I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, April 23, 2011

More Pointy Heads!

Corporate education reformers are simply not interested in listening to academics with their fancy book learnin' and such...
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Current school reform efforts, like No Child Left Behind, emphasize teacher quality as the most important factor in student success, but University of Florida researchers have identified another, stunningly accurate predictor of classroom performance — the student’s home address.
Right down to the neighborhood and street number.
The researchers attribute their finding to a profound correlation they documented between home location, family lifestyles and students’ achievement on state standardized tests.
“The core philosophy of school reform today is that effective schools and quality teaching can correct all learning problems, including those of poor minority students who are most at risk, and if they fail it’s the educators’ fault,” said Harry Daniels, professor of counselor education at UF’s College of Education and lead investigator of the study. “While school improvement and teaching quality are vital, we are demonstrating that the most important factor in student learning may be the children’s lifestyle and the early learning opportunities they receive at home.
“Where students live — their neighborhood and even the street — may be the most accurate indicator of academic achievement.”
Wow, I'm shocked...

1 comment:

Hannes Minkema said...

There are several things wrong with the perspective offered here.

First, the idea that 'current school reform' (as if that is one monolithic block of ideas and practices - not) would emphasize teacher quality. If anything, US education values assessment scores more than any other aspect of education, and has thus developed a narrow and even perverse concept of 'teacher quality' as 'the quality to get your students to do well on multiple choice tests' regardless of the 'home address effect'.

Second, that 'current school reform' would neglect the 'home address effect' and look only at teachers (or assessment scores). Nonsense. The fact that childrens' backgrounds are the singly most important factor explaining how they do at school, is widely acknowledged. Expecially poverty and a lacking understanding of English account to a relatively large extent for hampering school careers.

But that only describes the parameters of the problem, it doesn't in itself offer a solution. If bad teachers are the problem, schools may replace them with better teachers. But if poor backgrounds are the problem, schools cannot replace them with better backgrounds. That's just not the school's potential, let alone responsibility.

School reform is about the factors in education that schools *can* change for the benefit of their students. There is a dire need for societal reform, agreed. There is more than enough reason to weed out poverty, to rebuild getto's, to increase the level of societal support for children whose parents have a hard giving their children a good upbringing for whatever reason.

But let's not mix up these two issues. It is nonsense that 'school reformers today' would believe that 'quality teaching can correct all learning problems' and that 'if students-at-risk fail, it is their teachers' fault'. Harry Daniels invents his own windmills and then fights them, and I guess he knows his Don Quixote.

Getting the best and brightest to serve as our children's teachers is the single best thing that schools can do. There are many more things they can do, but without good teachers education is helpless and hopeless, with all of its 'smart boards', 'hands-on practice', and 'hi-stakes assessements'.