This YouTube video by Dr. Michael Marder, professor of physics at the University of Texas, uses graphs and data to turn conventional wisdom about education on its head. His presentation indicates that public schools in America aren’t broken. In fact, he says, public school systems are working and students are receiving higher test scores across the board.
“Public schools are improving,” he says in the presentation. “Teachers are working very hard and the remaining problems, which are still severe, are mainly due to poverty, which the schools cannot cure on their own.”
We recently talked with Dr. Marder about his presentation and the implications for educators.
MSTA: What can educators do?
Dr. Marder: I'm not sure if my answer here will be encouraging or discouraging. It would be constantly to improve the craft of teaching, but not to assume that educators in the classroom alone can solve all problems. We need a team effort to support teachers so that they are not simultaneously charged to teach and complete the job of a full-time social worker.
MSTA: If we work to address poverty, and to close the achievement gap between low-income to well-off students, how will that make a difference?
Dr. Marder: Recognizing the effects of poverty is not the same as giving in to them or saying that they cannot eventually be overcome. I mainly am working to prepare as many great secondary science and mathematics teachers as I can, in Austin and across the country (see information on UTeach). Some other things I'm personally working to institute in Austin include after-school science and mathematics clubs, and extended summer camps with high-level academic content. One idea of such programs is to provide to low-income students some of the advantages that better-off students might get naturally from their families. I wish I could say that these programs operate on the scale of a full district; for the moment they will serve just a few. That's better I think than serving none.
What do you think about Dr. Marder findings and suggestions?