Response to ED Week’s Article: Differentiation Doesn’t Work

See original article at:

Dr. Burdette’s Opinion:

I think that most thoughtful people would agree that the concepts behind true differentiated instruction and the similar ideas (e.g., personalized learning, individualized learning, etc.) are excellent, but implementing them in the context teachers, students, and even administrators are given is next to impossible.

Let’s take this disconnect and continue the discussion on how to manipulate the context/environment so teachers can offer this important strategy to our nation’s students (those in public schools, including charters, private schools, home schools, online schools and programs, everybody). I read some comments about the original article that include smaller classes, less heterogeneous classes, more and better use of technology as some of the ideas for doing just this.
Even the somewhat conservative Fordham Foundation has forward thinking ideas about how to change traditional schooling so that all kids have the opportunity to meet their potential – and they typically agree that putting teachers in untenable positions (e.g., too many students, technology that doesn’t work properly, lack of support, etc, all with the promise of punitive evaluation systems) isn’t going to help students.
Who’s in charge!? How can we make good instruction and strong learning outcomes happen across the US??? Who needs to get the right people together to address this overarching issue instead of just its component parts in isolation. Some of the isolated topics we address in the nation include teacher evaluation, results-driven accountability for special education, class size, school size, online learning, charter schools, and the list could go on and on.
Really… who’s in charge? Could/should our federal tax dollars, in the form of the Department of Education be used to improve the systems across the nation? If ‘the powers that be’ were willing to work with stakeholders who don’t have the same opinions, and yes, have their own agendas, such as many of the conservative, liberal, and middle-of-the-road think tanks, associations, etc., I think we could see change in 2-5 years. That’s the length of time research tells us that real change takes to occur. Even with the stakeholders’ various agendas, don’t they all espouse the same end goal – what’s in the best interest of the students? That’s where to start – in my opinion.

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