Writings and observations

Real ed reform

carlson CHRIS


Every so often my publisher walks up to me with a challenge to get beyond blanket criticisms and propose constructive alternatives that will help resolve a contested matter. So it was with the so-called Luna Laws, all of which were criticized harshly by many writers as well as me.

As the son of two public school teachers, I have some opinions but by no means am I claiming to be an expert on educational reform.

The following reflects the Ten Carlson Rules for producing better Students:

Rule #1) Instill a writing discipline, starting in the 1st Grade. A student should have to write something each day. First graders have to write a sentence; sixth graders a paragraph; seventh and above a page a day.
a. Write, write, write—-there is no substitute.
b. Keep a daily diary.
c. Write complete sentences—no short cuts!

Rule #2) No cell phones, ipads, etc. should be permitted during the school day. It’s not just that they facilitate distracting behavior; it’s that they encourage the use of texting, which with all its abbreviations is going to be
the death of the English language yet. All parents should examine their kids text messages and odds are they will need an interpretation or a “texting” dictionary. The phones should be surrendered at the door of the school and returned at the end of the day.

Rule #3) From the 7th Grade on students should be part of a teacher’s evaluation. Students have a fair idea which teachers care and which are really teaching. Conversely, the proposed Luna law requirement that parents be part of the evaluation process should be dropped. Far too many parents
either don’t care or simply don’t have the time. To make them a mandatory part of a teacher’s evaluation would be counter-productive in many cases.

Rule #4) Better define the Core Body of Knowledge. As the nation shifts to more and more national standardized testing, in fairness to the student as well as parents wishing to help, the education establishment has to reach a consensus on what constitutes the Core that has to be mastered.

Rule #5) Incentivize extra-curricular reading of newspapers, periodicals and news magazines. Let students know they can boost a grade by extra reading with weekly testing to confirm they’ve done the reading. But read, read, read! College recruiters still will tell you that one of the sure-fired indicators of a high student who will do well at college is whether they read news periodicals as well as good books. Ivy League recruiters especially look for the student that reads the dictionary in their spare time.

Rule #6) Move away from the time-oriented credit system to a performance-based system grounded in the national standards for what constitutes the required Core Body of Knowledge to be mastered before they can graduate.
a. Adopt “flexible” learning time based on the individual student’s progress. This may mean some students have to attend school year round while others can still have the summer months off.
b. Increase the length of the school year but shorten the school day, regardless.

Rule #7) Require students to work with counselors and teachers to develop an annual Planned Path to Mastery of the Core Body of Knowledge and require a semi-annual review of the plan with necessary adaptations to reflect circumstances – adaptive management if you will.

Rule #8) Provide credit for “real world” experiences subject to review and approval by teachers and local school board. If a student travels to Scotland for two weeks during the summer, or is a counselor at a summer camp, or works in a hardware store there ought to be a way to award a few credits to reflect a different but still valuable form of learning.

Rule #9) Allow one on-line learning class for credit per semester, but one that is carefully monitored and has been pre-approved and one that has on-line tests along the way.

Rule #10) Every student regardless of where or how they are schooled will be required to take annually the national standardized test of the Core Body of Knowledge. No exceptions for home schooled, charter schooled or privately schooled.

These are ten simple, easily doable rules—wouldn’t you agree?

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