Charter, choice, public and private schools are all in the same boat because they are all under the same artificial guidelines. The only reason to change schools is to get away from those “other kids”. It takes more than a name change to change education.
I confess that I support strong teacher and school accountability as well as a proficiency based system of education. However I do not support the artificial system that has been developed in the United States as well as other countries throughout the centuries. I support accountability that is fair and honest and is on a level playing field. I support a proficiency system that does not strip the students of their culture, that does not push students away from school simply because they don´t learn as fast as our elitist desires demand. A proficiency based system that does not depend on calling kids smart or stupid, weak or strong, fast or slow, just to justify a system of education developed hundreds of years ago.
The joy of learning is so important when we come to the conclusion that kids will memorize when we tell them only to be left with little knowledge. However, they will only learn when they are ready. They still control their minds as much as we have tried to control them and will open them and close them based on THEIR PERCEPTION of the value of the incoming information.
Remember, the joy of learning does not just mean play, it means the joy of discovery. It means empowering kids to work together to research, analyze and draw conclusions. And do this in a way that is real. What better way to learn than to take the classroom away from drab walls and into the community. How do you better learn about farming than visit a farmer and have students put their hands in the soil. How better to learn about being a Doctor that visiting a clinic and listen while the doctor explains his job and watch the Doctor do his job. In the process, all areas of academics can be built in assuring an increase in academic achievement. Of course there must still be standards and progress toward them will be indicated. But these standards must be guidelines for success, rather than deadlines for failure. They can no longer be a single artificial test.
As we “even the playing field” for every student, another question becomes, which students have the abilities to do high level jobs? In the past, those with good grades in some subject areas would learn advanced skills. Grades being moot, it is time to allow students to tell educators what their interests are and how they want to achieve them. No longer may we push kids into the streets before they blossom. Here’s how we get every child the chance to follow their dreams. We introduce students to high level skills via the exploratory workshops. These are two to three week workshops giving students an idea what goes into a profession of their interest. Again all students are welcomed regardless of their skills and abilities. It is important that we never again only seek students the school system decides is worthy. We never know when genius will unfold, so we must allow it to happen.
So to determine success, each child has his or her own MAP, their guideline to their success. This MAP takes the form of a proficiency (or learning goal) checklist developed by educators with support from parents and the student. This checklist is personal as it gives direction to the curriculum and therefore to daily projects. As they complete this check list, they know they are learning what is necessary for their future. Each check has an assessment attached to it which may be geared to a group or in some cases an individual.
The student then continuously moves forward making grade levels moot. If they “fail” a proficiency assessment, they don´t get failed into oblivion. They learn from their failure, just as we do in life, and they challenge the proficiency when they are prepared. And if it takes a little longer to learn, we wait for them. They might complete their education a week later, a month later or whenever they achieve real proficiency.
If students move through the system faster, no longer are they held back just to look good getting straight A´s, those students haven´t been challenged. They might even move to a nearby university class in the area in which they excel. Under this plan, the genius in every child will come out when it is ready, and failure becomes a learning experience. Similar to the university system, students will have time to progress on their pathway to success. If they take longer to learn, they will be able to go to school longer at an alternative site. If they drop out of school, they are welcomed to return at these alternative sites to follow their pathway to success. Their MAP follows them wherever they go and they finish school, as in the university, at whatever age they are ready.
The question then may arise, where do students with special needs fit in? This group, often forgotten or pushed to the side, will fit perfectly into the new system of education. Remember, we now take kids from where they are following their MAP and serving the needs of all. And what is a MAP? It is an IEP used to guide the special needs students on their pathway to success. Now everyone has that MAP/IEP: Now students with special needs are no longer branded on their foreheads for all to see.
No longer can we be held hostage to a boxed in world of education. No longer can we justify an education design that stymies teacher and student creativity. An educational design must be developed that allows teachers to teach and students to learn. Let´s get down to business and make learning real!