Guiding Principles For Educational Reform

One reads a great deal concerning education reform nowadays. It might almost seem as if this were some new trend in education. Indeed, it is not. I have been an educator for over thirty years. My field of expertise is reading. After teaching in a regular elementary classroom for a couple of years, I completed a master’s degree in reading and learning disabilities. Except for a five year break to attend seminary and serve as a full time minister, I have been a teacher of elementary reading. In 1995, I completed a doctorate in reading/educational psychology. At that point, I began teaching reading methods in a college setting.Over my thirty years of involvement in education, I have seen many, many reforms. Some have come from the right, others from the left. In the field of reading, when I began my teaching, basal reading programs were in, and we attempted to teach every skill known to humanity. Next, whole language gained quite a following. Next, an oldie, but a popular one, reappeared: phonics. Now we are emphasizing a balanced approached-I think that is likely a step in the right direction.We can easily extend this discussion beyond the boundaries of reading. When I started attending elementary school in 1960, math was a “drill and kill” activity. The expectation was learning of the basic math facts and procedures whether you understood them or not. It is rather easy to see if you learned under this method. Just attempt to explain “conceptually” why 1/2 divided by 4 is 1/8, and why to arrive at that one must “invert and multiply.” I am surprised at how many cannot explain the multiplication and division of fractions at the conceptual level.When I was about half way through my elementary school education, the so-called “new math” hit the educational world. I remember well spending most of my fourth-grade year (when it started in Kansas City) marking that 5 + 2 > 1 + 3. I liked this math. I was not too good at the old stuff, and I found this a breeze.People become very opinionated about educational reform. I have seen many a battle over the issue of whole language vs. phonics. It seems like everyone gets involves. Classroom teachers form strong opinions. Politicians form strong opinions and include reform as part their political platform. They know education is a hot button issue with voters. One group that I watch with great diligence is the religious right. It seems as if they have turned such aspects of educational reform as phonics-based reading instruction and support for the No Child Left Behind Act into something resembling religious dogma. It seems to make little sense, turning reading methods into a religious or quasi-religions crusade, but that is what the leaders of the religious right seem committed to support (James Dobson, for example).I reiterate: educational reform is not new. With that notion disposed of, I would like to suggest three principles of any lasting and useful educational reform. These are characteristics of reform supported over the long haul by much research and dictated by commonsense. I have arrived at these through observation of reform cycles that I have seen throughout my years of work as an educator.First, education reform cannot be test-driven. Currently, the watchword is accountability. From this perspective, teachers are cagey, lazy actors who need to have their feet held to the fire to make them perform. I have observed thousands of teachers over the years, worked with thousands of pre-service teachers, and supervised well over a hundred student teachers. I must admit, one does rarely encounter a lazy, careless teacher, but it is unusual. The attempt to control teachers and student achievement by means of standardized tests is a misguided approach.A recent study by the Educational Testing Service, makers of the SAT and nationally used teacher certification exams, revealed that there is much in student performance that cannot be controlled by schools. In fact, ETS discovered four variables: absenteeism, the percent of children living in single parent families, the amount of television kids watch, and how much preschoolers are read to daily by caregivers (especially parents) were very accurate predictors of reading test results used for No Child Left Behind reporting in eighth-grade. It seems that learning involves many variables (the four factors accounted for over two-thirds of the differences in aggregated state testing results). Home factors are things that schools and teachers cannot control.Instead of testing and testing yet more, a better use of funding would be the improvement of conditions for parents and families. Funding Head Start results in a measurable increase in IQ scores for disadvantaged children. Why not continue to fund enriched environments for Head Start children when they leave the program and help retain ground already gained? Why not fund more “parents as first teachers” programs to go into the homes and teach parents how to help get their preschoolers ready for school? Why not spend more money eradicating poverty-especially since that seems to be the real issue?Second, an effective reform program would insist on scope and sequence. By scope, I refer to the content taught, by sequence, I refer to when content is to be mastered. This was one of the downfalls of the whole language movement. It taught reading without any real coordination of materials, curriculum, or expectations for mastery in terms of when expected benchmarks should be met. Much more coordination of teaching needs to take place and curriculum guides and agreed upon content are essential.At the same time, I am not implying that methodology needs to be completely standardized. There needs to be some general guidelines on how to go about doing things. Still, teaching is as much art as science. To address methodology too much turns teaching into a mechanical act, and we know that the relationship, or blending, of teacher and learner are all important concepts. What we need are standards and benchmarks without denying teachers the authority to make hundreds and thousands of critical decisions each day. What we need are flexible standards and flexible benchmarks.Lastly, we need a new way of doing things. After all of the years of reform, after all the years of researching what works, an amazing trend is notable. Educational critic and researcher, John Goodlad, notes that the most common activity one observes in today’s elementary schools is seatwork (i.e. worksheets, quiet work from textbooks, etc). The most common activity noted in high schools is lectures. Both of these approaches are notoriously ineffective. Just consider lectures, for example, how often do you “zone out” during sermons? And, if you do attend, what keeps you “plugged in?”We have lost the wisdom shared with us by John Dewey so many years ago and supported by study after study. Children learn best by doing. Kids need to make a classroom democracy, not just study government in their civics textbook. They need to come up with ways they can recycle and begin a neighborhood recycling program, not just read about pollution. Education needs to become real. The real is better than the contrived. As psychologist Jerome Bruner has pointed out, doing is better than seeing, and seeing is better than just reading or hearing about something. Probably the best approach combines all three methods.Reforms come and go. However, on these three principles, we can arrive at a reform that will stand the test of time. All of us want our schools to improve. Isn’t it time to skip the political rhetoric of the right (including the religious right) and the left and do what is best for kids? Isn’t it about time?

Impact Of Good Early Childhood Education On A Child

Today when the subject of early childhood education is discussed our thoughts go to grade school youngsters or children in kindergarten. However, the focus of early childhood education indeed considers all children from birth to the age of 5 years old. This is part of our government’s findings about the impact of good early childhood education.The Human Services and the Dept. Of Education are working in line to ensure the child care education programs across the US have a strong strategy for the education and care of our preschoolers. An announcement from the National Academy of Sciences publications says that early childhood education and care taking for our preschoolers needs to work together when meeting early requirements of children across the US. The program for preschoolers are being designed with both these components in mind for childcare education.A change will be happening as the first graders will be groomed in cognitive and social readiness when they enter the first grade of school. This move is prompted by calls to the White House to act upon some research studies done that indicate the positive impact of Head start programs and other childcare education studies. Program evaluations found early child care and education made an impression upon the cognitive skills, health and behavior status of children through graduation.The Head start programs and plans which sent nurses into homes of mothers and their infants, as well State Pre-K programs, delivered early childhood education information to parents about their physical and emotional health. Statistical evidence provided information that children safety issues improved. Reports of parents served in these programs for early childhood education were positive for the entire family unit.The same children who started out in early childhood education programs decades ago were tracked and the results show reductions in criminal behavior resulted. There are also indications that the dropout rate was decreased because issues that began for children were addressed before they ever entered the first grade. Researchers in kindergarten and preschool education discovered that those who drop out of school must be attended to before their third grade class in school.The reports of positive results in lowering dropout rates and criminal behavior came from improved behavior and better IQ’s achieved in kindergarten education programs. These reports, after the program evaluations, were the reason people called the White House for continued funding to support early childhood education for all children from birth to kindergarten.In conclusion, the program evaluations of early childhood education determined the long term results were an investment. Every dollar spent on these programs produced a return worth seven times the investment. Costs to care for the jailed dropouts arrested for criminal behavior and the indigent adults without education; they bear upon society’s purse strings to further fund welfare and prison systems. Both the people and the government are in favor of preventative efforts established by the kindergarten programs.

Advancing Careers With Online Education and Distance Learning Programs

Do you feel stifled in your current career? Are you stuck in a rut and find yourself unable to move up the corporate ladder? Are you looking for better job prospects and a higher salary? Do you believe that having only an undergraduate degree is preventing you from accomplishing your career goals? Then, maybe its time to look at the best possible solution to your professional problems! The answer lies in online learning and what it can offer you in terms of career advancement.Now, you might think that you are just too busy to resume your education. Juggling your job along with responsibilities at home may be preventing you from enrolling for that college course you have been toying with. Or taking time off from work to complete your education may just not be an option in today’s competitive market. It is in situations like these that an online degree program becomes an ideal solution. No doubt, earning a living is important, but nowadays this does not necessarily imply giving up your dream of a higher education. You can attend college after work with an online education school.Online education is growing fast with many schools offering online degrees. Many colleges now offer courses and methods of studying that are easier and more enjoyable. You will receive the same quality education and degree as attending a campus. The difference is that your online degree is earned from home in your own time.There are so many options when it comes to an online degree. You can choose from an Associate, Bachelor’s and even a Master’s degree. But the biggest plus point in favor of online education is the convenience. There are no set times and class schedules and you can work faster or slower depending on the pace you require. You can complete your degree in lesser timeframe, which allows you to re-enter the work arena in a shorter time frame than with a traditional college program. You can attend class whenever you have the time and without having to commute or spend on gas or public transport. All that you require is a computer with an Internet connection to access all your course information online. A good program will promote communication between lecturers and other fellow students through email, forums, message boards and chat rooms. For those on a budget, most online programs offer flexible payments and are, as a rule, less expensive than a normal school program. Financial aid is also available for online education, so check out your options before registering.Therefore, the highlights of online education are:
– A school that is open round the clock
– No traveling or commuting fees
– Less expensive course fees
– Study at your own convenience
– Access to the curriculum and course material is always availableIn terms of today’s shaky economy, you might be struggling to hold onto your job and stay afloat. It’s in such situations that you need to boost your job skills and optimize your resume by adding new up-to-date skills through the variety of online degree programs available. Regardless of what you are interested in, the odds are that you will be able to find an online degree that meets your needs. Another benefit of choosing long distance education is that you are not limited by the programs offered by the schools around you. You can choose a program, no matter how obscure the field, rather than settling for programs available only through your local college or university.In many careers, promotions are limited for individuals who do not have degrees. Working professionals should choose an online degree program to get out of a dead-end job. Choose a program that offers training that will benefit you with your career goals as well.At the end of the day though, online programs are not an easy option. All said and done, completing any online degree program requires commitment and determination. You need discipline to stay on track but when you finally graduate, you will reap the benefits of online education that make all the difference to your career … and your life.