Ok, now that there is going to be a political change in Washington, and in many state governments as well, will this be reflected in needed changes in education, especially in science, mathematics and technology education? There is an enormous need at the Federal level that supports educational innovation, and that this philosophy be reflected in national standards and state wide policy as well.
A friend of mine in a large Russian city wrote recently that scientists can be trusted more than politicians. I would tend to agree with this, yet would encourage us to believe that politicians can be held accountable for their actions. I think the recent election results bear this out
I’ve written in earlier posts that the Bush administration has not really been a friend of science, and has not made use of scientific knowledge to make important decisions. In specific cases, White House lawyers have been involved in the “rewriting” of scientific reports so that the resulting papers would better reflect administration policy. I cited an example in which some of the work on climate change of James Hanson was rewritten as cited in this link.
What kind of change is needed? In my own view, a systemic change is needed starting with the No Child Left Behind Law, and its associated mandate of student testing at nearly every grade level, from K – 12. This approach is added enormous pressure on students to continuously measure up to set of standards that are by far an attempt to “cover the ground” in each academic discipline, rather than help students uncover the delight of knowing science or mathematics or history. For example, in a new report to be issued by the National Research Council entitled Taking Science to School, the authors recommend a new generation of standards, and these standards at the national and state levels should be structured to identify a few core ideas in a particular subject, and how these ideas can be cumulatively developed over time. The report also claims that current standards do not take into account what is now known about children’s thinking , especially the cognitive abilities of younger children. (You can read this report for free online at the National Academy Press.
The No Child Left Behind Law has tended to thwart innovation. Local principals are really not interested in creative or innovative teaching. They are interested in how well their students will do on the Spring tests. And its not to say that these principals do not know about the value of creativity and innovation; its simply that they are held accountable by how well students do on a trivial test. A single test. One day in the life of a student. And that determines how well they are doing. Unfortunately, superintendents of education at the state level are hired or run for office on this ticket, and then become the chief spokesperson for an outmoded plan based on questionable results in Texas when Bush was governor then.
I find it interesting that the state that I live in (Georgia) has a supposed “education” governor, but he has done nothing to advance education in the state or even to mention creative or innovative teaching in anything that he has said. And coupled with the fact that the superintendent of Education in Georgia hasn’t had an original idea in her life, there is little hope for change here until there is a change at this level. Unfortunately, they were both re-elected.
So we need to look to the Federal level. Now that the House and the Senate are in the hands of the Democrats, there is a greater chance for dialog between the Congress and the Administration. I say this because now we have a two-party system back in Washington, and innovation and new ideas tend to have a better chance of emergence than what we have had recently.
I would like to see a group convened by Congress that would be comprised of innovative teachers, constructivist and humanistic researchers, select group of governors, heads of a few innovative foundations, and legislators to set an agenda for educational change that would focus on innovation and creativity in teaching and learning. The knowledge that we have about how children learn needs to be integrated into educational change and policy. Curriculum development needs to be reinvigorated and supported at the national level in all areas of the curriculum. The group should also examine the research on teacher education, and encourage colleges and universities to develop models of teacher education that are experiential and based on constructivist models of learning. In each of these recommendations, there are examples out there that could be used as starting points for change.
And finally, we need a educational leaders at the national level that not simply political hacks or cronies. We need strong forward looking educators to take charge, and lead educators further into this century.Tags: Curriculum, ethics, innovation, James Hanson, NCLB, Reform