To start, I must admit that I am not and educator and much less an expert in education. I have three points in mind so far: The first is lengthening the class periods, school days, and years. The second would be to reform some elements of the tenure system, notably at the firing end. My third point is to review proficiency testing and perhaps transforming it into more of an analytical exercise than the multiple choice it is now.
I include the following opinion: http://www.northjersey.com/news/opinions/tenure_021611.html
My comment on the opinion was the following: We must not go back 100 years. Human nature has not evolved much since. If we dismantle tenure as the governor is proposing, we will go back in time to the same issues that led to the establishment of tenure. I agree with some of the points of the writer and perhaps some changes, notably at the firing end, are in order. Rather than lengthening the probation period, I would strengthen the evaluation process to make it more demanding. If the evaluations leading to tenure are lax and done non-challantly, it won’t make much difference whether it takes 3 or 5 years. I also believe merit pay would have negative effects on morale, school cohesion, cooperation among teachers, and would lead to abuses and or discrimination.
If we recognize that family plays a significant role in school success, and we find that in certain areas, family influence leaves to be desired, the logical conclusion should be to reduce family influence and increase school influence. In other words: making school days and years longer.
The second point for lengthening school days and years is the rate of learning. If we hold, for the sake of argument, the rate of learning constant; unit of knowledge/ hour, as we lengthen the school days and years, the number of units of knowledge gained by the students is bound to increase.
Since saturation or school fatigue could be an issue, we should attempt to find the optimal length of school day and year either empirically or by looking at the school systems of other countries.
Modifier for teachers evaluation: Based on economic standard of school district so it is a function of median income in a town. Wealthiest town with a 1 and all other towns relative to and below that one. No district would have a zero as modifier.
Things I am contemplating for a pilot plan in selected urban areas first are:
Elimination of kindergarten altogether.
2. Beginning 1st grade at the age of 6.
3. Extending the school year to almost 11 months – School would end week of July 4th. and start 3rd. week of August.
4. Lengthening the school day at least one extra hour and lengthening the class periods to at least one full hour.
#’s 3 and 4 are the fundamentals.
A comment and the response I entered in NJ.con responding to criticisms on point #1. Elimination of kindergarten altogether:
My response was:
May be I am wrong about kindergarten. I am not an educator. I am getting “educated on the march” – so to speak. All this is still in the drawing board and the final product will be not what I say but what a lot of people better informed than me will determine to be the best.
This is a conclusion I reached several weeks ago but I put on here on this day: Several countries in both Europe and Asia have a school years of 220 days. I believe we have 180. We should imitate them and expand our school year to 220 days. I would also add at least one extra hour daily – ideally 2 – to lengthen the class periods to 1 full hour at the very least.
Teacher testing is less and less appealing, in my opinion, and we may have to cease our compliance with NCLB if necessary.
Development of Polytechnic Schools as an Alternative to College
It is ten years since NCLB. In addition to the emphasis on standardized tests, and measuring teachers’ effectiveness through those results, perhaps the principal shortcoming of this well intentioned law was the pursuit of college readiness for all. But not all children or young adults are apt, driven, or desire a college education. During the last 1/3 of k-12, perhaps at 9th grade, students should be evaluated to determine whether they should proceed on a college-bound curriculae or instead should move onto a track toward polytechnic and trade schools. The decision should be based – I believe – on several criteria, including the desires of the students. But the most important element in the decision-making process should be the scholastic record on the student through the previous years.
And the same goes for the “education reform” promoted by our current governor and those who are transforming education into a for-profit business.
As New Jersey abandons the NCLB model, we may lose all federal funding for education.
The education program for New Jersey that I will propose is shaping up like this:
1. Full day kindergarten (that is a reversal from my previous beliefs but I have been converted) with the regular schools hours and year currently in effect.
2. Beginning with first grade, we will have longer school days and years; the latter up to 220 days. There will be no graded examinations until 3rd. grade but there will be periodic unannounced student-evaluation examinations. Students who under-perform in those examinations can be submitted to remedial programs in the deficient subject. Up to 3rd grade, all students will pass grade. Graded, passing examinations begin at 3rd grade.
3. A comprehensive placement examination at the end of 9th grade which will determine which students will continue in an academic program geared for college and which will be steered toward polytechnic and trade schools. The criteria for those determinations are to be developed by the New Jersey Board of Education.
4. Full state support for both higher education at university level and the alternative polytechnic and trade schools. In both cases, the state is to seek the advice and active involvement of corporations.
5. The cases of special education: This is my opinion and is not necessarily what will be done. Experts in special education will have the ultimate say in this issue. But I believe there can not be a one-fits-all rule when we deal with special cases. Some special education students may slow the progress of an entire class and at the same time feel outcast. Special education cases must be decided on a case-by-case basis whether they can attend regular classes or attend classes tailored to their needs and abilities.
6. Standardized examinations geared toward teacher evaluation are out. The primary form of teacher evaluation will be direct class observation.
7. Charter schools, vouchers, and other forms of public financing of for-profit schooling will be gradually phased out. However, state financial aid will be available for qualifying students wishing to attend private universities.
8. At the public university level, academics and research will be the predominant goals and thus will recieve the bulk of resources.