We have to stop pretending. #makeschoolbetter

I was tagged by Amanda Dykes in the #makeschooldifferent feed on Twitter. Amanda, tagged by someone else, lists five things that we are doing wrong in the education system as a whole. In the spirit of carrying the wave, here are my five:

make school different

When it comes to education, we have to stop pretending:

-that school libraries don’t matter.

Across the nation, libraries are understaffed and underfunded. Print resources and digital resources are absolutely vital to providing students and teachers with what they need to teach and learn well, as are learning commons-style space utilization. As the one place in the school reaching every student, every teacher, every parent, school libraries should not just be adequately funded...they should be a priority.

-that good teaching equates following all the rules.

Generally speaking, this industry rewards those who stay in the safe boxes, please all the people, and follow all the pacing guides to the letter. Making a shift to recognizing and valuing true innovation (not using iPads for Accelerated Reader tests and calling that innovative) would empower teachers, bring life to classrooms, and make school a whole lot more fun.

-that poverty isn’t the single greatest barrier to success, any way you measure that.

All over the US, teachers are held personally responsible (through high stakes testing) for student achievement, without any consideration of the fact that many of those students bring with them into the classroom a culture of poverty. They are hungry, they have seen and experienced violence, they are in foster care, they are sick, they are neglected...yet teachers are faulted and sometimes punished when those kids don’t score in the upper quartiles of the latest and greatest standardized assessment. When those kids can’t think or build or interact well with others, simply because their minds are trapped in another world.

-that education isn’t very big business.

When a company packages and sells textbooks and test practice materials/software, and then they also package and sell the test (for we are talking MEGABUCKS), that is an issue. When companies court districts and promise the moon if you’ll pick their equipment, their textbook, their instructional materials, the kids are cheated. When we are distracted by all the shiny new techie toys without truly evaluating them with the eye of an educator, the kids are ripped off. Go to any educational conference and check out the vendor hall to see just how big a business that the world of education is.

-that the current model of standardized assessment and “continuous improvement” is actually working.

In reality, it’s counter-productive, trapping administrators and teachers and students into “plans” they don’t value or find exciting...checking boxes that don’t matter to, well, anyone...except for the next level of box-checkers. Thanks to the testing movement, fueled by No Child Left Behind, only reading and math are taught in most elementary schools. Social studies and science are an afterthought, until kids reach middle school and their teachers shake their heads in bewilderment that kids today just don’t know how to think.

How can we teach them how to think, when we aren’t doing very much of that ourselves?

We have to stop pretending.