Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Politics in the Classroom

Many teachers completely avoid the subject of politics in the classroom while others feel it is their responsibility to share their political agendas with their students. I imagine most teachers fall somewhere in between. I believe that discussing politics and current events in the classroom is a vital component of a liberal arts education.

My approach is to always express both sides of an issue, sometimes three or four sides. An educator’s role is not to indoctrinate but to enlighten. Our goal should be to teach young people how to research the facts so they can draw their own conclusions.

In my 12th grade Personal Finance class I include a unit called Taxpayer Responsibility. I begin by explaining the general agendas of today’s political parties. I explain that the basic mindset of the Democratic Party is that that government is responsible for taking care of people. Restrictions on business are necessary to protect people and the environment from negative business practices and any negative impact of business on society and the environment.

Our Republican legislators generally support laws that limit restrictions on business. Their mindset is that businesses create jobs and wealth and government-imposed restrictions limit jobs and wealth. Republicans try to reduce taxes on business and individuals and do not believe that it is the government’s responsibility to provide financial support for citizens. They also advocate for a strong military.

Libertarians strive for smaller government. They want to reduce business and individual taxes and social programs. Many Libertarians believe that large countries, like the United States of America, should not be heavily involved in world politics and should limit military and humanitarian aid. They also want to eliminate government restrictions on businesses and also on individuals.

There are a number of other political parties, such as the Green Party, which has an agenda related to caring for the planet. All of these parties have good intentions, they just see the world differently.

I explain to my students that they should understand the motivations of political parties so that when it is time  to vote they can choose a candidate that represents their personal beliefs and agendas. I also teach how to locate resources to learn more about candidates. I demonstrate how to use https://www.govtrack.us to see what elected officials are doing. I encourage students to get involved by contacting elected officials and expressing their concerns. I also explain the impact of political contributions on the actions of elected officials and how to research the source of political contributions candidates receive.

Finally, I try to teach all of this without revealing my personal politics so that I do not influence their decision making. I am not here to indoctrinate but to educate and to help prepare the young people I have the privilege of teaching to become the productive citizens of tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

ISTE Standards for Educators: The Facilitator

ISTE Standards for Educators: The Facilitator (source: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators)

Educators facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement of the ISTE Standards for Students. Educators:

  • 6a Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.
  • 6b Manage the use of technology and student learning strategies in digital platforms, virtual environments, hands-on makerspaces or in the field.
  • 6c Create learning opportunities that challenge students to use a design process and computational thinking to innovate and solve problems.
  • 6d Model and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge or connections.
Educators as facilitators is a newer concept. When I attended public school in the 1970's and 80's, all instruction was teacher-centered and teacher-led. There was very little concern about the needs of individual learners. My higher education experience was similar.

Today's classroom has a different structure. In a student-centered learning environment, students have autonomy, and the teacher offers support which may increase student motivation and interest in learning. There is abundant research on the benefits of the teacher as the facilitator of student learning rather than the orchestrator. "Autonomy support revolves around finding ways to enhance students’ freedom to coordinate their inner motivational resources with how they spend their time in the classroom" (Reeve, 2005, p. 7).

6a Foster a culture where students take ownership

When one reflects on what areas of life are important, the results generally produce of list of areas where the one reflecting has some control, or ownership. This list may include general health and fitness, family relationships, work and home life, and so on. As adults assign a greater importance to those areas of our lives that are self-controlled, it is a natural assumption that the same is true of students in our classrooms.

ISTE paints a very clear picture of what this looks like in the 6a standard:

Creating shared values, social norms and goals around the purpose and approach to learning by, for example, bringing students into the process of establishing and maintaining culture; setting up space and time for students to fail and try again; establishing space and time for student reflection and goal setting; allowing students voice and choice in demonstration and evaluation of competency.

This picture does not look like a traditional teacher-centered classroom with desks in a row and the teacher separate at the front of the room. This looks like a classroom where the teacher truly listens to the individual learner and considers their input. This definitely does not look like a classroom where standardized testing is the highest priority. If this is a concern, know that student-centered learning has been shown to improve standardized test scores and graduation rates (McKenna, 2014; Richmond, 2014).

This change in classroom culture will not be a comfortable transaction for many educators. However, the potential benefits to the learner make a solid attempt at a student-centered lesson worth the effort.

6b Manage the use of technology and student learning strategies

Those already familiar with ISTE standards for teachers and learners will have no trouble with this objective.  For those who are new to using technology in the classroom, particularly in a student-centered environment, there are many resources to help one get started.

Start small. There are many free online tools designed to engage students and let them take the lead in their own learning. Consider online chats or forums, web quests, or even a digital field trip. A quick Web search should help you find something that relates to the curriculum you teach. Google Classroom is free and has a number of wonderful resources. Talk to other teachers, or read their blogs, and see what they are doing.

6c Create learning opportunities that challenge students

During the past 17 years, public schools have been lowering the bar for students in order to keep graduation rates up. The result is that graduates are finding they are not prepared for college or the work force. Employers are frustrated when employees lack necessary soft skills, such as communication and problem solving skills (Junior Achievement, 2013). According to https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/, the majority of U.S. high school graduates are not proficient across the board.

It is time to try something different. Raising expectations placed on students is a good place to start. Students need to be actively engaged in the learning process in order to raise their motivation. When they take ownership of their learning the results are positive. Fletcher (2008) demonstrated that when provided the opportunity, students became an active and positive influence on the community,

6d Model and nurture creativity and creative expression

Teachers teach because of a passion for seeing minds opened. Following the Facilitator Standard puts educators in the position to guide and encourage as students taken ownership of their learning and realize that what they do matters. Students can become givers rather than receivers. The opportunity to fail in a safe environment may lead students to take more changes and explore alternatives that are discouraged in the standardized-testing environment.

Switching to a role of facilitator can be very challenging. Use available resources and remember to keep the focus on achieving learning objectives while keeping students involved and engaged. A good place to start is with Howton (2017), "Turn your classroom into a personalized learning environment." From there, continue to explore ISTE resources and many others. When you see the enthusiasm in your classroom start to grow, you will be glad you did.


Fletcher, A. (2008). The Architecture of Ownership. Educational Leadership, 66(3). Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov08/vol66/num03/The-Architecture-of-Ownership.aspx  

Howton, R. (2017). Turn your classroom into a personalized learning environment. Retrieved January 16, 2018, from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=416

Junior Achievement (2013). Are students prepared for the workplace? New tools for a new generation. Retrieved from https://www.juniorachievement.org/documents/20009/20652/Are+Students+Prepared+for+the+Workplace.pdf/c1b75524-016d-4bd1-b8aa-74395f51021a

McKenna, B. (2014). New research shows effectiveness of student-centered learning in closing the opportunity gap. Stanford Graduate School of Education New Center. Retrieved from https://ed.stanford.edu/news/new-research-shows-effectiveness-student-centered-learning-closing-opportunity-gap.

Reeve, J. (2006). Teachers as facilitators: What autonomy‐supportive teachers do and why their students benefit. The Elementary School Journal, 106(3), 225-236. doi:10.1086/501484.

Richmond, E. (2014). What happens when students control their own education? The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/10/what-happens-when-students-control-their-own-education/381828/

Saturday, December 30, 2017

ISTE Standards for Educators: The Citizen

ISTE Standards for Educators: The Citizen (source: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators)

What is a citizen? According to Dictionary.com, a citizen is, "a native or naturalized member of a state or nation who owes allegiance to its government and is entitled to its protection." By definition, the term citizen implies action; it is not a passive but an active role in a community. A citizen receives the benefits of a community, but also owes allegiance, or loyalty and commitment, to the community.

According to the ISTE Standards for Educators, an educator, as a citizen of the educational community. should inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibly participate in the digital world. Educators:

3a Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community.

3b Establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity and critical examination of online resources and fosters digital literacy and media fluency.

3c Mentor students in safe, legal and ethical practices with digital tools and the protection of intellectual rights and property.

3d Model and promote management of personal data and digital identity and protect student data privacy.

3a Create experiences for learners
This ISTE standard requires educators to create experiences that engage learners and permit them to contribute to the body of knowledge and other resources available publicly, and also privately, in a safe and positive manner. As specified in the definition of citizen, learners are expected to take an active a role as members of the educational community. They are not to be only observers. The educator is required to offer learners the training, guidance, and opportunity to become full citizens of the educational community through their original works. These could be any form of intellectual property such as poetry and prose, music and lyric, video, or even counseling, tutoring, and fundraising.

There are two more parts to creating this learning environment. In additional to making "positive, socially responsible contributions," learners are to "exhibit empathetic behavior online that build[s] relationships and community." This standard requires much more than an educator throwing a lesson together and presenting it to students. It requires that an educator know what is appropriate for the learning environment, research appropriate tools, develop meaningful assignments, monitor learner activities, and more.

I imagine this is overwhelming to one looking at all of this for the first time. Remember, none of us is working alone. There are numerous resources that can be drawn on to get started. No one needs to reinvent the wheel to meet this standard. If you are feeling lost, join a PLN or a Facebook group that encourages student-centered learning in the digital age. Many teachers and organizations publish blogs with creative ideas for projects and other assessments that meet the ISTE Teacher and Learner standards. Some educational organizations publish state standards for education online and include curriculum-based project ideas you can reference.

3b Establish a learning culture
The learning environment is no longer teacher-driven. As I like to say to my students, education is not a spectator sport; you must participate, and what you receive from your education is directly impacted by what you put into it. There is not enough room for creativity in a teacher-driven system. Learners must have the opportunity to explore in order to feed their curiosity.

A large part of achieving this standard requires that students have an opportunity for self-reflection. They need to not only be trained to determine the validity and reliability of the information they are looking at, but also how their own personal bias might impact how they receive it. Media fluency requires that learners develop the skills necessary to "interpret large amounts of complex information in multiple formats and communicate and share across various media formats."

Providing a digital and information literacy program that begins at the kindergarten level will help learners develop these skills, but many of our young people have not had any training in evaluating information sources. Today's educator must find a way to help learners develop these skills so that they can become productive citizens of the digital age.

3c Mentor students
Mentoring may be a new concept for a lot of us. It requires that we listen to and observe each learner to determine what their individual needs are, and do our best to meet those needs within the learning environment. Everyone learns differently so the teacher-centered approach will not fit here as a citizen of the learning community. Student must be given opportunities to share and to help other learners.

Learning environments should be based on "safe, legal, and ethical practices with digital tools and the protection of intellectual rights and property." Today's learners must be aware of the laws and usage opportunities afforded them under current copyright laws and Creative Commons licensing. They should also understand what it means to violate these rules.

3d Model and promote smart practices
Modeling is something that educators do every day. Modeling according to the ISTE citizenship standard sets the bar higher than some educators might be used to but it necessary for today's learners. The first aspect requires that "Educators engage in these best practices themselves; bring transparency to them with colleagues, parents, students, and other stakeholders; and promote them among students colleagues and stakeholders." Educators are in the public eye, and what we do may impact how others behave. It is important that educators demonstrate best practices in citizenship in and out of the classroom and in social media.

Another aspect of this standard is protecting student data. Educators model this by password protecting their own data and not sharing personal information. Educators also need to be aware of who is present when they are discussing issues related to student academics or behaviors. Student work should not be shared without specific permission; demonstrate to learners proper methods of presenting intellectual property that belongs to others.

·        Creative Commons licensing
·        Dictionary.com: citizen
·        Digital Citizenship
·        Educators as mentors
·        Student centered learning resources
o   Edutopia: Student-Centered Learning Environments: How and Why
o   Pinterest

o   Teachhub: Top 12 Student-Centered Lessons for All Grades

ISTE Standards for Educators: The Collaborator

ISTE Standards for Educators: The Collaborator (source: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators)

Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems. Educators:
·        4a Dedicate planning time to collaborate with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology.
·        4b Collaborate and co-learn with students to discover and use new digital resources and diagnose and troubleshoot technology issues.
·        4c Use collaborative tools to expand students' authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams and students, locally and globally.
·        4d Demonstrate cultural competency when communicating with students, parents and colleagues and interact with them as co-collaborators in student learning.

4a Dedicate planning time
Anyone who works in education knows that prioritizing is a must. In order to meet the standard as a Collaborator, time must be set aside for collaboration. Find a way to collaborate regularly with others who can add to your educational portfolio. There are many PLNs who focus on just this sort of thing.

4b Collaborate and co-learn
One thing that greatly improves the educational experience for a young person is an opportunity to give within the learning environment. So much of traditional education is based on getting. For example, you “get passing grades” to move from 5th grade to 6th grade. You “get a high school education” to get into college. You “get a college degree” to get a job. Our students also have a lot to give, and they will give freely when they have an opportunity to do so.

When using technology, students need to be given time to explore and to make mistakes. Many of us learn a great deal through the mistakes we make. In a testing environment, everything is either “right” or “wrong.” In an exploratory environment, nothing is wrong. When a student has taken a different turn, they can turn around, come back, and try again.  

4c Use collaborative tools
Today’s technology makes it possible to coordinate with educators and others in your field all over the world. Students will be more engaged learning experiences are authentic -- relevant to their personal experiences. Kognity.com has some good resources to get you started with connecting your students with others around the world. There are many others to explore as well.  

4d Demonstrate cultural competency
“Cultural competence is the ability to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across cultures. Cultural competence encompasses: being aware of one's own world view, developing positive attitudes towards cultural differences, [and] gaining knowledge of different cultural practices and world views.” See more at weHearYou.acecqu.gov.au.

Understanding the cultural background of other people and their point of view leads to tolerance. When all stakeholders can take part in a child’s education, everyone benefits. Many educators find that understanding their students’ cultural backgrounds and incorporating them into regular educational activities creates a richer educational experience.

·        ISTE Standards for Educators
·        Kognity.com  
·        weHearYou.acecqu.gov.au

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

ISTE Standards for Educators : The Leader

ISTE Standards for Educators: The Leader (source: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators)

Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and success and to improve teaching and learning. Educators:
  • 2a Shape, advance and accelerate a shared vision for empowered learning with technology by engaging with education stakeholders.
  • 2b Advocate for equitable access to educational technology, digital content and learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of all students.
  • 2c Model for colleagues the identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning.
2a Shape, advance and accelerate a shared vision for empowered learning.
The few words in this statement say a great deal. I would like to start with shared vision. They say it takes a village to raise a child; it also takes a holistic education system to educate a child. If we all follow different visions of what education looks like, we would provide a disjointed system of education in which students may become frustrated and confused. When we all share a vision and impart this vision to our students and all education stakeholders, the path to educational accomplishment is simplified and everyone gains.

Shape implies that this vision has a form; it is shaped through the knowledge and experience of educational leaders and must take all stakeholders into account. Advance and accelerate indicate that we must not wait but most make this shared vision a reality.

Empowered learning is the path that will lead to the educational accomplishment we all envision for our students. I often tell my students that education is not a spectator sport, that they must participate in order to gain from the experience. Empowering students as equal partners in education gets their attention and helps to motivate them. Through technology, student empowerment and engagement can move beyond the classroom where there are no limits to educational growth.

 2b Advocate for equitable access

Equitable access is a grand idea though it may be the most difficult to achieve. Access to technology, digital content, and learning opportunities requires money be budgeted and spent. It is difficult to justify setting up a computer lab when the food pantries are empty. I do not know what the answer is for this. I am fortunate to live somewhere that access to technology is readily available to all for free at local libraries. Many are not so fortunate. There are wonderful programs such as the One Laptop per Child initiatives, but it will be a long time before this vision is realized.

Internet access is another tool that many take for granted, but is considered an unnecessary luxury to others. In many industrialized nations, Internet access is provided through infrastructure established and maintained by the government. In other countries, Internet access is privatized and offered for-profit to willing subscribers. Net neutrality laws may make access even more difficult for some.

2c Model for colleagues

Objective 2c is directly tied in with 2a. Modeling is one of the best ways for us to share the vision for empowered learning. I believe it is one's responsibility to share tools and techniques that lead to academic success for students. It can be difficult with our busy schedules to make time to help others. But as the overall goal is to empower today's learners, withholding knowledge or information that would help achieve that goal undermines the entire education system.

There are many resources available already through the World Wide Web, so if there is something you would like to share, you may find someone else has already done it. Workshops and Webcasts are available for free, and for pay, all around the world.

·         ISTE Professional Learning Networks at iste.org

Monday, October 9, 2017

ISTE Standards for Educators: The Learner

ISTE Standards for Educators: The Learner (source: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators)

Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning. Educators:

Ø  1a Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.

Ø  1b Pursue professional interests by creating and actively participating in local and global learning networks.

Ø  1c Stay current with research that supports improved student learning outcomes, including findings from the learning sciences.

1a Setting Professional Goals

Educators should model a life-long learner standard. Part of this is setting educational goals. Teachers should set new goals each year. If you are not sure where to start, reading is always a good place. Reading new material can lead to improving current classroom practices and inspire one to try new things, and it is a great place to start with setting new goals.

Read everything you have time for related to your educational discipline. This can include blogs and wikis but also research. If you have more time, read material related to other educational disciplines to stretch yourself. If you are an elementary math teacher, learning more complex mathematical concepts may inspire how you teach the basics. Also, read about educational standards and practices in other countries.

Finally, decide what is most important to you this year. The article “Goal-Setting for Teacher: 8 Paths to Self-Improvement” at cultofpedagogy.com provide some good starting points.

1b Professional Learning Networks (PLNs)

When you consider a PLN, think not just what you can get from it but what you have to offer. If you are an experienced teacher, you have a great deal to share and you can help mentor less experienced teachers.  Teachers love to teach, right? What better way is there than to share all that you have learned through your joys and struggles to help others become better teachers themselves?

If you are a member of ISTE, you probably are already aware of the PLNs available through the organization. That is a wonderful place to start. Periodically, you want to revisit the Learning Networks page to see what is new and what meets your needs in the place you currently are. The key to meeting the ISTE Learn standard requires more than just membership; it requires meaningful participation. If online PLN’s are not what works for you, consider joining or starting one at your school or campus. You can invite educators in your school and neighboring schools.

1c Stay Current with Research

If you have been reading to set your goals for the year, you already have this one covered. Choosing what research to read can be an overwhelming task. I recommend not going it alone. One thing you might do is ask members of your PLN to read different sources and then come together to share what you have learned. You can do this face-to-face or using a blog or wiki. If you are someone who prefers to work alone, limit your research choices to one specific area at a time. Read the abstracts carefully so you know if a research study is right for you. Finally, if you do not have the time to read a whole article or study, read just the introduction and the conclusions.

Perhaps your professional goal for this year will be to become more active in a PLN, or even start one so that you can stay current with best practices in your field of education.


·         The Library of Congress Research Tools at loc.gov
·         ISTE Professional Learning Networks at iste.org
·         Education PLNs on Pinterest
·         Goal-Setting for Teacher: 8 Paths to Self-Improvement at cultofpedagogy.com

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

My Dream Education System

I Have a Dream

I dream that one day all classrooms will be filled with enthusiastic students actively engaged in the learning process; students who want to be present because they are receiving a value-added education. Active engagement is paramount to a successful classroom atmosphere because learning is not a spectator sport. 

For many years I have been analyzing research on best practices in education. I have also read about schools that have stepped outside of the box and taken a chance, putting students and student learning first instead of teacher achievement and test scores. An interesting outcome of these programs is that student test scores were higher than national averages, even without any time spent in test preparation.

Needham (2010) found “the use of problem-based learning can increase standardized test scores at least as much as traditional teaching methods.”[1] For the past 20 years the New Tech Network has been using a school-wide project-based learning model.[2] Outcomes of this model included graduation and college admissions rates that were higher than the national averages. New Tech Network research also demonstrated that graduates develop strong critical thinking skills. Gallagher and Gallagher (2013) found that quality project-based learning activities increase student engagement and, as a result, student achievement.[3]

I envision an amazing education system where all students could receive a value-added education; a student-centered atmosphere where teachers excite and facilitate student learning. I envision an environment where students are engaged, learning content offered in a design that best meets each individual learner’s needs.

Learning Styles

Early learners should be grouped by personal learning style and provided an instructor who excels in teaching to that learning style. While conflict still exists in the research on the topic of the impact learning styles have on student learning outcomes, there is no shortage of research on the topic of student learning styles and academic achievement, as well as the potential impact of learning styles on student dropout and incarceration rates.[4] As someone with a doctorate in education and many years of teaching experience, I am convinced that learning styles impact student learning outcomes; students perform better when their personal learning styles are considered and utilized.

I recall a statistic on learning styles I heard mentioned in a course I attended at Bloomsburg University; while 80% of all teachers are auditory learners only 20% of students are auditory learners. Because so many of us teach the way we learn, this may cause 80% of the students who are not auditory learners to have difficulty learning from 80% of the their teachers. It would be beneficial to students if teacher education programs included methods of identifying and teaching to the varied learning styles.

I also know that addressing learning styles impacts learning outcomes because I am one of the 20% of teachers who is not an auditory learner. I am a kinesthetic learner. I have tried to learn from auditory-only material and failed miserably. One example was a course in Italian on cassette tape that I attempted before my trip to Italy. I learned nothing from it. In fact, I became highly agitated in attempting to learn listening to the tapes. During college classes, I often stood in the back of the room so I could have the opportunity to move around; moving helps me to absorb and comprehend new material. High school was more of a challenge but I fidgeted a lot and filled my notebook with intricate doodles in order to keep my mind focused on instruction.

I also want to make a point about elementary math instruction. Many of our young people have math anxiety and believe that even a simple mathematical concept, such as calculating a percentage, is a difficult thing. Seymour Papert wrote about the importance of elementary school teachers comprehending deeper mathematical concepts.[5]  This is even more of an issue for teachers who must now follow the Common Core in their lesson planning. [6]

Papert also researched the impact of project-based learning on mathematics instruction.[7] Math needs to be taught in a hands-on, applied sense, not a theoretical sense. For example, instead of having students solving for some random variable X, why not teach them to calculate how many boxes of flooring tiles would be needed for a kitchen remodel? In physical class, students might design a skate park with ramps and rails.

I dream of classrooms, grades K-2, where students are grouped by learning style so that all students can learn the fundamentals in a way that best meets their needs; a K-12 curriculum model the truly meets the needs of all learners. Since the lessons will be presented according to methods that meet their needs, student may be able to accomplish more academically during these formative years. Additionally, before students advance to higher grades, they will receive instruction and practice to prepare them to learn in settings that do not cater to their personal learning style. I hypothesize stronger social skills will be developed as an additional result of the reduction in stress afforded by this type of learning environment.

Strength-based Learning

There is no shortage of quality research that demonstrates the positive outcomes of a strength-based education.[8] For some reason, those that administer the education system in the United States have decided to punish students for their weaknesses rather than focusing on individual strengths. This frustrated me quite a bit as I raised my children. My daughter struggled with mathematics, so she was enrolled in math course after math course. She was required to take the 4Sight math exam so many times she memorized it! And what did she learn? She learned that her teachers did not care if she learned anything; they demanded that she improve her score on a test that would have no impact on her life! I know that she would have gained much more from her K-12 education if she had been allowed to develop her strengths.

After the early grades, students should be grouped with like-minded peers who can help them to excel. For example, students with a strong interest and/or aptitude in music may work with others who have a strong interest and/or aptitude in music. All students would still be given instructions in all educational areas, but within an atmosphere that more closely aligns to their personal strengths.  For example, the study of mathematics can be incorporated in an almost infinite number of ways within the study of music. Volume, tone and tempo all have mathematical implications. Students will have the opportunity to independently (or with a group) solve problems, find solutions, and develop critical thinking skills.

I dream of classrooms where students are encouraged to do what they are good at and what they enjoy. Imagine what students could accomplish if their education was focused on individual strengths. Imagine the outcomes when students with strong science aptitudes are allowed to experiment together. Picture what may happen if those who prefer to work alone were given the time and space to do this instead of being placed into group work where they may be slowed down. Imagine a classroom where the teacher can help students develop their individual skills and abilities instead of feeling they must teach to the lowest-ability students in the classroom. An excited teacher excites his/her students!

Stop Teaching When it is Time

We currently have a compulsory education system in the United States that requires children to stay in school until a specific age, set by state law. Compulsory education ages range from 16 to 18. Public schools are required by state law to permit students to attend classes until their 21st birthday. The taxpayers are responsible for the educational funding. From what I have seen, there are some shortcomings to this system.

Because students are required to be in school, education is an entitlement. There is no incentive for attendance or participation other than what is intrinsic to the student or mandated by a parent or guardian. I was very surprised when I learned that even the most accomplished students in my classroom do not comprehend the value of learning. They understand the value of grades and the value of a diploma, but that is where it stops. This may be in part because they received little incentive to learn; the focus is almost always on grades and test scores. But I believe a large contributor to the problem is the compulsory education system.

Mandatory schooling does not need to continue through grade 12. For many of our students, a 9th grade education is sufficient. I have worked with hundreds of students who know what they want to do with their life and know that a college education is not necessary to accomplish their goals. I would never say there is no benefit to a college education, but it is clearly not for everyone. So those who know they will not go to college are frustrated that they must go to school every day and receive an education that they perceive does not benefit them personally.

What I propose is a compulsory education system that continues through grade 9. Students who would like to continue through grade 12 can either pay tuition or compete for state-sponsored or private scholarships. Scholarships might be granted according to class rank, project-based assessments, teacher recommendations, or some other criteria as determined by each school district and/or state government. This would provide an incentive to do well because attendance in grades 9 through 12 would no longer be an entitlement but something to be earned through hard work. For those who do not wish to continue past the 9th grade, vocational training could be made available on the same basis; either students pay tuition or they compete for public and private scholarship money.

There are already public and private schools offering high school student internship programs. The Southwest Oregon Area Health Education Center has a high school internship program.[9] Fairview High School in Boulder, CO offers a variety of internships and provides an opportunity for students to create a customized learning opportunity.[10] The New York City Department of Education has year-round internship programs.[11] All of these these programs could be expanded on.

I dream of a school where all students want to attend and comprehend the value in learning. If education were considered a privilege, not a right, it would have more meaning to our students. They might even look forward to classes as some of us did our college studies. Fewer students might be left feeling imprisoned and as if they are wasting their time. I envision classrooms where students are rewarded for learning and have the opportunity to use what they learn for the greater good of the community, not for grades and test scores

Thank you for listening.

[1]Comparison of standardized test scores from traditional classrooms and those using problem-based learning http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=
[3]Using problem-based learning to explore unseen academic potential http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/ijpbl/vol7/iss1/9/
[5]Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: Children, computers, and powerful ideas. New York: Basic Books.
[6]Elementary school teachers struggle withCommon Core math standards http://hechingerreport.org/elementary-school-teachers-struggle-with-common-core-math-standards/
[8]White, M., & Waters, L. E. (2014). A case study of ‘The Good School:’ Examples of the use of Peterson’s strengths-based approach with students. The Journal of Positive Psychology,. doi:10.1080/17439760.2014.920408. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439760.2014.920408
[9]High School Internship Program (HSIP) http://www.healthyoregon.com/programs/hsip