Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It's CONforming, not REforming schools. When will we truly change in a positive direction?

When we hear about school reform, we hear about these elements.

a) Standardized tests

b) Standards that all schools should meet

c) Standard curriculums for all students

d) Every student needs four years of math

e) Every 8th grader needs to be exposed to algebra in 8th grade, starting at age 13.

f) Send everyone to university.

g) Every teacher should have an advanced degree.

It doesn’t sound like REFORM, it sounds like “CON”form.


Instead, we need to look at TRUE reshaping and retooling and reformatting our schools.

For example

a) Time is a variable. We don’t have to group kids by age. We don’t have to require students to advance at a set time together to the next level of the curriculum.

b) Let’s us computers to allow independent rates of learning. See Dr. Fischler’s TheStudentIsTheClass.com blog.

c) Arne Duncan calls for expanded schooling to support the community, 12 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week, 12 months a year: 12/7/12.

d) Relationships: Dennis Littky’s “three Rs” says Rigor, Relevance and Relationships. We need teachers who visit each kid's home,..."Teachers who know the kids, look out for them and push them to succeed"
(from a speech by Bill Gates).

e) Relevance: Why does every child need to study biology? Robert Reich has a cogent observation about the

f) Move away from Compulsory Failure: very few of us are renaissance people – we can’t master every subject, so there will be some subjects that are difficult for us and not relevant to our lives. Why do we impose failure on children? Reform means “making school relevant to the child, fit the curriculum to the child, not the child to the curriculum.”

g) Teachers teach all subjects: Why does a teacher need to have an advanced degree in mathematics in order to teach math? Some of the best teachers are those who struggle with a subject. “I hated math when I was your age. Let’s work together to get through this…”

Those are elements of true reform.


Dennis Yuzenas (www.WhatDoYaKnow.com) and I (VisualandActive.com) are talking about making a presentation about “It’s not school Reform, it’s school CONform.”

Tony Blair spoke in the right direction…


Long speech but worth a listen.
Notes from Blair’s speech.
What works in a reformed school?

1. Independence -- Schools need to be independent, free to innovate and find the strategy that works for their community.

2. Community learning -- teaching adults, too. -- Continued adult learning is important becuas children who have parents with low levels of education tend to not go very far .

3. Community service: Our schools need to be more than academics and more than just for the child.

Breakfast clubs (to fill empty stomachs)

Afterschool clubs

Homework clubs

Let’s make education about the whole person and the whole community.

4. We need to remove bad teachers.

5. We need to think differently. We know what to do, we need to implement. It’s not hard to think up things to do differently – it’s difficult to IMPLEMENT. We need to focus on community interest, not about VESTED interests.

We know what works.

Well, that's what Blair said. Let's get to work. Contact me with your comments (954) 646 8246 or write to visualandactive@gmail.com

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