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Volume 25, Number 2
March/April 2009

Unlearned Lessons

Six stumbling blocks to our schools' success


If there’s any truth in the saying, “Those who don’t learn from their mistakes are destined to repeat them,” why is it that today’s educators seem almost compelled to replicate their predecessors’ blunders?

Having been a public school educator for well over a half-century, I am fed up with seeing today’s educators making precisely the same sorts of mistakes I’ve seen their predecessors make, again and again, in earlier years.

In the following analysis, I will identify a half-dozen mistakes we’ve made in our schools. Some are mistakes I made myself long ago, as a high-school teacher in Oregon or as a teacher educator at state colleges in Kansas and California and at UCLA. Others are mistakes I’ve observed up close and personal in the course of several decades of work in the field of assessment. Some are errors of commission, while others are errors of omission. All of them are mistakes that have a negative impact on a large number of classrooms. All of them diminish the quality of schooling we provide to our students.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.