In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores

Matt Richtel, New York Times, September 3, 2011

Amy Furman, a seventh-grade English teacher here, roams among 31 students sitting at their desks or in clumps on the floor. They’re studying Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”–but not in any traditional way.

In this technology-centric classroom, students are bent over laptops, some blogging or building Facebook pages from the perspective of Shakespeare’s characters. One student compiles a song list from the Internet, picking a tune by the rapper Kanye West to express the emotions of Shakespeare’s lovelorn Silvius.

The class, and the Kyrene School District as a whole, offer what some see as a utopian vision of education’s future. Classrooms are decked out with laptops, big interactive screens and software that drills students on every basic subject. Under a ballot initiative approved in 2005, the district has invested roughly $33 million in such technologies.

The digital push here aims to go far beyond gadgets to transform the very nature of the classroom, turning the teacher into a guide instead of a lecturer, wandering among students who learn at their own pace on Internet-connected devices.

“This is such a dynamic class,” Ms. Furman says of her 21st-century classroom. “I really hope it works.”

Hope and enthusiasm are soaring here. But not test scores.

Since 2005, scores in reading and math have stagnated in Kyrene, even as statewide scores have risen.

{snip}

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  • Anonymous

    Hope is not a strategy. Doubly so when you are using public funds betting on the future of kids.

  • Tom Iron

    All this is, is a frantic effort by teachers to come up with anything they can to reach the students. What most people don’t realize is this educatioanl system is obsolete, built in the 19th century for the type of people who no longer exist in this society. But, of course, those who are in the educational system are trying everything they can to get results. It’s just not going to happen. Of course, minorities will do worse, but all the other students aren’t doing well either.

  • voter

    Inevitably, in the school of the future tests and scores will have been abolished as racist and elitist.

    It is the only way to ensure absolute equality.

  • Question Diversity

    Other than the obvious racial reasons, one reason why this school’s performance isn’t that good is because its students are encouraged to, or at least not reprimanded for, conflating the “music” of a fifth-rate potty mouth African like Kanye West to the works of perhaps the greatest playwright who ever lived.

  • Rhialto

    This new technology has tremendous potential for enhancing education. In effect, every teachable student would have a private tudor who was proficient in the subject being taught. Unfortunatly, liberals control America’s public schools, and liberals are committed to liberal indoctrination, not education. So computerized schooling will be used to promote Rap music, not the dramas of dead white men like Shakespeare.

    Perhaps private schools will use computers to educate, but this will be of no benefit to white males from non-prosperous families.

    If it is affordable, it would be a great fit for home schooling.

  • john

    My God! The description of how these kids are “learning” is pathetic!!Facebook?? Facebook??!

  • Anonymous

    Poster #2 said: “All this is, is a frantic effort by teachers to come up with anything they can to reach the students.”

    —– This is all we do, and all the ‘professional development’ and ‘differentiation’ and all the rest of the blather is just that: how can we get pablo and DeQuan to absorb white-created knoweldge and culture.

    They are not absorbing it, as they see no relevence in their lives for what is an alien culture to them, but the powers that be have not realized that yet, so they try to come up with every gimmick and trick to try to crack open a few dark corners in their minds. All to no avail, and any ‘proof’ of improvement is from cheating somewhere in the system.

    Look at the example in the article. In decades past, the students would have READ the play, discussed it, looked up hard words, compared it to other books and written an essay about it.

    Today, they sit on the floor with laptops and look up kanye west songs that focus on whatever emption the teacher tells the students are present in the actual play (which they do not really ‘read’).

    I have known many English teachers in the last ten years – young, female liberals all, who ‘teach’ the classics once or twice a year for a couple of weeks by relying on cliffs notes (because they did not read the books themselves) and dumbed-down summaries (to give to the students) in which different groups are assigned a few pages to analyze and create a play or silly poster board project.

    The canon, the history, the legacy of Euro-derived man is passing away. It is natural, as we have new populations of non-euro derived people taking over here. They have their own heroes, stories, myths and values. High literature for them is Maya Angelou or Jamaica Kincaid. School learning is about pep rallies, talent shows, basketball programs and free lunch while they cavort and ‘keep it real.’

    Why do you think there has been such vilification of ‘tenured’ teachers in the last five years? What the ‘tenured’ teachers are is the sum total of white academic knowledge with roots in pre-obama America. The right wants to fire the older teachers to save a few bucks on taxes. The left wants to destroy them to bring in ‘hip-hop’ and socialist ‘agents for change’. White knowledge stands no chance when the keepers of that knowledge are swept aside.

    This is their world now, and white and jewish liberals cheer our passing, without realizing their black and brown pets will not create the ‘Avatar’ social justice paradise they envision. Look at ANY black or latino country, anywhere in the world. Where is the paradise? Where is the justice?

  • Anonymous

    It’s interesting that the leftist-to-bone NYT would make a major front page story of this episode of educrat delusional thinking.

  • sbuffalonative

    In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons for school failure has been the ongoing movement to let the students determine and drive the lessons.

    It used to be that teachers taught and students learned. There was no compromise in regards to teaching to how the students allegedly wanted to learn.

    It drives me absolutely mad when I hear a teacher say, ‘I think I learn more from my students than my students learn from me’.

    Such a teacher is not a teacher. He/she is the student. The roles have been reversed. Can there be any question as to why students aren’t learning if they are the teachers and not the student?

    Students should not be determining how they like to learn. They should be given lessons which they are required to learn.

    It’s funny that we used to be able to teach children and yet no one seems to look to the past as to how it used to be a successful process. Today, all we get are theories of education.

    Teaching to how students want to be taught has failed and always will.

  • Epiales

    The “classroom” and “technology” are irrelevant; the onus to study is on the students, and the onus to teach is on the teacher.

  • Anonymous

    Anyone having worked in public schools for long generally

    understands that the mere technological possibilities for

    accomplishing something are far far short of what is practically required to get the gears in motion and to keep them turning. I’d hazard the guess that within reasonable cost requirements , lots of cutting edge technology can make an impact for students far easier and quicker in some of the home schooling settings–especially cooperative home schooling–than in typical public school settings. ??

  • John Engelman

    Different people benefit from different learning environments. I have always benefited from an environment that is unstructured, that rewards creativity and initiative, and that is no more competitive than necessary.

    When I was in the seventh grade my parents gave me a Gilbert Chemistry Set. For the next two years I performed all of the experiments, and read many books on chemistry. I did not take a course in chemistry until the twelfth grade. I did not like it. Everything I remember about chemistry I learned on my own when I was twelve and thirteen.

    Nevertheless, one should not expect miracles from teachers. They cannot teach what is not there. Without talent there cannot be achievement. No matter how you pour a quart of water into a cup, you will waste three cups of water.

  • sbuffalonative

    It’s interesting that the leftist-to-bone NYT would make a major front page story of this episode of educrat delusional thinking.

    I made a comment regarding this on a previous post:

    http://tinyurl.com/429t5qw

    sbuffalonative: “I’ve said it before. Whenever you read about a minority school that makes remarkable claims of academic achievement (usually reported in the New York Times), you can be sure cheating was involved.”

    The NYT will report as fact any claim of minority academic achievement.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    …to transform the very nature of the classroom, turning the teacher into a guide instead of a lecturer, wandering among students who learn at their own pace on Internet-connected devices.

    It’s baaaack!! I never thought this method of teaching would be dredged up again!! But then, I should know better.

    This method of (LONG DEBUNKED) teaching is called “discovery learning.” Teachers are referred to as ‘guides on the side’ as opposed to the derisive ‘sage on the stage’ by worshipers of John Dewey and his “progressive” methods.

    The basic idea is that children can only learn things and understand them when they discover them for themselves. Prerequisite knowledge, problem-solving skills and how to apply them — like knowing how to read, write and compute– are not necessary!! Multiplication tables, logarithmic rules, chemical formulae, economic theories with charts — things discovered by geniuses over the course of decades, if not centuries — will all come naturally to today’s low IQd students through “discovery learning.”

    Did it work in the 60s 70s or 80s?

    Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006) report there is little empirical evidence to support discovery learning. Kirschner et al. suggest that fifty years of empirical data does not support those using these unguided methods of instruction.

    So, what to do? How about RENAMING “discovery learning” and presenting it to a new generation of docile educators and students with very low IQs!! Maybe it will work THIS TIME.

    Or, maybe not. Come to think of it, I can’t come up with ONE METHOD that works to educate NAM students!!

    Discovery learning only works with high IQd students (and marginally at that, even THEY need guidance)— you know the ones the school district either ignores or uses as tutors for those in the bottom half of the Bell Curve.

    the district has invested roughly $33 million in such technologies.

    Another $33 down the educational drain! But who cares, no one will be held accountable when these programs blow up and repeatedly fail. What? Complaints from White taxpayers who are tired of seeing their hard earned money thrown into rat holes? Call ’em RACISTS — that’ll shut ’em up!

    There is a VERY good reason why John Dewey’s Democracy and Education is considered the fifth worst book ever written by Human Events.

    Dewey, a secular humanist advocated teaching ‘thinking skills,’ with little concern about what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ We are still paying the price for such idiocy today, nearly 100 years later.

    BTW: The Feminine Mystique, another very destructive book, is #7.

    @John Engelman:

    When I was in the seventh grade my parents gave me a Gilbert Chemistry Set.

    Just try to find one of those old chemistry sets now! (you’d have to look in a toxic waste dump!) They were declared “unsafe” and “toxic” by our betters and those who are infinitely smarter than us Kulaks, even though children had been learning about chemistry from these kits for decades. I wonder how many brilliant chemists got their start from playing with old Gilbert Chemistry Sets that they’d received as Christmas gifts or birthday presents.

    Now chemistry sets are BANNED!! Same as volcano kits (the good ones), and squirt guns and sparklers on the Fourth of July, and….all in the name of keeping you safe from yourself.

    Bon

  • Anonymous

    Re Post #14 My impression in the years and years working in,

    or serving as support to, public schools was that a huge

    best-seller could be assembled about this topic. This would amount to just finding and doing a paste-and-scissors assembling of each instance in which organs such as NYT had yelled “Eureka” about this or that great leap forward re the racial education gap. Reality in American education since Brown v. Board has always been “just around the corner”.

  • john

    The simple fact is that learning is most often a difficult and even painful process. Nobody becomes a doctor, a physicist, a molecular biologist, a Russian speaker, a concert pianist, or a skilled technician in any trade by having fun.

    Learning can be fulfilling, rewarding, and even at times enjoyable, but its core essence is hard work. Trying to teach already disadvantaged kids that learning is “fun,” and then trying to apply to this notion to the learning process, is a guarantee of scholastic failure.

  • Sincerely Concerned

    One thing I don’t see mentioned in the article nor these comments is discipline (although hard work was mentioned by a commenter). I attended public school from 1973-1985 and never once touched a computer except for an Apple II that was in my advanced science class in 1980. Sure, some classes were boring. Yet the most “boring” ones for me, which were English and Literature classes, we taught by the most discipline-conscious teachers in the schools. Guess what? I wound up with all A’s from the 1st through the 12th grades. Why? Both then and now I believe I achieved because my instructors were relentless and old-fashioned. I later became a English major in college (but dropped out because my university was so extremely liberal it was like being in a foreign country for me). Guess what else? My most HATED class ever was British Literature. Yet, who is my favorite author? William Shakespeare.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with Anonymous about the cultural minorities driving educational agendas, and with the person who commented that the “teacher has become the student”. Education has been reduced to passing tests for funding, nothing more, and to doing anything necessary (even cheating) to pass the tests. I was assigned to a group of students in one of my Master’s classes, all of whom were certified teachers, yet not one of them could put together a good sentence, do research for our project, or write a paper! I ended up providing links for the researching, proofing everyone’s work (at their requests), writing the final paper, and making the powerpoint presentation that had to accompany it. They were worthless, yet they were all certified teachers. I can’t be certified because my degree is from a nonSACS accredited school. I had to go back to school and get 64 SACS accredited hours just to be able to substitute, yet I am more qualified to teach than many of those who came out of the right colleges and were able to automatically get their certifications. Many of our teachers can’t spell, write, or speak proper English, yet they are teaching our children. My own children were home schooled through 10th grade, then some entered private schools in honors classes, and graduated with scholarships. That is education! All that time, we didn’t even own a computer, and even if we had owned one, I wouldn’t have used it for school, only for break time after school ended. There is no substitute for the written language and the act of using our eyes and imaginations to read and learn. Now I am going to end this little barage of anger without looking back to check spelling or grammar.