An independent task force on U.S. Education Reform and National Security brought together by the Council on Foreign Relations released a report in March that found that "the United States' failure to educate its students leaves them unprepared to compete and threatens the country's ability to thrive in a global economy and maintain its leadership role."
These findings may be disconcerting, but they're not new. Politicians, policymakers, educators, parents, and even students have long understood that far too many American students leave high school without having mastered the essential knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and on the job.
There is no shortage of reforms put forth by earnest education advocates eager to improve student achievement. But who is right?
Of course, there is no shortage of reforms put forth by earnest education advocates eager to improve student achievement. Many believe that small classes are our best route to closing the achievement gap. Others feel similarly about setting clear and rigorous standards. And still others push for accountability reforms that use results from assessments to hold students, teachers, and leaders accountable.
Who is right?
There is a saying among high performing schools that there is no 100 percent solution to helping students learn. Instead, there are a hundred 1 percent solutions that add up to big results.
The same is true in the world of education policy. Our best hope to improve student achievement is to find the right mix of policies that,
“You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore” ― André Gide
As we’ve said numerous times before, for the vast majority of states, adoption of the Common Core standards was an enormous improvement. (Click for Fordham’s review of each state’s standards and the Common Core.) It’s equally clear that we have an enormous challenge on our hands to ensure that the Common Core is implemented in a way that makes the most of these stronger and more rigorous standards. Change is hard but Common Core, correctly implemented, has the potential to amp up expectations and instruction across American classrooms.
I’ve already posted about the danger of curriculum publishers co-opting the Common Core to promote their own (relatively unchanged) materials. But there’s a second, and potentially even more troubling challenge that lies ahead: a resistance among teachers to changing their instruction.
As the time comes to start implementing Common Core some teachers are starting to dig in their heels.
Of course, for teachers, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. There has been no shortage of curriculum fads and reforms that have demanded instructional changes and promised improvements, but yielded very little in the way of student achievement gains. It’s no wonder, then, that as the time comes to start implementing Common Core some teachers are starting to dig in their heels.
Valerie Strauss, a Washington Post blogger who has created a cottage industry out
A few weeks ago, I posted a piece about how reading instruction would change when aligned to the Common Core. For the piece, I drew on advice from David Coleman, the lead architect of the CCSS. At least one element of the post (his push to end pre-reading activities in ELA classrooms) set off a firestorm of debate among ELA teachers. What’s interesting, however, is so much of the pushback against Coleman’s ideas centered not on the ideas themselves, but rather on the fact that he does not have a background in teaching.
Take, for example, California teacher of the year and education blogger, Alan Lawrence Sitomer who wrote:
[Coleman] has zero K-12 teaching experience. Should we really be learning how to cook from a person who’s never been in the kitchen?
Sitomer isn’t alone in this view. Here are a few other samples from across the web:
Mr. Coleman is not an expert. He is simply someone who has been positioned and now is situated as an 'expert'. Itrequires significant arrogance to utter the bold statements Mr. Coleman makes.
I apologize for my brevity, but who IS David Coleman? What are his credentials, and how did a non-teacher gainauthorship of the hugest educational document ever written?
Practitioners are often quick to dismiss reform ideas that are promoted by people who have little direct classroom experience.
Of course, these instincts aren’t limited to reading instruction. Practitioners are often quick to dismiss reform ideas that are promoted by people who have little direct classroom experience.
These critics are not crazy,
People often talk about—even debate—whether teaching is art or science. After reading magician Teller’s recent article “Teller Reveals His Secrets” in Smithsonian magazine, I’m now fully convinced that great teaching is neither art nor science. It’s magic. And, as we talk about and debate how best to select, evaluate, and reward great teachers, we should consider taking some of Teller’s advice.
Great teaching is neither art nor science. It's magic.
Photo by jin.thai.
It turns out that his most basic secret—the “magic” of Penn & Teller’s work—doesn’t involve a clever slight of hand or carefully developed prop. Instead, it takes hard work, or grit. In simple terms, Teller explains:
You will be fooled by a trick if it involves more time, money and practice than you (or any other sane onlooker) would be willing to invest.
It underscores a simple but all-too-often overlooked life lesson: The only way to be truly great at anything is to set a goal and commit yourself to achieving it beyond what most normal people would think prudent. And then just refuse to give up.
Teller explains, for instance, that he and his partner Penn spent weeks preparing for a minutes-long stint on the David Letterman show. The trick? They
About the Editor
Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow
Kathleen Porter-Magee is a Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow and the Senior Director of the High Quality Standards Program at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, where she leads the Institute’s work on state, national, and international standards evaluation and analysis.
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