18 Myths About Education That Are All Too Easy To Believe

More homework does not mean more learning. Many US districts have begun prohibiting homework on weekends, holidays, and even week nights.

18 Myths About Education That Are Easy To Believe

1. More Homework Means More Learning

Researchers have found that the connection between more homework and greater learning is tenuous at best. This is especially true for grade school and middle school students. In an effort to redesign the student workload, many districts around the US have begun prohibiting homework on weekends, holidays, and even week nights.

2. More Money Means Better Schools

Although school spending has increased over the past several decades, neither graduation rates nor test scores have budged from their relatively dismal standings. Since 1970, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been administered yearly to a representative sample of US students, and the scores have not correlated positively with the boost in expenditure and the rise of technology over time.

3. The Myth of Insurmountable Problems

Many policy makers are quick to blame society for underperformance in schools. But the belief that education can’t help is dangerous. Reforms that focus on the incentives of public schools lead to educational gains, and accountability and choice have often been shown to deflate the significance of social problems like poverty.

4. Test Scores Are Related To Economic Competitiveness

Consider Japan, whose current economy flags while its students continue to ace assessment tests. Or Finland, New Zealand, and Sweden, each of which produces at least as many research engineers as the US per 1,000 full time employees. Quality education can prevail in an economically challenged nation. There’s no doubt about it.

5. Schools Alone Can Close The Achievement Gap

The achievement gap is already apparent in students on their first day of kindergarten, due to a number of factors including economic background, educational background (how educated are the student’s parents?), nutritional intake, genetics, and parental guidance. Because of this contingency, researchers have argued that it reflects poor reasoning and poor policy to believe that school reform alone could ever close the gap.

6. Private and Charter Schools Are Educating Kids Better

NAEP scores of private and charter school students are no higher than those of public school students. Studies suggest that the “boons” of private schools may amount to nothing more than the exposure to other students with educated parents and affluent backgrounds.

7. Teachers Are Clueless About The Content They Are Teaching

Twenty-eight states require secondary-level instructors to have majored in the subject area they plan to teach. All candidates must pass content exams before completing their program or being certified to teach. Twelve states require elementary school teachers to have earned a content degree, and nineteen require middle school teachers to do the same.

8. The “Teacher-Proof Myth”

There are no teacher-proof solutions. None to be legislated, none to be bought, and none to be accessed virtually. The human task of helping a student cannot be replaced by automated learning models, nor by one all-purpose instructional method arising from trial and error. More trust must be placed in our teachers.

9. Our Teachers Work Less And Get Paid More

According to an OECD report, US teachers spend between 1,050 and 1,100 hours per year teaching – much more than in almost every country. Argentina and Chile are also high on the list. Despite high spending on education, teacher salaries across the world are far lower than those earned by other workers with higher education credentials.

10. Unions Defend Poor Teachers

Between 2006 and 2010, 245 teachers resigned or were dismissed in the US. This is because the unions have made an effort to monitor underperforming teachers in school districts across the nation. If students in one classroom are performing worse than students in another, it makes little sense to blame the teacher before considering other factors.

11. Student Achievement Has Been Deteriorating For Decades

Contrary to popular belief, today’s students perform about as well as their parents in terms of standardized assessment tests and high school graduation rates. There is simply no hard evidence for the statement that student performance has been declining for decades. These are myths put forward by teachers’ unions and education policy makers.

12. Teachers Are Solely Responsible For Learning

Learning is an interactive process. Teachers are not the only people in the classroom who have valuable knowledge to share or responsibility to shoulder. Students, too, can teach each other and benefit from working together. A teacher is a facilitator, first and foremost.

13. The Disadvantaged Don’t Have The Same Capacity To Learn

There is no evidence that students from disadvantaged communities have a lower capacity to learn than students from privileged backgrounds. Economically challenged students may perform worse on assessments; experience anxiety and lack of control, which lead to underachievement; react negatively to authority; skip multiple classes on a regular basis; and abandon formal learning - but none of this is due to lower educational capacity.

14. Schools Don’t Matter

Intellectuals and politicians alike have claimed that education can’t save disadvantaged youth, and that the problem lies in socioeconomic policy and reform. However, since the instatement of acts like No Child Left Behind, schools have been instrumental in giving underprivileged students a chance to escape poverty. Education is power for the impoverished.

15. Small Classes Would Produce Big Improvements

Although research has highlighted the perks of reduced class sizes, especially in college settings, there is little evidence that it benefits students on a wide enough scale to make a difference. Considering the financial challenges of breaking students up into smaller groups, hiring more teachers, and investing in more resources, reduced class size should not be looked upon as a means of “saving” education.

16. Teacher Preparation Matters Little For Student Achievement

Although Teach for America has produced some excellent teachers with little to no training, the National Bureau of Economic Research has shown that beginning teachers with more extensive clinical training (like internships or certification programs) produce higher student achievement gains and retain their positions longer than teachers with less preparation.

17. Most Teachers Don’t Care

If student performance is low, it doesn’t mean that teachers don’t care. Teachers become teachers precisely because they do care. But it is not an easy job. Educators face many challenges every day – say, with a particularly disruptive child or a time-crunch due to a school assembly - and do their best to help students succeed despite these difficulties.

18. Credentials And Experience Don’t Matter. Only Content Knowledge Does

It benefits every teacher to be an expert in his or her subject field, but experience is key. If instructors don’t know how to engage and audience and relate their knowledge to others, their expertise will be as good as useless in a classroom setting. Credentials and experience count.

When educators teach the same subjects and grade levels consistently, especially during their first five years of teaching, it behooves them – and their students - to be not only experts in their field but to have experience relating their subject to others. Experienced teachers are more organized, strategy-driven, and creative in the classroom.