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Opinion :: To the Editor: Why outcome-based education is not working
· 11:24pm January 25th, 2013
To the editor:
I've received what I can only characterize as an overwhelming amount of support and feedback since the initial publication of my Letter to the Editor late Wednesday.
I've heard from literally dozens of parents, grandparents, and in one case a great-grandmother of kids currently in our school district, and many who have long ago graduated, expressing the same concerns and frustrations I did. It seems apparent that everyone, in their own way, knows something isn't working, they just can't put their finger on what it is, but, the results and data speak from themselves.
This topic has resonated in this community in a way that I could have never anticipated.
And to be clear, I am not questioning the competence of any of our individual teachers in this School District. To the contrary, we have many wonderful, caring, concerned educators who are working tirelessly and doing their best. I applaud them and their efforts, and point out that this is not, and never was the issue I attempted to address, and caution everyone to not change the subject by suggesting it is.
What I do take issue with is what these wonderful people are being provided to work with.
When Iowa was ranked #1 in education in the late 60's and 70's, we were still teaching phonics. We were still requiring memorization of basic math facts (I had to know my multiplication tables by the end of 3rd Grade or I simply wouldn't pass to 4th Grade).
About this time, an educational movement started taking foot on the east and west coasts that was ultimately called "Outcome Based Education" (OBE). An excellent analysis of OBE by Phyllis Schlafy can be found here: http://www.ourcivilisation.com/dumb/dumb3.htm Or, do your own research and reach your own conclusions by simply Googling "Outcome Based Education failures". There is plenty of information to read and research there.
Iowa began moving in this direction literally about the same time that States that had tried it earlier had already started abandoning the concept. Whole countries and continents have tried, and abandoned OBE, but Iowa never has, not completely, and a hybrid mutation of this basic, failed concept is still being used as the model and framework that our public education system in Iowa is operating on to this day. And, our VSCSD test scores show it.
When OBE's shortcomings really started rearing its ugly head was when No Child Left Behind became law. Now suddenly, public education was required to objectively evaluate the success of their educational programs and submit themselves to comparison with other schools and States. OBE was never intended to have any "apples to apples" evaluation done with it.
And you must realize that education doctrine isn't based on time-tested and scientifically validated practices, it's driven by marketing.
OBE is a product that is marketed to superintendents and principals and public education professionals at seminars and conferences just like the Big Mac is marketed by McDonalds. It's a franchise.
We have teachers who can remember what was taught and how it was taught "back in the day" who recognized OBE's failures and shortcomings from the start and tried to warn us.
Many in this community fondly remember the late Janet Sanders, or "Mrs. Bomar", from when you were in school. Janet was an "old school" teacher that knew what worked and what didn't. And, she wasn't bashful. Janet often told the story about what prompted her to retire from our School District----it was this "new and improved" idea that she knew wouldn't work, and she refused to be a part of it.
It's not about working harder, it's about working smarter. There's a lot we can learn from the past.
My son has had a total of just 33 hours of instruction in phonics, word structure and decoding to bring his reading proficiency up 5-6 full grade levels. This involved literally going back to 1st Grade word structure and phonics, reconstructing and in many cases simply introducing language concepts that our school's franchise reading program simply never considered, or ever taught.
It's not entirely about what we're teaching that's the problem with our district's reading proficiency numbers. You won't find the answer in what we're doing and how much effort we're putting into doing it, the problem is in what we're skipping, ignoring, overlooking and dismissing .
I asked the rhetorical question in my previous editorial, "What are they doing so right, that we're not?"
Home school curriculums, private schools and in many cases other school districts in Iowa that have stellar academic performance numbers all have this one thing in common.
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