Saturday, March 5, 2011

What I've Been Saying

Kailyn posted a link on FB I'll write more about later.  We're doomed as doomed can be as a nation if we don't make some major changes in education.  As I keep saying, we're not educating students any more.  It's not the teachers' fault.  They are trying their best but are handicapped by all these decrees from the federal government on down.  No Child Left Behind put so much emphasis on testing that teachers were told to teach to the test.  Then it got even worse when they ramped it up so that teachers here in my county have to write down the state standards they teach each day on the board, as if that makes any difference to the students and what or how they learn.  Students are tested within an inch of their lives.  I can't even keep up with all the tests teacher friends tell me they have to administer.  They can't TEACH!  They know how but barely have a chance to do it.

Our high schools were on the block schedule for several years, which means that there are four 90-minute classes each semester that make up a year's credit.  There are exceptions in some math and music courses and perhaps others.  Our director of schools changed this to a seven-period day.  Classes are so much shorter that the kids said it felt like speed dating.  With the block schedule, there was time to cover the material and to be able to determine if they caught on or not.  The kids, teachers, and parents are stressed out now.

The new director, who reminds me of W, has no high school experience.  He's been a coach, assistant principal, and principal of junior high and middle schools all of his career.  Not only that, but the principal and assistant principal of the high school were I taught last, secondary supervisor, other supervisors in the Central Office have only elementary and middle school experience.  Seems as if it would help to have someone who knows what needs to happen in high school, doesn't it?  When we changed to the block schedule, it was after years of study, visits to schools, and planning before making such a change.  Not so this time with the seven periods.  That change was made because that's how it was done at the middle schools.  Yeah.  No one realized how different the curriculum requirements and students are at those two levels.

Teachers are now being evaluated based on student scores.  That is so wrong because it depends on the students from year to year.  The ACT should be used because it's a standardized test used nationally.  What our state is doing now is too screwy to try to explain.  Let's just say it's supposed to give an indication of what is expected of those students the next year based on things I don't understand.  It's all crazy.

I've never seen teacher morale so low ever.  Most of the ones I'm around are so stressed out that it shows.  They care about their students and want them to learn.  They also want to keep their jobs.  Those two goals are in conflict the way the system is set up now, and it sucks.

Here's the article I mentioned earlier, which shows that unsurprisingly this dumbing down extends to colleges, but then how could it not?  We've already seen evidence of what being uninformed and unable to make rational decisions, think critically, and learn can do in a society.  This is an excerpt from the article "College the Easy Way" by Bob Herbert. 
The book is based on a study, led by Professor Arum, that followed more than 2,300 students at a broad range of schools from the fall of 2005 to the spring of 2009. The study (available at highered.ssrc.org) showed that in their first two years of college, 45 percent of the students made no significant improvement in skills related to critical thinking, complex reasoning and communication. After the full four years, 36 percent still had not substantially improved those skills.

The development of such skills is generally thought to be the core function of a college education. The students who don’t develop them may leave college with a degree and an expanded circle of friends, but little more. Many of these young men and women are unable to communicate effectively, solve simple intellectual tasks (such as distinguishing fact from opinion), or engage in effective problem-solving.

“This is a terrible disservice, not only to those students, but also to the larger society,” said Professor Arum. “I really think it’s important to get the word out about the lack of academic rigor and intellectual engagement that’s occurring at colleges and universities today.”

While there are certainly plenty of students doing very well and learning a great deal in college, this large increase in the number of students just skating by should be of enormous concern in an era in which a college education plays such a crucial role in the lifetime potential of America’s young people. It can leave the U.S. at a disadvantage in the global marketplace. But, more important, the students are cheating themselves — and being cheated — of the richer, more satisfying lives that should be the real payoff of a four-year college experience.

“You have to ask what this means for a democratic society,” said Professor Arum. “This is the portion of the population that you would expect to demonstrate civic leadership in the future, civic engagement. They are the ones we would expect to be struggling to understand the world, to think critically about the rhetoric out there, and to make informed, reasoned decisions.

“If they’re not developing their higher order skills, it means they’re not developing the attitudes and dispositions that are needed to even understand that that’s important.”

5 comments:

froggy said...

ak!

Our state has been reforming education even before the Ponder children entered school. Now we are tossing all that reform, attempting to overturn the dept. of ed on the state level and galloping after the Race to the Top, having tossed No Child Left Behind into the ash heap.
All this has cost millions and millions and millions of dollars.

The feds send us money, the governor drops it into the budget and then the governor cuts our budget by the same amount.
It's a shell game and
it just boggles the mind.

Joy said...

I don't see that the Race to the Top is an improvement over NCLB. It included student test scores into teacher evaluation. I had hoped for improvement, but not so much. TN was one of the first states to qualify for the Race to Mediocrity.

mrs. miss alaineus said...

this is the stuff that is making me think that staying where i am is the lesser of two evils....


xxalainaxx

Joy said...

Yes, you are, MMA!

Kailyn said...

Knew when I posted the article, it would get you going. I found it sad that non-critical thinking has extended to even higher education. And while reading it, all I could think was, "What about all those courses I took for my teaching credential in which they stressed the importance of teaching higher level thinking?" Oh, and before I left the classroom, I too had to write the state standards I was teaching for the day on the board.