Dead reckoning is defined as "an estimate based on little or no information."
I picked dead reckoning as the metaphor for this blog because I believe the problem of dead reckoning is one of the primary problems with K-12 education.
Most of what passes for K-12 education today simply doesn't work -- and never has. Most of what we think used to work, for the most part only worked with a tiny slice of the student population pie.
For example, phonics is a necesary component of any effective early reading program according to the National reading Panel. Yet, most instructional programs which claim to do phonics don't do a very good job teaching either a) phonics or b) children how to read -- even the programs that teach phonics explicitly and sytematically. Open Court, I'm looking at you.
This is where the problem of dead reeckoning comes in. Let's continue with the Open Court example.
Open Court does a swell job teaching your typical bright middle class kids to read -- the part of the demographic who've always learned how to read well. But a lot of other crappy programs do almost as good a job -- especially when you consider how poorly most schools keep track of student achievement. What schools see is that most programs work with bright middle-class kids.
On the flip side, we have your low-SES and/or not-so-bright kids. No program works well with these kids, not even Open Court for the most part -- especially if it's taught poorly. What schools see is that nothing works well with these kids.
So what do schools do when faced with this lack of evidence with what works with the less bright kids and knowing that most programs work reasonably well with others? They pick what matches their ideological agenda. Find some "authentic literature" program that works reasonably well with the smart students. If it doesn't work with the less bright kids, then they weren't motivated to learn, weren't developmentally ready, or were learning disabled. Done and done.
Which brings us to the dirty little secret of education. We do know what works. But implementing what works requires schools to change pretty much everything they currently are doing. And be accountable for student learning. Plus, it flies in the face of their ideology.
In education dead reckoning runs into ideology head on. Students get squashed in the middle.