In your lifetime have you seen educational fads that turned out to be stinkers? How many times have you seen companies selling new approaches to better education? How many times have you seen administrators implement new programs designed to “prepare out students for the future” only to have them quietly retired in 5-10 years?
We set out to examine the past 30 years based on research and our own experiences. To be clear this is our opinion. We raised 4 children who now are in their 30’s and 40’s. We’ve participated in raising 11 grandchildren. We’ve had some decent education ourselves (Bachelor’s Degrees and an MBA). We’ve done some teaching through the University level. We also run a K-12 focused blog site where we’re shared over 500 articles.
Here is a reference out of Australia that does an excellent job of calling out fads: http://atom.curtin.edu.au/SAM_Ed%20Fadsopt.pdf
This article names their Top 10 worse education trends: http://www.improve-education.org/id83.html
Mom’s talking with each other online about the worst education fads: https://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/am_i_being_unreasonable/3056361-educational-fads-of-the-moment
So, without further ado we’ll reach back in time (as Mr. Peabody would say) to the Wayback Machine…
Fad #1: Sight reading (Whole Language): Phonics became old school and was dropped in favor of children learning words on sight and remembering them. No need to sound words out. No need to be able to break a word down. This lasted about 10 years before it slipped into the night. In the course of that time we severely damaged an entire generation of children who carried those failures into adulthood.
Fad #2: New Math. (From Wiki): Topics introduced in the New Math include modular arithmetic, algebraic inequalities, bases other than 10, matrices, symbolic logic, Boolean algebra, and abstract algebra. All of these topics (with the exception of algebraic inequalities) have been greatly de-emphasized or eliminated in U.S. elementary school and high school curricula since the 1960s. It was judged a massive failure. [This has been carried over to Common Core math – reincarnation is true]
Fad #3: No Child Left Behind (NCLB) – This was the federal governments way to tell states and school districts that they needed to make sure every student succeeded. They set up rules, created penalties and attempted to nationalize education. NCLB was itself a follow on to a previous program that failed. NCLB did nothing to improve anything, damaged education, increased costs and then was folded into it’s successor…ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) which claims to return control to States but does not such thing. It’s really NCLB on steroids and a perfect example of government intrusion and destruction.
Fad #4: Learning Styles – The idea was that each student has a different way of learning (visual, auditory, etc.) and that adjusting lesson plans to deal with each students preference would make a huge difference. In this article titled: “The Enduring Appeal of Learning Styles” the author explains how much time was wasted and how it lead down blind alley’s.
Fad #5: Common Core – Every student is equal and the same. Every student should use the same textbook, be taught the same information at exactly the same time so they can move and never miss a step. Then test the students to show they are learning and performing. Change the way math is taught as well. Bill Gate’s foundation poured hundreds of millions into the program (but his children didn’t use it) only to admit it has been a failure. It’s cost billions of dollars and produced declining scores. It was claimed it was “bench-marked” and “proven” when it never was.
Fad #6: Digital learning for a digital world – Every student needs to have their own computer or tablet. All lessons should be given digitally. All testing should be done on computers. The test results will be used to customize education for each student. The truth? Broken and lost equipment. Lack of internet connection. Students finding ways to access content that may not be appropriate. Tracking students through information. Selling student information to private companies. Stolen data. Data used to harm students. Oh…students to take hand written notes do better remembering and on tests. Of course who needs to learn to write when you can just type or talk to your computer? Who needs to learn to write?
Fad #7: Certification or Competency Based Education (Computer Based Education) – The competency-based education (CBE) approach allows students to advance based on their ability to master a skill or competency at their own pace regardless of environment. This method is tailored to meet different learning abilities and can lead to more efficient student outcomes. The premise of CBE is that all learning can be reduced to a collection of performance tasks. When we talk knowledge, CBE goes right out the window. Here’s a good overview: http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2016/03/whats-so-bad-about-competency-based.html
Fad #8: Early childhood (Pre-K) – Study after study shows that children develop at different rates. By the end of 3rd grade it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between those who attended Pre-K and those who didn’t. Pre-K is extremely expensive. There’s the moral question of whether we should be forcing education on developmentally challenged children. In reality Early Childhood Programs are nothing more than government-funded day care. We just need to admit that and call it what it is. Here’s an over by The Federalist that covers the topic pretty well: http://thefederalist.com/2017/04/26/putting-kids-school-younger-ages-bad/
Fad #9: Self-Esteem (SEL and PBIS) – Social Emotional Learning and Positive Behavioral Intervention Support are current fads that are failing. They seek to get children in touch with their feelings and reward them for doing things right. Should schools be in charge of training and educating children in social skills and emotions or parents? Should students need to be rewarded for doing what’s needed and right? Here’s a link to a forum discussion back in 2012 on the topic: http://www.city-data.com/forum/education/1753263-pbis-why-program-should-cut.html This article discusses the downside of SEL: https://townhall.com/columnists/janerobbins/2016/08/08/the-latest-big-education-fad-socialemotional-learning-is-as-bad-as-it-sounds-n2202205
Fad #10: Cooperative Learning – No individual learning. Everyone works in a group and the group decision is right and must be supported. Individual disagreement and dissension is wrong. The group is always right. If this isn’t wrong then we give up….
There are more and some would argue about order and degree of importance. Each to their own. Our focus is on fads that are NOT vetted and investigated and planned. The damage to students can be significant and all because someone wants to make a profit or because they are tired of doing what’s always worked. Newer isn’t always better.
So now the BIG question…what are the worst, most harmful, expensive and worthless K-12 education fads in your opinion?