Instructional Strategies

Visiting The Denver Center for International Studies (DCIS), a magnet school with 600 students, grades 6-12, in the Denver Public School District, seems like taking a stroll through the United Nations. Not that I’ve ever experienced meandering the corridors of the U.N., mind you. However, if I did, I would very much expect to see flags representing countries from around the globe standing next to each doorway. I would expect to see many people whose birth country is someplace other than the U.S. And, I would expect to hear a multitude of foreign languages being spoken.

It is one thing to read or hear about education policies and practices that result in innovative and transformative schools - schools that leave the common perceptions about how teaching and learning take place in the dust. It is a quite different experience altogether to see these policies and practices in action.

I walked through the hallway at The Odyssey School in Denver recently. In many ways it looked like most K-8 public schools. Although it was only the second week of the school year, bulletin boards testified to school events. Doors led to classrooms where teachers briskly zig-zagged from one table to the next with great agility, guiding students through their assignments.

Stateline Midwest ~ June 2012

Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin are among the states this year where lawmakers have focused education-reform efforts on improving early-learning literacy.

Ensuring students are academically prepared for postsecondary education was the spark leading the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers in 2005 to push for a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn—known as the common core state standards. Because states historically have set their own academic standards, the nation has been faced with a patchwork of academic expectations. The knowledge and skills in reading, writing and math that a student was expected to have at each grade level in one state could be significantly different from those in another. This inconsistency of standards became a serious problem whenever a family moved from one state to another. Students could easily be forced to repeat material they had already learned or, even worse, face a learning gap in which they had not yet learned material that had already been covered in the state to which their families moved.  

The 2012 College Board report shows student participation in advanced placement courses increased dramatically in the decade between 2001 and 2011. However, the report also states most minority student populations are significantly less likely than white students to take an AP exam.

Educators and policymakers realize that all of America’s students need a high-quality education to prepare them for college and careers. 2012 promises to be another busy year in  transformational strategies in education. In order to ensure a world-class education, leaders will likely address these top five issues facing states and territories (“the states”) this year.

Although popular in public opinion polls, merit pay - also called performance pay - faces stiff opposition from teacher organizations when linked to student test scores. Critics contend compensating teachers based on evaluations and student test scores could be a slippery slope leading to abuse. Supporters counter that rewarding highly effective teachers is not only appropriate, but also is a policy that should be encouraged to promote teacher growth.

Ask a group of parents and teachers if they prefer classes with fewer pupils for their children and students and it’s likely the response will be overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, “yes!” Ask education researchers, however, and it’s likely the responses will be more muddled. 

Sometimes it seems as if the way we educate, at both the K-12 and post-secondary levels, has changed more in the last decade than the 5 decades preceding it.  Since the end of the 90’s computer use and the internet have become commonplace, libraries have become a place simply for studying and socializing instead of be-all and end-all information hubs, and kids are more likely to know text-speak instead of how to write in cursive.  Trying to convince children of the importance of knowing how to do long division by hand has become very hard in a world where every electronic device we own has a calculator built-in.  But as much as things have changed, a small device called the iPad promises to change the way we educate yet again, whether we want it to or not.

Occasionally, some education topics hit a little too close to home for me. I recently watched a promo for an Alliance for Excellent Education (AEE) Webinar held on July 6 titled, “The Nation’s Report Cards for U.S. History and Civics.” AEE President Bob Wise, waving an American flag and donning a feathery colonial tricorn hat, explained that U.S. history – not math, or science or reading – is the subject in which the smallest percentage of American 8th and 12th graders score at a proficient level or better on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).