Can We Agree We are Wrong?

There is so many ideas about teaching and learning that are kicking around in the literature, the blogosphere, and the popular culture that some of them must be incorrect–we know this is true because many of these are contradictory. Let’s clarify that we are wrong about three of these… and these are three that are deeply held and are the foundation of of much schooling.

First, there is no way to be sure “the standards” actually reflect the skills and knowledge one needs to be successful. I maintain that reading books is a necessary experience for young people, but that they must also be taught how to read text on screens—the skills are vastly different. I also maintain the algorithms and procedures taught to my generation of math mathematics students are no longer relevant.

Second, there is no way to be sure the tests and other assessments used to measure the degree to which students have actually learned the standards. In the terms of education researchers, the internal validity of the tests is dubious; we don’t know that the tests actually measure learning of the standards. Further, the external validity of dubious; career and college ready became the goal of the Common Core State Standards in the early decades of the 21st century. We don’t know that college and career ready is a thing.

Third, there is no assurance that the activities we label teaching actually has the outcomes we expect. Educators and social science researchers have known for generations that many factors (income, race, others) are better predictors of school performance than academic experiences. Further, there is no assurance that a lesson in which the educators intends to teach (for example) how to solve quadratic equations will actually result in students being able to solve them, recognize them in their contexts, and be able to solve them on other contexts.