Saturday, March 7, 2009

Buzzword Wars: Innovation vs. SBR

In the last several years, the education buzzwords have gone from standards-based to scientifically-based research. Now, every time I turn around, the term innovation is peaking over my shoulder kind of like that little stack of money with googly eyes in those Geico commercials. (Insert jingle: I always feel like, somebody’s watching me…”).

I love what innovation stands for. Out with the old, and in with the new! Change has come to America. The education world is about to experience this ideological revolution, too. Wow, innovation is a leap from the flawed scientific research concept!

Like others, I struggled with the research thing. Let’s call it SBR Catch 22. NCLB said instructional methods must align with “gold and silver” research, but then few education studies ever met the rigorous qualifications! HUH? Note to policy makers: don’t write legislation while visiting Margaritaville!

Even IF there were tons of good research available to reference, the studies would need to address struggling learners in order to be relevant. After all, aren’t they the ones falling behind? Many educators on the frantic research quest were so busy focusing on the rigorous quality of studies that they made a crucial mistake. They failed to ensure that the student subjects were similar enough to their own student populations; they compared apples to kumquats.

So, if a teacher of struggling kids decided to use traditional hands-off methods because she read a study about “proven” methods effective for “typical” children who already had average or high achievement, her kids would have continued to struggle. (In fact, aren’t kids usually labeled struggling WHEN: they don’t get it after being taught with “tried-and-true” methods?)

Hey, maybe someone in Washington mistyped? Was the N supposed to be an S as in Struggling Children Left Behind?

As much as I love innovation, Negative Nancy here says it alone can’t work. We need balance. Whole language wasn’t great until paired with some phonics and grammar. Teaching math facts without teaching kids to think critically and solve problems is a waste. Balancing a bit of free discovery with structured, step-by-step science inquiry is key. You get the idea. Pair a healthy serving of innovation with a dash of “tried and true”, and voila!

In addition to HUGE overall increases for Title I and IDEA/special needs funds, the new Stimulus Plan promises funds specifically for innovation—innovative best practices, building modernization, and electronic technology. But, NO educator can put these innovative programs into action without the cash. Trickle down and come here, MONEY Honey! Oh, how we’ve all missed you! XOXO


  1. I wonder how many of those who write laws that pertain to education have even stood in front of a real classroom of special needs children.

  2. Yeah, I'm sure any representative, senator or president could easily be eaten alive by your average first grader any day! LOL!