Educational Bureaucracy Gets an F

Educational Bureaucracy Gets an FA news item delivered with my morning paper this morning seemed relevant to a quote from my book Call of the Active Mind.

The Quote
“Because people’s minds are increasingly passive and simple, people in the education system try to find new and better substitutes for thinking. Sophisticated-sounding-but-ineffectual pedagogical methodologies are bureaucratically blessed by the various education-system bureaucracies. None of them know what they’re talking about.

“We pay $billions in taxes so our Departments of Education can give fancy names to worthless programs, which tax money ends up paying for more education-candy for our children’s softened minds, to keep them soft.”

So today’s blog post provides just another small example from a nearby school district:

The Story
Many parents give new mind-boggling report cards an F
by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer, Philadelphia Enquirer Newspaper, May 22, 2016.

This is not an issue of teaching methods, but it’s related in that it’s a new pedagogical method of evaluating and reporting performance in Elementary Schools.

The concern was, the A-F grading system wasn’t working. Among other problems, it “graded students competitively against their classmates, based on tests and quizzes” instead of against fixed standards (meaning if everyone does terribly, the least terrible would still get A’s). The article says, this is a problem “especially when grade inflation has rendered A-B-C grades less meaningful.” [See more on Grade Inflation]

So far, it sounds like a reasonable concern. But the disaster follows—when you give a problem to today’s bureaucracy, instead of a solution, you get a worse problem.

After “changes were developed over two years by teachers, administrators, and consultants,” parents no longer received a page or two evaluating their kids (traditional report card). Instead, they received a link to “a nine-page digital document with row after row of learning standards and success indicators for specific reading or math skills.” That’s a nine-page “report card” for each child, using pedagogically obscure gibberish, which parents now must decipher in order to figure out if their kid did OK in math or reading.

“The district has posted a 10-page handbook and seven videos on its website on how to interpret the evaluations.” This is the solution to the A-F report card concern.

One parent said “I don’t even open it. . . . It’s information overload,” and other parents said of the new grading system, “They’re too vague,” and “It works equally horribly for the student who wants to do better and the student who doesn’t want to try too hard.” The problem is, parents can’t tell how well their kids did, or what they still need to work on.

It’s also a huge increase in work for the teachers, who, according to the article, are reluctant to speak out against the new system publically (job security). Teachers are powerless to criticize and forced to participate in the farce.

On a positive note, parental complaints have led to a change to reduce the length and complexity of the report cards in the future. That sounds hopeful, but track-record indicators caution against getting hopes up for much improvement.

The real point is, how did so many of the best and brightest educational administrators and consultants, focusing their cumulative intelligence on a new grading solution, come up with something so obviously worthless, ridiculous, and incompetent in the first place?

That is the root question, that weaves its way down the path of lower brain function, to the root cause, which forces its way to the most inconvenient solution of all, made crystal clear in the Call of the Active Mind.

Call of the Active Mind, ©Copyright Robert Rose-Coutré 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016

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