Friday, February 23, 2007

Reform Targeting

I posted this over in comments at From the Trenches of Public Education.

When I started researching education and entered the edublogging realm, I was a blank slate.

I believed in many of the standard talking points. Preschool will fix everything, all we need is more money, etc..., but was open minded in general.

My thoughts and opinions evolved (and still do) as I learned more.

I am now pretty much in the "drastic reform" camp, but I don't think I have ever been a big proponent of H.S. level reforms. I do like the idea of smaller schools, or at least schools within a school, since I think having stable relationships with teachers is a pretty good thing for students. I think there should be a bit more ability grouping, though with honors, college prep, and regular classes there is some. Having said that, I think that High Schools do a pretty decent job of teaching those who come to them on skill level. Basically for the top 50% to 95% of students, our High School program works relatively well.

It's the lower 50% that really needs educational reform, but by HS they have pretty much already been broken.

In the military we see all sorts of fads as well.

We had Total Quality Management for a while, now the latest fad is ATSO 21 (Six Sigma)... all adaptations of the latest business models out there. Like you, we as workers roll our eyes, try and take the best of the theories and await the next reform.

So I understand the resistance to school reform advocates.

I think a major problem for reform advocates has been an inability to separate the education system into component parts.

Different levels of education need different amounts and type of reform.
Perhaps it is the union mentality of teachers, where HS teachers react negatively to reform targeted at the elementary school level.

I still think there is something to the idea of enlisting HS teachers as allies in the push for K-5 reform.

Certain principles of "di" are going to be universal (the military uses a lot of elements of it teaching recruits), but its probably most critical at the early basic skills level to rely on scripted programs.

I think there probably is a critical mass point where scripted programs can give way to more flexibility in teaching freedom after kids have learned to read and compute at a certain level. It is probably at this point that kids really have been taught how to learn (such a cliche).
Certain concepts of "di" though are certainly worth incorporating into all levels of education. Things like breaking concepts down into components, ensuring mastery, reinforcement of concepts over a period of time, and ability grouping.

Secondary school teachers differ from elementary school teachers. They are usually (or should) have degrees in the content area they teach, more like college professors than elementary school teachers.

I suspect that utilizing DI and scripted programs, a school full of Junior College graduates could outperform our current elementary school programs.

(Cross posted)