Magazine article Vocational Education Journal

Let's Make Some History

Magazine article Vocational Education Journal

Let's Make Some History

Article excerpt

The American education system is at a crossroads. The business community, elected officials, parents and the general public seem to be seething with frustration over the lack of educational achievement of students and the perceived unresponsiveness of the education establishment. This frustration has led many to search for new approaches to education: charter schools, school choice, vouchers, magnet schools, alternative schools and home schooling to name just a few.

Survey after survey shows the United States trailing most other nations in educational achievement, particularly in math and science. These surveys and other negative reports on education led to the 1989 governors summit on education goals, which ultimately produced congressional action in the form of the Goals 2000 legislation.

Lack of progress on the national education goals and growing controversy over the Goals 2000 legislation led to a second education summit at IBM headquarters in March with governors and several prominent CEOs. It resulted in a call to action in every state to make education a priority. The business leaders and governors represented at the summit want to start seeing results.

After the 1983 report A Nation At Risk, a similar call to action resulted in a slew of education "reforms" that have not produced the results that America's business leaders, parents, governors and congressional leaders so desperately want. The reason for the failure of these reforms is painfully clear. Rather than focusing on what students need to learn better and what teachers need to teach better, the reforms of the '80s and so far in the '90s have focused on the process.

What I mean by process is the requirements rather than the results. Researchers found that math and science achievement was lacking, so high schools required more math and science. No matter that it was the same math and science, taught in the same way. Graduation requirements now include more math and science coursework, but the educators and policy makers who made those changes paid little attention to what was being taught and, most important, how it was being taught. The solution was not better teaching and learning but simply more of the same teaching and learning. The results are predictable. Einstein defined insanity as repeatedly doing the same thing while expecting different results.

What we have done in education reform to date is insanity. Any corporate chief executive officer would tell you that a business in trouble cannot survive by simply doing more of the same. …

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