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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State of Schools around the US
By Barbara Bray    July 17, 2008 -- 07:23 AM

I live in California and work around the country. I am appalled about the state of education and how we are leaving more children behind then we ever have before. The focus of "No Child Left Behind" was framed so people thought that we were going to fight for all children. Actually, what has happened is that "Every poor, disadvantaged, learning disabled, at-risk, and minority child is left behind." What kind of country is this that we do this to our future. In todayís SF Chronicle, the headline is 24% of high school students will dropout.

Where are they? What are these dropouts doing now? How will they survive?

I noticed this starting to happen several years ago as a consultant working with several high schools in the SF bay area. When I pointed out that the data is alarming (i.e. at one urban school there were 800 freshmen and only 160 seniors), the school told me not to talk about it. I informed them that this is a big problem they need to address. So now the state superintendent is talking about it (5 years later).

 We cannot throw away one child!

 Since I work in other states, I know that funding levels do impact class size, teacher quality, etc. California is now 49th in funding per pupil. Class size averages over 32 where in Texas, Florida the average is around 22.

How can you be effective with that many children in your class?

In other countries, teachers are valued, honored. School communities blame teachers for problems that are out of their control. Those that have money are putting their kids in private schools or providing additional funding. Money that used to be invested in teachers is going to after-school programs, sports, libraries, computers, art - all the programs that used to be funded with general funds. It is difficult for me to see libraries without librarians. To see the focus on math and reading and not find a way to bring the arts to our children.

What will happen to this generation of kids who will only know how to take tests? Will they know how to think on their own?

In Japan, there is time for professional learning and teachers to share teaching practice almost daily. We expect teachers to do the impossible and learn on the job without much support and resources. No other job does this.

To create the 21st century citizens we want our children to become, our teachers need an environment that allows them to take risks where innovation and creativity is encouraged.

With so much focus on tests and accountability, innovation, problem-solving, critical-thinking, and creativity is not only discouraged but not allowed. We have to change this - NOW! Our children need to learn how to think, not what to think. 

Categories: "Teachers" "Problem Solving" "Nclb" "Innovation" "Authentic Learning" "Accountability"

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Comments: Add New Comments
By Cheryl Vitali      July 17, 2008 -- 07:42 AM

Your comments are so true. I have been reading a book called, "Getting to Got It," that is quite profound in how it addresses the way in which teachers work with students to help those who struggle most to actively make their own connections and learn how to think, not what to think. I love the way you expressed that.


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By small Mrs. Shannon Riek      July 24, 2008 -- 04:56 PM

Hello Barbara:

I so agree with your comment as well. I am a special education teacher from Florida. My students are expected to take and pass the FCAT when they are performing 2 to 3 years below grade level. Some do not even know their alphabet completely. Now NCLB would never ask a student in a wheelchair to get up and walk across the room; however that is what they are asking of students with disabilities. 


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