Change Issues in Curriculum and Instruction/Final Assignment Links/Patricia Horne

Aggressively address issues of poverty---Turn hopelessness into promise


As an urban educator, I am surrounded daily by reminders of the challenges of children who live in poverty. Yet I find that books on the topic (such as Ruby Payne's A Framework for Understanding Poverty) still reveal issues of poverty that I had not even imagined. The impacts on education are far reaching. Maslow's hierarchy of basic needs and brain research tells us that children who are hungry, tired, sick or scared are not ready to learn. It is time for us to get proactive instead of reactive. We need to put money into school reform and create community schools that provide all of the services students need (dental, medical, food, child care, adult education). I believe we would reap the benefits of this investment down the road in money saved addressing social problems such as crime, dropouts, teen pregnancy, etc.

I want to share some excerpts from an article I read entitled "Silenced by Poverty". It was featured in The Tribune, a northern Colorado paper on Feb. 20, 2005. The story reminds us that these students are not just struggling to learn and be successful, they are "struggling to survive". The author explains that because some students will go entire weekends without food, "hunger pains make it difficult to concentrate on learning". I found the next paragraph to be quite compelling: "While many students look forward to the new school year with new notebooks, clothes and supplies, students who live in poverty worry about how they will find a pencil to write with and where they will get the required materials for each class. This struggle continues daily as they search for the calculator that is required for math or the poster board and markers that they must have to complete their required project." The author explains that these students feel different because of what they wear, what they don't have and assignments they did not complete because they couldn't find a quiet spot in their overcrowded, stressed out homes. Poverty impacts students' extracurricular opportunities as well. Often students living in poverty have to hold down jobs to contribute to the family income. Even those who do not work complain that they lack the money for equipment and even the small fee for the physical required to participate. These experiences only add to "disappointment and dropout risk".

It is time for the education community and society at large to get serious about ways to help alleviate some of the stresses these children face.Free and reduced meals is a good start but we can and need to do so much more. The Tribune author asserts that in doing so we will increase a student's chances of graduating and contributing back to society.

Free high quality preschool for all---importance of school readiness/get the gap early


Retrieved from the Anne Casey Foundation site on June 19, 2007

School readiness/leveling the playing field

Statistics indicate that children living in poverty start school behind middle class children. Their vocabularies in third grade are about 1/3 that of their peers. Researchers believe that reading and math gaps in high school can be traced all the way back to differences upon school entry. The Anne Casey Foundation's initiative is one of many across the country that is working to ensure all children, regardless of socioeconomic status, have a high quality early childhood experience. The group wants to build the capacity of everyone who interacts with the child from family to child care providers.

ODU's own Dr. Kersey is an advocate for free high quality preschool for all. Her many years of working with children bears witness to the importance of a strong, positive first experience with education. As a former first grade teacher in a housing project school, I could not believe how far behind my students were when they came to me. Many of them were already eight years old in the first grade. While they showed tremendous growth in that year, it would take much more time to have them on equal footing with middle class children. This experience convinced me of the need for year round schools. These students had come so far only to sit in front of play stations all summer. Not only do we need to provide students with an early academically rich experience, we need to continue those experiences throughout their public school years. We need to rethink the idea of three months off from school.

The Casey Foundation is working to not only get children into school earlier but to get their parents involved sooner. They seek to provide parental education and health care assistance to form a partnership with the parents to promote the academic success of the children. I believe this is a model that will take off in the not too distant future. I think the key to drawing parents and the community into a partnership is to show them you truly care and offer them what they need. High quality preschool would alleviate child care constraints for many parents struggling to make ends meet. It would go a long way to prepare students for kindergarten and build good will with their parents.

Teachers as learners and learners as teachers---let the circle be unbroken


Labels are very limiting. To call someone a student implies they have nothing to teach. Similarly, it can be assumed that a teacher has nothing to learn. Any teacher worthy of the title knows that students have so much to teach us. They have experiences and insights that we may not. They are able to communicate in a way that reaches their peers when we don't. They are able to come up with connections and exceptions that we haven't even thought of. It is this kind of learning, the give and take between students and teachers, that builds a strong classroom community of mutual respect. When the teacher listens to and validates the students' ideas, they feel empowered and are more motivated to become actively involved in their education. They are less likely to feel disenfranchised and less likely to be identified as a behavior problem in class. They become vested in what is taking place in their classroom.

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to shifting the classroom paradigm from teacher-centered to student-centered is the unwillingness of teachers to give up control. Some educators feel that they are expected to know everything. Some don't know how to admit they don't know something. The worst thing a teacher can do in this age of information is try to give the students some made up answer which the students can easily check on the internet. Rather, when a teacher says to students, "That's a really good question. I don't know? What do you think and how could we find out?", the teacher empowers the student to take control of their own learning. These types of conversations (Socratic dialogues) lead to higher level questions and critical thinking. These are the very skills workers of the future need. In fact, by asking the student how they could get the answer, the teacher is modeling the need for lifelong learning.


"Beyond objects of the preposition and nouns and verbs and adjectives and adverbs life lurks. And within the larger context of life, there is an endless diversity and an infinite bond that seemingly exists between and around all things. Here is your charge- keep thinking and keep feeling- keep becoming..." C. Bevan/ University School/ETSU Johnson City, TN


Curriculum and pedagogy--what we teach and how we teach needs to change


Hall and Florin said it best,"The world is changing and education needs to change". The educational system we have today is obsolete. It was designed at a different time to meet the needs of a completely different society.

Today's world is interconnected and information is easily retrieved from most anywhere in the world via technology. Our students have grown up with technology and are what Prensky calls "digital natives". Their minds are wired and they think non-linearly. Unfortunately schools have not changed to reflect the way these technologically-savvy students think and learn. This has resulted in students being bored and feeling disenfranchised from school.

Traditional by the book learning seems unnecessary when technology allows you to research and locate information spontaneously. As Friedman purports in his book, The World is Flat, the workers of the future are going to need a completely different set of skills. He states that right-brain skills will be needed---creativity, the ability to work collaboratively, to look at problems from multiple perspectives, to respect diversity, and to problem solve and think critically. These skills are best learned through real-world based problem solving. Educators have to teach the necessary social skills as part of the curriculum to allow students to actively participate in their own education. Students should have some say in what they want to learn. The teacher can help guide the process to ensure key concepts are introduced. At this point in history, it is arguably more important that students learn in context than learn content in isolation. It is essential that students are trained in how to continue to be lifelong learners. To remain marketable, workers of the future will have to continue to learn and adapt to keep up with the new global economy.

"Learning is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire it."—Albert Einstein

Accountability---a good idea gone bad


I firmly believe in the idea of accountability. A high quality education can open doors that would otherwise remain closed to students. We must ensure that students are receiving the very best we have to give. The idea of accountability is a good one. How it is being applied is arguably bad. To deem a student, teacher or school as competent/incompetent based on one measure is statistically invalid. The Virginia SOLs provide one measure of students' minimum competencies. What the tests don't show is the creative, authentic and higher level extensions and connections that are made in the classrooms. The tests don't measure the skills needed for workers of the future: the ability to collaborate, use technology, respect diversity, and see a problem from multiple points of view. The problem with the current accountability system is that based on one number, the public believes the schools (teachers) are or are not doing a good job. Our first mission has to be to educate the public as to what the SOLs really tell us. We need to remind parents, and even some fellow educators, that SOLs should be the minimum of what is taught in the classroom, not the sum---SOLs are the floor, not the ceiling. The accountability system needs to be revamped to include authentic assessment, much like colleges viewing portfolios instead of using SAT scores. The system needs to give teachers the space to take risks and go above and beyond without fear of reprisals for not "being on the required strand at the required time for the required amount of time". The success or failure of our students depends on allowing our educational system to evolve to reflect the changing world. We should all (educators and the community) be held accountable when it comes to the success of these students who will be the workforce of the future.