Archive for September, 2011

Philosophy

The beginning of any school reform decisions should begin with philosophy: What do the reformers believe that education or school districts or schools should be? Philosophy is the “why” of anything. Therefore, philosophy is the beginning. From the philosophy comes the reason for what schools should be doing, how they should be doing it, where they should be doing that, when they should be doing that, and who should be doing it.

Educational philosophies should act as guidelines for decision-making when it comes to school reform. When politicians, businessmen and parents clamor for change, the educators need to balance these demands for change with their philosophies of education. The overriding question – why? – has to be asked each time for each change. The guidelines are established by educational philosophies. Within these guidelines educators must implement change to continue improvement in education.

There are four aspects to educational philosophy. Schools need to be nurturing environments that are places of learning. Schools are given the responsibility of passing on the knowledge and culture of civilization from one generation to the next. Schools produce lifelong learners who finds fulfillment in their lives. The development of philosophy should incorporate as many different views as the community offers. Philosophies should be relatively simple to provide for the flexibility needed in the modern changing world.

When the philosophy has been developed, it should become a working instrument. When calls for change or a changing world begins to affect a school, the decision on what changes need to be instrumented and how they should be incorporated within a school environment can be made based on the school philosophy. For example, there is a major movement to increase the length of the school day. Philosophy requires us to ask “why?” Many of those that support this change hold to the belief that the school is little more than a daycare center. Philosophy tells us that a school is a place of learning. How then do we offset the length of the school day to fulfill this obligation of the philosophy? More time in school can often be beneficial in today’s world. More is not always better. In some cases the school day is so long that it serves diminishing results. Young children – primary grade level – did not benefit as much as older children – secondary school. The decision on the school’s part to lengthen the school day must meet the demand of the philosophy. What purpose does a lengthen school day served? How will it be implemented? How will programs within the school be affected? These are just to name a few of the questions that are faced by school administrators and school board members. Decisions such as these also impact other aspects of education. These include budget considerations, resource management, and personnel costs.

Some school systems it will philosophy that their services are more of a daycare center in a learning institution. When faced with a decision concerning length of the school day, the decision becomes very easy. “How long do the parents work?” becomes the major concern. The quandary in today’s world seems to the drive to “improve education.” The means from the political circle is to increase the school day. There philosophy seems to be based on the “more is better” concept. Working parents often are willing to accept this to solve the problem of child care either before or after school. This one issue is just an example of the difficulties that school boards and administrators must face when confronted with a changing world.

 

The mission of education is to provide an opportunity for learning. From this mission grows the philosophy. From this philosophy develops the educational structure of the school. Unless a philosophy is established, school reform will only result in chaos.

September 20, 2011 at 10:27 pm Leave a comment

Educator’s Thoughts on School Reform

I am an educator. My experience spans 40 years. I have seen good schools and bad schools. I have worked with good principles. I have been involved in committees to develop curriculum, improvement school discipline, design student handbooks, in corporate technology in the classroom, and design protocols for in school research. I have taught in private parochial schools and public schools. I have taught in small schools and big schools. I have taught in single-sex to schools and coed schools. I have taught special ed kids, inclusion classes, regular classrooms and gifted children. I have taught elementary school, secondary school, college classes and graduate school education classes. I feel my experience provides me with the needed perspective to discuss school reform.

There is an attack on schools, teachers and students. The attack comes from politicians would’ve been swept into office based on promises to improve education. Unfortunately what I see is an attempt not to improve education for to create a political plank for future political programs. I fear they carry an agenda that will not benefit the students in the schools. There are issues that need to be addressed in the school and community. The general dissatisfaction with the state of education has created this atmosphere of negative school reform. Education is not cheap. Education is not solely the responsibility of the classroom teacher.

I had used this blog to offer some thoughts on how to be a good classroom teacher. Now I wish to use this blog to present my thinking on how we can improve education in this country. I welcome the readers’ comments and ideas. Improving education is a collaborative effort. School reform will need the input and help of members of the educational community, parents community, business community, political community and the student community. Sharing ideas lead to solutions that solve problems.

As a brainstorming exercise, I offer the following suggestions for school reform. I will use this outline as a guide to express my ideas on school reform.

School Reform

Philosophy

  • Nurturing Environment.
  • Pass on of Culture
  • Place of learning
  • not a daycare center
  • lifelong learners

Teacher Preparation Programs

  • improve teacher preparation programs
  • improved on-site teacher evaluation

School Climate

  • class size
  • home/school interaction
  • safe/nurturing environment

Involvement

  • parents
  • community
  • business
  • local politicians

Improved Instruction

  • technology
  • instructional materials
  • continued teacher education
  • in-service presentations

September 17, 2011 at 12:14 am Leave a comment

Class Size

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If anybody wants to know about class size, they should talk to an experienced classroom teacher. Teachers in the classrooms will tell you that the number of pupils in a classroom has a distinct effect upon the teacher’s ability to provide adequate experiences for all students. Student achievement is directly related to the number of students in the classroom. This is supported by the majority of reliable studies conducted by a variety of organizations.

As a classroom teacher, probably like many other classroom teachers, I have had the experience of dealing with as many as 42 students and as few as 7 students. I am sure there are teachers who have had more than 42 students and some who have had fewer than 7. The US Department of Education claims that the average class size is 25 students per class. His school day might have 300 min. of actual instructional time. The other time is devoted to lunch, bathroom breaks or non-instructional events. Therefore in an elementary level classroom of 25 students over 300 min., the teacher has 12 min. per student in the course of the day. And a high school class or a departmentalized grade school class with 15 min. segments allows only 2 min. per student. Decreasing or increasing class size has an impact on teacher/pupil interaction time.

Teachers use nonverbal communication to interact with individual students without disrupting an entire classroom. Eye contact, physical nearness and body language are some of the means that teachers can use to communicate with students. Good teachers communicate with the students with a raised eyebrow, rolled eye, a shrug, or moving to stand near a student. As a result classroom activities are not disrupted by a single student. Some students demand attention. The students can often disrupt activities in the classroom. Being able to identify an attention seeking outbreak early, the teacher will be able to avoid the situation with the nonverbal communication. Increasing class sizes create situations in which attention seeking students evade the teacher’s watchful eye.

The present economic situation has led to decreases in school budgets, greater demands on teachers and increased pressure on school districts to perform. Politicians, legislators and parents have joined to criticize pupils, teachers and schools. Reducing state spending has been at the expense of quality education. Funding to school districts has been cut causing the local school district to fire teachers and reduce programs. The result has been to increase class size. Some school districts determine the number of teachers allowed in a school by dividing the school population by the number of students permitted per class. For example, if the school board’s class size policy is 30 students per class and the school population is 900 students then the school should have 30 teachers. That sounds reasonable. The problem in some school districts is that no allowance is made for special needs classes. State law often mandates the size special need classes. For example, students with learning disabilities are limited to 12 students in a class. Students with severe physical disabilities are limited to 5 per class. Depending upon the number of special-needs classes in a school, the class-size may be above the expected 30 per class.

Look at me... Look at me

Class size is a component that contributes to good schools. When school budgets are reduced for whatever reason it often results in an increase in the number of students in the class. The resulting effects often influence test scores and abilities of teachers to achieve the goals that have been established within the school. The result is to provide the appearance of a great decline in education, the schools taxpayers who fund and the teachers that have been hired. This becomes the political fodder of future campaigns. Teachers, schools and educational funding are easy targets for those with a different philosophy of education. Politicians and too many parents view teachers as overpaid and under worked. They point to the schools as failures. They see education funding as a poor investment. Schools, teachers and educational funding become the targets of the “Balance the Budget” propagandists. It is not difficult to convince an electorate who agrees with the thought that teachers do not do their job and schools are not doing their job as daycare providers. The invariable result of this thinking and the resulting actions is that some of the best young teachers decide to move on to other professions. Prospective teachers in the universities decide not to major in education. And experienced teachers with too much invested in a school system are left behind to deal with increased class sizes, decreased budgets and their efforts left unappreciated .

School reform is a plank in every politicians platform. Failure to address the issue of class size will only result in poorer schools and less motivated teachers and a never-ending cycle of failure. If politicians truly wish to improve education they should include a sliver of reduced class size. I have found – my own experience – the ideal class size ranges between 16 and 20. There are classes that need to be smaller but generally speaking a class below 20 provides the opportunity for teachers to work at their optimum. Students benefit from good teachers working in a school environment that encourages learning.

September 13, 2011 at 12:16 am Leave a comment


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