Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A serious rant about education jargon and how it hurts efforts to improve schools - The Washington Post

A serious rant about education jargon and how it hurts efforts to improve schools - The Washington Post:

A serious rant about education jargon and how it hurts efforts to improve schools

If you have ever had children in school, or read a story about education policy, or participated in a school meeting, or attended school (which is pretty much every one of you), you have been confronted with edu-speak. You know, words used to describe various education programs or initiatives or theories that often wind up sowing confusion or rendering important ideas incomprehensible.
The problem is so prevalent that there is even an Education Jargon Generatoron, which offers complete jargon-filled sentences or gives you parts of sentences (prepositional phrases, verbs, adjectives and nouns) to create your own. Here are examples of sentences created with the push of the “generate jargon” button:
*”We will triangulate mission-critical culminating products across content areas.”
*”We will agendize innovative communities for our 21st Century learners.”
“We will cultivate competency-based technologies through the experiential based learning process.”
“We will reinvent proactive ESLR’s across cognitive and affective domains.”                                                                                                    “We will visualize performance-driven cohorts through the Big Ideas.”
You get the ridiculous idea.
Here is a full-throated rant about edu-speak and the damage it causes by Liz Willen, editor of the The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education, where it was first published. The piece was adapted from an article written for The Education Reporters Toolkit published by The Solutions Journalism Network.

By Liz Willen
I was taking notes during one of those tedious but important school board meetings rookie reporters are assigned to cover when I realized I had no idea what was going on. Board members and various school officials spouted an inaccessible language of acronyms. The board members spent hours talking to and over one another, using terms that must have baffled audience members. I later learned they were discussing raising property taxes to boost the school budget, a critical issue local voters and parents needed to understand.
This was more than 25 years ago and I’ve been determined to eradicate jargon ever since. For education journalists, though, cutting through the argle bargle is a full-time job that distracts from what we should actually be doing: telling stories about how children are faring in American classrooms. I’m more convinced than ever that we can’t improve U.S. education until we figure out how to talk and write clearly about it. I despair each time I get yet another impossible-to-decipher research report or press release, and cringe when educators using phrases like “human capital” and “value propositions,” not to mention those endless acronyms: RTI, PLC, SLT, IEP, PD and LMS.
I’ve ranted about this before, but now I’m determined to fight back, and I’m urging all journalists who cover education to do the same. In the name of public service, let’s agree to stop abetting the school establishment’s “edu-speak.” Stop passing along empty buzzwords and clichés. Let’s finally make the conversation about challenges and solutions accessible to all. (For a look at how to apply a solutions approach to education journalism, see theEducation Reporter’s Toolkit, something many of us at the Hechinger Reportcontributed to.)
Why do we need terms like “value-added,” or “formative assessments?” Ugh. Must we really be “intentional” or “empowering” when we talk about education? And can we please stop using “silver bullet” — a cliché you’ve heard as often as the assertion by everyone in education that they, unlike everyone else, put “children first.”
Don’t get me started on overused phrases like “grit” and “rigor,” along with “21st century skills” or “researched-based programs” that educate “the whole child.” As opposed to only half of a child? And what of charter-schoolmovement lingo, replete with “restorative practices” and “growth mindsets”?
It’s not just educators who are to blame. The federal government is most certainly guilty as well for creating an alphabet soup of acronyms that bogs down stories about national education policy with explanations and parentheticals about what all the abbreviations mean before readers ever get to the point of whether the policies are actually working. Consider: ESEA(Elementary and Secondary Education Act); NCLB (No Child Left Behind); and President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top competition, also known as R2T, RTT or even RTTT.