When “reformers” say, they believe all kids can learn, what they are saying is, “I believe all kids can learn a set of standards based solely on their chronological age, within a finite time-frame, by using a common version of curriculum and instructional methods, as measured by a single standardized test.” Gates has shown their beliefs in the this series of posts and their actions. For example, the repeated use of the word “achievement” to mean test scores, their recent actions to identify “best methods” in teaching to promulgate throughout the profession like cookie cutters, and their support of a version of common core that will lead to vertical alignment (monopolies) of curriculum providers with testing providers. I do not believe in this school of thought. Here is what I do believe:
- I believe that all children can learn a variety of skills, tasks, and ideas but not at the same pace or with the same tools, and teacher inputs. They should be developmentally appropriate for the individual child, not just the average child in their age cohort.
- I believe that there will ALWAYS be successful students in high poverty schools that perform as well as students at schools serving fewer children in poverty, there will just be fewer of them for reasons not just beyond my control as an educator, but beyond their control, and their family and community’s control.
- I believe that students in poverty face a number of factors that will cause them as a whole to not perform as well as non-poverty peers on curriculum and tests designed for middle-class children.
- I believe that trying to solve poverty through education alone is like giving a camp of starving refugees fishing poles when they living in the middle of a desert wasteland. It’s unproductive and wasteful. It’s not just that it doesn’t solve the underlying problem, it’s blind and deaf to the conditions on the ground that will guarantee failure.
These factors are real, and saying you believe in John Dewey does not stop the effects of endemic exposure to lead in Oakland, where I started teaching and Anthony had his career. This cannot be overcome by a “great” teacher (whatever that means).
Actually, reformers like to maintain plausible deniability about most of the standardization Alice refers to in the first paragraph. As far as they know, they're paragons of personalization. Just wait until they get their software working.