I have decided to elevate my response to Benjamin Meyers’ recent comment to a blog post. He mostly agreed with my sentiments over the demise of No Child Left Behind, with his personal experience of test-prepping high school students for the ACT. It was his first teaching job and it was what he was hired to do.
I certainly found incredible resistance and boredom from the students. It seemed like the harder I tried to teach the test to my students, the more they hated the subject of science. Indeed, high stakes’ testing has a nasty way of creating negative feelings toward school in students.
Indeed, it seems that the more we seem to care about our children knowing the answers, the less they seem to care about the questions.
But then, Meyers put forth a relevant challenge,
NCLB was created for a reason. Our schools seem to be lagging behind in performance compared to the rest of the world. This in spite of the amount of money that we spend on education and the number of hours that our students spend in the school building. If we are not going to improve education through legislation such as NCLB, then what is the best policy adjustment that our country can make that will actually make a difference?
But were our schools lagging behind? The scientific research that we never saw was the proof that a generation who could pass tests could, as a result, prosper in a world and time of rapid change.
Were the the countries that were out performing us on tests, also out performing us in the real world?
Of the 32 countries who topped us in the Science PISA test, in 2012, only 7 ranked above the U.S. in the “World Happiness Report,” compiled regularly by an international team of economists, neuroscientists and statisticians. They were Finland, Canada, Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Denmark.1
I’m not saying that our schools were good enough in 1999. They weren’t, and they left many, many children behind. But to improve education in the U.S., we need to rethink what it is to be educated. Being an educated person is no long based on what you know, as much as it is what you can resourcefully learn and what you can inventively do with what you can learn. The job of the science teacher is to help students learn to think like scientists and to care about science – and even want to become scientists. The same for other disciplines.
Once we understand what we need to be doing for our children, as a society, then we need to pay for the very best ways of accomplishing it. Personally, I don’t think we’re paying enough to our teachers and for the infrastructure required to prepare our children for their future. I also do not believe that our children need to spend as much time in classrooms as they do. Learning is not as place-based as it use to be.
Four hours in school a day and redefine homework.
1 Brodwin, E. (2015, April 23). The happiest countries in the world, according to neuroscientists, statisticians and economists. Business Insider. Retrieved December 18, 2015, from http://www.businessinsider.com/new-world-happiness-report-2015-2015-4