Oddly enough, public schools often use failed theories and methods. Some of these have been around for 75 years and are known to create problems. Local media such as the Virginian-Pilot should explain what’s going on, but they won’t.
So, it is up to each parent to learn about the four worst methods:
1) Reading is the main skill. It should be taught in the old-fashioned phonics way, c-a-t equals “cat.” All experts say children can be taught to read in 4-8 months. The problems start when children come home with lists of so-called “sight words” to memorize. This is hard work and makes children hate reading. The deeper problem is that the child learns to read in two different ways. Cognitive confusion is guaranteed. The results will be tentative, unhappy readers. Parents should immediately teach the child to read phonetically: first the letters, then the sounds, then the blends. It’s almost magic when you do it correctly.
2) The next most important skill is arithmetic. It must be taught slowly, incrementally, with mastery at each point. You see the proper approach in such programs as Singapore Math and Saxon Math. Perversely, many public schools insist on using Reform Math. That’s an umbrella term for a dozen different curricula. (Some of the well-known names are Everyday Math, Connected Math, Chicago Math, TERC.) All incorporate bad pedagogical methods. There are now websites devoted to parents complaining. These curricula force parents to waste time trying to explain the unexplainable. Often, tutors are required. Fight for anything but Reform Math.
3) The next most important thing is knowledge. Children need to start learning essential facts in kindergarten, a few each day. As the years go by, children will easily become educated people. Unfortunately, many public schools insist on a method called Constructivism, which tells children to construct their own knowledge. Teachers are not allowed to teach. It’s quite insane, and hurts poor and minorities the most. Couple this method with poor reading skills and a child is DOA educationally speaking. Conversely, if a child can read, parents can help the child to find magazines, books, websites, and games that encourage learning basic knowledge.
4) Finally, children need to learn to think for themselves. Public schools claim to teach Critical Thinking and Higher Order Thinking Skills, and then turn around and force children to think in lockstep. That’s deceitful. Cooperative Learning, as this method is called, seems to work against Critical Thinking. Some cooperative projects could be helpful, for a change of pace. But many schools insist that children work in small groups throughout the day. Americans have always been a clever, resourceful people--that seems to be under attack.
Most education analysis we see in the media is superficial. What matters is the theories and methods that the schools use. For a general discussion, please see "Education's Intellectual Machinery Is Broken."
VIDEO: "Are Public Schools Designed To Fail?"
VIDEO: "Reading Is Easy"'
ARTICLE ON THIS SITE: "Reading Wars still damage many children"