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October 10, 2013
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November 30, 2013

How to Fix Education

With all the talk about the United States falling behind in international rankings of education, I decided to do some research of my own. I consulted with one of my key informants, Professor Newt Rall, from the University of Objek Teef. Excerpts from our dialogue:

Isaac: Why is the United States falling behind in reading, science and math?

Newt Rall: The United States has a much higher rate of poverty and inequality than other OECD countries. Poverty accounts for a great deal of educational failure in this country. Children from affluent communities or private schools in the US do very well in international rankings.

Isaac: Then why don’t we report just the results for rich children?

Newt Rall: That would be unethical.

Isaac: Ok then, so why is there so much poverty in the United States?

Newt Rall: Without poor children there wouldn’t be employment opportunities for all the people telling the poor how to get out of poverty.

Isaac: I hear that when community schools fail to make progress the government shuts them down. When investment banks fail and send millions of people bankrupt, the government bails them out. Why is that?

Newt Rall: The government is afraid that investment bankers will go into teaching.

Isaac: The government just cut food stamps. Did they do that to teach poor children resilience?

Newt Rall: I don’t think so.

Isaac: If another country deprived our children of food, would we invade that country?

Newt Rall: Probably.

Isaac: Preventable medical errors account for about 98,000 deaths per year. Should doctors be fired like teachers and hospitals shut down like poor performing schools?

Newt Rall: You ask tough questions.

Isaac: I hear Finland has one of the best education systems in the world. I hear they pay teachers well, teachers are highly respected, have time to prepare lessons and learn from one another. Also, I hear they don’t test kids to death. Why don’t we copy what they do?

Newt Rall: It wouldn’t work here.

Isaac: Why?

Newt Rall: Because our teachers don’t speak Finnish.

Isaac: I hear Finland is also a very egalitarian country. Why don’t we try that?

Newt Rall: Because we would have to fire a lot of people telling the poor how to stop being poor, generating unemployment among highly paid consultants. Their egos couldn’t handle that.

Isaac: I hear that a lot of these new teachers without clinical experience don’t last more than two years. Why is that?

Newt Rall: Because after two years they become consultants.

Isaac: Is teacher bashing working in improving education?

Newt Rall: No.

Isaac: Perhaps they are not bashing them hard enough.

Newt Rall: Oh no, they are bashing them hard alright.

Isaac: Who is next?

Newt Rall: My sources tell me they are going after parents, deans of schools of education, professors of education, janitors, children, and the Prime Minister of Finland.

Isaac: I just attended an educational policy conference where I heard that the key to educational success is for all the states to adopt the common core standards, tell liberals to stop whining about poverty, tell hungry children to toughen up, use homelessness as a bonding experience for the entire family, replace all public schools with for profit charter schools, determine teacher pay on the ability of their school to shame others, and send 28 million children from the US to South Korea to learn discipline. Do you agree?

Newt Rall: You said a lot of things. Can you be more specific?

Isaac: Oh academics! Never mind. I hear the results of the new National Assessment of Educational Progress show that there is a constant improvement in reading and math for White, African American, Asian and Hispanic children. If that is the case, why do so many reformers say the opposite?

Newt Rall: If you have good PR the truth is irrelevant.

Isaac: If minorities are not advancing fast enough to close the achievement gap, can we give rich kids a break for two years until other kids catch up?

Newt Rall: That hasn’t been tried before.

Isaac: Can we blame the educational problems of our country on the failed launch of Obamacare?

Newt Rall: That hasn’t been tried before either.

Isaac: What has been tried then?

Newt Rall: A hodgepodge of charter schools, testing, more testing, de-professionalization of the teaching profession along with calls for more highly qualified teachers, turn around consultants, and no teacher left un-bashed.

Isaac: Have these strategies been subjected to rigorous longitudinal randomized controlled trials?

Newt Rall: Yes, Finland is the experimental condition and we are the comparison group.

Isaac: So who won?

Newt Rall: Finland

Isaac: So why are we not invading Finland?

Newt Rall: The President is busy fixing the Affordable Care Act
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

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