My question by email to our BOE on September 13, 2006: "
"Does the example in Detroit schools (excerpted below) not closely resemble the common scheduling in our schools with its scripted lessons? Should we not be concerned with this?"
Superintendent, Dr. Renae Dreier, answered: "FYI—Open Court is far, far more prescriptive than Houghton Mifflin. In our case, I’m confident that kids leave in droves because they haven’t learned (or been taught) the basics to mastery."
BOE President, Dr. Broderius, answered: "I think the level of understanding, knowledge of the author, and assumptions as well as inferences are quite inadequate and incomplete. The professional title of the author and the organization [ Metro-Detroit Whole Schooling Consortium ] he represents accurately reflects the biases he put forth in his op ed piece."
Excerpt: Detroit tests students with standardized tests many times per year, using valuable resources of time and money on testing rather than teaching. It has invested in quick-fix attempts by installing programs such as Open Court that literally tell teachers what to say and do. Creative teachers are not able to use their own judgment to deal with the needs of children. The system literally punishes teachers for engaging students in thoughtful learning and inquiry outside the established rigid system.
Students lose interest, become angry or bored. Students who have special learning needs, from gifted to students with disabilities, fall through the cracks because they don't respond well to a one-size-fits-all process of teaching. Detroit's solution to this is to segregate such students in special programs, a practice that produces poor learning outcomes.
If anything is clear about good schooling, it is this: It is about having good teachers who are treated with respect who can, in return, treat students with respect and create classrooms and schools where a sense of care and community are fundamental, where students of great differences learn together about subjects that interest them and connect to their lives.
MICHAEL PETERSON, PhD, is director of the Whole Schooling Consortium in the College of Education at Wayne State University. Write to him in care of the Free Press Editorial Page, 600 W. Fort St., Detroit 48226 or moc.sserpeerf|depo#moc.sserpeerf|depo.— Michael Peterson
Detroit Free Press