Sunday, July 15, 2012

Education is Not Achievement

By Steve Buel

The Oregonian ran a letter recently from a school board member talking about the need for achievement. I am sorry, but school boards, city council members, county commissioners, and state legislators just don't seem to get it. Achievement and education are not the same.

Let me explain.

The prevailing theory in the government and talk show worlds is that standardized tests show achievement and this is analogous to education.
It isn't. Standardized tests measure, not always well, reading, writing, and mathematics. Education includes these things but also such things as an understanding of history, science, health, music, art, sociology, geography, biology, chemistry, political science, literature, and a myriad of other fields.

Education also includes having the tools to make responsible decisions as an adult in politics, finance, raising a family, being a good citizen, and anything else you might encounter. It includes a host of personal traits, many of which need to be taught, such as self-discipline, not giving up, doing your best, having compassion and understanding, obeying the law, and standing up for your beliefs.

Education means educating for the future both in your profession
and in your daily life, including your recreational interests. And I am
sure anyone could add much more to this list, but it wouldn't emphasize
incremental changes in a student's ability to take tests.

Certainly kids who can't read or write reasonably well need to be taught
these skills. In fact, they need much more emphasis on them than they are
presently getting. But once they achieve a reasonable level it is counterproductive to keep pushing them into more reading and writing so they can score a couple points higher on state tests and your school or district can look a little better, though never good enough to satisfy the media or your state legislator or your local school board member.

The schools need to return to educating students in their own self-interest, not the interests of the people running the schools, the school districts, and the state government. When I was growing up the purpose of school was to make me a better person, more able to get along in the world I was entering. If I couldn't read reasonably well it meant taking me out of the classroom an hour a day in a very small group where I was taught to read. But if I could read it meant giving me a real education, one I needed and one I could use.

We seem to have forgotten that.