After extensive review…

What two words make veteran teachers’ eyes roll to the back of their heads more than any others? School Reform.

Just say the words at a staff meeting and you’ll hear grumpy teachers muttering under their breaths.  If you listen carefully, you’ll hear a list of proposed, hyped, and eventually forgotten cures for what ails our schools: constructivism, whole language, cultural literacy, class size reduction, multiple intelligences, schools within schools, charter schools, national standards, more testing, portfolio assessments, merit pay (you might hear that one twice!).  The list goes on.  No wonder Diane Ravitch wrote in Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms:

If there is a lesson to be learned from the river of ink that was spilled in the education disputes of the twentieth century, it is that anything in education that is labeled a ‘movement’ should be avoided like the plague. (You can read The Times’ review from 2000 and the first chapter here.)

The elder teachers where I taught were wise, and most of the latest and greatest ideas came and went as predicted. Still, I never shared their and Ms. Ravitch’s gloomy assessments of reform in general. Like I’ve said in earlier posts, I was always a sucker for anything that promised to help me be a better teacher.  I knew that none of the proposals would be a magic bullet for what ailed me and my students.  But the better ideas excited me and gave me something to try.  I knew that they might not stick, but they gave me something to focus on for awhile and I appreciated it. Some of the best ideas did stick, and I still use them in the after-school programs I run and in our homeschool.

So I decided this week that it was time for a little homeschool reform.  Zach’s diagnoses last week, Ezra’s continued whining at anything even slightly challenging, the violence of both boys, and their inability to sit still and stay focused for more than 42 seconds (I suppose I should be grateful considering the second-count of last month) , led me to complete a review of current school policies and procedures.  After extensive review, the committee (of 1) has come up with three recommendations.

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  • Are you saying I should not believe the hype of Waiting for Superman and that there is no hope?

  • tedelschick

    There's always hope. Like I said, I'm a sucker for reform. And Canada's block-by-block approach is simply amazing. But his approach makes sure that there are afterschool programs and health facilities and early mother-infant classes, etc, in place in every neighborhood. Schools don't exist in vacuums.

    Also, the evidence on charter schools is not so great. Some of them are off the charts. They take the freedoms afforded them and make something incredible. But many close after several years because they fail. The statistics aren't good.

    It comes down to good teaching. My new favorite book on teaching is Teach Like a Champion. I should do several posts on it because I think that every educator of any kind and every parent should read this book. I think I was a good teacher – my students passed the tests they needed to pass to get out of high school when they had previously failed many times. I'm proud of that. But when I read this book and watched the video that came with it, I almost cried. I was so much less effective than I could have been if I had been given some basic instruction in HOW TO TEACH, something I heard very little of in my education classes.

    Don't give up hope. I haven't.