Monday, July 04, 2011

Ham-fisted Education ( We have Ways of Making Them Learn!)

Once the Berlin Wall fell there were few challenges left for our military leaders. And about that same time the politicians began a "War on Drugs". This opened the floodgates of opportunity for the militarists to retire and establish a front for the *war* in our schools. School Principals, Superintendents, and administrators soon required a military background as well as a few education courses to "straighten schools out".

Over a quarter century later, teacher pedagogy has been reduced to animal trainer memorization exercises

And along the way, a lot of bad educational theory and practice followed. Here we'll examine the mytheme made popular by the conservative and centrist forces of the time and that is that if a child is having problems learning then what's needed is MORE work, ever HARDER Work, LONGER days, SHORTER vacations, MORE tests, HIGHER standards, TOUGHER discipline - MORE, HARDER, LOUDER!

And we should acknowledge that anyone who takes exception to this American gospel will be marginalized, ignored, and -gasp- labeled as a soft liberal wimp whose ideas aren't worth considering. And the Teachers Unions not only go along with the myth but they structurally reinforce the MORE, HARDER, LOUDER paradigm because it is an easy, no-brainer. If it fails, they point the finger at the parents who aren't tough enough, hard enough, draconian enough to *MAKE* the child love learning.

Nazi Germany were amateurs compared to the kind of standardized education we can ensure these days. Our children goose-step through more nonsense that any child in history and recent studies continue to show that its all wrong. In fact a case is being made that public education is hazardous to the health and well-being of children.

The Chicago Public Schools are providing some interesting studies. The New York Times reports that efforts to lengthen the school day there are having unintended consequences;
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and new leaders of Chicago Public Schools have been pushing for a longer school day and school year to help raise student performance. But last week’s state test results show that charter schools — which typically have more instructional time — actually have a lower percentage of students exceeding state standards.

So does the empirical evidence suggest a closer examination of the concept? Um... NO;
In 2014, the state test will switch to a new, more rigorous exam that aligns with the Common Core, a set of curriculum standards adopted by states across the country to better prepare students for college.

Ms. Donoso — who is replacing Charles Payne, the interim chief education officer — is responsible for developing the district’s curriculum strategy and working with school leaders to carry it out. Her main focus in the coming years will be the Common Core, which is intended to develop analytical skills beyond those currently tested on the ISAT.

Ms. Radner said the district “needs to step it up” or scores could crash when the new test is given in 2014, calling the change “the biggest shift I’ve ever seen.”

”We can’t be complacent,” she said “This is a whole different generation of standards and assessment.”

This is always the answer MORE rigor, if its failing we aren't trying hard enough - there's a whole new generation of kids who we can experiment on - the perverse dysfunction of hope.

Wait, there's more. EDWeek reports that Chicago tried herding students into college prep courses and that too is having unintended consequences;
Research has shown that students who take high-level course sequences learn more in high school and are more likely to attend and to perform better in college than students who do not take these classes. Yet despite the popularity of default-curriculum policies, we actually know surprisingly little about whether changing course requirements will necessarily lead to improved outcomes for students. This is because previous studies cited by many in the policy and reform communities do not fully correct for selection bias: that is, the fact that students who choose to take high-level classes are often the most motivated and high-achieving in their schools, and that the schools offering advanced courses are those with the capacity to teach them, and often are college-oriented in other ways.
"Default-curriculum reforms are not likely to work effectively without other significant and complementary policy efforts."

To inform state and district curriculum policies, and to address some of the limitations of the previous research, the Consortium on Chicago School Research and the University of Michigan have spent the last three years examining an effort by the Chicago public schools to implement a version of the default college-preparatory curriculum. The 1997 policy change ended remedial classes and mandated college-prep coursework for all students in four subject areas: English, mathematics, science, and social studies. Our study compares outcomes for cohorts of students in Chicago before and after policy implementation in English, mathematics, and science. What we found is sobering, to say the least.

First, the good news: The 1997 policy did increase student enrollment in college-preparatory classes in all three subject areas, and significantly reduced previous inequities in coursetaking by prior achievement, race and ethnicity, and special education status. The policy had no effects, however, on any of the major outcomes that default-curriculum reforms generally seek to affect: Test scores did not rise, nor were students more likely to take advanced mathematics classes beyond Algebra 2, or to complete advanced science classes.

Moreover, the policy produced a number of adverse unintended consequences: Grades declined, failures increased, and absenteeism rose among average and higher-skilled students. There also were no improvements in college outcomes, and those students who attended college were no more likely to stay there than students were before the policy change. High-achieving students were actually slightly less likely to attend college after the 1997 curriculum reforms were implemented.

The Chicago experience should serve as a cautionary tale for those who advocate for similar default-curriculum policies in their communities. Let us be clear: Curriculum requirements have important equity benefits, and can play a role in efforts to improve students’ high school experiences and their preparation for college. But default-curriculum reforms are not likely to work effectively without other significant and complementary policy efforts.
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This raises an important point: As long as students are minimally engaged in their courses and attend school irregularly, policymakers should not expect substantial improvements in learning. Getting the content and structure of courses right is just the first step. Real improvements in learning will require states and districts to develop strategies that get students excited about learning, attending class regularly, and working hard in their courses.

Although our findings may be disappointing to default-curriculum advocates, we are not suggesting that such policies are misguided. Prior to 1997, the differentiated curriculum was clearly not serving Chicago students well; even when they took remedial coursework, large numbers of students failed those courses and eventually dropped out.

We argue instead that curriculum policies need to be accompanied by greater attention to instruction and stronger efforts to improve the academic behaviors—particularly attendance and studying—associated with better school performance. Without improved instruction and engagement, the promise of these well-meaning reforms is likely to go unrealized.

Paul Krugman reinforces the argument further;
Yes, we need to fix American education. In particular, the inequalities Americans face at the starting line — bright children from poor families are less likely to finish college than much less able children of the affluent — aren’t just an outrage; they represent a huge waste of the nation’s human potential.

But there are things education can’t do. In particular, the notion that putting more kids through college can restore the middle-class society we used to have is wishful thinking. It’s no longer true that having a college degree guarantees that you’ll get a good job, and it’s becoming less true with each passing decade.

So if we want a society of broadly shared prosperity, education isn’t the answer — we’ll have to go about building that society directly. We need to restore the bargaining power that labor has lost over the last 30 years, so that ordinary workers as well as superstars have the power to bargain for good wages. We need to guarantee the essentials, above all health care, to every citizen.

What we can’t do is get where we need to go just by giving workers college degrees, which may be no more than tickets to jobs that don’t exist or don’t pay middle-class wages.


But education is not only dysfunctional as a service to students, it is apparently equally dysfunctional for teachers at the University level. The Huffington Post reports;
Despite more than a decade of research showing the money has little impact on student achievement, state lawmakers and other officials have been reluctant to tackle this popular way for teachers to earn more money.

That could soon change, as local school districts around the country grapple with shrinking budgets.

Just this week, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the economy has given the nation an opportunity to make dramatic improvements in the productivity of its education system and to do more of what works and less of what doesn't.

Duncan told the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday that master's degree bonuses are an example of spending money on something that doesn't work.

On Friday, billionaire Bill Gates took aim at school budgets and the master's degree bonus.

"My own state of Washington has an average salary bump of nearly $11,000 for a master's degree – and more than half of our teachers get it. That's more than $300 million every year that doesn't help kids," he said.

"And that's one state," said Gates, the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at a speech Friday in Louisville to the Council of Chief State School Officers. Gates also took aim at pensions and seniority.

"Of course, restructuring pay systems is like kicking a beehive," he acknowledged.
The article concludes with the following understatement;
"There's a relationship between education schools and teachers that is not particularly healthy," he [Erick Hanushek, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University] said.

One would think that University Education Departments would study the ways that children learn and don't learn and what they need so that the teachers they train can advocate and promote those things. Instead we find that they're paper mills that enrich teacher's paychecks but little more.

Maybe we need to *GET TOUGH*, demand *HIGHER EXPECTATIONS*, and *TOUGHER STANDARDS*.


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