Myth 3. Merit pay is a good way to increase the
performance of teachers. Teachers should be evaluated on the basis of their students’ performance.
Myth 4. Retaining children in grade helps struggling students catch up and promotes better
classroom instruction for all.
Myth 5. Homework, and lots of it, boosts
In many cases, the special interests pushing these
myths stand to make a good deal of money if educators and policymakers buy into them. Testing
companies, charter school corporations, and online
teaching companies are a few of the vested interests
currently pocketing billions of taxpayer dollars
because they have convinced politicians and some
educators that assumptions like these are actually
true. But the assumptions are false, and belief in
them threatens the very foundations of our democratic education system.
Let’s look at each of these five myths and see why
all educators should chip them away from their
school improvement plans.
MYTH 1. Cyberteaching is an
efficient, cost-saving, and highly effective
means of delivering education.
A 10-year-old child gets up in the morning, dresses
in his best school outfit, has breakfast, and goes off
to school . . . but “school” is a laptop in the corner
of the kitchen, where the student performs hours of
exercises in spelling, grammar, and math, all alone
or with an occasional check-in by his parent.
Sound outrageous? Well, it’s happening to tens
of thousands of children every day. And for this
mockery of a well-rounded education, a corporation
thousands of miles away is collecting as much as
$10,000 of taxpayers’ money for each child. These
cyberschools (or “virtual academies,” as they are
known in most states) take advantage of loosely
written charter school legislation at the state level—
legislation which, incidentally, the cyberschool
industry helped write and which rarely includes
any effective accountability mechanisms (Glass,
2009). Virtual academies experience churning that
would be the envy of any day trader; their revolving
doors sometimes show 100 percent turnover in the
student population of a grade in one year (Glass &
Welner, 2011). And when state laws require test data
to see how students are doing, the performance of
the virtual academies is so pathetic that the charter
school movement is trying to dissociate itself from
its online cousins (Molnar et al., 2014).
Cyberteaching? Get rid of it.
MYTH 2. School choice and
competition work to improve all schools.
Many policymakers love competition—for other
people. Competition raises all boats, educators are
told. Create charter schools, and traditional public
schools will have to compete for students and will be
shaken out of their lazy complacency. Give families
vouchers to send their children to private schools,
and public schools will have to get off their behinds
and work harder to stay in business.
This myth rests on a number of fallacies. First,
the very idea that public schools even need to worry
about competing with private and charter schools
is contradicted by a long list of studies that have
found public schools outperform private and charter
schools (Lubienski & Lubienski, 2013). And in local
contexts where voucher programs have enabled
some students to transfer from neighborhood public
schools to private or charter schools, the only things
competition has raised are the marketing budgets of
the public schools as they struggle to retain students
(Heilig, 2012). Brochures, TV spots, and marketing
events do nothing to help children grow well.