Misdirected-teacher-trainingMisdirected Teacher Training has Crippled Education Reform

Significant Improvement will Require Teaching that Agrees with State Policy Aims

An online controversy about the impact of Common Core on teaching in grades preK-3 revealed an illusion that has crippled education reform for decades. Policymakers may think that educators disagree with them only about the means to education reform. In truth, they also disagree about the ends.

Since the 1983 Nation at Risk report, state and national policymakers have set and reset standards aimed at improving schools. Common Core is just the most recent. None has substantially increased student achievement and the reason is that primary school teachers have been trained to treat achievement as little more important than the advancement of favored social, emotional, and cultural ideals.

Despite law and policy holding schools and teachers accountable for learning outcomes, the organizations, agencies, and institutions responsible for teacher preparation have allowed special interests in the education community to substitute their own aims and priorities for those of public policy—and not for the first time.

Misdirected Teacher Training describes a doctrine taught to virtually all preK-3 teachers that has undermined the teaching of basic reading and math skills over the past three decades.

Called “developmentally appropriate practice,” its effect has been to prevent struggling students from catching up with their peers—even after 4 or 5 years of schooling. As a result, approximately 2/3 of all students including 4/5 of minorities have not mastered reading by grade 4—when schooling shifts from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” As a consequence, they gain minimal benefit from their subsequent schooling and seventy percent ultimately drop out or graduate unprepared for college or a career.

Teaching practices that enable lagging students to catch up have been available for decades but are little used because they have been falsely characterized as boring, ineffective, or harmful by stakeholders in the status quo.

Even the organization that created the doctrine has tried to change its position in response to criticism from researchers but vested interests, including many in its own ranks, have resisted change.

The Higher Education Act now being considered by the U. S. Senate may open the way to reform by making it easier for states and universities to identify supportive accreditors and adopt teacher training standards that agree with the aims and priorities of public policy.

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