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Updated: January 2, 2014 6:02AM
Ask the right questions
There are three basic questions that need to be answered relative to improving education in our schools. However, current discussion in Indiana, as well as nationally, is substantially only focusing on the first two. Ignoring the third is the result of either ignorance about teaching and learning, or a purposeful design to distract the public from the real reason why 20 percent to 25 percent of students across the country are not at grade level.
The first question is “What are all students supposed to learn?” This current, high profile question is about curriculum.
The second question is “How do we know whether students have learned?” This question is about assessment. Attempts to answer it are structured around the quality of State tests, and even more controversially, over the student, teacher and school grading systems for which they are being used.
The third question, the most important but least addressed, is “What do we do if students haven’t learned?” Attempts to answer it have been structured around the superficial and placating answers of school choice and vouchers. This says, “if students aren’t learning in your school, then go find another one. And, by the way, we wish you luck in finding one that can be more successful, and then more luck in getting accepted into it.”
“School Reform” efforts that try to provide answers only to the first two questions will never lead to reducing the number of students below grade level. Simply raising standards and giving more tests, no matter how good they are, will only result, at best, in identifying those who are behind and those who are falling even further behind.
The real crux of school reform is how to intervene in all schools when students aren’t learning.
Perhaps there is a fourth question. Do our governments have a responsibility to provide for the educational common good of all students, or only for those whose parents want to search for schools of their choice?