Why Our Schools Are Failing – Part 5: A Second Solution

Will my child dropout? Why Our Schools Are Failing – Part 5  
A Second Solution
It is possible that schools could quickly and universally adopt methods that have irrefutable research backgrounds to support them, such as Behavior Analysis, Direct Instruction, and Precision Teaching.
That is unlikely to happen. There are simply too few knowledgeable practitioners to train, monitor and provide feedback to North America’s three + millions of teachers. There is also too much likelihood of resistance from teachers and administrators who do not understand or appreciate the changes that these methods can portend. Even if we were to reach the tipping point tomorrow, we could not provide sufficient, professional oversight  to maintain the gains.  

The Cost of Failure
It is far more likely that these methods will continue to grow slowly as they have over the past half century. Unfortunately that means that millions of children are doomed to inadequate instruction, insufficient practice, little if any data or data-based decisions, so they will continue to drop out of school at an alarming rate.  

What Works
My Rotary club sponsors a literacy project in association with an outreach church and our local YMCA. Senior high-school students, all of whom require forty hours of community service, are trained as tutors in our Each One-Teach One literacy program. They literally teach a disadvantaged student to read in forty hours. Students consistently gain at least one year of reading skills in this once-a-week, one-hour program. It’s good for the tutors because they now know about effective instruction and how to employ it. It’s even better for the disadvantaged child, whose parents cannot afford tutorial services. It’s also good for our club to be seen helping the community and hopefully preventing more children from leaving school early because of illiteracy.
An alternative  
The transition to proven methods could occur much faster if agencies other than the public schools got on board. There are remedial educational programs in every college in North America. More than 50% of students need some tutorial assistance, mostly in reading and math. These services, the community literacy agencies, libraries, literacy centers, service organizations, and after–school programs could put a shoulder to the wheel to help reclaim those who have already dropped out.   The tipping point is reached quickly when a small change creates a large effect, according to Malcolm Gladwell, author of the book by the same name.The Tipping Point for literacy and other school related learning issues is about to be reached. That small change will occur when these methods are integrated into the Internet as downloadable lessons and programs. The instruction will be built into the presentation so that there will be little if any need for a teacher or tutor. There will be standards and practice regimens to ensure that the skills are learned to fluent levels of performance. The learner will be freed of the teacher, the classroom and the entire school apparatus and able to learn on his or her own time. Rewards will be built in, such as bitcoin, to motivate and maintain the student’s performance with appropriate rewards, just like any one of dozens of reward plans.. It will all be presented seamlessly on tablets, computers and personal devices.   The best example so far of this phenomenon is the work of Salman Khan and his staff at www.khanacademy.org.

His current progress
He has posted three to four thousand video tapes covering principally the maths and sciences. It is organized like the branches of a tree so that you can define a course and then select the appropriate videos on every topic related to your quest. His site registers more than ten million visitors per year. Khan is already having a significant educational impact.   Teachers are flipping their classrooms, assigning the instruction as a video to be watched outside of class and the home work assignment to be brought and completed in class. The teacher gives up the instructional component and becomes a coach and practice agent. This type of small change could easily result in an educational tipping point in which the students receive excellent instruction as often as s/he needs it in the privacy of their own space and is provided assistance with application from someone other than a frustrated parent at the kitchen table.   At that point, the very nature of the role of schools in education will change, Most likely so will the drop-out and illiteracy rates that currently waste the futures of at least 25% our children.      

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