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Edward Webber

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Fundamentally changing the primary school by removing grade levels, grades and the curriculum. A proposal.

Below is a proposal I would like some community feedback on.

It should be noted, this is a radical departure from mainstream and even most private schooling. It exists without grade levels, has no required homework, has few required courses, is age independent, allows both early and late graduation without penalty or stigma and provides for all levels of academic achievement at a pace necessary for anyone. I think all of this is possible at current or lower funding levels, and I'll explain how.

Taylor Made Education:

We, as unique people, are currently raised in a few-options educational system where, no matter what our hobbies, likes, dislikes, career goals or new ideas, we are herded into the same classes and taught the same material. It is little wonder why our schools are overrun with chaos. The children are not being defiant, we are failing to let our children bloom in to the unique, happy, productive people they want to be.

No child answers "What do you want to be?" with "Homeless and starving" or "Working a dead end job". They have grand plans for themselves and we herd future scientists into cooking classes and language classes, which aren't themselves evil, but to kids with no interest are punishment. Punishment for showing up to learn both discourages their attendance and teaches them what they want is irrelevant, when what they want should be the focus of the school.

There are already schools which have adopted a similar "cart blanche" method of aiding education as opposed to directing education. The founders of Google attended such schools, and well, they created one of the most successful companies in existence. Allowing children to choose their own adventure, to use a novel term, lets them decide when they are ready to learn the basics. When anyone is given the choice, they arrive motivated and willing, something severely lacking in the military method of perform or reprimand the primary school system embodies today.

(more in the first reply)

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  • Feb 2 2012: This is a neat idea. In one of your comments, you mentioned giving employers a big role in what we teach. As a student, I can't even come up with words to describe the credibility a company like raytheon or lockheed would have if they approached the education system and said "hey, this is what you guys really need to know if you want to work with us" It would be like getting a personal letter from God. This needs to be implemented. Like now. Major employers should be allowed to create a curriculum and help choose the teachers. Honestly, the rest of your ideas are fringe stuff that obviously have enormous merit, but likely wont be implemented anytime soon. I don't mean that in a bad way, it appeals to me, but the problem is simply inertia. Why don't we already do this stuff? sigh...
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    • Jan 29 2012: Regardless of the snide and condescending tone of your remark, I do agree some of what I propose is often used in the homeschooling of kids.

      There are, however, major differences between the two, as most home schooled children are still required by the state to be graded using the same exams, learn using the same materials, complete the same required course load and follow the same arbitrary grade levels as their public school counterparts. All of these being a drag on their desired educational focus, a subverting of their desire to excel in their interests and blatantly ignores their individual learning speeds.

      It should be noted, however, in spite of these limitations the vast majority of home schooled children perform well above public and privately schooled children on all ages.

      To quote a US Dept. of Education study finding:

      "Even with a conservative analysis of the data, the achievement levels of the homeschool students in the study were exceptional. For younger students, this is a one year lead. By the time homeschool students are in 8th grade, they are four years ahead of their public/private school counterparts."

      Now, given your remark, what is your reasoning to not want children to be equally as successful in the public and private arenas?
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        • Jan 30 2012: Neither of your "questions" are such, save being erroneously ended with a question mark.

          Was your single sentence reply, which added no value to the discussion, participation?

          Now, that is called a "rhetorical question".

          Best of luck in your career as an educator.
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    Jan 29 2012: As a former superintendent, I have implemented a structure that did what you are a proposing in a few of the districts I worked. Had some interesting results in student performance.

    I'm now teaching and directing an Ed.D. program in Educational Leadership and Change at Drexel University.
    i would be interested to talk to you if you wish. My Drexel email is jmg97@drexel.edu.
    • Jan 29 2012: Hello John,

      I am interested to hear the changes and the results of your past work. I have added you to my address book and will reach out to you soon.
    • Feb 2 2012: Impressive! Thank you from an exasperated high school student. Well, I graduated, but I was exasperated a few months ago...
  • Jan 9 2012: What I think is the best benefit of the system I have laid out is employers will line up to provide their own trade exams to students, which provides exceptional benefits for everyone involved.

    1) Major employers could specialize exams based on their needs for skilled workers.

    2) Students would be nearly guaranteed work coming right out of lower education

    3) Even normally low achievers could leave lower education with a specialization guaranteed to be useful to at least one specific employer.

    4) Trade exam materials would be provided, at no cost to taxpayers, by those who are best suited to write them, the employers in the respective trades.

    To further expound on the benefits, employers could also help students, who choose their selected trade, select the proper literature to learn from. I don't think it would be overly optimistic to expect some larger employers to write and even provide the required materials to students. After all, it would be money well invested, and the students would be catered to like they have never been before.

    Employers could stop being the recipients of whatever there was to choose from and begin molding a workforce they dream of. The flip side being students would have a solid chance of getting well paid, solid employment right out of primary school, something almost unheard of today.

    All of this guaranteed employment would have other, less direct benefits, including higher wages, lower crime (namely theft) rates, much lower unemployment, lower welfare rates, which would lead to more stable families, .. the list goes on.

    Taylor M.E.
    Improve the educational system and you improve the world.

    Thanks in advance for any input.
  • Jan 9 2012: "How will society at large benefit from this, and how will the student justify their interests to the system?"

    The system already justifies the specialization approach in certifications, licensing and the workforce in general. In my view, the educational system is the only system left still adhering to an arcane "generalized skills" approach. To move to a self selected specialization approach would both motivate students and lead to much better suited workers once they leave the school system either for further study or directly into the workforce.

    "The resumé still carries weight. Harvard rates above Podickly. What will happen if everybody 'does their own thing?'"

    Harvard is well respected because graduates come out with more knowledge in a certain area than lesser schools. This will not change, though with public schools allowing students to choose their focus, the students will head to colleges with higher levels of knowledge in their focus area, allowing all colleges to teach new students at a higher level immediately, which means the Harvards of the world will still pump out great achievers, but it also means all colleges will improve the usefulness of their graduates to the same ratio as current levels.

    "How will students be evaluated upon entering the work force?"

    In nearly the same way they are today, by focused trade exams. These exams could be used throughout their education to provide insight as to their current skill level and where focus can be directed. All of this can be done on a standardized, national level. Upon graduating, the final scores will follow them to college/work. A great benefit to this approach is students will be able to enter secondary school or the workforce any time they are ready and qualify for either, allowing earlier or late graduation, depending on career choice or learning rate.

    (continued..)