18 Myths People Believe About Education

May 6th, 2013 19 Comments Features

Editor’s Note: Some of these myths are contentious. Please feel free to leave a comment if you don’t agree with any of them, but please keep it civil. Any form of abuse will not be published. Thank you.

Education myths

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1. More Homework Means More Learning

Researchers have found that the connection between more homework and greater learning is tenuous at best. This is especially true for grade school and middle school students. In an effort to redesign the student workload, many districts around the US have begun prohibiting homework on weekends, holidays, and even week nights.

2. More Money Means Better Schools

Although school spending has increased over the past several decades, neither graduation rates nor test scores have budged from their relatively dismal standings. Since 1970, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been administered yearly to a representative sample of US students, and the scores have not correlated positively with the boost in expenditure and the rise of technology over time.

3. The Myth of Insurmountable Problems

Many policy makers are quick to blame society for underperformance in schools. But the belief that education can’t help is dangerous. Reforms that focus on the incentives of public schools lead to educational gains, and accountability and choice have often been shown to deflate the significance of social problems like poverty.

4. Test Scores Are Related To Economic Competitiveness

Consider Japan, whose current economy flags while its students continue to ace assessment tests. Or Finland, New Zealand, and Sweden, each of which produces at least as many research engineers as the US per 1,000 full time employees. Quality education can prevail in an economically challenged nation. There’s no doubt about it.

5. Schools Alone Can Close The Achievement Gap

The achievement gap is already apparent in students on their first day of kindergarten, due to a number of factors including economic background, educational background (how educated are the student’s parents?), nutritional intake, genetics, and parental guidance. Because of this contingency, researchers have argued that it reflects poor reasoning and poor policy to believe that school reform alone could ever close the gap.

6. Private and Charter Schools Are Educating Kids Better

NAEP scores of private and charter school students are no higher than those of public school students. Studies suggest that the “boons” of private schools may amount to nothing more than the exposure to other students with educated parents and affluent backgrounds.

7. Teachers Are Clueless About The Content They Are Teaching

Twenty-eight states require secondary-level instructors to have majored in the subject area they plan to teach. All candidates must pass content exams before completing their program or being certified to teach. Twelve states require elementary school teachers to have earned a content degree, and nineteen require middle school teachers to do the same.

8. The “Teacher-Proof Myth”

There are no teacher-proof solutions. None to be legislated, none to be bought, and none to be accessed virtually. The human task of helping a student cannot be replaced by automated learning models, nor by one all-purpose instructional method arising from trial and error. More trust must be placed in our teachers.

9. Our Teachers Work Less And Get Paid More

According to an OECD report, US teachers spend between 1,050 and 1,100 hours per year teaching – much more than in almost every country. Argentina and Chile are also high on the list. Despite high spending on education, teacher salaries across the world are far lower than those earned by other workers with higher education credentials.

10. Unions Defend Poor Teachers

Between 2006 and 2010, 245 teachers resigned or were dismissed in the US. This is because the unions have made an effort to monitor underperforming teachers in school districts across the nation. If students in one classroom are performing worse than students in another, it makes little sense to blame the teacher before considering other factors.

11. Student Achievement Has Been Deteriorating For Decades:

Contrary to popular belief, today’s students perform about as well as their parents in terms of standardized assessment tests and high school graduation rates. There is simply no hard evidence for the statement that student performance has been declining for decades. These are myths put forward by teachers’ unions and education policy makers.

12. Teachers Are Solely Responsible For Learning

Learning is an interactive process. Teachers are not the only people in the classroom who have valuable knowledge to share or responsibility to shoulder. Students, too, can teach each other and benefit from working together. A teacher is a facilitator, first and foremost.

13. The Disadvantaged Don’t Have The Same Capacity To Learn

There is no evidence that students from disadvantaged communities have a lower capacity to learn than students from privileged backgrounds. Economically challenged students may perform worse on assessments; experience anxiety and lack of control, which lead to underachievement; react negatively to authority; skip multiple classes on a regular basis; and abandon formal learning - but none of this is due to lower educational capacity.

14. Schools Don’t Matter

Intellectuals and politicians alike have claimed that education can’t save disadvantaged youth, and that the problem lies in socioeconomic policy and reform. However, since the instatement of acts like No Child Left Behind, schools have been instrumental in giving underprivileged students a chance to escape poverty. Education is power for the impoverished.

15. Small Classes Would Produce Big Improvements

Although research has highlighted the perks of reduced class sizes, especially in college settings, there is little evidence that it benefits students on a wide enough scale to make a difference. Considering the financial challenges of breaking students up into smaller groups, hiring more teachers, and investing in more resources, reduced class size should not be looked upon as a means of “saving” education.

16. Teacher Preparation Matters Little For Student Achievement

Although Teach for America has produced some excellent teachers with little to no training, the National Bureau of Economic Research has shown that beginning teachers with more extensive clinical training (like internships or certification programs) produce higher student achievement gains and retain their positions longer than teachers with less preparation.

17. Most Teachers Don’t Care:

If student performance is low, it doesn’t mean that teachers don’t care. Teachers become teachers precisely because they do care. But it is not an easy job. Educators face many challenges every day – say, with a particularly disruptive child or a time-crunch due to a school assembly - and do their best to help students succeed despite these difficulties.

18. Credentials And Experience Don’t Matter. Only Content Knowledge Does

It benefits every teacher to be an expert in his or her subject field, but experience is key. If instructors don’t know how to engage and audience and relate their knowledge to others, their expertise will be as good as useless in a classroom setting. Credentials and experience count.

When educators teach the same subjects and grade levels consistently, especially during their first five years of teaching, it behooves them – and their students - to be not only experts in their field but to have experience relating their subject to others. Experienced teachers are more organized, strategy-driven, and creative in the classroom.


Saga Briggs is an author at InformED. You can follow her on Twitter@sagamilena or read more of her writing here.

19 Responses

  1. Haephasto says:

    I am afraid there are still a number of typing mistakes in there, fo example in number 16. Furthermore, there is a problem with some of the conclusions. You say that 28 states require teachers to major in the subject they teach. Internationally, that is exceptionally low, so in relative terms, American teachers are more clueless than those in other countries. That does not make them fully underqualified, of course.

    The next one is the amount of working hours per teachers. Over seven countries in the world claim that their teachers work nearly the most in the world for too little. You need graphs and chart that show international data in the image.

    Then there js the myth about money making good schools…any of the countries listed because of the economy unequity comes in the list of countries that have the highest investments in several types of teaching. For example, Sweden requires all teachers to have a university degree, including those that teach lower levels. The investment into preschool and early middle school done there is the largest in the world in relative terms.

    I am typing this on a tablet, so pardon my spelling. Final note: I am not too sure about some of these sources used for the article, have you verified them?

  2. Amy says:

    Sadly, I can’t share this because it needs too much revision. It potentially undermines the credibility of our arguments. Please have another go at it. As above stated, there are numerous typos. Also, you state some “myths” in negative and some in positive without discerning between them. Thanks for pulling this together!

  3. […] an infographic about some myths about education, from InformED, a blog by Open Colleges, an online education provider based in Sydney, […]

  4. […] Visit the InformED blog to read the original infographic and additional information on each point. […]

  5. Saga Briggs says:

    Haephasto and Amy,

    Thanks for your comments. This piece was a multi-staff effort, so there may be some discrepancies in the presentation of the data, and we apologize for that. We appreciate your pointing out the surface errors and inconsistencies, and will be sure to correct these. Regarding international data– this particular collection of data is intended to address the realities of the US educational system, and does not attempt to cover the rest of the globe with equal focus. That would be another infographic entirely. It does, however, intend to bring these myths to the attention of educators across the globe, if only to spark discussion. Thanks again.

  6. Ann Gray says:

    No. 2: “More Money Means Better Schools: Although school spending has increased over the past several decades, neither graduation rates nor test scores have budged from their relatively dismal standings…”

    This is one of the classic bait-and-switch arguments that has been going around in education for a long time. SINCE 1970 the population has changed dramatically over the years as have the requirements of what schools are supposed to be achieving with different groups of children. From PARC vs Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1971, which required that ALL children had to be given a free and appropriate education and that schools could not simply decide that some children were “uneducable,” to IDEA (beginning 1985) and NCLB (2002), gradually Congress has increased the requirements that ALL children be proficient in math and ELA, including students with disabilities. In addition, over the past several decades, the ELL population of school children has also increased dramatically, as well. Clearly, those two groups require much more specialized services (which cost more); and in addition, the poverty rate has grown tremendously creating many more Title 1 schools.

  7. Ann Gray says:

    *I should have specified “Since 1970, the population **of children attending public school** has changed…”

  8. […] So without further ado here’s the link to 18 Myths People Believe About Teachers. […]

  9. Margarette Allen says:

    The entry on smaller class sizes is pure TRIPE!! Anyone who doesn’t think class size has no impact on learning–in AMERICAN SCHOOLS–is living in a dream world. In a society where poverty, parent disengagement, and other social issues are rampant, there is NO substitute for supporting students one on one. That’s pretty hard to do with the current model of cutting costs and stuff classrooms to the breaking point.

  10. Nathan Stehle says:

    Entirely disagree with # 2. It completely oversimplifies the situation.

    For us, the state scoring system (flawed beyond belief) does show that well-funded districts in our area seem to do better. Our school has 1/4 of the student body being HOMELESS.

    Tests alone do not tell the whole story. Teaching to the test is an epic fail. I want my children to be able to demonstrate learning, not always getting the correct answer.

    Sure, simply throwing money at something does not guarantee success. However, there are certain base levels of funding that needs to be in place. Schools are crumbling and overcrowded. That has a real world impact.

    There was a study (cannot place the source) that showed that students in wealthier districts are on par with their international counterparts. Wish I could find it.

    Here are some links, and the experts do not agree on the funding matter. It comes down to the quality and rigor of the study assessing the funding vs. performance issue.



  11. Thomas C. Fuller says:

    I find #10 to be interesting…and amazingly misleading.

    Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but the author seems to be saying that the idea that unions protect bad teachers is a myth. The author then attempts to dispel this myth by saying that 245 teachers resigned or were dismissed between the years 2006-2012. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 3.7 million public and private school teachers in the US in 2011. If this is true, that means that only .0000662% of teachers resigned or were dismissed during that time period.

    Does anyone believe that only .0000662% of teachers were bad enough to be fired in a 5-year period? Now, I can’t conclude that unions protected others from being fired, but no one will convince me that only .0000662% of teachers deserve to be fired.

    Does the author believe that 245 teachers being let go or resigning in a 5-year period is proof that unions do not protect bad teachers?

    Oh…and maybe I misread this too, but is the author actually saying in the first sentence that these 245 teachers resigned or were fired because, “…the unions have made an effort to monitor underperforming teachers in school districts across the nation?” I have NEVER heard of a situation in education where a union has identified an underperforming teacher, brought this to the attention of administration, and worked to have that teacher removed from the classroom. On the contrary, I bet I could fill dump truck with newspaper articles about administrators trying to let go poor teachers and unions blocking their every attempt to do so.

    If the author is trying to dispel the myth that unions protect bad teachers by saying, “Look! 245 teachers resigned or were let go because of ‘union monitoring,'” I’m afraid I’m not buying it.

    I do agree with the author that “if students in one classroom are performing worse than students in another, it makes little sense to blame the teacher before considering other factors.” I do not, however, see what that comment has to do with the myth of unions protecting bad teachers.

    • Saga Briggs says:


      Thanks for your comment. You’re right that the wording is misleading; we will adjust it to more accurately reflect our findings. The statistic should read that those 245 teachers represented one district (Montgomery County), not the entire US. And in saying that “unions have made an effort,” we mean to say that they have made an effort to cooperate with school administrators in a way that disproves the myth.

      Here is an excerpt from the data used, courtesy of the Washington Post:

      “Montgomery County, for instance, implemented its Peer Assistance and Review program with union cooperation a decade ago. It requires every new teacher and those flagged as “underperforming” by a principal to be observed by a specialist over a school year. All teachers get support, advice and a chance to do better; then they are reevaluated.Those who fall short lose their jobs. Between 2006 and 2010, 245 teachers resigned or were dismissed.”

      Again, thank you for pointing out the confusion,


  12. Saga Briggs says:

    Ann and Nathan,

    We appreciate your points about Myth #2.

    While some might argue that students today are somehow more expensive to educate, one might offer the counter-argument that today’s technological advances should lead to automation techniques that decrease the price of some of the processes of schooling, or that if graduation rates have remained at about 75% nationwide for the past 40+ years, then putting money into programs like NCLB may not be the best solution.

    But, on the whole, we agree– schools do need more help than they’re getting. More than anything, the myth that “money leads to better schools” isn’t about the money but the way the money is distributed and used.

  13. Saga Briggs says:


    This is definitely one of the most contentious “myths” of all. The fact of the matter simply seems to be that there isn’t enough hard evidence to justify investing in small class sizes across the board. I’m actually on board with you in fully support the notion of small class sizes, as are many, many others; I think it’s more a matter of convincing the masses that it’s not a waste of time and money. When California introduced a state-wide reduction in elementary school class sizes a few years back, the students who were in larger and smaller classes improved at about the same rate. This isn’t to call it an ineffective strategy– because in many cases it is greatly effective– but it is still somewhat “inconclusive” enough to be controversial.

  14. Alex Morris says:

    A terrific infographic – my mother (a retired teacher) used to complain all the time about some of the things you’ve listed. And, writing from my experience as a student, I used to loathe getting lots of homework. I’d class some of my most important educational moments as reading classic literature, watching classic films, and listening to classical music (I can refer you to the Mozart Effect – the belief listening to Mozart’s music makes children more alert), and not doing endless streams of tedious homework.

    Oh, and from my experience teachers always care and put absolutely everything into their jobs. Luckily I don’t know anyone who thinks otherwise!

  15. Felix Scott says:

    There are valid and substantial arguments pro and con on each of the points that were made in this article. Education is very complex so there are no simple solutions. I was a public school teacher for 20 years before I resigned. I spent my last decade working as a public librarian because I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Now I am retired and do not miss anything about teaching. I thank God I got out of there with my sanity.

  16. […] Dyeseka was a member of the team who developed it.  Get the Infographic and read the explanations of each myth here. […]

  17. […] saw this infographic awhile back and tagged it as something I found interesting and wanted to share with the Edudemic […]

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