Controlling Classrooms Critical to Better Schools, Teachers Say: Half of Those Surveyed Don't Want Higher Academic Standards

Article excerpt

Order in the classroom, not higher standards, is the key to substantial improvement in academic achievement in public schools, according to the Public Agenda report released today on the education reform movement.

In a survey, nearly nine of 10 teachers said academic achievement would improve substantially if persistent troublemakers were removed from class. But despite national enthusiasm for setting rigorous academic goals and standards, only half the public school teachers think low standards are a problem.

"Education reformers and policy-makers who consider higher academic standards a centerpiece of their movement should not count on teachers to be a driving force," said Deborah Wadsworth, executive director of Public Agenda.

"It may be that the academic energies of even the most motivated teachers are sapped by what they consider to be the stressful day-to-day demands of the classroom. From the teacher's perspective, order and civility, not higher standards, provide the infrastructure that good teaching builds on."

Twenty-eight percent of the teachers would be "very concerned" if "international test scores showed American students were doing poorly," compared with 56 percent of the public and 63 percent of community leaders. Eighty percent of teachers said their schools aren't getting enough money to do the job.

Other questions in the study, "Given the Circumstances: Teachers Talk About Public Education Today," solicited views on some of the thorny issues surrounding the culture wars' invasion of the schools.

Seventy-two percent said it's highly appropriate to teach children that democracy is the best form of government, and 13 percent of the black teachers and 12 percent of the Hispanic teachers said it's not at all appropriate.

Forty-four percent said it's highly appropriate to teach respect for homosexuals, but 28 percent called it highly inappropriate.

Nearly half (47 percent) considered it not at all appropriate to teach that two-parent families are the best way to rear children.

Sixty percent of all teachers and 51 percent of black teachers said it is inappropriate to argue that racism is the main cause of the economic and social problems blacks face.

Four out of five teachers reject bringing in as a guest speaker someone who advocates black separatism or argues that the Holocaust never happened.

Rejecting revisionist history, 75 percent of the teachers said it would be inappropriate to teach that Columbus was a murderer because his explorations led to the mass destruction of American Indians. …