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Wasting Minds: Why Our Education System Is Failing and What We Can Do about It

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Why has successful school reform been so difficult to achieve, despite decades of well-intentioned efforts, endless rhetoric, and billions of dollars of investment? Why do most U.S. schools continue to produce disappointing results? Why is there such a disconnect between the schools we need and the schools we have? In this thoughtful and insightful book, Ronald A. Wolk tack Why has successful school reform been so difficult to achieve, despite decades of well-intentioned efforts, endless rhetoric, and billions of dollars of investment? Why do most U.S. schools continue to produce disappointing results? Why is there such a disconnect between the schools we need and the schools we have? In this thoughtful and insightful book, Ronald A. Wolk tackles these questions head-on, identifying key assumptions that have shaped the debate on school reform for the past several decades, including the emphasis on standards and testing, calls for a longer school day and year, the push to enroll more students in advanced math classes, and the quest to place a highly qualified teacher in every classroom. Backed by research and other evidence, he points out the flaws in each assumption, and then proposes alternative assumptions as the basis for new, innovative schools that would emphasize such elements as * Individualized instruction, with various pathways for learning; * Real-world contexts for learning; * Performance assessment; * A restructuring of public education to expand preschool; and * Transformation of the teachers' role from instructor to advisor. Acknowledging that the current system is too entrenched to accept radical reform, Wolk suggests incorporating his assumptions into a separate, parallel strategy for new schools. The result is a provocative proposal for teachers, administrators, policymakers, parents, and others to consider as they contemplate the future of public education in the United States.


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Why has successful school reform been so difficult to achieve, despite decades of well-intentioned efforts, endless rhetoric, and billions of dollars of investment? Why do most U.S. schools continue to produce disappointing results? Why is there such a disconnect between the schools we need and the schools we have? In this thoughtful and insightful book, Ronald A. Wolk tack Why has successful school reform been so difficult to achieve, despite decades of well-intentioned efforts, endless rhetoric, and billions of dollars of investment? Why do most U.S. schools continue to produce disappointing results? Why is there such a disconnect between the schools we need and the schools we have? In this thoughtful and insightful book, Ronald A. Wolk tackles these questions head-on, identifying key assumptions that have shaped the debate on school reform for the past several decades, including the emphasis on standards and testing, calls for a longer school day and year, the push to enroll more students in advanced math classes, and the quest to place a highly qualified teacher in every classroom. Backed by research and other evidence, he points out the flaws in each assumption, and then proposes alternative assumptions as the basis for new, innovative schools that would emphasize such elements as * Individualized instruction, with various pathways for learning; * Real-world contexts for learning; * Performance assessment; * A restructuring of public education to expand preschool; and * Transformation of the teachers' role from instructor to advisor. Acknowledging that the current system is too entrenched to accept radical reform, Wolk suggests incorporating his assumptions into a separate, parallel strategy for new schools. The result is a provocative proposal for teachers, administrators, policymakers, parents, and others to consider as they contemplate the future of public education in the United States.

30 review for Wasting Minds: Why Our Education System Is Failing and What We Can Do about It

  1. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

    Two things: 1. A teacher will never be able to not complain about a book about improving schools that is written by someone who has never been a teacher. Consider that sentence, double negatives and all, my complaint. 2. That said, the rosy vision of schools that personalize education by allowing students to pursue whatever interests they have, completing magical performance assessments along the way instead of taking any objective tests or writing papers...it sounds lovely. And it could happen, p Two things: 1. A teacher will never be able to not complain about a book about improving schools that is written by someone who has never been a teacher. Consider that sentence, double negatives and all, my complaint. 2. That said, the rosy vision of schools that personalize education by allowing students to pursue whatever interests they have, completing magical performance assessments along the way instead of taking any objective tests or writing papers...it sounds lovely. And it could happen, probably. It would cost A LOT of money. That is (almost entirely) ignored. That is frustrating. I do like that the professionalization of teaching is mentioned and supported.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Infante

    Um livro inovador e controvérso. Um nova perspetiva da educação.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    Five stars for stretching my thinking and making me consider points of view I believe I'm very much against. I had two distinct responses to this book...the first half, with the flawed assumptions of 'reformers' left me cheering! Wolk nails the flawed thinking of these folks who don't have experience in schools and still have the certainty that they can somehow "fix" schools. Then, on to the second half, his 'parallel strategy.' If public schools are in trouble, why not experiment with other idea Five stars for stretching my thinking and making me consider points of view I believe I'm very much against. I had two distinct responses to this book...the first half, with the flawed assumptions of 'reformers' left me cheering! Wolk nails the flawed thinking of these folks who don't have experience in schools and still have the certainty that they can somehow "fix" schools. Then, on to the second half, his 'parallel strategy.' If public schools are in trouble, why not experiment with other ideas? I was troubled by his cavalier attitude of 'well, we don't have any evidence that this actually works, but logic says it might' with his assumptions of how to change schools. And here's where I had to squirm uncomfortably. I have bought in to the notion of 'proven results' like testing data to the point that I don't even trust 'let's try it and see if it works.' I've drunk the kool aid and I had to admit it. His ideas of individualized education is what I DO in my class...every one of my students is essentially on an Individualized Education Plan in my room...So why am I so resistant to his ideas? And his ideas of 'chartering' is also so different than my experience that I got my back up again. I know in the history of charters they were envisioned as places to experiment with educational theories and strategies, with the intent of bringing the successes back into the public schools...but being beaten up with the 'charters are better, charters care, charters work for kids' rhetoric of the past year, I need time to digest his thinking... I will have to reread this, because it's made me admit how entrenched my thinking is, and how NOT-open I've become to ideas. A book that makes you face yourself deserves five stars... The next time through I'll collect all the inspiring lines that gave me hope. I'm not done with this book...and it's not done with me.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Wolk's clear vision of education in America has been shaped by decades of observation, from his perch as founder and editor of Education Week and involvement in innovative education projects. Because my views align so closely with Wolk's it may be hard for me to be objective about the value of the book--but it seems to me that he's correctly identified the great myths and assumptions about what's wrong and misguided about silver-bullet education reforms currently in vogue. The best and most useful Wolk's clear vision of education in America has been shaped by decades of observation, from his perch as founder and editor of Education Week and involvement in innovative education projects. Because my views align so closely with Wolk's it may be hard for me to be objective about the value of the book--but it seems to me that he's correctly identified the great myths and assumptions about what's wrong and misguided about silver-bullet education reforms currently in vogue. The best and most useful part of the book is the second half--where he posits some alternative assumptions about education, and builds a framework for real reform. I read books about education reform constantly--hundreds of them. "Wasting Minds" stands out for its vision of how we could make things better, by building an alternative system while preserving what's good in the present system. The writing and the tone are no-nonsense, and the author's credentials, sterling. Five shining stars.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Much of what I read I agreed with, such as the disconnect between student's ways of learning in the digital age and our traditional way of schooling, the need for personalization of education for students (what a challenge), and the research showing that NCLB has not closed the achievement gap. I do not agree with the author's support of charter schools and was surprised when he went down that road. It's got me thinking about how I could design a way for a student to pick at least one objective Much of what I read I agreed with, such as the disconnect between student's ways of learning in the digital age and our traditional way of schooling, the need for personalization of education for students (what a challenge), and the research showing that NCLB has not closed the achievement gap. I do not agree with the author's support of charter schools and was surprised when he went down that road. It's got me thinking about how I could design a way for a student to pick at least one objective covered in Biology that we are required to cover and allow the student to personalize that area of study so that they have a say in what they are learning and see how that area has real life connections. One student, one topic at a time!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Guy Arcuri

    An amazing book that not only clearly explains the condition of American education but also offers pearls of hope at the end. Ronald walk is one of my heroes. That probably says more about me than about him.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Taweewat

    Wasting Mind gives you another way to look at the education problem. The alternative path that everyone wants to see but no one is dare enough to do it. You just have to start everything again from the ground up

  8. 4 out of 5

    Eric Kalenze

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. For book project research--good resource for counter-arguments. (Argues against traditional schooling, pro-charter, believes in new digital-age learning, etc.)

  9. 5 out of 5

    اليازية خليفة

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jhoward877

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emma

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Brunner

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bret

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

  15. 4 out of 5

    Aromatic Cholist

  16. 4 out of 5

    Randi Beth

  17. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

  18. 5 out of 5

    Janie Boyd

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  20. 4 out of 5

    Bob Logan

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline Breske

  22. 5 out of 5

    Zohair

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jontanner

  26. 5 out of 5

    Carla Swanson

  27. 4 out of 5

    Angie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Karen Ford

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

  30. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

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