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Sleuth Misses Important Clues

by Susan Ohanian

Although the hokey frame of John Merrow's The School Issue We Aren't Paying Attention To quickly gets grating (If you enjoy Guy Noir, then maybe you'll think Merrow's Sleuth persona is half as cute as he thinks it is), he makes a number of savvy observations. But be prepared: At 13:48, Dr. Ruth makes an appearance.

Certainly, I appreciated Merrow's take-down of K-12 and other virtual schools, but I wish he knew a whole lot more about the lack of pedagogy in Salman Khan's effort. The fact that it's free isn't good enough.

Merrow fairly gushes over the tech savviness of kids in a district he's located that embraces technology. Golly, the whole district! Los Altos, California. Merrow visits other schools around the country where good things are happening, but in presenting this district as the pinnacle--and in failing to point out that Los Altos, where Steve Jobs lived, is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, with median home price at $2,0000,000 --Merrow gravely undercuts his argument.

Merrow is also enthralled by the Teach to One methodology, wherein computers deliver a math quiz math to every student at the end of each period every day, and based on how kids do, deliver new lessons the next day. There's a master station where staff has pored over gazillions of textbooks and other resources in order to come up with "best lessons." This system assigns the teacher to work with a few students on a specific skill; the rest do their assigned work on their computers. The viewer sees happy classroom busy-ness. No one mentions any possible problems here. It's Blended Learning and the computer knows best.

In leading up to his grand conclusion of the critical need for more broadband for schools, Merrow pinpoints a New Jersey librarian as the meritorious tech savvy leader in her school. We see her working with a group of students. All are frustrated that the school's Internet access isn't strong enough to allow more than a few students at a time to access Renaissance Place.

Sorry, Mr. Merrow. If your best example for the need for more broadband is kids trying to sign in for an Accelerated Reader test, then I say unplug the computers. I have written extensively about the Accelerated Reader flim-flam and it breaks my heart to see a library misused in this way.

Accelerated Reader: The Data Softshoe

Here's how it relates to Common Core:

Common Core and Fuzzy Wuzzy Complex Text Readability Formulas Part 1

Of course earlier in the show Merrow had shown students using computers for much more worthwhile things, but positioning Accelerated Reader access as his critical point for the need for us to spend billions on broadband left me screaming.

— Susan Ohanian
Television Review




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