8 Myths That Undermine Educational Effectiveness

What we think about education effectiveness is not always supported by research and data. Anecdotal conclusions many of us hear and see on Facebook chats are often not the reality in the classroom or on the campus.

Teachers are important but a student’s socioeconomic status is much more important and has a greater impact on that students ability to learn. Teachers cannot teach if students are not able to learn.

Homework is a habit teachers cannot seem to get away from, but there is no data that shows it has any real intrinsic value to students’ learning. If it is given for the sake of a check mark with the only purpose being compliance and not in support of classroom instruction, students lose interest and homework becomes tedious and dreaded.

Small class sizes should be obvious and funding to staff schools adequately to allow for smaller classes is an often a missed opportunity. Thirty-five 10 year olds in a classroom designed for 20 does not leave much room for movement, group tasks, or collaborative work. No teacher ever walked in to a small, crowded classroom and thought, “I could squeeze a few more in.” It is harder than ever for teachers to do their work with students.

Merit pay, zero-tolerance policies and a “magic bullet” don’t exist or don’t work in educational policy or practice. Everyone wants to find the best recipe for student success and learning. It is critical that educators know the fact from the myth so that they can help inform parents and other stakeholders. Many schools rely on advisory groups to help shape policy and funding decisions and individuals in these groups must also know what the myths are when they encounter them.

8 Myths That Undermine Educational Effectiveness.


California’s K-12 Funding Overhaul Slowly Takes Root – Education Week

Changing education – and education spending – in this state is “like turning the Titanic” so says Andrew Ujifusa in his article in Ed Week California’s K-12 Funding Overhaul Slowly Takes Root – Education Week.

Aside from the obviously poor choice of nautical vessel, I agree. Local control means that schools that need certain things can fund those things without worrying that the funds are not available or are mandated for other purposes. This freedom to spend as they see fit has been a long-standing request from local school sites and a lack of flexible funding has been the scapegoat for years to explain cuts in staffing, technology, facilities maintenance, and other losses in our schools.

But, as Spider-Man will tell you “With great power comes great responsibility” and with great freedom to self-allocate also must come the responsibility to self-regulate and assess. In a funding climate where LEA’s are allowed to use the money as they choose with input from stakeholders and community members, the question of accountability must be considered. County Offices of Education are now in a position to review and approve the LCAP’s submitted by individual districts outlining their plans for spending, but how will the successes (or lack thereof) be quantified? Many districts have intentionally written very vague LCAP’s with open-ended goals and murky targets so that it will not be painfully obvious if they miss the mark. Other districts seem to consider an e-mail blast to parents sufficient to qualify as “soliciting community involvement” in the process. And then there are the exemplar districts – the ones who already had high levels of funding, parent and community involvement and highly-qualified staff, who will reap the greatest benefits of the new LCFF and leave the rest in the dust as they accelerate ahead of the rest of the state in the areas they were already exceeding in.

And then there are those things that some Californians like to champion publicly but when it comes time to fund them in schools, they often fall by the wayside. High-quality school lunch programs, fully credentialed teacher librarians in EVERY school, professional development that is substantial and meaningful for educators, campus supervision by trained individuals who recognize child development stages on the playground, physical education taught by credentialed teachers that are valued in the same way English literature teachers are, school facilities that students and their families are proud of, technology resources and responsible use practices taught in every classroom (not just the “new teacher” classrooms), and broadband service in schools that allows students to access it anywhere on campus, on any device they have, 24/7.

These are things EVERY student in California should have – whether mandated by Ed Code, CDE SBE Policy, or local District Board Policy. The reality is that not every student will have all of these things even though they should. If technology is a priority in their school, some students will have broadband and maybe even 1:1 devices. If nutrition is a major priority, some students may be fortunate enough to have rigorous physical education classes and a dynamic school lunch program with farm-to-table partners and gardening/horticulture lessons. On the other hand, if libraries are NOT a priority for the district, these students may not receive instruction on responsible internet use or digital research skills and will not have the benefit of a credentialed teacher librarian who can expand classroom lessons and explore topics that enrich the curriculum and support student’s personalized learning. Some students will receive tech devices but go home to a household too impoverished to have internet access.

Some districts may decide to focus spending on staffing and common core materials to support English language learners but neglect to recognize the special needs of gifted learners. Why worry about the top scores when it is the bottom scores that have the greatest impact. Schools will receive additional funding for  low-income, foster and English language learners – which they have needed desperately for quite some time. But what about the schools that are not Title 1 or do not have enough of these subgroup students to qualify for additional funds?

Some students will benefit tremendously from the LCFF depending on how expertly it is utilized and applied in their district. Others will be left behind as their district leaders struggle to figure out where to begin.

Many County Offices have stepped up for the most part to provide guidance, clarification and support to districts working through the new funding formula and LCAP preparation, but in the end it comes down to the priorities of the local district school board and stakeholders (including parents) who have been allowed to participate fully in the process that will determine where the money will go, what the goals for spending will be, and what measure of success or failure will be applied.

If given enough time and with enough guidance and best practices informing decisions of local districts, LCFF could bring great things to many of the students in California. The state’s education budget provides for $4.7 billion to be handed out in this second year of the LCFF implementation with possibly more to come in the revised budget next year.

There are approximately 10,366 schools in the state serving 6,236,672 students right now with increasing numbers every year of the foreseeable future. In keeping with the nautical theme, it seems to me that is more similar to the ocean than the vessel. It ebbs and flows, tides rise and retreat, there are periods of calm and periods of tempest. There are times of abundance and times of scarcity. But the waves come no matter what and they slowly shape the world they touch, sculpting and changing the landscape – as teachers shape students, day after day and year after year. Education is a slow and powerful process.

I for one hope that some mandates will emerge to ensure that students across the state receive equitable access to educational resources of all types (not just those deemed worthy by their particular district) but let’s hope that the Local Control Funding Formula remains in place long enough for the process to really shape the outcome. The Titanic was impressive at first glance but piloted recklessly and poorly equipped. The sea remains magnificent and full of possibilities.


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