Reform school II

So, once we rip it apart (the education system, that is), how do we put it back together?

Well, for one thing I think technology can help.

I’d like to see more classrooms like this one where Mark Lada teaches a 6th grade lesson about electromagnets at Sarah Banks Middle School in Walled Lake, MI. (I’d also like to work at a school like that—in the video it looks like the lobby of a 4-star hotel compared to the dilapidated buildings in my district!)

6th Grade Electromagnets

I found that link on Dangerously Irrelevant. There are more videos featuring older students as well, but I’m always interested in discovering socially and developmentally appropriate ways to engage younger students with technology. Help wanted — Videos of 21st century classrooms.

When it comes to ed reform, I like to think that my newness to the whole education game gives me a more flexible, objective viewpoint, but I must admit that a lot of the time I just feel like I’m missing something.

First of all: Was there ever a time when important decisions were based on educational principles and children’s developmental abilities, not space and money issues? In our school district it seems every few years we’re forced to react to whatever financial disaster presents itself by shifting grade levels from one building to another, changing school start times to accommodate three-tier busing schedules, or some other such non-scholastic consideration.

For example, next year there is a strong possibility that my 7th grade son will be advancing to 8th grade at our high school so that the middle school (currently 7th and 8th grades) can accommodate 6th and 7th grades and the school I work at will change from 5th and 6th grades to 4th and 5th. This will allow the closing of three elementary schools but will still require cutting 25 teaching positions and eliminating the full-day kindergarten program. Phew, that’s a lot of disruption to address that nasty $5 million deficit.

While pondering questions like this, I stumbled upon this post, What if …. Boy do I have lot to learn about the history of education. Thanks for the timeline, Ben, a starting point for my historical journey!

I also discovered this perspective about educational quality on Jonesieblog, When were schools ever ideal?

“The profound failings of schools have nothing to do with the nature of the current generation of students, and nothing to do with the kinds of careers that young people will be pursuing once they leave school. The inadequacies of school education are broadly the same today as they were in 1950. In 1950, schools were institutions in which the socially advantaged did better than the socially disadvantaged, and in which those with additional support needs often gained very little indeed.”

Isn’t that basically what we’re up against today? NCLB was was devised to grapple with (and fails miserably at resolving) the ever-widening achievement gap between the haves and have-nots. Right?

Which leads me back to my point in Reform school Part I — let’s rip it apart and put it back together again, only this time making our decisions based on what’s right for the kids.

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