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As a fourth year doctoral candidate, in addition to having completed comprehensive examinations and prospectus and working on the dissertation, my thoughts are also turning towards the job market and securing that first academic position. This purpose of this blog is to chronicle the trials and tribulations of completing my Ph.D. and finding that first job.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Standards, accountability and expectations

I was reading a post over at Number 2 Pencil that was entitled "American expectations in public education." In the post, Kimberly Swygert quotes some statistics from ETS's recent bipartisan survey on American opinions about high schools. The ones that really caught my attention were:
  • Most (55%) Americans say that all students, teachers, and schools should be held to the same performance standard even if many students come from disadvantaged backgrounds; once more, endorsing a fundamental precept of NCLB. Only one-quarter (26%) of teachers agree.
  • Instead, 60% of teachers say that students enter school with different backgrounds and levels of academic preparation, and we should not expect teachers working with disadvantaged students to have their students reach the same performance level as teachers working in more affluent schools.

A I read these, I started to think about an e-mail I received a couple of years ago about what would happen if we held dentists to the same standards as we do with the accountability for teachers. A quick Google search (yes, I'm still using Google, even after the post I made at The Program - see Big Brother Google) and I found Promoting Learning... Accountability in Schools by Dr. Marvin Marshall. This short article contains both the original e-mail that I received (the first story titled "Absolutely the Best Dentists" by John Taylor) and a follow-up that I had never read before (the second story titled "Forget the Children - My Dentist Now Gets A Top Rating" by John Taylor). If you haven't read them before, take some time to read them now.

Anyway, I am just on the heels of taking a course ESOC9000: Research in Social Studies in Education - Powerful Social Studies Teaching and Learning and Georgia's Social Studies Performance Standards. In this course, we spend a great deal of time talking about "the big test" and how the public essentially has a mistrust of teachers and their professional abilities. This mistrust is represented in standards and tests of those standards, in labelling schools as failing because of larger issues such as race and socio-economic status (which play a larger role in whether a student is likely to pass "the big test" than the teacher or school), and in the accountability measure of legislation like No Child Left Behind.

As best I can tell, this mistrust has come about because of a conservative agenda that has used politicians (particularly at the local level), think tanks and the media to scare the public into thinking that students today are not doing as well as students of yesteryear. As we have examined many of these reports and "crisises" that this political agenda has put forth, we have discovered that in many instances the students of today are doing just as well or even better than students of yerteryear.

I have found it interesting that it seems that education is more of a political issue in the United States than it is in other places that I have live (i.e., Canada and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom). Because it is a political issue, politicians (most of which have little or no knowledge of education other than their own schooling) tell Americans what is wrong with their education system and Americans, by in large, believe it. This mistrust extends to the fact that teachers and administrators will tell the American public that the measures that the politicians are taking won't make any difference, will maintain the status quo, or will make matters worst.

In my home province of Newfoundland, the largest group of individuals to be elected to public office at the province or federal level as a profession are teachers. While the numbers aren't quite as high in other provinces, teachers still make up a good percentage of provincial politicians in particular. Maybe this is why education is less of a political issue in most Canadian provinces than it is in the United States, because we actually elect teachers and trust them to make good decisions when it comes to education.

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2 Comments:

Blogger idarknight said...

Well, we may follow the elected teacher trend in Alberta as well for all I know, but King Ralph certainly doesn't make any good calls on Education.

I would think the major culprit in the US is the media and the use of standard tests that really are not up to what the new standards should be - in classic ed fashion, maybe they are a step behind, and that is why students are failing. Public mistrust isn't helped by the majority of people believing that "those who can do, those who can't teach", that they all know better than teachers and that teachers are lazy because of all that time off that they get - "like two whole months!" (Yeah right!)

1:32 AM

 
Blogger MKB said...

Actually Raj, most of the western provinces in Canada have elected a majorty of farmers to provincial and federal office. Not sure what that has meant for education, but that would probably be your largest group.

MKB

7:11 AM

 

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