Saturday, October 21, 2006

Carolina School for Inquiry - Takedown

Carolina School for Inquiry

Lets take a closer look at this new charter school, the Carolina School for Inquiry. First of all, here is a bit of history from this article in The State.

When a group of Columbia parents considered expanding a popular private preschool and kindergarten program, they lit on the idea of a charter school. At first, they considered a partnership between the nonprofit Harmony School and a newly formed charter school.

"We realized you can't have a private board interfere with a public board and vice versa," said Jeannie Eidson, a Harmony parent and Carolina School planning committee member.

Plus, parents don't want anything to endanger Harmony's stellar program, Mandrell said. So the parents began planning a charter school separate from Harmony but based on its beliefs.
So many mistakes begin with the best of intentions. Poor rich people… a misguided set of parents who loved their private “inquiry learning” preschool and kindergarten, decided to create their own charter school based on the principle. I am sure they were a bit upset to learn that as a charter school they had to open up enrollment to the surrounding poor minority community. Of course I have no doubt they convinced themselves that “inquiry” based learning will work for everyone, and not just their high SES kids.

Of course, the private Harmony School knew that it might not be a good idea. From another article in The State:

Eventually, though, it became clear that yielding control of the charter school to a parent and employee-run governing board, which is required by law, was a bit risky for the intimate Harmony community, said Deborah Holmes, school director. "We don't know what conflicts could possibly happen," she said.
Gee whiz, what possible conflict could happen when you try and use an unstructured curriculum with poor urban kids… perhaps anarchy?

But not to be deterred, the Carolina School for Inquiry pressed on and opened its doors this year.

Now let’s see what sort curriculum they use at this new school. You guys are lucky that I love you, but I had to read through this drivel to extract some key points.

Unfortunately, our traditional educational system has worked in a way that discourages the natural process of inquiry. Students become less prone to ask questions as they move through the grade levels. In traditional schools, students learn not to ask too many questions, instead to listen and repeat the expected answers.
Straight away we can see where this is heading, anyone want to bet that they eventually say something to the effect that facts are over rated because they can change, and its more important to know how to learn.

Memorizing facts and information is not the most important skill in today's world. Facts change, and information is readily available -- what's needed is an understanding of how to get and make sense of the mass of data.
Damn I am good, so basically inquiry learning is constructivism on steroids.

Unfortunately, the website doesn’t let us know what reading/ELA curriculum they are going to use, but we can make an educated guess based on their math curriculum, Investigations in Number, Data, and Space.

Among their many hair brained idea’s.

They choose from a variety of concrete materials and appropriate technology, including
calculators, as a natural part of their everyday mathematical work.
That’s it; forget the multiplication tables, because they can just use calculators.

They find more than one solution to many of the problems they work on
Someone explain to them that while there may be more than one “method” for solving a problem, there is only one correct “solution” to any given math problem (K-12 math that is), and that some methods are more effective than others.

They express their mathematical thinking through drawing, writing, and talking
Of course they do, because you know actually doing math in math class is sooooo overrated.

They move around the classroom as they explore the mathematics in their environment and talk with their peers
Wouldn’t want the kids to get bored sitting at their desks learning.

In Investigations, homework is a vehicle for connecting school mathematics with students’ everyday lives. Homework is an extension of classroom work. Students are asked to work on problems that extend and solidify their mathematical understanding. Sometimes homework offers review and practice of work done in class, sometimes preparation for upcoming activities, and sometimes numerical practice that revisits work from earlier units.
The real secret to Investigations… send home homework so that the parents can teach their kids what they should of learned at school. Great for high SES kids, but a disaster for low SES working parents.

I think Mathematically Correct best sum’s it up:

There is nothing to recommend about this program. The use of this program in our public schools is a strong argument for vouchers.
Unfortunately, since this school just opened, we won’t get any test results for at least a year, but somehow I have a feeling that it won’t be pretty. Unfortunately, charter schools like this will only serve to give successful charter schools a bad reputation. Perhaps the kindest thing I can say about this charter school is that its an option and not the only choice that parents have.