Former Schoolteacher Pens Research-Based Blueprint for Transforming Public Education
As parents and educators debate whether Common Core standards can ensure students' success, educational researcher and consultant Dr. Charles M. Reigeluth presents a compelling case for even more sweeping changes in his new book, "Reinventing Schools: It's Time to Break the Mold."
Reigeluth, a former high school teacher and Indiana University professor who conducted field research for 25 years, says today's school system was designed for a different era.
"During the Industrial Age, most jobs were in factories where workers on assembly lines created mass-produced goods," Reigeluth says. "Factories needed people who could follow instructions and endure repetitive, boring, time-based tasks, so that's what our schools taught and fostered.
"Because we did not need so many well-educated people, Industrial Age schools were designed for all students to move on to a new topic regardless of whether they had learned the current one, so slower students developed gaps in their learning that made it more difficult to learn related material in the future, condemning them to be left behind. The system was designed more for sorting students than to ensure all students' success."
Today's Information Age world of knowledge work, complicated systems and rapidly changing marketplace requires all students to be well-educated, he says. It also requires different types of communication and social skills, values and cognitive abilities.
"We've moved from standardization to customization; compliance to initiative; uniformity to diversity; adversarial to collaborative relationships," Reigeluth says. "Our schools need to change - and can change - to produce graduates who meet those needs."
"Reinventing Schools" describes specific ways to accomplish that - changes that would not only ensure students' success but also save on education spending. He outlines six core ideas for a new paradigm:
- Attainment-based system for measuring progress - rather than grades that compare students' test scores in broad subject areas based on a limited time of instruction, students demonstrate mastery of specific concepts and skills, with no time limit
- Learner-centered instruction - personalized learning plans and project-based learning work with individualized instructional support
- Expanded curriculum - addresses all aspects of development, not just cognitive, and incorporates thinking, creative and innovation skills, technology and media
- New roles - teachers are caring guides; students are self-directed learners; parents are actively involved, with input into how the school operates
- Nurturing school culture - small schools that foster deep personal ties; teachers (guides) that stay with their students through a developmental stage of about three years
- Organizational structures - Schools are like law firms, with four to 10 guides owning their own small public school; guide-owned learning centers offer different study focuses; students and parents have a say in their choice of guides, with demand influencing guides' pay; local district boards set and monitor community standards and adjudicate disputes
"There are schools that have some or nearly all of these features in place, so we can already see their effectiveness and students' success," says Reigeluth, who helped a small school district in Indianapolis reinvent itself over the course of 12 years.