Sunday, April 26, 2015

food for thought.

Finland has one of the highest rates of school literacy, and one of the very lowest amounts of time spent in instruction. That indicates a high level of efficiency in teaching, and a low waste of student time in boring and repetitive tasks. As I've noted before, by delaying reading until age 7 or 8, the Finns surpass American readers in 30% less time. Add to that the fact that Finns between ages of 7 and 15 receive fewer hours of instruction than the international average, and we can see that there are some lessons to be learned.

Here in the US, we have requirements that students spend over 1000 hours in school each year, with the exact standards being set by the various state boards of education. For instance here in Arkansas, public schools are required to have 170 days of instruction with 6 hours of classroom time per day. That's a whopping amount of time spent with too little to show for it. This information flies in the face of those who think we'll fix American education by extending school hours and having more of it.

In reading and math, students are routinely passed along from one grade level to the next beyond their level of comprehension. Repetition for those who have missed something, means boredom for the quick learner.

The 10,000 hour rule states that it commonly takes 10,000 hours of intense engagement in something to attain a level of mastery. By the time students in American public schools pass through to graduation, they will have spent over 12,000 hours with no mastery in sight.... that is, unless they have taken the time on their own to develop their own interests and intellectual resources, or unless you consider mastery of sitting complaisantly at desks a worthy goal of learning.

Adding bottoms to bentwood boxes
So, what else do children do that might offer hope? It has been estimated that by the time a child reaches the age of 7, they will have spent the equivalent of one full year of 24 hour days watching screens of one kind or another. By the age of 8, they will have surpassed the 10,000 hour threshold while having accomplished very little in the area of expertise.

So, between schooling and screen time, and schooling screen time as schools become more and more reliant on passive on-screen learning, we're going nowhere fast.

What's the fix? When I visited at the University of Helsinki, I also visited the university wood shop where masters degree candidate Kindergarten teachers were learning to teach wood working. It is a shame we do not have such high standards in the US.

I have been giving some thought to how Math-U-See might be used in a public school setting. The interesting thing is that it is designed for successful teaching by parents, and therefore, trained teachers are not essential, particularly in the lowest levels. If a public school was to do what we do at Clear Spring School, and have all the students do math at the same time and at the level of their success, all members of staff could be involved to make certain all students have the individualized attention required to attain mastery of each level and advance to the next. That would present new opportunities for staff collaboration, and student mastery of math.

Make fix and create, and provide our children the opportunity and encouragement to do likewise...

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