Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fighting the Education Reform Battle

A Guest Post by Steven Zipkes, founding Principal/Director at Manor New Technology High School in Manor Texas

(Originally posted on Facebook - February 20, 2013 )

    My head hurts from constantly fighting the educational reform battle. It is not about extending the school day, or mandatory Saturday school, nor selecting the "right"students or same sex school or AP courses, or wearing uniforms, or the other gazillion programs out there! It's about delivering authentic and engaging, yes engaging, curriculum that gets students excited about their learning.

   I often wonder if it's really about change that meets the students' needs or perpetuating profitable and even so-called "non profit" programs. How naive I consider myself sometimes. Do we ever really listen to what successful companies are looking for in potential employees?!! Really, all I hear is blah, blah, blah from talking head, non-practitioners, and practicing pretenders who say "we know best." I say, try talking to the students and the businesses, not someone trying to make a name for themselves for ulterior motives.

   By the way, there is no such thing as PBL's - especially with "unit." Can you say substitution for textbooks? Teaching through Project Based Instruction is not about the end-product but about the learning that takes place throughout the project and the scaffolding within the project. Finally, PBL is NOT STEM and STEM is NOT PBL. Project Based Learning is a process and modality of instruction. It requires a pedagogical shift in the delivery of instruction by the practitioner. STEM can, and should, use PBL as the modality of instruction as well as integrating content and the use of assessment of 21st Century Skills in every project. By doing this, a practitioner is better prepared to create deeper learning opportunities for transferring knowledge to application.

    Get down to 21st Century Skills (such as collaboration, communication, problem solving, research, and work ethic) and deeper learning of transferring knowledge to application through Project Based Instruction. That is the path! It is really not rocket science. Oh, but it's not your idea or how you would do it or how can we profit. Real educators, parents, and students need to unite and say enough is enough. Experimenting with our children - just to line your pockets or make your name. Let's create real and meaningful systemic change once and for all and do away with all of the talking heads and rhetoric.

    Our children are too valuable for the success of our country and their future. Does anyone agree with me? Or am I on my own Manor New Technology Island?

    Stepping down from my soapbox now. Have a great day.