On think tanks:

A national scourge. Find a bunch of money from donors with an axe to grind and flood the media with ‘serious’ one-sided papers. The latest offense? The Fordham Foundation’s report on the new draft science standards. What could be more predictable than that the writer would bemoan any discussion of hands-on work and critical thinking as opposed to content (a tiresome rant that goes back to his colleagues at UVA, most notably E D Hirsch with his endless misreading and caricature of Dewey’s thought)?

There has been much ado in K-12 science-teaching literature over the past quarter- century, including that part of it produced under the aegis of the Framework’s sponsors, about an urgent need for students to learn science by doing it, rather than (merely) acquiring its facts, theories, and principles. This should by now have been recognized as a simplistic dichotomy that, in several versions, including insistence on the primacy of “inquiry-based” learning, has plagued science standards across the nation.

But this howler should not go without comment:

It is not at all clear (to us, at least) that today’s standard-issue K-12 science education consists mostly of memorizing isolated facts.

Are you kidding me? Have you not set foot in any schools over the past decades? (We know the answer.)

On hiring:

Why do schools hire terrible teachers? Who knows? It’s a scandal: the one place we have complete control over the quality of learning and we blow it. Why do I say this: we rarely watch job applicants teach or ask them to respond to video scenarios on the spot! This is arguably one of the dumbest of school practices. That would be like hiring a graphics designer without seeing a portfolio of work or a musician without hearing them play.

I was moved to remind us all of this craziness in light of a quote in yesterday’s New York Times featuring a successful NYC Principal whose school got an A rating though it is in a tough neighborhood:

In an interview, Mr. Benardo, 61, talked about how he got his job through the old political patronage system, but then grew to love it and care about his students and teachers. Good teachers, he said, are the backbone of a good school…

Q. What keeps this school at this level of achievement when so many around you don’t do as well?

A. The real answer is getting the best teachers. I spend a lot of my time and a lot of my energy on finding the best people.

Indeed.

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