RE@L is pleased to repost this current column of “The Merrow Report” an ongoing, investigatory, weekly publication on education by author and the “McGraw Prize in Education” winner, John Merrow.
Click on the graphic to the right to learn more about Mr. Merrow’s many reports to improve K12 education.
His current report deals with the K12 tallies of school achievement of 15 years olds, provided annually by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) since 1969. Many educators believe that, after 50 years of so-called “School Reform,” schools in general have not been reformed.
Many among us also believe schools won’t reform until we reform the way students learn. RE@L believes Systemic Reform is a crucial catalyst for positive changes in student achievement. Students must be able to show what they know, and RE@L provides that systemic change in all our STEM-based LearningProducts™.
Annual NAEP reports frustrate many teachers. Educators at all levels need more specific, singular student achievement data to address EACH student’s individual needs. It’s not schools that achieve. Higher achievement happens when teachers have specific information for each of their students. Moreover, each student needs to know what’s working and what still needs working on.
Read on to learn more about this weeks “The Merrow Report” and some thoughtful suggestions from Mr. Merrow on how to remove the paralysis our students and schools face.
The National Assessment of Educational PARALYSIS (NAEP)
by John Merrow
“U.S. 15-year-olds made no significant progress on the Program for International Student Assessment, the results of which were released Tuesday. On a 1,000-point scale, students in 2018 earned on average 505 in reading, 478 in math, and 502 in science in 2018, statistically unchanged from when the tests were last given in 2015.” That’s how Sarah Sparks of Education Week reported the dismal findings from an important international test familiarly known as PISA, which measures reading, math, and science literacy among 15-year-olds, every three years.
This comes on the heels of even more disappointing results on our own national test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). When I wrote about this recently in this space, I solicited reactions from Aristotle, Maria Montessori, and John Dewey.
However, given the PISA results and the harsh truth that NAEP scores have been disappointing for many years, it’s time to rename NAEP. Let’s call it the National Assessment of Educational Paralysis, because paralysis accurately describes what has been going on for more than two decades of “School Reform” under the test-centric policies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Unless and until we renounce these misguided “School Reform” policies developed under No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, educational paralysis will continue, and millions of children will continue to be mis-educated and under-educated.
Right now, too many school districts over-test, which means their teachers under-teach. Too often their leaders impose curricula that restrict teachers’ ability to innovate. At the same time, these narrow curricula have curtailed or eliminated art, music, physical education, recess, drama, and even science. Today many districts judge teachers largely by student test scores, leading teachers to devote more and more class time to test-prep, not teaching and exploration of idea. This is what I and others label the ‘test-and-punish’ approach to education, instead of a far more desirable ‘assess to improve’ philosophy.
How bad have things become under “School Reform”? Not even 14% of American 15-year-olds could distinguish between fact and opinion Here’s a sample PISA question, which I urge you to try to answer.
Here’s another example, this taken from the PISA test three years earlier:
‘Mount Fuji is a famous dormant volcano in Japan. The Gotemba walking trail up Mount Fuji is about 9 kilometres (km) long. Walkers need to return from the 18 km walk by 8 pm.
Toshi estimates that he can walk up the mountain at 1.5 kilometres per hour on average, and down at twice that speed. These speeds take into account meal breaks and rest times.
Using Toshi’s estimated speeds, what is the latest time he can begin his walk so that he can return by 8PM?’
Note that ‘Fuji’ is not a multiple-choice question. To get the correct answer, students had to perform a number of calculations–I.E, they had to think! The correct answer (11 AM) was provided by 55 percent of the Shanghai 15-year-olds but by just 9 percent of the US students.
Folks, this is the inevitable product of public schools that treat most students as little more than scores on multiple-choice bubble tests. (By the way, many charter schools aren’t much better, because they too are driven by the goal of higher test scores.)
As I write in “Addicted to Reform: A 12-Step Program to Rescue Public Education,” it is long past time for us to abandon our sorting system. We need schools that look at every child and ask “How is she smart?” And then builds on each child’s interests and abilities to see that they develop their potential and acquire the basic skills of writing, working with numbers, critical thinking, public speaking, working with others, and so on.”