Commission Told Schools Waste Too Much Time

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Washington--Members of the new National Commission on Excellence in Education, meeting here for the first time this month, were told that too many schools waste time on non-instructional matters.

Citing preliminary results from his eight-year study of American schools, John I. Goodlad, dean of the school of education at the University of California at Los Angeles, said some schools spend as few as 18.5 hours per week on instruction, while others spend up to 27.5 hours.

Mr. Goodlad was one of several speakers to discuss aspects of the nation's schools at the inaugural meeting of the blue-ribbon commission.

Upgrading Education

The 18-member group was appointed by Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell in August to study educational quality in schools and colleges and to make recommendations to upgrade American education. The panel's report will be completed by February 1983.

The group includes teachers and professors, administrators, university presidents, politicians, and business and civic leaders. It is chaired by David P. Gardner, president of the University of Utah.

Although most of the two-day meeting was devoted to formalities and procedural issues,6the panel heard three presentations on the state of American education.

Commenting on the schools that devote the most hours to instruction, Mr. Goodlad said, "They don't waste much time. They get down to business. If recess is supposed to be 15 minutes," he noted, "it lasts 15 minutes, not 30 minutes. And they use the last 10 days of school, even though exams are over."

The well-known researcher recommended that at least 25 hours a week be spent on instruction, and said that the added time could be achieved without increasing the hours of the school day.

Mr. Goodlad also told the commission that most teachers use classroom techniques that are too limited to promote excellence in education. And some schools, he asserted, devote a disproportionate share of resources to vocational education.

"There are enormous inequities in our nation's schools, but they're not just based on race or income," he said. Students can suffer discrimination as a result of the differences in the quality of instruction in schools, he noted, or because of variations in the time spent on instruction.

They may be denied educational equality and excellence, he said, simply as a result of the school they "happen to attend."

Teacher training has not gone beyond the "conventional wisdom," he said, observing that almost all teachers spend their time using such traditional classroom methods as lecturing, without trying more innovative approaches that might produce better results.

Mr. Goodlad also questioned the educational priorities of some schools. He reported that one school he studied had 43 percent of its teachers in vocational education--which was equivalent to the combined teaching force devoted to English, mathematics, science, and social studies. He criticized vocational education programs for training students for "dead-end jobs," and for steering youth away from academic programs.

'Core Curriculum'

Stephen K. Bailey, a professor of educational policy and administration at Harvard University, described a study on secondary schools now being conducted by the National Academy of Education that will urge "a core curriculum" for secondary education.

Mr. Bailey also cited research by Robert Glaser of the University of Pittsburgh and Benjamin Bloom of the University of Chicago that showed "the fundamental educability of most young people." The work of those and other researchers support the view, he said, that "tracking" is the "single most insidious instrument of class discrimination."

Responding, however, in a later interview, Mr. Gardner, the commission's chairman, said, "Doing away with differentiation could cut against excellence. If tracking is unwise,m not sure that homogenization is a better solution." He emphasized that he was voicing his personal opinion, and was not speaking for the commission.

Lawrence A. Cremin, president of the Teachers College at Columbia University and a Pulitzer-prize-winning historian, told the commission, ''We are living in a period of profound change in education as large as any since schools began."

He pointed to changes in the family structure and to television as two of the leading factors causing this "revolution."

Members of the commission agreed to form two work groups that will divide up the panel's responsiblities and meet again next month.

Vol. 01, Issue 07

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