Teacher, differentiate thyself

Barry Garelick thought this animation was satire. It’s not. It was made as an ed school project.

This one from TeachBad is satire.

About Joanne


  1. I’d say that “adequate” differentiated instruction might be possible for perhaps 2-3% of adequate teachers, providing the range of ability/preparation in the classroom is only a few years. A few superstar teachers might do it reasonably well, but those teachers will always be a rarity. Among less-than-adequate teachers and/or wider ranges of students, I’d rate it impossible. It’s a pie-in-the-sky fantasy, designed to enable the pretense that “all” are equally successful.

    Grouping kids homogeneously, thereby allowing each group to have a teacher’s full attention (and, if teachers are so important, their full attention must be equally valuable, right?), is verboten because the groups will not be equally composed of the proper colors and flavors of students. Obviously, the ed world has concluded that actual learning, such that all students are challenged without being overwhelmed, is less important than political correctness.

    • lightly seasoned says:

      I think the ed world has decided that it would rather tax dollars be spent on education than lawyers defending civil rights lawsuits.

      • Stacy in NJ says:

        Not suprising really that the ed world would decide to spend money on themselves (cough, cough) I mean edumacation rather than lawyers, because we know how effectively and carefully the ed world spends tax dollars.

      • That rationale might fly in the suburbs, but in inner-city schools where the large majority of students are black or Hispanic, it isn’t as persuasive. Just this past spring, a black grad of one of DC’s better charter high schools wrote a letter to the WaPo about his freshman year at Georgetown and how far behind his classmates he is. His situation, thanks to a charter school, was better than that of the ’93 grad of a southeast-DC public school who was the subject of the book A Hope in the Unseen, but not very much. In both cases, the bright and motivated kids at the top of the academic heap did not receive the kind of academic challenges they deserved and were able and willing to undertake. Let no child get ahead.

  2. That first video does indeed sound like satire…I like the second one!

    • Barry Garelick says:

      I like the second one, too. Though the first one sounds like satire, it is not. Here is the statement of the person who created the video (which appears as a comment when viewed on the YouTube site):

      “I made this video for? a class project about differentiated instruction for my education course. Pat holds common misconceptions about differentiated instruction, and Karen explains what is considered better practice. It was not meant to be complaint or satire, just a presentation of research to my class!”

  3. Differentiation is given a lot of lip service, but in practice it amounts to teaching to the middle while throwing the occasional crumb to students who are struggling or who are ahead. This only works as a strategy if the administration is satisfied to be able to say that there was some small element of each lesson that met each student at her/his readiness level, rather than realistically holding out for a system where most students get quite a lot out of each lesson.

  4. I love Mr. Teachbad! If you appreciate black humor , check out his site:


    Unfortunately his humor got him fired from DCPS I understand. Humor is notably lacking in senior p.s. administrators.

  5. OMG….if only the second one was satire.

  6. TeacherBad’s satire gets to the heart of the problem with so many putative reformers: they push “solutions” that will not solve the problems (e.g. growing a new head) –and go ballistic if you dare question their baseless faith in their pet ideas. Cf. Rahm Emmanuel in Chicago: he thinks firing “underperforming” teachers will solve CPS’s problems. He has no clue. Were he to hire the graduating classes of all the Ivy League universities to staff those schools, they’d STILL languish! Chicago schools can be improved, but the road is long and hard, and can only proceed in incremental steps and with WISE leadership. It needs a Core Knowledge curriculum. It needs stronger discipline. Bashing already-battered teachers –already running on all cylinders and approaching nervous breakdowns –is dumb and morally-wrong.

    • So right, Ponderosa. From a lontime Chicagoan. I firmly believe that the teachers got to the point of being willing to strike not over a specific issue, but because they are all blamed and criticized for the sins of a few. Yes, the CTU needs to give way on teacher hiring and firing, but the management needs to show some respect for the very difficult job the teachers are doing.

    • The first and most foundational need is to establish safe and orderly schools, without which nothing good happens. If that means turning one/some school(s) into what used to be called a reform school for juveniles with histories of agressive or violent behavior, so be it. Hire retired policemen or senior enlisted (master sergeants, gunny sergeants or chiefs), if necessary, to enforce appropriate behavior OR ELSE – particularly with teenagers. Most teachers won’t stay in unsafe or chaotic schools, if they are good enough to have more pleasant options.

      Second is the refusal of all schools to tolerate any behaviors, even of the class clown type, that interfere with academic instruction.

      Third, as Ponderosa said, is good curriculum (CK and Singapore Math would be a great start), with curriculum-specific inservice for teachers to make sure they know the material and how to teach it.

      Fourth would be the establishment of the teacher-centered classroom, with the abolition of groupwork, discovery learning et al. Urban kids come to school with a deficit in background knowledge, which needs to be remediated as EFFICIENTLY as possible. Even if one believed that groups of third graders are capable of “discovering” multiplication (I don’t), it wastes far too much time.

      Kids should be grouped as homogeneously as possible, by subject, to maximize their teacher’s attention to their needs and progress. Also helpful would be the teacher/admin recognition (forced, if necessary) that boys and girls are not the same, boys are not defective girls and boys have different interests – and have the class readings, assignments and classroom management incorporate that difference. Many of the artsy projects so beloved of female teachers are wastes of educational time, anyway – they amount to “playing school”. Also, if kids want to keep a journal (we used to call it a diary), let them do it on their own time. Assigned writing should be academic and corrected as such.

      Finally, no significant improvement will happen until the ed world accepts the fact that there are no shortcuts or magical solutions. Education is cumulative, wtih each year building on the ones that preceeded it. Pushing kids along without having mastered grade-level skills only sets them up for later failure. That is why CK adoption typically start with several of the lowest grades and moves upward year by year. My grandkids’ school did that with their switch to Singapore Math.