Monday, February 11, 2013

A retiring teacher warns colleges about the failure of "No Child Left Behind"


I saw an op-ed, “A warning to college profs from a high school teacher” at The Washington Post today deserves a reading, link here. The column is called "The Answer Sheet" (maybe a Scanlon).  

The piece is written by a retiring high school government teacher. 

The essay is very critical of the mentality that the federal government (aka Bush administration) imposed on schools with “No Child Left Behind”, particularly with the emphasis on multiple-choice tests, and even the grading rubric for “free response” questions.
  
The teacher argues that NCLB has seriously undermined student learning in AP (and IB) programs. 
  
I noticed, when I was substitute teaching (2004-2007) that even in mathematics tests there was way too much use of multiple choice tests.  There was an obsession with "doomsday" prepping students for the SOL's (Standards of Living, as they are called in Virginia).  Why shouldn’t students write out the solution to an algebra problem (say, simplifying or factoring) rather than choose among answers.  Some skills (like solving word problems in algebra or even calculus and physics) will not be developed properly until students write out responses without hints or prompting by answer choices.
   
I have personally noticed that students who perform in extracurricular activities (like drama, or music), particularly individually sometimes, seem to develop independent thinking and “cognitive maturity” (seeing around corners, as Dr. Phil says, and the ability to see context and relevance) much more rapidly – boys and girls alike.  Sometimes these opportunities are outside school.  For example, students who attend a faith-based activity in almost any denomination or creed (conservative or liberal) and participate in youth programs often have more of these opportunities and seem to develop intellectual and social maturity much more quickly.  Other activities, like learning and playing chess, may add to intellectual development. I notice this all the time. 
  
The Cato Institute refers to “No Child Left Behind” as “A Decade of Failure”, here.

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