What’s In A Word?

Quick thought experiment – if you were to substitute “needs improvement” for every instance where the word “failing” is used in the public conversation to describe school accountability efforts wouldn’t the dialogue sound a lot different?  Eg – “Under No Child Left Behind 48 percent of schools have been identified as failing” or “Under No Child Left Behind 48 percent of schools have been identified as needing improvement” are two very different things in practice and also sound different.  One sounds intuitively implausible and the other quite reasonable given our educational outcomes.  It’s not an academic point because federal law doesn’t use the term failing for schools and does actually use the phrase needing improvement…

Now back to your regularly scheduled rhetoric.

3 Replies to “What’s In A Word?”

  1. Great point here. And I’ve encountered this same thing in the field where people misappropriate or simply do a mental re-write of federal law to make a point that can’t be made any other way.

    Today, for example, a group of teachers told me they were required “by the law” to teach certain lessons in a certain order to their students even though they all admitted that the lessons were inappropriate or irrelevant to their students’ needs.

    They said they were obligated to teach certain things and had no other choice. I suggested that they could always choose to obligate themselves to helping children learn by teaching them the knowledge and skills they needed most — and that that was my reading of “the law.”

    But this “interpretation” was rejected, I think, because it didn’t fit their paradigm of schooling.

    We may be moving closer to better standards, better testing, and better curriculum, but we will not make much progress toward educating our children until we shift the dominant paradigm from teaching to learning.

    NCLB has succumbed, it seems, a kind of reverse-Orwellianisn where “Big Brother”

  2. Too your suggestion to the teachers and the required. I agree we needed to start teaching students more what they needed to know Or, focus on putting those lessons in a practical application that student will be able to use when they get out of school.

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