|SAVE OUR SCHOOLS!
April 14, 1997
Other questions asked
in this forum:
Would equal funding for all schools solve the problems in low-income area public schools? A prospective teacher asks about strategies to improve teacher quality. Are vouchers or school choice the answer? How do education labor unions effect the reform process? What role does parental participation play? How can communities foster constructive public dialogue on education issues? Additional questions and comments.
Return to the top page. A question from Vince Devlin of West Chester, PA, asks:
Although educators continue to proclaim that we must provide for the individual differences of the students in school, most schools continue to gather all school-age children into one building and present to them a standard curriculum that is evaluated through standard tests. I feel we need to examine the very purpose of education - should it be ultimately directed towards satisfying an academic checklist of skills?
Do you see education, for some students, leaving the traditional classroom setting? How could that help your efforts?
Dr. Doris Alvarez, Principal of Hoover High School, responds:
For some students the classroom without walls is an ideal. There are many experimentations like this around the country that have been in existence for a while. One program in Providence, RI, call the MET and other programs in New York City see students once a week. The rest of the time is spent learning in the community either on the job or in a community agency.
Even in my own high school and in our district, we have alternative programs for students who just can't manage the traditional high school setting.
Within the traditional structure, I feel it is helpful to look at alternative ways to do school. For example, it is not necessary to have all students of the same age and grade in a single classroom, thus the movement toward multi-age and multi-grade classrooms.
The Coalition high school groups students into families or houses across age and grade to accomplish their mission of personalization. I believe that such grouping focuses a school in an important way and does help student acheivement.
Mr. Michael Casserly of the Coucil of Great City Schools responds:
You are right about education proclaiming its support for individualized instruction but often providing the opposite. Part of the problem is attitudinal and inertia, and some of it involves costs. Research, however, has taught us over the last several years about learning styles and child development that points to greater tailoring of instruction. Technology offers some opportunity to fulfill the promise of individualized instruction. In addition, many school systems--particularly large urban ones--are reducing the size of their individual schools to permit more direct and frequent child-adult contact.
There are lots of forces right now, however, that are pulling schools towards more standardization of curriculum and testing. Some of this will likely be for the good as achievement levels rise and we are able to gauge how our children are doing in comparison with other nations.
I share your concern about education boiling down to a checklist of skills. Education--and good schooling--is a broader endeavor that transcends checklists in favor of enriching the human spirit.
Finally, I am not sure I understand your final question about students leaving school. Most education is outside the classroom anyway, as schools only have the children for a few hours each day. Education is a community affair. Improving community support of education and learning ultimately helps the schools do a better job.
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