New philosophies and approaches to education are being addressed in a book, which is being read by Marshalltown Community School Board members and district administration.
The book is “Schools Cannot Do It Alone: Building Public Support for America’s Public Schools,” written by Jamie Vollmer.
The book addresses the increasing workload public educators are asked to lift. However, no matter how hard they work, educators are not producing the results Vollmer writes America needs.
This is because the system is designed to educate youth for a society which no longer exists.
The board members are dedicating time to discussing some of the philosophies at each regular meeting, and they did so on Monday.
Superintendent Theron Schutte said Vollmer was one of the lead faces for No Child Left Behind – a 2001 law which penalized school districts if students did not display improvement in academics. Schutte said Vollmer took time to speak with educators and came “full circle.”
Something school board member Jan McGinnis got from the book was the system is only designed to excel in educating the best students and provide everyone else with “just enough.”
“We have a system where that just doesn’t work anymore,” McGinnis said. “We have a culture where they have to learn rapidly, constantly and we need to be training all of the kids.”
She said each student has a talent, and those talents need to be nurtured by the education environment – something which is not currently done.
McGinnis said she also found the concept of time interesting.
“We have been operating under the assumption that the smartest children learn the fastest, and there’s really no research that supports that,” she said.
As an example, McGinnis said the education of how to read ends after second grade.
“We have a lot of data that shows us a third of the students don’t have that yet,” she said.
McGinnis said the idea is the children continue to learn, so the district needs to continue to teach.
Board president Bea Niblock said she thought a chapter in Vollmer’s book in which he writes about serving as a paraeducator was a good one. In that chapter, Vollmer describes the education system as being familiar, as it had not changed since he was a child.
“I used to tell my staff the only place Rip Van Winkle would be comfortable if he were to come back now would be public schools, which is truly a sad state of affairs,” Niblock said.
McGinnis agreed, even though the look of the classroom has changed in 40 years — from using chalk and blackboards to virtual.
“So many things have changed yet we are still trying to work those changes in an archaic structure; where children are sorted by age,” she said. “Where else in society do we sort people by age? Let me have all the 25-year-olds sit together.”
McGinnis said the system needs to be fixed.
School board member Bob Untiedt said the four values addressed in the book — understanding, trust, permission and support — need to be established between MCSD and the community.
“That’s a different challenge as well,” Untiedt said.
Schutte said those four values were eroded significantly during No Child Left Behind, which ended in 2015.
“It was more blaming people and blaming public schools for not doing this or that,” Schutte said. “There’s a lot of rebuilding that needs to be done and I think that’s really the premise of this whole message — that the schools can’t do it by themselves, parents can’t do it by themselves. Businesses are not going to be able to do it by themselves. We have to find a way to be able to productively engage and work together in order to make sure youth are prepared for their futures.”
Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611
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