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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dissecting the JPEF’s ideas

After blaming teachers for the malaise American Education finds itself in, (high stakes testing, poverty, people who have never been in a classroom making decisions anybody) the JPEF offered a few suggestions to right our so-called sinking ship. Below are their suggestions, my remarks and then a few suggestions of my own.

Class-size changes: Not simply increasing all class sizes to push more students into fewer classrooms, but allowing more flexibility at the school level to determine which teachers and subjects can handle a few more students without sacrificing quality, and which students and teachers would benefit most from even smaller group sizes. I don’t understand why they don’t get, if you give me a few more students I will be a better teacher, said no teacher ever.

Specialization: Having top teachers, particularly in elementary school, teach only core subjects while developing teachers learn by example and take care of students the rest of the time. I guess this could work, though I know there already is a lot of specialization going on in many schools especially in the upper elementary grades.

Multi-classroom leadership: Having top teachers take on a coaching and oversight role that puts them in charge of several classrooms - allowing them to expand what they know works to reach students across multiple classrooms, while rising in their own career path as well. My problem with this is a lot of these corporate reformers can’t conceive that many teachers just want to teach. They don’t have the desire to be principals, assistant principals or multiple classroom leaders. To them teaching is the brass ring.

Time-technology swaps: Investing in new ways to incorporate classroom technology to handle the reinforcing of basic skills lessons and practice to allow top teachers more time for small group and individual instruction with more students. Every few years teachers are forced to use a new program that experts say will revolutionize education that is quickly replaced by a new one. Thus far there has been no technological silver bullet, please do not hold your breath waiting for one.

These suggestions won’t do a bit of good unless we decide to tackle poverty and then as you may have detected I am still skeptical about some of them as well. If the JPEF is serious about improvement, mitigating poverty is the route we need to take and here are some ideas.

There are many things we can do to mitigate poverty in our so-called struggling schools. We should have social workers and mental health counselors because quite often why a student doesn’t try or acts up has nothing to do with school. We should hire skill, trade and arts teachers because this one size fits all, everybody is going to go to college curriculum that we force every kid into doesn’t play to many children’s strengths and aptitudes and because we can’t continue to make school such drudgery for kids and then wonder why they perform poorly. Then we need to have more summer school opportunities because some kids need more time to learn it and less time to lose it. Finally at least in Duval many students are taking too many classes that are too long at the same time, we should get rid of the A/B block.

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