North Texas Daily

Student survey proves some teaching ineffective

Student survey proves some teaching ineffective

Student survey proves some teaching ineffective
October 09
02:00 2014

Logan Nyquist / Staff Writer

The 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, said, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”

Colleges are the storehouses of knowledge, where future political leaders, business executives, teachers and artists are trained.

Each year the UNT awards more than 8,000 degrees in recognition to students who have satisfactorily completed prescribed courses of study.

Prior to graduation, the university’s core curriculum must be met, which builds upon the general foundation of knowledge accumalted from the previous 13 years of education.

“Reading is the foundation for knowledge,” said Angela Randall, assistant director of teacher preparation. “Teachers must find the reading genre that clicks for students, so they will go out and read on their own.”

Absolutely average

According to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), U.S. high school students rank average in reading and science and below average in math when compared to the world’s most developed democracies.

PISA indicates that the two educational powerhouses of primary and secondary schools are Finland and South Korea.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, part of Finland’s success is due to teachers having master’s degrees, spending less time in the classrooms and more time working on their curriculums.

Teachers are held in high regard in Finland. With effectively equal status to doctors and lawyers, teaching is the most respected and sought-after profession, according to the Center on International Education and Benchmarking. 

An article in the Wall Street Journal by Barbara Nemko and Harold Kwalwasser claimed “entrance requirements to most colleges of education are too lax, and the requirements for graduation are too low” in America.

Teaching the perennial and essential facts of history, geography, science and math are some of the concentrations educators are expected to teach in the U.S.

A phenomenon has occurred, according to the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing. A study found that teachers have spent more time teaching toward passing standardized tests rather than educating students. Critics believe this is partly due to the possibility of losing funding, or jobs, based on low test scores.

“Much of the criticism of standardized testing is warranted,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a speech to the American Educational Research Association. “State assessments in mathematics and English often fail to capture the full spectrum of what students know and can do.”

Testing the masses

Concentrated between the Union construction and Prairie Street repairs, many students yoked by the burden of backpacks and guided by the reins of headphones funneled their way through the Library Mall with herd-like instinct.

A recent questionnaire was administered outside Library Mall to 50 UNT students on campus at random. Each student was asked their classification and sex and quizzed on a series of questions.

Answers correct and incorrect poured in, as heads were ponderously scratched and eyebrows reluctantly raised.

“It’s too early for this,” one student said after hearing the first question, while others acquiesced to the survey.

Nearly one out of every five (18 percent), were unable to answer what countries bordered the U.S., and more than half (56 percent) didn’t know what war America fought for its independence.

A combined 10 percent of students answered either World War II or the Civil War.

“I’m not surprised,” regents’ history professor Richard Lowe said. “It’s no different than surveys done at Ivy League schools. Students can obtain a bachelor’s degree without ever stepping foot in an American History classroom.”

More than 25 percent of students polled either did not know who Adolf Hitler was or what party he led.

“This is disturbing,” history professor E. G. Pollack said. “Although all students should have learned about Nazism in high school, I can only hope that this will be addressed before they leave UNT. As anti-Semitic libels are heard once again on numerous campuses, it is extremely important that students understand the history and dangers of the world’s oldest and longest hatred.”

When asked about the Nazi leader, one senior simply replied, “Hitler who?”

As inhabitants of the third rock from the sun, 88 percent of UNT students surveyed knew how many planets are in their solar system. Eight or nine were accepted as answers.

When asked how many countries students could name that started with the letter “U,” only 40 percent said the U.S. Three students said Utah.

While it may pose a slight slant, most students got the right angle when asked what the Pythagorean Theorem formula was.  Three out of four students remembered a2 + b2 = c2.

Despite many students answering Republican and Democrat, 62 percent knew the three branches of government.

“I’m surprised so many students knew that,” said political science and history senior Zach Morgan. “Especially given the other results.”

Improving the stats

The 16th president of UNT, Neal Smatresk, recently spoke at the inaugural State of the University.

“We will find a path to national prominence. We will find a path to Tier One and we are going to do it by working together,” Smatresk said.

Even though 86 percent of students surveyed didn’t know who he was, Smatresk said the lesson of working together is a key to the university’s success. With a community of driven teachers, students perform better, he said.

“Ever since my first grade teacher, I’ve always wanted to teach,” education senior Dianna Perez said.

UNT offers a Thank a Teacher program as a way for students to return their thanks and express their gratitude.

“I had a passionate teacher that made history fun,” said history sophomore Rachel Troupe, who is working toward a minor in Secondary Education.

UNT’s Thank a Teacher program is one way students can be proactive in continuing the cycle of encouraging teachers who have inspired them.

Statistics from the College Board website indicate that people with at least a bachelor’s degree are less likely to smoke, more likely to work out and more likely to volunteer in their local communities.

However, the 50-question survey is indicative of a failing average.

It is often said ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power. The two seem to be inseparable, like two ends of one stick with students having to move from one end before they can get to the other.

Henry David Thoreau said, “How can we remember our ignorance, which our growth requires, when we are using our knowledge all the time?”

Featured Illustration by Jake Bowerman – Senior Staff Illustrator 

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