Thursday, December 29, 2005

Educational Malpractice

I've been meaning to make a post on this topic but put it off until I was reminded about it by the Wingard Report.

An article ran in the Oregonian a couple weeks ago that really is exhibit A for what is wrong with our elementary schools, colleges of education, state education departments and teacher certification agencies.

The article softpedaled the central point, but it was clear nonetheless: our schools have available to them reading and math programs that are absolutley proven to be effective, but the schools choose less effective programs because teachers don't like to teach the way the proven programs require.

In other words, they knowingly use ineffective programs to mollify teachers. Imagine if a hospital did the equivalent: choose ineffective therapies because the doctors found the effective ones to be professionally unrewarding. Wouldn't we call that malpractice?

The article starts out saying exactly this: "

"Two elementary school reform programs with roots in Oregon show the best evidence of raising student achievement, a new study commissioned by the
federal government shows, yet they are barely taught in Oregon classrooms."

I know something about these programs. The Arthur Academy charter schools, of which I am co-founder, uses one of them: the Direct Instruction Program based out of University of Oregon. This phonics based reading program and traditionally-sequenced math program is quite simply the most research validated elementary school curriculum in the history of mankind. (Believe it or not, that is not an overstatement.)

Yet the program is openly scorned by the vast majority of teachers and the colleges of education that train them. Even the University of Oregon college of education treats the Direct Instruction people there like some kind of family secret.

I've written about this for years. I got so frustrated by what I saw as an education establishment that shamefully ignored the overwhelming empirical evidence in favor of this program because of their own ideological aversion to direct teaching, that I decided to create a network of charter schools that used it, just to prove that it works.

The Arthur Academy Neighborhood Public Schools. Take a look at our results.

Then ask your elementary school principal if he or she has ever heard of Direct Instruction. You'll probably get a scornful smirk.

This is really a scandal.


Anonymous said...

So let me guess - its the memorizing of scripts thats the sore point with teachers?

It always seems if anything ever intrudes on a teachers unions members ability to do whatever they want its fought in Oregon.

It makes you wonder why we don't stop calling them principals and just move on to calling them Office Mangagers of the schools.

Steve Schopp said...

I wonder if the people at Chalkboard are on to this?

gus miller said...

Could there be some credential inflation going on here to benefit teachers colleges, the teachers' unions and the public school teachers?

If the basics of K-3 can be taught to 80% or more of students by teachers with four or fewer years of training reading from scripts there should not be a need to require new hires in many districts to have a Master's degree. There would also be a case for changing the teacher wage scales to pay such "basic" K-3 teachers more in line with their less inflated credentials.

With less inflated credential requirements, schools of education would be cranking out fewer Masters Degrees and new K-3 teachers would be able to start teaching sooner and with less debt to pay off on their college loans. And the OEA and OFT would feel some pressure to reduce dues on the new "basics" teachers working at a lower pay grade more in line with preschool teachers.

Raul Smith said...

You got it Rob. I became a teacher so I could purposely and willfully undereducate students. It has been my goal to poorly educate as many students as I could. Last year was a bonus year. First semester I was able to use the most ineffective program with 240 students in 6 periods. I went home each night fully satisfied with my shamefull performance. When I got home I spent two hours doggedly trying to plan for the poorest lesson I could present.

It is true I scorn every effective program that comes down the pike. It is a state wide conspiracy to do so and doom the education system in Oregon. (Next we are going to Calif and Wash.)

It is comforting to know I have the union to assist me in this plot.

Rob, if you have the proof, I think you should file a law suit against us for 'malpractice'. You would have a huge class action suit. You know may be you could get ole Ron to be your attorney.

You know Rob it is a communist plot. Just like putting flouride in the water.

Yes Rob, we need people like you running the school system. People who obviously cannot poor piss out of a boot.

Most insincerely,