Monday, February 11, 2013
LA Times publishes the other side of the education story
THE KEYS TO LEARNING
All four letters published in the Sunday Los Angeles Times, Feb. 10. 2013
Re "Beware of miracles," Editorial, Feb. 6
I was delighted to see The Times recommend healthy skepticism before adopting the latest "solutions" to educational problems. And yes, I clearly remember my colleagues' "value-added" ratings splashed across your website, even though there were plenty of cautionary articles elsewhere calling their use problematic.
The Los Angeles Unified School District seems to think that having students take standardized tests is an answer to our achievement problems, even though most teachers feel their curriculum has been weakened by the loss of instructional time. My school no longer has anyone working in the library, we have a nurse one day a week, our rooms are swept once a week, most of our teaching aides have been laid off and there are many extra students in each classroom.
Give us back the resources we once had and more instructional time, and maybe we'll achieve some of those miracles.
There may be good and bad teachers, but research shows that the major determinant of student achievement is the parents' socioeconomic situation. Even the best teacher faces a challenge teaching a student who comes from a home where learning is not valued or English isn't spoken.
And the issue isn't greater school expenditures. If it wants better student achievement, Los Angeles must focus on improving the economy, its environment, housing and many other factors and not just on evaluating teachers and changing the curriculum.
Why would any school board endorse copying someone else's answer? If Houston, Atlanta and San Jose have the right answer, does that mean we should copy them?
A real miracle might occur if we actually decide that the best way to solve our problems is to honestly evaluate our students' needs and think about the solutions that might work. The answers are going to come from our own teachers, not from Washington or, in the case of L.A. Unified's adoption of San Jose's college-prep curriculum based on bogus data, Silicon Valley.
Students develop and learn at different rates. This is not a problem, it is just reality. Teach them at their own rate.
The Times is correct to insist on "evidence-based, replicated, time-tested educational change."
Let's add the Common Core State Standards to the list of unsupported claims. There is no evidence that "rigorous" standards and massive testing improve student learning.
The writer is a professor emeritus of education at USC.