Monday, May 25, 2020

The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don't Teach the New Survival Skills our Children Need - and What We Can Do About it

Tony Wagner became disillusioned with the education system after spending time working as a teacher and administrator. In Global Achievement Gap, he identifies the problem with the education system and proposes solutions. He levels significant criticism at the "testing system." High stakes tests that are required for graduation have encouraged teachers to teach towards the test. Alas, the tests are created in a way that makes them easy to grade. This results in kids spending time learning facts rather than how to think. AP classes are also geared towards the test, with students required to memorize a great breadth of material rather then truly understand it. The importance of SAT and ACT tests also creates significant problems.
Testing is just one of the problems teachers face. There are many attempts at "education reform" that appear. Teachers are often presented with the "improvements of the day." The application of these new ideas takes time, but rarely sticks. Teachers become accustomed to going through the motions, knowing that these ideas will fade in a while. There are also "standardized curriculums" such as those in Now Child Left Behind. Teachers become "drones" instead of educators.
Teachers also receive minimal feedback. Administrators are overworked with responsibilities. Evaluations are perfunctory. Rather than look at learning experience, the evaluation focuses on completing a few "required actions." Even when outcomes are taken into account, the outcomes are based on "testing" rather than on actual learning.
What can be done? The author did have good things about the IB curriculum. This includes more detailed writing experiences and discussions on the theory of knowledge. Teachers also need greater feedback in their work. Instead of being isolated in the classroom, teachers should have more opportunity to work with other teachers and learn how to improve their teaching. Teaching itself should focus on students learning rather than recall. Writing and expressing thoughts should be stressed rather than recalling knowledge. Creativity is also important. Learning should also take into account the real world and students' desires for learning. The changes would make it more difficult to provide "standardized evaluation." However, it would result in students really learning rather than "going through the education system."

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