Teaching Isn’t Rocket Science, It’s Way More Complex: What’s Wrong With Education and How to Fix Some of It by Doug Green

7.The Drive To Fire Underperforming Teachers Will Not Improve Our Schools

  • Following the example of former GE CEO Jack Welsh who fired 10% of the workforce each year, the corporate/political class is pushing schools to do the same. This makes no sense as many low performing teachers leave on their own and there is a teacher shortage in the US in many subject areas. If there are bad teachers in a school, it’s up to the principal to help them get better or offer them career counseling.

8. Why Does Special Education Have to Be Special?

  • In Finland 50% of the students receive some special education during their school careers. This is done without meetings and formal identifications. They simply give students who need extra help when they need it rather than waiting for them to fail. In the US we spend an inordinate amount of time and money drawing arbitrary lines so as to classify some students and not others who may have similar needs. Without the expensive bureaucracy devoted to identifying and labeling some students who get special services, we could hire more teachers to give any student who needs help when they need it.

9. Shouldn’t All Students Be Able to Participate in Gifted Programs?

  • Many schools spend time and money in order to identify students who they call ‘gifted.’ Doing so can make them less risk-averse as it tells the other students that they are second rate. The special classes for the so-called gifted usually feature hands-on, open-ended lessons that tend to be way more fun than the standard fare. Doug thinks schools should let all students have at such lessons. Call it the challenge program and let these teachers bring cool lessons into all classes to work with the regular teachers. Such lessons can be used the following year by the classroom teachers as the challenge teachers bring in new lessons.

10. Education Drugs: Learning on Steroids

  • ADHD drugs are clearly being abused in the US. There is evidence that many students who aren’t diagnosed are using these drugs to focus and/or for recreation. This begs the question, why can’t all kids use these drugs to focus and study more effectively. This chapter is one that raises more questions than it offers answers.

11. Kindergarten is the New First Grade

  • Since the 1990s more and more academic time has been pushed into kindergarten so that by now, kindergarten seems more like first grade. The risk here is that we are exposing students to academic learning that they are not developmentally ready for, which can cause frustration and a dislike of school. In Finland, the focus is more on social learning and movement at this age and they don’t start heavy academic work until kids turn seven. They also routinely score near the top on international tests.

12. Math Class: The Champ at Slowing Down the Fast Learners

  • Math is the subject where high functioning students could soar if the schools could somehow get out of the way. Due to the one-size-fits-all approach most schools take, bright kids have to plod along at the same rate as their less able classmates. It doesn’t have to be this way. With help from online tutorials and a determination to let all students learn at their own pace, this should be one subject area where every student learns and advances as fast as they can.

13. Not Ready for College? Flunk Gym

  • As the federal government pushes high schools to raise their graduation rates, schools are tempted to make it easier to graduate. The problem here is that about two-thirds of graduates who show up at community colleges have to pay to take high school courses for no credit. This makes getting an associate’s degree in two years almost impossible. Doug thinks students should stay in high school at least part-time until they are ready for real college courses. If the adults won’t cooperate, students can simply fail a required subject like physical education to avoid graduating.

14. Coding for Everyone, Are You Serious, Mr. President?

  • President Obama and others have recommended that all students take computer programming in high school. While it is important for students to learn how to get computers to do things, trying to teach everyone programming makes no sense. Not all students will be able to learn material that is complicated and often boring at first. There is also no way schools can hire or retrain enough teachers to do the job. People with computer science degrees aren’t likely to look for teaching jobs and they may not have great natural teacher skills either.

15. SATs For All? One More Bad Idea From The Political Elite

  • In places like New York City, all juniors take SATs during the school day. This test is inappropriate for many poor students and it also means that taxpayers are paying for tests taken by wealthy students. It takes time from other subjects, especially if teachers engage in SAT prep. This is happening at a time when more and more colleges no longer require such tests.

16. Forging Strong Relationships With Students Should Be Top Of Your To-Do List

  • As Doug surfs the Internet to find free resources for his blog, he has found that there is something of a consensus about the importance of relationships. His own experience and a growing body of research suggests that teachers should put forming strong relationships with students at the top of their to-do lists.
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