Monday, February 6, 2012

We Want Good Schools

Oregon SOS member, Joanne Yatvin just published a fantastic piece in the Washington Post that gives us pause as it looks back to 1986. At the time, Joanne reviewed a book called McDonogh 15, 15, Becoming A School.

In looking over her review, Joanne realized just what we can learn from our past. Since we are on a cusp of reclaiming our public schools from the corporate education reform movement, it is important to read Joanne's words from the past and use them to help guide our decision making for the future.

She notes:

"To help you understand what I have learned from McDonogh 15, I will describe a good school as I know it and compare it to today’s popular ideal called an ”effective school.” Let me start with a general definition of a good school and go on with more detailed descriptions of both types of schools.....

Specifically, a good school mirrors the realities of life in an ordered, adult society; it is rational and safe, a practice ground for the things people do in the outside world. The school creates a sense of community that permits personal expression within a framework of social responsibility. It focuses on learnings that grow through use--with or without more schooling--such as communication skills, decision making, craftsmanship, and group interaction. It makes children think of themselves as people who find strength, nourishment, and joy in learning."

In contrast, the effective school looks at learning in terms of test scores in a limited number of academic areas. It does not take into consideration problem-solving abilities, social skills, or even complex academic skills. It does not differentiate between dynamic and inert knowledge; it ignores motivation. When we hear of a school where test scores are in the 90th percentile, should we not also ask what that school does to prepare students to live the next sixty years of their lives?

Read more about Good Schools vs. Effective Schools here.

This was written by Joanne Yatvin, a longtime public school educator,author and past president of the National Council of Teachers of English. She teaches part-time at Portland State University and is writing a book on good teaching in high poverty schools.

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