Phi Beta Cons

Insight into Education Schools

There’s new hope for fixing our education schools. Bear with me as I explain.

The poor state of education schools contributes to the deplorable state of K-12 education. To measure the effectiveness of different education schools, Erskine Bowles, president of the University of North Carolina, commissioned a study of teachers in North Carolina. The study identified which schools produced the most effective teachers based on the success of the teachers’ students. Its major finding (reported earlier by Jay Schalin) was that Teach for America graduates are better at teaching than products of UNC education schools.

Now there’s another twist. One of the education schools that did well in teaching elementary math and reading, the Watson School of Education at UNC-Wilmington, has a renegade group of teachers (two of them sociologists) who teach education students to use Direct Instruction. DI is a method of teaching developed in the 1960s that includes reliance on phonics for reading. In contrast, the prevailing method of teaching reading at the Watson School (and most other schools) is “whole language.” The DI group teaches many graduate students who then serve as administrators in the Wilmington area.

If the use of Direct Instruction is the reason for UNC Wilmington’s greater success, that fact could show up in a careful analysis of the report’s numbers. And an official report could have major implications for what’s wrong with our education schools.

Jane S. Shaw — Jane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

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