Finding What Works in Education
"...many education visitors to Finland expect to find schools filled with Finnish pedagogical innovation and state-of-the-art technology. Instead, they see teachers teaching and pupils learning as they would in any typical good school in the United States. Some observers call this “pedagogical conservatism” or “informal and relaxed” because there does not appear to be much going on in classrooms.
The irony of Finnish educational success is that it derives heavily from classroom innovation and school improvement research in the United States. Cooperative learning and portfolio assessment are examples of American classroom-based innovations that have been implemented in large scale in the Finnish school system."The above quote is echoed in the following initiative launched recently in the Unites States:
In a time when educational budgets are crunched around the country, the topics of classroom size and teacher to student ratio are highly debated topics in the educational and political spheres. What number is best for the students and the teachers in the room?
At The New American Academy in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, school leader Shimon Waronker and the faculty have designed a new approach to class structure: 60 kids, 4 teachers, and one large, open classroom.
The four teachers are generally made up of one master teacher, two partner teachers, and one associate teacher. Master teachers have often been curriculum coordinators or coaches before, and act as the senior mentor in the group. Partner teachers have a couple years of teaching experience, and associates are generally first or second year teachers. This structure was designed to provide an in-classroom career ladder and as well as daily chances for mentoring, feedback, reflection and collaboration between the master teacher, partner teachers, and associate teacher....
David Crockett Elementary School is a public school in the Balsz District in Phoenix, Arizona. Crockett serves approximately 500 students from diverse backgrounds in kindergarten through 6th grade. Over 95% of the students at Crockett qualify for free lunch, and all students have access to fresh fruits and vegetables through a federal grant. Principal Jarret Sharp is leading his “crew” toward a curriculum that is relevant and rigorous for all students. The Balsz District has added an additional 20 days of instruction to their school year, which leads to an additional year of instructional time by 8th grade.
“You can make the most impact through relationships. Knowing the details with parents, the kids and the staff makes all the difference in the world. It is a lever to move heavy duty things on a campus. If you can build strong, trusting relationships, you can move mountains.” Principal Jarrett Sharp has taken the practice of building relationships within his school community to another level. He uses the “details” he knows about the different stakeholders to help them make the learning experience as positive and productive as possible for his students....
Lighthouse Community Charter School is a K-12 public school in Oakland, California. The mission is “to prepare a diverse, K-12th grade student population for college and the career of their choice by equipping each child and youth with the skills, knowledge, and tools to become a self-motivated, competent, lifelong learner.” Lighthouse is designed around five principles: High expectations for all students, a rigorous curriculum, serving the whole child, family involvement, and creating a professional learning community. In addition to being rigorous, the curricular approach is also authentic, hands-on and inquiry-driven. All students at Lighthouse are taught to advocate for themselves and are able to articulate their strengths and learning goals.
When Laura Kretshmar of Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland, California, told her sixth graders that they were going to have a number talk, smiles, claps, and “Yessss!” were heard from the students as they waited in anticipation. Laura invited students to share expectations for number talks and move closer and sit on the carpet if they needed to.
In Laura’s classroom, number talks are short, strategic conversations that focus on flexible mental problem solving as well as strategy sharing and critiquing. Strings of related equations are used to help students see patterns and help them transfer strategies from one equation to the next....