Sunday, June 10, 2012

Groupthink in Schools

Good article from the Washington Post, linked from Transparent Christina.
Within schools, there is pressure to join in the obsession over data, and this has intensified with recent “reforms” that require test scores to be used as a significant part of teacher and principal evaluations. Teachers who may have been willing to voice dissent in public in the past are now in fear of poor evaluations and possible termination. If one expresses a lack of faith in the latest curriculum or testing package, one might be accused of poor implementation, or worst of all, of the cardinal sin — “not believing all students can learn.”

When President Obama accidentally spoke the truth a little more than a year ago, and described how he felt we were overemphasizing test scores, and “using them to punish schools and students,” the mindguards at the Department of Education leapt to the breach. They insisted that “The President and Secretary Duncan are on the same page,” though clearly the president’s remarks were far different from his minion’s policies. And when President Obama assembled a roundtable of advisers on education, not a single actual educator was present.
Teachers are the ones on the front lines.  We need more of them calling the shots and less statisticians, curriculum coordinators, and administrators getting in the way.  Teachers can develop relationships with students and parents and figure out what will work.  Everyone else in the school should exist for the sole purpose of facilitating that relationship, not obstructing it with red tape to conform to some policy or another that doesn't speak to the experience in the classroom.  Corporate leaders, especially, are the wrong people to be talking to when basic proficiencies in math, literacy, and writing are falling behind.

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