Jay Matthews’ post here entitled “Even Our Best Kids Lag in Math—Middle Schools to Blame” quotes a study done by Eric A Hanushek and Paul E. Peterson which blames the decline of US student math scores in comparison to other countries to “failure to raise standards for teaching and learning.” Matthews himself says he “blames middle schools.”
This looking-for-blame game is definitely in vogue today because our United States is suffering through an economic depression that is proving difficult to climb out of, and Americans have suddenly awakened to the fact that there are countries who can score higher on tests than our students. I think the immediate danger is accepting the word of some charlatan or salesman selling snake oil. Instead, there’s a whole lot of finger pointing happening, and blaming happening. The free-market reformers are saying that “just a little competition will fix it.” The pro-charter reformers suggest converting our public schools to charters will fix it. The “Waiting for Superman” reformers blame teacher unions and getting rid of them will fix it. The blame game list is currently very lengthy, and as researchers keep digging, I’m sure there will be others added to the list.
Ultimately, a great deal of time and energy is expended trying to fight all these battles. I have said time and again that teacher and education organizations need to take back the reform conversation from those pushing their own private agendas. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and find solutions to the problems we face in our schools. Those of us who are in the schools every day know that there are no easy solutions. It honestly takes a lot of hard work to teach today’s students. We can best solve our education system problems disengaging from the blame-game and start working to make reform happen.