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Journalist Says the System, not the Teachers, Should be Blamed [3/28/2014]

BerlerVisitThumbnailTeachers are not to blame for the problems in America’s schools, journalist Ron Berler told a group on the Baylor campus Wednesday, March 26. Berler spent a year imbedded in a public school fifth-grade classroom, reporting on the issues and challenges facing America’s schools. His book, Raising the Curve, is the story of the characters at Brookside Elementary in Norwalk, Conn., and their challenges during that year.

Berler’s presentation, and a noon conversation that same day, were sponsored by the Department of Curriculum & Instruction in Baylor’s School of Education. Berler also autographed copies of Raising the Curve after each lecture.

During his visit to campus, Berler drew media attention from Waco NPR affiliate KWBUTV news Channel 25 KXXV anchor Bruce Gietzen, and the Baylor Lariat.

The media outlets also interviewed SOE professor Dr. Tony Talbert; freshman education student Trevor Taylor was part of the KXXV broadcast.

Berler said the primary problems plaguing America’s schools are systemic, citing the lack of parental involvement, lack of readiness in kindergarten, and the prevalence of high-stakes, punitive testing as reasons that schools are classified as “failing.”

“I can’t tell you how many interviewers have asked me, ‘What’s the one thing that will fix it?’” Berler said. “Well there’s not one thing, and since there’s not one thing, they blame the teachers. It’s harsh and it’s not deserved, because of the hard work teachers do.”

Berler said he would like to see every parent spend just an hour in the classroom each school year. “If they see how teachers teach, maybe you guys would not take such heat, because people would appreciate what you do,” he told a crowd that included professors and students from the School of Education.

Berler saves his most harsh comments for the standardized testing demanded through the federal “No Child Left Behind” program. He said that real teaching virtually stops in every public school classroom in January, while teachers must spend nine weeks teaching student exactly how to answer specific test questions. The punitive nature of the system makes the test ineffective, he said.

Berler suggested that people who want to make a difference should vote on the school board members in their community, vote them out of office if they don’t like what they are doing, or run for office themselves. —Meg Cullar

Click the images below to see photos from Berler’s visit to Baylor.

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