Category Archives: Research

Posts based on research.


Policy reforms ‘demoralizing’ teaching profession, scholar argues

A provocative new article in the American Journal of Education argues that many teachers in the age of rigid curricula, high-stakes testing, and reduced classroom autonomy are finding it difficult to access the “moral rewards” of their profession. This demoralization of teaching threatens to drive away even the most passionate and dedicated of teachers.

“The moral rewards of teaching are activated when educators feel that they are doing what is right in terms of one’s students, the teaching profession, and themselves,” writes Doris Santoro, a professor of education at Bowdoin College. But, she argues, current policy reforms often take away a teacher’s ability to be responsive to students’ needs, and blunt the sense that a teacher is doing what is right for students. This in turn leads to feelings of frustration and hopelessness that are too often misdiagnosed as “teacher burnout.”

“However, the burnout explanation fails to account for situations where the conditions of teaching change so dramatically that moral rewards, previously available in ever-challenging work, are now inaccessible,” Santoro writes. “In this instance, the phenomenon is better termed demoralization.”

To illustrate her point, Santoro describes the experience of Stephanie, a teacher Santoro interviewed in 2008 for a project on why once-passionate teachers decide to leave the profession. Continue reading


Ideas for Real Reform


Recent advancements in brain research, cognitive psychology and other cognitive sciences have created a new climate for understanding intelligence and learning. Theories of cognitive modifiability, multiple intelligences, and constructivism emphasize the uniqueness of each brain and its ability to grow connections throughout one’s lifetime. The people who support the model currently in vogue, standards-based learning, are oblivious to this momentous research and base their programs on a prescribed set of outcomes that all students are expected to master, in sequence, by a particular time.

Of course schools have historically been designed to teach specific learning thought to be of value to society. These included information, skills and processes that became both more specific and abstract as the students grew older. Interest, aptitude and parent prodding were among the forces that moved individual students along particular paths as they advanced through the various grades and stages of scholarship. Children either learned, or didn’t learn, to manage their own learning. Few, if any, were taught to do this and serendipity seems to have played a major role for those who actually found a way to set their own path through the land mines of academia.

Surviving in the modern world requires individuals to understand what they need to know to navigate successfully the domains of family, work and society in general. Further, they need to apply this knowledge in appropriate circumstances and be able to adjust the process if the first approach is not successful. It is argued here that current research shows that it is both possible for an individual to improve what we commonly call intelligence and for the individual to learn the skills needed to manage such improvement.

The following sections present three different models of programs that provide alternatives to the drill, test, punish model for instruction that dominates school programs in the U.S. today. These are just three examples of the many models that have been developed using current brain research and learning theory as a foundation for program design.
Continue reading


The Black-White Achievement Gap Revisited

The evidence continues to mount regarding the atrocities that have been foisted on the children of America in the name of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  Researchers at Boston College studied trends in student achievement for ten states during the period 2000-2007, the period following introduction of NCLB and reported their results in “The Black-White Achievement Gap Revisited.”  Our leaders continue to ignore the findings of studies such as this one and push our schools to narrow the curriculum in a mindless race to nowhere. Read the abstract of the study here.


Deborah Meier and Dianne Ravitch Blogs

Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch are two of our favorite education writers and activists so we were pleased to receive the following from Monty Neill:

Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch share the invaluable blog, Bridging Differences (see Diane’s most recent post supporting the valuable report from 10 national civil rights groups calling on Obama-Duncan to change course in their education efforts: Click here to see Bridging Differences .

Deb also has her own blog: Click here. The Sept column traces back test score misuse, inflation and political gamesmanship going back to 1981. She reminds us that the state test scores in NYC are now what they were when Bloomberg took office – the conformatory evidence of which only came out (natch) after he won re-election, tho many knowledgeable observers already knew this. As NAEP tells us, like the nation as a whole, most big cities are not making meaningful gains on independent reading and math tests (never mind anything else) despite huge pressure to boost just those scores – narrowing curriculum, teaching to the test, longer school days/years (summer school) focusing on more test prep, etc. In short, focusing on testing has done something between being unhelpful and being actively destructive – the balance probably depending a lot on where you are, with the most damage typically falling on the most vulnerable.

Monty Neill, Ed.D.; Interim Executive Director, FairTest


What is Happening to Recess and PE in Kennewick?

Do you know what is happening to recess  and physical education (PE) in Kennewick elementary schools?  Do all children get recess?  Do any of them get recess and PE?  Do only “selected” children get recess and/or PE?  Can you fill us in about what is happening at your school?  Just click on “comment” and let us know.


Problems with the use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers

Follow the links to one of the most important education policy briefs you will read this year.  Teacher Kenneth Bernstein discusses some of the important conclusions of the Economic Policy Institute brief.  At a time when the Dept. of Education is pushing to tie teacher evaluation and compensation to student test scores, this Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper (whose title is the same as this diary, and which is a pdf), pulls together the extensive relevant research that demonstrates the dangers of pursuing such a path.

To read the teacherken blog, click here.


Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup Survey of Americans

We participate in a group dedicated to detecting and reporting education disinformation (EDDRA2) and link to FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.  Each of these sources provide us with links to current information on national education policy.  Here is the latest on what citizens actually believe about the public schools, not the spin that we usually read in the media where we are led to the conclusion that the schools stink and must be “reformed” to save them.

The 2010 installment of the annual Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup survey of Americans shows widespread and growing public opposition to the primary tenets of the Administration’s education agenda. Barely one in five respondents said that “No Child Left Behind” is helping schools in their communities. In addition, a majority opposes closing or restructuring schools with low test scores, instead favoring “Keep the school open with existing teachers and principal and provide comprehensive outside support.”

Once again this new data shows that support for the test-and-punish “status quo” is largely confined to the inside-the-Beltway think tank crowd, a handful of mega-funders (e.g. Gates and Broad), and the politicians who are in their thrall. Grassroots activists should use the PDK/Gallup data to press their U.S. Senators and Representatives to overhaul federal education policy during the current Congressional recess which continues until mid-September.

The PDK/Gallup poll data and analysis are available free online at

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
ph- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
cell- (239) 699-0468

Monty Neill, Ed.D.; Interim Executive Director, FairTest; 15 Court Sq., Ste. 820; Boston, MA 02108; 857-350-8207 x 101; fax 857-350-8209;;; Donate to FairTest: