How do parents find a good school? Not only are public schools paralyzed by dozens of bad ideas, but schools seem intentionally designed so that parents cannot understand what is really going on inside the classrooms. It is probably more practical to be alert to danger signs that can be observed from a distance. Here is a checklist of the top eight signs that you don’t want your child to be in this school:
1) READING: The most important skill is reading. If you hear any mention of Whole Words, Sight Words, Dolch Words, Fried Words, or Balanced Literacy, run backwards. English is in alphabetic / phonetic language and must be taught sub. Children should immediately learn the alphabet and that letters represent sounds. (There seem to be five or ten good phonics programs out there. I’m not convinced small differences matter. What has been killing us is this big difference: teaching basic alphabetic information or NOT teaching it. Any synthetic phonics program, mixed with Poetry, a song, and a light touch seem to do the trick. Phonics advocates report that virtually all of their students learn to read by age 7. Whole Word advocates say children should memorize a few hundred words each year , in which case ‘I will be effectively illiterate until high school).
2) MATH: The next most important thing is arithmetic. If you hear any mention of Reform Math, run in reverse. (Reform Math is a general term for at least 10 different programs, with names like Everyday Math, Connected Math, MathLand, TERC, CPM, etc.) These programs tend to push advanced concepts to children who don’t even know how to do it. Add 10 and 16. These programs like to use obscure methods and algorithms to keep kids confused and scattered. The appropriate goal is for children to acquire mastery of basic arithmetic, for example, easily adding and subtracting one- and two-digit numbers. They then go on to multiplying and dividing one- and two-digit numbers. There should be no use of calculators, no “spiraling” from topic to topic, or mention of college-level concepts.
3) KNOWLEDGE: The next most important thing is that children are expected to acquire knowledge on a routine basis. This used to be normal; But for 75 years our educators have waged a war on content, facts, and memorization. “They can look for it” is a great danger sign. Studying history, for example, requires children to first learn the names of oceans, continents, rivers, mountains, and countries. Basic geography should be a staple during the early years; There should be maps in every classroom, both in the United States and around the world. In general, in all subjects, children should be taught the simplest information, the essentials, the fundamental knowledge first, all in preparation for studying the subject at a higher level. If children do not learn the names of the oceans in first grade, they are not in a school but in a babysitting service.
4) SCIENCE: Children should be taught, from the beginning, the rudiments of science and scientific thinking. For example, children can look at common objects and tell whether they are animals, vegetables, or minerals. Children should be able to talk about changing water from a solid to a liquid to a vapor. Older children should be able to discuss the different kinds of problems that doctors, chemists, biologists, physicists, mathematicians, etc. treat. Studying simple maps, diagrams, charts, illustrations, and plans is a good sign. (Put another way, I can’t imagine a bad school would think of teaching kids to understand simple diagrams in first grade.)
5) CONSTRUCTIVISM: One of the big fads that are taking over some public schools is called constructivism. (It can appear in the teaching of any subject). Gifts are phrases like “build new knowledge”, “guide by your side”, “prior knowledge”, “learning strategies”, and so on. All of this is in direct contrast to direct instruction, whereby expert teachers teach what they know better than anyone else in the room. “A wise man on stage” is exactly what children need. Constructivism devalues the skill and preparation that good teachers bring to the classroom; and it helps to disguise the poor training of bad teachers. Constructivism guarantees that instruction will move slowly and be fragmented.
6) FADS RUN RAMPANTS: Other popular fads to avoid include: Self Esteem (where kids are constantly praised and given good grades even if they do a poor job); Cooperative learning (where children are constantly forced to work in groups so that they never learn to think for themselves); Critical thinking (where children are encouraged to engage in in-depth discussions about topics they know little about); Creativity Curriculum (where playing with the arts stands out over learning knowledge); and Fuzzy Anything (where children are allowed to guess, make up strange spellings and grammar without correction, to be wrong but still be graded as correct). These are all warning signs.
7) OBJECTIVES: Perhaps the most distinctive feature of good schools is that they talk about what will be taught and what will be achieved. There are goals and expectations. There is a feeling that the school has a map and has traveled the road many times before. Bad schools are distinguished by an endless litany of excuses and alibis. There is a sense that these schools do not have clear goals and, in reality, do not expect to make much progress. In bad schools, a lot of what happens is actually a kind of fantasy in which children are kept busy doing pretend work that doesn’t add up to much. Perhaps the most disgusting part of the whole charade is that some of these schools will pretend that they are being considerate of children, that they do not want to put too much pressure on them and do not want to expose the shortcomings of the poor. and minority children. All of this, it seems to me, is just plain nonsense, not to mention racist. Children need to be challenged and pushed, not to the point where they give up, but to the point where they think, “Wow, watch me go.”
8) SAFETY: A signal that cuts through all the others could be called basic order and safety. Schools must be safe, law-abiding, and predictable places. The point is that children must be able to relax so that they can learn. A school that is scary is no longer a school. The principal (comparable to the mayor and sheriff of a small town) is a crucial figure in this paradigm: he or she sets the tone. Principals explain goals and policies to students and parents; principals motivate and support teachers. (This could be called the Main Principle).
Summary: The Tao of education is very simple. Learning the basics and academics is the goal and the path to that goal. Facts and knowledge are the lifeblood of the classroom. Teaching should be as creative as possible; schools should be fun and students should smile a lot. But the whole process has to go somewhere, it has to move forward. At the end of each day, students know more than the day before. The problem with American education is that elite educators moved away from knowledge-based education (a / k / a cognitive learning) towards feeling-based education (a / k / a affective learning).
Many psychotherapeutic biases were mixed with a disregard for facts and a disregard for fundamental knowledge, including literacy. The result, unsurprisingly, would be a very dumb and mediocre school, such as can be found in any American city. The solution is to ignore the bad ideas that caused the problem, steer clear of delicate cliches, and seriously try to serve students by providing the best possible preparation for the rest of their lives.