Chapters 1-3: Recent Education Reform in the United States, From the Missile Gap to the Learning Gap, and Why America Hasn’t Lost Yet
Quote #2: “…the perception that schools were run inefficiently and should be held accountable also led some people to believe that business leaders would know how to run educational institutions better than educators” (p. 28-29). I love Bill and Melinda Gates and their vision, but not all business entities have the know-how in this profession. Money doesn’t make them experts, just people of influence. We have too many of these influences clouding education as it is.
Quote #3: “The United States ranked number one out of 131 countries on the 2007-08 Global Competitiveness Index, which measures ‘the ability of countries to provide high levels of prosperity to their citizens’(World Economic Forum, 2007)” (p.41). How about that! The world still sees the U.S. as the most competitive world power, despite our failure to produce the top test scores. This goes to show that the scores alone don’t define our potential. Students who don’t test well, either, have a lot more to offer than institutions that choose to define them by a number. The transference there is huge, and we need to send the message to our students that they don’t have to all be standardized thinkers, if we want to uphold our nation’s impressive track record of producing the most innovations in the world.
Questions: Why isn’t the focus of education reform shifted more around poverty and less around blaming teachers for the downfall of education? If it’s no secret that poverty is a major apathy-creator, then why not redirect energy towards a solution? Stop rewarding teachers for good test scores that ultimately don’t guarantee success in life, and start focusing on the fight for equity! Why do our underserved students have to suffer the loss of an amazing education while policymakers are focused on the accountability of fund allocations and standardizes testing to compete with the rest of the world?
Connections: As a product of NCLB, I have experienced the stress on standardized education. And as a teacher in the Common Core system, that stress is still there, but places more emphasis on critical thinking skills. These opening chapters are opening my eyes to the real heart and soul of NCLB and Common Core, and how the formation of the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) in 1958 opened the doors for federal control of education and its standardization due to funding (p 22-25). I like having structure and accountability for genuine learning, but not to the extent of being dictated in that pursuit. I don’t want my son to lose his joy for learning because of our government’s crosshairs aimed at our world-ranking (based on scores).
Epiphany: As Zhao mentions in his preface, America is defined by being innovative. If we focus on inquiry, innovation and freedom, we will have the rest of the world in pursuit. Furthermore, I know that I learn by tinkering and play, and I am an advocate for getting our hands dirty and actually experiencing what works and what doesn’t. As a teacher who is learning to incorporate technology into my teaching, this is a clear message of inspiration; that I must challenge my students to think outside the box, while still meeting the demands of Common Core. I am inspired to be creative and “kill two stones with one bird.”
Zhao, Y. (2009). Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization. Alexandria, VA: ASCD