Sunday, September 28, 2014

More on truancy, drop outs and, what in the world should we do?

The apparent goal; every child who enters public education at K
will emerge 12 years later with an "education".

The quality and quantity of that "education" will manifest itself in the results of a battery of tests that students must pass in order to earn a certificate.

Any student who can pass the tests should earn a certificate (diploma, whatever) demonstrating the extent of their learning and skill sets.

It really does not make any difference at all, how students prepare for the tests or how much time they spent preparing; it is irrelevant.

All that really matters is that students emerge from public education able to demonstrate that they have the knowledge and skills necessary to do whatever it is they intend to do next whether it be additional education, training or meaningful employment.

It does matter if students make adequate progress every year.
One doesn't want to enable a poor student to screw around for 12 years with little or nothing to show for it at the end.

Adequate progress can be thought of in the following manner;
every bit of knowledge is worth a point.  In order for students to pass their battery of tests, they will have to accumulate, let's say, 130,000 points (10,000 points per year K-12 inclusive).

The number of points from which any student might select, in order to prepare for testing; is virtually unlimited.

In order to be making adequate progress, a student must be accumulating on average, about 10,000 points* per year.

*The exact number of points and what should and should not count as a point will be determined in enormous public meetings of the people who read this post and who's first reaction is to pound out a comment about how this could all go wrong because of what might or might not count as "a point" worth learning.
If a particular student is not accumulating 10,000 per calendar year, then that student is not making adequate process and should draw individual and specific teacher attention and remediation.

Teachers will actually have time to offer individual attention and remediation, when we stop requiring them to standardize individual student performances using group attention to and group remediation of their individual problems. 

Teachers have time for individual attention and mentoring,when (all) students start learning more or less independently of the teacher.  Many students, if given the opportunity to become independent lifelong learners, will.  In so doing, they will each become less of a burden on their teacher and on the system.  Many of them will earn meaningful certification in far fewer than 13 years.

Because teachers will have the time and opportunity, they can be expected to continuously monitor each individual student's progress and path.

Finally, there is something to be said for mastery learning, wikilinkMastery learning and learning in unison are entirely different goals.  More importantly, they are inconsistent goals - you can't achieve both in normal circumstances.

Mastery learning is a practical impossibility except by individual learners.  How can any but the very, very best students possibly master learning material, while at the same time expected to move in "lockstep" with a bunch of other kids with whom they have nothing in common; save their age and the neighborhood in which they live.

Creating arbitrary groups of students to learn in unison is like having kids who are racing around a track 13 times, stop every time they cross the start/finish line, to form back up in five rows of six.  Even if you could, why would you want to?

Changing the education model won't entirely solve the problem.  There is another aspect of the relative failure of public schools in general and APS in particular.  It is the relentless refusal of the school board and senior administration to allow teachers to participate meaningfully in decision making on solution development.

There are in the APS, nearly 100,000 years of teaching experience.  That wealth of education, experience, dedication and expertise is yet to be included in decision making.

The "leadership" of the APS; the school board and senior administrators, do not regard 100,000 years of current and ongoing teaching experience as an asset in decision making; not on truancy, not on dropping out.  If they appreciated the experience, they would exploit it.  They would mine it for everything it's worth.

You have to wonder why teachers don't have a seat at the table where decisions are made with regard to how to best educate nearly 90,000 of this community's sons and daughters.  But not for long.

The short answer is that once teachers have a seat at that table, they're going to want to deal with issues other than truancy and drop outs.  One of the things they are going to want to deal with is administrative character and competence.

The single largest obstacle to empowering teachers (and improving public education) is;
superintendents and school board members who do not want to be held accountable for quantity and quality of their own public service.
the single largest obstacle to holding superintendents and school board members accountable for their public service from the speakers podium during public forums in APS school board meetings is;

superintendents and school board members who do not want to be held accountable for quantity and quality of their public service.
imagine that

photo Mark Bralley

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