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Blogging On History, Science, and Education

Test Scores and Teaching Methods

The test scores keep rolling in: Reading scores stay “flat” as the gap between rich and poor becomes a chasm. In science we rank somewhere in the middle of the international scene, gazing wistfully at places like Singapore and Finland where students excel in math and physics. Are their kids smarter than ours? Are their teachers more skilled? I don’t think so. But I do think we are off-course in some of our teaching methods.

The teaching of reading is not rocket science. But we’ve become obsessed with methodology, focusing on paragraph analysis and test prep, forgetting why most people read. Which is for pleasure, or to learn.

Nonfiction, well-written enlightening nonfiction, is reading made for an Information Age. Good nonfiction is literature, fully equal to fiction. Yet studies seem to show that most schools equate nonfiction with dreary textbooks and that the average American student never reads a whole nonfiction book in either middle or high school. What are we thinking when we design curricula? The young people I know want to learn about black holes. They are fascinated by quantum weirdness. They are in need of solid heroes, and of villains too. History is where you find their stories. So what are we doing to satisfy those needs? Having them analyze paragraphs.

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