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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Improving Public Education--Road Map

Improving Public Education--Road Map

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. First, I would like to say that with few exceptions, the problem with public education is NOT, repeat NOT, the teachers. They do a wonderful job in spite of little or no help (often) and even counter-productive efforts from parents, politicians, Boards of Education, lawyers and judges, etc., etc. (Seems since everyone has either attended a public school or at least has driven by one, they are "experts" and know what needs to be done.) Guess I too am an "expert", so I say give teachers support and stay out of the way so they can do their job. Students should be told repeadedly early on that it is THEIR responsibility to learn, study ,and work hard--even if they do not like the teacher. By blaming everyone and everything else, we seem to have let the students off the hook --they must be held accountable (maybe more so than teachers and parents). I have sent the attached "Road Map" (or similar letter) for improving public education to the Georgia State Department of Education (got a call saying they would consider it.) Also sent to Federal Department of Education (no response). With all the "Grant Money" surely if this proposal has any merit, money could be found to make it happen. It would not be easy to implement, but once implemented the results would put our public education on a par (or above) any country in the world. On the other hand, I fear, if it were in place now, more teaching positions would be cut. Once developed, it could be copyrighted to recoup some of the investment by selling to other school systems in other states (or home schoolers). Or if they succeed, make them available free--result would be better educated students. ((Another subject for another time, "what will public education be like in 50 years. For example, maybe 90% of classes in college and public education at all grade levels will be taught on-line, so no school buses, no physical school buildings, or college campuses, few teahcers--what a savings in money, but what a loss in quality of life-experiences. No paper-textbooks just e-books. Etc. etc.)) Thank you. Donnie Powell From Georgia ((I taught school 3 years and am married to retired Elementary teacher.)) +++++++++++++++++++++++++++ EDUCATION ROAD MAP Here is a "road map" to making the US public schools equal to or better than any in the world and can be accomplished in as little as 12-15 years. While I could make recommendations for the necessary policy determinations, that policy must be made by educators, businesses, parents, colleges, technical schools, etc. You are in a position to accomplish this road map and then make it available to all states--what an impact on education you could have. Done properly, this could ensure the US schools are on a par with or ahead of the rest of the world. 1. POLICY DETERMINATION: First, obtain a consensus of what every high school graduate should know, college prep for future scientists/engineers, other college prep, and general. Develop a comprehensive list of subjects/concepts/etc., needed to graduate from high school. Recommend ensuring concepts/theories/knowledge/etc. tested on the CRCT, No Child Left Behind, high school graduation tests, SAT (and other college entrance tests), etc., are taught. Some may think this is “teaching the tests”, but if it is worth testing, it is worth teaching. NOTE: A very open-minded, long range discussion needs to be pursued concerning the impact of computers/internet on what is taught—for example, should we assume that in a few years every student will have a hand-held computer in the classroom to enhance learning—making it unnecessary to memorize many things but instead concentrate on how to find the information, thinking, analyzing, solving problems etc. . 2. POLICY DETERMINATION: Develop an overall ROADMAP of what is to be taught in each grade level. 3. Develop DAILY TEACHING LESSONS (DTL) for teachers (being sure everything required (in #1 above) is taught somewhere). The DTLs should include any requirements, such as objectives, etc. 4. Request manufacturers develop textbooks in the “Daily Teaching Lesson (DTL)” format (and include the required objectives, etc.,) in the textbook. If no company wants to do this, you could develop the DTLs. Once the DTLs are developed, put them together to make the textbook (might need to copyright). Organizing textbooks by Chapters seems to be practically meaningless—organizing by DTLs makes sense. 5. Have some of the best teachers present each lesson, record on film, and make available on the internet. All classroom teachers could use the DTLs as a resource to prepare their lessons, and students could review the lesson on the internet. This would be especially helpful when a student is absent. The lessons would be numbered, for example, #12-MA-AL2-76 would be 12th year Math-Algebra 2 lesson #76. Classwork and homework exercises could also be included in the DTL. There could be teacher's edition (password protected) including several tests. 6. POLICY DETERMINATION: Determine how long each instruction period should be (e.g. 30 minute attention span) and how much for working on homework. Suggest limiting homework per course to 20 minutes (times 6 classes equals about 2 hours homework per night). Any more than that may be too much homework. 7. POLICY DETERMINATION: Determine how many Daily Teaching Lessons are needed for each grade level and subject. For example, there are 180 school days per year, but some are devoted to Standardized tests, weekly/semester exams/snow days/etc. Consequently maybe only 160 DTLs would need to be developed for each subject for each grade. So in four years of math, there would be between 640 and 720 classroom hours (if 60 minutes is devoted to each daily class—probably more like 50 minutes.) 8. Recommend nationwide use of the same textbooks with accompanying coordinated Daily Teaching Lessons with internet availability. Americans are so mobile that standardization makes sense. 9. After completing this coordinated system of textbooks, Daily Teaching Lessons, internet access, etc., for high school, do the same for Middle School and then Elementary School (or the DTLs could be developed from lower to higher grades). 10. POLICY DETERMINATION: Determine what high school graduates should be expected to know in enhancement areas and develop internet teaching lessons for the students to explore on their own, or, time permitting, at the end of the semester. For example, lessons on life-skills such as, developing a budget, investing money in the stock market, finding an apartment, buying a house (here Realtors could be used to teach a DTL on the internet), how to write resumes, how to prepare for a job interview (use actual employers), preparing for the SAT, buying insurance, paying taxes, balancing a check book, getting a passport, formal dining, automobile knowledge/repair, driving safely, traveling through an airport, computer courses, etc. For enhancement, maybe allow 5 lessons on classical music (I was in college before I accidentally found out the “William Tell Overture” was not titled the “Lone Ranger Theme Song.”), 5 lessons on astronomy, geology, the artistic works of the great Masters, chemistry, physics, practical speaking Spanish, etc. 11. POLICY DETERMINATION: Allow 5 or 10 (or more) lessons for local school system emphasis, new material, catch-up, enhancement, etc. 12. Put emphasis on careers in math and sciences. For example, few if any movies or television programs are made about these critical careers. There are many movies or programs about lawyers, doctors, even teachers--but few ("Numbers" is only one I can remember) about math and science. Also, coordinate with businesses and ensure scholarships are available and "guaranteed" jobs after college--recommend increasing the "co-op" type programs for these students. Many students who could be excellent in math or science have no direction or guidance and obtain a degree with little or no job prospects. Encourage businesses and colleges to work together to ensure jobs are there upon graduation for every graduate—colleges should only have degree programs that have a realistic possibility of employment upon graduation. These recommendations when taken together and completely coordinated could have a great, positive effect on the learning level of students and would provide valuable resources to teachers and students. Once the Daily Teaching Lessons are developed and on the internet, there would be little need to change them for a number of years, thus making this approach very cost effective in the long run. Please contact me if you have any questions. Donnie Powell From Georgia

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Comments (32)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Barbara A. Boksz (Schulz)'s picture
Barbara A. Boksz (Schulz)
Retired Computer Literacy Educator

It has been happening for more than 2 years. Several districts in the western states have had year round school for several years. One district that I am familiar with is DCSD near Denver. Several of their schools have year round schedules, and I'll bet they have data about it as well. They celebrate the fact that 90% of their students go on to college, but I'm not sure that's the only thing they are doing that is successful.

Their year round schools have the kids in school for 9 weeks, then off for 3 weeks, with another teacher and group of students using the classroom during those 3 weeks. Then when the teacher and group of students come back to school, they utilize the next empty classroom. It makes it challenging for teachers who have to break down and move a classroom every 9 weeks. Most parents seemed to love it, as long as all their children were on the same schedule, as they could take vacations at different times of the year.

So you may want to research year round schools to see if their results truly match your theory.....

Bruce Deitrick Price's picture
Bruce Deitrick Price
Founder, Improve-Education.org

I wonder how many people are following what I hereby dub The Great Constructivist Trainwreck. I've been arguing for some years that this thing is not going to be helpful. But the Education Establishment is trying to push it into all subjects and grades. Every few months I run into a new reason to be pessimistic.

Constructivism requires that kids invent their own new versions of all knowledge. Obviously, this process is going to take a lot of extra time. But here's something else I've just realized: Constructivism will impact most negatively on the younger kids, the minority kids, and the disadvantaged kids. They don't bring much prior knowledge to the classroom, so what can the teacher build on? What these kids need is lots of foundational knowledge ASAP.

But Constructivism guarantees that they won't learn much more than they already know. For more of this analysis, see "Constructivism versus Minorities and the Poor"

Fran Bozarth - Welleducator.org's picture

Yes, heaven forbid children learn how to construct their own meaning. I mean, what's next? What on earth would we do if they began thinking for themselves, have a strong democracy?

Truly, I am very concerned about the lack of developmental appropriateness and lack of attention to differing learning styles when people want to set up a one-size-fits-all education. Constructivism allows different kinds of learners, and different levels of learners to create meaning - a meaning of their own that is relevant to them.

Kari A.'s picture
Kari A.
Program Coordinator for State Child Development Programs

I agree with what Donnie says about young people being accountable for their learning. However, I believe it is the job of the teacher to instill that love of learning. As an early childhood educator I believe this is where our field is headed and is doing so with Project Approach curriculum, letting the learning happen as we research topics of interest together with children. We aim to facilitate learning rather than teaching it to them (or lecturing as Ben was referring to)most of the time.

We're doing our best to prepare these children to enter into the public school system and be effective learners for you but recruiting quality people to this field is tough as well and until this field sees more equality in the teaching world (and yes, I mean $$) I imagine it will remain so.

Kari A.'s picture
Kari A.
Program Coordinator for State Child Development Programs

I see your point on this topic and teachers would get no where fast if they stood and waited for the concepts to come from the children. It is the responsibility of the teacher to discuss with students and observe them and find what they're interests are and to show them HOW to learn about those things. In a preschool classroom this looks like the following true scenario:

4 and 5 year old children noticed a lot of planes that fly over their school. Teachers intentionally talk about the planes when they fly over head, helping kids notice the difference between the one they saw yesterday and the one they saw today. They plan a trip to the library and check out books on planes (build an interest in literacy!). They research different types of planes, the way they fly (physics!), their different parts(new vocabulary!). They gather reusable materials and construct their own planes (engineering concepts, promoting "green" concepts!). They fly them in their yard, measuring the distances each one flies (math!) The teacher has intentional discussions about what made a plane fly the way it did. Why some planes went farther than others, why some made loops, and some didn't. She helps the children come to find the answers to these questions, she doesn't tell them. The goal of this learning process, continued throughout the year with insects, a study of royalty (what 4 year old girls doesn't think she's a princess?), etc., is to prepare them for a life of being a capable and excited learner.

[quote]I wonder how many people are following what I hereby dub The Great Constructivist Trainwreck. I've been arguing for some years that this thing is not going to be helpful. But the Education Establishment is trying to push it into all subjects and grades. Every few months I run into a new reason to be pessimistic.

Constructivism requires that kids invent their own new versions of all knowledge. Obviously, this process is going to take a lot of extra time. But here's something else I've just realized: Constructivism will impact most negatively on the younger kids, the minority kids, and the disadvantaged kids. They don't bring much prior knowledge to the classroom, so what can the teacher build on? What these kids need is lots of foundational knowledge ASAP.

But Constructivism guarantees that they won't learn much more than they already know. For more of this analysis, see "Constructivism versus Minorities and the Poor"[/quote]

Bruce Deitrick Price's picture
Bruce Deitrick Price
Founder, Improve-Education.org

An odd little insight. Posted on EdArticle.com. Maybe this is not a final answer to anything but it might help some people clarify their thinking. Basic idea is that French class is probably more pure--i.e., in love with its subject and serious about teaching it--than most other courses. Which is interesting because language courses are probably the most immune to the latest fads.

www.edarticle.com (first or second item)

Or Google this: "Foreign Language Classes as a Paradigm For Successful Instruction"

Donna Keeley's picture

I prepared for creating instruction in the classroom and ended up training the military for the next 16 years. But now,thank you recession, I work at a teacher's store and talk with educators everyday - plus having my own kids in school.

My younger son is Special Ed (high-functioning autistic)and actually does fairly well; but what angers me is the "push" to get kids reading, doing math, and writing in Kindergarten. If my son had a K class like I did in the 1960s, he would be a "normal" kid, just a little slow.

This assembly line, as it is appropriately referred to, simply pushes kids to the next grade with no assurances they have any skills in place before more new information is thrown at them. How can you expect a kid to do well in multiplication when he has a hard time with addition facts?

The system needs to be changed to keep kids at their LEARNING level, not grade level. If a student hasn't mastered basic addition/subtraction then they stay at that level until they are proficient; that will make learning multiplication/division that much easier for them. But the current system is punishing them by making them failures early on.

Also, here in San Diego, we have many non-English speaking children and parents which puts even more strain on the system because we teach these kids in English whether or not they understand the information. In my school district, one of the elementary schools has had it's entire staff (including Principal) let go and new staff hired because it has continually been the lowest performing school in the district. They getting media in the classroom by giving all the kids iPods; I'm not sure how this will improve learning but at least they'll have good tunes to listen to.

I see nothing wrong with national standards; that's what objectives are for. If every child in American can do addition by the end of First Grade, then transferring to another school in another state ensure that the child will be at the same level as the other students.

Sarah Minnick's picture
Sarah Minnick
8-12 Social Studies cyber school teacher, Pennsylvania

When designing curricula, do you feel that a chronological approach reaches more or a more thematic approach? We are moving from standard 'following the textbook' to an over-arching thematic approach that all subjects will address, thus, encouraging more cross-curricular collaboration.

Ben Johnson's picture
Ben Johnson
Administrator, author and educator

Sarah:

To be a purist- Curricula is what will be taught, not how it will be taught.

The "how" it will be taught depends on the teacher. I must tell you that not all teachers can deal with the thematic approach, especially if they have never experienced it. If, as a school you agree that the "how" should be thematic, then do not forget that the evaluation of student learning needs to be the same. Unfortunately, our state tests are very departementalized. That is one of the reasons we do not see a lot of thematic instruction--too many schools are playing the testing game. The other reason you do not see a lot of thematic instruction is that it takes more preparation and creativity than most teachers want to invest in a lesson or unit.

I do not know the research, but my gut feeling is that if the thematic instruction is done well, students will understand better and remember better and therefore do better on state tests.

Doing a thematic approach in elementary school self-contained classrooms is a snap. It is still possible with departmentalization in older grades, but it requires school-wide collaboration and organization, which it sounds like your school is willing to do. Even without collaboration, a teacher of a specific subject can organize learning on that subject around a theme within the subject area.

Good luck with this!
Ben Johnson
San Antonio, TX

[quote]When designing curricula, do you feel that a chronological approach reaches more or a more thematic approach? We are moving from standard 'following the textbook' to an over-arching thematic approach that all subjects will address, thus, encouraging more cross-curricular collaboration.[/quote]

Sarah Minnick's picture
Sarah Minnick
8-12 Social Studies cyber school teacher, Pennsylvania

Thank you Ben for your insight. It will be a challenge since this will be a first start at this. In our setting, we need to be as creative as we be.
It was an administrative decision to go in this direction, so all subjects will be involved. Now, this will be a challenge given the time left before the school year starts.

[quote]Sarah:

To be a purist- Curricula is what will be taught, not how it will be taught.

The "how" it will be taught depends on the teacher. I must tell you that not all teachers can deal with the thematic approach, especially if they have never experienced it. If, as a school you agree that the "how" should be thematic, then do not forget that the evaluation of student learning needs to be the same. Unfortunately, our state tests are very departementalized. That is one of the reasons we do not see a lot of thematic instruction--too many schools are playing the testing game. The other reason you do not see a lot of thematic instruction is that it takes more preparation and creativity than most teachers want to invest in a lesson or unit.

I do not know the research, but my gut feeling is that if the thematic instruction is done well, students will understand better and remember better and therefore do better on state tests.

Doing a thematic approach in elementary school self-contained classrooms is a snap. It is still possible with departmentalization in older grades, but it requires school-wide collaboration and organization, which it sounds like your school is willing to do. Even without collaboration, a teacher of a specific subject can organize learning on that subject around a theme within the subject area.

Good luck with this!

Ben Johnson

San Antonio, TX

[quote]When designing curricula, do you feel that a chronological approach reaches more or a more thematic approach? We are moving from standard 'following the textbook' to an over-arching thematic approach that all subjects will address, thus, encouraging more cross-curricular collaboration.[/quote][/quote]

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