Why Reform Efforts Fail Teachers and Students in the Classroom

The Cause of Education Reform Failure

Reform efforts continue to fail because they ignore the Number One Issue of education: continued reliance on roteism instructional practice in teacher education; school and college classrooms whether public, private, or charter; and in textbook writing [Note: 85% of classroom teachers rely on textbooks for classroom discussion of subject matter (Reynolds, 1976)]. Instead, reform efforts address matters of school choice, organization, management, finance, standards, and assessment; none of which address the  #1 issue.

None of these are capable of rescuing faculty and students from the mind-numbing practice of roteism, which inherently defeats development of critical literacy abilities in all learners, teachers and students.   This is so because – In the context of engaging new and revisited subject matter – roteism instructional practice provides no reasoning process to: (a) achieve comprehension of content, and (b) develop in students critical literacy abilities in the context of engaging content. Having little recourse, school and college students have no alternative but to learn by rote.

Instructionally, mind-dulling roteism is the basis for teacher education programs and for the writing of textbooks; on which 85% of faculty rely for classroom discussions of content. To the limited extent they do, teachers succeed despite their preparation in teacher education and professional development programs. To the limited extent they do, students succeed despite being led to learn by rote.

For reform efforts to succeed, they must address the profession’s long-standing lack of core body of knowledge for critical instruction in teacher education and professional development programs, and in the writing of instructional materials including traditional and electronic textbooks, web-based materials, and education software. Dr. Maiorana’s award-winning research and development of a core body of knowledge for critical instruction includes: (1) a common language for practice, research, and communication, (2) conceptual, declarative, and procedural knowledge based on a critical theory of subject matter that draws on the natural science of the conscious critical mind as the basis for critical thinking, reading, listening, writing, speaking, and observing when engaging new and revisited subject matter, and (3) operational standards for teachers and students for thinking recollectively, logically, critically, and creatively.

The consequences of reform efforts that do not address the three issues are continued universal use throughout the world of weak and self-defeating teacher preparation and practice, the continued inducement of rote-learning, and the defeat of critical thinking, reading, and writing abilities in teacher-educators, school and college faculty, and all their K – College students. There is a great societal price for such failure.

The Extraordinary Negative Consequences of Roteism’s Failure

Ages-Old Conventional Roteism Instruction and Learning Defeats Development of Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing Abilities, and Subverts the Human Mind’s Innate Critical Grammar of Mind.

Evidence Summary
Evidence shows that the inability to engage in critical instruction and learning instruction in the context of engaging new and revisited matter stretches from grade school through graduate school and applies to teacher educators, school and college faculty, and school and college students.

The Evidence
Among Teacher-Educators, and School and College Faculty

  • Teacher educators and the teachers they train “are in no position to foster critical thinking [or therefore, critical reading and writing], in their students.” (Paul, Elder, and Bartell, 1997, p. 5)
  • Practicing teachers entering doctorate programs in education “are stunned” when told they cannot [write and] read critically. (Labaree, 2004, p. 102).
  • The lack of critical learning and instruction extends to all college faculty (Bok, 2006).
  • Eight-five percent of classroom faculty rely on textbooks for classroom discussion of subject matter (Reynolds Jr., J. C. (1976). American textbooks—The first 200 years. Educational Leadership, 33(4), 274–6).

Among School Faculty

  • Teachers score higher on class management tasks and lower on engaging students critically when instructing. Many principals lack skills for instructional coaching. (The Consortium of Chicago Schools Research report, 2011).
  • When evaluating the classroom performance of over 3,000 schoolteachers, the Gates Measures of Effective Teaching Project report found: “Instructional practice is weakest on “achieving content understanding…explicit [thinking] strategy use…making meaning and reasoning” (2012, p. 24-7); and classroom raters “rarely found highly accomplished practices for the competencies often associated with the intent to teacher students higher-order thinking skills” (2012, p. 26).
  • A four-year study of 30 high schools across the country found “We did not find any…single institution that consistently realized deeper learning or all its students” (Mehta & Fine, 2014, p. 1).
  • The National Center for Postsecondary Research states, “Every year, poor academic preparation prevents millions of students nationwide from accessing, achieving in, or completing higher education” (2014, para. 2)

Among High School Students

  • Major reports on the performance of school students have been issued over the years. These include: “A Nation at Risk” (1983); A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century (1986); “What Matter Most: Teaching for America’s Future” (1996); “A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education” (2006); “The Common Core Standards” (2010)”and “NAEP as an Indicator of Students’ Academic Preparation for College” (2014).
  • These reports all provide abundant evidence that after 12 years of schooling, significant numbers of students lack the thinking, reading, writing, and math abilities necessary for success in college and on the job.
  • According to Valdes, Bunch, Snow, Lee and Matos (2005, p. 154), a general reason for this continuing state of affairs is that “at the secondary level, coursework is normally taught by subject matter specialists [with] little formal training in [thinking,] reading and writing . . . and even less formal training in the systematic ways of acquiring such [thinking,] reading and writing skills.”

Among College Students

  • According to research performed and reported on by Arum and Roska (2011), the same lack of critical thinking, reading, and writing skills on the part of students holds true after two years of college and is not likely to change appreciably after four years of college. They focused on the extent to which over 2300 students entering college improved their critical thinking and writing abilities during the first two years of college. They found that “American higher education is characterized by limited or no learning by a large proportion of students” (p. 30).
  • For college students in teacher preparation programs, the work Our Underachieving Colleges—A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More (Bok, 2006) reported that “researchers find that majoring in education is negatively correlated with critical thinking and problem-solving” (p. 301).

For additional evidence discussion and full citations for the referenced material, click here.

Learn More

  • For more on why reform efforts continue to fail in school and college classrooms, see Chapter 4 – Teacher Preparation Does Not Address Critical Learning and Instruction, in Fixing Instruction – Resolving Major Issues With a Core Body of Knowledge for Critical Instruction (Maiorana, 2015); and see the topic “Reform, Teacher Preparation, and the Place of Instructional Strategy” in Chapter 6, in Fixing Instruction (pp. 113-116, 16-17, 39-40.)
  • Both chapters, along with Preparation for Critical Instruction (Maiorana, 2016), and Teach Like the Mind Learns (Maiorana, 2017) discuss the long-standing need of a core body of instructional knowledge courses in critical learning and critical instruction in teacher-preparation programs, professional development programs, and schools and colleges. The books provide solutions that are foundational, declarative, and procedural.