The Public Education System is a Mess

Wherever the public school system has its successes, and there are many, after all, millions of kids and adults are in that system, it is in spite of the system, not because of it. It is because of good, hard working, innovative teachers bucking the system in small ways and large, humanizing it, using their brains. It’s because of smart, hard working kids and their parents. IT’s not because of the Institution itself.

Learning Myths You Probably Believe, says PBS. It’s a quiz. I missed one. I am a little disgruntled about that one because I did not like any of the multiple choice options they offered as possible answers. When the answers were revealed, there was some additional information that would have clarified their meaning and I would have chosen it. I have to admit, though, that I know a fellow Charlotte Mason educator who got all of them right, so it’s probably just me.

I like the quiz. I like the information they give. But then they get irritating and demonstrate why they don’t deserve public funding. Note how they switch in the second half from talking about how we really learn to criticizing parents and pushing the teachers’ union agenda- parents, butt out, you don’t know enough to question the experts, hahaha.  Notice the utterly unproven assumption there?  Did any public school teachers take this quiz? Do public school teachers do any better on this test?  I really doubt it.

In fact, the article itself contains information which makes it clear that it is among professional educators themselves that one of these myths is *not* widely known to be a myth- about the idea of learning styles (visual, auditory, yada yada):

Even the U.S. Department of Education sent out an email just this week encouraging teachers to “make [their] own call on how to utilize learning styles in the classroom.” One major recent review of research, among many others, stated that the authors “found virtually no evidence” for the idea.

Why is the Department of Education trying to get teachers to make their own call on this and admitting there is no evidence if teachers already are well informed about this?  How much do you care to bet that we can find some previous missives from the Department of Education promoting this pernicious, evidence free myth?Via ERIC (online library of education research and information, sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education):

And that’s just the first category of results. People got this notion of learning styles in the first place from educational ‘experts.’

I’m pretty sure these teachers do not know the above items are all myths.  There’s an awful lot, in fact, that they do not know:

New York education officials are poised to scrap a test designed to measure the reading and writing skills of people trying to become teachers, in part because an outsized percentage of black and Hispanic candidates were failing it.

There are so many things to criticize about this whole story.  It’s horrible.  It’s so bad I don’t even know here to begin, so let’s just pick anywhere.

For one thing, ONLY 64% of the white teachers were passing!  That’s outrageous.  If less than 100% of your teacher wannabes in ANY demographic can pass a literacy test, you need to rething both the test and the teachers.

The only reason to rethink the test is to make sure it is a reasonable test for literacy.  I mean, if it’s written by people who cannot pass it, ditch the test and find another one. But you do not ditch it because the wrong colour people cannot pass it- you examine the test itself.  If you’ve looked at the test and you’ve ascertained that it’s a test any basically literate American should be able to pass, then acknowledge that the people taking it have no business being paid by taxdollars to teach children anything.  Do something about the people being failed already by the system we have- give them remedial reading lessons, insist on them bringing their reading skills up to par (and that includes the 63 percenters, that ought to be a humiliating score).

There is a lot of criticism of the test itself and that’s fine.  For all I know it’s a howling exercise in the sort of stupidity we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in tests of this sort (remember the poet who couldn’t figure out the answer to test questions on her own poem?)  You still have the issue that minorities are scoring in the 40s while white are scoring in the mid sixties which is nothing for anybody to be proud of.

Those wanting to ditch the test say that anyway, it doesn’t really tell us anything about who will succeed in the classroom.  Look, teaching is a dirty, hard, thankless job and I don’t want it.  I really admire people who can do it well.  I don’t know anybody who can do it well who cannot also read.

And, um, from that NPR story: “More than 40 percent of respondents believed that teachers don’t need to know a subject area such as math or science, as long as they have good instructional skills. In fact, research shows that deep subject matter expertise is a key element in helping teachers excel.”

Reading is required for subject matter expertise.

Probably, all these poor would-be teachers (and I actually mean that with sincere sympathy, I am bitterly sorry for what has been done to them) were taught with these methods.  You really need to read it all.  In fact, bookmark it and go back and read it again and read the links as well.

My husband was given a classroom at school that already had a bulletin board completed and books on the shelves.  The bulletin board is a visual walk through of what to do when you do not understand a text.  He hates it.  He left it up because he’s busy with his kids, but he will be replacing it over the summer.  Meanwhile, that bulletin board looks like somebody read the above article as a ‘how to’ manual instead of a horrible warning of what not to do.

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  1. Cat
    Posted March 27, 2017 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    I am a teacher. I am an academic interventionist (reading and math) in elementary school. I work with students who are struggling, and if they do not respond well with my extra support, they are evaluated for special education services. This is a “late” career for me, so my time in grad school was not so long ago. (My undergrad degree is in English lit and my masters is in teaching, with a reading endorsement.) In no particular order: 1) The tests I had to pass for certification in my state were too easy. 2) I don’t think colleges should offer a bachelors degree in teaching because I think teachers should accomplish significant studies in a liberal arts content area (English, history, etc) first, even for teachers at the elementary level. Teaching certification should be a specialization–a certificate program or a masters program on top of a bachelors degree 3) I passed the test at your link —100%– because in grad school we did study metacognition, we did learn that “learning styles” is not really a thing, nor right brain v left brain dominance. In our school district, teachers have been studying growth mindset because this is a relatively new thing. I wonder how much of what we are learning will be debunked eventually, and when it is debunked, how many people will persist in holding onto so many of our “favorite” ideas (as has happened with learning styles). 4) It needs to be hard to become a teacher, and families should have high expectations of them. Teachers should be paid well for their expertise. 5) If you think the system is broken, advocate for improving it, not for tearing it down. If you underfund it, it will underperform, and if it underperforms, you will use that underperformance as reason to underfund it even more. 5) I don’t know of any school that teaches reading using whole word instruction. Maybe there are some districts out there, but I doubt it. I gotta go–

    • Headmistress
      Posted March 28, 2017 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for your comments. My husband is also a teacher. He got his Master’s in special ed just a few years ago.

      He says he has talked to many teachers about his struggling students and asked them why the children don’t know any phonics and it turns out that the teachers do not know phonics either. They don’t call it whole word instruction, but that’s what they are doing.

  2. Cat
    Posted April 3, 2017 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I did want to add that the Common Core standards for foundational reading skills are phonics based, so this is surely what is being taught in teacher prep coursework across the country now. I generally like Common Core, but I have a real beef with what is expected of children in kindergarten.

    Incidentally, I got lost in a fascinating rabbit hole researching the author of the piece linked in your second-to-last paragraph. His site is:

    • Headmistress
      Posted April 4, 2017 at 12:45 am | Permalink

      My husband just got his Masters in special education three years ago. Phonics based education is not what is being taught. He is constantly butting heads with teachers who have no idea what it is. I ran into this several years ago when educationists kept saying they were using phonics, but actually, what they were teaching was not phonics.

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