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View Diary: My Experience with an Alternative Charter School (137 comments)

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  •  I have to say that for my own kids, I am not a fan (6+ / 0-)

    of so-called "progressive education."

    Our local public school system  has a long history of "progressive education" (for grades 1-8) where there are no letter grades until the kids are in 8th grade, where learning is more "child-driven" and things in general are far less structured than when I went to school.

    We live in a high tax community with a ton of money going to the schools and I was expecting really great things for my kids but was very disappointed.

    It might work for some kids, but certainly not all.  Most kids just weren't learning the basics the way they should have.  A very high percentage of parents had the extra expense of hiring tutors for their kids to fill in the gaps and assure they were prepared for high school, where students from other feeder schools were prepared with a more traditional education.

    My own kids would have done much better in a more structured environment.  They needed the discipline.  Sadly, they didn't have inner motivation to do the work and learn what they could have.  With no grade, they didn't see the point of putting much effort into a project or homework assignment--it wouldn't make any difference, anything was acceptable, so what the heck!

    Anyhow, if you have quality teachers and a good curriculum, I think there's a lot of benefit from a structured setting, especially in grade school.

    Some people fight fire with fire. Professionals use water.

    by Happy Days on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 11:05:21 AM PDT

    •  Thanks for sharing your experience... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      angelajean, Futuristic Dreamer

      My thoughts on yours...

      It might work for some kids, but certainly not all.

      I think that is the main issue in education in general... one size can never fit all!  There are perhaps a dozen different learning environments that could be created, each best meeting the needs of some segment of the kids out there.  A conventional instructional school like you think would be best for your kids and a "progressive" school like the charter my daughter went to are just two options among many!

      Most kids just weren't learning the basics the way they should have.  A very high percentage of parents had the extra expense of hiring tutors for their kids to fill in the gaps and assure they were prepared for high school, where students from other feeder schools were prepared with a more traditional education.

      The less structured learner-driven model works well for a lot of kids, but as you say, does not mesh well with the structured conventional model, where what you learn and when is pretty much scripted from age 5 to 18.  Letting a kid flower as a "round peg" in a more learner-driven educational environment and then trying to put them back in that "square hole" of a conventional scripted secondary school can definitely be problematic.

      My own kids would have done much better in a more structured environment.  They needed the discipline.  

      So all your schools were "progressive" and there were no schools offering the more conventional structured instructional approach?  You had no choices?

      Sadly, they didn't have inner motivation to do the work and learn what they could have.  With no grade, they didn't see the point of putting much effort into a project or homework assignment--it wouldn't make any difference, anything was acceptable, so what the heck!

      It is sad in my book to hear about any human being losing what I understand to be the natural urge to and love of learning, and needing rewards and punishments to substitute for human nature.

      Anyhow, if you have quality teachers and a good curriculum, I think there's a lot of benefit from a structured setting, especially in grade school.

      I would agree particularly for some kids as a kind of remediation for a real world environment that is unsafe, not enriched and/or otherwise problematic.

      My own kids were blessed with access to a lot of interesting and caring adults, books, the Internet, and venues outside of school where they could engage in projects with their peers, so school was not really an important part of their learning environment.

      Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

      by leftyparent on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 11:25:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  learning outside the system (3+ / 0-)

        means you don't learn the system. Any measurement used to measure how well you mesh with the system is naturally going to show you up short if you're not using the system to integrate the students into the system.

        An analogy would be like if you raised kids in the Swiss Family Robinson way and expected them to slide right into 19th century Victorian society as the measure of how well they were raised.

        Like it or not, our system is built from the ground up and in order to integrate later in life, you have to start early.

        I believe there are many charter school plans and teaching methods with their hearts in the right place, but our public schools have evolved this way for a reason. There is no magic bullet either in or out of the education system to make kids learn better or make more kids learn better.

        Honestly, I think the attitudes that need changing the most are those of the adults--both parents and educators. If you go into the public school system (or the charter school system or even homeschooling) thinking that "school" is the sum total of the "education" your child will need to succeed, you will end up miserable.

        Bottom line. No matter where your kid "goes to school" your kid has to be learning in every aspect of his or her life. Assuming that the 9-3 (or homeschooling hours/days) are the alpha and the omega to that education is nothing but folly. Public (or charter or curriculum) education is the bare minimum you need to equip your offspring with the skills needed to barely function in the society we have today. Public ed, charter ed, homeschooling curricula for sale or download, will not wrap up everything in a pretty red bow and until our society accepts that reality, they will be demanding more from schools of any sort than the schools can give, and receiving disappointment.

        I 'ship Obama/America. OTP

        by athenap on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 01:52:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I certainly would second your statement... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          angelajean
          Bottom line. No matter where your kid "goes to school" your kid has to be learning in every aspect of his or her life. Assuming that the 9-3 (or homeschooling hours/days) are the alpha and the omega to that education is nothing but folly.

          From my own experience growing up, I learned most of the skills I use today outside of school.  See my piece http://www.leftyparent.com/....  

          Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

          by leftyparent on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 03:10:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  What's interesting is that I agree with you (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Prof Haley

          that our school system has been designed to integrate our children into our society as it exists.  What if I'm unhappy with our society? What if I want more people to believe in health care for all, for civil rights for all, for freedom of religion or freedom to have no religion, for a society with no wars, for a society with little to no poverty? By your frame of reference, I would need to change the education system to accomplish that.

          That's exactly what I want to do. I want to see an education system that encourages logical deduction so that people better understand science; that encourages a love of learning so that people are willing to learn well beyond their senior year in high school; that encourages civic participation so that more of our citizens vote and participate in the process. I personally think the best way to accomplish these things is to encourage more, not less, progressive education models, be they charter schools or traditional public schools.

          •  My wife is a public high school English teacher (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sandblaster, angelajean, elfling

            and is definitely seeing a generation who do want, and are equipped to strive for, a more just, enlightened, and progressive society. They also understand they're all going to need jobs. There are kids who beg for additional challenge, and kids who won't do the minimum even if they have the skills.

            There are legitimate discussions to be had regarding both form and content of education. Progressive content, and love of learning, are thriving in the form of school the diarist regards as such a problem. It just takes good teachers and a supportive environment. That's harder than it sounds or course, but it doesn't mean that standards, grades, and teachers directing the curriculum are the problem.

            into the blue again, after the money's gone

            by Prof Haley on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 05:47:42 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  I doubt that most welathier suburban (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      angelajean, drmah

      schools with high scores would ever ditch their models for progressive models.

      But I do think there is something to be said for progressive models in inner cities with poorly performing schools. There could be a great deal of difference in that context.

      There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

      by upstate NY on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 12:36:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually most profoundly alternative schools... (5+ / 0-)

        are private and attract mainly white more affluent kids as students.  There are notable exceptions, including Albany Free School in Albany NY.

        The most profoundly alternative public schools, particularly if they are not attracting mostly well-to-do kids, tend to get shut down for not teaching to the test.

        Cooper Zale Los Angeles http://www.leftyparent.com

        by leftyparent on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 01:00:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Right, I know well the phenomenon (0+ / 0-)

          My initial introduction to progressive schools was from parents who were involved in private schools. My sense of those schools is that a number of parents eventually come to insist on the structure and discipline they are apparently more comfortable with, and sometimes the schools accommodate.

          My point though is about suburban public districts which I imagine would be far less open to this type of school.

          In my city, our progressive charter has experienced a lot of success in educating kids. It's an Outward Bound school and bases its curriculum on Howard Gardner's research, BUT it's nowhere near as wide-open and freely scheduled as the school in the parent's example above.

          They do devote part of the day to English and Math, and then the only other subject is a foreign language (Spanish). They then spend after lunch on art work of various kinds, graphic arts, music, dancing, etc. Their knowledge of the world is not categorized according to academic specialty such as Sociology, History, Government, etc. Rather, they each day undertake research projects, both in school and in the community. These projects are interdisciplinary and try to incorporate and knowledge of both their local community and the world. That's what I appreciate most.

          But the morning's base is still reading, writing, arithmetic.

          There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

          by upstate NY on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 01:08:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Ironically, that report from CREDO about charter (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          upstate NY

          schools I heard about earlier this week says the population that is most helped by charters are kids who are poor. Yet we seem to build most of our new charter schools where kids are afluent. Maybe that is part of the problem.

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