Saturday, November 28, 2009

Education for a democratic and pluralistic society: part 2 of 3

A good cycle: the circle of life. A bad cycle: the following.

(As part of my Masters of Education, Instruction and Curriculum, I'm required to take a course called Education for a Democratic and Pluralistic Society [EDTE 251, Loeza]. Within this course, I was supposed to write two position papers on a topic of my choice, conduct an interview, and create a presentation using technology on the same topic. Here is part two of three of my technology project.)

In my previous paper, I noticed the long and difficult journey school systems take in their path towards reform. In my second paper, The Unbreakable Cycle of Reform, I analyze the mistakes US education policy leaders continue to make, including some misguided ideas proposed by the Obama Administration.

Many times, public schools cycle through similar education movements without gaining much ground in lasting changes for learning. What makes school reform so difficult and how can educators break this seemingly unbreakable cycle?

Most of the ideas from my second paper can be seen in this previous post, which presents a rebuttal to a CNN Opinion editorial by Ruben Navarrette Jr. I reiterate my points here:

1) Funneling all students into four-year universities is, in itself, a type of low expectation. There are educational opportunities outside classroom walls. For example:

- Peace Corps and other similar service related programs
- internships
- teaching abroad
- work studies (work part-time, study topics related to the work part-time under one or more teachers - which is basically a modified internship)

This is a very small list. Even the powers of Google wasn't able to bring up many options. More ideas are definitely needed.

Also, comparing students from low SES backgrounds with students from high SES backgrounds is unfair. Students from low SES backgrounds CAN learn - they are just not always learning the same things as their wealthier peers.

2) The traditional school setting - including schedule and hierarchy, among other things - is not particularly convenient to both students or staff.

3) Continual, high-stakes testing is only one method of assessing student achievement. Other methods should be used in order to get a complete picture of where students are academically. This information should be used as a launching point for further instructional goals, not solely as an assessment on teacher performance.

I'm suddenly reminded of US Secretary of Eduction Arne Duncan's interview on The Colbert Nation a couple months ago:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Arne Duncan
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating

Notice that Secretary Duncan makes no mention of NCLB, but nearly everything he said is, in essence, NCLB. Also, NCLB highly resembles other movements in US reform history, the results of which are nearly identical to our results now.

Which has good intentions, but will probably not achieve the goals it set out to do.

So how can these goals be met? Should these goals be met at all? Does increasing the high school graduation rate actually mean these same graduates are now independent, well-rounded members of society, ready and willing to contribute to their communities?

I proposed in my paper that lasting societal changes can be - and are being - achieved through small individual choices by educators, students and parents. Teachers should adjust practices within their realm of influence in small, logistically manageable steps. Perhaps they can include one more group project that requires students to create something. Perhaps they can schedule an afternoon of community service at a local park, or even within their own school site. Perhaps schools can bring focus onto current national and world events by bring the news to the students, or, better yet, showing students how to get the news for themselves.

Then, perhaps, students will have both the skills and the mental initiative to become news-makers themselves.

(In a positive way. I don't think the world needs another "Britney is a bad mom" headline.)

No comments: