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College instructor responds to school district's Core Curriculum commentary

Published: Monday, Nov. 11, 2013 11:46 a.m. CST

Let’s talk about those “research-based” claims by public school educators.

When concepts were dropped from the curriculum and teacher training programs in the middle-to-late 1950s and early 1960s, student proficiency plummeted to below grade level. Rather than properly research and assess the impact of the changes (which is what countries out-educating us do), the public education sector placed the blame on “defective” students, lowering expectations for them and treating them accordingly. 

“Research-based” work has continued to support this blatant discrimination for educators in two ways: 1) failing to take into account the discrimination students were experiencing by the education system (making the outcome a self-fulfilling prophecy); and 2) failing to consider the impact of a curriculum lacking concepts and teachers not trained to effectively teach concepts. 

Every time you see an education sector response to data showing students not achieving up to grade level, you can count on some reference to “defective” students and backed up by “research-based” reports because that was the presumption of data interpretation when the report was written.

Because of the refusal of public education to change its ways, the national government stepped in with No Child Left Behind, requiring schools to stop discriminating against students, put the concepts back into the curriculum and teacher training programs, and get students up to grade level in 13 years (the life of a k-12 student). 

As we go into our last year of the time for NCLB, 82 percent of the public schools in the country have utterly failed to do as NCLB required.  Enough schools in other states have stopped the discrimination that significant progress has been made in getting those students up to the level of students not being discriminated against, but not up to grade level.

In Iowa only marginal progress has been made in closing the achievement gap because of the stubbornness of public education to stop the discrimination (justified by them as “research-based”).

Using similarly flawed research as a rationale, public schools have completely failed to address the original source of the problem: put concepts back into the curriculum and teacher training programs. Ask your school if they use sight words (memorized words) in their phonics program.

If they do, then they have failed to use the concept of phonics to enable students to employ critical thinking skills in applying good phonics rules to solve their problems with reading and writing. 

Ask your school if they use algorithmic math (and if they do not understand the question then they do). Algorithmic math fails completely in teaching the concepts of properly processing information and considering all factors in an assessment for good critical thinking and problem-solving skills. 

The countries out-educating us use concept-based math (found on the website of the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics), which is why they properly assess their curriculum content and teaching methods if they see a dip in student achievement.

Ask your school for grade level equivalencies of their standardized test scores. According to the Iowa Department of Education, Iowa fourth graders are considered proficient in reading when they achieve at the 4.3 grade level in the spring, eighth graders at the 7.8 grade level in the spring, and 11th graders at the 10.2 grade level in the spring, losing ground while processing through the system due to a lack of concepts in the reading curriculum and teaching methods. 

Iowa fourth graders are considered proficient in math when achieving at the 4.5 grade level in the spring, eighth-graders at the 7.8 grade level in the spring, and 11th graders at the 10.1 grade level in the spring.  If you are a tax-paying member of the district, you have a right to expect your school to provide you with accurate information. They will likely also offer their “research-based” excuse for why they are behind grade level, but feel free to ignore that.

These standards are based on the 41st national percentage, which is behind the grade level national percentage of the 65th national percentile. Iowa has requested to remain at the 41st national percentile standard because they find themselves unable to rise above it, and more schools are being added to the government list of those in need of assistance. 

This request has been refused because of the refusal of Iowa teachers to be held accountable for student proficiency (probably because of their misplaced faith in “research-based” manipulated reports on which they rely).

The latest national report card shows improvement to be stagnant, and it is also stagnant on the international tests comparing countries.  Only marginal improvement can be made focusing on trying to improve teaching in a system still devoid of concepts.

Only when concepts have been put back into the curriculum and teachers are once again trained to effectively teach concepts can real progress in student proficiency be achieved toward world standards.

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