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Marion Brady is on the K12 list and I have found his posts and ideas very
real and helpful, though the past several years.
Leslie in Framingham
attached mail follows:
Reaction, anyone, to my column for tomorrow?
Strange. Every aspiring politician who talks about education
reform pushes higher standards, testing, and accountability. Every
thoughtful educator I know points to that same reform push as reason
enough to abandon the profession.
Actually, not so strange. The politicians think the system is
sound, that it's the people — the kids, the parents, the teachers, the
administrators, the education professors — who need to shape up. The
thoughtful educators think the people are, well, what they are, that
it's the system that needs shaping up.
There is, of course, truth on both sides. There really are people
problems. For many kids, getting an education isn't a very high
priority. Too many parents aren't paying attention. There are plenty
of teachers who should never have entered the profession. Many school
administrators are more interested in tranquillity than in quality.
Some education professors vastly underestimate how hard it is to make
good teachers out of students who've spent many years watching poor
And there really are system problems. Serious system problems.
The curriculum hasn't changed significantly since the 19th century, when
assimilating immigrants was the main challenge. Even within single
states, there are great disparities in the quality of facilities and
equipment and available instructional resources. Schools tend to be
things apart, largely isolated from the life and work of the communities
in which they're located. Students spend most of their time in activity
at odds with youthfulness — sitting passively, exercising only their
short-term memories in an attempt to remember third- and fourth-hand,
largely useless information.
Almost certainly the most serious system problem of all is the
absence of respected, visionary leadership. The major decisions about
the shape and direction of education are made by amateurs — the lawyers,
doctors, developers and so on who dominate state legislatures. Goals
2000: Standards and Measures, the most important single "reform" action
in decades, was assembled in 1990 at a Washington area conference to
which educators weren't invited.
The politicians are in charge. And convinced as they are that
there's nothing wrong with the system, their primary strategy is simply
to tighten the screws on the people.
And not even all the people. Just, mostly, the kids and the
A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail post from a teacher in the state
of Washington, a PhD, one of the best middle school teachers I've ever
watched in action. She told me she had resigned, that she couldn't live
with the consequences of the Standards movement shaped by her state's
A few days ago, I got an e-mail from a teacher on Florida's west
coast, a woman of such caliber she's an evaluator of teachers applying
for National Board certification. She's currently engaged in viewing
15-minute videos submitted by candidates. Here, in part, is what she
"I know that for the many, many excellent teachers I have had the
privilege of viewing, the standards movement is harmful to their efforts
and robs them of the tools, opportunities and authority they need to
succeed in the classroom. Perhaps for the less well-prepared, the
standards movement may be as helpful to them as any other assistance.
Surely something must be done, but what of the excellent teachers? They
seem to build a synergistic, transformational environment where
community and solitude coexist and where multiple viewpoints are the
tools used to turn knowing into understanding. No FCAT test can
indicate the benefits of these learning environments. . . . I am certain
that the standards movement has weakened my ability to address the
specialized needs of my students....
"Can it be that this is what our citizenry really want our
children to gain from their school years? To bubble in an answer, write
a short reply, draw a diagram and produce nearly the same response as
Those who haven't thought deeply about the matter jump to the
conclusion that educators opposed to standardized testing and
accountability are either incompetent or irresponsible and want to avoid
exposure. The two teachers I've mentioned, and the dozens of others who
contacted me after I published a journal article attacking the standards
movement, are neither. They know that a system preoccupied with the
achievement of minimum standards rather than maximum performance can't
possibly rise above mediocrity.
Because no profession is inherently more difficult than teaching,
no profession equals teaching's potential for providing personal
satisfaction. If the simplistic, mechanistic standards and
accountability movement continues, say goodbye to those who've kept
alive the little spark of life left in the institution.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sun Aug 20 2000 - 12:20:41 PDT