After years of tweaking it, throwing money at it, implementing many, many innovative programs at the local and state levels, not to mention nationwide, none has made more than a very small dent in the downward spiral that has our high school graduates currently scoring lower in both math and science than many of the graduates in other free-world countries. That's inexcusable, unacceptable and unconscionable.
My plans and recommendations for reforming this fractured system are presented in condensed form here and in much greater detail in "REMEDIES"*. They are based on my life-long research and interest in educational betterment as well as my personal observations during my seven years of classroom teaching and 23 years as a principal.
In this synopsis I address and highlight six starting-point remedies for the new education model that I believe are needed to fix the existing system. These remedies address the developmental years from birth through "grade 4". My firm belief is that once implemented, these remedies will bring about the reversal of the current educational spiral and will provide the foundation upon which to build a total reform of our floundering system -- from birth through post graduate school. They are:
- National New-Born Registry
- Individualized Learner Program
- National Skills and Core Knowledge Data Bank
- Time on Task and the School Year
- Staffing and
- Professional Compensation
I anticipate these remedies and reforms in this new model will be viewed and judged by the usual skeptics as nothing short of too radical and totally impossible, by the experts as probably impossible but interesting or as the long-awaited answer by those who truly understand the learning process, the uniqueness of each child and the archaic nature of the curriculum.
To start with I am proposing the immediate establishment of a National New-Born Registry of every child born in this country! (Remember I said my remedies would be viewed and judged as too radical or impossible.)
The goals of this registry program are first to function as a pre-school-school tracking system that monitors and documents the progress of all children during their preparation for entering the formal school system. It becomes each child's permanent data bank.
The second goal is to have the individual's cumulative record continue to follow the child throughout his or her entire school career and serve as the basis for all ensuing educational decisions. The technology to make this happen already exists.
Next, on to the concept of the Individualized Learner Program; another vital and long overdue remedy. Revamping and replacing the entire Pre-K- 4 curriculum with a new model will create one tailored to support the learning needs of each individual and is briefly outlined here.
How does this Individualized Learner Program meet the need each child has for learner-appropriate materials and a learner-appropriate work environment? In the new model when a child enters a mandatory pre-K program or approved, age-appropriate program anywhere, the child arrives with National New-Born Registry documentation; the teaching team receiving the child immediately transfers the data into a school based master computer, then staffs and places the child. It's a process similar to starting a medical chart with a detailed history.
The data will consist of all acquired core knowledge and readiness skills -- or deficiencies -- and will include social as well as academic information. A supervising master teacher and team will know exactly where to begin in order to develop an individualized learning plan for the new learner. The plan entries -- gleaned from approved programs of individual skills and content contained in the National Skills and Core Knowledge Data Bank - are then modified or added to throughout each day as the child progresses. It will serve as a reporting and accountability tool accessible to the child's parents and all other professionals or agencies working for or with the child. Confidentiality will be strictly maintained in accordance with appropriate laws and policies.
A key component of this Individualized Learner Program is that the data will follow the child -- the learner - throughout his school years no matter what school the child enters or transfers to -- any time of the year and anywhere in the nation.
The National Skills and Core Knowledge Data Bank, a vital, supportive and integrated component of the new model is treated in much greater detail in "REMEDIES" but is too long and detailed for this mini synopsis. The primary function of the data bank is to serve as the universally accessible repository for a comprehensive core of relevant content and skills - a national curriculum for all pre-K through 4 children.
To accomplish the goals and assure the success of this new model education system requires providing remedies for two additional interconnected weaknesses in the existing system: Time-On-Task and the School Year. It is not enough to have a great program and then to have it fail because inadequate time was devoted to implementing and utilizing it.
Productivity in our society is based on a combination of many factors, but one measure related to production and easy to measure is time-on-task. When you look at our current education model it is easy to see that our schools are not spending nearly enough time-on-task. We are out of touch with the real world and the need to keep up with the increasing knowledge explosion that challenges us all every day.
If you ask the schools to educate a student -- any student -- and to do it in 13 years, you would think that would be ample time to come up with an excellent finished product, but it is obviously based on a flawed model that doesn't work. In the new education model the time-on-task for learners and staff and the proposed modifications of the school year are radically different from the currently accepted standards. In the new model the 180 day school year is expanded to 225 days for students and longer more for staff. Students will get between 1,800 and 2,025 more hours of time-on-task per year or for an 85% (+/-) increase for each student per year! Spread that increase over 13 years, combine it with top-notch teaching teams, an Individualized Learner Program based on relevant skills and content selected from the National Skills and Core Knowledge Data Bank and the excellent finished product becomes a reality!
Staffing and Compensation are two more major components of the new model requiring a brief introduction here. In order to attain the goal of providing every child with the best education possible we must begin by radically altering current staffing patterns.