Posts Tagged charter

How Do We Fix Our Schools?

When CNN asked How Do We Fix Our Schools,  Mark Reardon, QLN COO,  had a strong answer:

It’s about teacher competence. It’s always been about teacher competence. Although teachers attend and graduate from a teacher program, for the most part they are inadequately equipped to facilitate learning with today’s kids in today’s world; a world of technology, graphics, multi-tasking, quick information “sound bites”, and relationships. Kids are immersed in a world of instant connectivity, instant gratification and advanced visual stimulation. These characteristics impact students’ attention spans requiring teachers to rethink and redesign the learning environment and the way students learn the content.

With the growing implementation of value-added analysis, the statistics are undeniably clear– teacher competence is a significant contributor to the quality of student learning. This is not a new belief. We’ve intuitively known this for decades. The analyses now prove it. It’s about teacher competence. How to fix that? Implement teacher residency programs modeled after the medical profession. Teacher competence is enhanced by consistent and frequent interactions with master teachers. These master teachers impart best educational practices and partner with the teacher-in-residence to ensure competence.

It’s about student competence. The unfortunate and disproportional emphasis on standardized tests as the sole determinant of student achievement has misguided our educational efforts. Tests on standards are important to show content mastery. The missing ingredient is the teaching of critical thinking to boost students’ competence in approaching, analyzing and finding solutions to real-life problems. The direct orchestration of business, political, social and scientific experiences that immerse students in the complexity of today’s problems creates milieu in which critical thinking and collaboration grows.

It’s about character. There is an undeniable connection between character and content mastery. Teachers spend a considerable amount of time addressing character–effort, choices, and responsibility–for they know that the development of our character is the foundation to achievement. Character development is a conscious and deliberate act. It is not left to chance. Building the culture of the classroom upon character traits sets a strong foundation for a healthy learning environment. Kids feel safe and respected as they improve the quality of who they are. Additionally, character traits can be developed as they emerge within content–literature, social science, science, and/or math. Through the lens of character traits, students see the connection character has on other people’s as well as their own attitudes, choices and actions.

It’s a daunting endeavor to “fix” our schools. No one solution is the answer. The passion and commitment of educators to do what is effective for their students is a great place to start.


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Put Downs Go Up In Flames by The McPherson Sentinel

Eisenhower Elementary School students saw their negative thoughts, comments and actions go up in flames Friday.   Eisenhower third through fifth-graders wrote put downs on paper to be burned during the ceremony. The school’s head custodian, Al Ortego, then burned, and extinguished the put downs in a brief but powerful ceremony.
Put downs are negatives comments students say to one another or about one another.  Burning the put downs is part of the school’s bullying philosophy that if a student does not have anything nice to day, they don’t need to say anything at all said Eisenhower third grade teacher Kari Moddelmog.
The lesson also goes along with the district’s new 8 Keys of Excellence, which is part of the Citizenship, College and Career Ready initiative.  The second key, speak with good purpose, teaches students to make positive comments to one another.   By burning the put downs, the negative thoughts and comments student have heard or said “will be gone forever, never to be said or thought about again,” Moddelmog said.

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Getting Involved

untitled3Parent involvement. What is it like at your school? Are there lots of parents participating and helping at your school? Do you see parent volunteers come in and out of classrooms all day? Are there community members pitching in to read to students or fix up the playground? Are there parents hosting class parties, fundraisers, and other functions?

Or do you have few, if any, parent participants? Maybe it isn’t a high priority at your school. Maybe the parents are too busy with their jobs or other responsibilities. Maybe parents do not know they can volunteer at your school.

Perhaps you have heard of charter schools. Basically, these are public schools that operate with slightly different rules than your neighborhood school. These rules allow them to try different things than a “regular” public school. Many charter schools require, or strongly encourage, a minimum amount of parent volunteer hours at the school. I believe everyone agrees parents can do a lot of good for a school by sharing their time and talents there.

At an elementary school I worked at, we strongly believed in the value of having parents in our building as much as possible. Whether that was volunteering, working, meeting with a teacher, or attending an event, if they were part of our learning community, it was a good thing. We sent home regular newsletters advertising opportunities to volunteer at the school in every classroom. We hosted all kinds of events for parents, from music programs to lunch dates with your child. We tried to fill all part-time positions (and even some full-time positions) with local community members. Finally, we communicated with parents as often as possible, through phone calls, email messages, newsletters, and our website.

One of the key facets of President Obama’s vision for a 21st century education is “asking parents to take responsibility for their children’s success.” One important way parents can do this is to be a visible part of the school their children attend. At Quantum Learning, we believe everything speaks. Everything that we do as parents at a school sends a message to our children about learning. When we are present at the school, it sends the message “I care about you at school. This place is so important that I want to be part of it, too.” I am working on this myself with my daughter (a 1st grader) – a few weeks ago, I shared lunch with her at the designated “parent-child table.” What a great idea!

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