June 9, 2012

Educational theories go in and out of style with some regularity. Open classrooms were all the rage for a time, and some years later schools found themselves repartitioning those noisy spaces. 

Diane Ravitch, a respected educational policy advocate, reversed her own thinking about the No Child Left Behind law. We’ve been through the wars of phonics vs. whole word in teaching reading and constructivism vs. direct instruction in teaching math.  

I read about Fairfax County’s effort to fire teacher Violet Nichols [“Determining if teachers make the grade,” front page, June 4] for not jumping on a particular bandwagon, while that same day’s Education page in the Metro section [“The flip side of classroom learning”] featured a teacher who has decided to “flip” her calculus class (a current vogue in which students learn lessons at home and do homework in class) — the impression being that if everyone did this, they might teach better.  

I have no idea whether Ms. Nichols is a good teacher or not, and I assume that flipping is working for the Bullis School, covered in the Metro story. But for an administrator or a school system (or the press) to judge a teacher on whether she latches onto some favored bandwagon is to ignore the most important aspects of effective teaching: the individual and her art. Using such a sledgehammer approach may make judgments easier to defend, but it is inimical to good education.  

Joan Reinthaler, Washington