The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America's Broken Education System - and How to Fix It Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
The untold story of the root cause of America's education crisis - and the seemingly endless cycle of multigenerational poverty.
It was only after years within the education reform movement that Natalie Wexler stumbled across a hidden explanation for our country's frustrating lack of progress when it comes to providing every child with a quality education. The problem wasn't one of the usual scapegoats: lazy teachers, shoddy facilities, lack of accountability. It was something no one was talking about: the elementary school curriculum's intense focus on decontextualized reading comprehension "skills" at the expense of actual knowledge. In the tradition of Dale Russakoff's The Prize and Dana Goldstein's The Teacher Wars, Wexler brings together history, research, and compelling characters to pull back the curtain on this fundamental flaw in our education system - one that fellow reformers, journalists, and policymakers have long overlooked, and of which the general public, including many parents, remains unaware.
But The Knowledge Gap isn't just a story of what schools have gotten so wrong - it also follows innovative educators who are in the process of shedding their deeply ingrained habits, and describes the rewards that have come along: students who are not only excited to learn but are also acquiring the knowledge and vocabulary that will enable them to succeed. If we truly want to fix our education system and unlock the potential of our neediest children, we have no choice but to pay attention.
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|Listening Length||9 hours and 15 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com.au Release Date||06 August 2019|
|Best Sellers Rank|| 9,975 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
4 in Educational Curricula
14 in Childhood Education
18 in Education Reform & Policy
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Essentially, the majority of US elementary schools use language arts curriculum that attempts to teach vague "skills" like "finding a main idea," "finding supporting evidence" or "drawing conclusion" from texts. Wexler summarizes the substantial evidence showing that reading comprehension depends on a person's background knowledge on the subject. Students from advantaged backgrounds will pick up some background knowledge at home, topics related to history, geography, science. But these subjects have been pushed out of elementary schools to make more time for reading instruction (for testing purposes). Children from disadvantaged homes suffer disproportionately with this system. It is truly a matter of social justice.
Unlike Hirsch's Why Knowledge Matters, this book is written in a popular style and is highly readable. For someone who has followed this problem, there will be some information that feels repetitive, such as explanations of the reading wars or the baseball study. However, for someone new to this topic, it will thoroughly summarize how and why curriculum in elementary schools ended up focusing on "skills" instead of content.
I was particularly interested in the two classrooms Wexler followed through an entire school year--one following a typical skills-based curriculum, the other using Core Knowledge's content rich curriculum. The lessons in the typical classroom were frustrating and confusing to an adult; in the content classroom kids were enthusiastically absorbing new material and demonstrating their understanding. I think it is important to note that Wexler is very respectful of all teachers, even when she disagrees with their methods. She is very aware that the choice of curriculum is out of the hands of a single teacher or even a single school.
Finally, what can be done? The solution is clear, but how to do it is not. District by district or school by school change to a content rich curriculum like Core Knowledge or Wit and Wisdom. Get this book into the right hands. For parents, if you can't do that, buy books in the What Your 1st Grader needs to Know series. Or you can do what I do: use Core Knowledge's free curriculum to homeschool.
But my biggest critique is that the book's subtitle, "The Hidden Cause of America's Broken Education System and How to Fix It," is a raging overpromise. Our broken education system has a complex multitude of causes. The method by which low-income students are taught to read in elementary school -- while important -- is only one of them.
For a full analysis of what's wrong with America's public schools and how to fix them, a more thoughtful and comprehensive read is "Save Our Schools...and America too" by Stephen Weintraub, who is a former management consultant turned award-winning high school teacher. His book delivers on Wexler's failed promise. I read them the same week and "Save Our Schools" won hands-down.
My one big issue with this book is her simplification of the gap in test scores based on income and race. She seems to believe that simply creating content-based curriculum will level out the playing field. She brushes aside the devastating effects of poverty and racism in all forms. Content focused curriculum has its merits, but it’s not a magic wand.