Pass or Fail: Redesigned Teaching Strategies for Redesigned Schools

In this multi-part series, I provide a dissection of the phenomenon of retention and social promotion. Also, I describe the many different methods that would improve student instruction in classrooms and eliminate the need for retention and social promotion if combined effectively.

While reading this series, periodically ask yourself this question: Why are educators, parents and the American public complicit in a practice that does demonstrable harm to children and the competitive future of the country?

What do you feel needs changed the most in our current public school system? If assessments need to be redesigned, then instructional practices must support those changes.

In considering a redesigned school system, teaching itself must be examined. Just as many of the existing assessment models would have little place in a redesigned school system that embraced multiage strategies and multi-ability streaming, traditional teaching models clearly are not appropriate for a multiage classroom or a school system that embraces multi-ability grouping.

Multiage Teaching

The multiage model requires flexibility and creativity in the teaching process itself. Retraining teachers would certainly be necessary to ensure necessary competency. Moreover, educational authorities would need to determine universal instruction models across content areas, and there would need to be a clear definition of what constitutes high-quality, universal instruction in each area.

Professional development would be important for every level of education, but most particularly in elementary school and high school, to target preparation of students at an appropriate level, with advanced learning models. Teachers should also receive special training to be able to effectively monitor the progress of students with special educational needs. Although regular education teachers need not expect to necessarily take over the role of special education teachers, they should have the ability to participate as a key team member within a special education team. General education teachers should at the very least be able to help support targeted instruction.

Professional Development Training

With a redesigned school system, teachers would also need to receive training and support so they can develop stronger relationships with parents as well as students. Because teachers could expect to work with students over an extended period, this type of training and support would be crucial. Moreover, if students are to be expected to participate in learning at a higher level, a base curriculum that could be modified by the state, would be necessary. This curriculum must emphasize a higher level of critical thinking and knowledge. Teachers should be encouraged to educate parents on becoming participating team members in the support of their child’s learning.

Teachers should be supported to explain the function of the multiage classroom and the purpose of different assessment models and strategies, beyond what is currently in place. They should also be able to share resources with students and with parents to promote higher levels of learning. There are models for this type of engagement employed in schools across the country, including, for instance, the use of reading lists and incentives to have students undertake math assignments over the summer months. More of these efforts could be employed to support the higher-level learning objectives in a redesigned education system.

Hands-on Learning

Given the relative importance of actual skills, teachers should receive support to provide students with opportunities to apply practical knowledge or otherwise learn through experience. Assessment opportunities should allow for the same type of learning opportunities as well, strengthening the connection between classroom experiences and the real world.

Can you imagine schools welcoming multiage strategies and multi-ability streaming? How quickly do you feel teachers would be able to alter course instruction to reinforce these models?

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