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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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Donnie Powell's picture

The Daily Teaching Lessons recorded and on the Internet could be a tremendous learning approach/tool.

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


Your enthusiasm is to be commended. Much of what you request in terms of policy is already being done. No Child Left behind required that each state determine exactly what students are supposed to know and be able to do in their state and NCLB required them to create a standardized criterion referenced test to determine if minimum standards are being met. Now, the Obama administration would like to coop the state rights and force a national curriculum. Hopefully, that is not what you want. (US gov. has already proven incapable of managing banking, car companies, and health insurance--Education would be another fiasco waiting to happen)

I agree with you that it is not necessarily the teacher's fault--most are hard working and dedicated--but it is the systems fault.

The design of the education system is to blame for the teacher isolation that is rampant in the campuses. Mike Schmoker wrote one of the most poignant books about this, "Results Now." In the book he basically states that we have all the skilled teachers we need. We just need to do what we know how to do, consistently. His argument is that teachers are human too, and if left to themselves, it is easy to cut corners and choose convenience over what is best for students. His solution... is turning on the light of teacher collaboration with each other and increase observations by the principal.

Your road map is framed to operate in a system that, in my opinion does not work. Your excellent ideas will be lost in a system that does not promote or reward high performance instruction. Beginning teachers get the worst assignments and excellent teachers get burdened with even more assignments. Unions clamor for teacher rights over student needs and under the guise of equality, protect each and every teacher from accountability. This system needs to be changed. Professional learning communities as designed by Richard Dufour and Robert Eaker (1998, 2006) is an excellent step in the right direction, but it is still trying to hold together a system that is falling apart. Another promising reform is teacher performance pay. Unions really hate this because they claim that other factors beside the teachers are at play in a student's life. The truth is that those factors are at work whether the teacher gets paid more or not, so why not reward the teachers who find a way to overcome the obstacles? Doing extra becomes rewarding--what a concept!

My ultimate contribution to your road map would be to add one single element to it. This one single change would turn education as we know it on its ear and allow the super creativity and ingenuity of our teachers to shine. Since research clearly establishes the importance of the formative years on future school success, then that should be our emphasis. We have to stop pretending that everything is equal, because it is not. Anyway, we should double our resources in the elementary grades--facilities, materials, and especially salaries.

Other grade levels will cry foul but they would not be losing anything (so will the unions). Anyway, here is my reasoning. This will in essence insert free market principles into a traditionally socialistic and anemic system. This will attract new types of teachers into the program, ones who might more likely have been attracted to law or medicine because of the money differential. This will insert competition and the schools will be able to choose and retain only the best teachers. This will have an effect on the student learning, parent involvement and as a result, all of the other following grade levels will be able to raise standards and speed things up with these improved student attitudes about school.

I don't believe that this will ever happen because the system is too ingrained, tenured and invested. Ultimately, it is the students who suffer.

Good discussion.

Ben Johnson
San Antonio, TX

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