Friday, September 23, 2011

Wondering - why is it that education is suddenly "Failing"?

by David Andrade

I keep wondering about this. Supposedly, public education in America is "failing". I don't understand how. We have changed how we do things in our classrooms and have all these online resources. Students can access information and help resources from their phones. So why are we "failing?"

When I was in high school, we sat in a chair and took notes. We talked about books in English, studied historical events, did labs in science, and did tons of problems in math. We learned and we went off to college and did well. We had almost no support programs in the building.

Now, as teachers, we differentiate, do projects, have students doing online enrichment work, have social workers, psychologists, tutoring and mentoring programs. Yet, students are apparently failing.

We have "improved" education, yet we are "failing". I don't get it. We do all this "reform" yet nothing is changing.

Of course, it could have something to do with the method of evaluating education being a mostly invalid, standardized test where even students who don't speak English have to take it. It could have something to do with more and more students having less parenting at home due to single parents, absentee parents, or parents working multiple jobs. It could have something to do with students not getting read to and starting to read later in life. It could have to do with the test being completely useless. It could have to do with professional educators being left out of decisions and planning for educational issues.

It just boggles my mind how we have some many support systems, great teachers, incredible lessons and resources, and yet we are "failing."

Can anyone explain it?

-- David Andrade, 


  1. The thing we're failing at is getting out of the way when someone needs to point a finger at a scape goat. Education isn't failing. Teachers aren't failing. Heck, the kids aren't failing. Society is failing.

  2. It seems that the respect for teachers has decreased over the years. More parents are conveying this lack of respect to their children, too. When the children don't have respect for their teachers, they don't respect the value of an education, either. How do you teach a child who places no value on learning?

  3. When 30% of kids do not graduate HS, when 40% of kids in college aren't prepared to do college level work, when 50% of kids who start higher education do not finish, then something is wrong.

    But yes, we are testing the wrong things. The biggest influence on a kid's success is the home environment, not the teacher.

    It also has to do with the fact that the rest of the world has caught up, and that the goal posts have changed.

    I've tried to recap one aspect here:

  4. I think part of it is that education has taken on too much. You're not learning social skills at home? That's okay, we'll teach that at school. Don't have time or ability to go the dentist? That's okay, the dentist will see you at school. Don't eat breakfast before coming to school? No problem, we'll provide it for you. There's no one home when you get off the bus? Okay, you can stay at school until there is.

    While I believe in children having access to all of these things I also think that we have been a part of this failure that research says stems from the home life. In some ways we have enabled parents to not parent and have usurped their ability to do so by taking over many of their responsibilities. Would you respect someone who for the last 20ish years has even loudly sending the message go you that you are incapable of doing your job - parent?

    I'm not saying that it's right or that I agree with it, but there may be more to the big picture than what we are hearing.

  5. I started teaching to make a difference - and I do, but only 2 or 3 students a year. Is it unreasonable for me to expect to make a bigger impact when they keep crowding my classroom? I don't know.

  6. -Crap wages
    -Crap conditions
    -Crap coworkers (as in, largely mediocre/incompetent)
    -Crap "prestige" (profession not respected by society)

    Any rationa, high-achieving adult who has bills to pay and wants to go on vacation from time to time will either leave teaching after a short while or never go into it in the first place.

    Yeah, maybe there are some fancy new methodologies out there, but if your classrooms are largely staffed by mediocre (if well-meaning) people, the result will be mediocrity (at best).

    If you're a smart, capable, high-achieving kind of person, teaching is not a rational decision. (I left teaching after two years for a job that paid 75% more.)

    If you're not, teaching is a very rational decision (easy to get in to ed schools, many jobs, low standards, very difficult to lose your job).

    Pay teachers more (a lot more), and *simultaneously* hold them to high standards. Pressure ed schools to raise their standards as well. Becoming a teacher should be at least as difficult (and as rewarding) as becoming a doctor.

  7. I keep thinking, "Welcome to the last days of Rome" when being told that teachers are overpaid, under worked and not dedicated to the learning of the students they have in front of them. I as Ricochet stated, teaching is not a logical decision when there are other careers that are less derided, pay more and are at least a "bit" less stressful. I could earn about triple what I make as a teacher if I went back into the business world and worked in IT like I could. However, I want to help kids, even if that means that I have a high stress job where I do the work of 3 people, and can not afford some of the better things in life that I would like. I am a professional who tried to do better every day, because my calling is to help kids by teaching kids and making sure they know that there are people out there who care.

  8. walking here with a smile. take care.. have a nice day ~ =D

    Regards, (A Growing Teenager Diary) ..

  9. At what point are we doing too much? Perhaps all of those interventions and resources, technology and the infinite internet are getting in the way of education. What if the old pen and pencil is better for some kids learning and we are cramming them with so much that they are not learning? Just tonight I had a conversation with a student in my youth group. He is in a high school that just this year handed out iPads to all students. Just a few weeks in and tonight he is telling me he is sick of it already. He says it is cool to have but that is all they use and he gets headaches from looking at it all day. Math he said they take notes on it, assignments on it, homework and even grade their homework electronically on it. So perhaps it is not the subjects, but the medium. We are so focused on new technologies and new ways of teaching that we are not teaching as well. Maybe we tried to fix what wasn't broken when just tweaking it would have sufficed. Teachers, please don't take my words as an attack, I myself am a teacher so I am right in there with you. I'm just hypothesizing that maybe we are going too far when the testing does not require it.

  10. I think the behavior economist would say it is because we have more choices, or aware of more options. I was taught in a school that was pretty much exactly like the one my kids are taught in. Back when I was getting taught, nobody was aware of any other option(s)...sounds silly, but true. Now people are aware that what we are doing doesn't have to be done. There are options.

    Kind of like how you really find problems in your house after visiting someone else's home that has "better" options.


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