Posts Tagged ‘network school’

Learn Everywhere: a Progressive Idea Expropriated by NH’s Right Wing Anti-Public Education Commissioner.

August 4, 2021 Comments off

The notion of awarding academic credit for life experience is supported by most progressive educators who want to liberate children from the lockstep curricula that are often seen as pointless or unchallenging to students at the secondary level. But traditional thinkers have thus far rejected experiential learning because it challenges the normal framework of “schooling”: the framework that measures learning based on standardized test scores; the framework that insists on atomizing life experiences into non-overlapping compartments like “mathematics”, “social studies” “science” and “English”; the framework that sorts and selects winners and losers based on comparisons with age cohorts on the ability to learn abstract skills at a constant speed. 

For decades progressive educators have championed unconventional approaches to learning, ones that capitalize on the interests of students and reflect the reality that students mature at different rates intellectually as well as physically. Consequently, they advocate schooling that keep learning constant and time variable. Because of that mindset, progressive educators reject the current system that identifies students who perform well on pencil-and-paper tests designed to measure their ability to manipulate symbols as “gifted”. In identifying this group as “gifted” that are simultaneously labelling all other students, including many creative students and students with physical dexterity, as “ungifted”.  Progressive educators also decry the current arrangement whereby students the current system identifies as “slow learners” because they are not maturing at the same rate as their age peers are subjected to monotonous work designed to help them “catch up” so they can “succeed” on standardized test scores. And yet when these same students mature intellectually and find content that interests them, they make dramatic strides in learning, in some cases overtaking their age peers who were identified as “gifted” when they excelled on tests as kindergarten students. 

As one of those progressive educators, I was heartened to read Ethan DeWitt’s New Hampshire Bulletin article describing the roll out of the New Hampshire State Board’s Learn Everywhere initiative. The article provides this overview of the program: 

Learn Everywhere (is) a new state venture that allows public school students to sign up for approved programs outside of the classroom and receive public school credit.

Under the program, students who attend programs approved by the State Board of Education… can go to their schools and demonstrate that they have completed the out-of-school course. At that point, schools must accept the coursework for credit, freeing the public school student to opt out of the corresponding class in school and take a different class. 

Given that description, the program seems anodyne and uncontroversial. After all, if I took a summer course at a community college why shouldn’t I receive credit for it? Operation Running Start, a program that gives high school credit for students enrolled in community college courses, operates on the same premise, simultaneously awarding a high school and community college course. So… what’s the problem? 

School districts have complained that it takes away local control of the curriculum by mandating that schools accept credits approved by the State Board of Education. School choice advocates say the program is an opportunity for students to diversify their learning opportunities, without local red tape.

I am clearly not a fan of Frank Edelblut, the current State Commissioner in New Hampshire, an individual whose children never set foot in a public school and an individual who ran for Governor with the expressed agenda of eliminating or undercutting public schools. Nor do I support the current Governor’s decision to appoint Edelblut as State Education Commissioner, an appointment that came with an alleged promise to support Edelblut’s candidacy for Governor once Sununu sought a Senate seat. Nor do I support the New Hampshire GOP legislature’s recent bills that create Education Savings Accounts designed to facilitate the transfer of scarce state dollars away from public education to sectarian private schools, bills that our anti-public education Commissioner AND Governor Sununu supported. There are good reasons to be suspicious of Edelblut’s and Sununu’s intentions for introducing the “Learn Everywhere”, not the least of which is the probability that at some point they or their colleagues in the legislature will introduce a bill that calls for State money to “Follow the Child”. 

For me, the principle of awarding credit for out-of-school-experiences is more important than applying partisan thinking to every idea concocted by the GOP… because, as aptly observed in a quote attributed to writer Susan Mallery, “even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes”. Time to accept the statistical reality that three blind squirrels— Edelblut, Sununu, and the GOP legislators– are even MORE likely to uncover a nut! 

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The Case for Community Schools— or “Network Schools” that Provide On-Site Social Services

July 31, 2021 Comments off

Jeremy Mohler, a writer for In the Public Interest, wrote a compelling article that outlines the case for community schools, especially in light of the Trumpist GOP’s pushback against its latest bogeyman: Critical Race Theory.  Mohler rightly contends that the REAL grassroots movement in public education has more to do with linking the community together than ripping it apart, which appears to be the endgame for the GOP. 

In his final paragraph Mohler suggests that nothing less than the continuation of democracy is at stake in the battle over public education… and the best way forward for public schools is to embrace the expanded responsibilities that are implicit in operating community schools. 

What MIGHT Have Happened But Didn’t: COVID Closures of Necessity Failed to Promote Changes by Design

July 27, 2021 Comments off

A recent article in our local newspaper described some significant changes in the operations of Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) where 13% of Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s employees overall and almost 20% of workers at the system’s academic hub will continue to work remotely at least part of the time on a permanent basis after the COVID-19 pandemic. The article described the decision in this paragraph: 

(VP) Blair characterized the current shift as one from “remote by necessity,” which the health system adopted in March 2020, to “remote by design.” The difference between the two approaches is that D-H now has taken the time to think through how best to approach remote work, she said.

And the design for the new work format came about as a result of a year-long study of how working from home affected the work flow and effectiveness at the hospital. DHMC includes over 8,000 employees at 5 sites and was clearly as overwhelmed by COVID as public schools. But unlike public education, where local school boards operated independently and the State leadership was lacking, DHMC was able to seize a rare opportunity to examine how the necessary change to providing remote health services might change the existing paradigm in a positive fashion. And the change to remote work might be permanent if it can be accomplished without compromise. 

“Dartmouth employees whose jobs can be performed off-site have been encouraged to discuss their preferences for remote or in-person work with their supervisors,” Lawrence said. “The one-year time frame will give us an opportunity to assess the new work arrangements to see whether they are productive and should become permanent.”

While schools viewed COVID solely as a crisis, DHMC viewed it as a possible means for change… an “opportunity to assess new work arrangements”. And DHMC is not alone. Some workplaces are considering 4-day work weeks and alternative schedules as a result of what they learned from COVID. Meanwhile, schools will go back to normal: age-based cohorts of students passing through “grade-levels” based on norm-referenced standards. The one-year time frame offering no opportunity for self-reflection or consideration of change.  

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