Andreas Demidont on Year-Round Education.
Why has Year-Round Education (YRE) expanded by 37% in public schools, and 149% in charter schools, with a 33% increase in students enrolled in YRE schools? Currently it exists in 46 states with over 2 million students. The answer lies in the many case studies which point to a reduction in the summer loss of learning by, at minimum, one whole month and the willingness of communities to acknowledge the dire need for holistic reform.
A new impetus comes from states seeing an opportunity to obtain federal funds from the “Race to the Top Program” which requires that states and LEAs agree to a comprehensive approach to education reform: implementing new structures and formats for the school day or year that result in increased learning time, awarding credit to students based on student performance instead of instructional time, and performance pay evaluations for teachers and administrators.
Unfortunately, in the North East, we still arrogantly cling to past glories, and refuse to accept the need to do something different. Professional Associations are still reluctant to accept some of these new approaches, which may be why many of the Northeastern states were left out of the first and second round grant awards. In Washington D.C., where the current Superintendent, Michelle Rhee, has successfully worked with Professional Associations to dramatically change the teacher evaluation system and connect it to a form of merit pay. D.C. was one of the successful second-round applicants for RACE TO THE TOP FUNDS!
What should the new Curricular and Instructional approach be to successfully implement YRE?
A major re-adjustment in the delivery of the educational program is required. What we teach, and how we teach must change. We must recognize that we no longer operate an industrial society, but an information society which has a distinctly different set of requirements which demand different and unique methods to evaluate success.
The change that is required can be best seen through the lens of a comparison between the old focus on Industrial Society, and a new Information Age focus. Examples of this change include facts and memorization based on repetitive work, and worksheets to how to apply data, critical thinking and innovation. Another comparison can be seen in the shift from learning being broken down into isolated parts, to learning in a holistic manner. Inactive and Individual Learning will be replaced with interactive technology-based learning, and well-structured cooperative learning. The new age focus will also have – as some of its major elements – Real Life Simulations, Algebra for All, Telecommunications, flexible heterogeneous grouping, computers as a technological tool, Intergraded Curriculum and Instruction and Multi-Criteria Evaluations and assessments just to mention a few of these shifts in focus.
Curriculum and Instruction Continued
The elementary curriculum of tomorrow will be written, and taught with a thematic approach. Teachers will take an issue like the Grand Canyon and incorporate language, math, science and social studies skills into studying the Grand Canyon. You’re going to see a high school in the future where students are organized into teams. They will use computers, knowledge, and the human resources (teachers) to become problem solvers and critical thinkers. The majority of the day will be spent in team work. At different times, students will be scheduled for skill sessions in math, science, language and the humanities. The driving force behind this approach will be technology. Teachers will no longer be the “Sage on the Stage.” Instead, their role will be altered from a dispenser of information to a diagnostician and prescriptor of learning with the student the one doing the work of learning. If you think about it, you need only compare how the students of Aristotle and Socrates were instructed to how contemporary students are taught. The preponderance of activity in both settings was chalk and talk. So how far have we really come, and how far do we have to go?
The curriculum of tomorrow will need to include the following academic skills:
The ability to read and comprehend correspondence writing. The ability to communicate in a clear and concise format, using good grammar and correct spelling, ability to understand ideas and communicate them in writing.
The ability to understand computer concepts
The ability to use math skills in an applied manner
The ability to use English (or a second language) in an applied manner.
The ability to put a number of different concepts together in a logical form, draw conclusions, use common sense and good judgments in decision making.
The ability to communicate orally, grammatically and persuasively.
The ability to set priorities and manage time.
The ability to listen for content, meaning and directions. These can further be viewed as integrated work place literacy skills.
Language and Communication:
The ability to read, writes, and comprehend easily a wide range of printed materials, and speak clearly and effectively.
The ability to perform basic mathematical computations, understand charts and graphs, and analyze or synthesize quantitative problems.
The ability to reason and solve practical problems, follow complex written and oral instruction, and deal with situations in which there may be several variables.
Possess the qualities of self-esteem, motivation, reliability, punctuality, the ability to deal with and work co-operatively with others, and acceptance of the concepts of lifelong learning and change.
The ability to assess one’s abilities and ambitions and obtain the skills needed to fulfill them.
The curriculum will also have to be measured differently. It will have to be instantaneous. Assessment/Evaluation of tomorrow must be performance based. Does this mean no more objective assessments? No. It means that the emphasis placed on objective assessments must be decreased and a better balance of these other types of assessment must be established. The NCLB objective testing mania must change. Greater emphasis must be placed on demonstration (both physical and oral forms) such as portfolios or projects in order to more accurately evaluate learner skills. The scoring rubrics associated with this new system require much greater specificity for projects and oral presentations. Technology will afford teachers the opportunity to provide immediate feedback to assessments, which is so crucial to the next day’s lesson design. Instead of teaching the next unit as if all the students had mastered it, the teacher will have instant feedback with which to design suitable daily lessons based on prior demonstrated knowledge.
Andreas Demidont currently serves as Burlington County Special Services School District’s (BCSSSD) Interim Assistant Superintendent of Special Education. Mr. Demindont acknowledges Dr. Gary Cooper for his contributions to this paper.
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