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/articles/journal/2004-ThinkingBigKappanDec.pdf" target="_blank">the general idea it promotes</a> will, I think, discover that it not only gives learners a broader and deeper general education than the core curriculum, but that it does so in far less time. When that happens—when educators have more time to think about <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/documents/Enhancing--Mini-Courses.pdf" target="_blank">ways to give depth and dimension to books and lectures</a>—the potential for a genuine revolution in the quality of schooling presents itself.</p><p>For example: Some kids can sing—a few really well. Others can’t carry a tune, and couldn’t even if offered a chance to sing back-up in their favorite band. A few can run a less-than-five-minute mile. But most can’t, and couldn’t even if it earned them their choice of any pair of sneakers in the sporting goods store. There are kids who can paint an image well enough to peddle it, but most can’t produce anything beyond refrigerator door postings. </p><p>What’s true for singing, running, and painting is true for solving algebraic equations, writing stories, thinking like a chemist, and all other fields of study. It’s only when kids show up for school that common sense is suspended and, in the name of a vague, not-thought-through idea called “a well-rounded education,” every kid, no matter abilities, interests, demonstrated skills, life situation, or anything else, is herded through the standard academic hoops.</p><p>Wouldn’t it make far more sense if schools got their general education expectations out of the way in an hour or so, then identified and grouped the math whizzes, the mechanically inclined, the artists, the writers, those involved in projects, and so on, assigned teachers to the groups, and let them go as far as they can go as fast as they can go?</p><p>Education is long overdue for what business types sometimes call “disruptive innovation," but the bureaucratic depth and complexity of systems of public education, and simplistic policies set by amateurs in state legislatures and Congress, block real innovation. My suggested status quo-accommodating tweak is an easy sell to a great many experienced educators, but it isn’t being tried because present conceptions of “reform” are so narrow and rigid, and failure to fall in line is so certain to trigger a punitive response.  </p><p>Here’s this blog’s takeaway: <em>It’s impossible to understand a dynamic, systemically integrated world using a static, fragmented curriculum.</em></p><p>I challenge education policymakers and pundits who disagree with that statement to either make their case, publicly, in the same medium in which they’re reading these words, or get behind a campaign to allow public school teachers and administrators to experiment with innovations that can’t be evaluated by machine-scored, multiple choice, standardized, subject-matter tests.</p><p> </p><p><em>Reprinted by permission of the author.</em></p> Thu, 27 Feb 2014 05:00:00 -0800 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 963575 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education education curriculum reform accountability race to the top k-12 Why Common Core Isn't the Answer http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/why-common-core-isnt-answer <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Subject-based education is not what we need, according to this educator. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_2417163.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>As far as I know, no one has asked the general public’s opinion about the Common Core State Standards for school subjects. My guess would be that if polled, most people—including most educators—would say they just make good sense.</p><p>But <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/01/27/why-support-for-common-core-issinking/">not everyone is a fan</a>. Few oppose standards, but a significant number oppose the Common Core State Standards. Those on the political right don’t like the fact that—notwithstanding the word “State” in the title—it was really the feds who helped to railroad the standards into place.</p><p>Resisters on the political left cite a range of reasons for opposing the standards—that they were shoved into place without research or pilot programs, that they’re a setup for national testing, that the real winners are manufacturers of tests and teaching materials because they can crank out the same stuff for everybody—just to begin a considerably longer list.</p><p>Three cheers for those on the political right. Three more for those on the left. May the chaos in Washington and state capitols over education policy help the public realize that, in matters educational, the leaders of business and industry and the politicians who listen to them are blind bulls in china shops.</p><p>I began pointing out problems with subject-matter standards beginning with a</p><p>1966 article in an education journal, the <em>Phi Delta Kappan,</em> and have been at it ever since. (On my website, I summarize a <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/documents/Problems-CCSS.pdf">few of the problems</a>.) Here, however, I want to focus on just one problem which, unless it’s addressed, could ultimately be fatal to the education system.</p><p>I’ll start by affirming what I believe most thoughtful educators take for granted: The main aim of schooling is to model or explain reality better. As you read, don’t lose sight of that. The aim of schooling isn’t to teach math, science, language arts, and other school subjects better, but to expand our understanding of reality.</p><p>When I use the word “reality,” I’m being concrete and specific. What I can see out of the window directly in front of me is a slice of it. I live on the west bank of the Indian River Lagoon on Florida’s east coast. Not really a river, the lagoon is a body of brackish water that stretches fifty or so miles north and about twice that to the south. Off the end of my dock it’s about two miles wide.</p><p>This bit of reality costs me money, and continues to do so, but its moods are a source of pleasure, its sunrises are often spectacular, and its easy access by boat to some local restaurants, the Atlantic Ocean and the rest of the world, are all pluses. I have, then, reasons to try to understand this particular bit of reality. (Be patient. I’m getting to the point.)</p><p>Thirty years ago, when I started building my house, I could often almost walk across the river stepping from clam boat to clam boat. The only clam boats I see now are on trailers in back yards.</p><p>Buoys marking underwater crab traps used to dot the river. The traps are gone because most of the crabs are gone.</p><p>There was a time when the fish in the Lagoon were so plentiful I’ve had dinner-sized mullet jump into my boat. That no longer happens.</p><p>Sea grasses used to cover much of the lagoon’s sandy bottom. Now, the stretch of grassless sand that says the lagoon is sick extends for perhaps a quarter of a mile beyond my dock and keeps expanding. All else being equal, my property is losing value.</p><p>What’s happened? Here’s an over-simplified version:</p><ol><li>When I began building my house, only one house light was visible at night across the river on Merritt Island. Mangrove thickets lined the shore for miles in both directions. Now, there are dozens of lights, and many manicured lawns stretch down to the water’s edge.<br /> </li><li>Much of the property on both sides of the river (including mine) isn’t part of a municipality. Everyone has a septic system.<br /> </li><li>The soil up and down the coast is mostly sand. The outflow from septic tanks, and the fertilizers and chemicals used to maintain lawns, easily percolate down to the water table, then seep into the river.<br /> </li><li>Nitrogen and phosphorus compounds in the fertilizer and sewage feed unnatural algae blooms, blocking the light from sea grasses and using up dissolved oxygen needed by marine life.<br /> </li><li>Dead organisms turn into black muck, discouraging new grass growth.<br /> </li><li>Property owners, reasoning that their fertilizer and sewage have negligible effect, say, “I’m taxed enough already. Why should I pay for sewage lines and treatment plants?”</li></ol><p>As I said, I have a serious stake in understanding the reality I’ve been describing. Unfortunately, no subject in the core curriculum can give me that understanding. I have to assemble it myself using content drawn from demography, geology, botany, mathematics, sociology, law, chemistry, hydraulics, political science, psychology, economics, meteorology, and other fields.</p><p>Then comes the hard part—<em>exploring the relationships between those fields.</em></p><p>Choose something to think about—anything—and the above applies. Whatever you’ve chosen to understand can’t be thoroughly understood in isolation because it’s part of a system. That system will have many parts, the whole will be greater than the sum of those parts, and, to add to the sense-making challenge, the whole is dynamic. While you’re trying to make sense of it, it’s changing.</p><p>Compared to most of the complex realities facing humankind, what’s happening to the reality visible out my window is small potatoes. But making sense of it (and all other realities) requires a particular kind of thinking—a kind of thinking that makes civilized life possible. <em>However, the Common Core Standards don’t promote that kind</em> <em>of thinking.</em> That means it won’t get taught, which means it won’t get tested, which means we’re not really educating, which means too much to even try to summarize.</p><p>This is why Alfred North Whitehead, in his 1916 Presidential Address to the Mathematical Association of England, told educators they needed to “eradicate the fatal disconnection of subjects which kills the vitality of the modern curriculum.”</p><p>This is why Harland Cleveland wrote: “It is a well-known scandal that our whole educational system is geared more to categorizing and analyzing patches of knowledge than to threading them together.”</p><p>This is why John Goodlad, after a massive, multi-year study of American high schools culminating in a 1984 McGraw-Hill book titled, <em>A Place Called School</em>, wrote, “The division into subjects and periods encourages a segmented rather than an integrated view of knowledge. Consequently, what students are asked to relate to in schooling becomes increasingly artificial, cut off from the human experiences subject matter is supposed to reflect.”</p><p>This is why dozens of other scholars have been saying the same thing for at least the last several hundred years: What we’re doing isn’t working.</p><p>The systemic nature of reality, the seamless way the brain perceives it, the organizing process that aids memory, the relating process that creates new knowledge, the conceptual networking that yields fresh insights, the meshing of two seemingly unrelated ideas that underlies creativity—all rely on holistic, systemically integrated and related thought<em>.</em><em>And it’s not being taught.</em></p><p>Before today’s education “reformers”—in a spectacular fit of hubris—took over America’s schools, progress in modeling reality more simply and accurately was being made based on <a href="http://www.communicationcache.com/uploads/1/0/8/8/10887248/general_systems_theory_-">General Systems Theory</a> as it had developed during World War II. No</p><p>Child Left Behind and Race to the Top kissed that progress goodbye. Policymakers assume there’s nothing wrong with the core curriculum adopted in 1893, so shut up and study, kids.</p><p>We can work our way out of the hole <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/CIR.asp">we’ve dug for ourselves</a>, but it can’t be done by following orders handed down by authorities in Washington and state capitols, orders that ignore the nature of knowledge, the history of education, the wisdom of hard-earned expertise, the conclusions of research, the nature of human nature, simple management principles, and common sense.</p><p>Pushback against a system now abusing the young and wasting their potential is decades overdue. Teachers need autonomy, freedom to experiment, and opportunities for meaningful dialogue with each other and the communities they serve that they don’t now have. For most, however, pushing back in today’s economy and retribution-prone school culture comes at a price few can afford to pay.</p><p>Political power must be exercised, but parents, grandparents, and thoughtful, caring citizens are the only ones with enough clout to exercise it effectively. They need to recognize poor policy when they see it, organize, and act appropriately.</p> Tue, 11 Feb 2014 05:00:00 -0800 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 956707 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education education education reform common core state standards curriculum reform k-12 no child left behind race to the top Do You Know What ‘The Procedure’ Is? http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/do-you-know-what-procedure <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">You probably do. But what you might not know is how badly it&#039;s harming education.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_138171806.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>In a Wall Street Journal <a href="http://By Marion Brady In a Wall Street Journal op-ed (i), high-profile education reformer Lou Gerstner, Jr., wrote, “We must start with the recognition that, despite decade after decade of reform efforts, our public K- 12 schools have not improved.” In a speech to the American Federation of Teachers (ii), multi-billionaire Bill Gates agreed, saying the United States has been “struggling for decades to improve our public schools,” and the results have been “dismal.” In his December 19, 2013 Education Week blog (iii), Marc Tucker, another influential long-time education reformer, asks, “Why has US education performance flatlined?” Like Gerstner, Gates, and Tucker, I don’t see any evidence that the army of corporate types who left business suites and corner offices to come to the rescue of American education have done anything but dumb down the public’s conception of the ends of public education and the proper means to more acceptable ends. Corporate reformers have had two decades to make their case that what ails American education is a lack of rigor, and two decades to test their theory that market forces are the surest way to kick-start that needed rigor. To that end, they’ve introduced competition with a vengeance—kids against kids, parents against parents, teachers against teachers, schools against schools, districts against districts, states against states, nations against nations. And it hasn’t worked. But like all true believers, it doesn’t shake their faith that rigor is the key to quality performance, that competition is the key to rigor, and that more of it will make America the winner in the bubble-in-the-right-oval race. I come to the reform problem from a simpler, more direct perspective. Although at one time or another I’ve played most of the roles connected to education—student, parent, teacher, researcher, school board member, textbook author, contributor to journals, college professor, consultant, administrator, and so on, I think of myself primarily in the role I most enjoyed and in which I learned the most—a classroom teacher of adolescents, working with kids sent to me against their will, on orders from vague authority figures, behaving as kids could be expected to behave when caged for hours at a time in a small, dull space. For years I wrote newspaper columns for Knight-Ridder, trying to help general readers think freshly about long-ignored school problems. Below is a response to one of my columns from John Perry, a classroom teacher in Central Florida. Read what he has to say and ask yourself how more rigor would solve his problem. ____________ Marion, Your comments about the SSS [Florida’s Sunshine State Standards] hit home for me this year because I ended up teaching middle school science. It is unbelievable what we are asked to do to our students. I expected that middle school science might be divided up into, say, physical, earth, and life science in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade respectively. Well, no, even that would make too much sense. Sixth grade science is a survey course of...well, everything under the sun. We have a 776 page book loaded with very concentrated information. There are 23 chapters: 1. The Nature of Science 2. Measurement 3. Matter 4. Properties and Changes 5. Waves 6. Motion and Forces 7. Work and Simple Machines 8. Views of Earth 9. Resources 10. Atmosphere 11. Weather 12. Climate 13. Ecosystems 14. The Structure of Organisms 15. Classifying living things 16. Bacteria 17. Protists and Fungi 18. Plants 19. Plant Processes 20. Invertebrate Animals 21. Vertebrate Animals 22. Animal Behavior 23. The Solar System and Beyond Whew! Seem like a tall order for sixth graders to absorb in one year? Even absurd? Yeah. Well, I'm on a block schedule. My students are expected to absorb all of this in ONE SEMESTER! And get this—the team I’m on (myself, a math teacher, and a language arts teacher), was formed by taking the bottom third of the reading scores in sixth grade and putting all those kids together! How do you think they respond to this textbook, with its blizzard of unfamiliar vocabulary? These kids, who most need hands-on concept building, are expected instead to stand in front of a virtual fire hose of information and be blasted. (Please excuse the mixed metaphors!) The district has two semester exams to diagnose how my students are doing. Soon, they will be tested on FCAT [Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test]. If they do poorly, the students, the school and I will be labeled failures. Well, there is definitely a failure here, but it isn't me or my kids. John _________ Imagine John as the best middle school science teacher in America. Put him in an expertly administered upper-class suburban school. Assign him smart, healthy, highly motivated kids, drawn from advanced placement classes. Be sure each has two college-educated, happily married parents. Limit his class to no more than a dozen, and schedule it for late morning when they’re sharpest. Now, hand John that 776-page textbook to distribute—the one organized like the contents of a dumpster at a demolition site—and assure him it covers the material that will be on the high- stakes tests. What will happen? Almost certainly, at the end of the term every kid in John’s class will ace the test, and everybody—kids, parents, administrators, school board, the local newspaper, cable news—will be impressed and happy. Everybody except John. He won’t be impressed and happy because (remember?) he’s the best middle school science teacher in America, and he knows—notwithstanding the test scores—how little his students actually learned in their race to the end of the textbook. They slam-dunked the test not because they learned a lot of science but because they followed The Procedure. The Procedure: 1. Take notes during lectures, and hi-lite key sentences in the textbook. 2. Before a big test, load the notes and hi-lited passages into short-term memory. 3. Take the test. 4. After the test, flush short-term memory and prepare it for re-use. It’s no exaggeration to say that just about everybody who's ever been to school thinks The Procedure isn’t just acceptable but essential. It’s so broadly used, so familiar, so taken-for-granted, that many schools and universities go to great pains to accommodate it. Some even have rituals to enhance it. The Procedure, of course, is called “cramming.” Do it well and it leads steadily up the academic ladder. But here’s a question: Does The Procedure have anything do with educating? Learning—real LEARNING—starts when, for whatever reason, the learner wants it to start. It proceeds if the aim is clear and what’s being learned connects logically and solidly to existing knowledge. It’s strengthened when mistakes are made, clarifying the potential and limitations of the new knowledge. It’s reinforced when it’s put to frequent, immediate, meaningful, real-world use. It becomes permanent when it’s made part of the learner’s organized, consciously known “master” structure of knowledge. Slow down for a moment and think about it. Cramming is indisputable proof of the superficiality and inefficiency—even the failure—of what’s going on in most classrooms across America. What’s crammed wasn’t learned or there would be no need to cram; what’s crammed isn’t learned or it wouldn’t be forgotten. In the real world, where it counts, the gap between crammers and learners is vast, and tends to widen over time. Unfortunately, the thus-far-successful “reform” effort to cover the standard material at a standard pace, and replace teacher judgment with machine-scored standardized tests has further institutionalized cramming and hidden the failure its use proves. What a waste! Here’s a fact: Information overload is just one of about two-dozen serious problems directly or indirectly connected to our 19 th Century core curriculum. Sadly, no, tragically, instead of rethinking that curriculum, starting with its fundamental premises and assumptions, reformers have considered it so nearly perfect they’re determined to force it on every kid in America. Aren’t we going at the job backwards? Shouldn’t we be doing just the opposite—developing and capitalizing on the learner diversity that enables humankind to adapt to change? *** i http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB122809533452168067 ii http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=5&amp;cad=rja&amp;ved=0CFIQFjAE&amp;url=http%3 A%2F%2Fwww.gatesfoundation.org%2Fmedia-center%2Fspeeches%2F2010%2F07%2Famerican-federation-of- teachers&amp;ei=PFDRUteVFsS0sATCqICADA&amp;usg=AFQjCNGP6bPTCNzHDjJ1ykVYfKc2NrnEwQ&amp;sig2=QwNbS 9l-ZTF-c-Tr_yf-oA&amp;bvm=bv.59026428,d.cWc iii http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;ved=0CC4QFjAA&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2 Fblogs.edweek.org%2Fedweek%2Ftop_performers%2F&amp;ei=oZHFUsnxL_GgsQTEwoDADQ&amp;usg=AFQjCNFQlkx XPRIlygitKEycGQg-6FR90Q&amp;sig2=jZu-lRGoDLufKOZtO1lStQ&amp;bvm=bv.58187178,d.cWc&amp;cad=rja">op-ed</a>, high-profile education reformer Lou Gerstner, Jr., wrote, “We must start with the recognition that, despite decade after decade of reform efforts, our public K- 12 schools have not improved.”<br /><br />In a speech to the American Federation of Teachers, multi-billionaire Bill Gates agreed, saying the United States has been “struggling for decades to improve our public schools,” and the results have been “dismal.”<br /><br />In his December 19, 2013 Education Week blog, Marc Tucker, another influential long-time education reformer, asks, “Why has US education performance flatlined?”<br /><br />Like Gerstner, Gates, and Tucker, I don’t see any evidence that the army of corporate types who left business suites and corner offices to come to the rescue of American education have done anything but dumb down the public’s conception of the ends of public education and the proper means to more acceptable ends.<br /><br />Corporate reformers have had two decades to make their case that what ails American education is a lack of rigor, and two decades to test their theory that market forces are the surest way to kick-start that needed rigor. To that end, they’ve introduced competition with a vengeance—kids against kids, parents against parents, teachers against teachers, schools against schools, districts against districts, states against states, nations against nations.<br /> <br />And it hasn’t worked. But like all true believers, it doesn’t shake their faith that rigor is the key to quality performance, that competition is the key to rigor, and that more of it will make America the winner in the bubble-in-the-right-oval race.<br /><br />I come to the reform problem from a simpler, more direct perspective. Although at one time or another I’ve played most of the roles connected to education—student, parent, teacher, researcher, school board member, textbook author, contributor to journals, college professor, consultant, administrator, and so on, I think of myself primarily in the role I most enjoyed and in which I learned the most—a classroom teacher of adolescents, working with kids sent to me against their will, on orders from vague authority figures, behaving as kids could be expected to behave when caged for hours at a time in a small, dull space.<br /> <br />For years I wrote newspaper columns for Knight-Ridder, trying to help general readers think freshly about long-ignored school problems. Below is a response to one of my columns from John Perry, a classroom teacher in Central Florida. Read what he has to say and ask yourself how more rigor would solve his problem.<br /><br />____________<br />  </p><p style="background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>Marion, </span></i></p><p style="background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>Your comments about the SSS [Florida’s Sunshine State Standards] hit home for me this year because I ended up teaching middle school science. It is unbelievable what we are asked to do to our students. I expected that middle school science might be divided up into, say, physical, earth, and life science in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade respectively. Well, no, even that would make too much sense. Sixth grade science is a survey course of...well, everything under the sun. We have a 776 page book loaded with very concentrated information. There are 23 chapters:<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>1. The Nature of Science </span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>2. Measurement <span> </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>3. Matter </span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>4. Properties and Changes<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>5. Waves<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>6. Motion and Forces<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>7. Work and Simple Machines<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>8. Views of Earth </span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>9. Resources<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>10. Atmosphere<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>11. Weather<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>12. Climate<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>13. Ecosystems<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>14. The Structure of Organisms<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>15. Classifying living things </span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>16. Bacteria<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>17. Protists and Fungi<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>18. Plants<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>19. Plant Processes<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>20. Invertebrate Animals<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>21. Vertebrate Animals<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>22. Animal Behavior<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>23. The Solar System and Beyond<span>  </span></span></i></p><p style="background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>Whew! Seem like a tall order for sixth graders to absorb in one year? Even absurd? Yeah. Well, I'm on a block schedule. My students are expected to absorb all of this in ONE SEMESTER! And get this—the team I’m on (myself, a math teacher, and a language arts teacher), was formed by taking the bottom third of the reading scores in sixth grade and putting all those kids together! How do you think they respond to this textbook, with its blizzard of unfamiliar vocabulary? These kids, who most need hands-on concept building, are expected instead to stand in front of a virtual fire hose of information and be blasted. (Please excuse the mixed metaphors!) </span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>The district has two semester exams to diagnose how my students are doing. Soon, they will be tested on FCAT [Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test]. If they do poorly, the students, the school and I will be labeled failures. Well, there is definitely a failure here, but it isn't me or my kids.</span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span> </span></i></p><p style="margin:0in 0in 0.0001pt;background:none repeat scroll 0% 0% white"><i><span>John</span></i></p><p>_________<br /> <br />Imagine John as the best middle school science teacher in America. Put him in an expertly administered upper-class suburban school. Assign him smart, healthy, highly motivated kids, drawn from advanced placement classes. Be sure each has two college-educated, happily married parents. Limit his class to no more than a dozen, and schedule it for late morning when they’re sharpest.<br /><br />Now, hand John that 776-page textbook to distribute—the one organized like the contents of a dumpster at a demolition site—and assure him it covers the material that will be on the high- stakes tests.<br /><br />What will happen? Almost certainly, at the end of the term every kid in John’s class will ace the test, and everybody—kids, parents, administrators, school board, the local newspaper, cable news—will be impressed and happy.<br /><br />Everybody except John. He won’t be impressed and happy because (remember?) he’s the best middle school science teacher in America, and he knows—notwithstanding the test scores—how little his students actually learned in their race to the end of the textbook. They slam-dunked the test not because they learned a lot of science but because they followed The Procedure.<br /><br />The Procedure: 1. Take notes during lectures, and hi-lite key sentences in the textbook. 2. Before a big test, load the notes and hi-lited passages into short-term memory. 3. Take the test. 4. After the test, flush short-term memory and prepare it for re-use.<br /><br />It’s no exaggeration to say that just about everybody who's ever been to school thinks The Procedure isn’t just acceptable but essential. It’s so broadly used, so familiar, so taken-for-granted, that many schools and universities go to great pains to accommodate it. Some even have rituals to enhance it.<br /><br />The Procedure, of course, is called “cramming.” Do it well and it leads steadily up the academic ladder.<br /><br />But here’s a question: Does The Procedure have anything do with educating?<br /><br />Learning—real LEARNING—starts when, for whatever reason, the learner wants it to start. It proceeds if the aim is clear and what’s being learned connects logically and solidly to existing knowledge. It’s strengthened when mistakes are made, clarifying the potential and limitations of the new knowledge. It’s reinforced when it’s put to frequent, immediate, meaningful, real-world use. It becomes permanent when it’s made part of the learner’s organized, consciously known “master” structure of knowledge.<br /> <br />Slow down for a moment and think about it. Cramming is indisputable proof of the superficiality and inefficiency—even the failure—of what’s going on in most classrooms across America. What’s crammed wasn’t learned or there would be no need to cram; what’s crammed isn’t learned or it wouldn’t be forgotten.<br /><br />In the real world, where it counts, the gap between crammers and learners is vast, and tends to widen over time. Unfortunately, the thus-far-successful “reform” effort to cover the standard material at a standard pace, and replace teacher judgment with machine-scored standardized tests has further institutionalized cramming and hidden the failure its use proves.<br /><br />What a waste!<br /><br />Here’s a fact: Information overload is just one of about two-dozen serious problems directly or indirectly connected to our 19th Century core curriculum. Sadly, no, tragically, instead of rethinking that curriculum, starting with its fundamental premises and assumptions, reformers have considered it so nearly perfect they’re determined to force it on every kid in America.<br /><br />Aren’t we going at the job backwards? Shouldn’t we be doing just the opposite—developing and capitalizing on the learner diversity that enables humankind to adapt to change?</p><p><br /><em>Reprinted by permission of the author.</em></p> Fri, 17 Jan 2014 05:00:00 -0800 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 947368 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education education education reform curriculum high-stakes testing What's Wrong with the Common Core? http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/whats-wrong-common-core <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The major flaw in modern schooling is its preoccupation with letters and numbers to the neglect of all other ways of learning.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_159191060.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div>A particular interest of mine has long been what kids are taught in the early years of adolescence. No surprise, then, that when the Common Core Standards went public, I clicked on the standards for <a href="http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf" target="_blank">Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects</a> and scrolled down to pages 61 and 62, where you can find lists of standards for different grades.</div><div> </div><div>Let’s look at the standards for 9<sup>th</sup> and 10<sup>th</sup> graders.  There are two lists for the various subjects, but they are nearly identical. Reading them, I was struck by something I’ll boldface for the sake of emphasis:</div><div><blockquote><p>Standard 1: “Cite specific<b> textual</b> evidence…”</p><p>Standard 2: “Determine the central ideas…of a <b>text</b>…”</p><p>Standard 3: “Follow…a procedure…defined in the <b>text</b>.”</p><p>Standard 4: “Determine the meaning…relevant to <b>texts</b>…”</p><p>Standard 5: “Analyze the relationships…in a <b>text</b>.”</p><p>Standard 6: “Analyze the author’s purpose in a <b>tex</b>t…”</p><p>Standard 7: “Translate…words in a <b>text</b>…”</p><p>Standard 8: “Access…evidence…in a <b>text</b>…”</p><p>Standard 9: “Compare findings…presented in a <b>text</b>…”</p><p>Standard 10: “…read and comprehend…<b>text</b>…”</p></blockquote><p>To their credit, the standards require kids to “cite, compare, translate, determine, define, analyze”—in short—do something that traditional classroom instruction has always neglected. They require them to think for themselves, not just try to remember something read in a book or heard in a lecture.</p><p>But that benefit comes at great cost. It perpetuates and reinforces what’s always been a major—no, make that THE major weakness of modern schooling—its preoccupation with playing with letters and numbers to the neglect of all other ways of learning.</p><p>That view was underlined for me two or three months ago when I spent several hours in the <a href="http://www.morgan-motor.co.uk/" target="_blank">Morgan Motor Company</a> factory in Malvern, England, watching and talking to workers turning out built-to-order cars. They’d all served four-year apprenticeships on the factory floor. It was underlined for me again by an <a href="http://www.monbiot.com/2013/10/07/rewild-the-child/" target="_blank">article</a> published in the October 8, 2013, <i>Guardian</i> titled “Rewild the Child.”</p><p>Common sense says we educate to help learners <i>make better sense of experience—themselves, others, the world.  </i>Those Common Core Standards above say something very different, that we educate to help learners make more sense of text—words on a page. There’s no acknowledgement of the myriad other ways humans learn, no apparent recognition of the inadequacies of text in preparing the young for an unknown future, no apparent appreciation of the superior power of firsthand knowledge compared to secondhand knowledge, no provision for adopting ways of learning yet to be discovered,</p><p>Yes, it’s important for learners to know what others have to say, but facing a complex and unknown future, it’s far more important that the young learn how to figure things out for <i>themselves,</i> more important that they know how to create<i> new </i>knowledge as it’s needed, more important that they be able to imagine the as-yet-unimagined.</p><p>The promotional hype for the Common Core Standards rightly criticizes traditional schooling’s failure to teach critical thinking and other higher-order thought processes. But those who think the Common Core Standards turn a 19<sup>th</sup> Century curriculum into a teaching tool equal to the challenges of the 21<sup>st</sup> Century <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/documents/Problems-CCSS.pdf" target="_blank">haven’t thought the matter through</a>.</p><p>I find it hard to believe that before putting their stamps of approval on the Common Core Standards, someone in the U.S. Department of Education, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, or the many other organizations now singing the praises of the standards didn’t call attention to their narrow, “bookish” slant.</p><p>Surely at least some people in those organizations know (or certainly<i> should</i> know) about “hands on” project learning, or place-based studies, or of the curriculum-changing potential of the concept of General Systems Theory. If they weren’t aware of recent developments in curriculum design, they should at least have had second thoughts about the intellectual costs of squeezing the arts and play out of the school day. If millions of kids have to sit in their seats with their noses held to the Common Core text grindstone, “rigor” ought to mean a lot more than merely making sense of secondhand “informational text.”</p><p>Hmmm. Just now, re-reading the 10 standards specifying the various mental processes kids are to bring to the reading of text, I see no mention of the thought process of hypothesizing. The ability to generate hypotheses is essential to creative, imaginative, divergent thought. Was its omission just carelessness? Or is it possible that policymakers aren’t interested in that kind of thinking? There’s a lot of talk right now about the importance of STEM education—science, technology, engineering, mathematics. But given the third-world-direction in which America’s economy is headed, a great many kids will probably end up not in STEM occupations but in low-paying service jobs.<br /> </p></div><p><em>This article originally appeared on Valerie Strauss' "<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/‎">The Answer Sheet</a>" blog on WashingtonPost.com. Reprinted by permission of the author.</em></p> Sun, 10 Nov 2013 20:02:00 -0800 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 922211 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education education k-12 common core state standards stem alternative learning traditional schooling curriculum US Department of Education What Makes an Effective Teacher? Here are the Right and Wrong Roles http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/what-makes-effective-teacher-here-are-right-and-wrong-roles <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Bill Gates spent $45 million trying to find out what makes a school teacher effective — and failed. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/students_testing_teacher.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Bill Gates spent$45 million trying to find out what makes a school teacher effective. I’ve studied his <a href="http://www.metproject.org/">Measures of Effective Teaching</a> (MET) project, and think it ignores a matter of fundamental importance.</p><p>Consider: What makes an effective lawyer, carpenter, baseball player, surgeon?</p><p>The answer is that it depends—depends on what they’re being asked to do. An effective divorce lawyer isn’t necessarily an effective criminal defense lawyer. A good framing carpenter isn’t necessarily a good finish carpenter. A good baseball catcher isn’t necessarily a good third baseman. A good heart surgeon isn’t necessarily a good hip-replacement surgeon.</p><p>Put lawyers, carpenters, baseball players, and surgeons in wrong roles, test them, and a likely conclusion will be that they’re not particularly effective. So it is with teachers. Put them in wrong roles, and they probably won’t be particularly effective.</p><p>Gates’ faith in test scores as indicators of effectiveness makes it clear that he buys the conventional wisdom that the teacher’s role is to “deliver information.” But what if the conventional wisdom is wrong?</p><p>Here’s an American history teacher playing the “delivering information” role:</p><p><i>“What were the Puritans like? Many of the things they did—and didn’t do—grew out of their religion. For example, they thought that all people were basically evil, and that the only way to keep this evil under control was to follow God’s laws given in the Bible. Anyone who didn’t follow those laws would spend eternity in Hell.”</i></p><p>Later—a few minutes, hours, days, or weeks—it’s the learners’ turn to play their role. They take a test to show how much of the delivered information they remember. If it’s a lot, the teacher is labeled “effective.” If most of it has been forgotten, he or she is “ineffective.”</p><p>Let’s call this “Teacher Role X.”</p><p>Now, suppose the teacher doesn’t play that role—delivers no information at all about Puritan beliefs and values or anything else—instead says, “I’m handing you copies of several pages from <a href="http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/nep/1777/"><i>The New England Primer</i>,</a> the little book the Puritans used to teach the alphabet. Get with your team, and for the next couple of days try to think like a little Puritan kid studying the pages. What do you think you’d grow up believing or feeling that’s like or not like your present beliefs and values?”</p><p>That’s it. The teacher may be an expert on Puritan worldview, but offers no opinion, just wanders around the room listening to kids argue their assumptions, defend their hypotheses, elaborate their theories and generalizations, getting ready to later make their case to the other teams.</p><p>Let’s call this “Teacher Role Y.”</p><p>Which teacher —the one delivering information (X), or the one requiring kids to construct information for themselves (Y)—is more effective?</p><p>Here’s Bill Gates, chief architect of the present education reform movement, giving <a href="http://voices.washingtonpost.com/college-inc/2011/02/bill_gates_talks_about_teacher.html">his answer</a> to that question: “<i>If you look at something like class sizes going from 22 to 27, and paying that teacher a third of the savings, and you make sure it’s the effective teachers you’re retaining, by any measure, you’re raising the quality of education.”</i></p><p>Clearly, when Gates says it’s just as easy to deliver information to 27 kids as it is to deliver it to 22, he’s taking the teacher-as-deliverer-of-information role for granted. Just by talking a little louder, Role X teachers can deliver information to the additional five students. Give them bullhorns, and they can deliver to 127. Give them television transmitters or the Internet, and class size is irrelevant. <a href="http://mathspig.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/khan-1.jpg">Salman Khan</a>’s online math tutorials reach millions.</p><p>For Role Y teachers, however, every additional learner after the first makes the job harder. They’re trying to gauge the nature and quality of learners’ thought processes; assess depth of understanding; set and maintain a proper pace; decide whether to move on, go back, or go around a learning difficulty; determine learner attitudes toward and appreciation of the subject; trace the evolution of communication, collaboration, and other skills; and note honesty, tenacity, and other character traits that a good education is expected to develop.</p><p>Role X teachers may care about those matters, but if they’re standing behind a podium in a lecture auditorium, talking to a television camera, or teaching a class via the internet, caring is the most they can do. Real learning is a relationship-based experience. The effectiveness of Role X teachers won’t change significantly unless somebody invents technology that’s capable of, say, delivering a kiss remotely that has the same effect as the real thing.</p><p>Notwithstanding the assumption that Teach For America recruits or others who know a subject well can teach it, teaching—real teaching—is exceedingly complex, difficult work. That Role Y history teacher in my example had to decide that understanding a group’s worldview is important enough to warrant devoting two or three days to it, and be able to explain, if challenged, why the study of worldview is relevant and important. He or she then had to find a vehicle (in this case, <i>The New England Primer</i>) that was intellectually manageable by adolescents of varying ability levels, dealt with the required content, required use of a full range of thought processes, and engaged kids sufficiently to be intrinsically satisfying.</p><p>Then the real work began—“reading” kids’ minds—analyzing their dialogue, interpreting facial expressions and body language, and sensing other cues so subtle they’re often below ordinary levels of awareness—cues that may relate to the learner’s mood, ethnicity, prior experience, peer and family relationships, social class, and so on—the whole of the challenge further complicated by the fact that no two kids in any class will be alike.</p><p>It takes years for those skills to develop and become “second nature.”</p><p>Teacher Roles X and Y are played not just in the teaching of history but in every subject, and the roles are poles apart. Indeed, so distinctive are the two approaches they create two entirely different classroom cultures, each with enough consequences—expected and unexpected—to warrant at least a half-dozen chapters in a book.</p><p>The performance of students taught by Role X teachers can be evaluated by machine-scored standardized tests. Machines can’t come even close to evaluating the performance complexities of Role Y teachers. That’s why the testing fad and everything that relates to it—the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/04/07/principal-to-parents-dont-buy-the-bunk-about-new-common-core-tests/">Common Core State Standards</a>, student ranking, school grades, timed standardized tests, merit pay, pre-set test failure rates, and so on—drive Role Y teachers up a wall.</p><p>Failure to distinguish between teacher-centered and student-centered approaches to educating makes the conclusions of Gates’ Measures of Effective Teaching project of limited usefulness at best, misleading at worst. That failure also generates problems within the ranks of teachers, creating a chasm of misunderstanding that more than a century of professional dialogue has thus far been unable to bridge.</p><p>Decades of firsthand experience with both Roles X and Y in my own teaching and that of teachers for whom I’ve been responsible leave me without the slightest doubt that, notwithstanding its continued use, much Role X instruction amounts to little more than ritual. Unfortunately, Role X is what No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and other policies being forced on teachers by corporate interests and politicians are reinforcing.</p><p>Given the wealth and power behind those misguided efforts, the refusal of their advocates to listen to experienced teachers or respect research, and the assumption by the likes of Rupert Murdock that current reforms will build a <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=rupert%20murdock%20on%20education%20investment&amp;ie=utf-8&amp;oe=utf-8&amp;aq=t&amp;rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&amp;client=firefox-a">money machine</a> for investors, it seems likely that present X-based education “reform” efforts will be the only game in town.</p><p>I can think of only one sure-fire way to take control of public education away from Washington and state capitols, return it to educators and local community control, and open the door to broad dialogue and genuine reform. The young hold a wrench which, dropped into the standardizing gears, will bring them to a near-instant stop. If even a relatively small minority agree (as some already have) to either refuse to take any test not created or approved by their teachers, or else take the tests but “Christmas-tree” the ovals on their  answer sheets, the data the tests produce will be useless.</p><p>Conscience-driven students who do that will be owed the gratitude of a nation. They’ll have put the brakes on a secretive, destructive reform effort based on a simplistic, teacher-centered, learner-neglecting conception of educating.</p><p>I can anticipate some of the conventional-wisdom reaction to what I’m advocating—that it’s irresponsible, that kids are too immature to evaluate the quality of their schooling, that I’m undermining the authority structure that holds the institution together.</p><p>Before hanging negative labels on me, ask yourself: Is a system of education that limits intellectual performance to the thought processes that machines can evaluate, adequately equipping the young to cope with the future they’re inheriting?</p> Wed, 17 Apr 2013 17:05:00 -0700 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 826488 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education News & Politics standardized testing bill gates education teachers common core state standards Do Textbooks Really Help Teach Our Kids? http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/do-textbooks-really-help-teach-our-kids <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Schools are sending kids on their way with a solid grasp of the Common Core State Standards but ignorant of powerful ideas.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/learn_education.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>A few days ago I watched a Public Broadcasting System, Independent Lens video titled <a href="http://www.itvs.org/films/revisionaries">“The Revisionaries.”</a> It follows Don McLeRoy, dentist and longtime conservative member of the Texas Board of Education, as he campaigns for the position of chairman, then, later, to continue to serve on the board.</p><p>The video follows proceedings as board members argue whether or not creationism should get equal billing with evolution, and if Thomas Jefferson deserves to be considered a Founding Father of the republic.</p><p>Arguments are settled by board vote.</p><p>About forty years ago, I (with my brother’s help) wrote a couple of textbooks for Prentice-Hall, Inc. The books were unorthodox, and the Internet hadn’t yet been invented, so I spent a lot of time in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, working with editorial staff.</p><p>I learned a lot. Along with much else, they explained to me the importance of Texas in the textbook business. Leave something out of a book that a majority of the Texas State Board wants in, or put something in that it wants out, and your chance of landing a multi-million dollar contract for your book evaporates.</p><p>Because textbook evaluators in other states don’t always see eye-to-eye with the Texas board, textbook authors have to walk a very narrow, please-everybody line if they hope to be published.</p><p>Prentice-Hall editors also explained what they saw as the industry’s typical textbook-creating strategy: Study the current bestseller in a particular field, copy it as much as possible, but fatten it up a bit to make it seem more comprehensive than the competition. Finally, add a flashy gimmick in the text, in the teacher edition, or in a companion package, and train the sales force to pitch the gimmick.</p><p>At some stage in this process, get some big name in the field to add her or his name to the project (for a cut of the profit, of course).</p><p>The weight of the contents of student backpacks suggests that the textbook design strategy described to me all those years ago is still being used.</p><p>Which is a major reason why I don’t think commercially produced textbooks have much to do with educating. If that sounds odd, chalk it up to my belief that the sheer volume of information in the typical textbook, the rapid rate at which the material in it is covered, the colorless writing, the abstract nature of most of the content, its lack of immediate usefulness, and the passive role it forces readers to play, all combine to assure that little of lasting consequence results from textbook use—certainly nothing that would justify its cost.</p><p>Textbooks are designed to deliver information, but kids aren’t designed to receive it.</p><p>The real world of the student’s own school in all its physical and social complexity is a far richer, more comprehensive, more intellectually stimulating “textbook” than anything likely to meet with the approval of textbook adoption committees. Kids should design and execute plans to make sense of that complexity, a task that will require them to spend much of the school day out of their seats. Challenging them to use their increasingly detailed knowledge of the school to improve it will engage them emotionally, and the mental model of reality they’ll construct will provide a solid foundation for life-long learning in any specialized field they choose to enter.</p><p>My opinion notwithstanding, textbooks (or online versions of them) are here to stay. Tradition, the conventional wisdom both inside and outside the education establishment, and publishing company lobbyists, will see to that. The challenge, then, is to improve them.</p><p>That’s a lot harder than most people think, and it has to begin with understanding and accepting the fact that, in educating, “less is more.” Indeed, a lot less is a lot more. Learners, hungry for knowledge, are being stuffed with mere information.</p><p>That’s unacceptable. In the effort to make sense of our selves, each other, and the human condition, a relatively few ideas have an explanatory power of such magnitude that teaching them thoroughly is an absolute must. Send kids on their way with a solid grasp of everything in the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/02/26/resistance-to-common-core-standards-growing/">Common Core State Standards</a> but ignorant of those powerful ideas, and—notwithstanding top scores on standardized tests—they’ll be as poorly educated as those responsible for the present thrust of education reform.</p><p>One of those “super ideas” (which the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/eight-problems-with-common-core-standards/2012/08/21/821b300a-e4e7-11e1-8f62-58260e3940a0_blog.html">Common Core Standards</a> don’t even mention) is “worldview”—the framework of largely unexamined ideas, beliefs, and values by means of which an individual, group, society, or culture make sense of reality and interact with it. As ideas go, “worldview” is of first-order importance. Everything we do, individually and collectively, can be traced back to it.</p><p>Worldview explains why we brush our teeth, go to work, save and spend money, get married, pave highways, join clubs, pass laws, buy, sell, vote, play the stock market, pray or don’t pray—and so on and on. It shapes emotions, arts, sciences, social institutions—whole ways of life. Differences in worldview trigger divorce proceedings, strikes, religious schisms, advertising campaigns, stupid foreign policies, world wars, the decline and fall of civilizations.</p><p>Worldview shapes every way of life on the planet, but the Common Core Standards ignore it, just as they ignore much else of fundamental importance. Millions of kids are busy picking up mandated acorns of information, unaware of the tree of knowledge from which they fall.</p><p>Enamored of wealth, power, and celebrity, America has handed over a system of education that was once the envy of the world to the likes of Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Waltons, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/02/26/editorial-bashes-jeb-bushs-education-reform-efforts/">Jeb Bush</a>, Joel Klein, Michael Bloomberg, Arne Duncan, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/the-real-problem-with-rahms-school-reforms-in-chicago/2012/09/11/c77c3cc4-fba4-11e1-8adc-499661afe377_blog.html">Rahm Emanuel</a>. Add Michelle Rhee to that list and the lot of them have a total of eighteen months of actual teaching experience.</p><p>Sensible education reform begins with a serious, society-wide dialogue about what’s worth learning. It’s a dialogue we’ve yet to have.</p> Thu, 28 Feb 2013 13:33:00 -0800 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 802303 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Culture Education News & Politics Visions learning education textbooks What a REAL Paradigm Shift in Education Would Look Like http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/what-real-paradigm-shift-education-would-look <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Exploring the deep, fundamental flaws at the backbone of our &quot;core curriculum.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_91381847.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>I envy <a href="http://www.ushistory.org/paine/">Thomas Paine’s</a> way with language. I’ve been searching for years for words that would have the impact of those he penned in his 1776 pamphlet,<br />“The Crisis.”</p><p>Admittedly, “These are the times that try men’s souls,” and the words that followed, weren’t a howling success. Only about a third of the colonists agreed with Paine’s call for revolution. Another third wanted to stick with England. The remaining third were neutral or apathetic.</p><p>What Paine was able to do that I can’t do is sell an idea to at least enough people to make something happen. I need to convince not a third of readers but, say, a tenth, to call their legislators and tell them to dismantle the education “reform” machine assembled in Washington by business leaders and politicians.</p><p>Long before corporate America began its assault on public schooling, American education was in trouble. Educators were, however, increasingly aware of the problems and were working on them. When Bill Gates, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/30/e-mails-link-bush-foundation-corporations-and-education-officials/">Jeb Bush</a>, Mike Bloomberg, Arne Duncan,<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/02/05/jon-stewart-tests-michelle-rhee-defends-teachers/">Michelle Rhee</a>, and other big name non-educators took over, that worked stopped.</p><p>What I want people to understand is that the backbone of education — the familiar math-science-language arts-social studies “core curriculum” — is deeply, fundamentally flawed. No matter the reform initiative, there won’t be significant improvement in American education until curricular problems are understood, admitted, addressed, and solved.</p><p>Few want to hear that. Reformers are sure America’s schools would be fine if teachers just worked harder and smarter, and reformers are sure the teachers would do that if <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2012/10/06/six-reasons-why-value-added-and-merit-pay-arent-fair-in-three-minutes/">merit pay programs</a> made them compete for cash. They seem incapable of understanding that classroom teachers are doing something so complicated and difficult that even the best of them are hanging on by their fingernails. If they knew how to do better, they’d be doing it. Would surgeons operate differently if they were paid more? Would commercial airline pilots make softer landings if they made more money? Would editorial writers write better editorials if their salaries were raised?</p><p>Teachers are doing the best they can with the curriculum they’ve been given. Here (in regrettably abstract language) is the curricular problem at the top of my list:</p><blockquote><p><em>Change is in the nature of things; it is inevitable. Human societies either adapt</em><em>to change or die. The traditional core curriculum delivers <strong>existing</strong></em><em>knowledge, but adapting to an unknown future requires <strong>new</strong> knowledge. New</em><em>knowledge is created as relationships are discovered between parts of</em><em>reality not previously thought to be related. The arbitrary walls between</em><em>school subjects, and the practice of studying them in isolation from each</em><em>other, block the relating process essential to knowledge creation.</em></p></blockquote><p>Stick with me here. This isn’t complicated, just different from the usual school fare.</p><p>(1)<strong>Change is in the nature of things; it is inevitable</strong>. The earth heats and cools. Seasons come and go. Water tables rise and fall. Human populations increase, decrease, migrate. New tools change the ways societies function. People multiply, resources diminish, and waste builds. Civilizations appear and disappear. This is — or should be — the usual content of the core curriculum.</p><p>(2)<strong>Human societies either adapt to change or die.</strong> Ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome are no more. A century ago, the Elks, Eagles, and Masons were popular organizations. More recently, Kodak, Bethlehem Steel, and Sony dominated whole industries. If we value our way of life, we need to understand the dynamics of change, but it’s not in the core curriculum.</p><p>(3)<strong>The traditional core curriculum delivers <em>existing</em> knowledge, but</strong><strong>adapting to an unknown future requires <em>new</em> knowledge</strong>. Obviously, what will need to be known in the future isn’t yet known, from which it follows that it can’t be taught. However, the <em>process</em> by means of which new knowledge is created <em>can</em> be taught.</p><p>(4)<strong>New knowledge is created as relationships are discovered between parts</strong><strong>of reality not previously thought to be related.</strong> Levels of respect for elders and rates of societal change are related. Elapsed time since death and level of isotopes in fossil remains are related. Exposure to lead and learning difficulties are related. <em>Discovering and exploring relationships,</em><em>not mentally storing information, educates</em>.</p><p>(5) <strong>The arbitrary walls between school subjects, and studying them in</strong><strong>isolation from each other, block the relating process essential to knowledge</strong><strong>creation</strong>. If astronomers only studied the heavens, and oceanographers only studied the ocean, the relationship of moon, sun, and tides would remain unknown. Technological and economic change profoundly impact values, beliefs, and behavior, but study of their connections is missing from the curriculum. Again: Discovering and exploring relationships, not mentally storing information, educates.</p><p>(6) <strong>What needs to be known in the future can’t yet be taught, but the</strong><strong><em>process</em> by means of which that knowledge is created can-and must-be taught.</strong> Traditional instruction places far too much emphasis on content. The problem isn’t just that what students need to know can’t be known. The unreasonable amount of information dumped on them, the brief life in memory of most of it, and easy electronic access to a near-infinite amount of it, make merely delivering information a poor use of time. Focusing on the real world rather than on second-hand textbook versions of reality, and understanding the process by means of which sense is made of that world, are keys to new worlds of performance.</p><p><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/the-complete-list-of-problems-with-high-stakes-standardized-tests/2011/10/31/gIQA7fNyaM_blog.html">Standardized, high-stakes tests</a> are the single greatest obstacle in the way of curricular improvement. Sold to the public as a necessary club to hold over teachers’ heads, the tests are dumbing down kids at a spectacular rate. The problem isn’t test overuse. The problem is their inability to measure what most needs to be measured.</p><p>Standardized tests are to accountability what a finger in the wind is to a weather station. What they measure — information stored in memory — is useful, but for kids facing an unknown future, that’s not nearly enough. They need to know how to create new knowledge. That knowledge will be <em>original</em>, and standardized tests can’t evaluate original, non-standard thought.</p><p>Unwilling to trust teacher judgment, we’ve handed their responsibilities to machines incapable of making judgment calls.</p><p>Tell business leaders and politicians to put their own houses in order and give education back to educators.<br /><br /><br /><em>Reprinted by permission of the author.</em></p> Thu, 14 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0800 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 794173 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education education k-12 core curriculum public education education reform Why We Should Consider Letting High Schoolers Pick Their Classes http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/why-we-should-consider-letting-high-schoolers-pick-their-classes <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">With decades of teaching under his belt, this former educator argues yes -- if we want education to matter.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_16383580.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Both my late mother’s and my father’s right foot tended to be heavy when in contact with car accelerators. Their brothers and sisters shared the tendency, suggesting some sort of genetic propensity — which I, unfortunately, seem to have inherited.</p><p>The last time it got me in trouble I was given a choice. I could either have the evidence of my bad behavior recorded on the back of my driver’s license, or I could spend four hours on a Saturday morning in a highway safety class.</p><p>Looking ahead, I chose the latter.</p><p>The class started at 8 a.m. and continued until noon, with one 15-minute break. To his credit, the instructor did his best to liven up his presentation, mixing humor, props, videos, and body language. Notwithstanding all that, it was four of the longest hours of my adult life.</p><p>Now, when I visit classes (mostly at the high school level) in an effort to keep in touch with reality as it manifests itself in American education, it’s a rare experience that doesn’t trigger two vivid memories—one of my sitting in that Saturday morning class trying to pay attention, the other of a scene in the film, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,”<i>  </i>when the camera <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhiCFdWeQfA"><span style="color: #003399">pans slowly</span></a> across the faces of students as the teacher “covers the material” in a history class.</p><p>I’d like to be able to say that student boredom and mental disengagement are the exception rather than the rule in America’s classrooms, but decades of firsthand observation, student surveys, research on attention span, statistics on truancy and drop-outs, and the near-universal problem of classroom discipline tell me they’re not. A recent <a href="http://www.gallupstudentpoll.com/home.aspx"><span style="color: #003399">Gallup poll</span></a> of a half-million students in 37 states says that the longer kids stay in school, the less engaged they become.</p><p>That’s the reverse of what ought to be happening.</p><p>It’s impossible to quantify the problem with precision, but if educational efficiency is indicated not by standardized test scores but by adult recall and use of what was once taught, I’d estimate the high school average when I graduated in the 1940s at no more than about 15%, decreasing slowly until about 1990, then more rapidly when the current standards and testing fad kicked in. Now, I’d put average institutional efficiency as something less than 10%.</p><p>Very few of us could pass the subject matter tests we once took, or would agree that being unable to do so significantly handicaps us. How can we ignore the implications of that fact?</p><div class="column-five left padding-right margin-top-5 margin-right-15" id="article-side-rail"><div class="left margin-right margin-bottom slug" id="slug_inline_bb" style="display: block;"><div id="wpni_adi_inline_bb">I don’t blame teachers. What we have is a fundamental system problem, and it can’t be solved by following the advice of business leaders and politicians and merely doing longer, harder, and with greater precision, what we’ve always done.</div></div></div><p>In a <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/articles/2012-Washington%20Post11-14.pdf"><span style="color: #003399">November 12, 2012 “The Answer Sheet” blog,</span></a> I suggested addressing the problem with project learning, but project learning with a twist—moving beyond textbook and lecture abstractions and putting school subjects to meaningful, real-world work. The school and its site model the larger world in every important respect. If teachers treated it as a hands-on laboratory and had kids use math, science, language arts, and social studies to describe, analyze, and improve the school, disengagement would either end completely or be radically reduced. The core subjects would be better taught, and learners would take with them a comprehensive sense-making template they’d use for the rest of their lives.</p><p>I have another, more unorthodox proposal for attacking the problem of disengagement. Most readers will consider it unthinkable, and some will write me off as a danger to the republic, but decades of working with kids tell me it would eventually trigger a performance explosion.</p><p>That proposal: Make every required course at the high school level elective. And if, say, five or more students submit a request for a class not offered, work with them to design and offer it. Take seriously the contention usually attributed to Albert Einstein that, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”</p><p>I stand against this idea expressed by Marc Tucker<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/01/15/common-core-standards-arguments-against-and-for/">in a January 15 Answer Sheet blog post:</a> “There is no substitute for spelling out what we think students everywhere should know and be able to do.”</p><p>I don’t reject the notion that there are ideas so important every kid should understand them. The titles of two of my books—”What’s Worth Teaching?” and “What’s Worth Learning?”<i>—</i>make clear what I think kids need to know. I’m convinced, for example, that a thorough understanding of the sense-making process radically improves student performance in every field of study.</p><p>Not far behind in importance I put an understanding of the unexamined societal assumptions that shape our thoughts, actions, and identities. At a less abstract level I have kids look at the familiar until it becomes “strange enough to see,” raising their awareness of how built environments manipulate them in subtle, freedom-depriving ways, and I help them develop a skill obviously lacking at the highest levels of American policymaking—the ability to imagine unintended consequences of well-intended actions (just to start a list of matters the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/eight-problems-with-common-core-standards/2012/08/21/821b300a-e4e7-11e1-8f62-58260e3940a0_blog.html">Common Core State Standards</a> ignore).</p><p>Yes, I have strong feelings about what kids should learn, which is why I’d put them in charge of their own educations. Experience assures me they’ll get where they need to go, and do so more efficiently than will otherwise be possible. Experience also tells me that won’t happen as long as they’re fenced in by a random mix of courses required because they’ve always been required, by courses based on elitist conceits, by courses shaped by unexamined assumptions. The core’s boundaries are far too narrow to accommodate the collective genius of adolescents.</p><p>Kids bring to the curriculum vast differences—differences in gender, maturity, personality, interests, hopes, dreams, abilities, life experiences, situation, family, peers, language, ethnicity, social class, culture, probable and possible futures, and certain indefinable qualities, all combined in dynamic, continuously evolving ways so complex they lie beyond ordinary understanding.</p><p>Today’s reformers seem unable or unwilling to grasp the instructional implications of those differences and that complexity. They treat kids as a given, undifferentiated except by grade level, with the core curriculum the lone operative variable. Just standardize and fine-tune the core, they insist, and all will be well.</p><p>That’s magical thinking, and it’s dumping genius on the street.</p><p>Don’t tell me I’m naïve, that high school kids can’t be trusted with that much responsibility, or that they’re too dumb to know what to do with it. Would it take them awhile to get used to unaccustomed autonomy? Sure. Would they suspect that the respect being shown them was faked and test it out? Of course. Would they at first opt for what they thought was Easy Street? You can count on it.</p><p>Eventually, however, their natural curiosity and the desire to make better sense of experience would get the better of them, and they’d discover that Easy Street connected directly to all other streets, and that following it was taking them places they had no intention of going, or even knew existed.</p><p>I know this because I’ve been there with them.<br /> </p><p><em>Reprinted by permission of the author.</em></p> Wed, 23 Jan 2013 05:00:00 -0800 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 781102 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education education public education k-12 common core state standards curriculum reform What's Worth Learning: How Outdated Curricula Are Failing America's Students http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/whats-worth-learning-how-outdated-curricula-are-failing-americas-students <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The “core curriculum” used in America’s classrooms was poor when it was adopted in 1893, and grows more dysfunctional every year.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_118314130.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em>It goes without saying that solving a problem begins with a correct diagnosis of its cause.</em></p><p><em>When Michael Gerson, President George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter, had the president say in a January 2004 speech that American education suffered from “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” the simplistic diagnosis reflected and perpetuated the present “tighten the screws” reform effort.</em></p><p><em>That misguided effort continues. In the Introduction to <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/Books.asp">What’s Worth Learning?</a> (Information Age Publishing), I offer an alternative explanation for poor school performance.</em></p><p><em>Marion Brady</em></p><p>***</p><p>American education isn’t up to the challenge.</p><p>The evidence is inescapable. Millions of kids walk away from school long before they’re scheduled to graduate. Millions more stay but disengage. Half of those entering the teaching profession soon abandon it. Administrators play musical chairs. Barbed wire surrounds many schools, and police patrol hallways. School bond levies usually fail. Superficial fads—old ideas resurrected with new names—come and go with depressing regularity. Think tanks crank out millions of words of ignored advice, and foundations spend billions to promote seemingly sound ideas that make little or no difference. About a half-trillion dollars a year is invested in education, but most adults remember little and make practical use of even less of what they once learned in thousands of hours of instruction.</p><p>Congress and state legislatures bring market forces to bear, certain that the rewards and penalties of competition will work the wonders in education they sometimes work in business, and nothing of consequence happens. Charter schools are formed to promote innovations, but if the merit of those innovations is judged by scores on corporately produced standardized tests, the innovations are inconsequential. Municipal governments take over failing schools or hand them off to corporations, producing results so poor that statistical games must usually be played to justify contract renewals. Stringent standards are put in place, and tests keyed to them are so high-stakes that failure may shut down whole schools, end teaching careers, and permanently affect the life chances of the young. But performance stays flat.</p><p>Cut through the hype and the ideology-driven political rhetoric and it’s clear that, decade after decade, institutional performance nationwide changes little. Even schools considered models and pointed to with pride—upscale, beautiful, well-staffed, shipping high percentages of their graduates off to the Ivy League—send most students on their ways with talents and abilities unidentified or undeveloped. Few graduate with their natural love of learning enhanced or even intact.</p><p>Perhaps most damning of all is the fact that the human need to understand, to know, to make sense of the world, is one of the most powerful of all human drives, but the institutions we’ve created to meet that deep human need would close their doors if it weren’t for mandatory attendance laws, social expectations, and institutional inertia.</p><p>The static state of America’s schools stems in large part from a failure to understand a process sometimes called “institutionalization” and its implication for what’s taught. In educating, the curriculum is where the rubber meets the  road.</p><p>If it’s poor, the education will be poor. No matter state or national standards, no matter the level of rigor, no matter the toughness of tests, teacher skill, school size, market forces imposed, length of school day or year, parental support, design or condition of buildings, generosity of budget, sophistication of technology, administrator wisdom, or enthusiasm of students. A school can be no better than its curriculum allows it to be, and the process of institutionalization, neither understood nor addressed, assures that year after year the traditional math-science-social studies-language arts curriculum will become more dysfunctional.</p><p>The process of institutionalization occurs in stages, beautifully explored and elaborated by the late Carroll Quigley in his 1961 Macmillan book, <em>The Evolution of Civilizations</em>.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Stage One:</strong> A society has challenges—protecting itself from enemies, caring for the sick, obtaining food, maintaining public order. To address the challenges, organizations are formed—armies, hospitals, police forces, schools, and so on—and effective problem-solving policies and procedures are adopted.</p><p><strong>Stage Two:</strong> Social change gradually alters the nature of the problems the organizations were created to solve—a different kind of enemy threatens, a plague of unknown cause strikes, once-productive soil wears out. As the problems change, the policies and procedures that worked well in Stage One gradually become less appropriate and efficient.</p><p><strong>Stage Three:</strong> Eventually, the inadequacy of the original problem-solving approaches becomes too obvious to ignore. Fingers of blame are then pointed at those in the problem-solving organization. More rigorous standards are imposed. Supervisory staffs are enlarged. Policy and procedures manuals grow fatter. Penalties for poor performance grow harsher.</p><p><strong>Stage Four:</strong> Because the basic problem—failure to monitor change and adapt to it—remains unaddressed, the situation becomes more dire. Reacting, authorities tighten procedural screws, then tighten them again. A kind of Catch-22 dynamic takes over, a variation of, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”</p><p><strong>Stage Five:</strong> The organization disintegrates or becomes irrelevant. The once-effective problem-solving policies and procedures either disappear or become meaningless rituals.</p></blockquote><p>Education in America illustrates the first four stages of the five-stage pattern. In the colonial era, the basic educational challenge and the curriculum aligned beautifully. The task was to maintain the way of life of a society made up mostly of farmers and craftspeople, a challenge met primarily by modeling. The young grew up immersed in the real world, watching and working with family and neighbors, learning when to plant and harvest, what to do for a sick horse, how to milk a cow, make clothes, build structures. Apprenticeships passed along more specialized knowledge and skills.</p><p>After the Civil War, the factory system, urbanization, concentrated wealth, and floods of immigrants changed the task of educating. Building and maintaining railroads, banks, factories, and other giant enterprises called for a few thinkers and many doers. To meet the new challenge, a system of mass education was put in place. It didn’t serve the small leadership class very well, but the “sit down, shut up, listen to the teacher, remember the answers, stand up and line up when the bell rings” regimen was appropriate for the millions headed for repetitive manual labor. Again, the educational problem and the solution aligned well enough to keep the process of institutionalization in check.</p><p>In the 1890s, very few students attended college, but those who did presented a problem. They came from secondary schools where, in total, about 40 different subjects were taught, and college admissions officers didn't know how to compare their academic records. The situation, prominent educators felt, called for standardizing high school instructional programs, and a ten-man committee of school administrators was appointed by the National Education Association to undertake the task. They submitted their report in 1892, and the following year their recommendations began to be adopted across America, locking in the pattern in near-universal use today.</p><p>Big mistake. Change is in the nature of things, and in order to survive, societies must adapt. As the 20th Century unfolded, America changed. Work became more specialized and complex, international industrial competition increased, corporations grew larger, more impersonal, and less attached to nation states. Jobs requiring physical labor steadily declined in number, consumerism took off, an ever-rising standard of living came to be considered a right, and the Cold War generated a vague, pervasive sense of uneasiness.</p><p>America changed, but education in general, and the curriculum in particular, didn’t. It needed to explain a radically different world and help the young develop the intellectual equipment to make sense of it, and it failed to do so.</p><p>Enter Stage Three, then Four, where we now are. Boredom, passive resistance, truancy, classroom disorder, dropouts, teacher turnover, an explosion of home schooling, an electorate ill-equipped to maintain a democracy, and all the other problems with public education cited in the professional literature and in mainstream media are obvious indicators of institutional failure, of old problem-solving procedures failing to adequately address new realities.</p><p>So screws are tightened. Trust in teacher competence and professionalism disappears, their experience, judgment, and firsthand knowledge replaced by ham-handed, top-down, bureaucratic attempts to monitor and control. “Rigor” is in vogue, with a vengeance. Politicians get campaign mileage from slogans—“Standards!” “Accountability!” “No excuses!” School days and years are lengthened, social promotion outlawed, recess and nap times eliminated, Advanced Placement courses installed, then moved to lower grade levels. Educational administrators thought to be tolerant of “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” are replaced by mayors, corporate CEOs, lawyers, and retired military officers. Pay-for-performance schemes are put in place. The message: Screws will continue to be tightened until test scores improve.</p><p>***</p><p>The conventional wisdom (and current policy) say that what’s called for is the STEM curriculum—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. I disagree, and <em>What’s Worth Learning?</em> offers an alternative.</p> Thu, 10 Jan 2013 05:00:00 -0800 Marion Brady, AlterNet 773746 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education education education reform curriculum charter schools high-stakes testing The Ultimate Education Reform: Learning by Doing http://nonreligious.alternet.org/education/ultimate-education-reform-learning-doing <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">America has trillions invested in school buildings, but their designs encourage learner passivity. Can they be re-purposed to really educate? </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_116716825.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>We <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/a-radical-alternative-to-standardized-curriculum/2012/05/14/gIQABGXpPU_blog.html">learn most</a> of what we know by doing something while thinking about it—learn about cooking by cooking, learn about getting through airport security by going through airport security, learn about removing appendices by removing appendices.</p><p>No textbook ever printed, no lecture ever delivered, no computer program ever written, puts school subjects to more relevant use, more thoroughly engages every thought process, or more directly simulates creativity, than learning by doing while thinking about it.</p><p>In learning, place is important. Learning to cook is easier in kitchens than in garages. Learning airport procedures is easier in airports than in shopping malls. Learning to remove appendices is easier in hospital operating rooms than in restaurants.</p><p>Yes, place makes a difference in the quality of learning. We’d do well, then, to pay closer attention to the places we create for teaching and learning—schools.</p><p>Think back to those you attended. Recall the buildings, the classrooms, the design and arrangement of classroom furniture. More often than not what you’ll remember are physical environments that had little or nothing to do with learning by doing. Typically, the buildings, classrooms, and furniture encouraged passivity—sitting still, facing front, maintaining eye contact with a teacher, listening, speaking either when spoken to or when given permission.</p><p>Traditional schooling assumes<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/why-kids-hate-school--subject-by-subject/2012/09/06/0bf1acc4-f5d6-11e1-8398-0327ab83ab91_blog.html">learner passivity.</a> That’s what gets textbooks printed, talking heads videoed, “star” teachers recruited, virtual learning ballyhooed, tough-love charter schools populated, university lecture halls furnished with hundreds of podium-facing seats.</p><p>We say, “Experience is the best teacher,” then build schools that say we don’t believe it. Point out the inconsistency, and hear the rationalizations: “Learning by experience is too inefficient.” “Kids don’t need to reinvent the wheel.” “Trial and error take so much time it’s not possible to cover the material.” “Learning by doing should come later, after essential knowledge and skills have been learned.”</p><p>I’m not saying that new ideas can’t be transferred intact from the mind of a lecturing teacher or textbook author to the minds of learners. I’m saying it rarely happens.</p><p>So I’ve a proposal. America has trillions invested in school buildings, their foundations deep underground, their shapes set in brick and reinforced concrete, networked with pipes, wires, and ducts, doors and windows permanently in place. Their designs encourage learner passivity, and there’s neither the money nor the will to change them.</p><p>Can they be re-purposed to really educate?</p><p>Yes. And it won’t cost a dime. Not a door knob, light switch, patch of carpet, or pencil sharpener needs to change.</p><p>Within homes, apartments, offices, stores, workshops, factories, on work sites, and so on, are complex social systems—groups of people sharing an aim and interacting because of that aim.</p><p>Within schools are people who sometimes interact, but they’re not really a social system, primarily because they almost never share an aim other than wanting to be somewhere else.</p><p>But they <em>could</em> share an aim. And if they did, kids would be learning to do better what they’re going to be doing for the rest of their lives—trying to make sense of experience. Every waking moment, consciously or unconsciously, they’re sizing up the situations in which they find themselves and trying to figure out how to make the most or the best of them.</p><p>Schools are “situations.” They’re real, vibrant slices of life. Their physical and social complexity model in miniature the world outside their walls, just do so on a smaller scale. Learners can measure them; compute their volumes; determine their locations, orientations, and methods of construction; reproduce their floor plans; trace their histories; study their climate control and communication systems; identify goods that enter and waste that exits; analyze their populations in dozens of different ways; explore parental and citizen attitudes toward them; investigate their funding; evaluate their decision-making procedures; bring their efficiencies and inefficiencies into the open; compare their claimed and actual aims.</p><p>Schools, in short, are comprehensive laboratories for the study of life. Every school subject worth teaching can be brought to bear in making sense of them, with enough raw material at hand for non-stop investigation at any level of sophistication, the task made easier by their immediacy, easy accessibility, compactness, tangibility, transparency (in theory, at least), and by adult guidance.</p><p>And because school is unfailingly relevant (even for those who are utterly bored or who hate it), the emotions without which learning never happens are dependably close. Look kids in the eyes, give them a genuinely difficult task—ask them to help make their school do what it’s supposed to do and what society desperately needs for it to do, <em>and mean what you say</em>—and they and their teachers will create dynamic learning communities that, finally, justify the school’s cost.</p><p>Close schools, reopen them the next day as learning organizations, allow them to move beyond the pedestrian constraints imposed by standardized testing, and they’ll revolutionize the social institution upon which so much of humankind’s chance of survival depends.       </p><p>Note: For those who see potential in learning by doing that requires <a href="http://www.marionbrady.com/Connections-InvestigatingReality-ACourseofStudy.asp">complex thought, click here.</a></p><p><br /><em>This article originally appeared on The Washington Post's <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet">Answer Sheet</a> blog.</em><em>Reprinted by permission of the author.</em></p> Thu, 15 Nov 2012 05:00:00 -0800 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 744856 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education Education education k-12 public education education reform learner passivity standardized testing Testing Companies are Robbing Your Children of an Education, and Making Big Money for Big Business in the Process http://nonreligious.alternet.org/testing-companies-are-robbing-your-children-education-and-making-big-money-big-business-process <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The &quot;test-and-punish&quot; approach driving school reform has been an unqualified disaster -- except for those stuffing their pockets with the profits.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_82970479.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Future historians, trying to explain why America, at the turn of the 21st century, chose a path to education reform that made catastrophe all but inevitable, will have a difficult time unraveling the tangled weave of ideology, ignorance, hubris, secrecy, naiveté, greed and unexamined assumptions that contributed to that catastrophe.</p><p>Why, they'll wonder, would the citizens of a country that had become the richest and most powerful in the world, a country that had accumulated patents, Pulitzers, Nobels, and other national and international awards out of all proportion to the size of its population - why would it hand over its system of education to corporations, politicians and a wealthy guy who went to private schools?</p><p>That wealthy guy, of course, is Bill Gates. To sell a particular theory, the Bill &amp; Melinda Gates Foundation has funneled millions of dollars to a broad range of parent, professional and political groups , including the Parent Teacher Association, the ASCD (formerly known as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development), the National Writers Project, the American Federation of Teachers, The National Council of La Raza, many universities, the Aspen Institute, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and, very importantly, to the manufacturers of standardized tests.</p><p>The Gates theory? America's schools were "soft"; they needed to be "hard" - rigorous.</p><p>The "soft" part of the theory wasn't based on research, didn't emerge from public dialogue, wasn't a conclusion reached by knowledgeable observers, and certainly wasn't a view held by those actually doing the work - classroom teachers.</p><p>The "hard," or rigor, part of the theory has now been in place long enough to demonstrate that it doesn't work. A report from the <a href="http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12521&amp;page=3" target="_blank">National Academy of Sciences</a> says what even longtime fans of the test-and-punish school of reform now admit: it's been a fiasco. Specifically, the National Academy of Sciences finds, "The tests that are typically used to increase performance in education fall short in providing a complete measure of desired educational outcomes."</p><p>Never mind all that. The sales pitch for the need for tough love has been phenomenally successful. The idea that greater rigor will breathe new life into American education has become the conventional wisdom, promoted by liberals and conservatives, the leaders of both political parties, the US Department of Education, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Center for American Progress, Democrats for Education Reform, the Gates, Broad and Walton Family foundations, and by the producers of educational materials. They quote each other and the media echo chamber amplifies it.</p><p>Not surprisingly, ACT Inc., formerly known as American College Testing, is a major player in the rigor push. Over $8 million in grants from the Gates Foundation ensures that the rigor message gets to where it counts most - the tests to which teachers must teach if they want to keep their jobs. The company's report, "<a href="http://media.act.org/documents/Research-RaisingtheBar.pdf" target="_blank">Raising the Bar: A Baseline for College and Career Readiness in Our Nation's High School Core Courses</a>," released in July 2012, was funded by the Gates Foundation. And wouldn't you know, <a href="http://www.act.org/research/policymakers/pdf/AffirmingAdvanceBrief.pdf" target="_blank">ACT helped write the very standards by which it made its own assessment</a> in the "Raising the Bar" report.</p><p>Scare tactics drive the rigor message. <a href="http://www.act.org/newsroom/releases/view.php?p=2402&amp;lang=english" target="_blank">ACT's August 20, 2012, media advisory</a>accompanying the release of this year's test scores provides a window into an assault on public education few people really understand.</p><p>"60 Percent of 2012 High School Graduates At Risk of Not Succeeding in College and Career" reads the headline. It was picked up verbatim by media across the country in reporting that showed no hint of shame at its continuing failure to check facts.</p><p>The message: "America is in big trouble. Be afraid. Scores must be raised. How? Well, ACT, Inc. sells test prep materials; ACT sells curriculum programs starting in elementary school, getting kids ready for a test that is given in 11th grade. Buy the materials to prepare for the test ACT sells. Worried parents can sign up for a monthly ACT newsletter telling them that "research shows that a large majority of 8th graders" simply aren't ready for college.</p><p>The role of ACT and other manufacturers of standardized tests is hard for the public to grasp. Test manufacturers are an organized political powerhouse with an army of lobbyists. They're making billions from policies put in place in Washington and state capitols, but they see those billions as chump change to the money to be made when the common core standards have narrowed and standardized the curriculum to simplify the writing of test items, when every kid is tested in every subject not once, but continuously, when a do-or-die End of Course (EOC) test with an arbitrarily set cut score will force a predetermined percentage of students to start over from scratch, this time in a situation that (for those who can afford it) makes ACT's curriculum programs, ACT's test prep materials and ACT's newsletter necessities rather than luxuries.</p><p>This is news to most people. Generally speaking, ACT, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Educational Testing Service and other suppliers of educational materials are seen as more or less benign, neutral observers, standing on the sidelines of education and keeping score, providing something akin to a public service, doing what classroom teachers used to do routinely as part of the job (at no extra charge) but who, sadly (say the new reformers) can no longer be trusted.</p><p>The testing fox is in the education henhouse and it is having a wonderful time. Take the mandated high-stakes tests, fall below an arbitrary cut score set by a secret formula and the consequences are life-changing. And not just for the kid. Standardized test scores raise and lower real-estate values, close treasured neighborhood schools, end the careers of experienced teachers, put enormous dents in school budgets, even call into question the value of the institution of public education.</p><p>Here's an alternative to the rigor theory: American education is in crisis because institutional inertia, bureaucracy and policymaking in the hands of education amateurs in state legislatures and Washington who are beholden to corporate interests have locked in a 19th-century curriculum and all the baggage that goes with it. That relic of a bygone era isn't up to the challenge, and pursuing it with rigor is making a bad situation worse.</p><p>In less than a generation, corporate America's wrong diagnosis of what ails American education, sold by the "Standards and Accountability" bumper sticker slogan, has hooked America's system of public education - and now, it is reeling it in. When the corporate education industry is finished with our educational system, they'll sell it back, but don't expect it to turn out kids who collect patents and Pulitzers.</p><p><br /><em>Reprinted by permission of the author.</em></p> Mon, 10 Sep 2012 07:00:00 -0700 Susan Ohanian, Marion Brady, Truthout 707596 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education education k-12 testing Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ACT Inc. accountability 8 Reasons We Should Be Seriously Suspicious of the Common Core Standards http://nonreligious.alternet.org/8-reasons-we-should-be-seriously-suspicious-common-core-standards <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">45 states have now adopted these new standards -- but will they really improve learning in our schools?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_93483088.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>E.D. Hirsch, Jr.’s book, “<a href="http://books.coreknowledge.org/product.php?productid=16156">Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know</a>,” was published March 1, 1987.<br /><br />So it was probably in March of that year when, sitting at a dining room table in an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, my host — a publishing executive, friend, and fellow West Virginian — said he’d just bought the book. He hadn’t read it yet, but wondered how Hirsch’s list of 5,000 things he thought every American should know differed from a list we Appalachians might write.<br /><br />I don’t remember what I said, but it was probably some version of what I’ve long taken for granted: Most people think that whatever they and the people they like happen to know, everybody else should be required to know.<br /><br />In education, of course, what it’s assumed that everybody should be required to know is called “the core.” Responsibility for teaching the core is divvied up between teachers of math, science, language arts, and social studies.<br /><br />Variously motivated corporate interests, arguing that the core was being sloppily taught, organized a behind-the-scenes campaign to super-standardize it. They named their handiwork the <a href="http://www.corestandards.org/">Common Core State Standards</a> to hide the fact that it was driven by policymakers in Washington D.C., who have thus far shoved it into every state except Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia.<br /><br />This was done with minimal public dialogue or feedback from experienced educators, no research, no pilot or experimental programs — no evidence at all that a floor-length list created by unnamed people attempting to standardize what’s taught is a good idea.<br /><br />It’s a bad idea. Ignore the fact that specific Common Core State Standards will open up enough cans of worms to keep subject-matter specialists arguing among themselves forever. Consider instead the merit of Standards from a general perspective:<br /><br /><em>One</em>: Standards shouldn’t be attached to school subjects, but to the qualities of mind it’s hoped the study of school subjects promotes. Subjects are mere tools, just as scalpels, acetylene torches, and transits are tools. Surgeons, welders, surveyors — and teachers — should be held accountable for the quality of what they produce, not how they produce it.<br /><br /><em>Two</em>: The world changes. The future is indiscernible. Clinging to a static strategy in a dynamic world may be comfortable, even comforting, but it’s a Titanic-deck-chair exercise.<br /><br /><em>Three</em>: The Common Core Standards assume that what kids need to know is covered by one or another of the traditional core subjects. In fact, the unexplored intellectual terrain lying between and beyond those familiar fields of study is vast, expands by the hour, and will go in directions no one can predict.<br /><br /><em>Four</em>: So much orchestrated attention is being showered on the Common Core Standards, the main reason for poor student performance is being ignored—a level of childhood poverty the consequences of which no amount of schooling can effectively counter.<br /><br /><em>Five</em>: The Common Core kills innovation. When it’s the only game in town, it’s the only game in town.<br /><br /><em>Six</em>: The Common Core Standards are a set-up for national standardized tests, tests that can’t evaluate complex thought, can’t avoid cultural bias, can’t measure non-verbal learning, can’t predict anything of consequence (and waste boatloads of money).<br /><br /><em>Seven</em>: The word “standards” gets an approving nod from the public (and from most educators) because it means “performance that meets a standard.” However, the word also means “like everybody else,” and standardizing minds is what the Standards try to do. Common Core Standards fans sell the first meaning; the Standards deliver the second meaning. Standardized minds are about as far out of sync with deep-seated American values as it’s possible to get.<br /><br /><em>Eight</em>: The Common Core Standards’ stated aim — “success in college and careers”— is at best pedestrian, at worst an affront. The young should be exploring the potentials of humanness.<br /><br />I’ve more beefs, but like these eight, they have to do with the quality of education, and the pursuit of educational quality isn’t what’s driving the present education reform farce.<br /><br />An illustration: As I write, my wife is in the kitchen. She calls me for lunch. The small television suspended under the kitchen cabinets is tuned to CNN, and Time cover girl Michelle Rhee is being interviewed.<br /><br />“On international tests,” she says, “the U.S. ranks 27th from the top.”<br /><br />Michelle Rhee, three-year teacher, education reactionary, mainstream media star, fired authoritarian head of a school system being investigated for cheating on standardized tests, is given a national platform to misinform. She doesn’t explain that, at the insistence of policymakers, and unlike other countries, America tests every kid — the mentally disabled, the sick, the hungry, the homeless, the transient, the troubled, those for whom English is a second language. That done, the scores are lumped together. She doesn’t even hint that when the scores of the disadvantaged aren’t counted, American students are at the top.<br /><br />If Michelle Rhee doesn’t know that, she shouldn’t be on CNN. If she knows it but fails to point it out, she shouldn’t be on CNN.<br /><br />It’s hard not to compare Rhee with Jennifer, a friend of my oldest son. He wrote me recently:<br /><br /><em>…I asked Jenn if she was ready for school.<br /><br />“I’m waiting for an email from my principal to find out if I can get into my classroom a week early.”<br /><br />“Why a whole week?”<br /><br />“To get my room ready.”<br /><br />She teaches second graders. I ask her why she loves that grade. She laughs and says, “Because they haven’t learned to roll their eyes yet.”<br /><br />But I know it’s much more than that. Her sister was down from Ohio for Jenn’s birthday, and when she asked her what she wanted, Jenn said she needed 18 sets of colored pencils, 18 boxes of #2 pencils, 18 boxes of crayons, construction paper, name tags and so on — $346 dollars total.<br /><br />She’s been doing this for 25 years. I’m sure she makes less than I do, but they could probably cut her salary 25 or 30% and she’d still want to get into her room early.”</em><br /><br />Rhee gets $50,000 a pop plus first-class travel and accommodations for putting in an appearance to tell her audiences what’s wrong with the Jennifers in America’s schools, and what clubs should be swung or held over their heads to scare them into shaping up.<br /><br />Future historians (if there are any) are going to shake their heads in disbelief. They’ll wonder how, in a single generation, the world’s oldest democracy dismantled its engine — free, public, locally controlled, democratic education.<br /><br />If they dig into the secretive process that produced the Common Core State Standards, most of their questions will be answered.</p><p> </p><p><em>A version of this article originally appeared on The Washington Post's <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet">Answer Sheet</a> blog. Reprinted by permission of the author.</em></p> Wed, 22 Aug 2012 03:00:00 -0700 Marion Brady, The Washington Post 696692 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org Education education common core standards public education k-12 education reform E.D. Hirsch michelle rhee Improve Public Education http://nonreligious.alternet.org/story/115578/improve_public_education <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Whether or not America arrives at the 22nd century in recognizable form hinges in great measure on the quality of public education.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Whether or not America arrives at the 22nd century in recognizable form hinges in great measure on the quality of public education.Presently, educational policy is being driven primarily by the Business Roundtable and the US Chamber of Commerce, working through Congress. They assume that "the system"-the curriculum adopted in 1892-is sound, from which it follows that poor performance must be the fault of teachers and students. Their cure? Tougher "standards and accountability."Wrong diagnosis. Wrong cure. The familiar 1892 curriculum grows more dysfunctional by the day, clinging to it is suicidal, and a national conference is essential. <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> Fri, 26 Dec 2008 21:01:01 -0800 Marion Brady, AlterNet 652484 at http://nonreligious.alternet.org 100 Words for 100 Days 100 Words for 100 Days Old_Blog Type Content 100 words for 100 days