Friday, November 11, 2011

Educational Jargon Alert

On this Answer Sheet post, Roxanna Elden takes on a some of the jargony catch phrases beloved by reformers of all stripes and educational reformers in particular.  Her list of most annoying catch phrases:
"We know what works!"
This line promises a great sigh of relief to the non-teaching public: Now that we finally figured out what works in education, all we have to do is get teachers to do it! Then we can move onto fixing healthcare and jumpstarting the economy!
"Demographics don't determine destiny! (You lazy racist!)"
No one really says the part in parenthesis. It would ruin the alliteration. However, the line above suggests those who disagree with the speaker are insisting that demographics DO determine destiny — and presumably think it's not worth working hard to teach poor, minority students. This phrase sets off alarm bells for teachers, who know that while demographics don't "determine destiny," they don't tell the whole story, either. Kids from similar demographics or neighborhoods aren't necessarily similar kids.
"Measurable results"
Some information in education lends itself to accurate measurement. In other cases, measurements can be counterproductive. For example, pushing for improvements in "discipline numbers" encourages schools to let behavior problems slide rather than processing discipline referrals. It's also no secret among teachers that the obsession with test scores often forces schools to do things that are bad for kids. This is especially true during "crunch time," the unspecified period leading up to a high-stakes test.
"If grocery stores were run like public schools..."
This is supposed to be an argument about how introducing market-based competition in education encourages innovation and leads to better opportunity, especially for low-income families. If kids and families are treated as consumers, the thinking goes, they will have the buying power to demand a quality education. . . . It is also worth noting that businesses aren't run for the benefit of consumers. They are run for profit, and many businesses make their biggest profit on people who don't read the fine print.
"We need transformational change!"
Bashing the status quo is so 2010. This year, the issue is transformational, disruptive change (cue applause) vs. incremental change (eeewwww). In 2011, reformers delivering gleeful knockout punches to anyone who disagrees with them have drowned out their more reasonable colleagues. This leaves teachers uneasy. After all, history (and the history of education, according to Rick's most recent book) is filled with examples showing that good ideas, taken to extremes, become bad ideas, and that change can bring unintended consequences.
This is a great list, and the whole article is worth a read.

On a snarky note, I need a about 10 more do make a decent Buzzword Bingo card for the next in-service or to prepare for the cookie-cutting competition that SDDOE has in store for teachers

Comments are now open for other buzzwords to add to the list.

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