Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Accreditation review...

Students in Industrial Tech making tables for the school.
I just returned today from John Burroughs School in St. Louis where I was part of an accreditation review, and I am leaving in the morning for Des Moines, Iowa where I will teach box making for 3 days. But before I get packing, I want to share a bit about what an accreditation review involves.

The most important part of the review is to see if what a school is doing is consistent with what they say they are doing. We start by examining the mission statement first. John Burroughs School is highly academic, and highly successful in getting their students into the best schools in the nation. From an academic standpoint, they can hardly be beat. But like nearly every other independent school that began as a progressive school, utilizing the progressive theories of John Dewey, Pestalozzi, Froebel, and Montessori, things have shifted over time. The high pressures of conforming to the demands of doing well on ACT and SAT testing take their toll on the progressive method which recognized the value of unstructured play and student driven exploration. Similar shifts have taken place at all schools that have shifted focus toward being predominantly college prep, and schools like John Burroughs are to be commended to have kept any of the practical arts at all.

Each independent school is unique. Each remaining wood shop program in the few independent schools that have kept them in play is unique, too. The point of my review was not to expect their program be like my own or to change to be more like my own, but to help them to better meet the objectives described within the mission and philosophy statements of the school. Fortunately, what I found, was a lovely program with dedicated and enthusiastic teachers meeting the needs and interests of their students.

Their program is different from my own. With 800 students grades 7-12, there are two teachers who share responsibilities for the Industrial Technology department. Their programs are more formal than my own, more formal in subject matter, less responsive to what is happening in other classes, but the students are enthusiastic and seem to love what they do in wood shop. The photo above shows 8th graders making tables for the school. They also are involved in robotics and a variety of other hands-on learning opportunities.

Make, fix and create...

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