Reforming Education: Questions that Give Pause

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Today, Scot McKnight posted a set of questions regarding educational reform from dianeravitch.net: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2013/11/19/educational-reform-some-caustic-questions/

The author, Robert Shepherd, confronts with apparent anger the assumptions of “the corporate reformers who think they know how to reform American education.”

I’m the academic VP at a small Christian liberal arts college, the second such post I’ve held.  Altogether, I have eleven years experience in higher education.  I’m NOT expert in most of the things Shepherd addresses, but his leading questions make a great deal of sense to me.  And I DO know a few things.

I know that some school systems have taken the easiest path by teaching nothing but standardized test content that would affect their funding.  I know this, because I saw it in the school systems my own children went through, in Kentucky and Texas.

I know that my students’ reading and writing skills dropped precipitously from 2003 to 2009 (my last year full-time in the classroom), the aftermath of No Child Left Behind.  Am I committing a post hoc, ergo propter hoc error? I don’t think so.  I’m persuaded that the emphasis on standardized tests and test content is at least partly to blame.

Even in 2003, I had college freshmen telling me that my class was the first time they’d ever read a book cover to cover.  The difference: by 2009, they were telling me the same thing.  But they were incapable of reading the book their counterparts had read in 2003.

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