What would it look like if we stopped trying to fix the public school, and instead started over with today’s advances.
There are many cutting edge ideas in teaching and the existing school built structure inhibits those advances. What if we stepped back, put together a team of teachers, cutting edge teaching strategists and technology experts, assessed the entire school real estate in a district and utilized those structures to reorganize today’s education system to cutting edge learning models.
What would that look like?
I am going to address a few of the teaching methods that work for kids, then look at a typical school day. I realize most of you are going to think this is impossible. In reality, it is not so difficult, the difficulty is getting the parents and the teachers out of their boxes and allowing the students to just learn, at their own pace.
These are just a few ideas, I am sure there are more but for this article I am trying to make the point, stepping back and starting over is a valuable process for all.
The first idea is the Flipped Classroom. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/08/16/flipped-classroom-sees-kids-do-homework-at-school-after-watching-online-videos_n_7994798.html. Students watch a lesson on their own, at their own pace, as many times as needed. They then work with the teacher(s) in the classroom to learn the topic by doing and discussing with the teacher and other students in small groups.
Paced gifted curriculum:
Most gifted programs are different from the standardized program centered around the idea that students can move as fast as they can learn. IF they understand a learning module, they do not complete homework over and over, they simply move on. They are assigned homework where they have trouble and move forward where they do not need extra help. They are not restricted by a set learning time for each subject or grade specific curriculum. All students have areas of interest and those areas where they can excel or be bored if the curriculum does not move fast enough. Young kids in gifted programs learn 1 + 1 =2, they then discuss how 1 + x = 2 and solve for X. This is in kindergarten, and you would be surprised, almost 100% find this obvious and easy. They are not restricted to algebra in 8th grade, it is all inner mixed. This is one example of many.
Considering these two ideas, what if the school day looked like this?
A student watches, at home, an assigned lesson online, lessons are assigned by a computer system based on previous work completed by the student. The lessons are tailored to each student, some students are working ahead in one subject and behind in another, although this is not obvious to them as grades do not apply. The goal for each school year is to get thru a set of say 20 modules in each subject, at minimum. After each module, the students take a basic online test (see smart testing) and are then assigned a science, math, social studies and English classroom to go to that week. Teachers are provided a summary of who is coming and where students had problems with each module (using the smart testing system). The computer is assigning these modules and some students may work so far ahead they are basically skipping grades, others are working at a basic level and some repeating modules. It does not matter, in the end (graduation) each student must complete and understand a set level for each subject. Yes, students without access to the internet are provided access to these online classrooms. There are basic tablets available for $20-$40 from Datawind which are educating the world. Once the lesson is complete students are assigned a location to work on the lesson in a classroom of their selected school (I will get to school selection later). The schools are divided into modules not based on grade but based on subject. For example, each day is divided into 2 sections 8:30-11 and 12-2:30. Teachers are not grade specific but go where the students need them. Groups are no more than 10 students; some teachers might be working with 2 groups at the same time and more than one group can be in a classroom. All rooms are utilized, lunch rooms, arts rooms, etc. since these are not utilized during these times. Groups are not grade specific but module specific. Some groups are on independent or project work, assigned to and monitored by any teacher. The computer can of course assign groups considering ages if so desired. At the end of each class the student can take a test (see smart testing) or opt to work more prior to the test. All this is done in a computer system tracking students and providing councilors with problems and student advances. Modules are offered Monday thru Thursday. Friday is set aside for special programs (possibly AP projects, language emersion, community outreach, etc.). Every day 2:30-4:30 all students must participate in a sport, arts program or technical school program offered seasonally. Students must select something, some would be provided by the school (football, track, arts) and others by community members (karate, cardio classes).
As for which school a student attends, that is up to the parents and each school in a district is required to provide and state a specialty. For example, focused on Math, Science, STEM, Community development, or Engineering, Arts, ADHD, culinary, the sky is the limit. Parents and kids select a school of interest stating at 4th grade and they can change schools yearly as desired. Kids younger than the 4th grade follow a similar program yet are set to a local school of choice to create a consistent environment. Utilizing the existing elementary schools for this opens them up to reduce the class sizes as students graduate after 4th grade into a gradeless structure. For this example, an elementary that currently has k-5 has one less grade. The transportation system needs to provide buses for all students (not within a mile) to all schools of any choice.
Just a thought.