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
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.
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 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
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.
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.