Teaching in 2030 – A New Series About Our Potential Slippery Slope

Alternative Series Title – We’ve Fallen and We Can’t Get Up!

I am all about series lately, can you tell!  I’ve got a series of weekend posts about the Top 100 Children’s Picture Books, another one about the Top 100 Children’s Novels and a third about the 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know.  I mean, somebody stop the madness!  

I can’t help myself.  I just keep finding all this interesting stuff that I want to share with my peeps and splitting it up into blog-sized bits just makes the most sense.  Hence, the series.  

Recently, I stumbled upon a series of essays about the future of American education sponsored by the Hoover Institution.  I’d like to check them out and pull them apart with the TEACHER in mind.  And, you know, add a little sass to the conversation. Put a little a la Mrs. Mimi on it, if you will.  

The first essay I want to take a look at is titled “Only if Past Trends Persist Is the Future Dismal” by Paul E. Peterson.  If I have learned anything in my time as a doctoral student (and sometimes I wonder if I have learned anything…) it is to consider the source. Briefly, Mr. Peterson is a professor at Harvard, but also is connected to the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.  (Basically, you can see his leather elbow patches from space.)  He is focused on the importance of parental choice in relation to positive school outcomes.  The idea of school choice and vouchers make me a bit nervous, because Mrs. Mimi is a big believer that these systems, although well intended, can become inequitable very quickly and really, are just Band Aids for larger problems.  How about we FIX schools, IMPROVE schools instead of shuffling our friends elsewhere?  But that’s just me.

Basically, Mr. Elbow Patches begins by examining some of the current trends in education (as observed in the last 40 years) to help predict some potential trends for 2030.  Friends, the outlook is grim.  I won’t include everything, but among some of his more interesting predictions are these:

* Per pupil spending will triple. (Enter for-profit school sharks.)
* Student/teacher rations will decrease from about 15 students per teacher to less than 10.  (I’m not sure where people have only 15 students right now, but if you do, high five for you!)
* Control of our schools will continue to shift away from local boards and toward state and federal government.   (Can you say “testing-pa-looza 2030”)
* The percentage of children attending charter schools will continue to increase.
* Schools will stay largely segregated.
* The overall quality of the teaching force will decline.  (Proof that rampant finger pointing = uber qualified people running from teaching like it’s the plague.)

Would you like a drink now or later?

He continues to discuss predictions for the role of technology in the classroom. Some of which sound awesome, some of which sound daunting and some of which will probably end up being just for the good old dog and pony show.  Among his predictions – information, curriculum and instructional tools will become available via the Internet at little to no cost and revolutionize student engagement.  Although, and I almost fell off my chair when I read it, he suggests that this type of student engagement in school may encourage children to choose to NOT attend a traditional high school, opting instead for more of a home-schooling environment.  He questions if colleges will continue to require a high school diploma…Um, say whaaaat?  

A direct quote (cuz I couldn’t paraphrase this one or say it any better myself):

“In short, the rising costs public schools, the declining quality of instruction within

the schools, and the technological changes that may make it possible for students to
access information and instruction directly from low-cost sources may result in the
creation of a hybrid system of education that combines online learning with some
elements of the brick-and-mortar school. Teachers will become coaches who help
students engage with the material presented by others. Changes will move from the
college level downward through high school into the middle school. The elementary
school, always the best part of the twentieth-century school, will also make extensive
use of online curricular materials, though mostly in classroom settings.”

Am I wrong to hear an implication that sh*t will roll downhill from colleges to high schools, from high schools to middle schools and from middle schools to (sigh) elementary schools?  While I don’t mind the idea of becoming a coach to encourage and support children working with a variety of media (because it’s not super far from how I see my job right now), the implication that our delivery is being replaced makes me nervous.  How long before we’re replaced all together. With all the current negativity currently surrounding teachers, I wouldn’t be surprised if some D-bags out there read this and high fived. 

What about the importance of the relationship between a teacher and a student?  What about our identities as educators?  Where does all that go?

Friends, I’m a little a’feared here.  How about you?  
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  • Scared here, too…that's one reason I've decided to go ahead and retire.

    On the other hand, I hope to make some noise about the direction that public education is taking. Not sure that it will make a difference, but as we've noted…Sec. Duncan doesn't know that people don't agree with his policies, so I'll at least make enough noise so that he can hear me loud and clear.

    The good news is that I have been around long enough to know that eventually the pendulum will swing back and the testing madness will ease up. The same with teacher bashing. That will end once someone else is found to bash instead.

    The list of changes reminded me of an old short story by Isaac Asimov called The Fun They Had. It's worth a look…

    May 11, 2010 at 7:18 pm
  • The student-teacher connection is, sometimes, even more critical than the content. A virtual teacher doesn't know enough about the students to be able to give encouragement in the face of failure or giving up. Today I saw one of my former students before his AP exam. When his friends were asking why he even bothered to show up for the exam (he's had a rough year), I was the one who thanked him for taking the exam and giving it his best effort. He emailed me after the test and told me he thought he did a good job. I'd like to think that last minute encouragement gave him the confidence he needed to do his best. How can a remote teacher or, worse, an impersonal website or piece of software do that?

    May 12, 2010 at 1:23 am
  • It's funny how inthebusiness world I was taught to care for the whole person because i spent so muchtimeastheir boss, but in education I get in trouble for caring too much because I call dhs so often. Add in there how teachers don't get how I don't have problems like they dobecausewe get each other and I think thatswhere all the professional jealousy is. I feel really badthatthere are so many unprofessional teachers that make us all look bad, and how many teachers and principals justdont care.

    May 12, 2010 at 3:22 am
  • At my school, we tested End of Course (EOC) testing – which will replace TAKS testing in Texas. Not a bad idea at first glance.

    They will apparently be administered with computers and I can tell this idea was NOT thought up by a classroom teacher.

    Basically, the seedy network crapped out during the test and students were waiting for about an hour in some cases to start their tests!

    Thanks again for advocating the impossible – the teachers' role in education.

    Josh, http://transmorgified.wordpress.com

    May 12, 2010 at 11:55 am
  • Josh, I saw the same thing in my district at the beginning of this school year. Our district implemented "embedded assessments", and we were encouraged to use the computer lab for these tests. The computers were too slow, the testing website crashed, students in some classes gave each other the answers so the results were invalid. My state (Florida) is now planning to drop science FCAT and go to a end of course exam for biology. Who knows how that will go, but based on experience, I'm not optimistic.

    May 12, 2010 at 8:28 pm
  • Some colleges admit homeschooled children now w/o the diploma, so it really isn't that farfetched. They love homeschooled kids because they are more independent and know how to work.

    May 14, 2010 at 1:19 pm
  • That teacher/student ratio isn't because a lot of people have only 15 kids in their class. It's because of all the special ed and extra helping teachers (props to them, I don't have the patience to do that everyday). They count as part of the teacher count of a school, which isn't really being totally honest, is it? But, since they are teachers earning salary that's how the cost gurus calculate the ratios for budgeting. It doesn't reflect classroom reality but it sure makes non-education people wonder why teachers gripe about too many students in class when the financial ratio is so low.

    We're messed up by metrics wherever we look, friends.

    May 18, 2010 at 9:32 pm

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