Drew Bixby


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What are the barriers to innovative schools being implemented in public schools? (Grace Living Centers, Reggio Emilio Approach)

In his book, "The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything", Sir Ken Robinson mentions two types of schools. (He actually mentions many, but I want to focus on these two.)

First, he mentions the Grace Living Centers (http://southtier.com/tag/oklahoma/) where schools partner with an elderly home to leverage relationships between youth and elderly in education.

Second, he mentions the Reggio Emilio Approach (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reggio_Emilia_approach) which is inquiry-based approach. It involves families and views the teacher more as a guide and mentor.

I am interested in the pros and cons of these approaches. I am particularly interested in the cons. Why are these types of approaches not implemented in traditional public schools? What are the barriers, limitations, and objections to these types of innovative approaches?

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    May 16 2011: I am at this moment, between typing this message, watching a CNN documentary called "Education in America: Don't Fail Me".

    There is a shared student:expert viewpoint about a nation-wide student robotics competition sponsored by Xerox. The point of this exercise is to draw students into advanced mathematics and science courses - something students are avoiding in large numbers. Students desiring AP (Advanced Placement) courses are expressing frustration because these courses are not readily available...any more. Schools have had to drop these courses because the majority of students suddenly no longer enroll in them.

    The performance of American students has apparently gone into free-fall in one single generation. There is now a reported 2 million high paying, high skilled jobs in America that are going unfilled. Consequently these jobs are being out-sourced to places like Canada, which happens to stand well above the US in terms of student performance.

    The US is trying to be innovative through this robotics competition but this present generation is not interested in taking these challenging courses.

    Remarkably, state governments interviewed freely admit they have been telling students they are doing well when the opposite was true. Funding has been tied to parents feeling good about student performance so tests have been 'dumbed-down' to accomplish this. A major contributor of this performance implosion is the "No Child Left Behind" policy which placed the overriding importance on gratification over diligence.

    The US will soon have to rely upon the good will of the rest of the world to move forward. Pretty frightening that the world leader can undergo complete collapse within one generation. Has the US built a good enough international relationship or will groveling become the new foreign policy?

    Is CNN over-stating this issue? It's a bit hard to believe that the failure of one generation could so impact a nation as developed as the US..
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    May 6 2011: for plan 1, the questions will fly from students, teachers, parents, administrators constituents, etc: What is spending time with the elderly going to do to improve our youths test scores?

    for plan 2, the questions will come from the same people: Children go to school because they don't know what they need to. How is a child supposed to know what direction is going to be best for them. Unless we force kids to learn math, language, science, and history, will they want to on their own accord? Learning new things is hard, being exposed to new ideas is painful, and if we only encourage children to follow their noses we will wind up with a generation that can't read, write, or do maths but prefers to do nothing except for online social networking, play video games, and watch t.v....
    oh wait, thats what we have now ;}
    • May 6 2011: Pushing a child to something that is againts he's/her will drive them to more self distruction preferably the child should be guided in each and every step of the way besides nowadays most parents want to prove their power over thier child now tell me how will a child learn from that instead the child will endup having low self estime. Now is the time for udults to be friends rather than be a parent because when things are hidden from us we endup learning from friends the wrong way.
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    May 6 2011: Tradition, I think is the biggest barrier. Fear of trying something new and cocking it up.

    In NZ, we've been going down the learner-led, inquiry road for a while and it requires a flexible curriculum (which we have).

    The biggest barrier, I believe, is traditional assessment methods where a very prescribed curriculum is required, delivered in a very prescribed way in order to make the assessment easy to administer and easy to evaluate.

    Once we have reconsidered and revamped assessment and moved away from accountability and the reasons for administering these archaic assessment methods, we will finally see education freed from the bureaucracy anchor that holds it down.
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    May 16 2011: I'm not very familiar with Grace Living center, but have implemented Reggio approach in my Montessori classroom. There are more public schools in the States starting to implement Montessori approach into the classroom.
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    May 13 2011: Parents and universities are significant barriers to change in education. Parents won't support alternative schools fearing that radically different educational experiences will not be recognized by major universities. Universities perpetuate this cycle by requiring traditional "success" measures -- SAT test scores, grades point averages, etc.
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      May 23 2011: Interesting point regarding the universities. (Not saying they would, but) if the universities changed their requirements, that would have a major effect on education.
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    May 6 2011: There are many barriers, some practical and some not. Probably the biggest issue is funding. public schools are funded by gov't and so standardization is a big deal. Certain learning outcomes have been designated as desirable for good or bad depending on your perspective. Some desired outcomes are based on economic forces, others on ideological forces, etc. for a public school to remain accredited its curriculum must teach certain things. When you add politicians financially incentivizing emphasis on standardized test scores, and administrators cutting programs that don't fall into what is viewed as the accepted fundamentals. And then parents not wanting to risk their child's future on experimental education the list piles up as the development and implementation of new programs is viewed as risky, costly, and dangerous.
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      May 23 2011: You mention a common barrier which is parental concern for experiments on their children. Ironically, parents would rather send their kids to a school that they know has a poor track record, then risk sending them to a school which could potentially do much better. I see that logic in our city where the district discussed shutting down proven poor performing schools and parents protested. If that isn't bad enough, not far away is a thriving, successful KIPP school they most do not bother applying to.