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Friday, June 15, 2012

How Education reformers have dumbed down America

From the Diane Ravitch blog

It’s hard to count all the ways that reformers dumb down education, but here is a good example of catching them in the act.

State Superintendent Tony Bennett is a celebrated reformer. He won the Thomas B. Fordham award as the “reformiest” reformer of them all.

That means he loves vouchers and charters, he promotes privatization, he loves online learning and merit pay, and he hates collective bargaining, seniority and tenure. And of course, test scores are the most important measure of everything that schools do.

Now the education leaders of the Hoosier state have a brilliant idea to improve education: Lower the standards for becoming a teacher and an administrator.

The Indiana Department of Education wants to make it easier to become a teacher. Under its proposed Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability (REPA II) anyone with a bachelor’s degree and at least a 3.0 grade-point average who passes a subject test can become a teacher. New teachers will not need a master’s degree.

A teacher who is licensed in any subject can be certified in special education, music or art by passing a standardized test, with no training for these fields. This is dubious in every subject, but potentially dangerous in special education where training and knowledge are required for teaching children with disabilities.

Maybe someone in the Indiana Department of Education thinks that teachers do nothing but test prep, and that you don’t need a master’s degree or any training or experience to do test prep. They may be right about that–after all, even computers are good at drilling in the right answer to standardized test questions–but they are wrong to assume that getting higher scores is the essence of teaching. That is the essence of robotic behavior, and that seems to be what the Department of Education aims for.

Under REPA II, principals need no master’s degree either. This opens the way to recruit future principals who are business leaders, sports figures, and anyone else who wants to try their hand at running a school. But given that principals are expected to evaluate teachers and to know whether they are good at their job, and given that they should be able to offer support to teachers, every principal should have been a master teacher.

Watch Indiana. Every bad reform idea tried anywhere will eventually land in Indiana, unless it started there. Or more likely, see what ALEC model legislation recommends. ALEC never did understand why educators need high standards.

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