Thursday, February 16, 2012

Collaboration: One of the Keys to Education Reform


Tonight on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams there was a fascinating piece by Chelsea Clinton on how one charter school (The Learning Community) in Rhode Island is sharing their reading strategies with local public schools to help their students improve their reading performance to grade level. When this collaboration began three years ago, only 37% of K-2nd graders were reading at or above grade level. Within 8 months, that number was up to 66%.

As Clinton talked with the teachers and the students I was amazed to discover that these new and innovative strategies were things like "sketch it" (kids listen to the story and the draw pictures related to it), "connection" (kids think about the story then relate it to a similar experience they've had), and "retelling" (kids tell the teacher what the story was about). The teachers also make it a point to have one-on-one time with each student every week to help them with their reading.

These are all practices that I use with my kids, and I bet so have most homeschooling moms. I'm not a trained teacher. My major in college was English with a creative writing emphasis and a minor in Social Work. But I learned most of these techniques with the curriculum I was using to teach my kids how to read, and from reading articles about developing your child's literacy skills. And I don't think these ideas are new to teachers, either. Maybe for some. But I know that there are many teachers who are either teaching their students this way, or would like to but can't.

Although I was really sad to see that these strategies are not commonplace techniques in ALL school districts across our country, I was so very glad to see this type of collaboration between the charter and public school system. I have had a very high opinion of charter schools for a while now, and even considered enrolling my own daughter in one when she was ready to start Kindergarten. (More on that another day.)

Anyway, in the interview, one of the questions Clinton asked was why we weren't seeing more collaborations like this across the country. The teachers readily admitted that "sometimes public school teachers can perceive charter schools as a threat" when it comes to resources and personnel. How sad is this? I wonder if this perception isn't promoted by "upper management" within the school districts.

But you quickly learn that this group of teachers have a different outlook. I was so happy to hear one of the other public school teachers say "We all share the same goal. It's student achievement."

And isn't that just what it all boils down to in a nutshell?

When asked why the program is successful, a charter school teacher responds that "We just keep it dynamic. We make decisions right there on the spot about how to meet the needs of every single student in the class." What a profound statement. This is something I do every day at home with my kids. Isn't it a shame that teachers across America aren't allowed the freedom to make these decisions with their own classrooms? 

There are so many lessons to be learned from this segment. I think it is an inspiring story during this time when there are so many negative feelings associated with our current education crisis. So I want to share it with you here...


I really wish that instead of so much fighting and distrust, our education systems would find a way to work together for the sake of our children. Enough with the jealousy, the bickering, and the OVERLY competitive outlooks.

I would love to hear from some of the teachers reading this blog. What are your thoughts about this issue?

Con mucho cariño...

16 comments:

  1. I love this and, as an public educator that is considering homeschooling my own children for awhile, I appreciate your homeschooling perspective. Our neighborhood school is ranked the very lowest in our large urban school district. I have wondered about the possibility of forming a partnership between the school and the homeschoolers in my neighborhood. Could we make regular visits to the school to assist with lessons or tutoring and could our children take advantage of some of their resources that we cannot offer in the home? I haven't approached the school yet but have been thinking about this!

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    1. Candis, I've heard of more and more public schools forming partnerships with local homeschoolers. I know of at least three homeschooling families in different parts of the country who have their children participating in public school athletic programs. I would suggest that maybe before you approach your school, you find some examples of successful collaborations like this so that you can give them some positive examples. Perhaps they will be more receptive if you do?
      Thank you for sharing!

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  2. I am going to share your post with Rachel (The Art Muse), she will love it... She is homeschooling her child as well. Thank you for the pointers... I am going to incorporate the sketch, connection, and re-telling with my boy. :)

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    1. Great! I hope these techniques work with your son.

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  3. So true that student achievement should be a shared goal. Given the impact of early literacy on a child's future academic potential, I applaud you for a well-written and thoughtful post.

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  4. my cousin is the President of a Charter school here in Atlanta. I'd love his thoughts on this!

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    1. Ooo! I'd love to know his thoughts, too!

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  5. Techniques of reading skills are so important!! I love this article! I also learned a lot from this!

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    1. Wonderful! You never know when you might be able to use them :)

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  6. Thanks for sharing Nicole. I can go and go about this post. It is so crucial to give kids one-on-one time. It's not easy to do in a classroom setting. However, as we see here the larger schools can greatly benefit from working with smaller institutions.

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    1. Honestly? I think the one-on-one time is the single most important factor that can affect reading success. Knowing which areas your child needs help in, is the first step to helping them master it.

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  7. Sketch it, connection and retelling is something I also did when I was a teacher. I worked in a public school and wasn't trained to use these strategies but I brainstormed and thought they were creative ways to learn. More schools need to be more innovative.

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    1. I didn't know you were a teacher! Yes, I think lots of teachers know about these strategies, but not all of them can incorporate them into their lessons because they deviate from a set curriculum. You're absolutely right that more (All?!) schools need to be more innovative.

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  8. I hope that every part can work sharing the same objective. There are too many barriers to achieve one goal: the best education for our kids.

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    1. We really need to break down all those barriers. Thanks, Cristina!

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