Jun 21, 2012

Education Myths - Math & Science Edition

There was a great article in The Slate about education myths. Each one had me silently nodding my head in agreement as I read them. I'll list them here and add my own commentary.

Myths:

1. Math and Science education has deteriorated. (It hasn't. We're using a different yardstick to compare ourselves internationally. Singapore regularly kicks our butt in math because they send their best and brightest to high school, while we pay drug dealers to show up. Yes, we do. Transportation and lunch isn't free - and we want them here why?)

2. Poor performance is due to aptitude. (Oh yeah. You should see how a kid's face lights up after tutoring with me, when he discovers he isn't dumb after all. He was just missing a few bricks from the bottom of the pyramid and had trouble putting a more advanced brick on that diaphanous foundation. 90% of teaching is encouragement.)

3. Curriculum reform is the key to achievement. (Uh, yeah, if you sell curriculi to schools. If you're a teacher, you want what works, not what's new. One first grade teacher friend of mine, a 30 year veteran well-loved by students and parents, struggled and fought to keep Saxon phonics in her classroom. A year or two after it was replaced - by those who "know best" - parents complained of low reading scores - and guess who got blamed? )

4. A massive recruiting drive for top talent is needed. (Empower the teachers to do their jobs and they will surprise you with their loyalty. The learning curve is steep, and experience is valuable.)

5. Top college graduates are necessary. (The Slate article refutes this one quite well. Some teachers are good because they remember what it was like to struggle in school. What you need and what you think you need are often different things, and ego is the blinder. You want to brag about your Harvard grads, but the 5 year old who finally memorizes his lunch pin code - when the teacher set it to rap - or learns to tie his shoe - because the teacher showed him the bunny and the tree - doesn't care what college signed her diploma. )

What myths will you recognize and discard today?

Jun 4, 2012

To Charter, or Not to Charter?

There is an article in the Huffington Post about Louisiana's move to privatize their school system. There have been ads on Craig's List and other sites seeking teachers without certification to come and fill the slots open by this initiative. Obama's "Race to the Top" funds seem to go only to states that embrace charter schools. 

Public schools hate charters. Why? The same reason banks hate savings and loans. I grew up in a banking family, and heard about it most of my life. S&L's have all the advantages of banks, without all the federal interference and regulation. It's an uneven playing field. 

Same with schools. If we could eliminate NCLB and other straitjacket pieces of legislation, and let the schools do what they do best, with the people who have been doing this successfully for years before NCLB came along then the kids would be better educated, morale would soar, and the for-profit schools would not have the advantage of siphoning off public education funds to line the pockets of the corporate school owners.

There are 9 openings for math teachers in my home district. 3 of them, I'd take in a New York minute. I love math. I've tutored math. But the public schools can't consider me for employment because I'm not HQ by federal standards. Never mind that I'm qualified, willing, anxious even, to use the gifts and talents God gave me. 

As short handed as they are, they are bound (and I do mean bound, ankles and wrists) by federal legislation that puts them at a severe disadvantage.

I might have to move to Louisiana to find work. The playing field leans in that direction. 

About which injustice are you indignant today?