More good stuff from Ken Robinson....pretty standard stuff in Educational Foundations courses but always worth thinking about as its so counter to more of the same "rage for accountability." Why does this seem to be so antithetical to what Arne Duncan is proposing?? Comments?
The problem is poverty: Evidence from Gerald Bracey Stephen Krashen
The entire basis for the national standards/testing movement is our low scores on international tests when compared to other countries. Our scores, however, are only low because we have such a high percentage of children in poverty, compared to other countries that participate in international tests. When we consider only middle-class children who attend well-funded schools, our math scores are near the top of the world (Payne and Biddle, 1999).
Here is another analysis, using reading test scores, that comes to the same conclusion. The PIRLS test was given to ten year olds in 35 countries in their own language. Bracey (2009) presented this data, along with relevant socio-economic data on the poverty level of the schools American children attended (defined as participating in free or reduced price lunch programs):
American students attending schools with - less than 10 percent in poverty averaged 589 (14% of students). - 10-24.9% in poverty averaged 567 (20% of students) - 25 to 49.9% in poverty averaged 551 (30% of students) - 50 to 74.5% in poverty averaged 519 (21% of students) - 75% or more in poverty averaged 485 (15% of students)
Clearly, students in schools with lower levels of poverty did better. Of great interest to us is the fact that American children attending low poverty schools (25% or less) outscored the top scoring country, Sweden (561). Bracey also points out that "if the students in schools with 24-49.9% poverty constituted a nation, it would rank fourth among the 35 participating nations" (p. 155).
The problem is poverty, not our teachers, our unions, the parents, or the children. The solution is to protect our children from the disadvantages of poverty, through health care, nutrition, and access to books. Geoffrey Canada claims that his approach is to attempt to do just that in the Harlem Children's Zone schools (NY Times, October 12, 2010; but see Krashen, 2010a,b).
Thus far, the Arne Duncan department of education has chosen to ignore this route (while praising the Harlem Children's Zone), and spend billions on useless national standards and national tests, focusing on measuring rather than helping.
Bracey, G. 2009. Education Hell: Rhetoric Versus Reality. Alexandria, VA: Educational Research Service. Krashen, S. 2010a. A suggestion for Geoffrey Canada. www.schoolsmatter.info. October 12, 2010. Krashen, S. 2010b. Shocking revelations from Goeffrey Canada's autobiography. www.schoolsmatter.info. October 13, 2010. Payne, K. and Biddle, B. 1999. Poor school funding, child poverty, and mathematics achievement. Educational Researcher 28 (6): 4-13.
By Kevin G. Welner For a concise compilation of today’s fads and gimmicks in education, go read “How to fix our schools: A manifesto by Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and other education leaders,” published in the Outlook section of Sunday’s Washington Post.
The sort of nonsense about education found in the new manifesto has become astoundingly commonplace, but this time it came not from a Hollywood filmmaker or a Washington think-tank advocate but from the leaders of 16 of the nation’s major city school districts.
According to the manifesto, “It’s time for all of the adults -- superintendents, educators, elected officials, labor unions and parents alike -- to start acting like we are responsible for the future of our children.” Absolutely. Members of each of these groups can do more – a lot more.
In fact, we should start by removing the irresponsible signers of this manifesto from any position of power over “the future of our children.”
Are the adults who signed this manifesto acting responsibly when they bash teachers, and only teachers? What about the “superintendents” and “elected officials” who are conveniently never mentioned again in the Manifesto but who actually have some control over the resources available to students and their teachers?
Are these adults acting responsibly when they advocate for even more test-based accountability and school choice? Over the past two decades, haven’t these two policies dominated the reform landscape – and what do we have to show for it? Wouldn’t true reform move away from what has not been working, rather than further intensifying those ineffective policies? Are they acting responsibly when they promote unproven gimmicks as solutions?
Are they acting responsibly when they do not acknowledge their own role in failing to secure the opportunities and resources needed by students in their own districts, opting instead to place the blame on those struggling in classrooms to help students learn?
As a researcher and a parent, I yearn for an end to the over-the-top propaganda, the slick think tank reports, the educational “leaders” more interested in blaming than in solving, the wasteful sinking of taxpayer money (and educators’ time) into reforms that have been shown not to work, and the stirring films that suggest that the heartbreaking denial of educational opportunities to innocent children can be miraculously solved by the latest fad.
Move money from neighborhood schools to charter schools! Make children take more tests! Move money from classrooms to online learning! Blame teachers and their unions – make them easier to fire! Tie teacher jobs and salaries to student test scores!
None – literally NONE – of these gimmicks is evidence-based.
Charters? Overall, they’re no better than other schools.
Tests? Twenty years of testing has bought us minimal improvement in scores but made learning less engaging.
Online learning? Sometimes it’s a good supplement for classrooms, but the research doesn’t support it as a widespread substitute – unless you’re an investor in one of the companies that stand to make a fortune courtesy of taxpayers.
Easier routes to firing teachers? Why do states, districts and schools (including charter schools) with few if any union protections have the same patterns of student learning?
Test-based merit pay, etc? Rarely has a policy been so vigorously pursued that so clearly lacks research support.
The manifesto and these facile “solutions” are built on little more than rhetoric, and it all begins with a patently incorrect factual assertion:
“So, where do we start? With the basics. As President Obama has emphasized, the single most important factor determining whether students succeed in school is not the color of their skin or their ZIP code or even their parents’ income -- it is the quality of their teacher.”
If the president did in fact say this, he is wrong. While no researcher could offer precise numbers, regression models tend to attribute a far greater role to out-of-school factors such as parental educational level and family income.
While teacher quality is, in my opinion, the most important in-school factor, there are many others: school leadership, class size, facilities (e.g, working bathrooms, heating, air conditioning, lighting, etc), learning resources (books, computers), and curriculum.
Teacher quality is critical, but the variance we can attribute to this one factor is probably less than 10 percent. This isn’t new – we have known about the high predictive ability of out-of-school factors since thefamous Coleman study almost 45 years ago.
None of this means that in-school factors should be ignored. They should absolutely be addressed, including teacher quality. But they should be addressed based on evidence of best practices, and calls to address these needs should not be made as part of an attempt to downplay out-of-school needs.
Unemployment is high. More and more families are falling into poverty, and their children are showing up to school hungry, in need of health and dental care, and even homeless. Yet these “leaders” dare to suggest that everything will be just fine if we had fewer tenured teachers and more charter schools and online learning.
Think about that – the people to whom we have handed over responsibility for educating our children are engaged in scapegoating, offering bread-and-circus diversions while the children under their care see their life chances slipping away.
These are the people in power – the people who have overseen the system that they now seem to acknowledge has only gotten worse under their regimes and their policies.
They scapegoat and divert because they refuse to acknowledge their failures and to step aside.