Essential to systemic reform is to recognize that all students are different, learn in different ways and have different interests and passions. No longer may we force kids into a small box full of word games and math riddles and call it education. There are several changes necessary to assure all students receive an education that prepares them for their future.
1. A plan to take students from where they are, forward on their pathway to success. To achieve this, an individual pathway (MY Action Plan, MAP) is developed to guide students through their educational years. This includes revising the outmoded system of failure that is designed to pass kids with a D- and insufficient knowledge, or push them out of school. As we recognize all students are different, those with "special needs" become a part of the spectrum. And gifted students are no longer held back to suffer from boredom. They also move at their pace.
2. Achievement must be redefined to make it a real accounting of necessary learning. 1st class or whole child achievement must become the priority as it is more important for students to be able to apply their learning than simply bubble in the correct answer. 2nd class or testing achievement still plays a role but a much smaller one and is done locally.
3. A student assessment plan (My Action Plan, MAP) is prepared with parents, students and educators on the local level and must replace the testing fiasco with assessment that measures first class achievement and uses it for the benefit of the education of the student. 2nd class or testing is compared on a regular basis with curriculum progress to assure the validity of the process. With the ability to broaden assessments (i.e. science fairs etc) we must no longer waste time trying to tweak the "test" with value added nonsense in the failed effort to try to make it meaningful.
4. Essential to the success of a new systemic plan for education is the empowerment of the childs first teacher, their parents. This begins by inclusion in the decision making of the school on all releveant issues. Parental involvement, in this plan, includesd all parents receiving small, relevant surveys when an upcoming decision is essential. Never again will a handful of parents speak for all as parents are as diverse as their children. All must be represented. In addition all parents will be involved in their childs MAP, guiding their direction to their future.
5. School assessment must be based on many aspects of the whole school environment. Of course the best way for a parent to determine the quality of a school is to visit the school on several occasions and stay for as long as possible. Schools will have problems, but the manner of how those problems are resolved are of utmost importance. As for the academic progress of a school, the important issue is how each individual student progresses. A false indicator in the past has been the number of students proficient. This is false because it does not indicate the students skill levels when they enter the school. A school that subtly excludes students who need them the most, will seem to be of high quality when their actual success with student achievement might be low. Look for the quality of support systems in the school for parents, students and teachers and you will be able to determine a quality school.
6. To assure quality, a strong well balanced teacher accountability plan must be implemented. This must be without hidden agendas, the kind of accountability that not only supports the skills and abilities of teachers, but assures parents that their children will receive the highest quality education taking them on their pathway to success. Accountability that supports good teaching strategies while assuring all individual students move forward from where they are, to their future success. It is important to recognize that there cannot be quality accountability without a system that reflects all teachers needs. This support includes, but is not limited to:
A. Small class size sufficient to meet the needs of the wide diversity of students skill levels.
B. Sufficient planning time as each individual student will need a plan of action based on needs.
C. Given that assessment drives the curriculum, schools must be allowed to develop a system and philosophy of education that moves away from the standardized test, to 1st class achievement being the priority and guiding light for all curricular activities.
In the absence of at the very least, these recommendations, failure is assured. The time for action is now. It is time to empower students to chase their dreams and follow their pathway to success, for parents to become full partners in the process, and for teachers to take back their profession.