Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Teacher's Educational Agenda

"Many people in the public schools want certain things done for economic or political reasons. Frequently, teachers attending staff development meetings are taught not by master teachers but by publishing-company employees. Why do fifth-grade teachers need hours of instruction before they can use a fifth-grade math book? Book publishers don't go to bed at night worrying that Johnny can't read; they worry about sales and profits. If our teachers can't teach, they're unlikely to be reformed by textbook publishers.

My school currently has two literacy coaches-- former teachers-- who constantly beg me to use their materials with my children. When these coaches try to convince me about their approaches, they rarely rely on arguments about improving reading. At the end of the last school year, my fifth-graders scored in the ninety-first percentile in national tests while the rest of the school scored in the forties. The coaches know this, so why do they want me to change my methods? They want to satisfy their boss, who wants to please his boss, who wants to impress her boss-- administrators all. It's insulting (and boring) to listen to them drone on about how to use their books.

The same song-and-dance routine accompanies the promotion of the latest new-and-improved math textbook. Seriously, how many ways can you teach a child his multiplication tables? Arithmetic hasn't changed. If a math text is so complicated that the average fifth-grade teacher can't understand it without hours of instruction, then there's something wrong with the book, the teacher, or both. These companies interfere with creative and effective teachers. If we want Johnny to calculate better, we need to hire better teachers, not buy newer textbooks."

--Rafe Esquith, An actual classroom teacher

excerpted from There Are No Shortcuts

You may also want to visit The Hobart Shakespeareans and watch this.


Tony said...

You can hardly go wrong with the Hobart Shakespearean.

concernedCTparent said...

Every teacher and parent should read There Are No Shortcuts.