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Education Reformers: Four Key Questions | Ecology of Education

Education Reformers: Four Key Questions

Questions being ignored or inadequately addressed by the current business and industry-driven education reform effort:

1. Market forces in general, and merit pay in particular, are being promoted by leaders of business and industry as keys to improved school performance. In highly effective schools and school systems, educators see themselves as members of a team or family, and act accordingly. Are not, then, competition and merit pay incompatible with the spirit of cooperation essential to productive team performance?

2. We are in a knowledge explosion, insight into how the brain processes information grows almost daily, the rate of social change is accelerating, and the future will surely be more complex and dangerous than any period in history. Is it reasonable to think that the “core curriculum” — the one adopted in 1893 and in near-universal use, the curriculum now being locked in permanent place with national standards — is appropriate and adequate?

3. To avoid job loss and public humiliation, educators must teach to standardized tests. Since the only thing standardized tests can measure with precision is short-term memory, instruction that teaches the young to infer, hypothesize, generalize, synthesize, value, and engage in other “higher order” thought processes has become counterproductive. Is this wise?

4. Sleep deprivation, hunger, hearing and sight problems, test anxiety, absenteeism, job responsibilities, attitude, peer expectations, family stability, language facility, childhood trauma, perceived future prospects, self-image — all these and many other factors affect test scores. Since teachers have no control over most of the variables and individual differences affecting test performance, is it reasonable and fair to assign them major responsibility for that performance?

The state that recognizes these issues and addresses them in imaginative ways will become the focus of worldwide attention.

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Author:Marion Brady

Marion Brady began his career in education in 1952, teaching in a semi-rural high school in northeastern Ohio. Since then he's taught at every level from 6th grade through the university, been a county-level school administrator, publisher consultant, teacher educator, textbook author, contributor to professional journals, author of professional books, writer of instructional materials, visitor to schools across America and abroad, and long-time education columnist for Knight-Ridder/Tribune.