My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


CSAP Impressions, part last 

So, what's the bottom line in all of this?

I've spent several nights now talking about what the CSAP test tells us about the state of education in the state of Colorado.

And, as near as I can tell, the bottom line is this: educational improvement across the state is a very hit-or-miss proposal.

Some "regular" public schools do a pretty nice job, but "reforms" tend to be embraced absent any evidence that they actually work (you want to talk about "faith-based" education?).

Some charter schools, like Peak to Peak, do an excellent job, seem to move their children ahead of where they start, and could be models for achievement. On the other hand, other charters barely perform at a level comparable to their nearby "regular" schools.

And at the end of all of this analysis, we have the usual laments about the haggard state of American education, and how the rest of the world is moving ahead of us at an alarming rate.

And that brings me to the last point I want to make about CSAP: if others are doing it so well, then why don't we simply imitate them? Is it really that hard?

I remember doing some classes a couple years ago in which it was frequently stated that, according to one recent study, American schools led the world in exactly one category: the weight of our textbooks.

So, we got that going for us . . .

And yet, nobody seemed very interested in studying what the other countries were doing differently.

So let me pose a few questions that the leaders of the future need to consider if they wish to be taken seriously on the issue of education.

What proportion of their educational resources do the countries that out-perform us ("CTOPU") devote to second-language learners in their classrooms?

What proportion of their educational resources do CTOPU devote to special education?

What proportion of their educational resources do CTOPU devote to individualized instruction for students with learning disabilities?

How would you characterize the depth and efficacy of remediation efforts in CTOPU?

What proportion of the typical instructional day in CTOPU is devoted to drilling fundamentals, as opposed to "critical/creative thinking" instruction?

What is the average length of the instructional day in CTOPU?

How would you characterize the richness of the Arts Education program in CTOPU?

What is the nature of disciplinary intervention in CTOPU?

How are teachers evaluated in CTOPU, and what steps are required to remove ineffective ones?

What is the process for achieving grade-level advancement for students in CTOPU?

What accountability is in place for students who under-perform in CTOPU?

What proportion of the total student population in CTOPU are tested in comparative assessments? In other words, how many students take the test in CTOPU that EVERY American student has to take?

It would seem to me that any serious discussion of American education must at least have a basis in understanding of the answers to all of these questions. We can lament all we want that Germany scores 10 points higher than us (or whatever) on "the test", but until we understand how Germany is different, we will never quite have a grip on whether or not this is the huge problem it is made out to be.

AND THEN . . . .

once we know the answers to these questions, doesn't it seem at least reasonable to work towards imitating the way things are done in CTOPU? Or, at least, shouldn't know why we're not doing things the way they do?

And then let's stop grasping at straws of educational reform and put serious time and energy into COMPLETELY RE-SHAPING American education, based on models that actually work already in the real world.

When Henry Ford pioneered the assembly-line, every manufacturer in America was soon imitating it. When Bill Walsh won three Super Bowls with an unorthodox game plan called the "West-Coast Offense," imitators sprung up over night all around the NFL.

Why do we in America not insist on copying the things that work in other places around the world?

And, yes--I'm also hoping the answer isn't just that we don't, as a society, have the intestinal fortitude to be as hard on our students as they are over there.

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