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Goodlad Finds Schools Set Goals, But Ignore Them

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"If we can only understand schools clearly in our minds," writes John I. Goodlad, "we might be more successful in improving them." Mr. Goodlad's forthcoming report, "A Study of Schooling," has gathered information to further the understanding of schools from students, teachers, parents, principals, and others, as well as from documents. The multi-year study involved more than 1,000 classrooms in elementary, junior-, and senior-high schools.

In an article published in the April issue of Educational Leadership, the journal of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Mr. Goodlad describes some of his findings to date. In answer to the question, "what are schools asked to do?" the researcher found four broad areas of goals: academic, social and citizenship, vocational, and personal.

"But a careful analysis of the state's goals for education raises in one's mind some serious questions about the parallelism between what many of these statements convey and what goes on in schools and classrooms," he writes. Many states include the goals of teaching students to communicate through writing and speaking, and developing their ability to use and evaluate knowledge.

"These goals convey to me an image of students writing essays and narratives, engaging in dialogue with one another and with their teachers, initiating inquiry into questions not resolved by teachers or in their own minds."

The evidence gathered in visits to schools, interviews, and the like, differs considerably from this vision, according to the scholar. "Indeed," Mr. Goodlad writes, "the picture is of students passively listening, reading textbooks, completing assignments, and rarely initiating anything--at least in the academic subjects." The study will be published in book form later this year.

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