Education in Crisis
To test or not to test? While conservative forces in education lobby for evaluating young students with standardized tests, progressive practitioners argue against emphasizing academics— and for a child’s understanding of herself in the world, which, they say, is accomplished only when the student is an active learner.
Margery Franklin, director of Sarah Lawrence Child Development Institute (CDI), says, “There’s a real difference between learning through memorizing, and contextual learning—about things that have meaning to you, that you will be able to integrate into other aspects of your life.”
On April 1-2, 2005, CDI is hosting its first major conference since 1993, “Confronting the Crises in Education,” to address the many differences of opinion roiling early education: academics versus play for preschoolers, arguments about standardized tests and school choice, and whether schools should develop children’s sense of a common identity as citizens or help foster ethnic and other group identities.
“These issues have existed in various forms for decades, but they are at a much higher intensity now,” says Franklin. “People in the field feel urgency about articulating issues that the larger public can understand, respond to and do something about.”
Edward Zigler, a founding member of Project Head Start and Sterling Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, at Yale University, will deliver the keynote address on April 1. Four panels will take place on Saturday, April 2: Early Education: Problems and Prospects; Standardization, High Stakes Testing and School Choice; Differences, Identities and Commonalities; and Revisioning Public Education.
Panel presenters include Sonia Nieto, an educator who focuses on educational equality and social justice; Ted Sizer, an influential figure in progressive school reform; and Vanessa Siddle Walker, who researches historical and socio-cultural influences on the teaching and learning of African-American students.
“You can’t think about changing education unless you think about the ways that public schools are embedded in our larger social fabric,” says Franklin.