Saturday, September 25, 2010

"Take Two and Call Me in the Morning" Education

In order to meet the standards imposed by No Child Left Behind, many school districts have moved to standardizing teaching practice. In an effort to "teacher proof" our schools, the push to make sure everyone is teaching on the same page in the same book at the same time has become a part of teacher evaluation. The idea is to make sure every child is treated the same and given the same opportunities to learn. It sounds fine on the surface, but take a peak just under this rug and you'll see the mess it covers up.

"Because all students are receiving the same information when taught with a prescribed curriculum, they should all be equally well prepared for the end of the year standardized test. Prescribed curricula also frees up some time and takes the burden of planning away from the teacher. Free of this added responsibility, teachers should be able to devote more time to grading papers or working one-on-one with students. Financially, a standardized curriculum is a good choice because it allows districts to buy and use one type of text book instead of continually replacing curriculum material or buying material to suit a particular teacher's desire."
Read more: Pros & Cons of Teaching a Prescribed Curriculum | 
 This push to standardize teaching by offering a prescriptive curriculum ignores some core elements of teaching:

  • Children are not the same. They have different learning needs and an effective teacher knows how to differentiate the curriculum to meet those needs.
  • Schools are not the same. The population served in any one school can be demographically and significantly different than the school next to it. Ignoring these differences is one reason there is an achievement gap.
  • Teachers are not the same. Research has shown that teachers are the greatest element to student learning than any other factor. More experienced teachers have more confidence and often improve student learning WITHOUT teaching to test.
A teacher that cares can make the difference.

Standard of care in medicine means "A diagnostic and treatment process that a clinician should follow for a certain type of patient, illness, or clinical circumstance." Illnesses have standard definitions, diagnoses, and treatment. 

We cannot claim a standard of care in education.

Our children are not sick. They don't come with standard definitions; there are no standard diagnoses, and there are no standard treatments.

Thank goodness!

We've tried to standardize our education. It hasn't worked. We create "plans" for students who are not keeping up with their peers. But they do not hold the power or the promise of the physician's script. 

Education is more like holistic medicine - taking into account the whole person. One prescription does not fit all.

Some believe we should just be able to say "Take two every four hours and call me in the morning." It's not that simple. And wouldn't you want your child to receive more attention than that?