• Joanne Jacobs

Education Reform

Forbes has an excellent “decade retrospective” on education reform and suggests where we might look for results in the next decade:

Now that the decade is coming to a close, there’s a small flurry of retrospection. One conservative commentator, calling the 2010s “ed reform’s lost decade,” advises those aiming to reduce poverty to focus instead on initiatives like “incentivizing work.” A progressive responds that he sees “a lot of good things happening” in ed reform, but they’re modest compared to the hopes of a decade ago (for example: U.S. test scores at least remained stagnant while some other countries’ declined). They and others argue we need more school choice. Still others, including Democrats competing for the presidential nomination, blame too much choice for our lack of progress—along with low teacher salaries, poverty, and racism. At the same time, there’s a development in the education world that has gotten relatively little attention and seems to belong to another universe. It’s not about school choice or teacher quality or any of the other things that have dominated the public conversation. Instead, it’s about what gets taught in classrooms and how—a subject in which reformers have shown surprisingly little interest. The huge and largely unreported story is that American educators are trained to believe in ideas and methods that have little or no evidence behind them—and often conflict with what scientists have discovered about the learning process. Classroom materials rest on similarly flawed assumptions. The disjunction between evidence and practice makes it unnecessarily difficult for teachers to do their jobs and for all but the ablest and most advantaged students to learn. The glimmer of hope is that a growing number of teachers—along with some administrators, policymakers, philanthropists, and parents—are beginning to push for change.

The author goes on to talk about reading, which I agree is probably the most important topic taught (or not) in schools.  As a math teacher I’ve seen a similar “disjunction” in my own field, and it’s both saddening and maddening.


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