Take for example this post by Corey Bunje Bower over at his Thoughts on Education Policy blog in which Corey explains why he supports the Broader Bolder Approach.
Here's the reality of the situation: schools can help, but they can't change everything. I taught for two years in an atrociously run middle school in the Bronx. Every day was filled with much chaos and little learning. And here's what I learned during my two years: the biggest reason for the failure of the school was what was happening at home. Now, that's not to say that we couldn't have done better. I could name a couple incompetent and mean-spirited administrators that should've been replaced. Us teachers certainly could have done better. The school could've been better organized. Any number of things would have helped the situation.
I don't think the conclusions Corey draws from his observations of middle school students are valid.
I don't see how Corey is able to separate the the out-of-school effects from the in-school effects and conclude that the out-of-school effects are the primary cause for the chaotic and disruptive behavior of his middle school students.
One thing we do know is that, for whatever reason, the instruction failed at Corey's school for many students. Corey concedes that the instruction was a problem. Because, the instruction failed these students experienced at least six years of academic failure before they even reached Corey's classroom. Academic failure is a leading cause of disruptive behavior.
The question remains: why did the instruction fail? There are two primary causes:
1. There was mostly something wrong with the school and its instructional delivery mechanism (curriculum and teachers), or
2. There was mostly something wrong with the students and their home life.
Corey, after taking some blame for the poor school environment, cites reason 2 as the primary cause for the educational failure he observed. Here are the reasons he gives:
But that doesn't hide the fact that most of the problems existed before students ever set foot in the building. I had some horribly disruptive students my second year. The only thing that seemed to help one's behavior was calling home. But when I did that he would come back with large welts across his arms. When I would call the home of another one, his mother would tell me that she didn't know what to do. Kids would stroll into the building late with an empty stomach and an angry demeanor. When an argument erupted, it was quite difficult to defuse because kids would tell me that they were under instructions from their parents not to "stay hit." Kids would come in and fall asleep b/c they had been kept up till the wee hours of the morning by any number of activities. A couple kids disappeared for a month to go visit family in the Dominican Republic. And on, and on, and on.
It appears that Corey is blaming the students' bad behavior as the primary culprit. But, it sounds to me that Corey lacked the classroom management skills needed to establish a classroom atmosphere conducive to learning. I don't mean to blame Corey because he most likely did not receive any practical training in how to manage the classroom full of unruly academic failures that he inherited.
Contrast Corey's observations with Engelmann's observations:
Our observations of many failed schools would ... disclose that most teachers either completely fail to manage children or rule through intimidation (yelling at children, issuing demeaning comments, but rarely praising children). The instruction that we see is technically unsound according to all the evidence on how to communicate effectively, how to achieve mastery, and how to reinforce and manage children effectively.
Teachers lecture for long periods of time. What “tasks” the teacher presents occur at a very low rate. There are no systematic correction procedures, no attempts to repeat parts that are difficult for the children, and no serious concern with whether children master the material. The pacing of the presentation is laborious. The material the teacher uses is far too difficult for the skill level of the children. Most of the students’ time is often spent on pointless “worksheet” activities. The students don’t like reading, math, or any other academic activity.
What Corey sees as a student problem, Engelmann sees as an instructional problem.
Many of the justifications I see for Broader Bolder actually have instructional roots, like the one Corey gives. The problems Corey sees may start at home, but there is no reason to believe that they cannot be solved and compensated for by schools.