That Makes Too Much Sense

From Daniel Willingham, more examples of why NCLB’s simplistic, test-driven narrowing of elementary education to basic reading and math skills hurts students in the long run.

In the early grades we emphasize the skills that are tested at the early grades, but we fail to build knowledge that—although it’s not measured early on—will be important later.

In reading, the emphasis is on decoding, and our kids are pretty good decoders.

But by 10th grade, being a good reader no longer means being a good decoder. Most kids are good decoders by this time. Instead, reading tests emphasize comprehension, and comprehension is mostly driven by prior knowledge–knowing a little bit about the subject matter at hand. (I’ve emphasized the importance of prior knowledge in reading here and here.)

All that time spent on decoding in the early grades, (and time not spent on history, geography, science, music, art, etc.) comes back to haunt kids in 10th grade and beyond. (my emphasis)

According to Willingham, “a parallel phenomenon is happening in math” where we push drilling rudimentary algorithms at the expense of understanding mathematical concepts.

In the end, he comes to the very logical conclusion that, if we expect high school students to do well in those international comparisons, “the work must begin in early elementary school”.

Or is that too logical for those reformers who want even more basic skills testing in the early grades?

 

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