Three cheers for the Thursday letter, “Bribery money not worth taking,” blasting the bogus Race to the Top competition for educational funding.
After 25 years of test-mania, our public education system remains mired in 19th century structures and approaches, with only modest gains in student achievement as a result. Yes, our kids read and write better, but do they like — and choose — to read? Do they share significant insights about the world around them in their writing? Judging from Facebook and Twitter — the most common venue for these activities — the answer is a resounding no.
A “world class” education is more than learning to read, write and cipher. It requires student engagement and practice applying basic skills in many different contexts. We need to fund learning experiences that actually work for today’s kids: Like providing a broad, robust curriculum that features learning by doing, based on real-world problems. We should give schools, kids and parents flexibility in the use of time, so kids aren’t tied to their “grade level” and can master skills and concepts at their own pace. How about providing more individual teacher help — both for students who struggle, and those who need more challenging options to stay engaged?
Policy makers should recognize by now that more of the same, with slightly better (temporary) funding, will not yield better educated students. Let’s consider real reforms that will keep students engaged, and that help them understand the relevancy of school. Until then, we will continue to see uneven achievement, and disinterested students who see little relationship between “real life” and their educational experience — no matter how many “races” we run.