Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I don't get innovation

Article after article, blog after blog says that all we need to do is to hire competent principals and give them the freedom to be innovative. If we just allow innovation, our schools will magically close the achievement gap, raise performance, and send every kid to college.

I don't buy it. After 100 odd years of our current education system, shouldn't we have figured out what works by now? Is some principal going to magically discover that if you paint all the walls "blue" student achievement will increase?

Perhaps I am naive, but just about every education reform that can be imagined has been tried at some point in the past. Whole language, parental classes, tough standards, smaller classes, larger classes, inquiry learning, explicit instruction, longer class days, constructivism, small schools, large schools, unschooling, charter schools, private schools, etc...

What's left to try? What possible innovation is a principal going to come up with?

How about this for an innovative idea... lets discard all our prejudices, preconceived notions, and figure out what works in a conclusive scientific manner.

We could take all the various school models and pedagogy's, randomly assign them to various schools. Enforce their implementation (if you don't fully cooperate, you are fired), measure the results, and implement the winning model.

Once we had established a benchmark, we could establish experimental schools to test further innovations. If the innovation managed to improve on the benchmark, then test the innovation in another school. If the innovation was validated, then it could be methodically implemented, while simultaneously monitoring its effect.

Our country has some of the most productive data driven companies in the world. Our businesses routinely use similar methods to improve their customer service and products. Why can't we use data driven decisions and the scientific method to determine how best to educate our most precious commodities... our children.

6 comments:

CrypticLife said...

Maybe "innovation" is to cover up repackaging old ideas that didn't work and put new price labels on them.

Speaking of which, do you know anything about Literacy Collaborative? I know little except: 1) it sounds fishy, 2) it uses Reading Recovery (adding to the fishiness), and 3) my son's school district is moving towards using it. It doesn't give quite enough information to brand it whole language, but I suspect it is.

Ryan said...

We could take all the various school models and pedagogy's, randomly assign them to various schools. Enforce their implementation (if you don't fully cooperate, you are fired), measure the results, and implement the winning model.

What happens when your child is assigned to the whole language Reading Recovery school? Would you let it go unchallenged, for the sake of science?

Parentalcation said...

"What happens when your child is assigned to the whole language Reading Recovery school? Would you let it go unchallenged, for the sake of science?"

Actually no, I would work the system to ensure my kids were in the Direct Instruction school, but most people aren't that savvy. wink wink.

Parentalcation said...

P.S. If I wasn't already aware of Project Follow Through... yes I suppose I would of.

mobility61 said...

Parentalcation, when you wrote this: "She has learned to memorize stories to pass the test. Instead of decoding words, she has been taught to look at pictures to guess the words. She has been taught that she should remember most of the words by sight that she reads. She has no mastered the amount of phonetic sounds that she should of been taught.

I now have to go through and break her of her bad habits and teach her letter combinations and their sounds.

If I she read the following sentence:

The boy looked at the field."

A colleague of mine who had difficulty logging on to the blog asked me to forward her response:

"I don't know how a first grader would get to the word "field" using first grade phonics. With just phonics the child would probably pronounce the word with a long /i/ sound like another word the child has learned – tie, and like the phonics rule learned that says Long I can be spelled /ie/. What is the first grader to do when meeting the word "vein" in his health book? A child taught that "sounding out" is the only way to figure out unknown words is short changed. The English language is filled with ambiguities and children must learn to expect ambiguity in written language.

First graders that overly rely on phonics decode every word when every word does not follow the rules and/or does not follow the rules the child has been taught in first grade. Words above that do not follow the rules are: don’t, would, to, the, word, child, another, what, is, do, health. So everyone does not read every word by rapid decoding.

Decoding is only part of reading. The whole of reading also involves thinking about what makes sense in the context of what is read, what makes sense grammatically, and what makes sense given the letter sounds that make up the word. Whole language gives the child all of these tools to use to figure out the word, not just one.

Parentalcation said...

Mobility61,

You make whole reading sound so appealing.

This is the point where you offer scientific evidence of it working.