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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Introductions

10 Replies 1139 Views
I'd like to announce my new co-facilitator of this group, Rebecca Alber. I'm very excited to have her join us, as she not only has a decade on the front lines as a teacher, but she also has 5 years of experience supporting teachers through instructional coaching and facilitating literacy workshops. Furthermore, she's committed to finding the right way forward, to helping educators, parents and communities come together to create lasting and sustainable change. We'd love to hear from others who are interested in reform, and hope you'll introduce yourself -- please include a little about your experience, and which reforms are most important to you.

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Victoria M. Young's picture

I would like to use my 18 years of experience in the public school system (11 of that helping teachers in classrooms) to do exactly what Rebecca would like to help do, create responsible change that will stand the test of time. We must be responsible to the needs of children in all that we do in working towards our goal. Fully addressing the literacy issue would be a great starting point.

Betty Ray's picture
Betty Ray
Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia
Staff

Great to have you in the group; it's exciting to see so many people joining this and sharing their expertise and insights. Would love to hear from others who are interested in making a difference.

Victoria M. Young's picture

If We wanted to raise the issue of literacy in the United States to the level of attention it deserves, We would need to let the people hear the truth. The only way to reach large numbers of people these days, unfortunately, is with sound bites and sensationalism. Anyone have a sound bite for starters?

Our public education system isn't broken (but we all say it is including myself). The truth is, it is non-existent and that is one reason that "reforms" continue to fail. Now, that is a little too much truth for the average person so starting with where we are (statistically), what premise we followed in the past that got us in this mess, what we can do differently, and what resources we need to get us heading up again would be what people can understand...plain and simple.

Art Roberts's picture

I am a SPED high school teacher and this year I am co-teaching four 9th grade U.S. History classes with a Reg. Ed. teacher. My presence in the room makes the class a SPED setting. What I have found is that most students in the class do not read at their grade level, not just SPED students. They cannot think for themselves, solve problems or complete assignments. Most will absolutely be counted on to not do their homework reading or any assignment. Of course this is all the teachers' fault for assigning things like paragraph writing and reading which is over their head. This in a standards-based school.

My school is in restructuring and so we are going for an SLC structure in which we need to think about what students need to learn in this century. We know that we need to teach students to think critically and solve problems, but if they have not learned how to do this by the time they reach us, they, and we, are in trouble. I would propose that the entire school structure be revamped.

Our state has standards and benchmarks K-12, and yet we have students reading, writing and doing math way below their grade level because they are socially promoted through the grades regardless of whether they meet the standards. If we are to have a truly standards-based system, which I support, I would propose abandoning grade levels. I think like a SPED teacher in terms of G&Os in IEPs, so I would propose that every student get an IEP that reflects the standards set for each grade level. When a student enters the school system at Kindergarten, that student would be taught that set of standards and given criteria-based assessments to make sure the student mastered the benchmarks. After the student has mastered the benchamarks, the student is sent to the next level, regardless of the time in the school year. We might have students graduate from high school at 15, and then we'll have those who may have to stay until they age out. For those students who will not be able to master the benchmarks, we can have programs with benchmarks they can master, such as we have today. But for those who are being socially promoted through the system now so that schools can report high percentages of promotion rates, the standards would be strictly enforced, with all the supports we have in place now. Those who are falling behind could be identified early and interventions put in place. At the end of the school year, those who have met or exceeded the standards for graduating would do so, no matter what their age.

I would also propose an entrance exam for kindergarten-age children to make sure they are ready to enter the social environment that school presents. How many of us have heard from the experts how boys are at least a year behind girls in development? And yet these boys are shoved into a system for which they are not ready. Then the problems begin. Allow the individual in when the individual is ready. Teach to the standards at the individual's pace the way the individual learns. Then we can say that we truly individualize the education of students.

I also support allocating the funding school recieve to the individual students and the students and their families making the decision as to what school to attend. The money would go with the student to the school. This is a complicated issue, but the state in which i teach has such a bloated DOE that something must be done to cut back on the waste.

That's all for now.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I think American education is not so much broken, as uneven. Sometimes my kids get great teachers, who are dedicated and involved and they can gain a year to a year and a half, and other times, they seem to slip backwards or make little progress. Part of that is kid development, part of that is just some kids and teachers work well together, and others, well, not so much.

Things like student portfolios, easily accomplished with kids having individual wikis or online databases, will allow kids to have a history of their performance and abilities, as well as providing teachers and parents a more dynamic way to track a child's progress and diagnose any ongoing problems- we can finally have enough data in one place to really help spot patterns and problems in a child's learning, and help alter their education and education plan accordingly. They're starting to do this right now in our school district, and I think it's phenomenal.

My 6th grader came home last year and said to me "Do you know what they do with all the work we do all year Mom? They throw it out at the end of the year. What's the point?" If we don't help create some sort of record of a student's work, for them and for the educators they work with, I have to ask- what is the point? How do kids feel they are doing much other than filling out a constant barrage of forms people throw out at the end of the year, and to what end point?

AT the heart of both the IEP process and differentiated instruction is helping students learn at a pace that is challenging but also developmentally appropriate- that they can progress when they're ready, not just one size fits all. I'm not sure abolishing grade levels is a good idea- I think having yearly goals and benchmarks is important, but more important is making sure kids are challenged and we meet them where they are than try to shoe horn them into a one size fits all education program.

Victoria M. Young's picture

Art, I read your comments earlier and was just now able to take the time to respond. Sorry for the delay.

You wrote "What I have found is that most students in the class do not read at their grade level, not just SPED students. They cannot think for themselves, solve problems or complete assignments. Most will absolutely be counted on to not do their homework reading or any assignment."...have you considered that this type of mentality is partially a result of producing "standardized minds" (Peter Sacks)?

When I read what Whitney had to say all I could think was "Wow." Wish my children had had access to those types of opportunities. Uneven and inconsistent...that IS a systemic problem.

At this time, as a potential solution, I would like to ask this group and Edutopia to consider spreading the idea that a new paradigm in education should be considered to replace standardization of children. Please consider the idea that Guiding Principles be established by the United States for teacher instruction to be used in conjunction with Instructional Frameworks at the local levels for children.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U&feature=channel If you haven't seen this, it is something worth considering and is what has prompted my boldness today.

Rebecca Alber's picture
Rebecca Alber
Edutopia Consulting Online Editor
Blogger 2014

[quote].... At this time, as a potential solution, I would like to ask this group and Edutopia to consider spreading the idea that a new paradigm in education should be considered to replace standardization of children. Please consider the idea that Guiding Principles be established by the United States for teacher instruction to be used in conjunction with Instructional Frameworks at the local levels for children.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4Uamp;feature=channel If you haven't seen this, it is something worth considering and is what has prompted my boldness today.[/quote]

Thank you, Victoria, for sharing this link to Sir Ken Robinson discussing Divergent Thinking and standardization of education. I agree so much with his findings and assertions as well.

To hear more from this great educational thinker, check out this video talk on the power of the imaginative mind from Sir Robinson found here on Edutopia.

Best,
Rebecca Alber
Edutopia

Victoria M. Young's picture

Rebecca,

Thanks for linking me up to more from Sir Ken.

So if we put what he was presenting into a guiding principle for teacher preparation, it would be something like "Classrooms will be maintained as places where we will nurture the natural creativity of every student."

Pedagogy would be developed around the principle. Parents could understand a statement such as that and more easily recognize when this essential principle was not being upheld...local accountability?..without a test! Imagine!

Now, I don't mean this in any negative way, I just would like the educators out there to look inside themselves and ask, how do we expect to have the "fluid interactions" necessary for "connections between different ways of thinking" to contribute to our Educational Renaissance when we can't bring people from different levels of society together at the same table?

Art Roberts's picture

Whitney & Victoria:

I think maybe we're thinking along the same lines.

I do believe that standards are important. Would you like to be operated on by someone who couldn't meet the standards do become a surgeon? Not me.

So if we allow students to progress through the standards set soon by the Feds (instead of each state having its own set), without the social promotion that goes on all too often, we may be able to catch those who are not meeting them sooner, find out why, and work with them to address whatever the problem is. Like I tried to say, those who can move through quickly will be able to do so and be supported in their efforts. Those who need more support will be able to get that. The way it is right now is not working.

I just finished grading tests, and while i was administering the test on Friday, I discovered the extent to which one student, not SPED identified, can't read. And he's severely ADHD. How did he make it this far without remediation, and what are we supposed to do with him now? Everything I've read says that if we don't catch these reading problems by Grade 3, we've lost the student to reading.

So what I am saying is to individualize education for each student, not squeeze kids into one mold.

Victoria M. Young's picture

Hi Art,

"maybe we're thinking along the same lines" - I agree.

"The way it is right now is not working." - Yes, I was just saying to a friend yesterday that we continue to let too many students fall through the cracks...30% getting out of third grade without learning to read and thinking we can magically reduce our 30% drop-out rate with higher standards.

"I do believe that standards are important." - Me too. But for who and what and how implemented?...always the question, by what method?

"Would you like to be operated on by someone who couldn't meet the standards to become a surgeon? Not me." - Me neither and that was the point I had wanted to make back in 1999 to my legislature just prior to them setting in motion "exit testing" (standards and testing) in my state. I wasn't allowed to speak to the subject.

Surgeons are educated through accredited colleges and universities that have set their curriculum based on what they know this group must learn. It is rigid, to a point. It will produce one thing, surgeons. And those surgeons will take a high-stakes test, board certification test. When they enter that room, that day, they can do it with the confidence that their professors met a standard, their curriculum met a standard, and their facilities met a standard. If they fail that day, it is on them and fairly so. When they go out into the world, they practice under an expected standard of practice....that is why that system of preparation works.

We don't have that in the profession of teaching but we are expecting the students to pass exit tests....isn't it time to address that problem?...it is a problem the education professionals had better address before the system turns teaching into a trade.

For children, I believe an Instructional Framework would serve them well "to catch those who are not meeting" expectations. Instructional frameworks encompass content, process, and assessments. They provide a picture of what should be effective to reach the goal (reading in this case). And they are used in decision making (when and how to step in). Do we test for the student reaching benchmarks along the way? I would hope so. But it is not the same thing we are heading towards with standards.

If we set rigid standards, we aim to produce one thing - kids that can pass the same test - standardized minds - when we don't need all children knowing the exact same things. We need to maintain variety and flexibility unless we have already decided for them what they will be. Do we need some "commonality"? I think so but even with the use of that word, I think Bill Gates and I mean very different things...language is funny that way...the misunderstood word...a whole other subject....the word "standards."

I liked what Linda Darling-Hammond did in her book "The Flat World and Education; How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future" in that she separated out - Standards of Practice, Standards for Schools, and Standards for the System....I can go for that!

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