Monday, November 02, 2015

Public Education in Michigan

The Friday 10/30 edition of the Detroit News carried an oped on Michigan's school system titled "Assessing Michigan's talent future" by Doug Rothwell CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan. Mr Rothwell correctly cites parts of the problem:
"From 2005 to 2015, Michigan's fourth grade reading performance dropped from 30th to 41th (sic) nationally. Fourth grade math performance dropped from 32nd to 42nd. Only 20 percent of our high school students are considered career-and college-ready."
Unfortunately he does not say 'here is why.' Instead he cites action taken by the Michigan government:
      "The good news is that Michigan is taking important steps to set a new course. The governor and Legislature have increased investment in and access to early childhood education programs.
"But perhaps the most important change came in 2010, when Michigan adopted new, more rigorous standards for what Michigan students should learn in each grade level."
 Presumably it is not enough investment--taxpayer dollars--in early childhood programs and the lack of rigorous standards that are a part of the cause.

I want to say here that standards don't teach. They measure. Curriculum teaches. The purpose of standards is to measure how much the student learns and understands. To suppose that student's failure to learn is caused by improper measurement is nonsense.

This whole focus on standards is a smokescreen to divert attention away from a failed philosophy of pedagogy. Common Core, a logical consequence of Progressive Education, is the latest manifestation of an irrational pedagogy going all the way back to John Dewey the father of Prog Ed. What is wrong with Dewey's philosophy of education is a post for another time. Let me say only that Dewey did not like the idea of teaching students to think in terms of principles. Back to the oped:

It doesn't seem to occur to Mr Rothwell that Michigan's government has been running public schools for a long time--and I disagree with his suggested failure timeline of ten years, it's longer--and that such gross incompetence at educating our kids as we both agree has happened, should give pause to anyone who thinks it's a good idea to let the government keep on doing it. But nowhere does Mr Rothwell question the propriety of government owned and run schools.

The only rational solution of course is to completely shut down the Federal Dept of Education and turn all education over to the states. The Dept of Ed is like a military jackboot on the cognitive throats of our children's minds preventing them from developing their ability to think in terms of principles.

The beauty of state control of education is that the states will do things differently from each other. Best practices will of course have best results. These results will be out there for everyone to see and adopt. I can imagine for example some state declaring English to be a phonetic language and will henceforth be taught phonetically and all forms of sight recognition--whole word, whole language--are out.

Another state may introduce strict hierarchy to its math curriculum where kids will master arithmetic before moving on to set theory and algebra. Together, these will represent a trend away from centralized control which I'm sure will continue within the states leading eventually to more real localized control where parents will then have real say in their kid's education. And isn't that what we all want?

The link to the oped is here: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2015/10/29/doug-rothwell-michigan-test/74836082/
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