Monday, January 03, 2005

Greetings and Happy New Year! I’m working with a new computer today, so if you didn't receive this by email today, please alert me at swilliams1@cox.net, and thank you very much.

Wishing you a healthy, happy new year.

-- S.



A Go Big Ed reader asked for some common-sense solutions for school improvement, and an expert’s answers follow:

Q. What do experienced educators want to change in the way schools are run today?

Interestingly, they don’t necessarily clamor for more money. And they don’t wish for more experiments and "research" to fix our education problems. Veteran educators say they already have the resources and the knowhow for excellent teaching. What needs to happen is a fresh new look at those resources and that knowledge.

The basic principles of what works are timeless. A return to them would have to come from inside the education establishment, though, or there’d be too much resistance from the entrenched education bureaucracy. What’s needed is for longtime educators to do a better job of teaching younger teachers what’s needed, and why. Then they can build up a critical mass of well-informed professionals to win over the bureaucracy and the policymakers. That may be the only answer for innovation and change.

According to Charles R. Lewis, longtime math teacher and author of a series of math textbooks, here’s a basic list of what schools need to put back into place:

-- administration-enforced discipline
-- rigorous test-based passing standards
-- placement based on achievement
-- sequential, thorough presentation of concepts within disciplines
-- elimination of interdisciplinary, "integrated," and thematic approaches
-- elimination of group-based projects and grading, and a return to the belief in individualism
-- ceasing the stigmatization of religion, especially Christianity
-- elimination of "issues-based," politicized curricula
-- a return to the concept of "teacher" as opposed to "facilitator of learning," "activity leader," or "classroom manager”
-- banning of "cooperative learning," "authentic assessment," constructivism, "holistic scoring," "performance-based projects," and countless other ineffective, nonacademic concepts
-- genuine local control
-- the reimposition of the supremacy of arithmetic and phonics

Lewis concludes his list with a zinger. “Oh, what the heck: the closing of all government schools and their replacement with home schools, church schools, and amalgams.” That might be the best and fastest way to get power back into the hands of parents and teachers.

It’s a brand new year. We can dream, can’t we?

Homework: Lewis and other education writers appear on www.EdWatch.org and www.EducationNews.org

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