February 10, 2013

"You are a college professor. I have just retired as a high school teacher. I have some bad news for you."

"In case you do not already see what is happening, I want to warn you of what to expect from the students who will be arriving in your classroom...."

146 comments:

Bob Ellison said...

Wow! Bitter. I bow to Mr. Bernstein's superior knowledge and talent. Teach us how to teach, O wise one.

I'm just a parent and former student, observing teachers up close for decades. Sometimes they're great; sometimes they suck.

AJ Lynch said...

Oh what a bunch of crap this article is- he claims the average student has changed drastically in only ten years due to a well meaning but imperfect federal law.

Is it Craptastic Day Althouse? Thta is what you have been posting today. Up your game please.

Nonapod said...

Increasingly education seems to be about teaching children how to take tests rather than critically think. Human nature being what it is, overall the paths of least resistance are always taken. Now apparently it's time to assign blame. Is this the fault of teachers, students, parents, or a Federal law?

ricpic said...

Rubric? Que pasa rubric?

Bob Ellison said...

ricpic, "rubric" is teacher-speak for "I'm too lazy or weak to decide how to teach your kid(s)."

Not that I'm bitter myself, or anything.

Titus said...

Part of my job is recruiting recent college grads. I have to say the ones I see are amazing. Incredible GPA's. Difficult courses in Math and Science and Econ. The know how to program, speak multiple languages, have done tons is extra curricular shit. They went to top colleges (out east natch), and have worked for amazing companies on internships. Worked outside the U.S. of course.

I just hired a Phd Econ major from UW Madison-I found out they have one of the top programs in the country. Go Badgers!

edutcher said...

If he was mad about something, he'd be blaming it on people like Albert Shanker and Wlliam Ayers.

If they were Republican.

gadfly said...

Teaching tests instead of the course subject and ignoring the teaching of writing skills in favor of some grading method involving rubric, whatever that is.

I am done with this guy and all the ring-nosed unionists in the teaching profession.

wyo sis said...

He has many valid points. Teaching to high stakes tests is the least effective way to teach. Many people who dictate education policy have no experience with teaching. It is all of a piece with most government policies that profess to cure problems without understanding the problem and with preconceived ideas that are ideologically driven. We are sowing the wind.

James said...

Quoting from the linked article:

"Where do I begin? I spent the last thirty minutes listening to a group of arrogant and condescending noneducators disrespect my colleagues and profession. I listened to a group of disingenuous people whose own self-interests guide their policies rather than the interests of children. I listened to a cabal of people who sit on national education committees that will have a profound impact on classroom teaching practices. And I heard nothing of value. “I’m thinking about the current health-care debate,” I said. “And I am wondering if I will be asked to sit on a national committee charged with the task of creating a core curriculum of medical procedures to be used in hospital emergency rooms.”"

Its quite ironic that Althouse appears to think that an accomplished physician like Ben Carson shouldn't have a say in discussing health care policy.

Chip S. said...

Another fool discovers the hard way that federal funding begets federal control.

Kohath said...

Teachers sure are self-important these days.

According to this piece, it's not the teachers' fault that they demand more pay for doing less work every year. It's not their fault they demand zero accountability and refuse all performance metrics to measure whether they're actually earning their paychecks, benefits, and bloated pensions. Those are just the realities -- the resource constraints -- that schools operate under. Alas, there's nothing to be done about it.

And sorry overpaid college professors, you might have to work harder because the students didn't learn the right things. But you probably have tenure, so why bother?

It's one of the most consistent messages in public life: nothing is ever, ever the teachers' fault.

And we can never have any other system that's any different than the one we have now. Because poor kids won't get a good education. They're not getting a good education now ... but so what?

Edgehopper said...

Whine, whine, whine. The entire article leaves out the critical context--it's not as though before NCLB, the schools were turning out brilliant critical thinkers and problem solvers. Congress imposed these objective tests on schools not out of a desire to stifle critical thinking and writing skills, but to make sure that kids acquired some degree of competence in math, reading, and writing.

It probably isn't great for gifted kids and gifted teachers. The law wasn't aimed at them, and if you truly want to teach these days rather than collect a paycheck as a government teacher, you probably should be looking for employment at a private or parochial school.

The constant teacher complaints about how time-intensive grading is gather no sympathy from me. Where did teachers acquire this idea that modern jobs require no homework? They're supposed to be pseudo-professionals, not assembly-line workers, and sometimes that means you take your work home.

Renee said...

I have nothing against standardize testing. As a school, you have to teach the basics along with with the critical thinking. Yes, there is a test. Deal with it.


I say blame the parents for not teaching critical thinking at home. For instance children use to observe or even engage with their parents over current events. My parents watched the news, read the news papers, and voted in local elections. My children will work on projects around the house, we did stuff on the weekends that involved some form of thinking. Even the strategy of playing a card game with your family on a Sunday afternoon, involves thinking.

In elementary grades, I would suggest that teachers tell parents to ensure that their children get a balance on projects/critical thinking games in during their family time.

Big Mike said...

An excerpt from his bitter and self-aggrandizing post:

"Please do not blame those of us in public schools for how unprepared for higher education the students arriving at your institutions are. We have very little say in what is happening to public education."

Having put two children through the Fairfax County educational system, and having observed the teachers in action, I can blame them and I do.

Glad he's retiring.

Barry Dauphin said...

I that that Bernstein could use a refresher course on how to write a persuasive essay.

chuck said...

It's Bush's fault!

BS. The schools have been failing to educate students for at least thirty years. I say that based on teaching incoming college students twenty years ago.

perhaps insufficient time on wrestling with the material at a deeper level.

Snicker. I wonder what the *heck* that means. I have my suspicions.

Chip S. said...

Funniest part of that screed was the implication that AP courses are unique in their reliance on multiple-choice testing.

Doesn't this clown know the size of a typical college intro class?

sydney said...

I've got more bad news for you. Obamacare is going to do the same thing to our medical care.

garage mahal said...

Every high school teacher in America should just refuse to administer these mindless tests. Students would learn a hell of a lot more not taking them than taking them.

Carnifex said...

I've been trying for a decade to get my granddaughter out of public school, and just have my wife and I teach her. I can guarantee we'd do a better job than the schools. But my wife insisted that the child needed the socialization skills. 10 years later, and we're banning her from the computer because of the filth she reads and posts on facebook. Social skills my ass.

The biggest problem as I see it is that teachers are afraid to fail stupid kids. They'll be sued by the parents for "traumatizing" their little snow flake. Their snowflake can't read or write, or make change, or tell time. How the hell will they know when their parole is up?

dc said...

This teacher laments more than once the lack of "social studies" instruction. I hate to put my ignorance on display,but after spending 16 years in catholic schools including my high school that required 4 years of latin I don't know what is meant by "social studies".Maybe I was exposed to it under a another name.
So what is social studies?

Seeing Red said...

I'm sorry, I just couldn't finish that article I was laughing so hard.

So, Mr. AP History teacher, shall we have a conversation on The 2nd Amendment?

What about a modern constitition?

I still love the NCLB. It exposed the underbelly.


Raising critical thinkers...who are they kidding?

Try being a conservative in a liberal area and raise a contrary viewpoint which could help create critical thinkers.

Chip S. said...

Students would learn a hell of a lot more not taking them than taking them.

You're hilarious.

As has already been pointed out in this thread, there was a reason for NCLB in the first damn place.

But I--and, I'm sure, most conservatives--would be quite happy to get rid of NLCB if we got rid of federal funding of local schools and instituted a voucher system instead.

Seeing Red said...

These are the idiots who decided to get rid of phonics, gave us new math, new new math, every day math

and they wonder why the kids are stupid.

Chip S. said...

So what is social studies?

A nontrivial part of it is learning how White Privilege pervades our society, requiring extensive government intervention to achieve Social Justice.

You know--critical thinking.

Crimso said...

My experience is anecdotal, so take it FWIW. I have been a professor for 13 years and have taught thousands of students. Looking back (and I even remember thinking it was happening as it apparently was) there was a time period (I'd say it was around the time NCLB began, which would indicate that it wasn't due to NCLB) where the quality of students I was seeing suddenly decreased significantly.

Then I recalled a colleague having predicted just such a decline, and for a very specific reason: lottery scholarships. Before they even began awarding them, he warned that the result would be an influx of students who really didn't belong in college. At least some of these students (in his opinion) viewed a lottery scholarship as at least a year (longer if they kept their grades up) where they could postpone "real life" and (in some cases) party their asses off.

The beginning of the lottery scholarships pretty much coincides with the decrease in student abilities (or maybe it's effort more than abilities).

This is certainly an oversimplification of the situation (the decline in student quality results from multiple factors, including the tendency of every generation to view succeeding ones as lesser in quality and achievement), but I think my colleague's overall point about the scholarships was largely correct.

Seeing Red said...

Unless one is grading written responses, how is grading time consuming?

They run it thru a machine.

Seeing Red said...

Insty has an article on the DC public schools. 40% used the vouchers.

Rabel said...

What Edgehopper said in his first paragraph at 3:39.

And Teacherken in his Huffington Post blog:

"At some point the question must be that of conscience: is it right?
How remarkable things might be if in our politics we stepped back and asked that question before we spoke, before we impugned the integrity and the personhood of someone with whom we disagree."

Seeing Red said...

Soft bigotry of low expectations.

Bob R said...

Rubric = Grading instructions: give 10 pts for X, 20 pts. for Y, etc.

dc said...

Thanks for the explanation Chip S,and nope I wasn't exposed to it.

I'VE BEEN DEPRIVED.

garage mahal said...

As has already been pointed out in this thread, there was a reason for NCLB in the first damn place.

There were lots of reasons for invading Iraq too. We should learn from our mistakes though. Unfortunately Obama and a lot of Democrats are on board with the corporate reformers. They seem to have unlimited pockets, yet they always want to siphon public money to build their unaccountable schools.

Coldstream said...

I'm curious. Would a child who has been taught to "critically think" (as we're always told our teachers would rather be doing) be at a disadvantage when taking the standardized NCLB tests?

If not, why bother "teaching to the tests" in the first place and instead teach critical thinking?

Or is Cynical-me correct in suspecting schools haven't trained "critical thinkers" in decades, and are simply taking the easy way out, teaching to the tests and bemoaning their being shackled to such measures?



Seeing Red said...

His comment from the WP:


teacherken responds:
4:07 PM CST
well, the original of this appeared in Academe, the publication of the American Association of University Professors. It had my email, in both the print and online versions. I have gotten TONS of emails, only one of which so far disagreed with what I was saying. Many commented on the changes they have been seeing preparedness - or decreasing preparedness - over the past few years.


Maybe he should find a few blogs that don't conform to his world view. It might sharpen his critical thinking skills?

Seeing Red said...

BWAAAAAAAAAA

GM thinks schools are underfunded.

CATO Institute from 2010:

Adam B. Schaeffer discusses his paper “They Spend WHAT? The Real Cost of Public Schools” on WLS’ The Don Wade and Roma Show

fivewheels said...

I strongly suspect that teachers who moan about having to "teach to tests" of knowledge and measurable ability are really bemoaning the loss of the time they used to waste on stupid group projects that pounded home the indisputable lessons of evidence-free environmentalism (as opposed to science), Benetton multiculturalism (as opposed to world history) and anti-dead-white-male studies (as opposed to American history and English lit).

Seeing Red said...

From 2011 on CA:

You might have mentioned that CA has a "Teacher Trigger" law. That's right. If a majority of teachers in a school want to petition to convert it into a charter, they can do that, while preserving their unionized status. The AP ran a story on Feb 20 about all of the schools in LAUSD that are teeing up to convert to charters, based on teacher petitions. Four high schools have done so already, and numerous other schools are making similar plans. The districts fears that something like a third of their enrollment is at risk. When the central district administration becomes unbearable even for the teachers, they have an out. Parents deserve the same right to trigger a charter petition.

garage mahal said...

I don't understand why Michelle Rhee's billionaire sugar daddies just don't build charter schools with all the money they spend on lobbying and buying politicians? Nope, they got to suckle off the dreaded and evil big gummint.

kentuckyliz said...

Critical thinking requires mastery of the basics, which is what k-12 is for. Teaching logical reasoning cannot even be done with pre adolescents who are concrete thinkers and not even capable of abstract thought.

A rubric is a standard of grading. I state how I'm going to grade, because it communicates the standards.

Chip S. said...

Michelle Rhee's billionaire sugar daddies

I can't believe you are perpetuating this vile racist stereotype of Asian women.

Freeman Hunt said...

Before NCLB, American public education was stellar.

...

Stop laughing!

garage mahal said...

Michelle Rhee lied about her grades as chancellor of D.C. public school system. Not that's funny.

Michael Haz said...

Mrs. Haz is in her 40th year of teaching in a suburban public high school. She is an excellent teacher of her subject matter. So good at it that her past students bring their children in to the high school's Guidance Department demanding that their children be enrolled in her classes.

She's in the union (no choice) but is a conservative.

She says that if we were of child-rearing years that there is no way on earth that our children would be enrolled in a public school system, period.

She blames educators who are inept, but also administrators, government and parents. No innocent parties. In her high school, there are hot and cold running administrators, and every time one of them reads an interesting article about some new idea, it becomes policy without regard to whether it was a success or not. Some recent examples:

Desks should not be lined up, but placed in circles, even though the whiteboards are all at the front of the classroom.

Teachers should teach only 10% of the class time; students should teach each other the material in groups the remaining 90% of the time.

All students, regardless of innate ability should be placed in AP classes so the total number of AP students looks good when compared with other high schools.

No student shall be given a grade of less than a C, even for F work so that the student is not embarrassed.

No reading aloud. No teaching cursive writing. No teaching parts of speech. No diagramming sentences. No point deducted for incorrect spelling. Tests may be taken over and over until a grade of A or B is achieved. And on and on and on.

Every new initiative, idea and concept has a multi-letter acronym. She made a list of 166 different programs that she is supposed to incorporate into her curriculum. That's 166, friends. Try that in your work place.

One of the things that has happened in Wisconsin is that the union's loss of power in public schools is that school administrators now have to actually administrator, and they are not competent. None have private sector experience. They don't know how to plan, organize, prepare or manage. It's all just "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" and "make sure the data looks good".

No one cares what happens to the students when after the enter college. Just lie about the grades and get them the hell out the door.

Meanwhile, wonderful, small schools like St Ambrose Academy in Madison graduate small classes of exceptionally well educated students. Need to see what a good curriculum looks like? Click on academics and check the high school curriculum. It's classic in more than one way.

Chip S. said...

Why are you so obsessed w/ Michelle Rhee?

Did Waiting for Superman give you acid reflux or something?

Seeing Red said...

At least we got to see her grades.....

Bob Ellison said...

Yes, the word "rubric" describes a grading standard. But it has become a jargon thing that teachers hide behind. My son's teachers have used "rubric" in many bizarre ways. Clearly they use it partly the way most professionals use jargon: to impart false professionalism and ward off the uninitiated. I've seen and heard the word used to describe what would better be called syllabi, course plans, and, most commonly, copy-and-paste efforts by lazy teachers. To teachers, I think, the word means "this is all I need to do to get by".

When some teacher starts talking about rubrics and best practices and everyday math and the like, I know that's a teacher to be avoided.

Seeing Red said...

Head Start doesn't work, think of the $180 billion we could use for other things.

phx said...

When some teacher starts talking about rubrics and best practices and everyday math and the like, I know that's a teacher to be avoided.

If I'm not mistaken Ellison, the teacher that you are criticizing in this thread doesn't like the rubrics either.

And I don't know about the rest of it, you might be right, but generally I think it's a good thing for teachers to be concerned with best practices.

Chip Ahoy said...

Tell us more about the marvelous advancements made to education by the NEA, do, tell us more how much you despise George Bush 43.

That's what that was. We're glad you're retired, tell us all how much you hated all that. And tell us how you expect to know how you know anything at all if you don't bother to test, there were tests all along , no? And I'm curious to know why as teachers you collectively find you cannot surpass all means of national scoring? Why not accept that as minimum so that kids in your charge can go in there and nail the thing no sweat with plenty of time left over to work on more important things like writing and cooking and pop-up cards.

garage mahal said...

Why are you so obsessed w/ Michelle Rhee?

She's a liar and the reform movement she represents is a complete scam to bilk taxpayers.

Bob Ellison said...

phx, "best practices" is a term. It doesn't mean fine work. It means "I'm rully up to snuff on the latest thinking."

Paddy O said...

tl:dr

Me and his students both.

wildswan said...

On the one hand there are now standards by which teachers can be measured and if student consistently fail to progress under a given teacher, then there is a measurement which can be used to get rid of them.

On the other, teachers keep saying that they are teaching to the test and they hate it.

On still another hand, inner-city school children are still failing the math and reading test in massive numbers. So would they be thinking critically if the testing wasn't going on?

I'm actually kind of puzzled

phx said...

Ellison yes I think I get your bigger point about using buzz words to inflate yourself or as substitutes for making a genuine effort.

You are right in general but this guy doesn't strike me that way.

Paddy O said...

clearly we need a paradigm shift to accentuate learning across the curriculum.

Chip Ahoy said...

I don't get the whole 'test anxiety' thing. People would mention that but it's something I never related to in school. I always felt the opposite, like oh goodie now I get to prove it.

But the crossword people are worse than me so turns out that's not weird at all, those people are maniacs, they make a race out of it, and it's an extreme measure of global grasp, they love taxing themselves for strange things like Prime Minister of Canada 1963, obscure stuff like that, who knows that crap? and operas and such, chemical symbols substituting for their written words, calculations in Roman numerals that rely on your knowledge of dates, weird-ass old-timey television shows, and brand names you never heard of and entertainers long dead. Guess the characters and the book and the author with a few letters. And they sit there in a room all holding the same type #2 pencil and a copy of the same puzzle, with their tongue hanging out in eagerness like a cartoon, and BANG! they're off! furiously filling out an exam as fast as they can and the proof that they're 100% correct is right there.

And I ask, "So how do you go so fast?" And they answer, "Only look at the clues once. You know the pattern and you know what's in that corner."

Sam L. said...

This has been a problem from before NCLB. On the other hand, NCLB shows the dead hand of federal government on education can't improve local education, which is its declared purpose.

Life's a bummer, and then you die.

Michael said...

If you can afford to send your children to private schools but elect instead to buy bass boats and better cars or vacations you are engaged in a form of child abuse. You should consider the importance of a quality education on the long term happiness of your offspring and make the real but necessary sacrafices.

Seeing Red said...

I remember when the superintendent pulled out that "best practices" crapola.

The district was looking at a new math program.

I asked her if the team who was doing the research went online, searched out blogs where parents whose children were already using said program they were interested in to see what the parents had to say and could actually ask questions.

No.

It's a buzzword for latest and greatest.

Greg said...

Mr. Bernstein,

A good teacher would be able to both teach students critical thinking and cover the subject matter on a simple standardized exam.

Greg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dante said...

Teaching to the test is really bad news. At Palo Alto Gun High, the local newspapers stopped writing about the child suicides that occurred as children would walk home and jump right in front of a train.

What it's all about is cramming knowledge into a brain, but not understanding. The brain isn't getting wired to solve problems, it's the attempt to recreate the knowledge base of the internet in the brain.

Now, the people who survive are going to be tomorrow's leaders. They may not have much in the way of abstract analytical skills, but they will be the one evaluating workers based on their experience. Work hard, memorize, follow the rules, creativity not appreciated, or even allowed.

Nichevo said...

Well Michael on the 1 hand you have a point. On the other hand it's kind of a pity to just write off the entire public education spend and assume that you have to do it all over again on your own. Sort of makes you want to execute everybody involved in the system doesn't it?

jr565 said...

With test scores serving as the primary if not the sole measure of student performance and, increasingly, teacher evaluation, anything not being tested was given short shrift.
Further, most of the tests being used consist primarily or solely of multiple-choice items, which are cheaper to develop, administer, and score than are tests that include constructed responses such as essays. Even when a state has tests that include writing, the level of writing required for such tests often does not demand that higher-level thinking be demonstrated, nor does it require proper grammar, usage, syntax, and structure. Thus, students arriving in our high school lacked experience and knowledge about how to do the kinds of writing that are expected at higher levels of education.


So for a history exam she wants to grade the kids on how well they got grammar rules down? Shouldn't they know history? If they know how to construct sentences properly but can't get the first detail right about say American history, then how competent are they at history.

If there is a deficit in writing skills perhaps teachers should refer the details back to the English dept.

Michael said...

Nichevo. I have long ago given up on the public education racket and suffered greatly to send all of my kids to the best schools they could get into. I just feel sorry for all that kids miss out on by being fed into government education.

jr565 said...

For things like english composition, philosophy maybe critical thinking is important. But for a vast number of classes, no critical thinking is required. Thinking is required. But there is a right and wrong answer. I remember not being very good at math in high school but my teacher always wanted us to show our proof.

If I'm thinking outside of the box, I still have to show a valid reason why I came up with the right answer. But I'm not going to get anywhere questioning the validity of geometry or pre calc itself.
Same thing with science or history.
It's when you get into stuff where you have to interpret meaning that critical thinking becomes more important.

But I'll note that most times educators say "critical thinking" its along the lines of the ideology that the teacher wants the kids to be indoctrinated in. So even there its not really critical thinking they're looking for. Rather it's the regurgitation of the philosophies they tried to foist upon the students.

fivewheels said...

The thing is, I strongly suspect education is unfixable. For one thing, parental/family influence is a way bigger factor than anything teachers can do, and parents are getting fewer in number per student, and probably worse as well, year by year.

And then, your average educator is probably below average in educational attainment. That's not a recipe for success.

Chicago teachers score below high school students on standard test

jr565 said...

Dante wrote:
What it's all about is cramming knowledge into a brain, but not understanding. The brain isn't getting wired to solve problems, it's the attempt to recreate the knowledge base of the internet in the brain.

What puzzles are you trying to solve in a history class? There is HISTORY. there is no puzzle about it. There may be interpretations of events, but it still involves learning about the event and then about the alternatives.

Even math where you are solving puzzles is all about cramming knowledge into your brain. I know this full well because I tried to wing it in Geometry and realized the stupidity of this. You have to solve a puzzle but first you have to learn the rules and then apply those rules to the puzzle. That requires rote memorization of said rules and then application of said rules.

Paco Wové said...

"the level of writing required for such tests often does not ... require proper grammar, usage, syntax, and structure"

Surely students have English courses, wherein effective use of the English language is taught? Why should an AP Gov. teacher have to worry his pretty graying head about grammar, usage, syntax, and structure?

Bob Ellison said...

Critical thinking:

Two son: "You're a lousy driver."

One son: "I'm better than you."

Two son: "A monkey might drive better than a drunk, but that doesn't make a monkey a good driver."

Drago said...

garage mahal: "Michelle Rhee lied about her grades as chancellor of D.C. public school system. Not that's funny."

LOL!!

Joe Biden lied about his law school grades and committed plagiarism in law school and as candidate for President!!

And garage looooooves him some biden.....

from the lefty-beloved wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Biden

snip: "Though Biden had cited Kinnock as the source for the formulation many times before, he made no reference to the original source at the August 23 Iowa State Fair debate in question or in another appearance.[70][71] While political speeches often appropriate ideas and language from each other, Biden's use came under more scrutiny because he somewhat distorted his own family's background to match Kinnock's.[12][71] Biden was soon found to have earlier that year lifted passages from a 1967 speech by Robert F. Kennedy (for which Biden aides took the blame) and a short phrase from the 1961 inaugural address of John F. Kennedy, and in two prior years to have done the same with a 1976 passage from Hubert H. Humphrey.[72]

A few days later, Biden's plagiarism incident in law school came to public light.[25] Video was also released showing that when earlier questioned by a New Hampshire resident about his grades in law school, Biden had stated that he had graduated in the "top half" of his class, that he had attended law school on a full scholarship, and that he had received three degrees in college,[73][24] each of which were untrue or exaggerations of his actual record."

Garage and the left doesn't give a crap about the school kids. They care about forced dues being funnelled into dem coffers.

Period.

That's why garage and his pals even oppose vouchers for DC school kids to escape the educational abyss the left has created.

Dante said...

@jr565:

What puzzles are you trying to solve in a history class? There is HISTORY. there is no puzzle about it.

I suggest you talk to a history professor if you have no idea. But I have some sympathy for your view. It's like learning to read. You have to learn the alphabet. Then the words. Then all about that complexity sentences, and THEN you can begin to appreciate what someone is trying to say. It's like Althouse's Gatsby sentences. Very hard to understand.

To be and effective student of history, you have to first gain all this knowledge, and from that, you can begin to synthesize understandings of human nature. Of course, that can't be tested on some standardized multiple choice test, though I thought the MD from a couple of days ago had some pretty good synthesis.

Regarding Math, there are definitely some things that must be memorized. The times table, but you can derive it. The numbers, etc. And things like the quadratic equation, that took centuries to derive in its current form, is best memorized. The derivation is next to impossible (I can prove it works, but no way can I derive it).

So yes, there are tools one can use, of course. But that's not what is happening, in my view. It's cramming and memorizing, with little synthesis. As a small example, my kid in his 6th grade was required to memorize the following rule:

-2^2 = -4 (negative 2 squared is negative 4).

(-2)^2 = 4.

Completely worthless knowledge. I would rather have him work on word problems, so he can understand, than waste time on problems like that. Not that math doesn't have value in promoting accuracy, but it's not math, in my view.

Carol said...

I always felt the opposite, like oh goodie now I get to prove it.

This! The only time I got "test anxiety" was when I knew I didn't know my shit.

jr565 said...

-2^2 = -4 (negative 2 squared is negative 4).

(-2)^2 = 4.

Completely worthless knowledge. I would rather have him work on word problems, so he can understand, than waste time on problems like that. Not that math doesn't have value in promoting accuracy, but it's not math, in my view.


If you want to do word problems you still have to learn words. Imagine if you were really logical about word puzzles but couldn't parse a sentence or say what a noun or an adverb were. To get to the level of critical thinking the teachers say they want they first have to teach the fundamentals which is basically rote memorization and not thinking outside the box.

ken in sc said...

Originally a rubric was an outline that told an Anglican minister what to to do next in a divine service. Sort of like an order of worship. Interesting what it has to come to mean now.

ken in sc said...

BTW, the last two years I taught were 9th and 10th grade social studies. They don't know shit and they are not going to learn it in two years.

jr565 said...

"To be and effective student of history, you have to first gain all this knowledge, and from that, you can begin to synthesize understandings of human nature. Of course, that can't be tested on some standardized multiple choice test, "


Daniel San had to learn paint the fence and wax on wax off before he could do any real karate.
Yet for Daniel San to learn the paint the fence he had to paint the fence all day long till his arms were beyond tired. Rote memorization, no critical thinking required. Then he had to wax Mr Miyagi's cars all day.

Mr Miyagi then gave him a standardized test by throwing punches at him. And there you could say that he was able to use critical thinking. But if he didnt' know the fundamentals he wouln't pass the test (i.e he'd get punched in the face)

ken in sc said...

One heard that you could smoke dope in Amsterdam and wanted to know if he could drive there.

jr565 said...

standardized tests show that you know the fundamentals. If you want critical thinking but the kids can't even pass a test that shows you know the fundamentals then how much do they really know the subject?

Methadras said...

Public Education is a government run institution. While little Johnny and Jane are getting a 'free' education, government wants to remind you of how lucky and thankful you should be that you, mom and dad are getting this stroke of prosperity bequeathed onto your little children. For after all, government will be the savior of all things, especially the vaunted big education establishment. So by the time this high school teachers duties are finished and pawns off his and his peers shoddy workmanship onto the institutions of higher learning, guess what? No one give two shits anymore about them. Why? Well, again the government will be there to hand out tax payer money to help fund Johnny and Janes new found debt on a degree that will most likely be as useful as toilet paper and will have cost them and everyone else an ever increasing pricing front with no tuition relief in price? Why? Well because as long as universities take government money, they have to accept the strings that go along with them and as long as government promises cash for college loans, why universities will raise their tuitions in an ever increasing money grab for the lowest common denominator.

It's a scam and nothing against the professorial pool out there, but a lot of you, if not all of you are unwitting participants in this scam.

Chip S. said...

garage mahal said of michelle rhee...
She's a liar and the reform movement she represents is a complete scam to bilk taxpayers.

Is "liar" the only thing you know how to say about people you disagree with? It makes you seem like a tiresome fool, which I simply can't believe is true.

There's a lot more to the education debate than blather about test-score cheating that went in DC, or Atlanta, or LA. There are the simple facts about student achievement outside the standard public-school classroom.

It will probably come as a shock to you, garage, to discover that people who study educational outcomes carefully no longer ask if students do better in charter schools. At least for inner-city students, the answer is clear. The question being posed now is why they do better in charter schools.

Why don't you let go of your strange obsession w/Michelle Rhee and look at the facts?

Gahrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
garage mahal said...

Milwaukee has the oldest charter school system in America. There is not a shred of evidence they outperform public schools.

Chip S. said...

My, what a smug, narrow worldview you have. You think something doesn't work in Milwaukee, so you feel free to ignore the scholarly research on the subject.

And Althouse wonders why conservatives think liberals are stupid. The reason is that those conservatives fail to distinguish b/w stupidity and willful ignorance.

mtrobertsattorney said...

The best way to teach critical thinking through a philosophy course. Taught correctly, it requires students to examine their presuppostions about how they believe the world works. Stage two requires them to defend their beliefs by rational argumentation. And this can be done only by studying the great philosophers.

The study of philosophy should begin in high school.

garage mahal said...

Build all the schools you want with your money. It sounds like you have a few ideas, why not give it a shot? Why do all the corporate reformers demand public money?

Craig said...

He lost me after the first sentence.

Chip S. said...

Fair enough.

I'll consider it as soon as any parent who pays tuition at my school gets his or her taxes reduced by the share spent on the local public schools.

Kirk Parker said...

Paco,

Every teacher who requires written essays should be worrying about a competent presentation in that essay.

Tasha said...

As a college student, I've noticed that a number of my classmates lack critical thinking skills. Some of them just need a few years in the "real world" before they're truly ready for college, while others won't ever be. It's true that many high schools don't teach students how to learn; I was lucky in that I managed to take some good classes, find supportive teachers, and figure out the rest myself. It's a continual process of growth: once I teach myself how to think about a problem, the approach seems so obvious that I don't know how I could've ever missed it.

Some of it might also be socioeconomic. At the local elementary school, about a quarter of the families are more worried about food and housing than environmental enrichment. Under those conditions, it becomes the school's job to teach those kids that there is more to life than surviving from one day to the next, and advanced work just doesn't happen despite teachers' best efforts. Class time is short to begin with, and hours that could be used to help these students are instead used to instruct them on multiple-choice strategies.

el polacko said...

instead of just preparing students to be able to 'game' a test, why not actually do what he's whining about: teach the subject, encourage critical thinking, push students to improve their writing skills...and then, when a test does come along, the students will be able to nail it ? that's impossible? but don't, of course. blame the teachers for not being able to teach. it's that darn test's fault! we don't need no stinkin' measurements or accounting! sheesh.

AJ Lynch said...

And Garbage, Biden has a brother who is very involved in charter schools in Florida. I think he formed a business called something like Mavericks in Education to provide services to charter schools. Course you won't hear about that in the NYT and good luck trying to get any financial info from Mavericks in Education.

Drago said...

garage: "Build all the schools you want with your money."

We can't...because....

"you didn't build that"....

Carnifex said...

Chip would find me really annoying. I haven't done a crossword puzzle in pencil for 3 decades :-) even the sunday NYTimes. 'Course some of my words don't exist till I use 'em(that's the secret)

Dante said...

jr565:

I agree there are basics, the language of math, science, english, history. But memorizing formulas, dates, etc., is wasted effort if you can't synthesize, and completely pointless if you can't comprehend. If I memorize every word in the Great Gatsby, does that mean I understand it? No. But I might be able to get a great grade on a standardized test.

In any event, my friend in High school got the highest combined score on the SATs because he understood language, their relations, and took a real joy in it. Other people far less intelligent than he went to Stanfords, etc., and these were the fakers I saw studying for the SATs, taking the "right" classes, etc. I think that was pretty tragic (in our high school Calculus class, the teacher gave us the UC Berkeley Final, and there was one A, one B, and 28 "D's" and "F's".)

Dante said...

If you want to do word problems you still have to learn words. Imagine if you were really logical about word puzzles but couldn't parse a sentence or say what a noun or an adverb were. To get to the level of critical thinking the teachers say they want they first have to teach the fundamentals which is basically rote memorization and not thinking outside the box.

Garbage.

Yes, you have to memorize the times table. 6 * 8 is 48. But what does it mean? It means "Add 8 together 6 times," or alternately "Add 6 together 8 times." With that understanding, they can do clever thinking with math. Don't know what 6 * 8 is, but you do know what 5 * 8 is? Great, then 5 8s is 40, add another 8 to get 48. That's understanding, and I don't see why these should not go hand in hand.

jr565 said...

Dante wrote:
I agree there are basics, the language of math, science, english, history. But memorizing formulas, dates, etc., is wasted effort if you can't synthesize, and completely pointless if you can't comprehend. If I memorize every word in the Great Gatsby, does that mean I understand it? No. But I might be able to get a great grade on a standardized test.

I agree, but why can't you make it part of the syllabus? You teach the problems as you normally would since you are in fact teaching the students the subject and then you use some of the questions as examples to learn from.
When I took my SAT's to get into college I had to take SAT,s. I went out and bought a book which had practice exams so I knew what I was getting into and could see what questions might look like.
If SAT were a subject then the teacher would use those questions as examples of things that students should learn.

If all they're doing is saying, for question A answer C, then you're right. But teachers make their own tests all the time, and still actually teach. Why can't they simply include the questions as part of the test they would be giving anyway (like say at the midterm).

It strikes me like the questions you would have to answer at the end of a chapter in a math book tht go over the same lesson that was taught in the chapter. Who cares if it comes from a text book or from a test about the subject?
Teachers don't have to be lousy teachers when teaching to the test any more than they have to be bad teachers when teaching to the syllabus.

jr565 said...

Dante wrote:

Garbage.

Yes, you have to memorize the times table. 6 * 8 is 48. But what does it mean? It means "Add 8 together 6 times," or alternately "Add 6 together 8 times." With that understanding, they can do clever thinking with math. Don't know what 6 * 8 is, but you do know what 5 * 8 is? Great, then 5 8s is 40, add another 8 to get 48. That's understanding, and I don't see why these should not go hand in hand.

well you said word games, not math games, so I thought you were referring to grammar. But even if its math you still have to learn basic math before you can learn tricks with math. Now lets say there's a standardized test and some of the questions are about multiplication. For the teacher to teach to the test doesn't she have to teach multiplication? And doesn't she teach multiplication as part of the math class? Well then you would have taught the subject whether you were teaching to the test or teaching from the syllabus anyway. In either case the only way the student will learn is to teach the same thing. What's important is that they learn that thing. The thing that they would learn anyway.

I don't see therefore why a teacher wouldn't be able to teach the tricks you think make people more fluent at math and teach to the test at the same time.

To me it sounds like the people making the argument that standardized tests are bad are assuming that what is being taught to teach to the test would be different than what would be taught if you taught the subject. It's the same thing. If you can do clever thinking math you will be able to answer questions on a test who's subject you've just lerned.

The other fallacy is that teachers teaching to the test HAVE to literally pull out a test and then say. Question 1, the answer is B. Question 2 the answer is C. Are teachers that bad t teaching? pull apart the test. Find out the type of questions are on the test and then tailor your lesson plans that you will give to include that information. Why would a teacher have a hard time teaching this information but wouldn't have a hard time teaching the I formation they were going to teach. Since again, its the same information!


Dante said...

I agree, but why can't you make it part of the syllabus? You teach the problems as you normally would since you are in fact teaching the students the subject and then you use some of the questions as examples to learn from.
When I took my SAT's to get into college I had to take SAT,s. I went out and bought a book which had practice exams so I knew what I was getting into and could see what questions might look like.


The SAT is meant to be a measure of aptitude, not knowledge or drive. I think it's important to find those with aptitude, to get them into the right environment so they can push the world forward.

The math and english sections of both the SATs and GREs were laughable (except the verbal analysis section, and the analogy section in English SATs, which I'm pretty sure I did poorly on compared to my other areas, and oddly has been removed from the test).

jr565 said...

Are teachers not teaching to their own test? If I took a class, at the end I will have to take a final, very possibly including multiple choice questions. And I should be able to pass that test based on the information the teacher gave me through the course of the class.

jr565 said...

Dante wrote:
The SAT is meant to be a measure of aptitude, not knowledge or drive. I think it's important to find those with aptitude, to get them into the right environment so they can push the world forward.

so do you have a problem with a final for a class? Does it test knowledge?

Dante said...

I don't see therefore why a teacher wouldn't be able to teach the tricks you think make people more fluent at math and teach to the test at the same time.

What I described is not a trick. It's something that flows from an understanding of what multiplication is.

Look, we've gotten into the weeds here. I suspect that I value aptitude more, and you value hard work and drive more. That's fine, both have their place.

But a Scholastic Aptitude Test should be something that flows from the training and capabilities of the person, not from being taught how to take the test.

At least for the brightest of minds. Anyway, let's close on this. I don't disagree with much of what you say, but we have a fundamentally different way of looking at education.

Dante said...

so do you have a problem with a final for a class? Does it test knowledge?

Does it measure understanding, or regurgitation? In general, I did very well on finals in all my classes. Because I understood the material and didn't have to memorize a zillion formulas.

elkh1 said...

"the enactment of No Child Left Behind 11 years ago has resulted in high school graduates who don’t think as analytically or as broadly as they should"

Implying high school graduates have been thinking analytically and broadly prior to NCLB. Election 2012 has categorically disproved that claim.

karlpoppersghost said...

I gave it a shot. But I had to start scanning for substance early on and kinda gave up out of bitterness.

Maybe the author knows the feeling.

Is there any way to teach teachers how not to be such long winded blowhards?

jr565 said...

Dante wrote:
Does it measure understanding, or regurgitation? In general, I did very well on finals in all my classes. Because I understood the material and didn't have to memorize a zillion formulas.

what does understanding or regurgitation mean? how are you separating those two? Also when you say you do well on finals and you provide right answers are you not regurgitating?
Understanding is something in your own mind. A test tests that understanding by making you regurgitate what you know about the subject. Are you proficient enough with the information where you can answer questions about the subject correctly. If you KNOW a subject, it shouldn't be hard.

jr565 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jr565 said...

Dante wrote:
"what I described is not a trick. It's something that flows from an understanding of what multiplication is.
Look, we've gotten into the weeds here. I suspect that I value aptitude more, and you value hard work and drive more. That's fine, both have their place."



I don't agree. As they say inspiration is 1% imagination and 99% perspiration. Meaning, to get aptitude you have to work hard. And a lot of it is rote memorization. Learning the multiplication tables, and your ABC's. hitting the books. Reading the subject.
It's both hard work and aptitude. Aptitude usually comes from the former though.


"But a Scholastic Aptitude Test should be something that flows from the training and capabilities of the person, not from being taught how to take the test.
This is where I disagree with you. Why do the two have to be mutually exclusive?
What does teaching to the test mean other than teaching the things that will be on the test. Aren't teachers supposed to be doing that anyway? And how are they testing aptitude? With a test.
I
There's a subject. And there's a standardized test. They will cover roughly the same material. If a teacher teaches the subject and covers everything on the standardized test it should be teaching the subject AND teaching to the test. Unless the standardized tests completely don't match the material being taught. Like say the standardized test is on math but when you get there you're actually be asked questions in French. Is hat happening?

It's the same info that is being tested on the standardized test as being taught in the class. So why should a teacher feel that teaching to the test requires him or her to somehow teach the subject differently?

Is geometry different on a standardized test than it is in a teachers classroom? Are the test questions ones that you would never hear about in a geometry class? Does a teachers lesson plan include special geometry that a standardized test could never have questions about? If you have aptitude in geometry then you won't do badly on the test. But if you don't do well on the test you probably are not doing well in geometry.

How else are you proposing that we test the aptitude of students other than through tests?

Dante said...

Also when you say you do well on finals and you provide right answers are you not regurgitating?

I'll give you an example, and you can decide. I missed my Advanced Calculus test, and took an oral exam. The professor asked me "What is the definition of "X"?" I gave a definition. He said "That's not right, here is the definition." I looked at it and said "Those are equivalent definitions." He said "Can you prove it?" And I provided a proof on the spot.

What I gave him was understanding the essence of a concept (definition). Giving him the rote definition is something else, something a parrot can do with enough training.

He was so pleased he gave me an "A" in the class, despite that I never went to them, and despite that I never turned in my homework, and slept through his final.

That doesn't mean I didn't work. One of the homework questions had to do with some kind of boundary question on a metric space, and I stayed up all night long trying to figure it out, which I finally did.

Dante said...

This is where I disagree with you. Why do the two have to be mutually exclusive?

Well, because you want to find the Einsteins, and enable them. Obviously it's complicated, but the essence is you want to get the really capable people doing things, because they can. If they have no interest, they have to be weeded out, naturally, but the worse thing is to take up slots that could have been filled by qualified people, and fill them with parrots.

Chip S. said...

Multiple comments on the SAT and still no appearance by Seven Machos? Has he commented at all since the election?

Extremely worrisome.

jr565 said...

From the article:

Further, the AP course required that a huge amount of content be covered, meaning that too much effort is spent on learning information and perhaps insufficient time on wrestling with the material at a deeper level. I learned to balance these seemingly contradictory requirements. For much of the content I would give students summary information, sufficient to answer multiple-choice questions and to get some of the points on rubrics for the free response questions. That allowed me more time for class discussions and for relating events in the news to what we learned in class, making the class more engaging for the students and resulting in deeper learning because the discussions were relevant to their lives.
I went to school before no child left behind. And how is this different than what teaches have always done with educationZ. They load the kids down with assignments which have to be done in school. They get through about a third of what they wanted to teach and then say you had to go home and finish the chapter. Isn't that what homework was for? I noticed France wants to do away with it. Isn't that only going to lead to even duller French brains (as if they aren't dull enough).
Education doesn't end when you leave the class. Usually I find this when you really "get" the subject. When you teach yourself. Ad this is where people usually slack off.

But the problem this teacher mentions isn't specific to NCLB at all.

Aaron said...

My wife is Asian and she deplores the sort of lame "don't make kids memorize anything" system we have now. We both volunteer at our kids charter school and see some amazing stuff:

3rd graders having problems with division because they have not first memorized their multiplication tables.

Look, we all want critical thinkers, but first let's have kids who know in a snap that 3x6 = 18.

Dante said...

jr565:

If the question is about what's happened to English, well, that's a completely different topic.

I've read some of the crap they give to my kids and it's unbelievable. In one, my kid had to read an essay which discerned Racism because a woman ran away from the 6' 2" black man following her.

Aaron said...

The whole teaching to the test complaint is a joke.

Its simply a way to say "I am an artist and my work defies judgement!"

Meanwhile, when looking for more money, these teachers have no problem talking about how Europe or Japan does better on international standardized testing.

Dante said...

My wife is Asian and she deplores the sort of lame "don't make kids memorize anything" system we have now. We both volunteer at our kids charter school and see some amazing stuff:

Yep. Don't let that nail stick up, it gets hammered down. Uniformity. Teach to the test.

That's why China was stagnant for 3,000 years.

Aaron said...

"Yep. Don't let that nail stick up, it gets hammered down. Uniformity. Teach to the test.

That's why China was stagnant for 3,000 years."

LOL. China was not stagnant for 3,000 years. Looks like you could go back for some book learning. I guess you could argue that China fell behind for maybe 1,000 years.

p.s. Memorizing multiplication tables is kinda important. Yeah, no need to memorize the dates of battles, but multiplication tables? YES.

Or maybe you enjoy wincing as 3rd graders can't divide 18 by 3 because they don't know 3x6 = 18.

Aaron said...

"The Song Dynasty (960–1279 CE) brought additional economic reforms. Paper money, the compass, and other technological advances facilitated communication on a large scale and the widespread circulation of books. The state's control of the economy diminished, allowing private merchants to prosper and a large increase in investment and profit. Despite disruptions during the Mongol conquest of 1279, the population much increased under the Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty, but its GDP per capita remained static since then.[4] In the later Qing period, China's economic development began to slow and Europe's rapid development since the Late Middle Ages[5] and Renaissance[6] enabled it to surpass China—an event known as the Great Divergence."

So, 800 years at best. Maybe you would have known that if you had been taught to the test, eh?

Dante said...

Or maybe you enjoy wincing as 3rd graders can't divide 18 by 3 because they don't know 3x6 = 18.

Guess what. I'm a computer scientist, and I deal with binary. Guess what? I can't add hex numbers together fluently. I have to translate into base ten, if I have to do it manually. But at least I can, because I understand what it means.

Now, genius, why the hell do they have multiplication tables up to twelves? That's and extra 44 (or 22, depending on how you think), things to memorize, with, well, zero value.

Dante said...

I guess you could argue that China fell behind for maybe 1,000 years.

1,000 years of stagnation or 3,000 years of stagnation is immaterial. Falling behind is the wrong characterization. The Chinese had technology they did nothing with because they hammered the nail down.

Now, talk about Leonardo Da'Vinci. Then we can have a conversation.

Joe Schmoe said...

Jeez. Put that guy who wrote that article on suicide watch.

Joe Schmoe said...

Here's an idea. Now that the dumbfuck is retired, maybe he can run for office. You know, affect the kind of change he seems to be hinting at. Instead of crying about your political masters, become one.

Joe Schmoe said...

That said, NCLB was a bad law and one of the financial boondoggles of the Bush admin.

John Nowak said...

Wait. Dante's kid is being taught that negative two squared is negative four?

Robert Cook said...

"Head Start doesn't work, think of the $180 billion we could use for other things."

Our wars haven't worked. Think of the trillions of dollars we could use for other things.

AllenS said...

Our wars have worked, Mr. Cook. That's why were not speaking German.

Tank said...

Allen

WWII was 65 years ago.

With the exception of a couple of months worth of bombing the s*** out of Afgan'n, the other couple trillion we've spent over there would not have had to been borrowed/printed.

Shanna said...

He may have some valid points, but let's not forget that no child left behind was an attempt to fix a problem that ALREADY EXISTED. It didn't break education, it was already broken.

I do think the AP test thing has gotten out of control though. When I was in school, there were maybe 6 AP courses total and almost all of them were for seniors or juniors. Now people in 9th grade are taking AP art and photography. I mean, really?

Michael Haz said...

The No Child Left Behind Act requires all public schools receiving federal funding to administer a state-wide standardized test annually to all students. This means that all students take the same test under the same conditions.

States that want to opt out of NCLB can do so by ending federal funding to schools in that state.

It does seem foolish, doesn't it, that the federal government is involved in the decision-making at every local school. Local school boards should be solely responsible for local schools. But once your budget includes the fat and fluff of federal money, it's awfully hard to back out of it. Which is why teh First Lady of the United States of America can influence how lunch is served in Crandon, Wisconsin, for example.

X said...

garage mahal said...
Every high school teacher in America should just refuse to administer these mindless tests.


as everyone else should ignore the idiotic common sense regulations coming out of DC garage? I thought you loved idiotic common sense central planning.

Peter said...

'Dante' said, "Regarding Math ... things like the quadratic equation, that took centuries to derive in its current form, is best memorized."

The quadratic equation is derived by completing the square- it's not difficult at all. Which is to say, I always found it far easier to derive it whenever I needed it (that is, on a test- when it couldn't be Googled) than to memorize it.

Of course, you can Google how to derive it:

http://www.mathsisfun.com/algebra/quadratic-equation-derivation.html

And what this idiot "teacher" is missing is that it's not so easy to teach to a well-designed test. Consider (for example) the verbal section of the SAT.

Can you teach someone vocabulary by cramming? Not really. The way to increase one's vocabulary to to read- lots of reading, esp. difficult reading, expands one's vocabulary as one sees new words used in context.

Can you improve a student's performance on reading comprehension tests by showing them how to read when taking these tests? Yes, of course. But students who read a lot will still outperform the I-only-read-when-I-have-to readers.

The union teacher's real complaint seems to be the creation and utilization of objective testing. Apparently we'd be better off with "holistic" evaluations- then even the dumbest brick of a union teacher to consistently deliver above-average results. (And not only that, but subjective evaluations can even produce student averages that go up every year after year!)

And when that happens, it's just so unfair when more objective testing shows that these "better-and-better-in-every-way" students can't actually comprehend what they read, or solve basic math problems.

mikee said...

Something not mentioned in any of the comments so far: The skills tests are not rigorous. They are in fact a measure only of the most basic, the absolute lowest, levels of skill required in each subject.

Every student should be able to pass the skills tests without study about half way through the school year for a given subject, and to excel on it after the entire year.

The tests are so basic that many, many kids pass them before taking the classes for which they are designed. Yes, you read that correctly. The kids often get to take a "practice" test about a year before the actual test is scheduled, and many, many kids pass the practice with flying colors.

If kids are having trouble passing these absolutely minimalist tests, they cannot add, subtract, read English enough to avoid being run down in the street at a pedestrian crossing, or have enough scientific knowledge to avoid dying from self-administered poison.

Bryan C said...

"Increasingly education seems to be about teaching children how to take tests rather than critically think."

I don't understand how these two things are mutually exclusive. How do you know that children can think critically if you don't test them?

Many teachers don't like tests because tests often indicate that they can't teach very well. Having been forced to use tests, and still unable to teach, they attempt to focus their limited talents by covering only what is absolutely required by tests. Not being much good at this whole "teaching" thing, they do this poorly. Their obvious conclusion: Tests are bad.

This guy sounds angry. Know who else is angry? High school grads who wind up paying for remedial classes at their local community college, because people like him have wasted four years of their lives.

Amartel said...

Most of this article is about what a great guy the teacher is and nothing of substance about the NCLB educational policy that he dislikes. It's all about him and how it's not his fault.

I've been hearing complaints about "teaching the test" for years and how it's such a burden on the teachers and does nothing on balance for the students but there's never any substance attached to this objection. Knowledgeable teachers: I am open to changing my mind but I begin to think some teachers just don't like being held to standards. Doesn't the test require some minimal knowledge that the students should have? So how tough can it be, really, to teach that? How does imparting this minimal knowledge suck up all the class time leaving nothing left over for "wresting" with "deeper matters?" Whatever that is. Is there really a valid problem with "teaching the test" or is this just union bullshit?
Genuinely curious.

fivewheels said...

"The way to increase one's vocabulary to to read- lots of reading, esp. difficult reading."

It doesn't even have to be difficult or highbrow. I remember there was some list of "100 words every HS grad should know" that came out, and in an online comment thread a guy was complaining that the words were too obscure. I disagreed, because I specifically remembered learning (for instance) "obsidian" from an issue of X-Men, and "ziggurat" from Mad magazine.

Again, the problem is that some kids don't want to read, not even comic books. Teachers will never overcome that, and for kids who do like to read, it's not teachers who create that.

Jason said...

Does anyone else find garbage mahal's obsession with Michelle Rhee creepy? I mean... He doesn't even live anywhere near her but feels the need to pretend he's mid knowledgeable about school vouchers in DC than she is.

It's either garbage is just a hack who subscribes to dnc talking points newsletters for zingers or he's an obsessive cretin who jerks off thinking about raping Michelle Malkin.

fivewheels said...

Asian-Americans basically explode every left-wing myth/fantasy about education, victimization and socioeconomic predestination. Racist bitterness toward them is frequently the result.

SteveBrooklineMA said...

Would someone please tell me what "teaching to the test" means? It can't mean teaching the material that will be tested, can it? I've seen practice math tests for NCLB assessment and I don't see material in them that can be done without understanding.

As an aside, it was the cubic and quartic equations that took centuries to find solutions for. Peter is right, the quadratic equation is easy to solve.

SteveBrooklineMA said...

I also agree with what Mikee said. These tests are designed to determine if a student can meet a minimum performance standard. It seems to me that if a student is unable to pass these tests, there is little if any chance he or she is ready for the "critical thinking" that the author talks about.

Dante said...

Can you teach someone vocabulary by cramming? Not really.

I took the GREs in my junior year, and got a 65 percentile on English. I was quite disappointed. So I bought two boxes of words, memorized them, took the test again and got an 85 percentile.

That's why I think the English portion of SATs and GREs are stupid. They don't measure English ability, but check that you read the right books, like the Great Gatsby, instead of the Science Fiction I loved so much.

Dante said...

Peter:

The quadratic equation is derived by completing the square- it's not difficult at all. Which is to say, I always found it far easier to derive it whenever I needed it (that is, on a test- when it couldn't be Googled) than to memorize it.

In my view, this is an unintuitive step:

Add (b/2a)2 to both sides



Like I said, I can take the quadratic equation, reverse it back to ax^2 +bx +c = 0,and I can then reverse the steps to "derive it," but the steps above, while "simple," did in fact take centuries to discover. From wikipedia:

The Bakhshali Manuscript written in India in the 7th century AD contained an algebraic formula for solving quadratic equations, as well as quadratic indeterminate equations (originally of type ax/c = y).

Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (Persia, 9th century), inspired by Brahmagupta, developed a set of formulas that worked for positive solutions. Al-Khwarizmi goes further in providing a full solution to the general quadratic equation, accepting one or two numerical answers for every quadratic equation, while providing geometric proofs in the process.[8] He also described the method of completing the square and recognized that the discriminant must be positive,[9] which was proven by his contemporary 'Abd al-Hamīd ibn Turk (Central Asia, 9th century) who gave geometric figures to prove that if the discriminant is negative, a quadratic equation has no solution.[10] While al-Khwarizmi himself did not accept negative solutions, later Islamic mathematicians that succeeded him accepted negative solutions,[11] as well as irrational numbers as solutions.[12] Abū Kāmil Shujā ibn Aslam (Egypt, 10th century) in particular was the first to accept irrational numbers (often in the form of a square root, cube root or fourth root) as solutions to quadratic equations or as coefficients in an equation.[13]

The Indian mathematician Sridhara, who flourished in the 9th and 10th centuries AC provided the modern solution of the quadratic equation.

virgil xenophon said...

I know I'm both late to this (very good) discussion and am a Cro-magnon from the past ((age 68) but may I have the temerity to point out that SAT scores peaked in 1963 and have been in free-fall ever since (despite an attempt to "re-center" them by adding 100 pts to everyone and by also dumbing-down the questions) As someone whose parents were college professors (father) and second-grade school teacher (mother-23 tears) and whose uncle (father's brother) was principal, then Superintendent of schools in Collinsville, Illinois, with another of my Father's sisters being a HS librarian with her husband being Superintendent of Schools in Petersburg, Ill. and with one of my Mother's sisters having taught 2nd grade for 32 years in the Ill & Calif public schools plus the fact that I attended Eastern Ill Univ Lab school in the 50s I think I know a little bit about good teaching. So.....

1) would it be too much to suggest that we return to the teaching standards/techniques that produced the highest SAT scores in history? That is, if we are truly worried about plummeting SAT scores and 2) Lets talk about "teaching to the test" To wit:

As a Lab school graduate we were NEVER "taught to the test" but we were tested annually ALL THE TIME--"Iowa Tests", "California Tests"--you name it. Therefore, yes , I understand and believe that "teaching to the test" is limiting. That was NOT the way my generation was taught--and look at the undeniable results. OTHO, considering the current population mix I have some sympathy for that approach. When life & death is on the line "teaching to the test" is EXACTLY what we do--witness pilot training in the armed services and Nurse training/Certification
as just two examples that come readily to mind.

Is it beyond the ken of man to meld the two approaches?

Kathy said...

Children do not need to be filled full of empty facts until they are "old enough to think." They require and desrve meaningful ideas. Then they will learn facts as they fit into those ideas. School materials these days are deliberately stripped of any ideas except utter propaganda and drivel. You'd lose the will to learn if you were forced to ingest this nonsense day after day. Sadly, this is not an easily resolvable problem, since the adults in charge are afraid of materials containing substantive ideas.

Our homeschool has history, geography, and citizenship rather than social studies. Even my 7 yo could tell you a fair bit about the dangers of tyrants and provide historical examples. He explained to me just today that Roman taxation of the Britons was probably a fair exchange because the Romans brought education, defense, and infrastructure.

Brendan Kenny said...

Somebody told me about this during my search for colleges in pa. I can't believe at what some teachers consider teaching. I think reform is needed, but the great teachers should be recognized.