More coursework: 1 - A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I - J | K - L | M | N - O | P - S | T | U - Y

Excellence in education

EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION

The concept of excellence in education is one that, on the

surface, seems to be unquestionable. After all, who would

not accede that students within our schools should, in fact,

excel? Certainly teachers, parents, and administrators can

agree on excellence as an aim to shoot for. The

interpretation of the term "excellence" is, however, less

obvious. How do we regard excellence? Is it the college

bound student with a broad liberal arts education? Is it the

student who graduates high school trained in a specific

trade? Many in the field of education cannot come to an

agreement on how our schools can best achieve excellence

for and from our students.

One of the many authorities who have contributed a model

for what schools should be is Robert L. Ebel. According to

Ebel, knowledge is the single most significant and most

important goal in the education of children. In his article

"What are schools for?" Ebel answers "that schools are for

learning, and that what ought to be learned mostly is useful

knowledge" (3). He builds this declaration in answer to

trends in education that focus upon other aspects of

learning in schools. Ebel states in the beginning of his

article, that he does not assume schools should be social

research agencies, recreational facilities, adjustment

centers, or custodial institutions. (3). While he does not

deny that our nation is currently wrestling with a dreary

array of social ailments, he does argue that the answer to

such problems can or should lie within the jurisdiction of

our schools.

In discussing education’s mission to provide useful

knowledge, Ebel defines what he means by the word

knowledge: "It is an integrated structure of relationships

among concepts and propositions" (5). Knowledge, the

way Ebel describes it is not the same as information. Ebel

states that "knowledge is built out of information by

thinking". Knowledge, according to Ebel, must be

constructed from information by each individual learner; it

cannot be looked up, or given to students by a parent or

teacher. " A student must earn the right to say ‘I know’ by

his own thoughtful efforts to understand" (Ebel, 5). The

intellectual proficiencies many educators hope to teach are,

like information, essentially useless to Ebel without a

knowledge base on which to draw from.

Ebel feels that a good teacher can "motivate, direct, and

assist the learning process to great advantage". Although

Ebel feels that good teachers are essential to providing a

"favorable learning environment," he puts much of the

accountability for learning on the students themselves. Ebel

feels that teachers are there to facilitate students in their

learning, not to coerce those who are indifferent and

unmotivated and do not wish to learn, against their will.

Ebel states that "for the most part, motivation to learn is an

attitude a student has or lacks well before a particular

course of instruction ever begins" (7). In spite of the fact

that his stress is unmistakably concentrated on the students,

Ebel does briefly describe his idea of a "good teacher".

Good teachers, according to Ebel, have learned from past

experiences. Such teachers provide "immediate recognition

and rewards" for student achievement. Ebel in praising the

school’s role in moral education, calls teachers "models of

excellence and humanity" (4).

Ebel discusses moral education as another of education’s

special missions, second only to the teaching of useful

knowledge. The author defines moral education as "the

inculcation in the young of the accumulated moral wisdom

of the race" (4). Ebel feels that moral education is being

neglected and should have more emphasis placed on it. He

feels that our youth has grown up as "moral illiterates."

Although somewhat restricted by courts and public opinion,

schools are the perfect place for the type of moral

education advocated by Ebel. A sense of respect for

regulations and discipline in the schools, along with the

examples provided by teachers, "can be powerful

influences in moral education" (Ebel, 4).

Ebel’s article makes many recommendations of what

schools should and should not be, and can and cannot do.

He does not, however, explain to the reader exactly how

schools should be structured. The author lists some of the

qualities that he believes make up a "good learning

environment" (Ebel, 6). Some of these qualities seem fairly

obvious, for example, "capable, enthusiastic teachers" and

"a class of willing learners." Another quality listed by Ebel,

reveals the author’s belief in traditional methods of teaching

as well as learning. By advocating "formal recognition and

reward of achievement," the article mentions traditions

including "tests and grades, reports and honors, diplomas

and degrees" (6). Ebel denotes that these instruments for

rewarding excellence have long been incorporated into the

structure of our schools. He urges educators to cling to

these extrinsic motivations unless they are "willing to

abandon excellence as a goal for our efforts".

Another authority on the subject of excellence in schools is

Diane Ravitch. Like Ebel, Ravitch, has suggested that

schools must retain their traditional goals, while varying in

method. In her article "A Good School", Ravitch mentions

Ron Edmonds, of the Harvard Graduate School of

Education, who provides an outline of what makes an

effective school:

Edmonds identified schools

where academic achievement

seemed to be independent of

pupils’ social class, and he

concluded that such schools had

an outstanding principal, high

expectations for all children, an

orderly atmosphere, a regular

testing program, and an

emphasis on academic learning

(55).

Ravitch, however, does more than only recite her basic

ideas on "effective" schooling. She depicts an actual school

which, she feels, incorporates those ideals. That school is

the Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, New

York and it is run by its principal, Saul Bruckner. Ravitch

feels that what "Bruckner is doing deserves attention, not

because it is the only way or even the best way, but

because it is one successful way of wedding traditional

goals with non-traditional means" (56).

As her support of "traditional goals" suggests, Ravitch’s

views regarding schooling have much in common with those

of Robert Ebel. Ravitch shares Ebel’s opinion that a

refreshed stress on traditional academic programs is

imperative to reestablish the effectiveness of the American

education system. This return to academics is an essential

part of Edward R. Murrow High School. At Murrow, "all

[students] are expected and required to take a strong

academic program to graduate- that is a minimum of five

academic courses through the school year" (Ravitch, 56).

Although New York City requires that a certain percentage

of "below-average" students be admitted to Murrow, no

student is excluded from upper level academic classes.

"The school philosophy is that no student should be

discouraged from taking on an academic challenge"

(Ravitch, 57).

Even though Murrow’s emphasis on academic goals is an

example of traditional education, the setting and structure in

which they are achieved is unique. "The school year and

day are organized somewhat differently than they are at a

more traditional school. Instead of two semesters, there are

four cycles of ten weeks each" (Ravitch, 57). The school

also differs from most other schools in the curriculum it

offers. It is important to note, however, that it is not the

academic content that has been altered at Murrow, but the

fashion in which it is presented. Many of the classes have

been made to be more appealing to the students and have

been renamed. Murrow sets "high requirements for

graduation, but the school permits students to meet those

requirements by choosing among a carefully designed mix

of required and elective courses" (Ravitch, 57).

Another way in which Edward R. Murrow High School

differs from most other public schools is in its use of a

teaching method known as the "developmental lesson" or

the "socialized recitation". Principal Saul Bruckner demands

that all of the teachers at Murrow use this method in

teaching their classes. On her first visit to Murrow, Ravitch

observed Bruckner as he taught an American history class:

The lesson was taught in a

Socratic manner. Mr. Bruckner

did not lecture. He asked

questions and kept up a

rapid-fire dialogue among the

students... Sometimes he called

on students who were

desperately waving their arms,

and other times he solicited the

views of those who were sitting

quietly... It was a good lesson: it

was well planned, utilizing a

variety of materials and media;

and the students were alert and

responsive (Ravitch, 59).

This kind of instruction, when used by an experienced

teacher, opposes an American education system where

there is an abundance of "student passivity, and little if any

thought provoking activity in the typical classroom"

(Ravitch, 59).

Among the numerous characteristics of Edward R. Murrow

High School that Ravitch finds meritorious is its lack of a

vocational program. The school has not attained its high

degree of effectiveness with intelligent students "by pushing

the average ones into nursing and automobile mechanics"

(Ravitch, 60). Neither Ravitch nor Ebel see vocational

education as a priority in the American school system. In

spite of this scarcity of attention by some theorists,

vocational education is actually the focus of many current

debates. Joe Kincheloe, in his book Toil and Trouble,

states schooling is always a "struggle over particular ways

of life and particular epistemologies" (32). The controversy

about American vocational schooling is a debate over what

type of education is more valuable: one that emphasizes

academic knowledge and attempts to prepare students for

college, or one that values the knowledge of work and

prepares students to be trained in a skill, to find a job.

For Kincheloe, it is imperative that education approaches

the matters of the workplace. The failure of American

schools today is a "failure of vision, an inability to connect

the tenets of democracy with the construction of our

institutions" (Kincheloe, 1). This lack of vision has left both

schools and workplaces with failures in many other

domains: motivation, creativity, self-awareness, and social

justice. The nonsuccess of many educational reform

movements can, according to Kincheloe, be creditted to

their incapacity to see the critical association between the

world of education and the world of work. In contrast,

Kincheloe’s own intended amendments are contingent on

the assumption that schools and workplaces are intrinsically

connected, that they are "two features of the same

problem" (2).

Although there has been a recent promotion for vocational

education in our public high schools, inherent programs

have come under attack from all sides. Kincheloe views

vocational education, as it currently exists, as a failure

because it has failed to work in relation to economic

actualities. In addition, "vocational education has failed to

create a vision of good work or a democratic workplace"

(Kincheloe, 31). A lot of the instruction has been too

confined. Specific skills taught to students in vocational

courses can become out-of-date. Kincheloe believes that in

a time in which the workplace is changing to become more

technologically complex, industry is requiring workers who

value understanding ahead of knowledge.

The answer, then, is for students to be taught, not only

specific skills, but, instead, the larger academic concepts

that embrace them. According to Kincheloe, this can be

achieved through the merging of vocational and academic

education. Kincheloe indicates that many discussions

encompassing this type of integration concentrate on reform

for vocational programs solely. His work, however, cites

integration as a means of reforming all schooling, vocational

and academic.

Proponents point out that

integration forces schools to

reduce class size, improve

student counseling, provide

coherent programs of courses,

offer greater contact between

teachers and students, and

create closer relationships with

social institutions outside of

school (Kincheloe, 39).

Alterations made to accommodate integration would,

according to Kincheloe, have a completely positive effect

on an American education system that most experts accede

is in a severe crisis.

John Goodlad is unquestionably one of the authorities

mourning the state of America’s schools. As he states in the

very first line of his book A Place Called School,

"American schools are in trouble" (1). Behind this "trouble"

is, according to Goodlad, a loss of public faith in our

schools. "The ability of schools to do their traditional jobs

of assuring literacy and eradicating ignorance is at the

center of current criticism" (Goodlad, 2). The confidence of

the society in schools’ competencies to reach these

fundamental goals is necessary to its support of schools.

When there is a deficiency of such faith, as Goodlad claims

there currently is, there is a withdrawal of support, both

financial and otherwise.

This presumed incapability of the schools to teach "the

basic" academics promoted by Ravitch, Ebel and others,

has been reflected in lower test scores. Goodlad states "an

array of conditions surrounding the conduct of schooling"

as some of the reasons there are problems in schools (7).

These conditions include the weakening of the household

and church as stable factors in a child’s education, the

deterioration of the previously supportive relationship

between the school and the home, a change in the nature of

our communities and neighborhoods, the decline of the

political coalitions that had fought for support of our public

schools in the past, the division present among educators

themselves, the changing roles, tasks, and student

populations facing high schools, and the array of "educating

forces" such as television, that students encounter outside

of school.

Although Goodlad names conditions outside the school as

contributing to its decay as an institution, he does give

credence to the fact that schools can be effective. One of

the propositions of his book, however, is his recognition

that "the schools we need now are not necessarily the

schools we have known" in the past (2). Goodlad’s

recommendations for reform may be perceived in many

ways as a middle ground between the extreme academic

focus suggested by both Ebel and Ravitch, and the radical

integration suggested by Kincheloe. In chapter two of his

book, Goodlad lays the foundations for a detailed list of the

goals our schools should be attempting to comprehend

(51).

His first set of goals is similar to those of Ebel. The "basic"

skills include reading, writing and arithmetic. Goodlad does,

however, take his description of academics beyond the

basics by encompassing such goals as "develop positive

attitudes toward intellectual activity, including curiosity and

a desire for further learning" and "develop an understanding

of change in society" (52).

Second only to academic goals, is vocational goals. Like

Kincheloe, Goodlad disapproves of vocational education

as it had evolved in recent years. He instead, calls for

vocational programs that teach students the main concepts

needed to succeed in the workplace. Rather than narrow,

specific skills, Goodlad’s goals include "learn to make

decisions based on an awareness and knowledge of career

options" and "develop positive attitudes toward work"

(52). Goodlad does not stop at just vocational and

academic goals, but he goes on to list such goals as "social,

civic, and cultural goals" that were eagerly rejected by

Ebel, as well as something he refers to as "personal goals".

Goodlad feels that the state, rather than an individual school

should be held accountable for change. He suggests a

"tendency to overlook the broad focus of reform and the

awesome task of hammering out state policy, and to zero in

on school and classroom- not to listen and learn, but to

change things quickly" (57). Many people, teachers and

theorists similarly, believe the contrary is true: Teachers

have not been given enough of a voice in the argument of

school reform. In their purpose as education practitioners,

teachers are the spirit of any education system. As such it is

paradoxical that in spite of the fact that they often endure

most of the outside criticism, they are very seldom involved

in actual decision making outside their classrooms.

In addition to the broad reform programs indicated by the

theorists considered in this paper, as well as others, the

profession of teaching also seems to be in need of some

improvement to better allow teachers to successfully

acclimatize to the changing times. As Beverly Caffee Glenn

Points out, "the most long-lasting and beneficial reforms in

teaching would involve structural and social changes in the

profession itself" (2). She feels that more emphasis should

be placed on classroom teaching in order to keep the best

teachers in the classroom, as opposed to the current trend

that encourages the top teachers to "move up the ladder"

into administrative work.

These reforms, however, are most often discussed by

politicians, bureaucrats, advocates, and the media, rather

than by those who have the most impact on what is actually

taught and the manner in which it is presented. Whether we

ultimately follow the visions set forth by Ebel, Ravitch,

Kincheloe, Goodlad, or someone else, teachers must be

included in any major reform movements. They must not be

handed a mandate for change, but "the authority to make

major decisions and the direct responsibility for higher

student achievement" (Glenn, 27).

Outside References

Glenn, Beverly Cafee. "Include parents and

teachers in reform." Social Policy. Winter 1992,

v 22, p 30.

Source: Essay UK - https://www.essay.uk.com



About this resource

This coursework was submitted to us by a student in order to help you with your studies.


Search our content:


  • Download this page
  • Print this page
  • Search again

  • Word count:

    This page has approximately words.


    Share:


    Cite:

    If you use part of this page in your own work, you need to provide a citation, as follows:

    Essay UK, Excellence In Education. Available from: <https://www.essay.uk.com/coursework/excellence-in-education.php> [30-05-20].


    More information:

    If you are the original author of this content and no longer wish to have it published on our website then please click on the link below to request removal: