Opine I will

I am an elementary school teacher just trying to do the right thing

The perils of one size fits all.

We’ve all tried it.

You know, that great deal. One size fits all. Than to our dismay, we wonder what were we thinking?  We thought it would work than we realized, hey we’re all different. It doesn’t fit at all!

Why are education reforms now taking the one size fits all approach?

We’ve been taught that our society is the great melting pot. There is no other country in the world that is as differentiated as ours. We’ve come to realize that we all have individual needs and wants. Some of us even celebrate all the differences between us. Legislation has been fought over and won that protects those differences. Yet today we find ourselves in the position where the one size fits all mentality seems to be driving the education debate.

No Child Left Behind is an enormous unfunded mandate that sought to pigeon hole everyone into one category.  Every child will  read on grade level, 100%. An impossible task that follows the one size fits all mantra. Everyone will be tested, everyone will be ranked and everyone must be labeled. The goal was to fit everyone into the same mold of success. No one was to be left behind. What really happened is that no body moved forward.

Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top campaign pits states and school districts in a competition to conform with his initiative. Unfortunately every state or school district that does not fits into his idea of conformity loses out on much needed funds in these hard economic times. Holding needed funds hostage to high stakes testing, designed using the one size fits all approach, is devastating local budgets while doing an immense injustice to our children and teachers.

The new Common Core State Standards is another one size fits all campaign. The architects of this approach promise that all children will become college and career ready. All students will be required to master certain skills  at the same age, regardless of their differences. They’ll be tested with a one size fits all test. The Common Core ignores differentiation, ignores regional differences and needs, and stifles creativity. The standards state,

Students advancing through the grades are expected to meet each year’s grade-specific standards and retain or further develop skills and understandings mastered in preceding grades.

Or  else! How’s that for one size fits all?

States like New York have adopted new teacher evaluation systems that use the one size fits all approach. In addition, to being graded on how a teacher’s students do on a test of the Common Core Standards, they’ll also be observed utilizing a specific rubric or check list such as Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching . Another one size fits all approach. So now we’ll have administrators visiting our classroom with checklists on their I pads to see if we’re all conforming.  March in step, forget innovation, experimentation or common sense. Follow the rubric and in some cases follow the script. because one size needs to fit all.

Yesterday, Randi Weingarten proposed a Bar Exam for potential teachers.  Ignoring the different needs of each region she proposed a national standard for teacher readiness. yet another one size fits all approach. Feeding the naysayers, here proposal implies that yes, perhaps the one size fits all approach just might work.

The Texas GOP’s new platform is the most disturbing attempt at the one size fits all approach.  Here are a couple of there planks ( splinters really)

  • American Identity Patriotism and Loyalty – We believe the current teaching of a multicultural curriculum is divisive. We favor strengthening our common American identity and loyalty instead of political correctness that nurtures alienation among racial and ethnic groups.
  • Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

Texas buys 48 million textbooks every year. Their influence can be seen in every textbook across the nation. Is this the one size fit all approach we really want?

So what’s really  going on? Why has the one size fits all approach taken over education reform?  We’ve all heard the argument that schools should follow a business model.. really. ( We all know how well that has worked in business over the last 10 years)

Here’s the challenge to those naysayers out there. Spend a year in any  classroom across America, try to use your one size fits all approach, and then let’s talk.

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6 thoughts on “The perils of one size fits all.

  1. I like your argument here, but was it really necessary to put my photo in for illustrative purposes? :^(

  2. It seems we have like-minded views; I see “one-size-fits-all” is becoming the new buzz phrase in education.

    http://wp.me/p2x8EM-M
    http://wp.me/p2x8EM-y

  3. Anonymous on said:

    I don’t see it as one size fit’s all. I see that there are common standards to attain, but not a common path to get there. Teach anyway you want, but meet the standards.

    Do you think for a moment that if I we’re to go to work and not meet the standards of work expected I would keep my job?

    Teach with differentiated instruction. Teach with the methods that work for you and your class room using the latest teaching technologies that are backed by numbers that show they work, but if we expect to compete in the market place for college placement and jobs, we better be able to show that getting a 3.o grade average in Utah is the same as a 3.0 in Minnesota from a common class base.

  4. Dear Anonymous: The problem is that the standards will inevitably be confused with a curriculum map. And that map will become the territory. Value-added measurement and high-stakes testing make this an inevitability.

  5. We already have too many people confusing standards with curriculum . Just take a look at all the new books claiming to be aligned with the common core.

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