Monday, September 14, 2009

Educational success in the inner city

Mark Hemmingway reviews Crazy Like a Fox: One Principal's Triumph in the Inner City.

Chavis sounds like a real character, probably not someone I'd enjoy being around. But he made a huge difference in student achievement and that should be examined and emulated.

The Left seems to embrace these kinds of raucous, speak-truth-to-power types when they agree with the message, but not so much when the tables are turned. I'm not big on the incendiary language myself. It gives people who disagree a reason to tune you out, and the work Chavis has done here should be tuned into.

That he's done it by discarding progressive methodologies and falling back on "old school" practices may make some uncomfortable, but results are results. It's time to get the politics out of education and adopt practices that are proven to work.

My recent reading about project-based learning has got me questioning how scientifically rigorous some of our teaching methods are. My impression is of a lot of theory being throw into classrooms based on weak empirical support. On the other hand, programs like Direct Instruction, which appear to be backed by more solid evidence, don't seem to be getting as much attention.

This is just another reason to get government out of education. Everything the government does is driven by politics. Seems to me that opening education up more to the private sector would take a lot of the politics out of it. If given real choice in where they send their kids to school, parents will eschew politics in favor of results. We'd quickly find out which methods work and which do not.

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