Monday, August 23, 2010

Education is a political problem and bashing teachers will not solve the underlying defects.

Education is a political problem and bashing teachers will not solve the underlying defects in our system.

It is about teachers but of far greater significance is the system that impedes teacher progress and it is not just “Unions”. Look at RttT for more misdirection to the Max. Both "Charter Schools" and "Value Added Models" have shown only more of the same for results. Read the research.

In regard to Singapore Math and the Seattle Schools it was argued that teachers do not have enough math content knowledge to put such a system in place.

Let us consider the testing of teachers for content knowledge, which is another Ed Reform idea to make things significantly better. In the current structure "Professional Development" shows little promise. Seattle largely provides non-math content based Pro-D. The math defects of new teachers if they came from k-12 Seattle Schools and UW will likely be so huge that even math content focused Pro-D would likely be too little too late.

Let us extend the previous factory analogy a bit further to the "Old Soviet Union".

From Ed in NYC comes this:

To assert that an insufficiency of content knowledge is the central problem with our schools is like asserting that the Soviet Union collapsed because of an insufficiency of spare parts. Such an assertion is at once perfectly true and essentially meaningless.

Everybody knows that industrial and agricultural machinery need a steady supply of spare parts. And everybody understands that a momentary shortage can happen at one time or another, for one reason or another. But chronic shortages? For generations? Clearly, something else was going on. I think that once the shortage lasts more than a generation, it ceases to be an engineering problem. Indeed, the Soviet Union had lots of excellent engineers, and excellent scientists, yet they never solved their problems in production and distribution. They did not have an engineering problem. They had a political problem.

Similarly, we can all understand there might be an incompetent teacher, every once in a while, even in the best school systems. But, when incompetence (really, how else to describe teachers who lack "content knowledge"?) becomes the defining characteristic of the profession, and this characteristic persists for generations, there is something going on that cannot be cured by a few hours of in-service training, or by a different (teacher friendly) textbook, or by tweaking the curriculum---all things that have been done before. Many times.

In other words, we do not have an education problem. We have a political problem.

The famous case of Jaime Escalante at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles perfectly illustrates my point. Escalante solved the "engineering" problem. But, because he did not solve the political problem, his fantastic achievement started to evaporate the moment he walked out the door. Today, Garfield High School runs, more or less, as if Jaime Escalante never existed.

Such has been the fate of most every significant productive education reform, but a very few: consider the science high schools of New York City. Stuyvesant High School, and her sisters (The Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School), have been academically successful for decades. There are a number of other excellent high schools in the country (U.S. News and World Report ranking of high schools), but I do not know anything about them, although I am willing to bet, private schools aside, they exist because of political will, not educational oblige. (Consider how Singapore Math at Schmitz Park got its under the table clandestine start) In NYC, Stuyvesant and her sisters have been successful because of a political act.

Years ago, the stars aligned for a number of farsighted people, and they were able to pass a NY State law that protects Stuyvesant from the Education Mafia. Sadly, after nearly four decades, I am afraid the Education Mafia has finally learned how to breach the wall that protects these schools, and I think their future is in real danger. Their salvation, if it comes, will come from political action, not education theory, but that is a discussion for another time.

In general, I am very much afraid that unless and until people are prepared to investigate the political dimension of the education catastrophe, we are never going to make any significant, permanent progress.

As long as UW CoE and the Ed Elites rule the day, without being required to put forth evidence that is statistically sound in support of their beliefs, we will be subject to an ongoing flow of PC Nonsense.

The School Board mindlessly approves MGJ's proposals amid a volume of evidence showing such proposals are bunk.

We have a serious problems that have evolved over likely the last 80 years. (Seemingly examples of survival of the least fit, so common in education.)

In the last 50 years USA education has seen a serious decline in the abilities of HS graduates when compared to other industrially developed countries.

RttT is founded on more assumptions about how to make things better that will not stand the scrutiny of research.

We now have Federalized Centralized Nonsense (RttT) guiding us and a state, school board, and superintendent unwilling to use evidence to make decisions.

Tossing Mega Money down rat holes is an ongoing theme in the SPS.

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