Friday, July 27, 2007

Jim Cummins dismantles NCLB

Comparing the research into instructional methods that work with what actually happens today in the schools, particularly in inner cities, it is "very clear," Cummins said, that the current approach in too many U.S. schools is 90% ideology and 10% science. Research is ignored, misunderstood, misinterpreted and distorted to favor that ideology. . . [read on]

1 comment:

Barbara Stengel said...

I'm delighted that Nick put the Cummins piece up. This whole issue of "research-based" instruction is veiled by a kind of political obfuscation that confounds those who _want_ educational practice to be rooted reasonably in the results of research. Yes, it matters that teachers and leaders make decisions (the "choices" Cummins rightly hammers) with research findings serving a guiding function. But there is no simple "application" of research findings; those findings must always be taken into account in the rich context of student-teacher-content relations within specific socio-cultural patterns. That's why "teacher proofing" doesn't work and why teacher education is more than "teacher training" (and perhaps even why foundations of education plays a critical role in the development of "teaching thinking" (to convert an Emersonian locution).

So the Bush Administration and NCLB call for "research-based" practice, but that's not what they want at all -- as Burbules and Cummins point out.

(Side note: Has anybody but me noticed that the only area in which the Bush Administration seems to demand research-based action is with respect to teachers' practice in schools? The "present occupant" and his appointees seem not to care about research with respect to the environment, health issues like adolescent sexual activity, drug addiction, and stem-cell potential, and, of course, the war on terror and the "intelligence" which supports it. Why bother with respect to teaching and learning? Of course, as Cummins points out, the truth is we're not really bothering to make use of research in any intellectually or pragmatically defensible way.

So yes, let's keep talking about research -- about how to conduct defensible educational research and about what we think we know as a result of the defensible research already conducted. And let's also talk about how research findings function in the decision-making into action that marks the practice of the teachers we know to be effective in enabling students to make their way -- critically -- in the world we share and co-create.