There has been (quite rightfully) a lot of discussion about how the new Reach for the Top competition has placed too much emphasis on test scores and thus limits a student’s creative potential, not to mention undermines possibility of success in vocational fields. Many of the critiques have come from teachers themselves (in fact, all of the articles I have linked to are from educators). But one question that remains (at least, in what I have come across) unasked is, what does this mean for the teaching profession? And I’m not talking about those who are currently teaching (they have made their position perfectly clear). More specifically, who are going to the teachers of the future?
There has been a lot of buzz online about college completion. This is a shift away from college accessibility; as put in a recent editorial, “Access Without Success Is An Empty Promise,” with less than 50% of students who start higher ed ever get their four-year degree. While far from the only issue, the need for remediation plays a significant role in predicting college success. According to a 2006 study (pdf), a student who requires a remedial reading course is 41% more likely to drop out.
I’ve been inspired in my new business venture by the writings of Anya Kamenetz whose book, DIY U, analyses the new movements in liberating higher education. A recent article focuses on Edupunks, those who are seeking to overthrow tradition higher education, mainly through providing free (or nearly free) content and classes. The article is well worth the read as a resource for free (or nearly free) courses, content and degrees available online. I’m a big fan of free content on the Internet; many of my lectures have been informed by free videos of lectures, podcasts, online discussion boards and course notes.
Another wonderful blog that I have been introduced to, Emergent By Design, has begun exploring “Essential Skills for 21st Century Survival” and the first is pattern recognition. While shaped as a way to innovate and/or solve scientific problems, it starts with that part of the brain that loves, craves, narratives. We want to make sense of the world, and we do so through stories. Ancient myths were a way to explain the world, the seemingly randomness of the mysterious universe around us. And we kept looking, kept modifying the narrative, and it turned into science. But at the end of the day, it started with stories.
A wonderful blog written by teachers, InterACT, has been asking a questions lately, such as “What does Career and College-Ready Really Look Like?” and “Do You Understand My Job?” On Twitter, I have been engaged in a number of really stimulating debates about what’s going on with teachers, testing, and K-12 education. I’m still learning the acronyms, but No Child Left Behind, Race To The Top, and the re-authorization of the federal legislation regarding K-12 education has had the internets a-buzzing.
President Obama’s plan for schools includes “college and career readiness.” But as I have written elsewhere in the blog, anyone on the front lines of freshman education knows that many, many of the students coming into college are not ready for college-level work, let along career-level work. There is also a over-abundance of underemployed PhD’s who have extensive experience with what students are lacking in terms of college readiness. The solution? A PhD (or more!) for every school, whose sole purpose is to ensure college readiness in the students, to assist teachers in teaching the skills that will be needed in college, and to equip as many students as possible to be successful in college.
A recent blog post on http://educationceo.wordpress.com/ was provocatively titled “Women Have No Place in Education.” The writer is a dedicated and tireless advocate for school choice, and is putting her proverbial money where her mouth is by starting a charter school for underprivileged kids. But what she write, I think, applies to women in higher ed:
I was impressed with the scope of the information provided by the sites I visited: Improve your SAT/ACT! Write the perfect admissions essay! Choose the best-fitting college! What to do if you’re wait-listed! Navigate student loans! How to survive residence life! Going through the massive amount of information and range of services that are available, I was struck that the one area, perhaps the most important area, that is not covered is the academic side of getting ready for college. Once you get in, figure out how to pay for it, and move in, you have to go to class, get the grades and graduate.
It’s frustrating to me as a teacher that students (and their parents) spend so much time and money on getting into college, not trusting the high schools to help them in this area and yet trust that these same institutions are teaching the kids what they need to do or know in order to succeed academically outside of high school. The kids may have been over-achievers as high school students, passed all the appropriate state assessments, but we (in higher ed) know that that does not guarantee that the student is prepared for college. As an example, 2/3 of students in the California State system need to take remedial classes. And these are students who are graduating with at least a “B” average from high school (the minimum requirement to get into Cal State). With budget cuts, the Cal State System has ordered the end of remediation. So what is a student to do in order to succeed in college?
I’ve discovered a fascinating new blog through Psychology Today called, Freedom To Learn, and it looks like learning from the perspective of a developmental psychologist, Dr. David Gray. Recently, the post was on what he perceives as “The Seven Sins of Our Forced Education.” Two of the seven sins really spoke to me, sin five: Linking of Learning with Fear, Loathing, and Drudgery, and sin six, Inhibition of Critical Thinking.