Thursday, May 25, 2006

Once Again - Schools Matter

I feel I must once again, turn your attention to the blogging of Judy Rabin, Peter Campbell, and Jim Horn over at Schools Matter. As I have said before, I consider this an everyday must read, but lately several posts have really caught my attention...

Today's post has
Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch coming together to oppose NCLB, the tests, and the dumbed down curricula that they cause.

Also from today, NSTA Cites Poor Working Conditions & NCLB as Reasons for Drop in Science Scores this from NYT:

Michael J. Padilla, a professor at the University of Georgia who is president of the National Science Teachers Association, said that the problem was not that universities were failing to train sufficient numbers of science majors or that too few were opting for classroom careers, but that about a third of those who accepted teaching jobs abandoned the profession within five years.

"What happens is that the system tends to beat them down," Mr. Padilla said. "Working conditions are poor, it's a difficult job, and the pay isn't that great."

Some teachers cited the decreasing amount of time devoted to science in schools, which they attributed in part to the annual tests in reading and math required by the No Child Left Behind law. That has led many elementary schools to cancel some science classes. On average, the time devoted to science instruction among elementary teachers across the nation declined from a weekly average of 2.6 hours in 2000 to 2.3 hours in 2004, Department of Education statistics show
The media blitz over NAEP science scores has everyone scrambling just in time for the big push to start science testing in 2007-2008. If NCLB is not scrapped there won't be a need for talented, dedicated science teachers who love the subject because the teachers can just follow the script. That should help America's global competitiveness.

From Monday came this
wonderful piece of satire that nails it...

Dear Mr. President,

I wanted to write to thank you for what you've done for our country. While I quibble with many of your ideas -- your belief that threats and punishments are the way to improve schools, that invading, destroying, and occupying a sovereign nation is the way to help it achieve peace and democracy, that increasing air pollutants constitutes clear skies, and that logging 300-year-old trees is the way to achieve healthy forests -- there is one thing that you and I are completely aligned on: the need for less critical thinking in our nation's classrooms.

The National Reading Panel --- your hand-selected group of literacy experts -- makes the need for less critical thinking abundantly clear. As you know, the National Reading Panel had the nerve to use "research" and "analysis" to come to the conclusion that "phonics instruction appears to contribute only weakly, if at all, in helping poor readers apply [decoding skills] to read text and to spell words." (quoted in Garan, Elaine. 2002. Resisting Reading Mandates: How to Triumph with the Truth. Heinemann. Portsmouth, NH., p. 47; taken from the NRP Report of the Subgroups, Chapter 2, p. 116) But, thanks to those wonderful public relations people from Widemeyer Communications, the Washington PR firm hired by McGraw-Hill to promote Open Court in Texas and to write the Summary Booklet and produce the promotional video that explains the NRP's "research," phonics has become (once again!) The Next Big Thing.

See? People don't have time to read a 500 page report. That would require us to think. And to read! That's why it's so much better to have our reading and thinking done for us. After all, if you can't believe what a Washington-based PR firm hired by the biggest educational company in the world to promote its products tells you, then who can you believe? Like you, Mr. President, I read the front page. Let all those other lazy folks with too much time on their hands read the rest of the paper. You and I have much more important things to do!

But I know you, you sly old fox, you. You're just waiting for us to raise our hands in the back of the classroom and say, like Arnold Horshack from Welcome Back, Kotter, "Ooo! Ooo! Mr. President! Mr. President! There appears to be a discrepancy between what the NRP actually wrote and what right-wing pundits say the NRP wrote!" And you, the Firm Believer in Truth, would acknowledge us with a Cookie for Justice.

So, please forgive us for not raising our hands. Please understand that your teaching methods are so advanced that many of us have mistaken you for a dangerous ideological zealot.
But, thanks to you, 71 percent of the nation's 15,000 school districts have reduced the amount of instruction in history, social studies, and other non-tested subjects. Mercifully, our already over-burdened children won't have to think about issues like Truth vs. truth vs. evidence vs. belief. They have too many other important things to think about, like who is going to win American Idol and whether or not Tom Cruise is gay.

I heard some commie liberal quip recently, "Facts, like history, belong to the conquerors." I'm not sure what he meant, but it sounded a lot like the usual liberal whining we are so tired of.

Thank you for your service to our country.

Best wishes,
Peter Campbell

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