🏆 2023 BIBA® Non-Fiction: Teaching Winner!
We have an existential crisis in our schools. Teacher job satisfaction levels are at an all-time low, there has been a huge increase in the number of students facing severe mental health issues, schools have become the center of culture wars, and the public (falsely) believes that American schools are failing and treats teachers with increasing hostility and disrespect. Citing research from the fields of psychology, biology, neurology, economics, sociology, and education, Dr. David Locke explores the causes of and potential solutions to this crisis. Key points explored in Crisis in Our Schools include the following:
Teachers are facing unbearable working conditions. Teachers are facing state and federal mandates that decrease their level of autonomy, increasing hostility from parents and the public, low wages, unrealistic expectations for increasing test scores, and an increase in the number of special needs students without needed classroom support, including dangerous and out-of-control students who are protected by law from adequate consequences. Teachers are responding to these conditions by leaving the profession, leading to an enormous teaching shortage in the United States.
The standardized tests we give our children are ineffective, have no value, and act as a poison in our schools. Research has shown that these tests can’t measure the vast majority of what children learn in school, are strongly biased against minority and low-SES students, and provide data that is essentially meaningless. Furthermore, achievement tests give the false impression that our schools, teachers, and students are failing and are the major cause of the increasing hostility that teachers feel.
American schools are not failing – they are among the best in the world. Our schools are teaching American students skills associated with problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, conscientiousness, and entrepreneurship, which allow them to grow up to lead the world in science, engineering, medicine, mathematics, technology, business, communications, entertainment, and computer science. The knowledge and skills behind America’s world leadership begin in American schools.
We can begin to heal the crisis in our schools by changing from a focus on testing to a focus on student and teacher engagement.
In this book, Dr. Locke explores five research-validated changes we need to make to end the crisis:
End high-stakes testing.
Make schools physically and emotionally safer.
Make school learning more social.
Provide much stronger support for teachers.
Work to greatly enhance students’ sense of safety, motivation, engagement, and belonging.
In Part 1 of Crisis in Our Schools, titled “The Failure of Testing,” Dr. Locke describes the failure of the school reform movement and standardized testing. In Part 2, titled “The Promise of Engagement,” he explores changes schools can make to support teachers and help make schools places where students and teachers are excited to be. Dr. Locke closes the book with a call to action for educators and parents to fight to end high-stakes testing, greatly increase teacher support, and create safe, supportive schools that bring back joy into teaching and learning.