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Thomas Paine

To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.

Monday, August 20, 2012

20 August - Blogs I'm Following

Six Degrees of Insanity: Education "Reform"

The current education reform movement, hell-bent on accountability, has recently moved into a phase that has not been recognized nearly as well as its pop-culture cousins: Six Degrees of Insanity.

Starting in the early 1980s, this accountability movement began by focusing accountability mandates (built on standards and standardized tests) on schools and students. Over the next thirty years (despite abundant evidence that the accountability-standards-testing paradigm does not work), that momentum has more recently turned the same accountability mantra on teachers and then teacher educators.

The consequences of that insanity was highlighted for me recently when I received an email from a new teacher who certified in the program where I am a teacher educator (I taught high school English in rural SC for 18 years before entering teacher certification, where I have been for a decade). That email told me that she was being trained to implement the Common Core State Standards, adopted by SC.
  This new teacher came across the following guideline while being trained:

Deemphasize These
Making text to self connections
Exploring personal responses to a text
Accessing prior knowledge
This new teacher was quick to note that this recommendation contrasted significantly *the best practice she was taught by me and others in her program as well as the best practice she has embraced as a young educator.

*I'll raise that to completely contradicts...which is part and parcel of the 'Dumbing Down' exercise
Ten years ago, I was taught the difference between "field dependent" and "field independent". Students exposed to a rich variety of experiences from an early age, generally characteristic of high SED social strata, become field independent. I would compare them to Ken Jennings on Jeopardy, who was able to win not due to expertise in any area but rather the width and complexity of his cognitive maps. To a lesser degree it was why I did well on tests like the ITBS and generally tested out several grade levels above my actual grade. Students from low SED strata, who may have a very limited range of experiences, who may read only when forced to in school, whose parents may not be able to expose them to a wide variety of activities, do better when information is presented in context, in other words, field dependent. The FCAT and other standardized tests are directed toward field independent students. On the reading test, they may read an informational text about a moment in history, then a poem, then a fictional story about something totally unrelated. Students whose first language is not English or who have grown up in a completely different environment from the test-makers may have a hard time switching gears and "plugging in" each passage into their cognitive maps, even if they know the vocabulary and the grammar is not difficult. The "teaching across the curriculum" has proven successful in many well known programs such as IB. So why can't these so-called "experts" get it?

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