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Need to Know, February 11, 2011: Ahead of the class

As the nation debates how to get the best performance out of students and teachers, Need to Know presents an hour devoted to success stories in teaching. The program highlights three dramatic stories of academic transformation – focusing on literacy, physical education and science education.

Watch the individual segments:

School of thought in Brockton, Mass.

In 1998, when Massachusetts implemented new standardized testing, administrators at Brockton High School, the largest public school in the state, learned that more than 75 percent of their 4,000 students would fail to graduate. But thanks to a small group of dedicated teachers who implemented a school-wide program to bring reading and writing lessons into every classroom, even gym, Brockton is now one of the highest performing schools in the state.

A physical education in Naperville

While physical education has been drastically cut back across the country — in response to budget concerns and test score pressures — Naperville Central High School, in the Chicago suburbs, has embraced a culture of fitness: PE is a daily, graded requirement. And for one group of struggling students, there’s an innovative program to schedule PE right before their most challenging classes. In the six years since that program started, students who signed up for PE directly before English read on average a half year ahead of those who didn’t, and students who took PE before math showed dramatic improvement in their standardized tests.

Good chemistry

Most people agree that for the U.S. to remain competitive in the global economy, we need more people in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). But today, two-thirds of college students who start out majoring in the sciences end up switching concentrations. One university in Maryland is bucking that trend. Under the leadership of Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County is transforming the way science is taught, emphasizing lab settings and small group problem solving. The results: more students majoring in subjects like chemistry and more students passing the class. The University has also been a leader in minority achievement in STEM fields. In the school’s Meyerhoff Scholars Program, which focuses on high-achieving minority students, nearly 90 percent graduate with degrees in science or engineering.

Education roundtable

Alison Stewart leads a lively discussion with education reformers about practical solutions that work. Panelists include: Dr. Susan Szachowicz, principal of Brockton High School in Massachusetts and one of the reform leaders; Zakiyah Ansari, parent leader with the Coalition for Educational Justice in New York; and Dr. Pedro Noguera, Professor of Education at New York University and author of “The Trouble with Black Boys…And Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education.

In Perspective

Why access to a good public education is the civil rights issue of our time. An essay by Jon Meacham.

Web Exclusive Segments

Girl mathletes run the numbers

While opportunities for women in the sciences have grown, women remain a minority in co-ed math competitions. But at this prestigious high school-level math contest, the winner is guaranteed to be a girl.

Brockton’s retired teachers devise a script for success

Brockton High School’s principal and three retired teachers brainstorm to come up with a “script” for those looking to replicate the school’s success.

Getting kids out of their seats

At Naperville Central High, a suburban school outside of Chicago, educators are committed to combining movement with learning. In many classrooms here, teachers are getting their kids up using “brain breaks.” The idea is that splitting up a lesson with exercises will help kids stay more focused and attentive. And educators here say it doesn’t cost a penny.

Share your education ideas!

If you’re an educator and you have one practical idea that can be implemented in a classroom to help students, then take part in our Education Ideas project. Upload a video that discusses your idea to our YouTube channel, and we’ll pick some of the best ones to showcase on our website, and possibly our national broadcast.
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  • Matt Leone

    Secretary Duncan was recently asked by a teacher of high-needs, at-risk students, who may be involved with court, or facing various challenges, “Will I lose my job?” The question was related to merit pay, and the Race to the Top qualification that winning states partially tie teacher evaluations to student-test scores. Secretary Duncan’s articulate answer said that the intent of merit pay was just the opposite, but did not address the fact that many students continue to be tracked, and year-to-year progress may be more difficult to attain in a negatively-tracked environment amid the turbulence and often unpredictability of adolescent development than in a higher-track. How do we address this “false start,” now with teachers’ jobs potentially on the line, as this legitimate question seems to go unanswered? It’s wonderful that schools continue to innovate according to individual needs, but I’m worried that factors outside of a teacher’s control–tracking, inequitable funding, political pressure to “hide” behavior statistics–may send the best policy intentions awry, and lead to more teaching to the test while waiting for assessments to innovate, creating a “false start” for students in tracked sections, the teachers themselves now at risk for poor test scores. This can in turn lead to a designation of ineffectiveness, even in light of social and psychological progress among students, and thereby unemployment. I do not wish to take away at all from the inspiring innovations of schools, and the inspiration the students have given me. I worry though, I hope not unwarrantedly, of the larger political pressures weighing down, and hope they continue to be examined.

  • Dr. J

    Rah-rah–we sure need it in/on the field. Loved O’s SOTU, rhetorically speaking, except for “stop making excuses for the bad ones” line (which speechwriter was that?). Can you imagine if he was referring to doctors, lawyers, engineers or any other profession besides teachers? The scary part is the speechwriter probably was working from the polling numbers that said, when it comes to education reform, the public wants the heads of the teachers on the public platter. I’m a classroom teacher and I have an idea based on Americans’ sense of fairness and data I’ve studied that might close the achievement gap–PowerPoint notes for 10-minute presentation available upon demand: Rates to schedule a live presentation in the DC-area are widely negotiable.

  • judianne

    So nice to see a real solution with positive, proven outcomes, not another state-mandated theoretical mandate.

  • dweksler

    Dear Alison Stewart and Jon Meacham,

    Thank you with ALL my heart for the episode of “Need to Know” that aired Friday, 11 February 2011. The segments on Phys. Ed. at Napierville and the following one on math at UMBC are EXACTLY what people need to see. I work with educators, focussing on math and technology and this is FANTASTIC. You ma be interesting in a new effort to open a Museum of Mathematics in New York City by the Spring of 2012. Please take a look at I live in New Jersey and work with teachers in the metropolitan area.

    Thank you again and I encourage you to do more stories (they are out there) about math and education.

    Best wishes.

    – David Weksler @dweksler

  • De Teodoru

    I’m almost 70 and in Paris in the 50s we had PE from 7 AM to 7:45 PM. This “physiology of exercise” PBS’s NEED TO KNOW just discovered to be part of a saying in Ancient Greece: SOUND MIND IN A SOUND BODY.

    So what are you doing except proving that your American educators have been a bunch of morons driven by other issues that the obvious best interests and functions of the students?

    As the father of young Americans, AND AS A NEUROBIOLOGIST, I beg you to stop with the easy answers and easy explanations. For example, study ontogeny: the human mind begins to learn relationships between shapes, including size, thus proportions. That means GEOMETRY is a brain factor before arithmetic. In fact, the latter is nothing but a useful means of increasing what you do “by sight” with the former.

    Perhaps our teachers need a pre-licensing obligation to spend a year in Africa and see how kids are taught the skills they need to be useful contributors to self and family survival.

    KEY POINT: the ontogeny of learning tells us that basic PROBLEM SOLVING is impossible without learning tools and how to use them. Teach solid geometry by 3rd grade, just as we had it in Europe, and calculus will be grasped before the raging hormones of adolescence distract one’s mind. High School should be a time of self-directed project….All the years before must be a disciplined drudge from 7AM to 6PM each day with lots of PE intervals, as it was for us. By 10th grade you should be learning data manipulation and problem solving partly guided, partly on your own. THERE SHOULD BE NO COLLEGE EDUCATION. ALL YOUR LIBERAL ARTS SHOULD BE ACQUIRED BY THE END OF HIGH SCHOOL. COLLEGE ONLY IMPOVERISHES THE FAMILY: SO THE KID CAN GO TO PROFESSIONAL SCHOOL RIGHT AFTER HIGH SCHOOL. My med school classmates in 1st year were all 18 years old– I was 40!

    In 6 years of med school they acquired real skills, all by using skills acquired in elementary school and practiced in high school. Let’s stop using 4 years of college to make up for 12 lost years of public education– the free years a waste, the expensive years a disability (1/3 of all college freshmen drop out never to return).

    The ontogeny of the brain was long known. So don’t experiment at expense of kids who pay with their futures for your mistakes. Apply the systems that always worked for centuries.

    Lastly, don’t teach because you love teaching or love the subject you teach. Teach only once you feel that you really love each and every student you teach. Retired, I now tutor community college kids and I love them all as if my own. So far my old age pains are relieved by the bright eyes, the dropped jaw, the smile and “OOOOh, now I get it, kool!”

  • Fosis

    At last! Need to Know has finally found it’s ‘legs.’

    Seriously, if NTN only broadcast monthly but was this good, I’d make sure I never missed it!

    Bill Moyers, you may now retire in peace.

  • Lpogensky

    why not 10 programs on education. One great program doesn’t do it!

  • Ranubo

    Need to Know does much better when it examines an issue in depth like this! Please don’t try to cover the news of the week. Other programs are my go to source for that kind of news. This education piece was fantastic. This is what you do best.

  • AC Bonfield

    Excellent program tonight. Thank you! And thank you for bringing up the issue of “blunt talk” about race and education at the end. This is a conversation our nation really needs to have and I think it could be a show in-and-of itself. We need to hear not just about how race is a factor as to what some kids need, but also how race plays out in teacher-to-teacher relationships, teacher-to-administrator relationships, and teacher-to-student relationships. Believe me when I tell you this is a HUGE, unspoken issue on campuses across the country.

    I taught in Charlotte, NC with faculty members of many racial backgrounds and students who were primarily African-American. I encountered students thinking I was trying to get them to “act white” by teaching them “formal” register and faced many disciplinary situations where the older, black teachers could address student misconduct in ways I would be fired for doing so myself. There’s a lot that could be examined in a piece on this topic and I’d be happy to participate.

    I hope you will consider the idea!

  • Anthony

    As an educator in NYC who is struggling to manage the last few years of corporate style solution based on standardized test prep it is refreshing to see that we all havn’t lost our mind yet. Thank you to the people at Need to Know who are now bringing sensible and effective approches to some of our societies most pressing issues. If Brockton H.S has found success then this one approach should be share with schools all over our nation {I will be sharing it now}. But let’s not rest on this one success story. Let us also look deeper at what is happening to our communities at the socio-economic levels. Why are young people from the most challenged families unable to recover from years of failure? This ongoing and cyclical negative social phenomenon is also at the root of what urban educators face day in and day out. If we don’t take a good look at ourselves in the societal mirror and be honest about our socio-econoimic failures we will continue to have an uphill battle accross our struggling nation.

    Let’s also look at how teachers are being trained. Part of education programs for young teachers should be directed at the mulitple ways in which to engage students in all subject areas. With out engagement you have lost half your students even before you get a 1/4 of the way through. We are human and if the brain and/or emotion is not engaged then we all know {young & old} the outcome. One way I highly recommend is embeding moral questions into curricula. If as educators we shy away from the most provocative issues and questions that all human beings want to talk and think about then you have forfeited a wide array of opportunties to engage and direct the moral and ethical conscience of students. I have had phenomenal success in using moral and existential questions to generate conversations and engage students in high level critical essay writings. And these are young people how had lttle interst in picking up a pen for more than 5 mins. Here is the link to a book by Katherine G.Simon that will transform any educators practice from good to incredible! As Brookton did I would am now working on passing this right through to a cross curculum approach. Best to all. – Anthony

  • Jeanette Kroese Thomson

    Right On! Your Need To Know program on education was terrific! I think your approach to show successful programs that are working gives the right solutions to success–active thinking & active learning. Actually we can all learn from what you featured for life-long learning: exercise to keep brain cells alive and growing; using strategies to comprehend while reading, etc.; problem solving together to reach higher levels of understanding. One more thing I would add–is using all these strategies at home as well as school. Parents can participate by learning and thinking with their children. Also, thanks for your emphasis of Public Education for all. This is so important to promote equal human rights towards a strong democracy. The world is moving for sure that direction with the powerful process happening in Egypt right now. Thanks again for your responsible and informitive program. Jeanette Kroese Thomson,

  • Jeanette Kroese Thomson

    Right On! Your Need To Know program on education was terrific! I think your approach to show successful programs that are working gives the right solutions to success–active thinking & active learning. Actually we can all learn from what you featured for life-long learning: exercise to keep brain cells alive and growing; using strategies to comprehend while reading, etc.; problem solving together to reach higher levels of understanding. One more thing I would add–is using all these strategies at home as well as school. Parents can participate by learning and thinking with their children. Also, thanks for your emphasis of Public Education for all. This is so important to promote equal human rights towards a strong democracy. The world is moving for sure that direction with the powerful process happening in Egypt right now. Thanks again for your responsible and informitive program. Jeanette Kroese Thomson,

  • Cubadad

    I am certain that your coverage of our educational system is the most important piece of reporting you have undertaken since the inception of your fine program. Give us more in-depth coverage of important, and possibly controversial, subjects!

    I am not in the educational field. I am 82 years old and have watched the decline of our educational system for many years. I fervently hope, for the benefit of my grandchildren, that in some manner educators (and parents) “get a handle on it” and rescue our failing schools. All of us need to realize that more money alone is not the “magic bullet”!

  • Ksetzekorn

    I agree that this was a great program. My only caveat is that while $ is not the “magic bullet,” in their need to cut budgets, administrators have exacerbated problems by eliminating physical education (i.e., Naperville’s “brain breaks”) and increased class size (cited as one reason for the low # of American college science graduates). Funding is a necessary, not sufficient condition for education success. Money does not guarantee success, but lack of money guarantees failure.

  • MrsJefferson

    These teachers are right. Unions are good for education. Teachers are educated and a valuable resource and should be treated as such.

    Charter and religious schools getting tax payer dollars violates the Constitution. Why should one group of students have a better education and more funding than the others? Or not be held to the same standards?

    Athletic programs are necessary for a well rounded student.

  • Chuck

    After watching this week’s program dealing with education I was extremely impressed with Alison Stewart. This was one of the most insightful programs I have watched and her interview skills really capped off a great program. CNN’s loss was our gain. I only wish more people would turn to PBS and take the opportunity to learn from programs like this. Thank you.

  • Dr. S

    This February 11, 2011 Need To Know program on education is one of the finest concise investigations into what we need to do to substantially improve learning in our US schools. Congratulation!

  • Sue

    Tonight’s show about education was really good. We live in a town neighboring Brockton and it was impressive to see how well they are doing. What I didn’t hear throughout tonight’s segment was any mention of special education. This perhaps is the most “broken” part of public education in this country. In many communities the same educators who must propose and sign off on the individual education plan that should detail what a child with special needs needs to fully participate in school, are also the very same people who must find the money in an already tight budget to finance these often costly adaptations. It is not only a conflict of interest, but an impossible “Sophie’s Choice” position for any educator to be in.

    Many public schools are quite able to put together wonderful programs for those children with severe and obvious disabilities. However for children who may have fallen inbetween the cracks years ago, or labeled as “weird” or “lazy” in the past, this is not necessarily true. And with the rise in children with pediatric developmental diagnoses that were unheard of a generation ago, schools often do not know what to do with these children and we are failing them.

    Often schools will attempt to use the resources they already have and ask the child who has special needs adapt rather than finding a way to adapt to the child. As the parent of a high functioning child with special needs I know this first hand. I have met many parents of special needs children through the years and have heard many horror stories related to public education of our children.

    Special education is still a well kept secret in the media, it seems. So to hear such an insightful show as tonight’s Need to Know about education with no mention of the education of children who have special needs was a bit disappointing. Perhaps you will consider devoting a segment to this important topic in the near future?

  • Glenn Schmucker

    I am a retired Chemistry/Physics teacher from a large suburban school.The cornerstones of my teaching in my classroom were; “That you cannot teach a man anything, you can only help them find it within themselves.”, Galileo: “Learning is the process of making sense of your experiences in terms of your prior knowledge.” and “Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” In every classsroom, each student has a different knowledge base, the challenge is how to help that student make sense of the experiences that they face each day. The greater the variety of experiences that an individual experienes, the more opportunities they have of learning. This means that parents, the community, the school and student are all involved in the learning process. All should be active in the process of learning 24/7. The school has the student only a small portion of the day. The student, parents and community have control of larger portion of the day.
    I commend Need To Know for showing communities that are willing to change their approach to the learning process in their community. I am sure there are many more examples of communitiesthat have been successful in the education of their community. Change is difficult for all, it is refreshing to see communities that were willing to make big changes in this process of learning.
    Glenn S

  • Shelley Lewis

    Thanks for your comment. Special education, and special needs kids, deserve and will get the focus they need from this program. On our January 21 show we did a story, which you can find here on our website, about the problem of special needs kids and young adults whose care is threatened by state budget cuts. And we’re working on another story now.

    Shelley Lewis
    Executive Producer

  • Larry

    I agree. I am involved as a member of the Board of Education in a small “rust belt” community. Over 37% of our students are classified as “special needs”. It seems to me that the thrust is in getting the “paperwork” done. Getting to the kids is “catch as catch can”. Not sure of the “fix”, but it takes most of my time attempting to find “fixes’.

  • Dfromtennessee

    I’m not a teacher, but a parent of two children who have graduated from the public school system. I think it is important for all of us to continually focus on improvements to the public education system even if we no longer have children in the system. How can we build a successful society without successfully educating all children, not just our own? Most parents are not equipped to do it alone and teachers shouldn’t be expected to do it alone. We all have to work together. I haven’t been very involved since my children graduated high school, and these Need to Know segments have inspired me to try to get more involved in the community dealing with the public education system.

    @Glenn Schmucker, I would like to share your comments which are very sensible and inspiring words with my teacher friends and others.

  • Mtlaster

    I was very excited to see the educational focus on Need-to-Know, especially the direct reference to brain research as validation for physical education exercises before hard classes, like math and English, because the exercise encourages new neuron growth. But it was also gratifying to hear the choir director explain what I recall as a movement some decades back, and which had the slogan, “Every teacher, a teacher of reading.” Having her singers research and write about the historical setting of the musical, “Les Miserables,” with such excellent results underscored the value of interdisciplinary teaching. That is also validated by brain research. In the 1980′s I read about brain research in learning and memory, and wondered who might be telling teachers how to best apply this. Dr. Joan Fulton of Richmond, VA, herself a Piaget scholar, interpreted the research and developed CPOI, the cognitive process of instruction, which she taught in summer courses at Radford University. I took those classes, and found it changed my approach to teaching for the last 17 years of my 42-year career back in the twentieth century. The way teachers introduce new curriculum concepts can imitate the way the brain picks up on ideas and objects in the outside world and generalizes that knowledge in a representative form. But the brain continues to connect information that seems to be related to the original concept; and if teachers can present new concepts in a brain friendly way, and then help students make connections with that concept’s dimensions or diversities, students won’t be left to make those connections on their own. I found this teaching approach so efficient, and intergrating subject areas with themes so good at building interest and enthusiasm in learning, that I shared my experiences in two books. I do hope your program spurs more interest in applying brain research and encouraging interdisciplinary learning, as I have already noticed some instances in websites of educational newsletters along those lines as well. We may get back to what “educare” [to lead out] really stands for in education.

  • Sue

    Thank you. I look forward to viewing the 1/21 show and seeing the story you are working on now! I appreciate you bringing attention to this important segment of our young population.

  • Osnacox

    as a teacher for 40 years i am happy to see that the testing craze is finally being questioned along with the idea that charter schools are the answer to to educational problems. It’s time to support and save public education. It’s the foundation of our democracy. Thank you!a

  • Johnp

    Why should a teacher of music, art , social studies and other non core studies have to change their curriculum and document it and incorporate it daily, which adds hours of extra work that they are not getting extra pay for. It seems to me that elementary and high school math and english teachers and parents are not getting the job done and these other teachers are having to make up for them.

  • Customer77

    Public Education has turned into a travesty for low income students. Unless middle class teachers change there attitudes about the poor, home schooling maybe the only option left for parents who want to see their children achieve. LOW-Expectations of teachers is what has fail our children.

  • Dbattle4

    Are there copies of the video available for schools district interested in new ideas?

  • Frustrated

    Social Studies/Civics/History all fall under the same category and are core studies. I taught Chemistry and Biology in the public school system for a year. I always felt that the non-core teachers got away with murder while the core instructors had to do back flips to help students achieve competency in these areas as measured by some bogus standardized exams. In all fairness, high school teachers in all areas should work together to achieve the goals of the school and help our students learn vs. pointing fingers
    I transitioned to a university setting about 4 years ago and was teaching at a community college when I was with the public school system. Be assured, the students coming from most public schools are not ready for a collegiate environment. Your best music student better be able to do the basic science, writing, reading, and mathematics required at any accredited college to get a degree. It is in everyone’s best interest that these core areas are emphasized.

  • Nadirahwailliams

    I thinking active learing is a a great way of teaching when you are a person like me who learied all thier life form a (baby to adult) doiing thing an learning from thier mistakes.

  • ABUSH64780

    In class I always had to explain to others in my one on one woodwind instrument class and my piano one on one class I learn alot when I said it back to them it help me more sometimes I explain my music theory to some one who have no idear but it helps me not them.I also help people out working out.

  • Anncha1

    This DVD, produced for Arkansas WAND, may be of interest when teaching Elementary School. How to instill respect from day and learning to “attack the problem, not the person”.
    Students and teachers have been counting fight free days since 1989 and are always sad when a record is broken. Young lives have been changed forever with their newly acquired skills to resolve conflicts and accept differences.
    Anncha Briggs

  • Anncha1

    Need to add to above comment
    Something got lost in the posting the title of the the DVD
    Woodruff: A Lesson of Non-Violence

    From day one students learn to “attack the problem. not the person”

  • Mikem

    I didn’t see all of this show, but loved what i saw. I have had one child graduate from private school and one from public school and appreciated both. When I turned on the T.V. it the show was mentioning a 30 year old report and it seem like from the comment I heard, that the point being made was that we are 30 years down the road and are we any closer to educational reform. I am now 50 and at least in my lifetime I have seen none and don’t expect to see any except on a case by case basis as this show hilights. All of these examples are excellent, but national education reform isn’t going to happen until the right questions are being discussed. The right question is why are so many people untrusting of public education and less and less willing to trust their kids to it. Private schools, charter schools etc… are just parents looking for alternative education for thier children, because they don’t believe in public education. Why? We can tell them their wrong, but we won’t create change until we deal with Why? Here is my best guess from my own conversations with hundreds of parents.

    Whether we like, agree with it or are completely against it, our country has at least 50% of its population that skews to the conservative side. Not in every position and in many varying degrees. But within this 50% are a significant percentage, perhaps as much as 40% or more, that also have a spritual focus in their lives. Whether it be Budhist, Moslem, Christian or whatever, it is a core position in their household and in their worldview. The average american public school, denies, puts down and humiliates anyone or any belief system that is not completely human centered, and thus creates an automatic wall between a families beliefs system and the schools.

    What would happen if our public schools actually tried to create a values neutral learning environment. What is so completely bad amount a moment of silence in a school for quiet comtempation, in whatever way a child believe appropriate. Intelligent design is not weirdo science. It can be discussed in a public environment and the right people, with truly impeccable education behind them, can create the curriculum that teaches it alongside of evolution.

    If a huge percentage of the U.S. population has a spiritual grounding and our school systems decry such beliefs as archaic, irrational or worse then why do we wonder that parents don’t trust public school systems with their children. This issue is not going to go away any time soon and therefore educational reform will not happen on a national level.

    A great deal of the universities in this country were started by religiously oriented people. Spiritually oriented people are some of the most involved parents in their childrens education. Religion is not irrational except in those cases where the individual makes it so. In millions of peoples lifes being a person of spirituality is the most rational and thought out aspect of their lives. Some of the most educated people in this country are people of profound faith and spirituality.

    Until education reform can deal with these issues it will never garner the support of the 40% and without this significant core of people placing a renewed trust in public education it will only change one place at a time when amazing people do amazing things, as were shown in the T.V. episode.

    Education is not the most significant Civil Rights issue of our time. It is the most important issue facing this countries future in the world. It’s bigger than civil rights, much bigger. I just hope we can be brave enough to have the discussions we need to have to get there. I don’t here us even asking the right questions yet. It will likely take a crisis of profound failure before true national reform happens. That is a tragedy and the hundreds of millions of young minds and hearts that will lose thier opporunities to impact the world is a shame. Adults who can’t open thier hearts and eyes to talk about tough issues, keeping children from having the opportunities they deserve. Now that is a Civil Rights issue. And the question is whose to blame? It’s obviously not the kids.

    I hope this conversation happens some day. I hope we can start to ask the right questions and deal with the outcomes needed. I hope I get to be part of it. For the sake of my grand children and their children.

  • TBThom

    As an educator and so I’m glad for this program, however…

    I do wish the segment on collaborative literacy education had presented the other side of that issue. There are many fantastic professionals who are deeply concerned about what many of us increasingly feel is a horrific downside to these programs. These teachers are not- as the program quite unfairly portrayed- lazy union types. Indeed, among the most common complaints I hear is that there’s no teaching anymore, just playtime.

    This is a broad topic, but here’s some food for thought:

    1) This stuff is all about finding the common denominator. There is tremendous upside for those below the mean, but who has stopped to consider those above? I’m in a district where a typical middle school book was, say, “A Light in the Forest,” an underclassmen book “The Scarlet Letter” and an upperclassmen book “A Portrait of the Artist as Young Man.” Thanks to collaborative literacy, “A Light in the Forest” moves to HIGH SCHOOL(!) “Scarlet Letter” to ADVANCED PLACEMENT, and the idea of anyone reading Joyce is laughable. What about the next generation of doctors, engineers, and thinkers? Those above the mean pay a massive toll in the collaborative literacy model and I think those concerns should be shared.

    2) Has anyone really paused for 10 seconds to consider that colleges like Ohio State or Lesley University who are “certifying” schools as “collaborative literacy schools” are BUSINESSES selling a product to public entities. To me, the scam is pretty nakedly apparent. My school has literally forbidden photocopying (this is absolutely true) because there is no money for more toner, yet the checks to our certifying university and the hotel rooms for their professors just keep on flying off the presses. Meanwhile, the ceiling literally fell in on our band room… there go the arts.

    3) What ever happened to introversion and independence? Was Bach forced to share what he was working on? Of what would humanity be bereft had Bach been asked to constantly stop and explain why/how he was writing to his “sharing group”: the St John Passion, the Cello Suites, the 140th Cantanta? I, for one, think all of this is complete nonsense. Smart people have worked independently for thousands of years. Mr. Meacham, go rewrite “American Lion,” but stop every 30 seconds and explain to your group (who are 60 IQ points below you) what/why/how you’re thinking. On this topic, in particular, I could go on and on.

    I’m a very progressive guy. I hold DEEPLY progressive values. In a city like Brockton, perhaps this was a grand and glorious solution, and I commend that whole team who were obviously so inspiring. But it’s application in a town like mine (medium household income over 70k, 98.5% white) I’m sorry to say it but this is left wing nonsense from the 60s gone completely off the rails. If you asked around, you’d be hard pressed to find a teacher in the district with a reputation for work-ethic better than mine, but I’m sorry folks I can’t see this nonsense as anything other than a scam being imposed by clever universities and what I like to call “the great watering-down.”

  • Mtlaster

    I do understand what you see as watering down curriculum (and the learning challenge) when heterogeneously grouped students are involved in active, or collaborative learning. For nine years I was the English teacher on a team of four core subject teachers where English and social studies teachers followed interdisciplinary themes all three years for grades 6 through 8, curriculum designed for identified gifted students. I felt we covered four years in three. It was amazing to see what they could do together and individually with simulations, activities, projects, literature groups, etc. It could not have been done with students in average groupings without watering down the materials for those able to do “more.” Perhaps we have to be realistic and serve the extremes of the Bell Curve separately so as to be able to work with developmentally appropriate materials and assignments; otherwise we cheat those two groups from achieving more of their potential. But collaborative or active learning is terrific for any student; didn’t Jerome Bruner say you can teach a child anything at any level as long as you make it developmentally appropriate? It’s the mix of a “general population” that causes or dictates the watered-down aspects.

  • Vanessa Rogers

    I’m an English teacher in South Korea, and I have serious concerns about the president and America looking at South Korea as an example. The students here might test well, and the country has moved in incredible strides from a third world country to a world power, but it hasn’t been without costs. Education in this country is horrendous. The students learn, but with rote memorization and without critical thinking. Asking my students to do anything creatively is like asking them to pull their own tooth out. They don’t learn that way. AND what is pushing their education forward is not PUBLIC education but parents and pressure. Students attend other schools after public school to succeed. And if your student doesn’t do this, if you don’t have the money to send them to after school programs until 11 pm at night, don’t expect them to be able to go to a reputable university. And if they don’t go to a reputable university, their next job will be a taxi driver even with a university degree. Ask any student in South Korea what they think of their education system and you will understand why their youth suicide rate is the highest in the world. We do not want our education to emulate South Korea. Their population is shrinking because parents cannot afford to pay for their children’s education. I have a personal blog in which I write about numerous issues including silly and personal, but I often talk about education in this (korea) country. Feel free to come by and read more or comment.

    On another note, I love this segment, thank you so much for making this documentary. I plan to share this with as many people as I can.

  • David Kendall

    At the end of this broadcast, you ask viewers to submit videos of models that could improve American education. So please see the following:

    I won’t apologize for assaulting your sensibilities with this very sensible approach to business and education, but I won’t try to justify it either. While the Mondragon model stands very well for itself as the most equitable and efficient educational and business system in the civilized world, mainstream media tends to dutifully ignore and dismiss it as a freak accident that cannot possibly be replicated elsewhere.

    This faulty assumption deliberately misleads the many who ‘Need To Know’ otherwise. Moreover, it is a profound disservice to thousands of communities and millions of individuals throughout the world who could improve their lives immeasurably by emulating the most viable example in the world, provided by Mondragon.

    The video cited above is outdated. But conditions in Mondragon have improved significantly since that video was made, and a number of books have been written as testimony to the fact. Those include Greg MacLeod’s “From Mondragon to America” and Whyte & Whyte’s “Making Mondragon”. I’ll leave it to you to compare these sources with Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community” in arriving at the most obvious conclusions about the integration of education with business in the United States and elsewhere.

    The United States is a global loser in education for one simple reason: Learning is associated with wealth, as the latter is a condition of the former. These conditions will prevail as long as unemployment and poverty are the cornerstones of our economic system; the taskmaster’s whip that keeps the workforce obedient and drives wages down.

    The community of Mondragon has effectively solved these problems for more than 50 years by democratizing the workplace and capital investment and by making education and job creation their highest priorities.

    I hope you will eventually perform some research on Mondragon and broadcast your results for all the world to see. Thank you for your consideration.

  • Evelyn

    “Having her singers research and write about the historical setting of the musical, ‘Les Miserables,’ with such excellent results underscored the value of interdisciplinary teaching.”

    It would be even better if she got the history right–”Les Miserables” was not about the French Revolution of 1789 (as implied) but the French Revolution of 1848.


    NEED TO KNOW is nothing more than another republican puppet media outlet…. Today you criticize green energy and particularly solar energy…. When will you air a program that praises GENERAL MOTORS AND CHRYSLER and all the OEM suppliers that would have gone out of business if the mindless republicans had gotten their way and force both auto companies to file chapter 7 and go out of business and liquidate their assets….AGAIN, “NEED TO KNOW” IS JUST ANOTHER REPUBLICAN  BIASED RIGHT WING MEDIA OUTLET, MUCH LIKE NEWSHOUR !!!!!