In ed­u­ca­tion, the old stan­dards worked bet­ter

Dayton Daily News - - CLASSIFIED MARKET - John Rose­mond Fam­ily psy­chol­o­gist John Rose­mond an­swers par­ents' ques­tions on his web­site at www.rose­

As with nearly ev­ery pub­lic pol­icy topic these days, myths abound, but few mytholo­gies ri­val that sur­round­ing pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion. Some ex­am­ples:

Myth: Smaller class­rooms pro­mote bet­ter learn­ing.

Fact: The teacher-pupil ra­tio has lit­tle to do with stu­dent achieve­ment, as demon­strated in the 1950s when el­e­men­tary class­rooms were burst­ing at the seams (nearly three times as many stu­dents per teacher than now) and stu­dent achieve­ment was sig­nif­i­cantly higher than it has been since. This ca­nard is pro­moted by teach­ers unions, ad­min­is­tra­tors, and politi­cians on both sides of the aisle who seek to curry fa­vor with the unions and ad­min­is­tra­tors. The unas­sail­able fact is that stu­dent achieve­ment has de­clined as class­room be­hav­ior prob­lems have risen and teach­ers have been in­creas­ingly ham­strung — by un­sup­port­ive ad­min­is­tra­tors, politi­cians and the courts — when it comes to dis­ci­pline. It’s stu­dent be­hav­ior, folks, not class size. Myth: More money would im­prove stu­dent achieve­ment.

Fact: As a cat­e­gory, Catholic schools have the best record when it comes to stu­dent achieve­ment, in­clud­ing stu­dents who rep­re­sent the lower end of the so­cio-eco­nomic spec­trum. With rare ex­cep­tions, Catholic schools spend con­sid­er­ably less per stu­dent than do pub­lic schools. Class­room dis­ci­pline in most Catholic schools is head-and-shoul­ders above the ever-de­te­ri­o­rat­ing sit­u­a­tion in most pub­lic schools, but equally im­por­tant is that Catholic schools do not suf­fer ad­min­is­tra­tive bloat. Un­like the case in most pub­lic school dis­tricts, one does not find mul­ti­ple as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dents of this and that in Catholic sys­tems.

Myth: En­cour­ag­ing par­ents to over­see and help with home­work pos­i­tively im­pacts stu­dent achieve­ment.

Fact: Wrong again. A 2014 study found an in­verse re­la­tion­ship be­tween home­work help from par­ents and school achieve­ment, re­gard­less of any de­mo­graphic char­ac­ter­is­tic or even a child’s abil­ity level. The fact is that home­work en­abling –– a much more ac­cu­rate de­scrip­tor than “home­work help” –– is like any other form of en­abling. It has a de­cid­edly neg­a­tive im­pact on per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity and, there­fore, a neg­a­tive im­pact on stu­dent achieve­ment. Ref­er­enc­ing the 1950s again (which drives my peren­nial de­trac­tors up the prover­bial wall), it was the rare par­ent who ren­dered any­thing more than oc­ca­sional help with home­work. Thus, chil­dren had higher lev­els of per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity, and stu­dent achieve­ment was sig­nif­i­cantly higher.

Myth: So­cial sci­ence re­search has been a boon to pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion.

Fact: Since the late 1960s, pub­lic school ed­u­ca­tors and pol­i­cy­mak­ers have em­braced the pro­gres­sive no­tion that new ideas are bet­ter than old ideas. The new ideas in ques­tion have been sup­ported by so­cial sci­ence re­searchers (who will sup­port just about any­thing one wants it to sup­port), yet none of the new ideas –– open class­rooms, out­come-based ed­u­ca­tion, col­lab­o­ra­tive learn­ing, to cite a few) –– have panned out. To­day as yes­ter­day, the most suc­cess­ful schools are those that ad­here to a tra­di­tional model.

Myth: Teach­ing aca­demics be­fore first grade (en­cour­aged by both pub­lic and pri­vate schools) boosts over­all achieve­ment.

Fact: A grow­ing num­ber of ed­u­ca­tors and re­searchers are con­vinced that teach­ing aca­demics be­fore first grade in­creases the per capita in­ci­dence of learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties and low­ers achieve­ment in the long run. As did most of my peers, I came to first grade not know­ing my ABCs. Lest I need­lessly repeat my­self, the reader is en­cour­aged to reread myths 1 through 4 above.

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