Sunday, January 04, 2009

"Plato designed his dialogues to arm students for real world challenges and temptations. They demand from their readers what Socrates demanded from his students: active learning, self-examination, and an appreciation for the complexity and importance of wisdom," (Reid, 1998).

Two thousand five hundred years ago, Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates were teachers and philosophers. The common tool, the pencil, had not yet been invented (1564 A.D.). The person credited with inventing paper, circa 104 A.D., to use with the pencil, would be born 600 years later in Asia. It would be thirteen hundred years before the Gutenberg press (1440) would allow for the mass distribution of books. Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates did not have textbooks, pencils, or paper but so inspired Greek students that the legacy of these educators lives on today.

Twenty-five hundred years later, not only do we have paper, pencil, and billions of textbooks, but we also have overhead projectors, smart boards, computers, Palm Pilots, educational software and interactive web sites. Yet, even with this plethora of tools at our disposal, we, as educators, still have trouble reaching and motivating our students. We, as educators, still have trouble raising test scores. We, as educators, still have trouble trying to stop students from dropping out.

Home-schooling parents have considerably less tools at their disposal than the poorest school district has and yet their children score higher on standardized tests.

"Another obstacle that seems to be overcome in home schooling is the need to spend a great deal of money in order to have a good education. In Strengths of Their Own, Dr. Ray found the average cost per home school student is $546 while the average cost per public school student is $5,325. Yet the home school children in this study averaged in 85th percentile while the public school students averaged in the 50th percentile on nationally standardized achievement tests.

Similarly, the 1998 study by Dr. Rudner of 20,760 students, found that eighth grade students whose parents spend $199 or less on their home education score, on the average, in the 80th percentile. Eighth-grade students whose parents spend $400 to $599 on their home education also score on the average, in the 80th percentile! Once the parents spend over $600, the students do slightly better, scoring in the 83rd percentile" (Farris & Smith 2004).

So, if all we need are pencil, paper, and a couple of hundred dollars, where have we gone wrong in the education of our students? Dr. Robinson showed us a chart in class which showed that while the money being spent on students rose very year, student test scores remained basically the same. Money does not seem to be the panacea that we think it is. Also, I believe that following state standards and being accountable are only part of the problem that influences student achievement. I believe the answer lies in the media and the culture of our society. Our schools are plagued by student violence, sporadic attendance, unqualified teachers, etc. Student achievement can also be hindered by class size, inadequate materials, improper nourishment, poor or no parental involvement, child abuse, and peer influence...the list goes on and on.

"The development of standards alone cannot ensure the success of school reform. A concert of many voices must commit to an ideology which promotes success for learners by supporting teachers. It will be a difficult process as the system--by virtue of history, tradition, over-learned attitudes--is allergic to change" (Holbein, 1998).

Another issue that troubles me concerning standards and student achievement is that the standards and testing assume a 'one size fits all' approach to instruction. One visit into any of today's urban classrooms of inclusion and diversity and the visitor will realize that a one-size-fits-all education cannot possibly work.

"Issues of instruction and developmentally-appropriate practice pose a pedagogical dilemma. Differences among individual children do not lend themselves to the lock-step progression dictated by standards. Curriculum frameworks which assign discreet learning tasks to a particular level do not take into account the learning pace of the individuals or the integrated learning which crosses the boundaries of subject matter. Generating the standards and assessing performance by benchmarks and frameworks takes no account of individuality" (Holbein, 1998).

Cheryl reminded me in the last class session that the NCLB Act also forced many uncertified teachers to jumpstart their education and enter certification programs. But how prepared are we to enter the work force as educators? During my first day as an elementary school teacher in an urban public school, I was kicked, spat on, and punched. I went home exhausted, drained, and depressed. Later on that year, I was body-slammed into a wall because I gave a child detention. I was not prepared for the realities of an urban classroom. In my current school, four teachers have quit during the first 30 days of this school year--their dreams of educating tomorrow’s adults dashed by the harsh realities of today’s classrooms. Society and the NCLB are asking if we, as teachers, are doing enough in the classrooms, and I am asking those that authored the NCLB Act to consider the possibility that some universities are not adequately preparing educators to enter into those classrooms.

The NCLB Act is a start, but, in my humble opinion, the NCLB Band-aid is not wide enough to cover the troubles of student achievement.

Copyright, 2006-2009


Farris, M., et Smith, M (2004), Academic Statistics on Home Schooling, Retrieved September 16, 2006 from:

Holbein, M.F. (1998). Will Standards Improve Student Achievement? Education, 118(4), 559+. Retrieved September 19, 2006, from the Questia database,

Mellis, M., Johannes Gutenberg and the Printing Press, Retrieved September 16, 2006 from:

Reid, H. (2001) The Educational Value of Plato's Early Socratic Dialogues, Retrieved September 16, 2006 from:

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