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Get rid of the education bureaucracy and kids’ hearts will sing

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing. – Steve Jobs, founder of Apple

Steve Jobs made highly technical machines user-friendly and beautiful by blending mathematics, science, and art. More importantly, he started a wave of innovation that made products that were once only accessible to scientists and engineers readily available to the general public.

During this period of innovation, the education sector was stuck in a time warp. Most primary and secondary students today are educated in about the same way that they were in the 1980s.

Counselors continue to place students into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), humanities, and trade tracks rather than encourage a broad education. Teaching credentials are still more important than an amazing understanding of the subject and schools are still accredited by personnel from other schools rather than by the market. Also, the majority of U.S. students attend schools run by the government.

Regulations and peer review accreditations may have been necessary in the middle of the 20th Century. However, the same regulations and accrediting bodies that protected our kids then are forcing schools to operate in ways that are inconsistent with 21st Century realities. In short, this means kids are wasting years of their lives on things that no longer matter.

For education to keep pace with the times, there must be a complete paradigm shift. Instead of regulating and delaying change, we need to encourage the education sector to innovate.

To make sure new ideas make it into the education system we need to encourage more private schooling options. Then we need to urge these schools to try radical concepts and provide concrete information on what students are learning. Finally, we need to make sure all students have access to these innovative schools.

The easiest way to make all this happen is to issue education vouchers that can be used at any school and require schools to publish third party test results each year.

With this type of competition, all schools should become better. When the schools become better, our kids will be better prepared. When our kids are better prepared, the country will be more vibrant. When the country is more vibrant, the economy will be better. When the economy is stronger, everyone will be better off.

It is time to get rid of the bureaucracy and allow our schools to innovate so our kids’ hearts can sing.

 

Online schooling wave of the future or failed experiment?

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

“You have probably heard the claim, “If you choose to educate your child online, he/she will be a social misfit.” To analyze this assertion, it is important to understand online education.

There are two basic types of online education: real-time and self-paced. In real-time online courses, students attend class on a computer. Classes are held at specified times and students participate in discussions during class periods. Each real-time online class is slightly different, because students participate in the instruction.

Self-paced courses are prepared in advance. Students progress through the material at their own pace. There is no real-time class interaction. Proficiency is sometimes tested with quizzes or tests that are integrated into the learning material. In this case, students must pass a quiz/test before they move on to future lessons. In other cases, students are required to go to proctored test centers to take exams.

In general, self-paced courses work well for material that requires little discussion. Real-time classes are more effective when most of the student learning occurs during classroom dialog.

Online education is appealing, because there is less wasted time. There is no need to drive to a physical location, worry about disruptions that occur in physical classrooms, or waste time dressing for school. In addition, students and parents have the ability to work school around other things in their lives.

Self-paced instruction is more cost effective than traditional classroom teaching, because lectures are prepared in advance and are used many times. In addition, this type of course delivery can be of higher quality than traditional classroom instruction, because the best teachers can present the content and there are no interruptions.

Some students find self-paced online instruction challenging, because they can procrastinate to the point that it is nearly impossible to learn the material. As a result, there is a reasonable argument that self-paced instruction is only appropriate for highly motivated and disciplined university and high school students.

Also, it is possible for students to succeed in an online environment without learning how to interact with others. As a result, it is imperative that online students have other avenues for developing social, leadership, and team skills.

Online education is not for everyone, but is an attractive alternative for motivated, self-disciplined students who have a strong social network and opportunities to build leadership skills and learn how to work on a team outside of school.

 

Time management critical for success

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

“Learning to read, write, solve mathematics problems, apply scientific principles to real world situations, and speak a foreign language are not the only skills children need to acquire before they leave home.” ~Confucius

Many experts argue that time management abilities are equally important. Academically gifted people cannot survive in modern society if they are not able to deliver a high quality product, on time.

Most K-12 schools are struggling to teach time management skills, because parents are constantly pressuring them about grades. Many teachers are under so much pressure to issue high marks that they create extra opportunities for students to improve their final course grade.

Although “second chances” give the parents what they want, they have the unintended consequence of teaching kids that planning is irrelevant because there are always other opportunities to change the result.

When young people get to college and/or enter the workforce “second chances” are rare. Most college professors do not offer extra papers or problem sets at the end of the semester and employers take a dim view of late arrivals, shoddy work, and missed deadlines.

Since it has become impossible for most K-12 teachers to teach time management, parents must handle the task at home.

As a first step, kids need to learn how to plan ahead. There are many free computer-based scheduling applications that help in this area. Kids generally find it easy to enter homework day by day, but often need coaching on how to break future activities, like preparing for a test that is two weeks away, into daily tasks.

Then children need to learn how to make productive use of time. For example, it takes “forever” to finish math homework when kids chat online between problems. Learning to stay off social media during homework time can go a long way to improving efficiency.

Sleep is also important for time management. It takes less time to learn material and complete homework tasks when the brain is rested, so it is important to make sure your kids get enough sleep each night.

Multi-taking is not efficient. Teach your childred to finish one task before they begins another one.

Procrastination never pays. If something is due today, make sure it is finished. Otherwise, the next day will be overwhelming.

Prioritize homework first. This prevents late nights and productivity problems.

Learning to manage time is challenging. Start teaching your child early and reward progress often!

 

Opportunity follows kids who know how to negotiate

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

Negotiation is a part of the human experience whether someone is trying to come to common ground with a family member on who cleans the kitchen or an employer on salary. As a result, it is imperative for everyone to learn how to negotiate effectively.

 

It is impossible to become a good negotiator without practice. This means children need age appropriate opportunities to negotiate with siblings, peers, buyers and sellers, and people in positions of authority.

 

Early in life, most negotiations are related to peer and sibling interactions – who gets the ball first, who gets the colored pencils, etc. Fortunately, family structure and the early education system in the U.S. provide many opportunities for kids to practice these peer-to-peer and sibling negotiations.

 

By the time children enter middle school, they are ready to learn how to negotiate with buyers and sellers and people in positions of authority. Most U.S. children do not have many opportunities to practice these types of negotiations.

 

U.S. tweens and teens aren’t involved in many business transactions that require negotiation, however, they have plenty of opportunities to negotiate with people in positions of authority about issues with classroom assignments and grades, sports team and drama and music group tryouts, etc. The issue is parents handle most these negotiations for them.

 

There is some uncertainty about why parents handle these negotiations for their kids. Some people argue that college has become so expensive that parents want to ensure scholarship money is available. Others believe parents are living through their children.

 

I heard a story that adds perspective.

 

A girl wanted to join an advanced sports team that was well beyond her abilities. The girl and her mom discussed the requirements and the possible outcomes. Then the girl trained diligently, asked her current coach for a recommendation, arranged a tryout at the new team, practiced what she would say to the new coach, and went to the tryout by herself. She worked hard and improved at every practice. When the coach told her he was adding national level players to the team rather than her, she asked if she could stay and train.

 

He was so shocked with her work ethic and ability to advocate for herself that he agreed. Months later when she asked if she might be able to join the team, the coach agreed.

 

Perhaps parents should reconsider their approach. “Letting go” teaches more and often provides greater opportunity.

 

Tenth Grade Foreign Language Immersion Student makes Perfect Score on SAT Math

Outside the Box – Christy Johnson

Juliann

Amelia Talkington, a Renascence School International tenth grader, obtained a perfect score (800) on the math part of the December 2015 SAT test, the standardized test that is used for admission to U.S. colleges and universities. Amelia is nearly trilingual, having studied math and science in Chinese and language arts in English, Chinese, and Spanish since she was in kindergarten. She is interested in art, engineering, and business and has been a guest researcher at the University of Arizona Plant Science Laboratory and is a marketing intern with an Ecuadorian foundation. In addition, she is a record holding club and high school swimmer who placed third in the 100 yard freestyle at the Florida 2A State High School Swim Meet and received All American consideration. She also plays varsity high school soccer and will be joining an Elite Club National League soccer team in the spring.

Third party, curriculum-based testing, the wave of the future?

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

Studies suggest that the process of preparing for and taking a test can enhance learning and information retention. Research also confirms that testing can be a useful assessment tool.

 

Recently there has been a great deal of discussion of the pros and cons of various types of testing. Because money, college admissions, and careers are tied to testing, it is difficult to separate facts from marketing rhetoric.

 

There are three basic types of tests: 1) tests prepared by teachers, 2) curriculum-based tests prepared by others (third party, curriculum-based testing), and 3) standardized tests.

 

Tests prepared by teachers have little standardization. These tests can cover class lectures, material from books or learning aids, homework, projects, behavior, and other things. While this type of flexibility makes teaching interesting, it does not assure a student has mastered the required material. In fact, it is difficult for school management to know how much students have learned until they enter the next grade level.

 

For this model to work well good teachers must be retained for many years, since the consequences of poor teaching do not show up for at least a year (in some cases many years if a student has a string of underperforming teachers).

 

The second type of test is a curriculum-based test that is prepared and administered by a third party. These tests provide unbiased data on teacher and student performance. If these tests are administered quarterly, teachers can use the data to adjust lesson durations (spend more or less time on subjects) and identify students who need extra reinforcement on specific concepts. Early identification of student strengths and weaknesses means remediation can begin early. With targeted help and focused teaching, more students can master the required material by the end of the year. This data also helps school management coach and place teachers based on strengths and weaknesses.

 

The last type of testing is standardized testing. Standardized testing can provide information in baseline proficiency in some subjects. These tests are best used for topics with little ambiguity. For example, grammar and mathematics are easily tested using standardized methods. Unfortunately, standardized testing does not provide specific information that can be used to improve day-do-day classroom instruction or provide data on whether schools are building a foundation that prepares students for advanced learning.

 

While all types of testing are helpful, more focus on third party curriculum-based testing would be a way to improve learning outcomes quickly.