Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How And Why Education Standards Fail

This Paul Thomas post on The Answer Sheet deserves to be read in its entirety by every English teacher.  I'll hit two highlights.

First,the standards will add to “'the bureaucratizing of the mind.'”  Thomas writes,
If these standards were intended as a powerful resource created by NCTE to support the autonomy of rigorous teacher education departments and colleges, I believe they would be worth the time and effort already dedicated to the task. Until educators at all levels--from the K-12 classrooms to undergraduate education departments/colleges to graduate schools--are allowed the autonomy to be professionals, however, we are destined to fail our ideals established for universal public education.
But, as with state and national standards for students, these standards are designed to feed a licensure and accountability mechanism that will de-professionalize teaching further and stand in the way of teachers being provided rich and challenging undergraduate degrees in the pursuit of scholarship and practice.
Scripted teachers and teacher-educators are not the environment that will foster autonomy in students across a free country (Schmidt & Thomas, 2009).
Second, countries whose test scores rank ahead of the United States give K-12 teacher more autonomy than the United States does.  Thomas contends,
Since we often choose to demonize U.S. education by international comparison, I suggest we consider the attitude toward the professionalism of teachers in Finland from Henna Virkkunen, Finland’s minister of education:
“Teachers in Finland can choose their own teaching methods and materials. They are experts of their own work, and they test their own pupils. . . . Our educational society is based on trust and cooperation, so when we are doing some testing and evaluations, we don’t use it for controlling [teachers] but for development. We trust the teachers. It’s true that we are all human beings, and of course there are differences in how teachers test pupils, but if we look at the OECD evaluation–PISA, for example–the learning differences among Finnish schools and pupils are the smallest in OECD countries, so it seems that we have a very equal system of good quality.”
K-12 teachers and teacher educators must be afforded the autonomy of professionals--not further bureaucracy and invalid accountability.
That last sentence should be emailed to every state legislator, governor, congressperson, senator, and educational bureaucrat.

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