Letters: Changing How Students Feel About Learning
Some ideas on how to change students' outlook on education.
Meet the Students
I absolutely agree with the premise that tomorrow's adults need to be able to think, create, and compete. But asking teachers to teach to tests, as the No Child Left Behind Act requires, will not foster the skills competitive world markets require. Time is a factor, but so is an interesting, relevant curriculum. As "Hip Hop High: Rhythm and Lyrics Teach Everything From English to Algebra," (September 2005) indicates, schools need to meet the kids where they are, not where the schools or society want them to be.
Unfortunately, our society generally does not value schools. A hundred years ago, Thomas Alva Edison was a hero. Today, kids look up to basketball stars. If we want today's children to learn more, we should respect, even revere, those who teach them. A Korean family in our neighborhood shows an obvious admiration for a family of teachers that lives near them, but that kind of respect is rare. Here is what we need to do to improve education:
- Decrease class sizes. Teachers must know their students, and in classes of twenty-five or more students, this is not possible.
- Create smaller schools. Students will do better when they know a core of teachers really cares about them and stays on top of issues as a team.
- Schedule common preparation time. Teachers need to work together to prepare cohesive, meaningful lessons.
- Promote professional development. Workshops for educators should be as good and as interesting as the classes they are expected to teach.
- Provide real compensation. If we expect teachers to teach longer years and days, we should pay them accordingly. Like it or not, we do put our money into what we value. Stop complaining about the cost. Eliminate the tired statement that "throwing more money at schools will not solve anything." Do we say that about the military?
Thanks for bringing this issue to the front.
Time for Tutoring
In spite of the arguments in "Time Out: Rethinking the Hours America Spends Educating," (September 2005), I doubt teachers can provide students with frequent individualized feedback so that learning problems are quickly recognized and cured. Given class-size numbers, most teachers cannot do that, so everyone moves at the same pace. We need to explore alternates to schools that allow each student to move through the learning material at a unique rate, and we must keep students at a given topic until learning is successful.
This process is possible and economically practical with a way of learning that is rare today: highly adaptive tutorial learning with computers. This approach can provide high quality learning to everyone in less time.
In "Time Out: Rethinking the Hours America Spends Educating," Milt Goldberg and Christopher T. Cross cite data that in 1894, the average number of school days was 191. Today, that number is 180. Are they saying, as well, that our educational system was broken in 1894? Or are they saying that the growth of the United States as a leading power on every front (economic, political, social, military -- you name it) happened because we used to have eleven more days of instructional time? Are they saying our apparent present-day decline is due to the loss of those eleven days? Perhaps we simply don't use our 180 days as well as we should.