from a public HS teacher (Gov't, Religion, Soc. Issues), who is eclectic (Dem-leaning) politically and Quaker (& open) on everything else. Hope you enjoy what you find here.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Comments for the Yearlykos2007 education project 

The material below is the comments and suggestion offered by the dailykos community in response to several diaries soliciting input for what we should address in our attempts to redesign American education. Thanks go to DeweyCounts for organizing these by topic. And if you have read this far, I apologize for the poor html of this blog.

1. History

2. Where we are now (standardization, punishment, lack of innovation)

(rhubarb)* I'm going for homeschooling out of desperation. I want my kid to associate joy, not fear and discomfort, with education.

(robertdfeinman) There are two models of education.

In one children are supposed to be taught how to learn and how to gather information for themselves. Let's call this the "think for yourself" model.

In the other children are supposed to be taught the important "truths" about the world. Among those is a respect for authority and to learn how to fit in to one's "station in life". Let's call this the "know your place" model. (BANKING? dc)

We see these themes played out at the political level as well. Currently we see a rise in the authoritarian model both in government and in the types of claims being made by popular religious groups.

The other model was proposed during the first half of the 20th Century by John Dewey and other "pragmatists". It worked well for over 50 years and led to an unprecedented growth in economic wealth, educational achievement and scientific progress.

Obviously NCLB is the perfect example of the authoritarian model, now with unprecedented federal intervention. If education is to be restored to its successful 20th Century model then the real issues of what type of society we are going to have needs to be addressed.

Dewey was one of the first to point out that democracy could only survive if the populace was educated, understood the role of science and knew how to "think for one's self".

(Rayne) Begin community-wide dialogue about the future of education and how it ties into the future of the local community. We need to talk about education being an investment in a community that attracts economic development, instead of treating education as a drain.

In the same dialogues, talk about what works -- not just what somebody is willing to sell. NCLB was "sold" to the American people by the Republican party under the branding of "The Texas Miracle". Screw that; it's a miracle that we were stupid enough to buy the concept, when so many other, better programs out there work.

Elect better representatives to the school board and to state legislature. We need to do a more effective job of identifying highly qualified candidates who are strong advocates for education, who are also grounded in science and the arts, who will go to bat for better education systems.

a number of discussions on funding, including some response to what I said about that for IDEA. Here is part of a comment from Sidof79: You are right again that the system of property tax for education is inherently flawed. A wealthy district can enact lower property tax rates and generate much more money than a high rate on low value neighborhoods. Essentially, this ensures that the wealthy will always receive a better education, public or private. The only way I can think of is 1) flat property tax, combined with 2) revenue sharing of some sort, in which property taxes are paid to the state DoE and redistributed (along with state funds) on a per-student level.

(SDorn) The interests of businesses and communities are not that far apart, as long as we think about things broadly. In the same way that we get irritated when friends are unreliable (who ever likes being stood up?), businesses have an interest in workers who are reliable. In the same way that we want neighbors who have good judgment and can prioritize things, so should businesses (we hope!). The critical word there is broadly.

3. The goals of education (humanization, democracy, work, thousand flowers bloom)

DFWmom: to be a lifeline for children… to socialize children of different backgrounds by teaching them a common curriculum of knowledge and skills, including citizenship…to identify children who are in need and to get help for them…to provide children with survival skills…to provide care for children during working hours, so that parents can work and contribute to our society.

(deweycounts) To be educated in a democracy means: To be able to identify, access, and utilize information from various knowledge systems in order to implement progressive change in a given space over a given amount of time…of course, if i am staying true to a democratic concept of education, the question "what does it mean to be educated" would have multiple, valid, responses....

(WarrenS) Kieran Egan points out several separate "goals" of Educational institutions: Exposure to a canon of approved materials (the "great books" approach); Socializing people to make them better participants in our culture; training people in logic and critical thinking; developing people's creativity and imaginative resources. Then he follows up by pointing out that these goals are inherently contradictory; the more we focus on one, the less we can actualize any of the others. Different educational theorists emphasize different goals, but very few have noted the disconnect between them.

(rserven) The purpose of the education process should be to teach people how to learn. The material covered in the actual teaching is often incidental to that goal: It is the medium in which the teaching occurs, not the point of the teaching. . . . I would suggest that the goal of education should be to construct a community of critical thinkers, and to do so demands that critical thinking itself needs to be applied to the process of how to build a pathway that can approach that goal.

(Alien Abductee) Democracy rests on the ability of the people to make informed decisions about their leaders and the policies they promote. A populace that doesn't understand its own form of government, its history, or the culture of other nations, and can't apply critical thinking and some level of philosophical analysis to national and world events isn't really able to maintain the checks and balances demanded by a liberal democracy.

Education for employment purposes should always be secondary. America needs to support a sound and widely accessible education system to maintain itself as a functioning democracy.

(DeweyCounts) Democracy, as I understand it through Dewey, is a form of associated living that fosters the growth of the individual through his or her participation in social affairs.

Free, reflective, critical social inquiry and the welfare of others undergird interaction, communion, and community building. Unlike authoritarian modes of government, democracy requires its members to participate in the political, social, cultural, and economic institutions affecting their development and, unlike authoritarian states, democracies believe in the capacity of ordinary individuals to direct the affairs of their society, including schools.

Active participation in various institutions—the reshaping and reinvention of norms, laws, and communities—should prevent homogenizing authoritarianism and allow for individual and community re-creation and growth…Finally, and importantly, democracy is not static. As individuals engage with, reflect on, and critique the worlds they inhabit, democracy itself evolves.

Goldberry, plf515 and others argue for insisting upon quantitative instruction, specifically an understanding of basic statistics. Methinks if we are educating citizens for democracy the ability to process statistical claims is an important thing to have.

4. Who is taught (customization and integration, the child and the community, nutrition, IDEA, IEP)

(Niemann) What is the role of children in our society in the first place? . . . I've come to the conclusion that in our society children are pretty much third-rate citizens. Simply put, the things we value, we take care of. Considering the state of children in our society as a whole -- that is, looking at poverty levels, availability of healthcare, support for families, quality of public education -- the inevitable conclusion is that we simply don't value children enough to take care of them. … our current structure and approach for school does NOT seem to value children as children, but only as a potential resource for the economy and society in the future.

(Fasaha) If we are going to reform our entire educational system, it makes sense to start at the beginning. We need a new first level of education that extends from prekindergarten to the third grade, since it is clear that children who do not leave third grade reading fluently, thinking systematically about mathematics concepts, etc. have a very difficult time catching up. see this related link: http://www.fcd-us.org/

(teacherken) I accept the idea that we have a responsibility to ensure that our students can read accurately a variety of kinds of texts and express themselves in a variety of written and spoken formats. But not all will achieve that by going through the same sequence of instruction, nor will all move through that or any other domain at the same speed. I believe that there is some validity to the work of Howard Gardner on multiple intelligences, and have found that students strongly oriented in one intelligence can use that strength to assist them when required to work in another intelligence. I watch as students who are not by nature either verbal-linguistic nor logical-mathematical struggle in a school environment in which perhaps 90% of their instruction and assessment in core subjects is the former with most of the rest being the latter.

(sandblaster) I taught Montessori for a number of years, and the dignity of each child was central to how we structured the classroom and schedule. Now my daughter is in High School and they round up all tardy students like stray cattle and shame them.

It seems the administration has lost sight of the trust they are supposed to build, and has instead dug a pit of fear for themselves, leaving the kids wholely unsupported as humans.

(OrangeClouds115) the importance of food and nutrition, the issue of obesity in our young children, and I responded with the additional concern about lack of phys ed and exercise and Mi Corazon reminded us of Eric Jensen’s “Enriching the Brain” which addressed both nutrition and exercise as necessary preconditions (LESS FOOTBALL MORE YOGA?)

(teacherken) we need to be sure that we connect health issues with learning. All children should be tested for vision and hearing problems at an early age, and if corrective action is needed, whether glasses or something else, that there be appropriate public funding available – one cannot expect a child to learn who cannot properly see or hear the material being presented.

Issues of nutrition and exercise are also relevant, but perhaps not easy to address. But we must also address them…The structure of the school day is physically unhealthy for growing kids and adolescents – we should structure into the day some down time, some chance to just be…

5. The teacher (professionalism, diversity, experimentation)

(SDorn) Children need to be in the hands of adults with authority who can model what we want children to become. This has three parts: the qualified adults part, the authority and trust part, and the meaningful stuff part.

(Granny Doc) One thing that has worked well in this rural area is to use Community College teachers in the high schools to offer classes that might not be otherwise available. They have been doing this for over 20 years and the result is an enriched education for our HS students, interesting information on teaching for the CC instructors, and far better preparation when the students go on to college.

6. What is taught (the canon, inquiry, engagement, resiliency, the arts)

(marescho) I would like every student to get a sense of our interdependence with the people and life support systems of the planet. I would like students to learn about other cultures, and in high school or college spend some time abroad, hopefully in a less developed region.

a number of people argued for more individualization of education, perhaps using the model of an IEP, while not necessarily following all the legal requirements of current IEPs. This idea of course needs to be combined with the concern for some minimal common learning, especially with regard to civics and US history.

(Sidof79) the concept of critical thinking skills is almost extinct in public education. The only time I see it is during Gifted evaluations. The new matrix allows a student to be identified as intellectually gifted if the student meets certain levels of a) academic achievement, b) cognitive ability, c) critical thinking, d) academic performance [different than achievement], and e) leadership. C-E are all assessed via teacher checklists. That means that if a teacher decides you have excellent critical thinking skills, then you do; if not, you don't. There are better ways of assessing critical thinking skills out there, and they need to be employed.

Critical thinking skills are just as essential to a public education as reading and math. Critical thinking skills are what makes Democracies work. Freedom of speech without critical thinking skills is a wasted freedom. Universal suffrage without critical thinking skills is a wasted freedom. In fact, most of our constitutional rights are based on the notion that we, as individuals, need to know when our rights are being violated. Without critical thinking skills, without problem solving skills, without objective analysis, they are empty rights.

(Cato come back) Distinction between individual desires and cultural ones.

(rhubarb)* Waldorf! Quirky, I know, but my mother almost inadvertently raised us kids following an informal Waldorf curriculum, and although I am the only one to finish a degree, all of us kids are well-rounded and make a great living doing what we love. Quirky as it is, Waldorf-type programs don't produce mall rats.

(Wide Waske in NJ) I've heard it suggested that future archaeologists won't be digging up math dittos to learn about today's culture and values. It's the arts that are always the most interesting and informative things to dig up when looking for evidence of intellect, expression, innovation, and history of a society. I've seen how the arts in education have saved many a student from failure... and has led to a lifetime of creativity for many.

(Mi Corazon) notes that educators can use “customization” as an apposite to standardization, with some reference to the understanding in the business world of meeting the needs of the customer. I included one quote from the comment in which I read this: “Education should be customized to the individual student, to fit his/her needs for meaning, vocational interest, personal and intellectual development.”

7. How we teach (experiment, replication, repetition, engagement)

(keener): There is some great research by Schank on this...the problem is that reading is a tool to be used for solving problems, and that to present it as an end in itself MAY be useful when building some basic code knowledge, but the usefulness of that model very quickly evaporates as children advance.

(Crustybunker) (THIS MIGHT WORK BETTER UNDER 8) Education should be designed around fields of interest as early as possible, with age barriers collapsed as much as possible.

There needs to be a general, age-appropriate curriculum that will be available to all kids, but if children display strong interests in mathematics, science, music, art, language, and eventually various subsets, like geology, physics, astronomy in the sciences, visual, computer and graphics in art, etc. those children should be grouped, and team-teaching the rule.

Imagine that: kids maybe K-3 all learning how the planet works, or how to program computers, or how to solve equations, or in a group orchestra, then stepping it up in complexity, always working in age groups where kids would normally have "age peers" like older or younger siblings, where the younger ones have examples and the older ones learn to teach and cooperate (damn hard to bully a little kid on the playground when he's your lab partner).

By the time a student reaches what we now call high school, he or she will have worked with others older and younger and with the benefit of focused studies, have a grasp of what is college-level thinking and skills. Why try to make kids as good in history as they are in science, or as good in Math as in art? Channel their interests and skills and ensure minimum across the board competence.

(DeweyCounts) we teach civic knowledge by refusing to divorce children from the communities that they live in….This means our science classes study water quality in local streams…This means our history class listens to the elderly…This means our 16 year olds spend time with 6 month year olds….This means our Language Arts students visit both the elderly and children to read and to listen to stories…This means constant conversation about the ideals that shape this country and about the obstacles that have historically prevented us from achieving them.

(barbwires) In teaching young adult musicians, or participating with them in master class experiences; occasionally I have worked with those trained in Orff disciplines and sometimes via the Suzuki method, as well as many who had private instruction of varying levels of competence. The Orff trained appear to have a more creative balanced approach to performance, with more expressiveness and freedom in their playing. The Suzuki trained students play extraordinarily well by rote, but sometimes expression seems to be lacking or is very subservient to the concept of "note-perfect." This is probably a horrendous over-generalization, but I've seen it more than once (and in some players of professional status as well as students).

In teaching to the test I fear we encourage rote-learning at the expense of creativity. It would be interesting to examine the ways music is taught and draw from the different schools to get more balance. I'd add that I don't know much about the Orff approach to music ed; a friend of mine was a Suzuki instructor and I watched her train students fairly frequently for a while.

8. What the interaction is like in classrooms/schools (the importance of failure)

(rhubarb)* How can public education institutions really help homeschoolers? Be they wackadoo fundies or people like, well, my family and me, we want to work with the schools in some aspects of education.

(Keener) The essence of America is the ability to fail multiple times.

We were founded by people starting this country as a second career. Washington was a failure, as was Sam Adams. More as well.

That's one reason why our bankruptcy laws have been historically lenient.

Part of the disturbing direction this country has taken is that you get to fail precisely once. If this continues, it will destroy both our peculiar dignity, and shut down the engines of our economic progress.

And I note that we can look at this in terms of Edison’ creativity – all the things he tried that didn’t work for a light bulb filament, and the entire idea of science, where you are approaching things trying to prove them wrong. Somehow this has to be part of our discussion and framework

(teacherken)Unless we create freedom to err, and to learn from our mistakes and from our ignorance, we cannot grow, we cannot change. We thus have a responsibility, each of us as individuals, to be willing to admit error and ignorance, and thus empower others to similarly be willing to acknowledge their all too human fallibilities and limitations.

9. How school systems are structured (increase fluidity, break down traditional barriers, open in the evenings for parents/community members, k-college funding)

A number of people, too many to quote, argued for more fluidity of movement through K-12 education, including possibly changing the start age, and letting students move apart from cohorts, either faster or slower as necessary. This of course is less “efficient” than having age-group cohorts, especially in lower grades, and might require teachers trained differently than those we have now

(Mi Corazon): At this point, I think we need to support "let a thousand flowers bloom." The United States already have a strong tradition of local control via school board and elections. Plus, the States are the ones who are charged with education under the constitution.

So, the first step TK, is to affirm that America's basic framework of educational responsibility flows to the state and local level.

(nightsweat) How about Pre-K to 16?...Ireland went from bottom of the heap to top of the pops by offering universal post-secondary education. Imagine an America where everyone who wanted to could get a basic college education.

(turkana) and, at the very LEAST college tuition should be fully deductible. long-term, i want to see college fully financed, too.

Or make it vocational training for those who prefer or are better suited to a trade than to a white-collar job. Instead of unskilled laborers we could have an apprentice system similar to the one in Germany to create skilled machinists, mechanics, technicians. Start with a pilot state or two and expand it from there. Heck, start with Alaska or Wyoming and watch the population triple.

(42) Get rid of lock-step age/grade configurations. They only came into being in the '20's.
Multi-age classrooms are an improvement, but even then may not be enough to handle children who are at either end of a subject spectrum.

Be it in English, Math, Science or the Arts, children should be able to work at an appropriate pace and challenge…(WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THE SKILLS CHALLENGE CONTINUUM HERE)

(saodl) argues for the Sudbury Valley approach, allowing kids to use their natural curiosity. There is no doubt that the structure of school often squeezes out time and opportunity for such exploration. It is also true that some students need structure to keep them going. So one question might be how we structure education, learning, school to account for both of these needs.

(LynnS) offered the idea of libraries as schools and schools as libraries. We currently have a situation where many schools lack adequate libraries, and public libraries have seen hours restricted by funding and staffing cuts. In some way if we are going to view education as a lifelong process, we need to also address issues like public libraries, and possibly see about working out relationships between public and school libraries, and possibly even community access to facilities in local colleges and universities. Certainly those higher education institutions that are publicly funded have a community obligation, but we might find many private institutions willing to cooperate, at least in part

(rhubarb) Why peer-group promotion? Do we really need to work in cohorts?

(Devilstower) We knocked this one around before, but I'm anxious to understand the thoughts on the "small schools" models.

I've waxed idyllic over my little high school back in Kentucky, but the reason I'm often enthusiastic about small schools -- along the lines of the ones that I've seen documented in Ohio and NYC -- is the experience I've had in managing large projects. So often, attempting to run such a project as one massive creature with huge and distant goals, results in failure regardless of the quality of the people involved. But break that same task down into small units with small, discrete goals, and things work.

In particular, there is a methodology called "Scrum" (as in rugby), that I've used on my last few projects to darn near mystical effect. It may be a delusion, but I have to think there's something in the way these iterative methodologies -- which recognize that mistakes will be made, schedules must be flexible, and people are individuals -- are applicable to education.

* realize you don't know everything going in, and plan for change instead of assuming you can research every issue up front.
* work in small, discrete units where the timeline is rigid, but the items to be tackled are flexible.
* deliver results as soon as possible, even if that means giving some tiny process to customers months ahead of the full project completion.
* keep daily contact with everyone on your project -- including your customers, and make sure everyone is aware of all decisions.
* make the manager's job making sure the pipeline is flowing, not manning the pump.

Here I note that our entire approach to education does NOT take into consideration such an approach – in fact we have fixed curricula, rigid pacing guides, benchmark tests at fixed points, and the like. A properly skilled teacher should be able to be far more flexible, able to move more quickly when possible and linger or cycle back when necessary.

kath25 argues that we change the procedures on repayment of education loans from being based on what you borrowed to being based on what you make, as is done in some other nations. The idea behind this is our current approach discourages people from pursuing occupations that are not as remunerative, and thus robs us of the abilities and skills of people we need in such occupations, including teaching. Dept of Ed direct loans under Clinton did allow for this, but the current administration has moved away from this, and more to for-profit institutions doing the loans, and they had little interest in such an approach.

10. How we define progress in education

(teacherken) In the process of claiming that we need to leave no child behind we increasingly rely upon measures that of necessity are unfair to some children whose brains work differently, we narrow the curriculum so that the intellectual stimulation of our children is being diminished, and then we wonder why even the measurements we impose seem never to demonstrate that what we are doing is succeeding, beyond raising scores on tests whose measurement is of a limited nature.

(formernadervoter): Point is this: test scores aren't really good measures of anything other that what you'd get on another corporate test.

The other measures better support kids' learning, excellent teaching, and tell parents best what kids know and can do. Research by Lorie Shepherd shows parents wants these better measures, not the bunch of facts, standardized, corporate controlled tests.

This model, progressive accountability, also has the virtue of putting assessment and accountability back in the hands of the local district professionals and away from McGraw-Hill and the other corporate giants wrecking our classrooms by thousands.

(scoff0165): The gist of my proposal, were it to be considered for implementation in our educational system, focuses on two areas of the student's experience. The first area, and the one I consider to be the more important of the two, is the student's desire as far as the content of the education he or she would receive. The second area is the student's needs for an education that equips him or her with the requisite skills to find employment in the 21st Century American labor market.

My proposal is really simple in that it tries to balance the needs of the student against his or her abilities and desires. What I would propose would be, first, a series of tests to determine the student's grasp of academic subjects. These tests would not be used as a measure of the success of the system, but rather as a gauge of the current level of competence exhibited by each student. Second, I would institute a series of questionnaires to ascertain the level of interest each student shows for particular subjects.

Together the tests and questionnaires could be used to develop an individual course of study for each student, geared to his or her level of attainment and areas of interest. We all know that people are much more likely to put real effort into learning about subjects in which they are interested. My proposal would use that knowledge to customize, as much as possible, the curriculum for each student and to create a course of study that would engage the student's abilities and interests.

Tests and questionnaires could be retaken periodically (in my thinking every 2-3 years) during the course of each student's time in school. Educators could then determine the effectiveness of the preceding years of study as well as changes in the student's likes and dislikes in regard to specific subjects.

In other words, a more personal approach to education should be used to develop a more individualized educational plan for each student, one which recognizes the individual abilities and preferences of the student. I believe that it is only by addressing the individuality of each student and his or her strengths or weaknesses can we create an educational system that serves the interests of society, the business community and the student equally.

11. How we talk about education in a democratic society (where is the line between school and not school?, can’t different schools “talk” differently?)

(SDorn) Every school needs a coherent focus. Every school needs to know its students and have faculty who can work together. That doesn't mean that every school has to be identical

(DeweyCounts) In order to keep debate free and critical, democratic societies must help their citizens acquire the skills and dispositions to intelligently engage one another in substantive discussions, discussions which may lead to solutions to their most pressing problems. In line with Engel, I contend that citizens should acquire those skills and dispositions in public schools, schools committed not only to the development of the individual, but to the development of individuals capable of realizing and maintaining an organic, evolving, and participatory democratic social order.

I recognize multiple, and often conflicting, definitions of “democratic education” or “education for democracy,” and I offer a broad outline here in order to remind parents, teachers, students, policy makers, and concerned citizens of the essential role public schools play in realizing and maintaining a democratic social order.

1. Authority for shaping goals lies in the hands of the people.
2. Education is political.
3. Democratic participation requires a specific type of voice and literacy.
4. Justice, while elusive, is worth striving for; injustice, when discovered, requires action.
5. Education is more than job training.
6. Education serves both productive and reproductive processes.
7. Education engenders independence and interdependence.
8. Children should not be standardized.
9. Democracy requires a certain type of teacher and a certain type of teaching.
10. Democratic education requires a certain type of space.

I want to offer an extended selection from pioneer111 because it touches on so much: The problem is always mediating the tension among the corporate, societal and individual interests.

Some schools need to intercede in social engineering because their communities are in extreme distress and breakdown.

Others can foster individual creativity and truly "draw out" the best potential in the child. (Latin educare means to draw out)

There is no one solution. There never will be one solution. The challenge is hearing all the different voices and looking for models that allow for creative and critical thinking in restructuring education. We need a new framework for the debate about education that the regular citizen can understand.

All of us have an idealized idea of what good education looks like. And we like to get into the design aspect quickly. We think equal opportunity means the same experience. I'm not sure how to frame this into the political debate. I think if DKos can create a political climate that is supportive of educational experimentation it will be in the right direction.

Beyond my skills as a categorizer

(Cskendrick) The principles of the mass education system are obsolete. The efforts at differential implementation (tracking and locking in children to various artificial academic paths) are worse then useless. I say change everything.

1. Change the schedule,
2. ditch the concept of grades,
3. curtail the scope of 'school' in community life, especially the community of students,
4. return the concept of free time and voluntary learning to childhood,
5. reset the focus to creating lifelong learners, not proficient standardized test-takers...though, by necessity, that will come into play here.
6. Don't just decorate classrooms with PC's and internet access -- make the class something that cannot happen without the new instruments of cognition and communication.
7. Have smaller, less frequent, more effective and learning-rich classes.
8. Which reduces the capital budget footprint by reducing the need for college-sized campus, thus you have smaller classes, ...
9. fewer instructors, ...
10. smaller schools, ...
11. less administrative overhead, ...
12. more freedom for the student, ...
13. grading via achievement proficiency examinations, as standardized tests are inescapable in a world where every child is on his or her own academic path to success.
14. have children write more, ...
15. speak up more, ...
16. challenge more, ...
17. ask more questions, ...
18. do more of their own thinking ...
19. more creation of of their won ideas...
20. and give the kids the tools to do so.
21. Actually use the vast canon of academic literature on curricula and classroom behavior science,...
21. rather than stump about promoting wedge issues ...
22. ...and protected entrenched and loyal voter constituencies.

Ditch it all, build it afresh, and showcase the superior results. Do it first, perhaps in a Blue state with a high education priorities, resources and will to act. Do so, and let the Republicans learn the real meaning of being left behind.

Oh, and people might find it worthwhile to go back read some of the ideas offered to Tom Vilsack at HeartlandPac when he was seeking ideas about education. He had a diary on that that was one of the top diaries of the day, November 24, 2005. http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/11/23/164238/40
Fascinating discussion:
From perspective of college prof in a healthcare provider profession educatin undergraduates:

Perhaps localize curriculum development assuming NCLB is not a factor. Teachers who plan and develop curriculum are invested in its success.

Critical thinking as integral basis of curriculum. See Critical Thinking Foundation for tools, pedagogy, etc.

Emphasize writing, reading and reading comprehension througout curriculum.

Introduce languages and the arts as early as possible and keep them integrated in the curriculum.

Integrate choices and consequences (contextual thought and history) throughout curriculum.
Two thoughts(for now--I'll be back!). First, in our California town, a new junior high-high school campus shares a library with the community. It seems to be working really well and allows the facility to be open more hours with more visitors. Second, I really like ideas suggested by item 9. My sixteen-year-old has been mightily confused by high school chemistry and reacted by tuning out. I started reading the chapters and talking to him about them (as well as encouraging him to use school tutoring services) and things may be looking up. If there were a way for him and me to take chemistry together at night with other parent-kid pairs, the learning might really take off. It would actually be fun for me, and I'd be in a much better position to help him, answer questions, etc. A friend whose son turned off the four-year college path and looked like he was headed for problems decided to take an art course at the local community college at night with his son. Apparently they are both enjoying it tremendously and the son may have discovered the arts as his niche. Parent involvement could be SO MUCH MORE than perpetual nagging and questions about whether or not homework is done. Taking classes together with other parents and kids could be fun and very productive.
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