Musings from the Greenhabilitator...
I don't mean to brag, but my husband is a pretty fly guy.
After college, he was in sales for years and was pretty successful at it. He made decent money, but he was miserable. Then he went back to school for his true love, which is teaching. He got his teaching degree, then his Master's in Education and has been teaching in inner-city schools ever since. Yeah, no hope of ever paying off those student loans!
It's not that he can't get a job at a "good" school, he's just never tried. I guess he's the Mr. Kotter of our generation -- he goes where he feels he's needed most. Usually that's a flailing school with low test scores, a high percentage of free or reduced lunches, and a high ESL population.
Between having three kids of my own, a teacher for a husband, and moderating the School & Learning boards on iVillage, I find myself thinking or talking about education for a huge portion of my day, every day. Unfortunately one of the most common themes is how our education system is failing our children.
I really look at the education system the same way I look at other systems or institutions in our country. Take employment, for example. Generations ago, a person would work for the same company for 20 years. We don't do this anymore and, as a result, companies have changed the way they attract employees, hire, the benefits and incentives they provide, and so on. Our needs have changed, and employment has changed to meet those needs.
Education is no different. The face of our student population in the US is different than it was 100 years ago. The way children are raised today is different. Their family make up, the social and emotional issues they deal with, the pressures they face, their financial statuses -- everything -- is different. So why are we still teaching the same way? Education must evolve into what we need it to be today if we want our children to be successful.
I can only imagine how frustrated my husband and other teachers feel when they can see a broken system, or a better way to do things, but still have to conform. And I was so happy to know that someone else "gets it" when I read Dwight D. Jones' article For education reform to occur, we must actually re-form education in a local paper yesterday. Jones is the Commissioner of Education with the Colorado Department of Education so, if it's important for anyone to "get it", it's definitely him!
In the article, Jones quotes Arthur Levine, who is the former President of Columbia University's Teachers College, in saying that today's system is like an assembly line:
"...all students [are put] through a common process tied to the clock. Children progress based on the amount of time they spend being taught in a classroom, with all students required to master the same body of knowledge in the same period of time. Given what we know today, this approach no longer makes sense."Can I get an "Amen"?
He goes on to talk about Adams School District 50 where who else but my very fly hubby teaches. His school, Metz Elementary, was the pilot school for a new teaching style last year. Hubby calls it "standards based" and the school uses a "leveling" system rather than grades. So he may teach a Level 4 Math class, which has 3rd, 4th and 5th graders in it. As each child masters a standard, they able to progress to the next level, regardless of what grade they are in. Jones explains it (much more eloquently!) like this:
"In District 50, students progress not by the amount of time they've spent in a seat, but by their demonstration of competency in coursework. The district has defined precisely what students should know and be able to do from one level to the next in all subjects. Expectations are consistent from classroom to classroom, school to school. Teachers know exactly what to teach and what students are to learn, using a scoring guide to make sure students have "gotten it" before they move on.So, theoretically, a student could buzz through many levels of a subject he's strong in, but go slower in his weaker subjects. A student who is advanced could graduate years early. One who needs more assistance can go at his own pace and progress through the levels as he masters them.
Under their teacher's guidance, students track their own progress at their own pace, while receiving the time and help they need to master the content. In the elementary schools, teachers group students by performance, not age, for reading, writing and math. Middle school students are grouped similarly for language arts, math, science and social studies."
I just can't tell you how happy I am - as a parent, as someone interested in education, and as someone concerned about the future of our country - to see this being implemented. District 50 is going into this full of steam, with the training, support and knowledge of experts around the country and the dedication of its staff and administration. I hope they'll pave the way for more education "re-formation" around the country.
Now if I could just get them to start recycling. Baby steps...