"Dumbing" Down the Material

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by Soccer Dad, Dec 30, 2010.

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  1. Soccer Dad

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    I'm not sure how it is in other states, but in New York we've certainly dumbed down our courses. I've been planning my next few lessons for my Regents Western Civilizations class and realized that there's barely any "meat" to the course anymore. It's the bare minimum, if that.

    I'll give the best example of a watered down course: on the sample syllabus we were given, it has covering the Industrial revolution in ONE day. Basically, just say: "It started in England. It was both positive and negative. It spread elsewhere in Europe."

    I'm just amazed at the quality of education that students receive now compared to just 15 years ago.

    Personally, I blame the end to tracking in NY... the whole idea that the smarter kids will help those that are slow learners is complete garbage.

    I want to give my faster learners more advanced material but I'm sure I'd have parents on my back about how that's not fair because of GPA ranking... blah blah blah.
     
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  3. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    I agree that by trying to cover more than in the past, we are covering all information less indepth! At every level we are being pushed to cover more and more information in the same amount of time.

    Some good has come out of state standards...no more learning dinosaurs in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades. However, instead of spreading out the curriculum, the states keep adding more and more to the curriculum.
     
  4. Peachyness

    Peachyness Virtuoso

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    In our district curriculum, 2nd graders learn about dinosaurs.

    I LOVED learning about dinos when I was in the fourth grade.

    Our curriculum definitely does not dumb down the material, but the pacing is way too fast.
     
  5. DaveG

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    Learning about dinosaurs is all well and grand, but it's such a tiny piece of historical/biological information and really not that important in what the student needs to be successful.

    The move towards core curriculum standards is a good one overall, but as with many education initiatives, it has been implemented in a fairly sloppy way.

    For example, the expectation now in many states is that special education curriculum begins to better align with core curriculum standards. I agree with the premise, but setting core curriculum standards as your academic goals on an IEP for a student with cognitive disabilities makes little sense.

    Why would a student need special education services if the expectation is that they can meet core curriculum standards?

    I agree that courses at the high school level are certainly becoming more and more watered down. Students essentially grab as much information as they can as the teacher whizzes past covering everything under the sun on a particular subject.
     
  6. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Probably the scariest part of the whole scenario is that the kids taking these dumbed down courses will grow to be the teachers of the next generation.
     
  7. Joyful!

    Joyful! Habitué

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    That is the truth!
     
  8. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    That is scary! I really hope that education can move onto a better path soon!
     
  9. TeacherGroupie

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    Scarier still is that the kids who were taking the courses 20-some years ago are now the administrators (and, sometimes, teachers) who think the dumbing down is the way to go.
     
  10. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    I don't know if it is the teachers and administrators who agree with this. It is the politicians!
     
  11. G00d d00bie

    G00d d00bie Rookie

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    NYC probably rules. Are the people who write NY standards teachers from various schools around the state? Is there a fair representation or does NYC rule?
     
  12. bandnerdtx

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    I'm not sure that we're dumbing down as much as we are trying to cram everything in to short a period of time. There was a day when teachers were allowed to establish their own curriculum and tests based on what they had personally taught and what they felt their kids needed. Then we started to get so standardized that everyone felt pressure to cover *everything* and there's absolutely no way that any of us can truly teach that much or a student can truly learn at that pace.
     
  13. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Hence the dumbing down. Instead of teaching indepth material on a few topics to the students, we are superficially covering lots of material in the same amount of time.
     
  14. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I can attest to that. Last year's science curriculum I thought was perfect for K. The pacing and topics were developmentally appropriate. Recently MD decided that their voluntary curriculum was no longer voluntary. In the past they covered everything that was in it but some things started a year or two later than it was introduced initially in the voluntary curriculum. As a result, we are cramming far more stuff into K's science curriculum (using this one as an example) and the kids aren't really learning the material. I know things spiral but there has to be a balance of spiral and mastery. Right now it is a throw it at them and tomorrow we move on to another topic. It's ridiculous. I'm sure they'll learn from this year and tweak it next year but I just wanted to say that it is common sense to begin with. Don't introduce why some things are magnetic and others aren't if they don't even understand that different materials are made from different things. Don't barrel through the five senses in 5 days and expect that students will be able to describe and explore their world and understand the scientific method appropriately. I'm so confused with the timing and the order in which things are presented that I fully understand their confusion. All of it is simply a reaction to be expected to cram more into the already packed curriculum.
     
  15. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    What we've completely stopped doing is fostering a love for learning, and that is the biggest crime we've committed. Now, if your parents and family (or you personally) dont' have that desire to learn, school will probably not be the place you discover it. :(
     
  16. a2z

    a2z Virtuoso

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    Novels are being read to the students instead of the students reading them in general English classes in high school. 5th grade reading level books being used as novels to teach from. Most grades are based on completion regardless of what is written. Many tests are duplicates of the study guides filled in from the overhead.
    No essays, no thought, and certainly no reading because a huge percentage can't read at the high school level.

    Sad, sad, sad. The state standards say students will read and comprehend.... justification, looking at the words when the teacher reads is a form of reading.

    I wouldn't say dumming down, I would say babysitting in some cases.

    Now this doesn't apply to all schools or all teachers, but it is what is happening in my school - supposedly one of the top in the country. It is have or have not when it comes to education. Either all AP or babysitting under the guise of teaching.
     
  17. Special-t

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    I hate to ask, but what books is your school using? I'm actually looking for grade-appropriate books written at a low enough level for my kids to read with enthusiasm.

    In my district, we have to use grade-level material even if the kid's reading levels are low. This poses a huge problem because no matter how wonderful the book is - the kids can't read a 10th grade level book if they read at the 5th grade level. (some of my kids read lower than that)

    I can see why some districts have just given in and started having the kids read at their level. At least they are reading.

    My kids (in special ed) actually love to read as long as the text is at their level. If they start reading and find they can't decode or understand the syntax - they give up and hate reading the text.

    My kids are the exception, because they have learning disabilities, but I wonder what's happening in elementary and middle school because general ed kids in high school can't read.

    Where is it all going wrong? Is it the elementary school reading programs? Are the class sizes just way to big for a teacher to actually teach reading? Droves of kids are entering high school with low reading skills after being in the school system for 9 years. How do we deal with this as high school teachers?

    Perhaps, for some students, 9th grade should be a remedial year dedicated to catching up on core reading and math skills. This wouldn't really put them behind, because they are failing 9th grade anyway.
     
  18. Soccer Dad

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    Call me a cynic, but education took a turn for the worse a decade ago and is on a downward spiral. Like I said before, I truly don't know the cases in other states, but NY is HORRENDOUS.

    For instance, we don't even call our sophomore biology classes "biology" anymore. No, no it's called "The Living Environment." Why? Because it doesn't go any further than "living organisms are made up of cells."

    It's a shame. I remember being in high school and studying for WEEKS for Regents exams because they were hard. With my own children, they do nothing more than pay attention to the Regents review in school. The only exams that I think that actually got harder in NYS were chemistry and trig and that's because both actually have a "negative" weight (it helps those gain extra points near the 60s, but the scale hurts students that are in the 80s/90s region).
     
  19. Brendan

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    In my courses, I will admit I have "dumbed" them down a bit. However, I have, in one way or another, maintained the integrity of the courses I teach. We as teachers must draw a "line" of integrity which we will not go beyond. I realize that time constraints, testing, parents, and administrators sometimes necessitate changes in difficulty, depth, and pace must occur. There must be a point, however, at which we as teachers say enough is enough. Sometimes we need to stand up to both administrators and parents.

    It's our responsibility as educators to ensure that the integrity of our education system does not go down the tubes. I realize that at times, things get hard, but as always we must do what is best for the kids in the long term.
     
  20. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Because "dumbing down" isn't a new phenomenom. Remember when the whole country was up at arms over dropping SAT scores??? So what did they do?

    Change the test to measure what kids actually were learning?

    Nope.

    Change what was being taught so the kids would know more?

    Nope.

    They "recentered" the grades, and still do. Translation: they curve the test so that people will appear to be smarter than they are. Colleges still accept the same x% they need to fill the desks, but scores don't appear to have dropped.

    Idiocy.

    And SoccerDad, if you want a real laugh, take a look back in the Regents archives to the old math Regents-- Math 9, Math 10 and Math 11. Then compare that with either Sequential I, II, III or Math A/B. You'll find a whole lot of rigor that's missing.

    Sure, some of us can add strength beyond what's tested. (And as a non-public school teacher, my kids don't take Regents, so this is as an outsider looking in.) But I think teachers are in a Catch 22. If they get kids who have had the dumbed down material, they've got to meet those kids where they ARE, not where they think the kids SHOULD BE.

    So if you get Juniors whose past history courses have been watered down, it's going to limit what you can teach them, simply because you'll have to catch them up on the basics. At some point, you simply run out of time.
     
  21. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    NY State's Current Board of Regents:

    http://www.regents.nysed.gov/members/bios/tisch.html
    Merryl H. Tisch, Chancellor: 7 years teaching experience, all 1st grade

    Milton L. Cofield, Vice Chancellor-- apparently served for 5 years as a professor, no apparent elementary/seconday experience.

    Robert M. Bennett, Chancellor Emeritus "taught at the graduate level."

    James C. Dawson has served on the faculty of SUNY

    Anthony S. Bottar "taught social studies" though it doesn't say to whom or for how long.

    and so on. Take a look at the people who are making educational policy in NY and find me some who have real, concrete experience in the trenches. Find me some who have dealt with teenagers in the past 3 decades. I just skimmed it, so it's possible that I'm missing something obvious.

    And then wonder why the edicts from on high seem to be out of touch with the realities being faced in the classroom. But it seems to me that those in charge of determining what is taught should have some fairly recent experience teaching it.


    I LOVE the fact that all the administrators in my building: President, Principal, AP, Deans, Chaplain... all teach at least 2 classes!!!
     
  22. Soccer Dad

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    Exactly. Luckily I haven't taught a Regents level 11th grade class in quite some time, but even with my Honors students, they have no real understanding of how to write. I have, thankfully, been teaching 9th and 10th grade Honors in recent years so my students later on are handling the work much better than previously. Regardless, I shouldn't have to have a student for three years in a row for them to figure out "Oh, I need to support my thesis with historical evidence AND expand/discuss my thoughts in detail.... ohhhh."
     
  23. Soccer Dad

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    Oh and I would just like to add that in NY we don't call a thesis a thesis. No, it's a "controlling idea" statement. Apparently, calling it by its real name is too confusing for our students.
     
  24. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    Texas is in a similar situation. Our state board of education has 15 members and only 3 have real educational experience. The rest are lawyers, real estate agents, etc. Luckily the chair and vice chair are true educators, but their voices are just swallowed in the politics of the rest. :(

    Texas State Board of Education
     
  25. ybmiuq

    ybmiuq Rookie

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    I think that back when we wrote our own curriculum it was really diluted. No one seemed to write good stuff. Still don't. Curriculum Maps are weak. Today publishers are writing texts that match the state standards for each state. Teachers were not coming close to developing curriculum as good and complete as these newly published texts - pale in comparison. The entire text needs to be covered. Students have time as long as they buckle down, another skill that has been lacking.
     
  26. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I did some freelance writing on a math textbook a few years ago. I did only one assignment; we really were not a good fit.

    I wanted a bajillion problems; they wanted lots of "white space." I wanted thorough explanations; they wanted a process that could be summarized in three sentences. (literally, 3 sentences.) I wanted diagrams; they wanted pictures that would appeal to the big markets of Texas and California. (So the Alamo or Golden Gate bridge beat out a diagram of a right triangle every time.)
     
  27. TeacherGroupie

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    (TG grumbles audibly)

    It should've been perfectly possible to do right triangles WITH the Golden Gate bridge, for gosh sakes...
     
  28. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Nope. They wanted photos that would specifically appeal to buyers in those two states.

    And seriously: can you imagine teaching 5th graders to add 3/4 + 1/3 in three sentences????
     
  29. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    I can't even imagine teaching grownups to add 3/4 + 1/3 in three sentences - and don't think I haven't had occasion to try.
     
  30. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    The idea was that they wanted a book that didn't look intimidating.

    I say it makes more sense to make the material less intimidating by simply teaching it.

    As I said, we weren't a good fit.
     
  31. TeacherGroupie

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    How big a draw the Golden Gate is can be disputed, when one thinks of kids in Yreka (small town in forest country, 400-plus miles to the north and well inland) or El Centro (600-ish miles to the southeast and in the middle of what, despite irrigation, very much remains the desert).

    Though I concede that judicious use of colors and text features such as fonts can help clarify key points, especially in geometry. Your big fat diagram of a circle, done in color as a double-page spread with appropriate commentary keyed to the rest of the text, would be a winner.
     
  32. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Yeah, but the kids weren't buying the books. The Bigwigs in Sacramento know the Golden Gate bridge!!!

    But when you and I write our textbook, rest assured that my Mega Circle will be there!!
     
  33. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Well, then, we'd better get busy, hadn't we?
     
  34. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I'm game if you are.
     
  35. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Most textbooks seem to be a giant waste of time. When my seniors get theirs, I tell them to take them home and put them someplace safe. I'm lucky enough to have an old set in my classroom, but frankly, I could tear out all the pages we actually use and stick them in a file folder. The best English textbook I've seen recently is plain text on white pages, with the occasional illustration in blue. Very un-busy.

    In my very first teaching assignment (7th grade), I remember opening the teacher's edition and literally not being able to make heads nor tails of it.
     
  36. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I've never used a teacher's edition.
     
  37. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    I hate the earth science curriculum. We have to teach more topics in one high school class than is taught in a simiar college course. This is insanity, especially when pretty much all the research shows over and over that depth and not breadth is best practice.

    I know it's hard to cut out whole unit because they are all important to know, but the flip side I ending up knowing little to nothing. If you teach kids a solid foundation of some topics, they can then explore others on their own or in later courses.

    What's the point in giving kids a "drive by" in all the topics needed to understand global climate change issues if they don't understand any of them in enough depth to be able to navigate all the info out there in the media? We need to teach scientific literacy, not isolated factoids.

    Re: dinosaurs

    It may seem like a frivolous topic to some, but kids like it and dinosaurs can be used to teach everything from Latin and Greek word roots to computer modeling, physics, mechanics, biology, debate, critical thinking, and the scientific method. All of this is on top of their place in geology and history of the Earth.

    I did a project with my juniors where I assigned each group anold dinosaur skeleton from a museum--one slated for reconstruction due to new research. They then had to research and propose a new skeletal configuration.

    Through this they learned how science is fluid, how scientists make decisions, how to think criticallly and apply their knowledge and justify their choices, and they learned a lot about conditions during the Triassic and biomechanics. This project included basic math, research skills, and a whole raft of other useful-in-life skills but had this not been an elective, would have been unacceptable under state standards.
     
  38. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    You are a flaming radical, Alice. :lol:

    I hate the new textbooks that are so busy that I get a headache trying to read. I am all for thoughtful illustration and good, eye catching design, but a red box here, a yellow box there, a blue pull quote here, and 5 unrelated photos per page are not conducive to focus. Books are not supposed to mimic split tv screens!
     
  39. KatherineParr

    KatherineParr Comrade

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    I agree, Mollydoll. We just started looking at a new world history text and it's a mess. Different colors, fonts, all kinds of questions, prompts, boxes, and pictures. Meanwhile, if you compare the Table of Contents to the actual *book*, what you find is:

    According to the ToC, a chapter is about 25 pages long. But in reality the chapter (the text) is about 10 pages long, followed by 15 pages of stuff that should really be created by the teacher. Quiz questions, cognitive prompts, etc. And remember that the 10 pages of text are interrupted by pictures and boxes. So it's not even 10 pages.

    Meanwhile, we worry that students can't read a chapter every week. Really? Less than 10 pages in a whole week for sophomores?

    Gah.
     
  40. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    Not to mention they don't know what to do with "regular" books when they get to college.
     
  41. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Ditto.:thumb:
     
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