The Anti-Content Mindset Behind Block
March 13, 2006 Meeting of the Guilford
CT Board of Education
Remarks by William G. Quirk, Ph.D.
At the last
meeting of this
Board, we learned that block scheduling is linked to a change in the
of the school” for Guilford high school.
The planned new culture offers:
- A student-centered approach
- High order thinking
- Authentic assessment
said “It’s not just a change in the
daily schedule. It’s a change in the way we teach and interact with
the nature of the change is hidden in the edu-speak.
Mr. Neviaser called it educational garble. But
it’s no laughing matter. Such language
has deceived parents nationwide. One
day they wake up and find their children are expected to teach
such group of parents lives in Region
- Dr. Forcella’s last school
district. If you visit my
you’ll find notes for a talk I gave to these parents.
At the last board meeting,
Ms. Migliacci revealed the truth behind the edu-speak.
the things I hear . . . is
this idea of covering content . . . the hair just goes up on the back
neck, when I hear something like that . . . the assumption often is
teaching is about the delivery of knowledge, and that is really done
lecture and reading . . . and that’s not what we’re talking about at
all . . .
when the teachers get the professional development they need . . .
realize that it’s not about a teacher in front of a classroom, it’s a
The message is clear.
The conversion to block scheduling involves the phasing out of
teacher-centered knowledge transmission and the full implementation of
Rather than listening to teachers or reading textbooks,
students are to work with their peers and carry out investigations,
and other discovery learning activities.All
necessary learning is expected to occur naturally, as a
byproduct of these small group activities.Each student is to be led by
personal interests. The primary goal is a stress-free life for
students. The block schedule extended learning time is important, because discovery-learning activities are
There’s no recognition of a standard body of knowledge that all
students should learn. So whole-class instruction is out
out. Standard content is out. Personal content is in.
tests are out. Authentic assessment is
The ongoing strength of our society depends on the quality of the shared
tradition of knowledge that is passed on from generation to
generation. American schools need to
teach children the core content associated with the
knowledge domains of English, mathematics, science, history, and
But Ms. Migliacci and her colleagues at Brown University refuse to
common core of knowledge that all students should learn.
graduated from Brown. My father taught
math and physics at Brown. Both would
be astonished by the philosophy that’s replacing education with therapy.
Fordham Foundation recently published a report, The
State of State Math
Standards – 2005. A team of 6 studied
the math standards for every state. I
was one of the six. The other five are
university math professors. We were sad
to learn that math appreciation is replacing traditional K-12 math in
states, including Connecticut. Hawaii
edged out Connecticut for the lowest score.
My five Fordham colleagues are
all senior math professors. David Klein is
a Professor of Mathematics at Cal State. Bas Braams is a
Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Emory. Thomas
Parker is a Professor of Mathematics at Michigan State.
Schmid is the Robinson
Professor of Mathematics at Harvard. Steve Wilson is a Professor
of Mathematics at Johns
Hopkins. These five
were willing to carry out this considerable work effort, because they
trying to better understand why so many bright college freshmen are
unprepared for college math.
Beyond our project, Steve
Wilson surveyed 93 math professors
from around the country
to see if
they agreed that students should know standard pencil-and-paper
order to succeed in first year college math.
All 93 agreed this knowledge is essential.
pencil-and-paper arithmetic is not being taught in Guilford. It’s enough for students to appreciate some
of the concepts, but they’re not expected to master the details of
borrowing, and long division. They’re
not expected to master the details of computing with fractions. It’s OK to use a calculator for most
Approving block scheduling is
equivalent to approving the therapeutic, anti-content mindset. Please
don’t do that. It’s time to stop the crime that’s hiding behind the
- Is it OK that our children do so
poorly on international
tests in math and science?
- Is it OK
that we’re ranked below Malaysia in math. Is it OK that we’re ranked
Estonia and Hungary in both math and science?
- Is it OK that Connecticut’s
English standards also received a failing grade from the Fordham
it OK that a Guilford High School valedictorian wasn’t admitted to Yale
of a poorly written personal statement?