professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Vouching for education

Dear Secretary DeVos:

As you continue your work as the Secretary of Education, and since you do not have a background in education, I thought you might permit me some time to share some observations. Recently, you discussed the need for education to change with the times offering examples from companies such as Uber and Lyft. The analogy, unfortunately, does not really work when it comes to education. Like many others before you, you see education as a business. It is not. And treating it as a business denies certain fundamentals about education.

1. Education is about the children. They remain at the center of all we do. It does not matter if the students are young or older. Everything we do focuses on the students. Therefore, we are aware of their development as well as their developmental needs. We do not expect students to "perform" beyond their development. We do not expect students all to be at similar stages of development even within one grade level classroom. Unfortunately, the testing industry (and I guess this is the true business of education) believes we can expect ALL students in Grade X to know the same set of facts.

2. Therefore, I teach students. Yes, my classes are literature courses for students who wish to become school librarians. However, as I am preparing course materials, I am always thinking about the students who will enroll in the classes. I plan instruction accordingly. And even though my classes are online, I am always available to students with answers to questions, etc. I do not expect the same product from each student and offer as much choice as possible with content and process and product. I do not teach to the test (sadly, there are not many questions on the certification test about books and reading, but that is fodder for a separate post).

3. I do not use tests to assess learning. Instead, I provide opportunities for students to apply their learning, to reflect on the content of the course, to demonstrate their deeper understanding of books and reading.All testing would yield would be a snapshot of learning that can be assessed in a multiple choice format. It does not address things such as how a student has come to be a lifelong reader. It cannot measure how learning might be used in a school library. Testing only yields a number, and my students are not numbers in any way shape or form.]

There is more, of course. However, I hope that in keeping this brief and to the point, I hope it will have a greater impact. Please know that there are so many teachers who would be more than willing to enter into conversation with you. We long to share our expertise and our experiences with you. And surely, you realize that you have a knowledge deficit when it comes to education. Many of us have spent years (in my case, more than 40 years) honing our craft. We are not taxi drivers wringing our hands over Uber and Lyft. We are humans who understand that times change. The needs of our students, however, remain relatively unchanged. Reading of Piaget, Maslow, Kohlberg and others remind us of those needs. And that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to education. It is my fervent hope that you avail yourself of some education about education. Then you might be better prepared when students don't act as you expect.

P.S. You should probably read this letter, too:
Tags: education
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