A Flexner Report for Education?

by Robert Pondiscio
March 9th, 2009

Patrick “Eduflack” Riccards suggests teacher training needs its own version of the Flexner Report — a 1910 report on the wildly uneven quality of medical education in the U.S. that changed the face of the medical profession and led to the closing of half of all the medical schools in the U.S.  “Those that remained bolstered their quality,” Riccards writes, ”turning out a better doctor to meet the growing medical needs of our industrialized nation.”

Isn’t it time for such an approach in teacher education?  Don’t we need a comprehensive study of our teacher training programs, one that focuses on how we crosswalk the latest in teacher educator research with current curricula, ensure that teacher training programs are empowering our teachers with research-based instructional strategies, require clinical hours, build mentoring and support networks, use data in both instruction and intervention, and ensure graduates align with both the content and skill needs of the communities and states they are serving?  Of course we do.  

Riccards suggestion comes in the wake of news that the University of the District of Columbia plans to shut down its undergraduate education department, which has managed to graduate less that ten percent of its students.

School Investigated for Grade-Fixing

by Robert Pondiscio
March 9th, 2009

A grade-fixing scandal has rocked a suburban New Jersey high school — and unwittingly demonstrated why some form of standardized testing will remain inevitable.  A principal and guidance counselor has been suspended in the wake of allegations that grades have been changed or deleted grades on students’ transcripts to help them get into better colleges. 

The New York Times takes note of a posting on the schools web site that reads “Graduating Class of 2007 Makes Us Proud.”  In light of the scandal it reads like A-Rod’s 2003 baseball card.

“The graduating class of 2007 surpassed our wildest expectations with the acceptance of students to 5 Ivies and 35 of the top 50 top-tier colleges in the nation.” And seniors won more than $2 million in scholarships as well!”

“Maybe the Fort Lee situation could have happened anywhere,” notes Times columnist Peter Applebome. “The district, with a high percentage of immigrants, particularly Asians, might not be as famously competitive as some others. But it’s not exactly startling that it happened in our general environs, ground zero for the admissions hysteria.”

Pressure is pressure, whether it comes from standardized testing, helicopter parents, personal or professional ambition or elsewhere.  Stories like this demonstrate the inevitability of maintaining some manner of reliable, objective assessments of student achievement that cannot be gamed.

History Lessons Not Sticking

by Robert Pondiscio
March 9th, 2009

A survey of 11-16 year olds in Britain shows that 60% are not familiar with the term ”Final Solution” – Nazi Germany’s plan to exterminate European Jews.  Despite the Holocaust being specified on the Britain’s national curriculum as a subject that students must be taught, only 37 percent knew that the Holocaust claimed the lives of six million Jews, with many drastically underestimating the death toll, reports the London Times.