Monday, November 22, 2010

Tom Friedman Is Silly

Tom Friedman blames America's supposed educational failures on poor teaching.  He quotes Arne Duncan:
"75 percent of young Americans, between the ages of 17 to 24, are unable to enlist in the military today because they have failed to graduate from high school, have a criminal record, or are physically unfit."
He points to a Harvard education expert's ideas on what quality education looks like:
"There are three basic skills that students need if they want to thrive in a knowledge economy: the ability to do critical thinking and problem-solving; the ability to communicate effectively; and the ability to collaborate.  If you look at the countries leading the pack in the tests that measure these skills (like Finland and Denmark), one thing stands out: they insist that their teachers come from the top one-third of their college graduating classes."
His ultimate conclusion is that we're not hiring the best and brightest, and we're not holding teachers accountable, rewarding top-performers.

OK, I'll be brief.  If kids are dropping out of school it isn't teachers' fault.  The problem is a bit more serious than that.  And it isn't because they aren't learning problem-solving, critical thinking skills, communication and collaboration.  Those skills are almost entirely left out of standardized tests, so judging whether or not teachers are teaching those skills is simply not happening.  And since we aren't testing those skills, we can't compare ourselves to countries that supposedly are.

But Tom is actually right: we aren't teaching those skills.  The reason why?  Because they aren't measured on standardized tests from which teachers are supposed to be held accountable, and student achievement is supposed to be measured.  Nice try though.

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