This morning I wrote about the ineffectiveness of schooling, saying "Small wonder that executives hear the word “learning,” think “schooling,” and conclude “not enough payback.” I no longer talk with executives about learning; they respond better to “execution.”

This evening the Web came along with proof: The annual review by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that the U.S. spent $10,240 per student from elementary school through college in 2000, the most of any of the 25 industrial countries reviewed. The results are shabby.

Education Secretary Rod Paige said the results "confirm that schools here have grown complacent, and that a new law tying federal spending to school performance will help." Rod is essentially saying that throwing money at the problem will help. Given that we're moving from the information age into the knowledge age, I'd rather see us dismantle our industrial age school system and build something that prepares students for tomorrow.

Posted by Jay Cross at September 17, 2003 11:25 PM | TrackBack

Boy, you could really get me going on this one. As a former secondary math teacher, I've seen the holes. My wife already is feeling pity towards our daughter's future teachers. I tutored a neighbor kid for a couple of years during his middle school daze... The first day home from 7th grade he came over with 11 pages of division problems. There were about 35 problems on each page.

I asked him why he had to do so many pages, and he said the teacher explained that she needed to set the stage for what they knew. Uhmmm, for one thing, I certainly wouldn't need almost 500 problems (for each of my 160 students - yikes) to figure out if Michael knew how to do a few variations of division problems. And I'm sure that the teacher was not planning to evaluate all 80000 answers that were submitted to her the following day and provide statistical analysis on what each of her kids needed further assistance with ! Oh, and the next day, he came home with 11 pages of multiplication probelems. Ugh.

As a pretty new teacher with some "real-world" experience (which by the way - does not earn you any extra dollars as a teacher, only years teaching does that...) I ended up very quickly becoming a mentor to some other new teachers which would share my room, some good and some bad. None of these folks with mostly good intentions, had any departmental support (besides me volunteering), administrative support, district support, or parental support. Some of these teachers could really come into their own, and some should be swept out with some of the old guard as well. You rarely see a teacher fired though - they just usually don't come back.

Teacher training consists of making sure we knew CPR (yes - a good thing) but nothing targeted towards making better teachers, growing them personally and professionally. That's when I went back for an M.Ed. - which actually DID help although there was no "performance support" once I was in the classroom. I was still the king of my classroom with no way of getting feedback to help me get better.

Since I was very computer literate to start with (and then added the M.Ed. in Educational Technology), I spent a lot of my time just getting teachers to use electronic grading systems, which was difficult enough much less integrating technology into their classrooms.

I could go on of course but there is certainly a lot of finger pointing going on in all directions about how to make our schools better. They say that throwing more money out there and increasing the assessment burden on the student (and teachers) will help, but it won't. 11 pages of division problems will probably help Michael pass a standardized test but it won't help him learn how to apply the skill in the real world or in a new situation.

There are some teachers out there in supportive school districts that are challenging student's minds without worrying about passing a state administered exam, and enjoying quiet success. In the business world, that kind of story would be front page news, "competitors" would be copying the model and further driving innovation...but in the public sector, there are too many kids in each class and not enough gifted teachers being rewarded for the amazing job that they do day in and day out.

My transition out of the classroom was accidental and in no way related to these frustrations, pay, kids, or management. However, there is not a lot of incentive for me to ever go back, though sometimes I miss it very, very much... :- (

Posted by: Jon at September 24, 2003 03:29 PM

Yes, education is in crisis because many educators are threatened by technology and by the fact that students are way more attracted by cell phones, Internet games and so on. Many educators just don't 'get it'.

BTW, the OECD chart is curious for what is missing. Normally Singapore comes near the top in international comparisons in Math and Science.

Posted by: Murray at September 24, 2003 06:01 PM

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