What We Need To Do To Save The American Educational System Part Three

To bring success to the American Educational System requires a rigorous non-political and non-union in- depth study lasting two to three years. Such a study needs to be done globally, state by state, town by town, city by city, and school system by school system. There are no overnight fixes, getting rid of teachers, pouring more money into the system doesn’t solve the problems. Certainly, creating school systems within schools systems with relative little supervision compounds the issues. Standardized testing does nothing other than cost the local school systems millions and millions of dollars. Going electronic does not insure success. What then, is the real challenge?

The challenge is to identify, honestly, the specific areas of failure. To do this America must be open, to envision how it can assure a higher level of student success in its schools, and hopefully, assure their chances of becoming productive citizens. Can we, as a nation, do this? We can and we must.

We need to make sure that we do not continue to spend time on unproven experimentation, change in school organization patterns, inadequate teacher preparation, and poorly constructed teacher-evaluation tools. The avoid the pitfall of repetition, the following process is recommended.

• Prioritize that which is most important in the continuation of our culture. (What are schools supposed to do?)
• Analyze the failure of those aspects of the education system that have denied the achievement of the prioritized list. (Why don’t students learn to read and to read with comprehension?)
• Recommend solutions that are long-range with built-in cyclic re-evaluation.
• Prioritize again with emphasis on those areas within the educational community that are most important to work on.

An excellent example of the use of failure analysis comes to us from NTSB. Whenever an airplane crashes every aspect of the involved plane, pilots, ground crews, service, fuel, weather, and mechanics receive painstaking analysis. Piece by piece the parts are examined. It is this type of scrutiny the American Educational System must undergo if achievable solutions are the goal.

What is the fundamental road block to this approach? It’s our social system. As a society, we discourage this kind of painstaking examination. No one likes to be put under the microscope. No one likes to admit failure. We, as a nation, have a definite mind-set to put mistakes behind us, to move on. Move on? To what? More failures?

Norman W Wilson, PhD

Public Relations for Online Educational Systems

Traditional public relations and community goodwill efforts for online education assistance is somewhat difficult because the online educational system helps those that participate in the virtual world as opposed to an educational facility. This fact should not deter a public relations specialist who works on online educational programs or systems because they need to contact those people who are not online and perhaps might like to look at online education systems as another option.

Many people cannot attend class due to transportation issues or human mobility issues. Many folks are stay-at-home parents and they cannot attend class either, but a need to get an online degree or participate in an online education system to get the skills they need to earn a living.

What types of ways can you promote an online educational system? Of course the best way is through word-of-mouth advertising. However, it is not always so easy to get to those people who are in their homes all day and sometimes it makes sense to use public service announcements on the radio or a little radio advertising. Other times direct mail can work.

The best thing is a front-page article in the newspaper of the success story of someone who used the online educational system to get an advanced degree or a good job. It is these sorts of public relations and publicity programs that make online educational systems more newsworthy. Perhaps you will consider some of this in 2006.

Why Finland’s Education System Works

Not too long ago, Finland’s education system was comparable to that in the U.S. How they changed their system is interesting, because by having “less” school they are achieving greater results. In the U.S., the system of “doing what you hate longer and harder” seems to be the prevailing logic driving the “scientific test-results” orientation to achievement. Both systems are multi-cultural and multi-lingual and have special populations served in the general education setting.

U.S. Approach To Reform

Children must enroll in school (kindergarten or first grade) at age 5. Many children have had preschool experiences because parents work or they are qualified for Head Start, Early Start, Even Start and other programs. Preschool standards involve readiness skills (standards directed), but not all children receive such instruction. Direct reading (decoding) instruction begins in kindergarten and ends in second grade. State (and federal) standards direct what instruction children receive from kindergarten through high school and in higher education settings (technical/vocational schools and colleges/universities). Children must remain in school until they reach the age of dropping out (varies by state but usually between 16 and 18 years of age) or they graduate by meeting all their state’s requirements. Standards, formal testing and statistics drive decision making by central administrators not in contact with students.

Finnish Approach To Reform

Children enroll in school at age 7, but they are given several years of preschool experiences which focus on language and physical development. The schools tend to be small because population centers are few; usually the schools have 300-400 students. Local teachers control their schools and curricula; they spend some of their work day developing and/or preparing materials to be used. Their school day is shorter than in the U.S. and they spend a lot of time outdoors, either in play or in applied “work” in the outdoor setting. Students attend elementary schools for 5-7 years, at which point they attend either a vocational schools or a higher education schools. Student skills and interests drive local decision making by teachers working with students.

What Are The Critical Differences?

The critical differences are:

· Preschool experiences are different: the U.S. focus on readiness (cognitive) skills development for reading and math, the Finnish focus on developmental skills in language and physical development. This translates into developmental readiness for instruction (Finland) or struggle to achieve (U.S.).

· School sizes differ: The U.S. consolidates and usually has 500+/school, the Finnish have few students so everyone receives attention. This translates into emotional security (Finland) or insecurity (U.S.).

· Children start reading instruction at different ages: the U.S. at age 5, the Finnish at age 7. This translates into being neurologically ready for instruction (Finland) or compensating with taxed memory skills (U.S.).

· Vocational schools are options for education in early adolescence. This translates into motivation (Finland) or non-motivational (U.S.).

· Decisions are based on testing/statistics (U.S.) or motivation and interests (Finland).

Conclusions

Focusing on behaviors and achievements for guiding change eliminates the humanness of education: interest, motivation, purpose. No matter how anyone looks at it, the U.S. system is a failure. Perhaps those making the decisions should relinquish the controls and let teachers who work with students and know what they need and want to learn make the decisions. Instead of rushing children to early achievement, maybe those who know about what happens to children developmentally will start driving the reforms.