Posts tagged ‘E. D. Hirsch Jr.’

September 25, 2014

Seven myths of education are hobbling education reform

by Grace

Author Daisy Christodoulou argues that the “chief barriers to effective school reform are not the usual accused: bad teacher unions, low teacher quality, burdensome government dictates”, but instead are the Seven Myths about Education:

1 – Facts prevent understanding
2 – Teacher-led instruction is passive
3 – The 21st century fundamentally changes everything
4 – You can always just look it up
5 – We should teach transferable skills
6 – Projects and activities are the best way to learn
7 – Teaching knowledge is indoctrination

E. D. Hirsch, Jr. points out the relevance of these myths today, with the nationwide embrace of Common Core Standards that comes after the failure of No Child Left Behind reform.

Ms. Christodoulou’s book indirectly explains these tragic, unintended consequences of NCLB, especially the poor results in reading. It was primarily the way that educators responded to the accountability provisions of NCLB that induced the failure. American educators, dutifully following the seven myths, regard reading as a skill that could be employed without relevant knowledge; in preparation for the tests, they spent many wasted school days on ad hoc content and instruction in “strategies.” If educators had been less captivated by anti-knowledge myths, they could have met the requirements of NCLB, and made adequate yearly progress for all groups. The failure was not in the law but in the myths.

While Hirsch focuses most on reading skills and how CCS employ ‘the same superficial, content-indifferent activities, given new labels like “text complexity” and “reading strategies”‘, the entire list of myths is in play to doom the latest reform efforts.

… If the Common Core standards fail as NCLB did, it will not be because the standards themselves are defective. It will be because our schools are completely dominated by the seven myths analyzed by Daisy Christodoulou….

Despite some rhetoric to the contrary, CCS implementation continues the educational establishment’s crusade against “knowing things” and “being taught things”.  Instead, in accordance with the seven myths it downplays outside knowledge and encourages a “discovery-oriented” approach instead of direct instruction.


E. D. Hirsch, Jr.,  “A Game-Changing Education Book from England”, Huffington Post, 06/27/2013.

March 16, 2012

Core Knowledge nonfiction curriculum proves better than ‘balanced literacy’

by Grace

Children in New York City who learned to read using an experimental curriculum that emphasized nonfiction texts outperformed those at other schools that used methods that have been encouraged since the Bloomberg administration’s early days, according to a new study to be released Monday….

The less-effective curriculum, used in most public schools today, is called “balanced literacy”.  The approach that proved more effective in this study is part of the Core Knowledge program, designed by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.

Under the balanced literacy approach, which was used by seven of the comparison schools and remains the most popular method of teaching reading in the city’s schools, children are encouraged to develop a love of reading by choosing books that are of interest to them. Teachers spend less time directing instruction, and more time overseeing students as they work together.

Reading nonfiction writing is the key component of the Core Knowledge curriculum, which is based on the theory that children raised reading storybooks will lack the necessary background and vocabulary to understand history and science texts. While the curriculum allows children to read fiction, it also calls on them to knowledgeably discuss weather patterns, the solar system, and how ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia compare.

This principal still prefers balanced literacy for higher income students, believing Core Knowledge is only better for poor children.

“I like balanced literacy, I do; I think that it works well, especially for children who are coming into school having been read to every single day,” said Katie Grady, principal … “For my children, who are economically disadvantaged, they needed something more, and the Core Knowledge pilot had it,” Ms. Grady said….

A friend from a nearby school district pointed out that many middle- and upper-class parents would also prefer Core Knowledge for their own children.  She understands, as a college instructor married to a college professor, that even well-educated parents want their public schools to maintain high standards. Core Knowledge’s emphasis on nonfiction, historical fiction and classic literature is in contrast to balanced literacy’s focus on contemporary literature that is considered more “relevant” to students.  The young adult (YA) sections of libraries are well stocked with this genre, typified by stories of teen anguish and social injustice.

One example of such YA literature is The Outsiders, a young adult novel with a 5.1 reading level that has become a standard assignment in many middle schools. It doesn’t hurt that showing the movie version in class is an ideal way for teachers to fulfill mandated multimedia “21st century” skills instruction.  It sounds like a good time for students, but I agree with my friend when she expresses what she would have preferred for her son who attended public school out here in the affluent suburbs.

If we’d had the Core Knowledge sequence, he could have read The Outsiders for fun here at home while reading Longfellow, Dickinson, and Langston Hughes with his teacher at school.

Rich or poor, highly educated or high school dropout, it seems parents must often do much of the heavy lifting in content instruction while the schools are doing the fun “relevant” projects in the classroom.

Related:  Schools will use tracking and more nonfiction reading to improve achievement

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