Sunday, March 14, 2010

Two Points for the Charlotte Observer

On March 12, Fannie Flono wrote an article, "Can U.S. stop playing for 14th place?" She argued for the importance of national guidelines for a uniform set of standards in Math and English. She reports that, "Other nations already employ such standards and they have led to student performance." Flono concludes, "...when expectations and standards are set high, children most often live up to them. It's to our benefit and theirs that we push them to reach for the stars."

I thought her point of pushing students to achieve their potential was good and I wrote and told her so. But, I worried, wouldn't national standards produce more pressure on teachers who already just "teach to the test"?

The next day Kay McSpadden wrote a column, "School reforms wrongheaded." In it she summarized education historian Diane Ravitch's main points in The Death and Life of the Great American School System, her newest book. There were many excellent quotes, here are a few:

"NCLB [No Children Left Behind] was a punitive law based on erroneous assumptions about schools.... It assumed that shaming schools that were unable to lift test scores every year--and the people who work in them--would lead to higher scores. It assumed that low scores are caused by lazy teachers and lazy principals who need to be threatened with the loss of their jobs. Perhaps most naively, it assumed that higher test scores on standardized tests of basic skills are synonymous with good education. Its assumptions were wrong. Testing is not a substitute for curriculum and instruction. Good education cannot be achieved by a strategy of testing children, shaming educators, and closing schools."

McSpadden writes how Davitch "concludes by calling for an elimination of testing as it is currently being used. Next, Ravitch argues for an emphasis on a content-rich curriculum and sound assessment to go with it. She suggests alternate, non-punitive ways to measure the quality of schools, and urges finding ways to attract and retain well-educated teachers who not only know their content but have a passion for their work."

Finally! Here is a well-respected professional who is questioning the test-taking environment which governs public schools.

I wrote to McSpadden and told her that I loved her points.

Two columns in the same paper. Are they opposites? Not exactly. But how do we fit them together? How can we have high national standards without creating a system that focuses on assessment at the risk of not educating children? If you are a parent or educator I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

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The Sattlers said...

Amen & Amen. Fannie is right about the need for high expectations and Algebra. The question is not whether we need algebra, geometry or even trig. It should be about statistics, the most common mathematical language in public and political discourse.

Lane Sattler

Carol said...

Thanks, Lane. As mathematics is not my strong point, I appreciate your viewpoint on the matter!