Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Pendulum of Stupidity: All Reforms Lead to Broken Schools

Are We There Yet? (Image from Flickr, by Phillie Casablanca)
I’ve written a lot about the Common Core Standards movement recently and its corporate benefactors (click here, here and here). Anthony Cody just published a wonderful interview with Yong Zhao (Presidential Chair and Associate Dean for Global Education, College of Education at the University of Oregon) on the topic. Rather than republish the entire interview (you can click here to read it) I’d just like to reprint two choice quotes:

What will be different five years from now if the current plans go forward?

Yong Zhao: It's always dangerous to predict the future. But if history is any indication, judging from the accomplishment of NCLB and Race-to-the Top, I would say that five years from now, American education will still be said to be broken and obsolete. We will find out that the Common Core Standards, after billions of dollars, millions of hours of teacher time, and numerous PD sessions, alignment task forces, is not the cure to American's education ill. Worse yet, we will likely have most of nation's schools teaching to the common tests aligned with the Common Core. As a result, we will see a further narrowing of the curriculum and educational experiences. Whatever innovative teaching that has not been completely lost in the schools may finally be gone. And then we will have a nation of students, teachers, and schools who are compliant with the Common Core Standards, but we may not have much else left.

Some argue that without a single high bar, we will continue to leave poor and minority students behind. How would you respond?

Yong Zhao: The lack of a "single bar" is never the cause of the problem in the first place. There is plenty of evidence to show that our poor and minority students have been left behind is because they are poor and minority--a social justice and racial issue that must be addressed by the whole society and government at all levels. For example, we know the early years matter a lot but our poor and minority children are not in schools until they are five or six years old. That is, even if a "single bar" mattered, it would be too late. After they begin school, they spend most of their time outside school, in impoverished homes and neighborhoods. More importantly, past experiences show that state level standards and assessment have not improved the educational outcomes of poor and minority students.

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