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Lesson Plans

Fwd: ITI: Tomorrow's Orlando Sentinel Column

From: LMiller435
Date: Sun Aug 20 2000 - 12:19:40 PDT

  • Next message: Jackie Aust: "Re: Have a wonderful school year - from Donna"

    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
    teachers teach.
          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
    wrote me:
          "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
    their peers?"
          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.


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