Archives For education

Freestyle School….

September 29, 2014

2014-09-15_11-36-46As the new school year approaches, teachers have come to expect that many of their students will have forgotten some of what they learned earlier. It’s called summer learning loss, and some teachers believe it’s inevitable. Are they right?…

The traditional educator’s remedy for summer learning loss is more of the same, more hours and more days of classes and, of course, summer school.  What if schools enlisted family members as partners to help teach the children? But suppose there is another solution.  That’s what’s happening here at Russell Byers Charter School in Philadelphia. For five weeks this summer, Sarah Pisano helps 6- and 7-year-olds get better at reading.

SOURCE: Turning parents into teachers to fight the ‘summer slide’.

A recent episode on the PBS NewsHour got me to thinking about summer vacation. It is a known fact that students in the U.S. spend less than half the year in classrooms whereas other developed nations spend much more time than that. The reason we have not kept up with increasing our school hours and days is partly because of the resistance from teacher’s unions and partly because we don’t want to spend the extra tax dollars to make it happen.

Summer vacation was born in the early 19th century when most of America was agriculturally based. The family needed all hand available to plant, tend, and harvest the crops during the growing season.  Fast forward to today and that reason for summer school is totally archaic but the tradition of a three-month vacation in summer continues.

One solution to prevent us from falling further behind the rest of the world in the primary education of our youths is to simply extend the current school year beyond its current boundaries. But what are the alternatives? One was mentioned in this report and shown above.  But I kind of got a different approach to it. What if we made the summer session of school freestyle?

By freestyle I mean what if it were used to broaden education or at least help students overcome barriers? What if it emphasized the arts rather than the three “R”s? I think it is generally recognized that creativity will be a driving force that will keep our country a front-runner in the future. But by drowning out creative thinking and concentration only on the mechanics will we be able to keep up our lead in this area?

Just a thought….

Wanting An Education

July 10, 2014

FootballIn the old days boys wanted an education. They even had reading, writing, and arithmetic, instead of football. Up to then boys had gone there for their heads and not their shoulders — Will Rogers August 26,1928

In the old days must have been before 1928! I would have figured it to be later than that but maybe what we have been doing since that time is to hone it to perfection.  I have seen so many articles around today about how boys just don’t do school very well. By school I mean as Will indicated reading, writing, and arithmetic.  It now seems that girls make up the majority of our kids going to college. I guess the boys, especially those of color,  think they can make their millions off whatever their favorite sport is. They just don’t seem to be interesting in putting in the work necessary to learn anything else. That seems to be a very sad reality of today’s world doesn’t it?

Anyone who has read this blog much knows that I am not a sports fan in any regard. I often say that maybe sports among several other things helps build character when we are children but once we grow up it should be illegal to pay an adult for any sporting activity. That would definitely take the irrational dream away for many of our young boys. Given that in the future women will very likely become the primary bread winners in almost all households I wonder how those testosterone driven guys will handle that?

Come on all you parents out there. Take your boys out of one or two the their scheduled sports activities and use that time to make them study a little more…..

2014-03-25_08-23-25Legislation signed by Gov. Mike Pence makes Indiana the first state to step back from the standards that establish proficiency targets in math and reading…..

But the national education standards have been the focus of vocal criticism from conservative grassroots groups, who believe Common Core amounts to a government takeover of education. Critics have said Indiana’s new standards are strikingly similar to the Common Core framework and the new legislation is little more than a change in name rather than substance, the Associated Press reports.

SOURCE: Indiana Drops Common Core Education Standards | TIME.com.

For those of you who might not know I am a Hoosier. I was born here and spent most of my life here. Indiana is one of those rare States outside of the South and Prairie States that has always been solidly Republican. They overwhelmingly control both houses of State legislature and have a party machine hand-picked Republican governor.  We are not a big State but still much larger than many other red States. We have a population of about 6.5 million which makes us number sixteen of the fifty States.

One thing I have come to understand about Indiana, and most of the other red States for that matter, is that if a Democrat supports something then it must be wrong and avoided at all costs. Governor Pence is constantly reminding me of this fact. So, when he came out with “his” plan for education it is not surprising that he first of all trashed the national one. It is also not surprising that he basically claimed the same standards as his own. Now it is a Republican plan and not from those nasty Democrats. This is somewhat typical of politics today and that is why I now for the most part stay away from it.

Is it better for each State to have its own strategy for educating its youth or is a national strategy better?  I want to drop back again to the Indiana model to explain my answer to this question.  I’m not sure how the rest of the country does it but in Indiana each school system is funded by local property taxes. As a result Hamilton County which is one of the richest counties in the nation and of course the richest in the State has a high school campus that rivals most colleges. They have multiple olympic size swimming pools, a gigantic dramatic arts auditorium and computers in every room. By contrast my county, which is the third poorest in the State has absolutely nothing compared to Hamilton.  This disparity of course also show up in the percentage of those who go on to college.

When you step back and look at it, it seems obvious that segregation is the result of this type of funding. It is not race segregation as in the past but economic segregation and I believe it is just as dangerous as the one we faced in the 1980s.

Since I am running out of space I will give you a quick answer to the overall question. A common universal strategy is the only answer if we are to compete with the rest of the world in the 21st century and beyond.  To leave it up to the States will most assuredly result in a nation wide segregation once again. Can we really afford to have that happen?

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“Our scores are stagnant. We’re not seeing any improvement for our 15-year-olds,” said Jack Buckley, commissioner at the National Center for Education Statistics, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education. “But our ranking is flipping because a lot of these other countries are improving.”

The test scores offer fresh evidence for those who argue that the United States is losing ground to competitors in the global market and others who say a decade’s worth of school reform has done little to improve educational outcomes.

“While the intentions may have been good, a decade of top-down, test-based schooling created by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top — focused on hyper-testing students, sanctioning teachers and closing schools — has failed to improve the quality of American public education,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. The AFT released a video on Monday in which it implored the public not to blame teachers, the unions, parents or students for poor PISA results.

SOURCE: U.S. students lag around average on international science, math and reading test – The Washington Post.

It seems the rest of the world realizes how important math and science is for their future whereas we in the U.S. haven’t got that message yet.  This article ends with the teachers union representative saying “don’t blame us”. I would have much rather him say “we teacher are part of the problem and we are determined to be part of the solution.”

It seems that everyone in this falling further and further behind area is in the “don’t blame us” category. Parents say it is the lack of funding or bad teacher. Teachers say it is the lack of funding or parents. Everyone blames someone else. They are convinced that it is someone else’s fault. Meanwhile we fall further and further behind…

I know this is not a recent problem. It has been going on for decades. In my mind part of the problem is that the education of our children continues to be pretty much a local issue and many localities just are not up to the task. Local property taxes for the most fund our educational system. So, if you are fortunately enough to live in an affluent area you will go to a first-rate high school often times with facilities rivaling those of college campuses. But if you are in a densely packed urban or small rural area you will struggle to get the courses with qualified teachers that are required for college entrance or what is needed in today’s workplace.

When I was in high school ninety percent of the teachers there were fresh out of college. The other ten percent were local farmers and such who got their teaching credentials so many years ago to make them more or less archaic in the world of education. The fresh out of college teachers spent two years in our school and then with that experience on their resumes they moved on to the larger and better paying school systems.

What our current education system needs is for everyone to take their share of the blame for our running in place and then set out to work together to catch up with what the rest of the world already knows.