Monday, March 21, 2011
Are we satisfied with status quo?
Every Saturday night at midnight my Tivo is set up to record PBS’s “Need to Know” because the show keeps me abreast of what Americans are coping with and the methods they are using to deal with their problems. This past week’s show was about an academic transformation in Brockton Massachusetts. The show featured an urban minority school district in Brockton that was known for its sports teams but ranked among the lowest in academic achievement.
In the United States we don't seem to want to face our problems as Finland did. Finland recognized that in order to achieve academic progress, you have to concentrate on the underachievers. Brockton realized that giving the students of this poor urban school the required standard tests would always be met with failure. The Brocton school had to start with the basics of speaking , pronunciation, reading, writing and listening skills and every teacher in every class had to include English as part of the curriculum, including the gym and music teachers. The project worked and Brockton is still an athletic powerhouse but they have also won several academic awards. In fact,a transfer student from Africa, who couldn't speak any English, recently graduated with honors and won a scholarship to Harvard.
A study said most of our universities are taught with a series of lectures but this one university decided to reverse the trend. The university believed that students worked better in groups, than as individuals. At the start of the semester the instructor handed out a project to the group and let them work as groups to research, discuss, and come up with a group answer. The individuals learned real quickly how important they were to the team, they weren’t many absences. I wonder if this would help with our excessive dropout rate?
I believe we can let children opt out of PE and physical education has not been a big part of the curriculum since John Kennedy convinced us that we needed to be strong to keep up with the Soviets. There are some new studies that state that those who vigorously exercise before taking a major test, usually do better. This one school made sure that the kids exercised hard enough to get their heart rate to a certain level,so it would release some hormones that increase their learning ability.
In July of 2009 the president challenged us with these words “I am issuing a challenge to our nation’s governors and school boards, principals and teachers, businesses and non-profits, parents and students: if you set and enforce rigorous and challenging standards and assessments; if you put outstanding teachers at the front of the classroom; if you turn around failing schools – your state can win a Race to the Top grant that will not only help students outcompete workers around the world, but let them fulfill their God-given potential.” but several states did not want to compete because of political reasons… .. The status quo is alive and well in America.