Thursday, December 28, 2006

Our Classrooms Need Changing .. Now

On December 16th, 2006, we read the following headlines: “More Teens Drop Out” in the Miami Herald and “Dropout Rate in Broward Increases” in the Sun Sentinel. This did not surprise me, nor should it surprise you. The higher the standards, the more difficult it is for students to achieve their goals if the structure and organization of the learning environment is not changed. In my previous blog entries, my theme is consistent- “Children learn at different rates and have different preferential learning styles.” Time must be the variable and mastery the goal. If students do not fully understand algebra, they will have a difficult time learning trigonometry. If they have not mastered reading, they will have a difficult time comprehending high school science textbooks or the New York Times. The consequences of not making this change leads to an increase in dropouts and eventually to an increase in the poverty-level class.

TIME magazine recently ran an interesting article entitled ”How do we bring our schools out of the 20th Century?” by Claudia Wallis and Sonja Steptoe. It states “ The world has changed, but the American classroom, for the most part, hasn’t…kids spend much of the day as their great grandparents once did: sitting in rows, listening to teachers lecture, scribbling notes by hand, reading from textbooks that are out of date by the time they are printed.” This article also introduces a new commission on the skills of the American workforce. The commission reports that standards of living are being jeopardized by the current system. The report lays out a series of steps designed as an integrated approach to change the entire system. The recommendations include:
· Revamping the high school-college transition.
· Reallocating funds to high priority strategies for improving system performance.
· Pre-K for all.
· Redesigning how schools are funded.
· Redesigning how schools are managed.
· Educating the current workforce to a high standard.
· Creating personal competitiveness accounts.

I can agree with these recommendations, but the absence of computer assisted instruction in the core (and the use of the computer as a research and communications tool for all students), as well as a learner-centric approach with time and learning style as variables, are errors of omission. It is only through the use of technology as a learning tool that will enable us to vary time and allow each student to master the requisite objectives. Included below is a link to the total press release from the commission on the skills of the American workforce.

References:
Miami Herald

Sun Sentinel

Time Magazine

Skills Commission Press Release

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