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is for America to move away from the entire cohort approach to education.   The idea of children moving through subjects at the same pace because they happen to be approximately the same age might be good for the convenience of adults, but has little to do with how our children actually learn.  First, not all learn at the same pace, and the cohort approach slows down those more gifted and goes too fast for some whose learning is not quite as accelerated.  Second, not everyone develops at the same pace across all the domains we expect them to master in school.   I taught myself to read books and music before my 4th birthday.  Despite that, I did not learn to write well until I was in my 40s.  Go figure.   I had friends for whom reading was painful in the lower elementary grades, but by around 4th or 5th grade they were having little trouble, except that several had been turned off to reading because it had been such a painful struggle when they were younger.

We need to rethink education.  What we have been doing for the better part of the past 3 decades has not worked.  Why we persist in doubling down - more "rigor," moving reading and algebra to ever lower grades, imposing more and more tests - seems like sheer idiocy.  

And there is more to consider -

Children come to school eager to learn.  By middle school they are increasingly turned off to school, viewing it as a burden, being forced to learn things for which they have little use, which does not connect with the realities of the lives of many.

The opportunity for doing the kind of meaningful projects that invoke student interests and gives them motivation to learn things and develop and apply skills is being forced out of our schools by the ever increasing reliance upon tests and more tests and still more tests.

It is worth noting that many who insist on this approach have never experienced it themselves, either as students or now as parents.  As students they went to private schools (Arne Duncan and Barack Obama both fall into this category) or attended public schools that were not so dull.  Perhaps like me they were fortunate to attend outstanding public schools in wealthier suburbs - in my case in Mamaroneck NY.  Or perhaps they gained admission to elite schools -  Bronx Science, Thomas Jefferson in Fairfax County, or even elite programs within general schools such as the Science and Technology program which has 1/3 of the students at the school in which I teach.  

Anyone who wishes to impose what we are seeing as educational policy from our national and many state governments and far too many think tanks and the likes of TFA and NLNS and the Gates and Broad Foundations should be required to put their own children under the same regimen they are imposing upon the rest of our children.  If it is so good, why not?

And if not, perhaps you might do us all a favor, back off, and listen to what real educators have to tell you about the real needs of our students and schools?


Originally posted to teacherken on Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 09:17 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Today is an important day in education - (35+ / 0-)

    Today is the National Day of Blogging for Real Education Reform.  

    This diary is my entry.

    You can follow the many entries - by parents and others as well as educators - by going to Twitter and following the hashtag #blog4reform

    there will also be entries at the Educator’s PLN at

    and many will add links in the comments at

    or at

    Normally on this day I reflect back on the events of the date, in 1963.

    Today I felt my participation in the group blogging effort was of greater priority.

    Thanks for reading

    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 07:37:29 PM PST

    •  brief explanation of why posting now (7+ / 0-)

      I had to pick wife up at National Airport, her flight was late, so I ain't getting up at 5 AM as I normally do, so I figured why not post now, I will be up until around 1 anyhow.

      Do with it what you will.  I agreed to participate in this effort.

      And no, I have not forgotten what happened this day in 1963.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 09:41:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  the cohort model is definitely problematic (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, jrooth, ladybug53, JanL, kyril

        I entered kindergarten at 4 and 11 months - honestly emotionally premature for entering school.  i went through until 3rd grade struggling, not because of true academic issues but because of other maturity issues.  (I once ran away from school to my day care to report that of all horrors!... they were trying to to teach me to read!)
        Despite that my IQ tested highly and i was in gifted and talented for all of my elementary, middle and high school years.  

        The irony is that my parents had me repeat 3rd grade for maturity reasons.  I didn't do any of my math work the first time and the second time worked through 5 text books.  The reality is that while I may have not been ready for 3rd grade the first time, the second time I was well beyond it.  I think the grade/class system does not adequately describe students abilities.   However, at such a flexible ae, i'm not sure any system could capture the wide variables very well.  That said - I'm not for the current cohort model.

    •  not a great time for this (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanetT in MD, ladybug53, JanL, kyril

      as those most interested in education on the East Coast are probably soundly asleep, which is where I will now head.

      I suppose I could have held this until whenever I woke up, but only now am I getting sufficiently sleepy to go to bed.  I will have trouble getting up before 6.

      So whatever happens with this, will be what happens with this.


      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 10:01:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent post, Ken. (10+ / 0-)

    You raise some great issues here. Glad to see this discussion.

    TSA = Transportation Sexual Assault

    by Anima on Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 09:31:59 PM PST

  •  As a college teacher I abhor teaching to a test (10+ / 0-)

    and try to stay focused on learning for its own sake, in hopes that some of that rubs off.  Students today are so grade-focused they lose sight of the joy of discovery and the process of learning and growth.  Anything I can do to puncture that sense of the intellectual rut, I consider a service to them and others.  

  •  I wholeheartedly agree... (11+ / 0-)
    In kindegarten I read every book in the classroom in the first six weeks and was then labeled as a troubled child because I was bored out of my skull.  It was my father, though, that refused to let me be advanced to the 1st grade...  The problem persisted through high school and into college & I decided to educate myself at the library.  My education continues to this day.

    Let the kids learn what they're interested in & they'll learn to love learning.

    "War is a Racket" -- MajGen Smedley D. Butler, USMC

    by PvtJarHead on Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 09:34:14 PM PST

    •  Children should be able to learn about (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      dinosaurs, but they still need to learn the irregular verbs.

      •  My son's class... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ladybug53, joycemocha, kyril, dle2GA

        just completed a musical called Grammar Island.  It was a really fun way to learn about all the intricacies of grammar, through song and dance.  It is also a way for the children to always remember about homophones, and imperatives, etc.  I even learned a thing or two!  If they kids would have just had to study definitions, I can see most not really getting it.

        the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

        by princss6 on Mon Nov 22, 2010 at 04:14:38 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  I had the exact opposite experience (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dc 20005, ladybug53, kyril

      see my comment below - but my parents fought for me to enter 1st grade early. And being put in with that class continued to be beneficial through high school and into college. It's criminal - and sad - to dampen down a love of learning.

      It's not just a zip code, it's an attitude.

      by sboucher on Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 11:51:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Throw Money At Them Like the Conservatives Do. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bread, JanL, kyril, Oh Mary Oh

    That's the reform I want to see.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 09:35:39 PM PST

  •  I hated every minute of school (7+ / 0-)

    from probably 5-12th grade.  If someone has said to me, here are the exams that you have to pass, and here are the books, I would have happily rather gone to the library, read the books, and taken the exams by myself.  I know that's not every student's cup of tea, but it always bothered me that what would work for me wasn't an option that I was allowed.  

    •  but you do illustrate a key point (6+ / 0-)

      you are yet another example of why the cohort system really does not serve a lot of our students.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 09:49:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Right (8+ / 0-)

        I guess I'm just reiterating that there shouldn't be a one-size-fits-all approach to education.  Cohorts where half of the students are bored and half are confused aren't the answer.  I think students often feel like they are incidental to the educational process rather than the point of the process.  Classes happen and students just happen to be there, rather than everything being focused on what will be most educational for each student.

      •  doesn't Woodlawn in Arlington (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        (off Lorcom Lane) let the student work at his own pace?

        Faux News ruined my state

        by sc kitty on Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 09:57:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't know (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          but doesn't this model require small class sizes?
          That is the problem it seems to me with the cohort model - it is an economic model, based on the ability to educate the most students to the basic level of competency with the least effort.  

          It's not a model of how to best educate students, but how to best facilitate a system.  

          •  Not necessarily (0+ / 0-)

            Many schools, even at the elementary level, already have subject specialists that teach their subject at different levels to different groups of students at different times during the day. Schools that aren't broken up this way could be with minimal difficulty (and perhaps an improvement in educational quality, because more teachers could spend more time teaching their best subject).

            Given that division, all that needs to be done is to rearrange which kids go where at what times. Class sizes don't need to change, except that you might run into a slight problem with kids at the elementary or middle level who are very advanced in one subject, or kids at the middle or high school level who are very delayed in one subject.

      •  The amount of variation (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ladybug53, JanL, kyril

        possible increases as children age.

        My roommate in college took biochemistry and studied to become a doctor. He went into medical publishing and now does medical investing research.

        I took many engineering and math classes in college and became a computer programmer.

        At the university level, there is great diversity of coursework.

        At the grade school level we all learned about irregular verbs.

        Even at the high school level I can't think of any course I took which didn't have value or future use.

        In the younger ages the main variations would be interest in music, art, and foreign languages.

        At the high school level there would be interest in learning a trade and/or preparing to learn more at college.

      •  Our schools are expected to offer (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ladybug53, joycemocha, kyril

        equal opportunities to all students.

        Since the mid-1950s equal has been interpreted to mean the same.

        It was thought to be undesirable to have black children learn a trade while white children went to college and got good corporate and government jobs.

        This pro-corporate education policy is no longer matched by sufficient corporate jobs.

        •  I graduated in 1974 (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ladybug53, JanL, joycemocha, kyril, princss6

          We were a small public district that was completely white, which offered a choice to learn a practical arts (mechanic, beauty salon etc.) diploma. It was an economic division, for students who didn't plan to go to college, and they tended to come from the poorer homes.

          It's not just a zip code, it's an attitude.

          by sboucher on Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 11:59:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  My father did exactly that. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, kyril

      When brought in for truancy at age 16, he told them he'd already learned what he needed to graduate and got them to give him the exams. The next semester he entered Brooklyn Poly Tech. But this was in the 1930s :)

      It's not just a zip code, it's an attitude.

      by sboucher on Mon Nov 22, 2010 at 12:02:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  connecting with the kids... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sd4david, JanL, kyril, Oh Mary Oh, dle2GA

    "By middle school they are increasingly turned off to school, viewing it as a burden, being forced to learn things for which they have little use, which does not connect with the realities of the lives of many."

    and today's gadgets are opening up more problems to tackle:

    in Sunday's NYT:
    Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction
    ....Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters. But computers and cellphones, and the constant stream of stimuli they offer, pose a profound new challenge to focusing and learning. ...

    Faux News ruined my state

    by sc kitty on Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 09:53:25 PM PST

  •  Mostly this is correct (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JanL, xylon, kyril

    Plenty of people learn at different rates, and this is especially true at younger ages, when students' abilities are all over the place, even though most students eventually converge. It's critical in the early years for students not to be shunted into the same plan. Even though it might work for most students, there are many for whom it won't.

    However, these "constructivist" learning methods, while popular to promote, have never, ever been shown to improve educational outcomes. Unfortunately, we're stuck with the fact that learning is difficult.

    I did not learn to write well until I was in my 40s

    How is it that you fell through the cracks in high school, college, and graduate school while still being a poor writer?

    •  I didn't say I was a poor writer (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL, kyril

      I was satisfactory for school purposes.  I learned how to write sufficiently well to get through, but not really well, because I really didn't know how to write, lacked a voice of my own, and hated to edit or revise.

      In my 40s I was doing enough writing, some of it online, that I began to develop some facility with written language.

      I had been keeping journals for years, but that was mainly writing to myself, and my use of language was not the best.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 09:59:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Many schools don't focus on writing... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      you take multiple course tests with maybe, maybe one short essay for extra credit.  You might have one or two term papers a year.  Written production is really down-played in far too many schools.  

      the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

      by princss6 on Mon Nov 22, 2010 at 04:20:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Part of that is due to class sizes (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dc 20005, JanL, kyril, princss6

        and student loads.  Good writing instruction requires daily practice where students write (not necessarily graded other than for quantity) and are explicitly taught writing techniques with daily graded exercises.  With student loads of over 100 students a day, this type of intense instruction is nearly impossible.

        I have improved student writing using daily writing exercises plus explicit teaching...but I am also a writer, so it's easy for me to model good writing.  The teacher needs to be able to model good writing in order to pull it off.

        •  Very true... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I recall one year having to write in our journals but the journals weren't graded for style, grammar, composition, only if there was an entry.  I really wish I had had stronger writing instruction in school.

          the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

          by princss6 on Mon Nov 22, 2010 at 05:13:12 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Just as a tip, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I have found that if students e-mail me a few paragraphs of their papers, in the body of the e-mail, I can give them easy interlinear comments, I can isolate particular words that are problematic, I can isolate a sentence and have the student re-read it, and I can ask questions.  I mark my comments with a diacritical mark of one sort or another so it's easy to tell what I've done as opposed to what the students have done.

          Typing is faster than scrawling comments along the margins, is easier to read for the students, and has fewer arrows and circles all over it!

          Sentence correction from early on, and the attention to word order that comes from reading aloud are really helpful too, especially for catching dangling participles and misplaced modifiers.

          It can actually help to discuss grammar structures in other languages.  Russian and Latin have multiple case endings, so word order matters less. English hardly uses case endings, and so word order matters profoundly.

          There are a lot of funny sentences out there because the word order is screwed up.

          Getting the students to generate sentences with errors that other students have to find and fix can also be a good assignment.

          And, if you bring in some crappy writing from the newspapers, too, the students can have fun.

    •  Oooh, the evil "c" word. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, JanL

      Learning is not necessarily difficult...if it is tailored to the actual way in which a particular person learns (and no, I am not talking about the infamous and now discredited "learning styles" as promoted by Gardner).  Not every person processes information in the same way as anyone else, especially in large classrooms of same-aged peers.

  •  Reform I'd really support ... (7+ / 0-)

    reform that would allow children to move ahead in those subjects they knew well, and to stay in place without stigma in those subjects in which they need more practice. Now that would be exciting change!

    That should begin in elementary grades. What would it take? More teachers, I'd guess. Much, much more flexible thinking by school boards.

    Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person. -Jan Edwards

    by SoCalSal on Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 10:32:51 PM PST

    •  not only that (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, hlsmlane, kyril

      but accepting peers.
      I know it sucks to think that the friends of your childred have anythfing to do with what they learn, but it's true.  My parents ordered special summer materials for me to work on during our vacations.  all it did was alienate me from my colleagues and make me that more distinct from my peers at school. it caused significant social problems - so that's the problem, how do you deal with the social fall out?

  •  This idea of students learning (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    at their own pace is a fairly recent idea.

    I suspect it has to do with educational software companies.

    Each student could be sitting at a computer doing computer-guided work.

    Which raises the question of having children attend brick-and-mortar schools.

    My fellow students generally learned well as a cohort in K-12 education decades ago.

    •  There are a lot of good reasons (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, joycemocha, princss6

      not to favour cohort-based education, many of which can be accepted by people who like me abhor computer-based instruction. There are ways to allow students to move at different paces in different subjects without leaving them alone with computers.

      There's simply no reason a kid like me couldn't have been in a reading/English class aimed at high school sophomores, a pre-algebra class with preteens, a history/social studies class with kids my own age, and art, gym, handwriting, and music classes with five-year-olds when I was 8 or 9. There's just no reason not to place kids in different subjects independently.

      But under the current system, the only placement flexibility is based on a student's average performance across all subjects (artificially capped by the fact that skill well above their age group's expected ability can't be detected because it isn't tested). A student can be skipped a whole grade, or held back a whole grade, but can't be "partially skipped" or "partially held back" in just one subject. For students like me, that meant extreme boredom most of the time, punctuated with periods of intolerable frustration.

  •  In Florida the class-size amendment (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    has my neighbor teaching fourth and fifth grades in the same classroom.

    I was told that if her school went over the limit the district would be docked $3,000/student by the state.

    So she basically has twice the planning burden as she would have before 2010.

    •  Since first grade... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril, sboucher

      my kid has been in classes with two grades.  I absolutely love it.  He is now in 5th and will have his teacher once again for two years.  It has worked out well for us and I would like to see more of this instituted...I don't know the correct terminology.  Being one of three fourth graders, one of five third graders and one of four fifth graders currently really allowed him to blossom academically.  This isn't a method that should be shunned especially and should be raised along side the cohort-less classes.  Having the same teacher for two years during this important time really has helped.

      the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

      by princss6 on Mon Nov 22, 2010 at 04:27:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed (0+ / 0-)

        We had the same teacher for 2nd & 3rd grade, and Mrs. O. is still one of my favorite teachers. We also had the same art teacher move up with us from elementary through high, and not surprisingly a lot of artists came out of our class; she was an incredible influence on me.

        It's not just a zip code, it's an attitude.

        by sboucher on Mon Nov 22, 2010 at 09:15:00 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  The Conservatives are making major (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JanL, kyril

    changes to education in Britain.

    The comments suggest that teacher training in Britain has been improved greatly during the last years of Labour power.

    •  Disturbing... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joycemocha, kyril

      After reading the article you linked, sounds like Mr. Duncan and the fellow in charge of education in Britain have been copying from the same playbook. It is amazing what conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic speak from the same book.
      Thanks for the link...I think. Oy.

      Think what you are doing today. -Fred Rogers

      by JanL on Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 11:11:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nice job teacherken (7+ / 0-)

    I teach primary-grade students and I have frequently had students who were bored silly playing phonics games since they were already reading above their peers, while others struggle with letter names and sounds. It was and is a great waste of energy on everyone's part to stage-manage activities that are engaging for each group (there are often 4 or more 'groups') so that I can work individually with first the struggling students, then the next group, and so on.
    I have become convinced many of our drop-outs are bored into behavior problems, which causes them to "act out"...there must be a better way!
    Thanks for your efforts for tomorrow's event. :)

    Think what you are doing today. -Fred Rogers

    by JanL on Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 11:05:23 PM PST

  •  "meaningful projects" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JanL, kyril, princss6

    There have been complaints that rich kids are flying around the world doing projects that beef up their college applications.

    My parents would certainly not have liked having to blow $3,500 on a two-week "project" in Uganda to beef up my college application.

    There is also the problem of wasteful and damaging CO2 emissions.

    •  We would have liked to have $$ (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL, kyril, princss6

      to send our kid to SAT prep classes, so she could be on a more even footing with those who could afford it.

      It's not just a zip code, it's an attitude.

      by sboucher on Mon Nov 22, 2010 at 12:09:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  meangful projects do not have to be expensive (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL, joycemocha, kyril

      there are plenty of opportunities without having to take an airplane trip or even a subway ride.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Mon Nov 22, 2010 at 02:58:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Internships, too... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      valuable connections and opportunities are available via internships but you have to have a certain level of wealth to live in another city, find housing, proper attire and everyhting else to work for free.  Another problem...

      the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

      by princss6 on Mon Nov 22, 2010 at 04:30:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ah Teacherken, you get to the heart of my yearly (8+ / 0-)

    dilemma. I teach middle school so have the most incredibly wide range of interests and abilities of all the ed levels (IMHO). I have kids who are barely functional, read at a 2nd grade level, can't think abstractly, and yet they have to take algebra and analyze metaphor. The kid next to them reads at a 12th+ level and, if I'm being honest, barely needs me as they are self-directed and competent. I could give them a reading list and hold Socratic seminars a couple times a quarter and they would thrive. Why do we insist on herding these kids through the system in lockstep?
    Some of the low-level kids I know will be okay in a year or so when their brains and bodies mature and reach an equilibrium-and I've seen this happen again and again. However, if they can't do any work (and often just won't do any work) how do I grade them? Based on what I hope will happen? "Slow" kids and "fast" kids should have a chance to advance based on what they are ready for.

  •  This is what used to happen (7+ / 0-)

    when I was in elementary school 100 years ago. Because I was the youngest 1st grader, I was put in a class with kids who didn't yet read. When they saw me teaching them, I was moved into the class with kids who could already read well.

    Looking back, it makes complete sense to me that the more advanced students were put in classes together.

    But isn't this what the terror of tracking was all about?

    It's not just a zip code, it's an attitude.

    by sboucher on Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 11:47:10 PM PST

  •  My most rewarding years as a teacher (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    indybend, JanL, joycemocha, kyril, princss6

    were the three I spent in multi-age classrooms.*  Two of those three had three traditional grade levels in them.  In that setting, I was really able to adapt my instruction to the needs of all my students.  It was a bit labor intensive.  Most of the time, there were two of us in the room, and our synergy worked to make sure that we gave quality and quantity in our instruction.  It was wonderful to watch the younger ones attending to the weightier content, even though they were not required to 'get' it.  They felt challenged to keep up with the older ones, and the older ones were challenged, too.  They wouldn't let those 'little kids' get the best of them!  Everyone in that room, teachers and students, was responsible for keeping themselves and each other on task and moving ahead.  It was a glorious - and way too brief - time.  

    I cannot see many schools even giving this a shot now.  They couldn't possibly take the chance on such a program, even though the end result would be better than their current model.  The scrutiny of test results doesn't allow for innovation or imaginative instruction.  

    *Note: This was in a parochial/private setting, but there are public schools in the area that have two-grade multi-age classrooms which have been around many years and are doing well.  Also, the most useful teacher conference/convention I ever attended was a multi-age and looping conference.  The ideas there were simply amazing, and totally do-able.  I'm sure that was because many of the presenters were active teachers.  :-)

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Mon Nov 22, 2010 at 04:05:23 AM PST

    •  Very good point... (5+ / 0-)

      since my son's second tour of duty in first grade (the best thing really), he has been in multi-age classrooms.  He will continue to do so until next year when he completes 6th grade.  In the past, he has had two teachers in this setting but this year, he has one teacher but she is AWESOME!!!!  Our first conference, she could already tell me so much about my child and really we selected the school so he could be in her classroom.

      Yes, multi-age classrooms should be more widely available.

      the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

      by princss6 on Mon Nov 22, 2010 at 04:37:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's too bad more people (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, princss6

        don't know about and have access to them.  I'm so glad that you son is doing well.  It's not always easy for kids to repeat a grade, but in the end, doing it early is good on a number of levels.  We don't do them any favors by pushing them ahead when they're not ready.  

        One of my favorite 'success stories' is of a girl whose mother finally insisted she be held back in 4th grade. It should have been done sooner but the system wouldn't allow it.  The mother was damned near apoplectic when they finally agreed.  The girl still struggled, but was so much less frustrated.  She went through high school in three years and is now in college, doing well!

        -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

        by luckylizard on Mon Nov 22, 2010 at 06:52:03 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Absolutely... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kyril, luckylizard

          my mom advised, that they will repeat 1st grade before they will ever repeat 12th grade.  I know of a few parents that had to insist forcefully that their kids be held back.  Being held back but going into a classroom setting with 1st and 2nd graders helped immensely as well.  

          the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

          by princss6 on Mon Nov 22, 2010 at 07:02:10 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Very good post.. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, hlsmlane, kyril, Lissa Drake

    of course, you know I don't agree with every single thing but I agree with the thrust of your post.  One size fits all is devastating for our kids.  I wish every kid could receive the type of education my kid has but there just aren't enough seats for kids in these schools and/or too many people lack the resources to afford these schools.  I do think one of many factors is how we think about school AND I would like to see that changed.  

    I just may take you up on it and blog today about my thoughts and views on Education from a wholistic standpoint and how some reforms I would like to see put in place.

    the most important factor whether students succeed is not their skincolor or their ZIP code or their parents' income - it is the quality of their teacher

    by princss6 on Mon Nov 22, 2010 at 04:11:34 AM PST

  •  If I had Bill Gates's bucks and moxie (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joycemocha, kyril, princss6, dle2GA

    I would open up my very own school district with:

    LARGE SCHOOLS with smaller administrative units for kid responsibility and RESPONSIVENESS (the other side of things).

    These LARGE SCHOOLS would be run a little more like colleges with menus of courses that satisfy the basic requirements while being entertaining for teacher and student alike.

    The courses on the menus would be staffed by respected, well-paid, broadly educated teachers whose passions for the material could emerge.

    Any kid running through my district would still need to learn a core curriculum full of lit and science and math and history and music and language and motion, BUT would do so through curricular material that fits well with individual preference.

    A kid who's obsessed with transportation learns to read via transportation books, learns to count trucks and cars, learns some robotics eventually, gets some physics by building wooden race cars propelled by compressed gas canisters.....

    A kid who's obsessed with physical motion could get kinaesthetic reading lessons, and basic math on the run -- literally.  Let a thousand gym teachers teach basic content as well.  Sit down and shut up-style classes do a disservice to many kids.

    Theater, bookishness, games and sports, art, dance, computer interests -- these are all valid sets of preferences that can be used as backdrops for really fine teaching/learning experiences.  There's really no reason to stand and deliver when you can run and play or sit and read or read and act out.

    Every kid should be encouraged to try out some other learning styles, but seriously, do we need the shyest kids to be forced onto a stage, or the bounciest kids to be forced to sit still, or the drama kings and queens to be forced to shut up?  What does this squelching do to these kids in the long run?

    There are multiple ways to get where we all need to go, and a LARGE SCHOOL can provide the kind of variety of offerings that lend particularity and individuality to a general set of goals.

    The LARGE SPACE can be broken down into smaller sub-spaces so that kids don't get lost, but there remains a way to move the kids around so that they are well-matched with other kids and teachers.

    Colleges are very good at allowing faculty to teach interests with passion while still fulfilling some basic disciplinary requirements.  Colleges also encourage faculty knowledge-creation (umm, ok, w/o the jargon, RESEARCH).

    Research encourages the continuation of learning, keeps teachers from getting stale and bored, and maybe most important of all, keeps teachers humble and student-like in the struggle to learn material, perfect the expression of that material, and expand the areas of contact between domains.

    Cut the teaching load by reducing contact hours just a bit.  Improve the work situation by allowing the teaching of passion.  Reduce discipline issues by matching the kids' issues and abilities with the teachers' issues and abilities.  Make the system flexible via the kind of scheduling that only works in a large institution.  Provide what kids need, not what adults think the kids need.

    Make sure that teachers know a range of material so that they can teach what comes before and after the current curriculum.  There are temporal links, and teachers who are stuck in a particular knowledge/time slice do a disservice to their kids.  They cannot point the way to later material, nor help someone who is lagging pick up what's missing.

    Of course, I'm not Gates, and I don't have the money or the certainty that what I know generalizes to all situations and all people.

    So I toss this out as a fantasy, not as a mandate.

    It'd be nice if Gates could develop some modesty as well......

  •  May be too simplistic, but here's my (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joycemocha, kyril

    suggestion for improving education:

    Start it earlier, end it earlier.

    Study after study has shown that pre-K ed gives kids in all socio-economic groups an enormous advantage over those who don't get it.  It's also more cost-effective over the long haul.

    The 12th grade was added back in the late 1930s as a response to the large number of out of work teenagers who were competing w/out of work adults during The Depression and, like just about every other problem in American society, the decision was made to dump them in schools for an additional year of warehousing.  The time has long since passed when the need for a 12th grade is justified -- get rid of it -- and while we're at it, get rid of the 11th grade, too.  It was instituted in the early years of the 20th century (for similar reasons: mob control) and does nothing to enhance most students' education experience other provide an opportunity for social interaction w/their peers.

    Students should be finished with the rudimentary phase of their education by age 15 at the latest and moving on to either jobs (assuming we have any left that haven't been sent to China), trade/vocational schools (assuming there are any vocations left other than those that the social engineering "geniuses" on the right have given their blessings to), or college-prep schools.  If none-of-the-above is chosen as an option, that's the parents' problem -- or society's -- but it shouldn't be the education systems' (and by default, teachers') headache.

    Classrooms would finally be rid of the bored trouble-makers who don't want to be in school anyway and society would have to deal w/the problems it has tried to hide and run away from for the last hundred years.

    And teachers would finally be able to teach and regain their sanity.

  •  Socialization (0+ / 0-)

    I'm not an educator, but I do have children who are in a regular school.

    Isn't independent learning the Montessori model?  

    And if we eliminate "cohort" education, how do we teach kids to interact with one another? (The age-based socialization that the current model does provide, although probably not very efficiently.)  I have no idea how that would work in a Montessori upper school.  Most such schools in my area are very small.

    •  Why is age-based socialization desirable? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, princss6

      It's certainly what we're accustomed to, but is there any objective reason - developmentally, culturally, or otherwise - to socialize kids specifically with age-matched peers?

      It's certainly not the norm for human cultures; it's a brand new invention, really, only about 100 years old at best, and only really present in industrialized nations that use an institutional, assembly-line-style educational model. The norm, throughout human history, has been mixed-age socialization - from informal family/clan/tribal settings to the one-room schoolhouse of American tradition. Kids seem to have learned to interact with each other just fine before we invented age cohorts.

      And I honestly think there's a lot to be said, socially, for mixed-age grouping of children. For one thing, it makes developmental differences far less apparent; when the oldest and youngest kid in a classroom are no more than a year apart, it's quite obvious which kids are "behind" or "ahead" of the norm in physical, psychological, and intellectual maturity, but when you have more age diversity, it's easier to see each kid as "normal" in his/her individual way. For another, it breaks up the hierarchies - kids work with, befriend, bond with both older and younger kids.

  •  I just ran across the WP piece. The thought (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    must have been in a comment. Thank You for the link.

    "They pour syrup on shit and tell us it's hotcakes." Meteor Blades

    by JugOPunch on Mon Nov 22, 2010 at 08:14:39 PM PST

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