Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Moving from simply painting the Model T to real education reform


I've been reading Off the Clock: Moving Education From TIME to COMPETENCY by Fred Bramante and Rose Colby. It's a compelling read that causes you to question just about everything that contributes to our outdated education model.

The authors first take aim at decades of reform efforts that have been akin to "putting a new paint job on a Model T." We hang on tightly to the school structures and cultures we so dearly came to know during our own 13-plus years of experience as students. As parents, we are even more adamant about hanging on to the experiences we remember and wanting our children (and then grandchildren) to have the same. It's a debilitating mental model that prevents meaningful transformation of a system that was never even designed in the first place based on best practices for learning.

The 20th century model of delivering content inside of classrooms during specific times is so highly flawed that it will never work the way it needs to work, but we continue to put in an honorable yet futile effort into trying to make an outdated system better.

Until we deconstruct our current model of K-12 education, our efforts to reform teaching and learning will only produce incremental changes. The biggest obstacles to higher student achievement have little to do with the ability of teachers to teach or students to learn. They are grounded in the archaic (and abusive) structures that fall under schedules:

Schedules drive schools -- daily schedules, yearly schedules, and examination schedules -- all are part of the current framework. In order to move to 21st century learning, we must first begin by deconstructing the elements of the 20th century model of school structure and operation. We must deconstruct the elements of the framework that obstruct the natural process of teaching and learning.

To not address reform head on by first destroying an outdated system is foolish and a waste of valuable resources. 21st century learners learn differently by virtue of some very organic changes in their brains, according to the authors. We can continue to reform this 20th century model, but we shouldn't think that we will get different results.

This book suggests we rebuild schools from the ground up focusing on mastery rather than time and competency-based learning vs. the 20th century Carnegie unit as a measure of learning. That's where I'm at right now but it didn't take me long to realize that this work by Bramante and Colby is not for those who cling only to what they know.

A great read that I'm considering using as a book study with our administrative team and Board of Education this coming fall.

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