Catching Up or Leading the Way Yong Zhao

Making Things Worse

  • Current reform efforts may further disadvantage minority students by forcing them into a narrow set of subjects and testing them in only one type of ability. Poor results then demonstrate how incompetent they are. Zhao argues that gaps should be aimed at reduction of poverty, recognition of a broad range of talents and abilities, and reconsideration of the value of different talents and knowledge. At a national level, our test scores are impacted by the number of poor students, and studies have shown that there is no connection between a country’s economic success and its test scores. Zhao does believe that we need school reform to meet new challenges. He just does not believe that NCLB reforms are going move us in the right direction.

Gaps, Myths, and Fear

  • Zhao goes back to missile gap that President Kennedy used to help him get elected in 1960. Subsequently Kennedy found that the gap did exist, but it was in our favor. The myth of the gap resulted in a fear that we needed to do something about it. The launching of Sputnik caused a fear that our educational system was inferior to the Soviet Union. A Nation at Risk (1983) reported we were at risk of being passed by other developed countries. Since the public seems to trust test scores as an accurate way to judge schools and nations, the NCLB legislation was seen as an effective way to rate school performance. Like other political movements, this one is also fueled by fear. Like the missile gap, the learning gap is also a myth.

Narrowing the Curriculum/America’s Strengths

  • Five years after NCLB was passed, about 62% of school districts have increased instructional time for English or math or both in elementary school. To do this, time was cut from one or more other subjects. The decreases add up to a total of 145 minutes a week or nearly 30 minutes a day, which is an average of 32% in the total instructional time devoted to these subjects.
  • While test scores show America falling behind, the economic reality does not. In 2008, the US ranked first out of 131 countries of the Global Competitive Index, which measures the ability of countries to provide high levels of prosperity to their citizens. The US also has 75% of the world’s top 40 universities, 70% of the world’s Nobel Prize winners, and received 38% of the patents for technology inventions in 2008. This would indicate that the crisis was manufactured.

Talent Shows/What Do We Want?

  • Zhao uses talent shows as one way American schools succeed without standardization. Shows that allow all to participate are inclusive and preserve a pool of diverse talent. They encourage initiative and responsibility. They send the message that schools value different talents. They help children be proud of their strengths rather than focusing on their weaknesses. Numerous after-school activities also promote individual differences and interests.
  • Do we want a diversity of talents from individuals who are passionate, curious, self-confident, and risk taking, or do we want a nation of excellent test takers with outstanding performances on math and reading tests? The current reformers have chosen test scores in a limited number of areas over diversity, individual interests, creativity, and the risk taking spirit that has helped sustain a strong economy and society in the United States.
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3 Responses to “Catching Up or Leading the Way Yong Zhao”

  1. As a teacher and parent continually being bombarded with the benefits of high stakes testing, this is a book I long to read. Thank you. I marvel at the foreign students that flood into our rural schools here and am always warmed by the notion that what they seem to looking for is balance… I continue to search for this in ePub format. Thanks for the review.
    …Ellyn

  2. […] Click here for Yong Zhao’s 10 minute video. Click here for my summary of Yong’s Book. […]

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