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Author: Barbara Bray

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What's your Normal?

I shared a poster this morning on Facebook about being normal.

Some questions arose:

Normal

  • what does normal mean to different people?

  • If everyone were the same, would they have the same normal?
  • How do you teach people who have different normals?

Think about your normal, how you were raised, and what seems just “normal” to you. Your normal may be to be quiet, be safe and secure, not take any chances, and enjoy each day. You may like to “smell the roses” and meditate. You’re just happy to wake up each day.

Another person’s normal may be to get up early and take on the world. Their mantra is “to make a difference” every day. To challenge everything and take risks. They rarely take time to sit. Every minute needs to be scheduled.

Is one of these normals you? Is one wrong and the other just perfect?

To personalize learning for each student, we not only need to understand their learning style but their normal. The one thing that is difficult to not do is judge someone’s normal.

  • Can we teach that?

  • Can we teach how to accept people as they are?
  • Can we teach how to be tolerant of people’s differences?

A great addition to our curriculum would be to teach empathy and compassion. Figure out your normal and understand other people’s normal. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

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Innovation Centers for Real-World Learning

I’ve been thinking about the promise of Innovation Centers. These are Community Learning Centers that incorporate K-12 schools, the public library, and a local university and/or community college where learning happens 24/7 with learners of all ages. These centers could be a combination of all of these places and include businesses and non-profits in the area. In some cases, community colleges and senior centers might be involved. In other cases, a preschool might be included in a project. These can also be blended versions where the place is one or all of these sites plus a virtual place to collaborate and learn. I’m going to expand on the virtual place more later.

The idea of an Innovation Center in different parts of the country means that each community can investigate local issues on a global scale. Each Center will include the latest technology and enough bandwidth to handle multiple devices per person. Each Center will be designed by the community to reflect their community. The center is open to all learners but not like a regular school.

One community might address urban gardening and how to feed more people in less space. Another community might address strategies for recycling and reducing trash. All findings will be shared among all Innovation Centers and collaboration will be encouraged.

The goal could be to push the envelope: where learning focuses on real-world projects, problems, and challenges on a global scale. Just imagine identifying a local problem in your area in the US and connect with a school in Africa or Nepal with the same problem. Common problems could be:

  • Lack of clean water

  • Pollution in your area
  • Money managing skills
  • Culture and Community
  • Jobs or Entrpreneurship

Everything will be student-centered and inquiry-based. Teacher roles change. They are co-learners and co-designers with their students and are advisors for a team of learners. As advisors they are with the same learners for several years. Actually the learners are driving the design of the projects and the community. The community is a viable entity that happens anywhere and everywhere. The culture of that community transcends the design of the projects.

Learning will be personalized by personal learner profiles with support from advisors. Each learner and advisor will be encouraged to take risks, question, and use critical-thinking skills to address local problems as collaborative projects. Personal learning goals will meet Common Core Standards and address curriculum requirements of their learning plan. Individuals and teams will meet learning goals as part of each project or re-evaluate the goals as they monitor their progress towards the goal. Each learner will collect evidence of learning in an ePortfolio and share via social media, websites, mobile devices, etc. Or the evidence will be a product, a showcase, an event. This all depends on the designers of the projects — the learners. We may even want to call them something different than learners.

I started thinking about this many years ago and then again recently when I added my idea to the Grand Challenge. If you like this idea, vote here. If you have more ideas for this challenge, please add your comment there and/or here.

I know there are great ideas and innovations out there. It’s all about finding out about them so we can share and learn together.

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Prepare Students for the Real-World

“The average age of community college students in Texas is 27 and many have Bachelor’s degrees. Some have Master’s degrees,” quoted Richard Moore, Executive Director of the Texas Community College Teacher Association. There are barriers for older students, because these students attend classes with everyone else who may be much younger and have goals to attend a four year college.

JoAnn Jacobs writes in her article Reinventing higher ed in California in the Community College Spotlight “Currently, more than 70 percent of the state’s college students enroll in underfunded community colleges. Most attend part-time, leading to high attrition rates. Only 18 percent of community college students earn an associate degree. By contrast, 45 percent of California State University students and 90 percent of University of California students complete a bachelor’s degree. Instead of increasing access, Cal State campuses are cutting enrollment to cope with budget cuts, which have forced faculty layoffs and reduced course offerings.”

I don’t think this is a unique situation for California or Texas. JoAnn added, “…In Florida, for example, the experiment is about “training people for real jobs,” says Miami Dade Community College President Eduardo J. Padron, who cited nursing and teaching programs.”

Richard shared with me that there is a Student Success Movement in Texas with several initiatives that fund innovation. The issue which seems universal is that community colleges are separated by community college districts. In Texas, there are 50 districts. Each is a different terrain where they often have an impact on each other. This can affect how community colleges are funded. The terrains are…

  • Policy

  • Geography

    — State by State

    – Region by Region

  • Discipline

    — Academic vs Vocational

    — Within each discipline

I believe the community colleges will be impacted more with the increase in fees and limits on attendance at four year universities. It all comes down to money. Times have changed. I went to a community college before I went to a four year college. It was a great way to transition and get to know what I really wanted to do with my life. Some people are lucky that they know early what they want to do and that career is also one that pays enough for them. I wish I could make it that anyone could go to the school or university they want to to learn anything they want. They can take classes online. There are open source courses available, but until accreditation changes, courses are universally accepted from different colleges, and life and work experience counts, this is going to be a difficult road for many.

I also believe that if…

  • community colleges are able to change the accreditation process, more adults could take advantage of an amazing source of learning.

  • learners can challenge courses where they have life and work experience, this could be a way to move more people to real jobs and provide a revenue source to community colleges. This could also be a source of revenue for four year colleges and maybe even high schools.
  • we pull together as a nation, we need to look at the bigger picture: people need jobs. We need to rethink four year colleges and who can afford liberal arts studies and who has the skills for specific types of real-world jobs. We provide a learning guide with each student that enters college.
  • we start early in middle school to provide a personal learning plan for each student and a personal learning coach to monitor their progress, they won’t get lost in the system or drop out early.
  • we provide a mentor or advisor to each high school student to help them identify their strengths and weaknesses, learning styles, and guide them to choose an appropriate learning path.
  • we offer multiple learning opportunities including online courses along with a learning coach, learners will not feel lost in a system they feel doesn’t care about them.
  • we rethink the Community College system as a stepping stone to the real-world and fund them appropriately, we help our people get back to work.

Learners are all ages now. Everyone is reinventing themselves. We need to rethink our entire educational system.

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BYOL + PLC = CoP

BYOL means Bring Your Own Laptop. I know I know – acronyms – Why? I’m trying to make a point here. If you have enough resources for each child (BYOL), then you can grow professional learning communities (PLC) with all learners. When you have these communities sprouting up around your district, you build communities of practice (CoP).

Forest Hills Local Schools in Cincinatti, OH launched their laptop program in January 2011. They focused on all 7th grade students who would bring their own computers to school or use the school’s laptops. They decided to start with a pilot program to gather data and learn what works and what didn’t work before they expanded to more grade levels across the district.

Cary HarrodI’ve known Cary Harrod (caryharrod@foresthills.edu), the Instructional Technology Specialist, for many years and knew how persistent she was to get a program like this off the ground. I remember her saying to me several years ago, “it’s all about the kids” and “how do we make change when there aren’t enough resources?”

So after I heard that Forest Hills piloted a BYOL project, I interviewed Cary last week. She shared with me how the district proposed a 1:1, where the district would purchase laptops for all students but that it was cost prohibitive for a district of 7,800 students with 6 elementary schools, 1 middle school, and 2 high schools. Two years later (April 2010), they wanted the tech team to come up with something different and we decided to go BYOL. The school board and administration supported it and the technology leads researched existing 1:1 programs. They wanted to focus on digital learning that supports student-centered learning pedagogy.
@1st Centurizing Learning

A critical piece was designing a professional development plan that incorporated 21st century learning. They agreed on the importance of personal learning as the first step towards understanding the shifts occurring in education. They wanted to create a “hothouse” where great ideas begin, new methods of learning are shared and communities are rooted.

The structure included:

  • cultivating a professional learning community (Ning, Twitter, Diigo, Skype, f2f meetings)

  • providing for sustained practice and anytime learning (Ning, Twitter, Diigo, Skype)
  • modeling Inquiry Learning
  • providing coaching
  • modeling effective collaboration
  • developing Theoretical & Practical Understanding.

The district, school board, and the 7th grade administrator, Natasha Adams, developed a partnership with teachers, students, and parents to bring everyone on board. Only a small percentage were resistant. In November 2010, the district has a showcase of projects where teachers set up booths and invited parents. They also set up

CAMPL

Conversations
About
My
Personal
Learning

along with conference style tool workshops after school and on Saturdays. For all families that were included in the BYOL program, there was a mandatory session on the Nuts and Bolts of laptop maintenance and safety. Over 1,000 people attended all of the sessions.

While the professional development began with conversations about the tools, they quickly
began talking about what this will look like in the classroom.

The principal required all teachers to develop their PLN (Personal Learning Network) and read and discussed Tribes by Seth Godin. 40 teachers went through the Partnership for Powerful Learning. Forest Hills TeachersAfter spending a month on how to articulate the move from 20th century to 21st century learning, the teachers brainstormed a list of characteristics of a classroom with good teaching and good learning. They then used the characteristics to transform a 20th century lesson and give it a 21st century bent.

The pilot started with 7th grade with 559 students, 353 brought in a device. There were already 160 laptops available to lend and the rest of the parents provided their children laptops. Now that every 7th grader had a laptop, support at home, and the teachers were ready, they focused on lesson design.

Students used their devices in all subject areas and utilized the many tools available to access, manage and organize information; connect with other students and experts; and create multi-media projects.

Due to the success of the project, the program has expanded, allowing all eighth graders to bring in their own devices. Currently, over 580 students are bringing in their own device. Further expansion will occur in the 2012-2013 school year, when the program moves to grades 9-12 with a possible expansion to the elementary grades in subsequent years.

Links:
Link to BYOL
Nagel Middle School, Forest Hills Local Schools

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Personalizing Learning so You are Youer than You

Dr. Seuss Logo
Dr. Seuss is brilliant. Let’s learn from Dr. Seuss. He knew that each person is special and unique. I was going through his quotes and realized he got it way before we knew how important it was to personalize learning for each learner.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
How better to say it than this? One size that fits all doesn’t work for learners today. I like this quote how it focuses on the importance of you and believing in yourself.

“And will you succeed? Yes indeed, yes indeed! Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed!”
Believe in yourself and you can do anything. When learning is focused on you, your interests, and passions, you are more motivated to succeed.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

Traditional school that is “one size fits all” doesn’t work for everyone. Some learners feel discouraged because the system is focused on learning objectives that may not even have anything to do with them or have no meaning for them. Personalizing learning for each learner means they take ownership of their learning.

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those that matter don’t mind and those that mind don’t matter!”
When you know who you are and focus on what you believe in, what you are passionate about, and are in a learning environment that lets you take risks, be innovative, and creative, anything can happen.

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”
When you are in a creative learning environment that is open to questioning and critical-thinking, you never know what you will come up with. I still consider this quote of Margaret Mead’s when I think about thinking: “Children must to taught how to think not what to think.”

“Think and wonder, wonder and think.”
When you are open to questions and search for wonder, you will find amazing things. Open your classroom so learning is anytime and everywhere.

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
Each person is born as a unique and amazing individual. Every child comes into this world having endless opportunities to do whatever they believe they can do. Traditional schools don’t allow creativity or you to stand out. Personalizing learning encourages each child to find and share their unique characteristics and stand out.

“You are you. Now, isn’t that pleasant?”
Celebrate YOU! Every day celebrate who you are. Personalized learning encourages each child to use their strengths and talents as they learn a concept.

“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”
So today is your day! Enjoy it! Celebrate it! Have a wonderful time finding ways to make your day the best day so far!

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Failure is No Longer an Option

Think of your students working at their own pace. Teachers are overwhelmed as they try to meet the needs of all their students. With our current one-size-fits-all system, many children are being left behind and dropping out.

A competency-based system means students address standards in the way that meets their needs instead of waiting to learn something when it comes up in a chapter in a textbook or when it is being taught to the whole class. Competency-based pathways are a re-engineering of our education system around learning: a re-engineering designed for success in which failure is no longer an option. Competency-based approaches build upon standard reforms, offering a new value proposition:

By aligning all of our resources (in schools, the community, and online) around student learning to enable students to progress upon mastery, our country can increase productivity in the education system, while simultaneously raising achievement levels overall and reducing the achievement gap.

[Source: Competency-Based Pathways]

So a competency-based system accelerates the pace of learning based upon a student’s abilities, needs, and interests, while other students may require additional support and alternative types of instruction until they master the content. The current system expects proficiency of a standard before advancement while a competency-based system monitors progress in meeting a standard. Competency-based design principles [shortened] from Competency-based Pathways:

Design Principle 1: Students Advance upon Mastery

    • Students advance by demonstration of mastery, not age.
    • Students are appropriately challenging.
    • Students are evaluated on performance.
    • Some students complete courses at different rates than others.

Design Principle 2: Explicit and Measurable Learning Objectives Empower Students

    • The student and teacher relationship changes.

    • Learning becomes modular.
    • Learning goes beyond the classroom and can be anytime, anywhere.

Design Principle 3: Assessment Is Meaningful and a Positive Learning Experience for Students

    • Schools focus on formative assessment.

    • Teachers collaborate to develop understanding of what is an adequate demonstration of proficiency.
    • Skills or concepts are assessed in multiple contexts and multiple ways.
    • Attention on student learning, not student grades.
    • Summative assessments are adaptive and timely.

Design Principle 4: Students Receive Rapid, Differentiated Support

    • Students progress at their own speeds and students that are proceeding more slowly will need more help.

    • Personal learning plans identify learning styles, context, and interventions that are most effective for each student.
    • New specialist roles may develop to provide high quality interventions when students begin to slip behind.
    • Online learning can play an invaluable role in providing feedback to teachers on how students are proceeding.

Design Principle 5: Learning Outcomes Emphasize Include Application and Creation of Knowledge

    • Competencies are designed so that demonstration of mastery includes application of skills and knowledge.

    • Assessment rubrics are explicit in what students must be able to know and do to progress to the next level of study.
    • Examples of student work that demonstrate skills development throughout a learning continuum will help students understand their own progress.
    • Lifelong learning skills designed around students needs, life experiences, and the skills needed for them to be college and career ready.
    • Expanded learning opportunities are developed for students to develop and apply skills as they are earning credit.

Businesses, Universities, Community Colleges, and Technical colleges are looking at competency-based systems for career bound students and job seekers. There is a need to address and accept existing knowledge and skills people have no matter what age.

What about providing a system in K-20 for learners to challenge a course or test? This could actually be a way to move people through a competency-based system where life skills and background knowledge mean something. It will be interesting to follow innovative practices where schools take risks to address each students’ needs and learning styles.

It is time to “think out of the box” where failure is not an option anymore. We cannot leave one child behind. Every child is important. This is their future and right now — today — isn’t looking very promising for them. Schools have to change. We cannot look back anymore and say “if it was good for me, it’s good for my child.” That doesn’t work anymore. The world is different. We tried the “one size fits all” now for a long time. We have more children left behind than ever.

Let’s look at personalizing learning and competency-based system models. How about learning modules that are available when a student needs an answer or a question? How about teachers as personal learning coaches?

I am going to showcase different schools and innovation centers where the focus is on learning and meeting the needs of each student. Are you with me?

I submitted an idea for the Grand Challenge about Designing Creative Learning Environments. Check it out. Vote. Comment. Leave a comment here.

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Navigate "The Digital Waters"

Cyberbullying is a real concern for our children. Children need direction. I saw what Chris Clementi (kidsnetsoft@gmail.com), a middle school computer teacher and Google Teacher, shared about Cyberbullying. She mentioned that she is very interested in protecting children online and shared with me…

Girls on Computer“It is important that students are given the necessary tools to be safe online. This webquest is designed to give them sufficient information to make wiser choices online so that they don’t become a victim to various scams and predators. It is also intended to prevent students from being cyberbullies. They need to understand the ramifications of bullying people in person or by using some digital means to torment their victims.
Their digital footprint can be to their advantage if they navigate the digital “waters” with caution, expertise, empathy and wisdom.”

Chris created Get Wise Online (https://sites.google.com/site/cyberwits/home)

This is a WebQuest on Internet topics where you watch videos on cyberbullying, online safety, social networks, sexting, and online etiquette and use what you have learned to create a multi-media presentation.

Chris provides examples and samples along with templates and forms. Here’s an example of the final product.



Chris’ website:

http://www.kidsnetsoft.com/html/home2.html

Chris’ Book:

https://sites.google.com/site/techintegrationsite/

Thank you Chris for sharing this with the world!

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Schools and the Search for Wonder

It hit me this morning after reading Seth Godin’s post “Lousy tomatoes and the rare search for Wonder” that schools are like supermarkets. Seth writes that supermarkets stock “waxy, tasteless tomatoes from Chile, Mexico and Florida” mainly because it keeps the price cheap and the store profitable. Also someone just might need a tomato in the middle of the night in winter and any tomato might do. He also wrote…

“Over time, as institutions create habits and earn subscribers, they often switch, gradually making the move from magical (worth a trip, worth a conversation) to good (there when you need it). Most TV is just good. Magazines, too. When was the last time People magazine did something that made you sit up and say, “wow”? Of course, you could argue that they’re not in the wow business, and you might be right.”

Here’s where I see the problem with schools. Schools are there because students are required to go. They were designed to deliver information in a form that just doesn’t work today. Today’s students are used to getting what they want when they want it with “on demand” everything. How can we expect our students to accept a waxy tomato when they are used to salsa with a spoonful of guacamole?

Everything in our lives is changing because of supply and demand. Schools will change because students are leaving for other options or dropping out. Schools will change because we are not meeting the needs of our children. Even online schools need to restructure how they deliver their curriculum. Today’s Kindergarteners use technology. 3rd graders have cell phones. I can guarantee that more than 75% of elementary students text their friends. More families are switching from TV to the Internet or Netflix or other ways to watch what they want when they want to watch it. Less families are subscribing to newspapers and magazines. Information is there at their fingertips now. I have CNN, NY Times, and lots of my shows on my iPhone.

Google is restructuring YouTube Edu to have curriculum matched to standards on playlists. iTunes University is in your pocket. Mobile learning is going to level the playing field for all children. Each child will find what they want or need using different apps. Thousands of apps are being developed every day.

App Store

So where does the teacher fit in this new world? The teacher is the guide, the advisor, the co-learner in this world of wonder. They design the environment that lets students take risks and find what they need to meet their learning goals based on their personal learning plan. Who knows what school will look like in a few years? There may be a physical school or learning center where learning can happen anytime, anywhere. A teacher cannot compete with the “Wow” that our students have with games and apps that are new each day. Think of a place where students question everything and it is our job as teachers to encourage questions, provide opportunities to build things, fix things, experiment with new ideas, collaborate globally, and push students to explore outside of their comfort zone.

So the teacher’s role has to change. How about teachers as learning agents for the search of wonder?

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Rethinking 21st Century Skills

Most schools today are not able to make the necessary changes they need to make to be a 21st Century school. It’s not just about technology, teaching, and learning.

Here’s what I see:

    • Schools putting in wifi and maybe enough bandwidth for one device per user.

    • Training teachers on the specific devices and software with a few examples for the classroom.
    • A few schools going 1:1 at school. Very few school-home connections.
    • Very little community and parent involvement at the school.
    • Most funding for 1:1 is soft money with little available for ongoing support.
    • Top down mandates and decisions about types of technology allowed.
    • Firewalls and blocking software that do not give access to most Web 2.0 tools and social media.
    • Focus on increasing student achievement (i.e. raising test scores).
    • Lots of talk about student-centered learning with only pockets of best practices.
    • Cuts in arts, physical education, counseling, libraries, and technology.
    • In-flexible curriculum where students have no say in their interests or passions.
    • No emphasis on the skills and values employers are looking for in their employees. See post.
    • Most educational conferences still focus on testing, technology, and status quo and not on real change in the classroom. Talking about the future is sexy but teachers don’t think it’s doable in their classroom.
    • Teacher education programs are subject-specific silos and tenure-driven organizations. [source]
    • Collaborative planning time, if there is any, is mostly used for lesson plans tied to textbooks and tests.

Change is difficult. Everything is changing around us. Our children are not prepared for today. Just ask your neighbors who have their children who graduated from college who are not able to find work. This is a national crisis. Media and politicians point fingers at schools and teachers as the problems. This is not right. Everything is changing. All of us need to pull together and look at how society is changing. It is all children we are putting at-risk now. Teachers need to be valued instead of blamed for all the ills of society.

I work with public and private schools — high poverty and wealthy schools around the country. Change is slow no matter what type of school.

High poverty schools keep trying different strategies. One year it’s the technology. Another year it’s professional learning communities. After that, something else. The problem with high poverty schools is bigger than one thing. Teacher retention is an issue. Social issues in that community play a big factor. Families in crisis is such a big issue that children get lost in the system. They come to school barely able to function. Teachers can only do so much. Class sizes are too large and many teachers are inexperienced to deal with many of the issues they children face.

With wealthy schools, the test scores tend to be high so parents and teachers don’t see a need to make changes. In fact, there is a concern about taking some risks then seeing scores fall. The issue for these schools is not academic achievement, it’s more of a social issue. The students from wealthier schools have issues they are not talking about: drugs, eating disorders, pregnancies, depression, wrong career choices, children graduating and not finding jobs, etc.

Nothing will happen if the school or district doesn’t support change and talk about the real problems at hand.

Science Leadership AcademyI am looking for schools that really want to make change and address the real issues that are happening with their students, teachers, and the school community. I know a few making some amazing strides where students shine and show entrepreneurial skills like the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the Duke School in Durham, North Carolina where the university, teachers and students design innovative curriculum together.

I’m going to look for examples, interview people, rant, yell, shake up some systems. It’s all about our kids now. I challenge myself, you, and all of us to roll up our sleeves and get to work. It’s time to plan and develop a vision for local communities so their students can be global citizens of the 21st century.

Are you ready?

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Building Community Schools to Save our Children

We are educators. All of us. If one child drops out of school early, the whole community suffers.

We need to create the conditions that value all children especially our at-risk children. In Oakland, I saw how devastating the dropout rate was long ago when I was writing Digital High School grants and mentioned my concern. Young black boys were dropping out before eighth grade and it’s worse now.

Today only 30% of African-American males are graduating from high school in Oakland. This is wrong. We spend more money on prisons than educating our children. This is more than wrong. We need to start early educating, mentoring, and building community to raise our children — all children. Jean Quan, Mayor of Oakland, who was on the school board and understands the problem was on the panel of Class Action this morning (9/4/11) with Christopher Chatmon and Mitchell Kapor.

If children dropout and there are no jobs even for educated youth, what happens to these boys? Oakland Unified School District is taking action. They formed a task force called African-American Male Achievement with Chris Chatmon taking the lead. They are starting young with community schooling opening the schools and gyms with programs like Math and Science Academies. Mitchell Kapor from the Mitchell Kapor Foundation wrote…

“We will all lose if we persist in doing business as usual. Our state cannot continue to claim the mantle of innovation if we continue to ignore the human capital that exists in our communities. We cannot remain competitive in the global marketplace by investing more in filling up prison and jail cells – with disproportionately more poor people and people of color – than in creating an educated workforce.”

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/05/08/ED5L1JD5MR.DTL#ixzz1X0GJpsNx

Oakland Boy DrawingChris Chatmon said on Class Action this morning: “The school system was not set up to meet the needs of black and brown boys. The street culture is stronger than school culture. We need a process of engaging and motivating by taking them through a value education.” Jean Quan is coordinating schools and the community. One big thing is keeping the libraries open.

I love Oakland. I have worked with Oakland schools for years and saw the potential in every child. I am very excited that Oakland Unified School District has this task force and is working with the city and community leaders to make a difference in our children’s lives.

Here’s my take on it:
If we want to keep brown and black boys in schools and help each child reach their fullest potential, schools have to change. The schools still have top-down management issues. Doors are closed. Teachers are lecturing and teaching to the test. I walk through the halls and see kids not connecting and drifting off. They get bored and in trouble. Then it starts spiraling down. Like Chris mentioned: we need to make them co-designers of their learning so it is relevant to them. They not only need more role models, they need to find a purpose, a passion that gives them some hope that their lives will be worth something.

I see these kids. They are smart. But they are told they are not smart. We need to look at what “Smart” means. It is not how well they do on a test. We need to find different methods of assessing what they know and can do. I believe in these kids and am passionate about saving each one. I am only one person but there are more like me out there who want to help make a difference. I have seen the best teaching in Oakland and I work around the country, but teachers are caught in a bureaucratic system that keeps them from innovating. Unless there is a grant, there is no money to help build a new type of curriculum. Unless we “think out of the box”, we continue with the same prescriptive curriculum that does not engage our children.

Idea:

How about creating a K-12 Innovation community school in Oakland where all learning is centered around each child? Each child is part of a team similar to Finland.

Each child is with one teacher for K-3 and this community has parents, mentors, and community members part of the team for that child. Bring in a teacher education program from a local university and create teams Then another teacher can be assigned as advisor from grades 4-8 so there is consistency to monitor progress. Collect artifacts of learning and reflect via portfolios. Design new learning environments that foster creativity and inquiry. For 9-12 each teacher is an advisor for 20 students who guides them in the portfolio process and finds support in the community for internships, shadowing, interviews, building resumés and interviewing skills, and counseling on career and college readiness. Check out my post on Skills and Values Employers Want.

These are just a few ideas that can help all children and especially those at-risk.