Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Teacher Reads

Ben's away for the next three nights (which means I won't post this until he's back -- I'm not super private on this blog, but I will never tell the world when I'm home alone!). You would think this would motivate me to get some "office" work done. But nope, I followed my usual habit of laying in bed and reading interesting articles I found on-line.

Tonight's theme was: Education.

I spent a lot of time over at NAEYC's (National Association for the Education of Young Children) website. I was digging through peer reviewed and published journal articles and official statements on everything from Common Core to best practices (to summarize what I found: they are vague (aka politically safe) about their support of Common Core, but they are direct in saying challenging and rigorous standard based education is best -- totally agree!).

Then, just before bed I came across a summary of a new book I'd like to read: 50 Myths and Lies that Threaten America's Public Schools. 

The author interview I read highlighted the effects poverty has on Education. The author mentions that when you compare all public school students in the US to students in other nations, we look like we have second rate schools. But (a truth I've known for years and years) this is because international tests compare ALL American children with only the richest and most privileged children in many other nations. The same could be said of public school vs private school testing data. When comparing results we compare ALL public school children with the selective private school population. But when you compare students from the same socioeconomic and racial backgrounds, public school students actually outperform their private school peers. That bears repeating. When comparing apples to apples, public school students fair better than private school students.

Addressing poverty, the book points out the most accurate way to look at American schools is to say "some of our schools are not doing well, and almost all of these are schools where poverty is endemic.

This kind of blows my mind. Mostly because I know it to be true, but I have never put it into such simple words. But also because I imagine an America where this realization is the force with which we handle school reform. Imagine how greatly our reforms would change if we simply recognized that many public schools are doing awesome and the real problem was poverty? Wow! One fact that should motivate us to take this approach is the realization that if America had the same low poverty rates as Finland, we'd be competing with them for first place. The problem isn't our Education system, the problem is poverty. And here's a hint, the former can not fix the later.

There were other ideas presented that I hadn't put much thought into. For example, there is no data that proves school uniforms improve learning. People trying to sale the uniforms will tell you otherwise, of course. The same could be said of iPads.

There is research to support the need for Humanities. Good economic research, in fact. At age 55, which is the peek earning age, people who work in the Humanities actually out earn people in business.

Research also supports the value of early childhood programs. I thought this was interesting, especially since I am familiar with Finland's system and know that Finnish kids don't start school until age 7. These two pieces of conflicting info led me to some quick independent research and my discovery was profound. It is correct to say Finnish children don't attend formal schooling until age 7, but it is incorrect to assume this means there is no preschool. Ninety-seven percent of Finnish children between the age of 3-6 are enrolled in some type of daycare program (anything from full time daycare to twice a week preschool). Those daycare centers have their own set of standards and rigor that create quite a rich early childhood experience. All employees are required to have at least a Bachelor's degree in early childhood development. Can you imagine, if all US daycare providers had degrees in early childhood development? Not even all of our classroom aids meet that requirement.

I really need to check the book out from the library. I can already tell some of the research and rebuttal will have me cheering while other sections will help me learn new facts and possibly even break down some myths I hold myself.

No matter how many years at home remove me from my career, I will always be an Educator at heart. 

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