Rethinking Learning
conversations about the future of teaching and learning
Barbara Bray
be creative, innovate, take risks, unlearn to learn
Oakland, CA

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Changing School Structure and Culture
By Barbara Bray    February 12, 2006 -- 10:26 AM

I just returned from NCCE in Portland and was thinking about a few things we discussed.

In Washington state, each high school freshman student is assigned a teacher and put on a team with 19 other freshmen where the teacher is their coach throughout their high school years to help them build their portfolio and the culminating senior project. Teachers have one meeting a month with their team of students on top of their regular teaching schedule. I talked to a few teachers from Washignton but I may not have all the information clear about this program.

The idea of each teacher being a counselor or coach to a group of students as they start high school and follow them throughout their high school experience is something I believe we need to think about for all students. I know the small school initiative is kind of similar.

What about Title I students in failing schools?

Were you aware that NCLB Title I provides over $1,500 per student for free tutoring?  The district has to offer some type of tutoring services for failing students - however, the parents may not know how to access these services or the district may not have the system in place to offer these services. Many of the tutoring services are outside the school.

Problem, in my view, is that a failing school is told that everything is wrong in the school even when you and I know there are good teachers there; not all students are failing; there are systems in place that might be even great. Then the school is closed. The teachers were told they were the problem - they did not do what they were supposed to do and are reassigned - same with administrators. The students now have to travel to another school. Itís so negative.

What if we used these funds and changed how schools worked with struggling students and the culture of the school was more positive? Tell me what you think of this idea:

Build tutoring and reteaching into the school structure and culture. This means change - taking some risks.
  • Use Title I $ to coach teachers to be coaches of a small team of students that they follow from K-5, 6-8, or 9-12.
  • Change the grading system to attaining the standards with a B, exceeding the standards with an A or not attaining the standards and needing reteaching of the concepts. No labelling students with C, D, or F students - or failing students.
  • Provide multiple resources of differentiated instruction for all levels of learners.
  • Create a learning community where students build their learning plan and receive support from not only their teacher and maybe their coach but other students in the community.
Will write more - comments are welcome

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