BLOG: The Book I'm Carrying Around: The Global Achievement Gap

Are our schools teaching our children what they need to actually be successful in college and a career or just enough to pass the MSAs and HSAs?


Critical thinking, creativity, leading by influence, adaptability, collaborating, effective communication—these are some of the survival skills that Wagner suggests that new adults will need as they head into college and work. How does your child rate in these areas? How well is your child's school preparing him/her? 

I'm reading this for our School Superintendent's book discussion. There's a lot of emphasis on the achievement gap—the difference in school performance of Black and Hispanic students compared to that of White and Asian students—and we miss the picture that they are all behind students of other cultures, based on various international tests. We focus on rigor in the classroom and teaching kids a lot of stuff—but it seems little emphasis on how to do any of it well, any more than necessary to pass the MSAs, at least, or how to understand what they have done. They are being taught basic probability and how to read a bar graph in first grade, but what's the point when they still don't know what it really means and can't add 7 + 5 because they run out of fingers.

Wagner analyzes why students are being taught the way they are—hint: standardized tests, NCLB—and how that is so out of line with developing the skills and abilities that they need to actually succeed in college and in the workforce. He takes a look at teacher training programs, as well as how children process, or don't process, information in the new digital age.

One main point that he stresses is that what used to work for education, doesn't work anymore. There was a time when only a certain percentage of the population went to college and those were the ones who the education system thought needed to be prepared for all the higher skills—thinking, analyzing, problem-solving, learning higher math and foreign languages. However, now, in our global economy, even the worker who will never leave the shores of the United States is competing with people all over the world for their job, whether manufacturing, engineering, management, even agriculture. Everybody these days needs to develop higher order skills and better communication skills to be successful, not just those who we expect to go to college.

I'm almost finished. I'm looking forward to the "what we can do about it" part and hearing from our school administrators about the issue.

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John DeMarchi April 24, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Here is a link to a great editorial in the Washington Post about how DC Public Schools have mistaken rote learning for real education. It was written by a Georgetown freshman named Darryl Robinson who says he was unprepared for college level work in some of DCPS's top schools. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/i-went-to-one-of-dcs-best-high-schools-i-was-still-unprepared-for-college/2012/04/13/gIQAqQQAFT_story.html Critical thinking skills are critically important, but are hard to assess with all the standardized tests that supposedly measure "learning". Our students deserve to be prepared in the world, not just on a test. I am very proud of the kind of learning that takes place at our school, Evergreen, and schools like ours. I hope Starr's efforts result in genuine reform for the school children of Montgomery County.


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