“50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education” is exactly what it purports to be, a compilation of false but pervasive claims — about the public-school system, teaching methods, and how students learn — coupled with research-supported refutations of those claims. But it is more than that. The book, published by Teachers College Press on March 22, is also an impassioned effort to save our country’s education system, which it aims to do by teaching the general public how it all works.
The two lead authors, David C. Berliner (a professor and dean at Arizona State University, PhD recipient in educational psychology from Stanford, author of more than 200 articles, books, and chapters on education) and Gene Glass (senior researcher at the National Education Policy Center, professor at University of Colorado Boulder, elected member of the National Academy of Education), worked with a team of 19 other researchers in the field of education, and cited hundreds of studies in their arguments.
We asked why. “It pains us to see teaching turned into mind-numbing coaching for standardized tests,” Dr. Glass said, when he spoke with us. And he knows that this project may ruffle some feathers: “To talk about our schools being ‘threatened,’ or to imply that some in the education-reform business might not be 100% truthful, is pretty strong language,” he says. “Unfortunately the times call for strong language.”
Six myths you need to stop believing:
• MYTH: International tests show that the United States has a second-rate education system.
• TRUTH: We lead the world in the number of high performers. The percentage of low performers correlates with our country’s high child-poverty rate, which has long been linked to low test scores.
• MYTH: Private schools are better than public schools.
• TRUTH: After isolating variables such as poverty and parental involvement — long proved to most effect academic achievement — public school students were actually found to outperform their private school peers.
• MYTH: Charter schools are better than traditional public schools.
• TRUTH: Center for Research on Education Outcomes studies in 2009 and 2013 report that public schools outperform charter schools in both math and reading.
• MYTH: Teachers should be evaluated on the basis of the performance of their students.
• TRUTH: “Value-added measurement” methods have led to the neglect of poorer students, whose scores tend to be lower, and to school systems which cheat by making tests easier. Meanwhile, there have been no changes in the achievement gap, and testing gains on whole are small.
• MYTH: Retaining children in grade—”flunking” them—helps struggling students catch up and promotes better classroom instruction for all.
• TRUTH: Studies done on statistically similar children, one promoted and one flunked, report that the promoted child usually performs better in the higher grade, and when not, the two do about the same on tests.
• MYTH: Homework boosts achievement.
• TRUTH: Multiple studies have found no link between homework and achievement. In the author’s words, “There is more credible scholarship on the negative effects of homework, than on its merits.”