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Tony Wagner, The Global Achievement Gap (Basic Books, 2008)
Indeed this seems to be where the real gap lies:
This book covers a number of juicy issues: testing, developing a culture of teacher collaboration, school leadership, improving training for teachers and administrators, and student motivation. But these are simply tools, for at the heart of Wagner's book is the issue of what students should learn at school, the Seven Survival Skills:
These represent a "core set of survival skills for today's workplace, as well as for lifelong learning and active citizenship skills that are ntiher taught nor tested even in our best school systems." (p.14) Wagner argues that reforms that focus on these skills, as well as his other suggestions, are what will raise standards, not NCLB. It's a powerful argument if you agree with his assertion that while a growing number of teachers and parents are uneasy with excessive testing:
This then is the alternative to the testing culture. In a sense it is also an educationalists's version of the kind of ideas espoused by the business writers, Thomas Friedman and Daniel Pink and this convergence of an understanding of the problems facing education with the needs of business (and society) is compelling, for, unlike Friedman and Pink, Wagner discusses the need for these skills alongside the effects of the testing and accountability movement and the conservatism of the school system by comparing the "new world of work" with the "old world of school". He stresses the need for students to master skills rather than academic content, but shows how political pressures rather than educational needs led to an avalanche of content standards in the early 1990s along with the testing of ths content.
In the chapter, Reinventing the Education Profession, Wagner argues that the whole culture of the education profession needs to be changed with improved training for teachers and administrators, collaboration, an end to the compliance culture.
He makes a compelling argument for teacher and administrator (ie principals) collaboration:
One method he argues for is viewing and discussing videos of teaching but acknowledges the lack of time available for teachers to collaborate. Wagner criticises the poor quality of both teacher and administrator training, citing one study that
and instead suggests the development of portfolios as a method of both training and professional development along with greater collaboration and intellectual challenge.
He discusses professional development and how the prevailing culture seems to be that teachers will attend but ultimately will not implement anything from it, partly because administrators rarely encourage a follow-up.
The compliance culture:
It's an enlightening book. It's also both worrying and reassuring at the same time; reassuring because I find myself agreeing with everything he writes and because everything he suggests is both doable and is being done; worrying because most schools are teaching - and, frankly, being forced to teach - completely and utterly the wrong stuff.