Our Education Crisis – Part 2

 

“I don’t think it’s fair comparing the United States to Finland,” said a retired school teacher who was participating in a discussion about America’s poor showing in the world’s education rankings. Finland is Number 1 in public education in the world, which includes being number one in science and math. The United States in 17 in science and 24 in math.  Some others in the Columbus Academy of Lifelong Learning Wednesday afternoon discussion group at Columbus State University’s Turner Center for Continuing Education agreed. She explained, “Finland is homogeneous whereas the United States heterogeneous; it is made up of a number of cultures.”  That may be true, but Finland is still way ahead.

J-P Kärnä

Helsinki University of Technology auditorium, Helsinki, Finland. (Photo by J-P Kärnä)

Others of the retired teachers were not happy with the reported premise of the documentary Waiting for Superman that the core problem is with the quality of teachers and teaching.  ( The film opened Friday at the Tara Cinema in Atlanta. Hopefully, it will be coming to Columbus soon.)

According to an article in Time, the film is critical of teacher’s unions and others that are reportedly trying to maintain the status quo because that is in the best interest of teachers, but not in the best interest of the students and the country.  Teachers need to be more accountable, we’re told, and those who can’t teach well need to be doing something else.  

Again,  we heard the defense that it is wrong to blame the teachers because America has different cultures.  And, as far as accountability goes,  all of those standardized tests are simply causing teachers to “teach to the test.”  If their careers depend on how well students score on tests, a lot will simply teach to the test.  Cramming information into kids brains right before a test so they can pass the test is not teaching them to learn and to think.  For one thing, the information won’t stick.

Still, how can we know if teachers are effective if standardized tests are not used?  The Chair of the Columbus State University School of Education’s Teacher Education Department, Dr. Deirdre Greer, didn’t say the testing should stop. She maintains students can pass them if they are simply taught their subjects in a way that will enable them to retain the information.  She says teaching to the test is not necessary, but teachers are doing it because of the pressure that’s being put on them. 

Then, there is something else to consider in all of this.  Some believe there is another big problem that is hindering education reform.

More on that later. Stay tuned.

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