Campaign Enlists “Sesame Street” to Improve High School Education
Do U.S. high school students score poorly on math and science tests because of too many commercials and not enough encouragement from Big Bird? If so, a new federal campaign will remedy that. It’s a hodgepodge of initiatives, ranging from science-themed video games in public libraries to commercial-free science television shows. Scientists will volunteer to help teachers, and “Sesame Street” is getting in on the action.
One thing is clear:
“It has nothing to do with the day-to-day teaching,” said Dr. Schneider, who was the commissioner of education statistics at the Department of Education from 2005 to 2008.
None of the new programs would transform science class. Few would affect schools at all, instead giving children opportunities to learn about science through after school activities. Their success would depend on whether anyone wants to participate in these particular initiatives, and whether the science video games teach as much as they’re supposed to. And there’s a disconnect between the programs and the campaign’s stated goals: high schoolers are too old to care about many of the “hooks” (like Big Bird), yet the campaign seeks to improve high school science scores.
Here are some policies that would have a greater effect on science in school:
- Alternative teacher certification. If you like the idea of scientists volunteering to work with students for the duration of a single project, just imagine what students would learn if scientists stayed on as full-time teachers.
- Science-themed charter schools. Allow the students who are most interested in science to choose specialized schools and devote more time to studying it.
- No national standards. Schools should strive to offer the best science instruction possible, not conform to a single standard. No matter how good the standard is, it will always be possible to improve on it. We don’t want schools to stop once they reach whatever level that the government finds acceptable — but that’s exactly what standards legislation prompts them to do.