An example of why reform fails in the classroom is represented by two initiatives designed and funded by the Gates Foundation. These are The Measures of Effective Teaching, and The Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching programs. The Measures program provided extremely helpful insights when it reported the following findings in 2012: “[A] consistent pattern of weak subject-matter instruction. … the instruction was weakest … on [developing] content understanding . . . intellectual challenge . . . explicit strategy use . . . [and] student participation in making meaning and reasoning . . .” (pp. 24–27). Classroom raters “rarely found highly accomplished practices for the competencies often associated with the intent to teach students higher-order thinking skills” (p. 26).

Yet, according to the RAND Corporation’s June 2018 report on the Gates’ Intensive Partnership program, none of its six research questions addressed the weak instructional findings of the Measures program. The report’s key finding? Goals for student achievement were not achieved. A search of the RAND documents shows that there is no mention of rote instruction, rote learning, critical thinking, critical reading, critical writing, and critical instruction. In effect, the findings of one Gates effort (measures showing poor critical instruction and learning), are ignored in another Gates effort (achieving effective teaching).

The devastating Gates’ instructional measures and instructional findings capture the Number 1 Issue of education reform. After centuries of existence, the profession still practices a pedagogy based on roteism instruction. Roteism denies the natural science of how the human mind innately thinks and learns critically when it engages the world and its subject matter. Therefore, roteism pedagogy inherently defeats subject matter comprehension and development of critical thinking, reading, and writing abilities in all learners, teachers, and student. The profession does not practice critical instruction, which uses innate cognitive powers possessed by all as the basis to think, read, and write critically as the means to comprehend new and revisited subject matter.

The profession’s failure to evolve instructionally claims many innocent and unaware victims. They include teacher educators, teacher candidates, teachers, researchers, professional developers, textbook authors, all school and college students, and all others with an interest in seeing all learners, teachers and students, succeed.

Here is what must be taken away from years of teacher education, school, college, and textbook reform efforts: None of it has changed the ineffective way thinking, reading, and writing; subject matter; instruction; and learning come together mentally in classrooms at all levels and in all disciplines. After centuries of instructional practice, professional pedagogy continues to be defined by firmly entrenched roteism instruction. No amount of well-meaning teacher education, practice, mentoring, coaching; professional development, measurement, digital technology, or other initiatives that lie outside the classroom can cure professional practice that is rooted in roteism.

Solving this central-to-everything instructional problem requires that the profession minimize roteism instruction. But how? The profession needs to evolve into a pedagogy for critical instruction.

Dr. Victor P. Maiorana is at the forefront of fulfilling this need. His ground-breaking critical instruction pedagogy emphasizes a core body of knowledge for preparation, practice, certification, research, and professional development based on critical language-literacy and intellectual ownership of content. These basic elements, together with a core curriculum and related resources, can be found here.