It’s not so much that we have bad teachers (even tho they do exist): It’s an incoherent educational system that is at fault

Very interesting article in Atlantic by E.D. Hirsch on the problems facing American education. Among other things, he finds (as I do) that Value-Added Measurements are utterly unreliable and, indeed, preposterous. But most of all, he finds that the American educational system is extremely poorly run because its principal ideas lack any coherence at all.

Here are a couple of paragraphs:

The “quality” of a teacher doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Within the average American primary school, it is all but impossible for a superb teacher to be as effective as a merely average teacher is in the content-cumulative Japanese elementary school. For one thing, the American teacher has to deal with big discrepancies in student academic preparation while the Japanese teacher does not. In a system with a specific and coherent curriculum, the work of each teacher builds on the work of teachers who came before. The three Cs—cooperation, coherence, and cumulativeness—yield a bigger boost than the most brilliant efforts of teachers working individually against the odds within a system that lacks those qualities. A more coherent system makes teachers better individually and hugely better collectively.

American teachers (along with their students) are, in short, the tragic victims of inadequate theories. They are being blamed for the intellectual inadequacies behind the system in which they find themselves. The real problem is not teacher quality but idea quality. The difficulty lies not with the inherent abilities of teachers but with the theories that have watered down their training and created an intellectually chaotic school environment. The complaint that teachers do not know their subject matter would change almost overnight with a more specific curriculum with less evasion about what the subject matter of that curriculum ought to be. Then teachers could prepare themselves more effectively, and teacher training could ensure that teacher candidates have mastered the content they will be responsible for teaching.”

 

A quick look at some of the Common Core math standards, grades 7 & 8

I was prepared to be appalled by the Common Core math standards, but I’m not.

The CC math standards — at first glance, anyway — actually look quite a lot better than the old middle-school math standards we used to have in DC, which had interminable lists of many minute details kids were supposed to know — and which lists repeated themselves over and over again in grades 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.

Mile wide, centimeter deep it was.

So far, I don’t see any sign of that ridiculous nonsense in the new CC standards.

However, I can just see teachers requiring their students to copy and recite turgid prose like this, which is a direct quote from page 56 of the PDF. It means something to me, but to how many other adults?

“Understand that patterns of association can also be seen in bivariate categorical data by displaying frequencies and relative frequencies in a two-way table. Construct and interpret a two-way table summarizing data on two categorical variables collected from the same subjects. Use relative frequencies calculated for rows or columns to describe possible association between the two variables.

For example, collect  data from students in your class on whether or not they have a curfew on  school nights and whether or not they have assigned chores at home. Is  there evidence that those who have a curfew also tend to have chores?

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