Memory Medic

How to improve everyday memory.

Educational Reform and Why It Is Not Working

Attempts to apply right answers to the wrong problem

The chart below is telling: SAT scores have been flat for over 40 years while education spending has increased 140%. Though this is Texas, I have seen similar data for other states. 

 At the national level, federal government educational spending has skyrocketed, with no comparable improvement in educational outcomes.


Clearly, the data debunk the supposition that more money is needed to fix education. What about changing standards and curricula? What have we got to show for all the reforms in the last 40 years such as Head Start, New Math, Nation at Risk, Goals 2000, Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind, charter schools, Next Generation Science Standards, and Common Core?

Could it be that we are trying to apply right answers to the wrong problems? If money, revised standards and curricula, and high-stakes testing are not the real problems, what is?

I think the real problem is that students generally lack learning competencies. Amazingly, schools tell students more about what to learn than how to learn. I think that such schooling has it backwards. In my view, the main goal of school should be to motivate students to learn and to teach them how to do it. Good schooling also ought to cultivate good academic taste, that is, the ability to distinguish principle from fact, useful information from trivia, logical analysis from specious argumentation, and intellectual excellence from superstition, myth, and falsehood. With that accomplished most everything else will fall into place.

What do I mean by "learning competencies?" In this post, I will just identify the competencies needed for effective learning as follows:







In a follow-on post, I will explain what I think teachers can do to promote student development of these learning competencies. The corollary is that Colleges of Education need to be doing more research on these competencies and provide more instruction to pre-service teachers on how to teach learning competencies. In short, what is the smart way to address the real problem in education?

Dr. Klemm has a new book, Mental Biology, The New Science of How Brain and Mind Relate. See review:

William Klemm, Ph.D., is a Professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University.


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