November 20, 2009

Reform, re–form, re form ...

What does "reform" mean? Haven't American schools been under the "reform" gun since 1983? I know some of my readers would be able to comment on that. But what does "reform" really get at? Wouldn't reform be akin to recreate? I'm not trying to pick a fight here or anything like that, but when you change a couple of things here and there and try to keep your structure untouched, is that really reform?

This post will not argue for the "fixing" of school finance. This post will argue for the fixing of the system? When you review the proposals for ReImagine, many of them include incorporating Mandarin Chinese into their school systems. The last time I checked, many of our students cannot even perform basic English Language Arts functions ... let alone Chinese. If you use the MEAP scores in Michigan as a yard stick, schools have a long way to go as far as reading and writing proficiency. (Maybe we were teaching Japanese back in the mid-80s as reform, I don't remember).

Anyway, I would suggest there are three things that can be done to "fix" or "reform" education. Or, at least begin the journey. (These are not necessarily in chronological order)

  1. We need to take a serious look at a year–round school model in Michigan. Sure, the legislature made it illegal to begin before Labor Day, but that does not apply to year–round school systems. Our 150–year old system no longer services our kids. If we really want to make change that is good for kids (retention of information!), then a year–round model makes sense. Many states have year–round, so there are many models to choose from. Is it summer you're concerned about? Then build your model around July and see what you create.
  2. Believe the research and embrace a guaranteed and viable curriculum. But don't stop there. Teach principals, administrators, teachers HOW to monitor that curriculum. Evaluation is under attack and it should be. Every school (not just every district) does it differently. The focus should be on improving instruction and highlighting great teachers, but it's become an inconvenience for principals and teachers. It's cumbersome. Evaluation should be able to be done in conjunction with the teacher to provide some type of feedback that helps instruction. If a school embraces a guaranteed and viable curriculum, incorporates best practices (example: Robert Marzano's nine instructional strategies that work), we will see assessment score skyrocket.
  3. Embrace and work with our communities to provide programming that schools may not be able to provide for many more years. Discussions need to begin now about how schools will offer sub–varsity sports, transportation options, etc. Funding rates will never be what they were only five years ago, according to Michigan's State Superintendent Mike Flanagan. So we have to begin to understand that, while our expenditures will continue to rise, our revenues may not. What can we do, working with the community, to continue to offer options. Granted, our communities are decimated as is the funding situation in the State and at schools.
Start with curriculum (backbone of the institution), fix the calendar, and work with your community. Sure, that then leads to another set of questions: are the right people on the bus?

1 comment:

brad said...

preach it preacher...preach put air conditioning in all classrooms and i would be one of the first ones to sign up for year around schools..jan, feb, in april...may, june, in aug..sept, oct, in december..absolutely no viable excuse not too...dont tell me about tourism..or athletic it..and do it now...