NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Educators Resist Using More Effective Teaching Methods

August 8, 2000

Although scientific studies have shown certain teaching methods improve student learning and performance, those in the education establishment have failed to adopt these methods. In fact, they have been openly hostile towards them. Education decision-makers have been critical of objective studies, opting instead to base their decisions on subjective non-scientific rationales, say critics.

  • In the debate regarding methods of reading instruction, all of the studies indicated phonetics was better than whole language; however, teachers, education school professors, textbook publishers and teacher trainers still supported the whole language approach.
  • Mathematics suffered a similar fate when math teaching and curriculum standards were adopted in thousands of schools without any prior testing, and educators then called for pilot programs to determine if the standards were actually effective.

Between 1967 and 1976, a program called Project Follow Through followed more than 70,000 kindergarten through third grade students in 180 schools ranging from rural to urban to determine the effectiveness of different teaching models. The phonics model emerged as the best method, producing far superior results.

Yet, when the federal government met with educators, all approaches -- even those that produced worse results than the control group -- were rated as "exemplary and effective" because a program could be considered as such if "it had a positive impact on individuals other than students."

Until the education establishment begins to respect scientific evidence, one should not be surprised at further examples where education experts give out unproven methods or adopt the current teaching fad.

Source: Douglas Carnine, "Why Education Experts Resist Effective Practices (And What It Would Take to Make Education More Like Medicine)," April 2000, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, 1627 K Street, N.W., Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20006.


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