Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity


Posted at 5:01 AM ET, 01/14/2011

What reformers are doing to urban kids (or 'it's terrible what they are doing to these schools')

By Valerie Strauss

This was written by Natalie Hopkinson, a fellow of the Interactivity Foundation and a contributing editor to The Root, a daily online magazine devoted to the black experience. She is co-author of
he co-author of "Deconstructing Tyrone: A New Look at Black Masculinity in the Hip-Hop Generation
." This post first appeared on The Root.

By: Natalie Hopkinson
Something wasn't right at the high school that Darwin Bridgers' son attends, so he sat in on the class to see for himself. All morning long, the instructor at the Washington, D.C., charter school pointed to a list of ground rules, a detailed list of rewards and punishments posted on a wall near the front of the class filled with black and Latino students.

Then the students filled out worksheets. That's how it went: rewards and punishments, then worksheets. No instruction, just worksheets. At the end of the class, Bridgers, who works as an exterminator, pulled aside the teacher, a young white male and recent graduate.

"I wanted to know when he was going to do some, you know, teaching," Bridgers explained to me recently. "You know, like, how we used to have in school? She would stand in front of the class … "

I nodded my head. I attended K-12 at schools in Canada, Indiana and Florida in the '80s and '90s, but I knew exactly what he meant. There would be assignments to read from textbooks. A teacher would give a lecture and randomly call on students. Students would ask questions and write things down. Then there would be some sort of written exam to see what you'd learned.

Of course, today the "reformers" say that that way of teaching is old school. It was fine before the days of social media and the "information revolution" and the global economy. But now, as the argument goes in films like "Waiting for Superman", no self-respecting parent would ever send his or her child to a "failing" public school like the one that generations of Bridgers' family attended in their neighborhood in Northeast Washington.

For Bridgers' son and a disproportionate number of black students around the country, charter schools have become the preferred choice.

The idea is that charters can find a model that produces results -- measured in test scores -- then apply it to different campuses. They can raise and spend money independently. They can have management consultants, and they can compete -- just like a business. As the charter school movement picks up steam nationwide, the District of Columbia may provide a glimpse of the future of "choice": Roughly 40 percent of children enrolled in District of Columbia public schools attend charters.

Many D.C. parents are finding that, sure, there are plenty of choices -- just not a lot of good, or even passable ones. When you mix corporate strategies with an ominous 2014 compliance deadline under the No Child Left Behind law, you often end up with scenes that look nothing like what most of us might recognize as a classroom.

"What once was an effort to improve the quality of education turned into an accounting strategy," the acclaimed education historian Diane Ravitch writes in her book "The Death and Life of the Great American School System."

"The strategy produced fear and obedience among educators. It often generated higher test scores. But it had nothing to do with education. It produced mountains of data, not educated citizens. Its advocates then treated that data as evidence of its success."

That strategy has grown even more intense as teachers and administrators are testing for their professional lives. Under NCLB, 100 percent of schools must reach certain test-score targets by 2014; schools that fall short could lose federal funding, or be closed.

Even if the law is repealed, which is something the Obama administration has signaled it will do, education has been changed in this country forever. Obama's Race to the Top program continues to use the same sticks and carrots that require educators to teach to the test or else be fired or make less money.

The looming deadline is making people do crazy things: Like administrators pushing out low-performing students in North Carolina. Like teachers helping students cheat in Atlanta. Like officials producing math so fuzzy, it would make Wall Street CEOs blush. And, in the case of the Oprah-certified former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, like importing shoddy private managers to take over a school.

Under this framework, "failing" schools are by definition the ones serving the most vulnerable populations -- recent immigrants learning English, families battling poverty, children with trifling or MIA parents. The reformers say that even these students would produce better test scores if only they weren't sitting in front of "lazy" teachers collecting checks, a slight upgrade from Ronald Reagan's welfare queens.

Under this movement, teachers don't get better with practice. Instead they are installed and reinstalled like interchangeable parts. Teachers' unions, originally organized to protect the mostly female work force from capricious regulations of their marriages and lifestyles by mostly male administrators, are depicted as the enemies of progress. (Police unions somehow escaped blame for rising murder rates.)

I'm less concerned about the teachers and administrators than I am the children stuck in those classrooms. What it means to learn has been transformed for a generation of urban children. Education is acquiring a basic body of knowledge needed to competently vote and play Jeopardy, appreciate music and art, go to college and get a job, communicate and so on.

But in the name of reform, it's as if somehow the goalpost has been moved without our realizing it. Now education -- for those "failing" urban kids, anyway -- is about learning the rules and following directions. Not critical thinking. Not creativity. It's about how to correctly eliminate three out of four bubbles. The whole messy, thrilling, challenging work of shaping young minds has been reduced to a one or a zero. Pass or fail.

A decade of this language has taken its own toll. Kids attend "failing" schools. A majority of black boys are "failures." Whole communities are branded with a collective "F." Conservative California politicians liken Compton parents who demand the heads of school staff to modern-day versions of Rosa Parks.

So in cities such as New York, they bring in the number crunchers instead of real education experts -- even if these privatization experiments can go horribly, tragically wrong. And even if choosing a charter school often means choosing to racially segregate.

Public schools that enjoy certain socioeconomic privileges (and a minimal number of needy kids) are thriving and will continue to be left alone. But for the "failing" communities and students, there will be no public system.

Instead they are required to navigate the education marketplace, choosing between neighborhood schools that have been creamed of their best students and the new experimental start-ups that on average perform worse than traditional public schools. "This strategy plays a shell game with low-performing students, moving them out and dispersing them, pretending they don't exist," Ravitch wrote.

We have collectively decided that we are incapable as a society of honoring the social contract to own buildings and pay teachers in disadvantaged communities. How can a whole demographic of children need to be "fixed"? How can all of them be wrong?

As for his black son, Bridgers believed that there was something wrong with the medicine. "The teacher was too young," he says. "He couldn't handle the pressure."

A week after Bridgers visited the school, his son told him that the young teacher had left and never come back. So Bridgers sent his son to live with his mother in Pennsylvania. "I coach football Little League," he told me. "This is what we talk about on the sidelines. It's terrible what they are doing to these schools."

-0-

Follow my blog every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet. And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed Bookmark it!

By Valerie Strauss  | January 14, 2011; 5:01 AM ET
Categories:  Charter schools, Guest Bloggers, School turnarounds/reform  | Tags:  african-american blacks, charter schools, d.c. charter schools, d.c. schools, the root, urban schools  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Math class: What’s the right order?
Next: The astrology college story

Comments

Valerie, you don't have to search in North Carolina to find out a school system that is pushing low performing students out. All you have to do is wonder where are the poorly prepared students from DCPS's low performing elementary and middle schools are going to high school. The following DC high schools have implemented admissions testing. School Without Walls, Banneker, Ellington, Mckinley, Phelps, and the Collumbia Heights Educatonal Campus. So where do you think the kids are being pushed to? So of course the test scores are going to go up at a few schools that may bring up the average. Of course the discipline problems are going to go down, because the kids who are the problems are not going to get in from the beginning.
BUT WHERE ARE THEY GOING TO SCHOOL?

Posted by: topryder1 | January 14, 2011 5:45 AM | Report abuse

Valerie, you don'thave to go to North Carolina to find a school system that pushes its academically weak, high disciplinary problems out. DCPS does it right here at home. The follow high schools have admission tests, School Without Walls, Banneker, Ellington, Phelps, Mckinley, Columbia Heights Educatonal Campus. So where are the high school age kids reading on the third grade level being pushed? Of course the scores are going to go up if you keep the kids you failed to educate out. Facts speak for themselves..but I don't see you going very far on this.

Posted by: topryder1 | January 14, 2011 5:51 AM | Report abuse

The original sin of "reform" is earned dignity, I mean "earned autonomy." The easier-to-educate kids get engaging instruction in small schools, magnets, and some charters, and the kids left behind get test prep. Schools have to earn respect. The students of educators who don't earn test score increases get rote learning mandated. I've also personally seen the damage done to hundreds of students in the inner city of Oklahoma City who have been pushed out by this cruely.

Posted by: johnt4853 | January 14, 2011 7:49 AM | Report abuse

To generate profits, reformers push a factory model of false education including profitable charter schools on the poor and middle class in urban areas. Scripted curriculum, boring worksheets, test-prep, relentless testing, and non-certified teachers would not be tolerated in suburban public school districts. If students are engaged in meaningful learning activities, bribes and compliance measures aren’t needed. Parents have the power to stop the reform nonsense by withdrawing their children from charter schools like the one described in the article.

Posted by: nfsbrrpkk | January 14, 2011 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Again, we look for numbers instead of results. All the statistics in the world are useless unless applied correctly. If we know that "X" number of kids will be set back, or need to set back, a year at the 3rd grade, then budget for the increase. It is only one year, and not the 20 year prison sentence we could face for not educating the child.

We are so worried as parents that our child will be thought less a person if set back, yet we would forgo that fleeting moment (because those events as soon lost in time) of set back and risk our child's possible jail time for not learning enough to make a living or an improved living.

There is another terrible injustice for families that are not "in the groove" economically. Parenting and Family Living classes. All too often people are giving birth without the benefits of family and friends to assist them in understanding the growing issues of a child.

Lastly, we spend more time blaming parents for the child's shortcomings instead of dealing with the real need...the child's improvement. We need a new focus...that being the family, not the teacher, not the preacher, not the baker, or the candlestick maker...

Posted by: jbeeler | January 14, 2011 8:29 AM | Report abuse

This scenario is no different than what's been going on in DCPS for over 40 years, long before Michelle Rhee was around. This very issue is why so many urban parents choose charter schools, because so too many of their public schools are populated by teachers with fragile commitment to their children. Sure you can cite cases of lousy charter schools, but nobody should be foolish enough to think that a solution is the best solution. When enough parents leave that school it will close down, as it should.
A teacher leaving after one year is a broken record in regular public schools, and has been for a couple generations. How many of these 'experienced, highly qualified' teachers are beating down the doors to teach 'in the hood?' I've yet to hear anyone confront that issue or offer a tangible solution. There's always been a 'public system' available to urban parents, but it's been LOUSY!
This dishonoring of the 'social contract' has been occurring long before charter schools came around, but the real dishonor is teachers serving a bureaucracy versus parents and students. In DCPS especially, how can you say we've decided not to 'honor the social contract' when the ADA for DCPS has been one of the highest in the Nation? For decades what has DCPS been doing with $18,000/student?
When parents have the freedom to choose the best options for their children THEY will fix public education, because public education will be forced to meet their needs versus serving themselves.

Posted by: pdexiii | January 14, 2011 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Valerie,

Please stop taking one anecdote and applying it to vast swaths. Your columns are so repetitive and pat. You need new material, or a real editor.

Posted by: paulkp | January 14, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

The reality is that a large number of children that enter urban poor public schools are totally unprepared for education and in many cases have serious obstacles to learning.

Politicians speak of the performance gap when the reality is that there is a large gap or difference in the children that enter public schools in urban poor areas and the children that enter public schools in middle class areas.

Instead of recognizing this differences and having programs to deal with this problem there is a pretense that all children the same when they enter the public school system.

There are tests available to indicate how well children are prepared to enter the public school system. These tests will never be given to all students entering public schools since they would immediately show the gap of children entering urban poverty public schools.

The white establishment would never allow these tests since it would end the myth in regard the sameness in children and there would have to be programs to deal with these differences. Racial groups would be fearful that these tests would be used against them as evidence to a supposedly inherent inferiority of their group.

The public schools in urban poverty areas will never change until there is recognition of the differences of children entering these public schools and children entering middle class public schools. Recognition of this difference would allow for programs to deal with this problem.

New research is indicating that children are not born innately inferior or innately superior in intelligence.

The research is indicating that most individuals have the same genes but that the brain will develop very differently based upon the environment.

Apparently if a child with the equivalent genes of Einstein is born in a family with a chaotic and detrimental environment, that child would probably not even be able to learn how to read.

Time to recognize that the environment of the first 5 years of the life of a child plays more of role than the racial group of a child and that a poor environment for a child could create obstacles in learning for any child, no matter their racial group.

Is there a genius in all of us?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12140064

Posted by: bsallamack | January 14, 2011 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Teachers who actually "teach" in the style that Mr. Bridger hoped to see are scorned and ridiculed by reformers. They accuse teachers who stand up and teach lessons as running a "teacher centered" classroom instead of a "student centered" classroom. They are scorned as being an egotistical "sage on the stage" instead of being a "guide on the side." Of course the false assumption is that students are actually capable of discovering what they need to know on their own without direct instruction. Real research, the kind real academics do, tells us this assumption is false and that direct instruction IS the most effective way to teach. Of course, the type of research that the reformers refer to when they talk about "researched-based" is merely the opinions of right wing and libertarian think tanks like the American Enterprise Instituted, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute.

Posted by: buckbuck11 | January 14, 2011 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Because our school is now always on the verge of failing to make adequate yearly progress (AYP), the time after the winter break is almost completely devoted to test prep. It's hard for me to imagine a less inspiring school day. Our school has lots of diversity, too, which makes it even harder to make ayp: each subgroup--low income, each racial group, special ed, and probably others--are represented at the school in great enough numbers that any one group can cause the entire school to achieve or not achieve ayp. This all makes the teachers and the school as a whole basically stay in freakout mode all year long, almost frantically forcing kids and their families to obsess on the tests. I empathize with the school and teachers because they don't have much choice, but it makes the whole learning experience stressful and insanely boring and repetetive.

Posted by: hellokitty5 | January 14, 2011 11:12 AM | Report abuse

"When parents have the freedom to choose the best options for their children THEY will fix public education, because public education will be forced to meet their needs versus serving themselves."

When parents have the freedom to choose, it invariably leads to a stratified system where involved parents choose better schools... while public schools are left to deal with the unimaginatively difficult task of educating the poorest and most troubled students.

Posted by: joshofstl1 | January 14, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

The one solution to the educational crisis in America is very elusive and complex. However, something needs to be done and it needs to be done in a hurry. I remember when I first arrived from Latin America in 1980; I could not believe how undemanding the education at my new high school in northern NJ was. In my native country I had almost stayed back in 9th grade because I was failing one subject. However in my new NJ high school it was almost impossible to stay back or not graduate, unless you dropped out.

I see it in my own family, those who attended high school in the USA thru at least 11th grade have attained engineering degrees, whereas those of us who attended other than our senior year in the USA have not been able to get engineering degrees. In my own case, I took Geometry, Trig, and Calc in my NJ high school, but since I knew there were no major consequences for not passing these classes I did not put much effort into them and consequently did not learn what I needed to learn to be able to obtain an engineering degree in college.

On the other hand, my cousins who came from our native country having finished 11th grade had not problem with the college engineering math. The basic difference between their high school experience and mine was that they had not option but to pass every single subject in high school lest they risked staying back.

For decades the current educational system has failed to properly educate generations of people. As a country we can not afford to continue with this calamity, as most industrialized and even developing countries around the world are making sure that most of their citizens get a solid education.

If decades ago, Jaime Escalante, a Bolivian native, was able to make such an amazing difference in the lives of hundreds of Mexican-Americans from East LA by ensuring that they prepared for and passed the AP Calculus test, how can we as a nation continue to undereducated our young people? There are groups that have benefited, for far too long, from the status quo and they will probably resist drastic changes; however, the future of our younger generations and of our nation is at stake. We need a change and we need it now!!

Posted by: duyda | January 14, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

The one solution to the educational crisis in America is very elusive and complex. However, something needs to be done and it needs to be done in a hurry. I remember when I first arrived from Latin America in 1980; I could not believe how undemanding the education at my new high school in northern NJ was. In my native country I had almost stayed back in 9th grade because I was failing one subject. However in my new NJ high school it was almost impossible to stay back or not graduate, unless you dropped out.

I see it in my own family, those who attended high school outside of the USA thru at least 11th grade have attained engineering degrees, whereas those of us who attended other than our senior year in the USA have not been able to get engineering degrees. In my own case, I took Geometry, Trig, and Calc in my NJ high school, but since I knew there were no major consequences for not passing these classes I did not put much effort into them and consequently did not learn what I needed to learn to be able to obtain an engineering degree in college.

On the other hand, my cousins who came from our native country having finished 11th grade had not problem with the college engineering math. The basic difference between their high school experience and mine was that they had not option but to pass every single subject in high school lest they risked staying back.

For decades the current educational system has failed to properly educate generations of people. As a country we can not afford to continue with this calamity, as most industrialized and even developing countries around the world are making sure that most of their citizens get a solid education.

If decades ago, Jaime Escalante, a Bolivian native, was able to make such an amazing difference in the lives of hundreds of Mexican-Americans from East LA by ensuring that they prepared for and passed the AP Calculus test, how can we as a nation continue to undereducated our young people? There are groups that have benefited, for far too long, from the status quo and they will probably resist drastic changes; however, the future of our younger generations and of our nation is at stake. We need a change and we need it now!!

Posted by: duyda | January 14, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I have done extensive reading about education in general and successful students in particular. In almost every case of the high-achieving student, there is a parent or guardian who made certain his child was in a good school. In every situation where there is a highly successful adult, such as Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey or Geoffrey Canada, there was a parent who sought out the right school for his child EVEN WHEN THERE WAS VERY LITTLE MONEY IN THE HOME. So when Darwin Bridgers sent his son to a supposedly better school in Pennsylvania, he was following a pattern long ago established by parents who want the best for their children.

Ideally every public school in America should provide each child with a high-quality education; but while we're chasing that elusive goal, it's every parent for himself. My advice: Never send your child to a "bad" school. Do whatever you can to find a placement that you consider adequate or better. Your child's future depends on it.

For a good description of the type of education poor kids often get, read "Tested" by Linda Perlstein. For some insight into how involved but poor parents fight for their children's education, read the biographies of many successful black people (Vernon Jordon, Clarence Thomas) plus the book "A Hope in the Unseen" which features the tremendous effort a mother put into getting a decent education for her son, despite their impoverished circumstances.

Yes, a parent should be able to send her child to the local school and expect something better than test-prep and worksheets, but sadly that is not a reality at this time.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | January 14, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

It's quite possible that completing those work sheets is more education than most of those kids had ever had. A calm environment and focused activity isn't to be sneered at.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | January 14, 2011 3:28 PM | Report abuse

The "no excuses" ideology is a new paternalism that promotes classism and asks LESS of those students already being disadvantaged in their lives: http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Shifting-Truth-about-by-Paul-Thomas-101021-188.html

Posted by: plthomas3 | January 14, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse

1. Those students filling out worksheets were probably getting exactly the practice they needed to pass all the standardized tests--that's what education is these days.
2. It is impossible to make assignments in textbooks in some schools because the students aren't allowed to take them out of the class--the school only ordered enough for one class at a time.
3. How are parents going to choose "good schools" for their children if they have had a poor education and don't know what education is supposed to be? Immigrants who don't speak English or parents who are illiterate don't know what their students are learning, and there are still plenty of people who complain that the school are ruining students by teaching them academic subjects instead of "useful" things.

Posted by: sideswiththekids | January 14, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

I teach like I learned: direct instruction. That's the way I learned in Fairfax County Public Schools in the 1970's and early 1980's. It worked and it still works.

Cooperative learning is way overrated--I have always thought that. Yes, there are times when I ask students to help another student who just doesn't seem to get it even though I have explained it 4 different ways. And sometimes my students do a better job that I do because they speak the language of a 4th grader (or whatever level I'm working with) better than I do.

However, when administrators and principals are "looking" I stick to the Teaching & Learning Framework so I can keep my job. But when I'm certain no one is "watching" I do direct instruction and then students practice on their own and I circulate the room to give extra help to those struggling.

Contrary to popular belief, direct instruction is NOT boring and it IS interactive and participatory. When a teacher knows his subject, he is able to lecture with excitement and enthusiasm which keeps students interested. My students know they can't zone out because I also employ the Socratic method and am constantly engaging them and asking questions in my "lecture" or direct instruction.

The best teachers I had in school and certainly the best professors in college were the ones who knew their content and could lecture in a way that kept me mesmerized and drinking up everything they said. Sadly, that way of teaching is definitely a lost art--thanks to the oh so knowledgeable "reformers."

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 14, 2011 5:00 PM | Report abuse

"When parents have the freedom to choose, it invariably leads to a stratified system where involved parents choose better schools... while public schools are left to deal with the unimaginatively difficult task of educating the poorest and most troubled students."

An uninvolved parent is an issue a school cannot solve. An uninvolved parent, even if the neighborhood school is 'good,' will do equal damage to that child no matter how 'good' the school is. There's neither data nor experience to support 'stratification' since school choice is a new territory. In the best 'choice' environment, there will be schools that actively seek the 'tired, poor, huddled masses' because they are a population that has a need.

Posted by: pdexiii | January 14, 2011 11:05 PM | Report abuse

Many great comment posted here. Some of my pet peeves (as a DCPS parent and teacher of many years) are children being sent to school unready to learn through no fault of their own. Intensive support at very early ages is one way to turn around urban education. Two, hold teachers, students, parents, administrators accountable for learning. DC does not support retaining a child who has not been able to demonstrate that he has learned enough to move on. Three, I teach at a good school but parents, you need to do more for your kids than just drop them off at our doorsteps. Let's turn off the TV's and require your child to read each day. Please require your child to come to school each day on time. Please require your child to do his homework. Please respond to your child's teachers when we ask to work together with you.

Posted by: pat1117 | January 15, 2011 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Things to make you say "what the heck"?

Durant HS in Plant City FL is an "A" school but they had 30 drop outs last year, more than triple the amount of surrounding high schools. If you want an "A" get rid of the kids who aren't doing well enough. What the heck?

The goal is to have students in THEIR classes to learn however many students are taken out of class (suspended or expelled) for many things including "willful disobedience" which they consider being late or skipping class however FL Law, title XLVIII, Ch: 1006.09(b) line 13 reads: "No student shall be suspended for unexcused tardiness, lateness, absence, or truancy." I gave the principal and her bosses a copy of this law and I was told they are not breaking the law because the students are being suspended for "willful disobedience because they did it more than once". Think about this: The student was late or not in class where they should be to get educated so let's punish them by taking them out of class. Shouldn't they be made to attend MORE class. What the heck?

Fl law also says students are allowed to have cellphones with the knowledge that it can be taken away should it be used in a crime however they are taking them away (stealing) just for being visible and if the student doesn't give it up they are suspended. #1 it is not illegal for a phone to be visible and last I heard it was perfectly legal not to allow a bully to steal from you. #2 and actually most important is it has been proven the schools cannot protect our kids. A cellphone is their access to 911 or their parents if they are in trouble. What the heck?

Here's one you may have never thought of. There is a growing problem with theft, bullying and overall lack of respect in children today. Where do you think they learn that from? From kindergarten up their things are taken from them, they are punished and taken out of classes where they need to be to learn because of some bullying teacher who feels a threatened ego and needs to show their authority. The authority of parents is completely thrown out the window when the schools ignore parents completely so why should the students respect any of them and why not steal, it's a natural part of their lives taught to them by adults. What the heck?

Posted by: zoverstree | January 15, 2011 10:04 AM | Report abuse

UD,
Once again, you provide a strong example. I hope others follow.

But ask yourself--how many of your colleagues can do what you do and how you do it? I have some doubts that many would care to try your method, or possibly even understand it. Reason: it takes real commitment and more skill and effort than they want to muster.

But this is only my speculation. Your views are more important to this blogue than mine. Please provide.

Posted by: axolotl | January 15, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

How can a whole demographic of children need to be "fixed"? How can all of them be wrong?

Articles like this are so important. If John Q. public doesn't give a crap about what "reform" is doing to teachers maybe he will care about what these so called schools are doing to kids. 

Posted by: Califather | January 15, 2011 10:12 PM | Report abuse

I probably am wasting my time but I think the real experts in education are the people in the trenches, the teachers. Now, you'll all disagree yelling at me that you had someone who was totally off his rocker etc. but I'll reply that under the circumstances of handling today's student, parent, and administrator the teacher has far too little time to teach and far too much time allotted to explain his methods. There is magic in learning and it happens to multiply itself many times over for those who experience it. I experienced it early in my teaching through a radical reading program and once that it happened it paved the way for my primary style of teaching no matter what the curriculum stated. I taught sixth graders in a middle school in Marion, Ohio. Many of those sixth graders had great difficulty in reading. I had been taught by a reading professor at Miami University that the best way to get to these students was to get materials for them to read and to make sure they had time set aside to use them. My wife and I lugged books from the local library to our classrooms. We introduced the books; we read the books; we set aside time for the students to read the books; we actually individualized and personalized their education. So many times over those first three years of my teaching I saw kids going from stringing words together to almost an amazing understanding of content in an enlightening moment or two. My students got into trouble for pulling out their books in other classes and reading whenever they could. They were learning and once they caught on to how they were in control of their learning no one could stop them. Today's problem is not that students aren't learning but because of the technology (cell phones, computers, etc) they are in control of what and when they are learning. If you don't believe me tell them to give you a test on using their games, applications, and devices. The school curriculums are locked into antiquated methods which are not individualizing or personalizing education but the kids are doing exactly that. Our technology allows each and every person to have a unique course of study even if our schools don't! By basing our accountability on testing we are showing that each student needs to know similar material while our technology shows the students a wide wonderful world of variety in learning. I know which of these two worlds would be more attractive to me if I were a student today. So, how could the test ever show what we want them to? But I have no doubts about our modern students ability to learn.

Posted by: dmyers412 | January 16, 2011 3:40 AM | Report abuse

Thanks UrbanDweller, my sentiments exactly!

Posted by: pat1117 | January 16, 2011 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Teachers who actually "teach" in the style that Mr. Bridger hoped to see are scorned and ridiculed by reformers. ... Real research, the kind real academics do, tells us this assumption is false and that direct instruction IS the most effective way to teach. Of course, the type of research that the reformers refer to when they talk about "researched-based" is merely the opinions of right wing and libertarian think tanks...

The person who posted this comment doesn't understand the meanings of "reform." There are two meanings: One is the move toward the sort of guide-on-the-side teaching described here, and it comes largely out of ed schools. NYC public (not charter) schools embrace this sort of "reform" with a passion.

The second meaning, the one relevant to charter schools and right-wing (and centrist) think tanks has to do with changing the structure of schools. Charter schools do not, by and large, promote the kind of "reform" described in the preceding paragraph. In fact, most of them champion direct instruction.

Posted by: hainish | January 17, 2011 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company