Monday, January 26, 2015

Capstone Educator and Concerns

I got my new Capstone Educator, publication of the University of Alabama College of Education, my alma mater, and was introduced to new faculty members and the new goals of the College of Education. The title Passion Changes Everything: the next generation of faculty, gives kudos to the eduspeak of the apparent new guru (Music Man) of education, Sir Ken Robinson ( Has the Music Man's think system become simply passion? You don't just have to think positive thoughts, you must be passionate about them! 

This new slew of professors will now be demonstrating and  training aspiring teachers how NOT to teach directly.  "The professor can no longer be the 'sage on the stage," the author writes. Today's teacher must be a "guide on the side" -- and with passion! 

It looks as if we are now embarking upon a new brand of old education gimmicks. We've been here before with Outcome Based Education, Whole Language, etc.  This gimmick will simply be more of the same with expensive high tech devices that become obsolete within a year. The author tells that "Today the classroom is necessarily more dynamic and more conversational than in the past and is inevitably linked to online resources."

I wonder just how experienced and successful these fresh faced new professors are in the classroom as measured by what parents expect schools and teachers to do -- or have they merely mastered the psychobabble necessary for acquiring a PH.D. in Education. Did they become disillusioned in the classroom and decide to move on to higher education? Or have they actually spent any time in the classroom?

It was sequential learning and direct instruction that got us to the moon. Then Ken Goodman in 1967 published "Reading: a Psycholinguistic Guessing Game," revolutionized reading instruction and brought teachers out for professional hootenannies in support of the liberation of the classroom and teachers. Sequential learning and direct instruction has now been pushed further down the trash bin in colleges of education and extremely high illiteracy rates (the basic reason businesses complain that that they cannot find competent employees) continue.

When researching those school systems that scored best in my most basic determination of a successful school system -- reading scores -- those schools closest to colleges and universities scored lowest. The reason could be because those children closest to the universities are the most likely candidates for experimental programs of those scholar faculty members that we are told must be "more widely published than those who walked in their shoes a generation ago" and that "... Their work must meet the highest standard of rigor- represented in frequent and consistent publication in nationally recognized referred journals."

Well, now, that gives me as a parent and teacher the willies. That's all we need. More experimental programs and people looking to make a reputation through such "scholarship" using our children as guinea pigs!

I actually saw this in action with Block Scheduling (Four Period Day) in my hometown of Dothan, Alabama. An administrator with her eye on a Ph. D. used our children as her subjects for a study on how Math education was impacted by the Four Period Day. She ignored the research out of Canada, refused to give it to the parents in town, used our kids as the subjects of her study, got her Ph. D. and a Superintendents position. Then she and others in the administration published in journals and were lauded by their profession for their innovations. The kids got the shaft on their education and our education dollars were wasted promoting the Four Period Day (glossy brochures and teachers taken out of the classroom) throughout the area even though our schools were new to the methodology with no objective data (standardized tests) to validate its use. It didn't take long to find out what a boondoggle that was. Parents paying for the Advanced Placement tests discovered lower scores and because of their influence, it is no longer used. But it showed me how important it is to administrators and professors to make a name for themselves rather than actually find what works best to truly EDUCATE children (in the traditional sense).

This quotation from the article may give us insight into the direction of one professor: "... He is interested in developing translational learning and design theories grounded in empirical studies forming computational tools for learning based on these theories and conducting investigations on STEM learning and cognition both through experimental designs and design based research in authentic contexts." (Say what...?)

According to author, historian of education, educational policy analyst, and research professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, Diane Ravitch, OBE reforms (something I fought in the nineties) usually had other disputed methods, such as constructivist mathematics and whole language, added onto them. So, when I read that the teaching methods for the new professor of Social Science (used to be History) Education "are strongly based on constructivist pedagogy" and the new professor of Elementary Literacy Education wants to examine "culturally relevant literacy instruction in elementary classrooms" my heart starts to pound a warning. With no more community watchdogs who determines cultural relevance?

Once, in my naivety, I thought the education profession to be pure, truly based on replicable research, meant to prepare children to read, write and compute -- untainted by politics. And then I discovered the huge number of illiterate students in my secondary classroom and set out to find out why. I now believe the source of America's academic decline can be traced directly to America's colleges of education.

I thank God my youngest grandchildren are in private Christian schools using tried and true methods to teach sequentially, intensively, directly and early those basic skills we KNOW are foundational to success.