On standards: Highlights from readings

Just sharing my highlights from this weeks' readings:

Eisner, E. W. (2001). What Does It Mean to Say a School Is Doing Well? The Phi Delta Kappan, 82 (5), 367-372.

I mention the concept of rationalization because I am trying to describe the ethos being created in our schools. I am trying to reveal a worldview that shapes our conception of education and the direction we take for making our schools better.

Measurement, of course, is one way to describe the world.

Third, the rationalization of practice is predicated on the ability to control and predict. We assume that we can know the specific effects of our interventions, an assumption that is questionable.

Making comparison between the math performance of youngsters in Japan and those in the United States without taking into account cultural differences, different allocations of time for instruction, or different approaches to teaching makes it impossible to account for differences in student performance or to consider the side effects or opportunity costs associated with different programs in different cultures.

Sixth, rationalization relies upon extrinsic incentives to motivate action; that's what vouchers are intended to do. Schools are likened to businesses, and the survival of the fittest is the principle that determines which ones survive. If schools don't produce effective results on tests, they go out of business.

And they constitute an approach to reform that has given us three major educationally feckless reform efforts in the past 20 years.

First, one of the consequences of our approach to reform is that the curriculum gets narrowed as school district policies make it clear that what is to be tested is what is to be taught

The function of schooling is not to enable students to do better in school. The function of schooling is to enable students to do better in life.

The practice of conversation is a lost art.

… the deepest problems of schooling have to do with teacher isolation

It promotes an orientation to practice that emphasizes extrinsically defined attainment targets that have a specified quantitative value. This, in turn, leads students to want to know just what it is they need to do to earn a particular grade.

Educationally useful evaluation takes time, it’s labor intensive and complex, and it’s subtle, particularly if evaluation is used not simply to score children or adults but to provide information to improve the process of teaching and learning.

It was individuality that Dewey was emphasizing, and it is the description of individuality we would do well to think about in our assessment practices.

What have been the consequences of - the rationalized approach to education reform that we have embraced? Only this: in our desire to improve our schools, education has become a casualty. That is, in the process of rationalization, education always a delicate, complex, and subtle process having to do with both cultural transmission and self-actualization has become a commodity. Education has evolved from a form of human development serving personal and civic needs into a product our nation produces to compete in a global economy. Schools have become places to mass produce this product.

The most significant intellectual achievement is not so much in problem solving, but in question posing.

Do you know what's the biggest problem that Stanford students have in the course of their doctoral work? It is not getting good grades in courses; they all get good grades in courses. Their biggest obstacle is in framing a dissertation problem.

To be able to secure any of those meanings, you have to know how to "read" them. Seeing is a reading. Hearing is a reading. They are processes of interpreting from the and construing material encountered; is not only a process of decoding, it is also meaning a process of encoding. We make sense of what we read.

To what extent are students given the opportunity to work in depth in domains that relate to their aptitudes?

The center for teacher education is not the university; it is the school in which the teacher works. Professional growth should be promoted during the 25 years that a teacher works in a school - not just during the year and a half that he or she spends in a teacher education program. Do schools that take the professional development of teachers seriously?

We need to ask better questions.

Children become more different as they get older, and we ought to be promoting those differences and at the same time working to escalate the mean.

What I have argued here is intended to divert our focus away from what we normally use to make judgments about the quality of schools and redirect it instead toward the processes, conditions, and culture that are closer to the heart of education. I am unabashedly endorsing the promotion of improvisation, surprise, and diversity of outcomes as educational virtues that we ought to try to realize through our teaching.

Joseph, P. et al. (2011). Chapter 3: “Narrowing the curriculum,” Cultures of curriculum (2nd edition). New York: Routledge, 55-77.

Completely lost within this climate is the ethical question: What should the educated person become?

Instead we hear teachers, administrators, and parents speak of curriculum as an object devoid of substantive ethical concerns. We often hear teachers refer to curriculum as a commodity...

… covert curriculum practiced behind closed doors.

They do not refer to curriculum as an object or commodity but understand curriculum as a process of creating a rich and meaningful course of study that integrates their knowledge of pedagogy, scholarship in the academic disciplines, educational research, and learners’ and families’ needs and interests.

We believe that it is possible to reconceive education and to bring about the transformation of classrooms and schools.

Furthermore, the de facto curriculum for many teachers has been encyclopedic textbooks which have fueled pressures to cover an ambitiously broad and thin curricular content and not to help students deeply construct knowledge (Windschitl, 2002).

… brought business-oriented management techniques to school systems and also to curriculum...

The underlying rationale of most recent reforms--to use schooling as an instrument of international economic competitiveness--is not new, but its dominance in policy talk is unprecedented. (Tyack & Cuban, 1995, p. 136)

NCLB tremendously extended the power of the federal government to influence public schools across all the states and gained support across the political spectrum, despite conservatives’ earlier objections to federal intrusion in education.

But the foremost barriers to progressive curriculum lie not just in the forces for and dominance of conventional curriculum but in the embedded assumptions that support it. In particular, a great hindrance to curriculum transformation is unquestioned acceptance of certainties about schooling and learners--even these convictions cannot be support by substantive educational research or may contradict each other.

… economic and technological trends are immutable and essentially uncontrollable.

Learning, therefore, is for the purpose of getting ahead--or not falling behind--and young people are trained to play the game of life; they are education to know the world as it is, not to improve it or even to deeply understand it.

US ethos of individualism

Such circumstances increasingly pressure teachers to think about themselves as technicians rather than educators.

Taubman, 2009, p. 194

… The ‘deskilled’ teacher is required to teach with little consciousness or conscience about the fundamental values that he or she is trying to initiate in the classroom. (Purpel & Shapiro, 1995, p. 109)

… it is assumed that teachers cannot be trusted to develop curriculum (or to co-create it with their students) and it is not necessary to give them time to reflect upon, deliberate, or create curriculum.

“racing to the top”

“as existential encounter, as an endeavor whose results are impossible to predict” (Taubman, 2009, p. 124



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