Education Gets Smart
Stuff Learned Trumps Time Served in the Badger State

Scott Walker is trying to steer his state away from the “time served” model of education, where the key metric is how much time students spend in class, productively or otherwise, and toward a “stuff learned” model, where the focus is on how much material students actually mastered. The Washington Post reports:

If Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has his way, the Badger State will become the first to stop requiring students in public schools to spend a minimum number of hours in class.

A proposal in Walker’s new budget plan calls for ending the state’s current minimum requirements — 437 hours for kindergarten, 1,050 hours for elementary schools and 1,137 hours for secondary schools —  and allowing school districts to do what they want in terms of seat hours for students.

Districts and schools would then be judged on their state report cards, which are produced annually by the Department of Public Instruction, based largely on standardized test scores. During a recent visit to a school in Waukesha to talk up his budget proposal, he said: “To me, the report card is the ultimate measure. It’s not how many hours you are sitting in a chair.”

Our current school system was created as a way of disciplining and socializing children for the harsh, hierarchical, repetitive and rigid demands of life in the Industrial Age. Kids were taught to sit still, follow instructions, and work to the rhythm of the clock and the bell.

We need to move away from that now. We will need more self-starters and fewer routine-lovers, more entrepreneurs and fewer lifetime employees in routine tasks. Much of what schools teach today is almost worthless in a world of spell checkers and calculators; tens of millions of American kids waste thousands of hours in classrooms where, so far as we can determine from standardized tests, very little learning goes on.

The Information Revolution will transform the educational system from pre-K through gradate school. Charter schools and home schooling are just the first, modest signs of the coming changes. Wisconsin, which has become a bellwether state of Information Age reforms just as it was a bellwether of Progressivism a century ago, is pointing the way.

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