review – “No School Left Behind” Myles Friedman

“No School Left Behind: How to Increase Student Achievement”
by Myles Friedman
Published by The Institute for Evidence-Based Decision-Making in Education (http://edieinstitute.net/), of which Dr. Friedman just happens to be a past president.

When it comes to education, opinions are not hard to find. Parents, teachers, school boards and politicians all claim to know “the answer” to whatever problem (real or imagined) has caught their attention. So it was refreshing to find Myles Friedman book “No School Left Behind.” This book contains opinions, of course, but they are backed up by research. The notion that the research should precede and define the opinion is, perhaps, the most refreshing opinion of all.
In the first eight chapters, Dr. Friedman uses simple, concrete examples to illustrate educational practices that are shown by research to be effective, as well as practices that are shown to be ineffective or even harmful. He then takes two chapters to restate the key scientific facts and clearly summarize his primary recommendations, and closes with a school effectiveness checklist.
Friedman’s recommendations boil down to this:
“Great strides can be made in reducing the failure rate by advancing (1) teacher and administrator preparation and (2) preventive tutoring.”
Teacher Preparation means making sure the teacher knows what methods are effective and how to apply them. A key feature of effective teaching is sensible testing to be able to accurately and quicky assess each student’s progress. “The focus needs to be on teaching evaluation instead of teacher evaluation.” The teacher’s personality and knowledge are important, but not as important as knowing what constitutes effective teaching.
Preventive Tutoring means offering one-on-one tutoring as soon as it becomes apparent the student is having trouble understanding the current lesson. This is in contrast to remedial tutoring, which is typically offered only after the student has brought home a “D” or “F” laden report card.
Friedman makes several other cogent points in the book: Students in the pre-Kindergarten age group can learn effectively, given a trained teacher and a high enough teacher/student ratio; class size has little bearing on student success (until you get _below_ 15 students).; time management is crucial, both as something the teacher must do and as something the students must learn; students are better motivated when given relevant real-life problems; and so on.
The book is written in a plain, straightforward style that should be comprehensible even to the most opinionated school board member. Sadly, it appears that a plain, straightforward style doesn’t include footnotes. Instead, all references are listed together in a pair of pages immediately preceding the index. This is fine for a popular book, but I have to imagine it would  be maddening to a typical research-oriented academic reader. Thankfully, I’m not one of those, and enjoyed the read.
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