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Perennial Headlines on Education

Here are some Headlines from newspapers over the years. Can you guess when they were written?

1. “Attack Mounted on Dropouts/City Sets Standards for Schools”

2. “New York’s Great Reading Score Scandal”

3. “Diagnostic reading tests are being given this week to 150,000 high school students as the first step in a new program—the largest and most systematic ever. …We intend to follow through…to overcome deficiencies.”

4. “The University of California (Berkeley) found that 30 to 40 percent of entering freshmen were not proficient in English.”

5. “Hope for the Blackboard Jungle: … Every year New Yorkers’ performance had been getting a little worse, until by YEAR? only 32 percent of the city’s pupils [were] doing as well or better than the national average.”

6. “Even Boston’s ‘brightest students’ didn’t know ‘whether water expanded or contracted when it freezes.’ And while 70 percent of this elite group knew that the U.S. had imposed an embargo in 1812 only five knew what ’embargo’ meant.”

7. “Tougher Standards in Our High. The average freshman is a year and three months behind national standards in reading.”

8. “City Pupils Remain Behind … Official Asserts the Tests Suggest Difficulty in Early Grades. Last fall 40.1 percent were reported on grade level or above … but in March, 43 percent … were reading at grade level or above”; and “Bleak drop out stats are raising concern.”

9. “Our standard for high school graduation has slipped badly. Fifty years ago a high school diploma meant something. … We have misled our students. … and our nation.”

10, “During the past 40 or 50 years those who are responsible for education have progressively removed from the curriculum … the western culture which produced the modern democratic state.”

The quotes above come from mainstream publications over the past 150 years. The earliest is 1845, the latest…

And the Answers:

1. 1986
2. 1980
3. 1974
4. 1898
5. 1974
6. 1845
7. 1983
8. 1979
9. 1958
10. 1941

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14 Responses

  1. The more things change…

  2. Incoherence, incompetence, neglect and corruption have been present all along: what's more recent and dangerous is the ideological animus against public education itself, in the guise of "reform."The large urban school districts are undergoing rapid and intense assault by private interests, including the taking over of physical infrastructure, school management, curricula and assessment and (with the advent of billions in venture philanthropy) policy-making itself. These are all direct threats to children's education, the teaching profession and the political culture of the nation.Despite the commonalities,

  3. Sorry, I meant to finish off by writing,"Despite the commonalities between today and the old headlines, there currently is a systemic attack on a wide range of fundamental on the public schools and the people who teach in them."

  4. I've been reading Francis Parker's Talks on Pedagogics published back in 1894.Little has changed. Interesting to note that the Colonel was taking on the Gates' and Broads' of his day.

  5. re: comment by Michael Fiorillo -Not all attacks (or I'd prefer calls for reform) on large urban school districts come from outside parties with questionable motivation. Some come from parents who are desperate to figure out a way to find an education that serves their children's needs and doesn't require them moving out to the suburbs or withdrawing totally (home school or private/parochial school). In Baltimore there is a large grassroots movement to push for reforms through "grow-your-own" charters or more meaningful involvement at newly empowered traditional schools. I would love to say that it is possible to work from within and never go the charter route. Unfortunately, entrenched ideas at some schools make real change and power sharing impossible, in my experience.

  6. I find it interesting that we can draw such different conclusions from your list of headlines. If the public has been complaining about teachers for more than a hundred years, is it not reasonable to look askance at the teachers?I have heard in my years as a teacher every excuse in the book but never this one; A good percentage of the people that I work with are incurious, not very bright and have 'given up trying' (if they ever tried at all). They were attracted to the career because of the (as they saw it) relative ease of the job.I think it is high time that we acknowledge that there is a huge percentage of people who teach that should not, and it is this crowd that the public is fed up with.Ask yourself this one question: What is the quality of conversation in the lounge with your fellow teachers?

  7. Anonymous:You sound like someone who's been in public education for a while. As a fellow educator (20 years now), what I've found to be the case is that you have a preponderance of the kind of teacher (and teacher's lounge) you describe in your comment when you have leadership that allows it to happen.Before you start typing your response, let me explain what I mean: I'm not talking about "allowing" it in the sense of not putting people on "growth plans" or giving unsatisfactory ratings, although there are schools where that may be an issue. The good public schools (and there are MANY of them, despite what we don't see in the headlines) have leadership that empowers both teachers and students, in the service of creating a prevailing interdependent culture. Those who do not "buy in" and function positively in this school can get help in the way of peer-to-peer training (i.e. critical friends groups, PLC's, and the like). If one of the folks like the ones you write about happens to sneak in (which they don't generally do, by the way, due to careful hiring practices that often include student voices through their membership in hiring committees, but it does happen occasionally, I'll give you that), they don''t tend to do well in these peer-support situations.What I've seen happen is that they try to close their doors and do their thing — whatever that may be — in isolation. The joke's on them, however, at the empowered, interdependent kind of school I'm referring to, because the doors are understood to be open. Closing ones door (figuratively, and sometimes literally) effectively marginalizes that teacher, and they begin to hear a consistent message that comes from ALL stakeholders — kids, parents, teachers, and yes, the principal: "We don't do that here."If a school can say this to an ineffective teacher, and mean it, and have it be intrinsically true because it's woven into the fabric of that school, then the kind of teacher you describe cannot flourish and will invariably leave or improve and "get with the program." Anonymous, if you're thinking, "This poor guy is living in a Pollyanna dreamworld," feel free to ask me for a list of schools where I've seen this interdependent empowerment dynamic prevail. I'll be happy to provide it for you.And guess what: It's a longer list than you might think.

  8. @Dan -I absolutely agree, there are great schools, even in districts that have reputations for failure (speaking about the only district that I have experience with – Baltimore City). As reformers, you can point to the schools that are making it and ask, "why can't we get leaders, teachers, parents… whatever …like that in all of our schools?" As a parent, I've got to ask "how can I get my child to attend that type of school?"You can argue that I should try to make a school more successful, but if you think bad administrators stifle teachers, it is much worse, in my experience, to be a parent trying to push for change. There's no union to represent you, your kids are daily held hostage… I could go on, and I assure you I am not exaggerating.This is why school choice and charters are SO important to me. I know that all kids, of all races and economic levels, can succeed in the right school. My kids don't have the time to wait for failing schools to be given all the time they ask for; they say they need, to hope that maybe they turn around.

  9. @A BCPPS Parent,Like you, my most important role in life is that of parent. And my two sons are in a public elementary school, so you're right — they don't have the luxury to wait for anyone's timeline. That being said, we still need to figure out effective ways to improve ALL schools, and I love what you said about "pointing to effective schools," but I am going to challenge the idea that we then ask the question "Why can't all schools be like this one?" Instead, the question should be, "What lessons can we learn from this school that could help us take our school to the next level."What we're lacking is a system of sustainable professional sharing, and that takes the building of relational trust. Yes, it takes time, and yes, our students need help urgently and right now. It's the situation we find ourselves in, and the best we can do is continue to ask hard questions, instead of giving easy answers, like "If we fire all the 'bad' teachers, then everything suddenly will be all right." That's a pipe dream that Mr. Guggenheim and others are selling us in a very pretty package. But if we don't build a better system of support, for our kids AND our teachers, we're going to end up right back where we started.

  10. (That should read "@A BPSS Parent." Sorry about that.)

  11. "Why can't all schools be like this one?"Because no other school is that one.Each school is unique. Each classroom is unique. Each teacher is unique. Most important, each student is unique.The methods that turned around Ford Motor in 1908 would not have worked at Apple (pre-Mac); the methods used at Apple won't work in your school. It ain't that easy. But administrators never seem to learn that.

    • I’m sorry I never replied to Ed Darrell’s remarks. He’s right about most of it. Still there aren’t 60,000 folks better than those we have to replace NYC’s teachers, etc. Happily, I’ve discovered that many of the “bad” teachers are good people, and eve sensible and smart and open to learning, IF.. If we made the schools we have “learning institutions” for teachers and students. Instead of knocking them–we need to create setting where we all learn.
      If you ever read this, Ed (unlikely), do you still want the source of those citations?

  12. You know, I'd love to have citations on each answer, if they exist.

  13. thanks to share this…

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