US education tells us what (not) to do

30th March 2012 at 01:00

A year ago, I was fortunate to enjoy a teacher exchange week in Washington, D.C. Sharing ideas and good practice with educators in other countries is a worthy ideal. The trip was fascinating.

Teachers were absolutely tied to results-driven teaching. Performance-related pay, public scrutiny of individual teachers' results, teacher rankings and dismissals, alongside relentless target-setting, were the norm.

Each learning centre I visited was different. Security guards, metal detectors and leaders with a military air fronted grandly named academies. We were shown the best performing schools. These tended to be privately funded, selective and situated in more affluent areas. There was no national curriculum.

Finding special educational needs students was a challenge. They were either accommodated by private firms (often in state buildings), or given a room or wing in a school, or sent to specialist provision. There was no Department for Education. All states managed their own provision, and schools and academies largely managed themselves.

Although uneasy that we seem to blindly follow all things American on foreign policy, I rest assured that we are so much wiser on educational policy.

Simon Birch, Timperley, Altrincham.

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