Sunday, April 19, 2009

A better idea Proof before more fads

The group,, suggest six ideas that represent true education reform.

IDEA 1: Education schools often promote well-intended but misleading myths about teaching and learning. For decades, education schools have promoted fads like "brain compatible instruction, " "multiple intelligences" and "21st-century skills." These buzzwords sound sophisticated, but have been debunked as rhetoric to dress up a lack of subject matter content and solid teaching approaches.

IDEA 2: Teacher certification is based on education schools' well-intended but misleading ideas. Four decades of research, including several studies released this year, show that certification does not make teachers more effective. Without streamlined routes into the profession, especially for areas like math and science that lack candidates, our schools are closing their doors to the teachers that our children need.

IDEA 3: Administrators are influenced by the prevailing ideas in education schools, which too often leads them to pick weak academic programs. The trend is to de-emphasize important content — try finding much history in elementary school, or even carrying and borrowing in math — and claim that students are developing "critical thinking skills" and "deep conceptual understanding. " These phrases, which educators don't clearly define, are wrongheaded. Students can't think critically or conceptually about a topic unless they first acquire a lot of knowledge about it.

IDEA 4: Parents and other "outsiders" often have different views of what constitutes a sound education, but have little influence on the public schools. Parents cannot opt out of the controversial TERC math program, and to opt out of the "body safety" curriculum parents must justify their objections by meeting in person with their principal. Instead of the schools respecting what parents want for their children, parents are expected to defer to the schools' decision-making.

IDEA 5: School choice empowers parents to select schools that reflect what they want for their children. Frederick 's only charter school, which unfairly receives less funding per student than the other public schools, has a waiting list larger that the school's capacity. Until parents have more choices, which creates competition that drives improvement, the government-run school system faces little incentive to provide what parents want.

IDEA 6: School choice is necessary to improve public education, but it's not enough. Education must also transform itself from a belief-based profession into an evidence-based profession. Research supporting systematic phonics instruction in reading and a more traditional approach to education in general has largely been ignored for decades because it doesn't fit with schools' prevailing philosophical beliefs.

All of this takes us full circle to education schools, where the lack of regard for evidence continues to give rise to fad after fad. Until this circle is broken, education administrators will continue to seek greater funding instead of a better set of ideas to guide our schools.

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