The way in which U. S. schools are ran today are not adequate for the growing needs of students in the 21st century. According the Darling-Hammond (2010), if these trends continue, by 2012, America will have 7 million jobs in science and technology fields, “green” industries, and other fields that cannot be filled by U. S. workers (p. 3). Other nations have figured out how to educate their youth, and those students will take the jobs of their U. S. counterparts if the U. S. does not change the ways in which we educate our youth.
Darling-Hammond (2010), found that higher-achieving nations are more focused on quality teachers, and development of curriculum and assessment that encourages continuous reflection of teachers and students (p. 8). There is a need for change in the current education system, which was designed to educate students in the 20th century. According the Darling-Hammond (2010), “At least 70% of U. S. jobs now require specialized knowledge and skills, as compared to only 5% at the dawn of the last century, when our current system of schooling was established (p. 2).
Now that a need for change has been identified, it is up to the districts, schools and teachers to implement the changes. Through much research Darling-Hammond (2010), has identified five essential features of education that need to be changed to help prepare students for success in elementary though college. These five features include: small school size or learning communities within the school, personalization and strong relationships among teachers and students, challenging and relevant instruction, performance based instruction, and collaboration of teachers (p. 244).
Features Defined The aspect of small school size and learning communities are important to schools success, because it allows students to feel important in the school system. Studies have been done by Darling-Hammond (2010), and have identified that there is less violence in smaller school compared to larger schools, because everyone knows each other and there is more accountability for a student’s action (p. 245). When the school and or class sizes are smaller the teachers get to know each of their students and have the ability to identify with each student, where as larger schools the students just ecome a number with little to no individual attention. Darling-Hammonds research states: These experiences underscore evidence accumulated over several decades that suggest that, overall, smaller high schools are associated with greater safety more positive student attitudes about school, higher levels of student participation and attendance, much lower dropout rates (p. 245). The reduction of school size alone will not solve the education problem our nation is facing, but merely an aspect that will help with the problem.
The second aspect to a successful school according to Darling-Hammond (2010) is the need for “structures that allow for personalization and strong relationship” (p. 244). The way that teachers and students gain these strong relationships is through an advisory class, teachers are given a small number of students and in many cases these students stay with the same teacher over a number of years. Because of these factors of small class sizes and extended time with the teacher, teachers are able to gain strong relationships with their students. By knowing students well, teachers are more able to tailor instruction to students’ strengths, needs, experiences, and interests” (Hammond & Friedlaender, 2008, p. 17).
According the research done by Darling-Hammond: … we found that strong relationships between and among students and faculty were central to participants’ views of what enabled them to succeed. Students often compared their school to a family and linked their achievement to their caring relationships with teachers (p. 248). Another equally important aspect to a successful school touched on by Darling-Hammond (2010) is “ intellectually challenging and relevant instruction” (p. 44). Since the beginning of time teachers have taught curriculum and given students assignments based on what was taught, but is the assignments relevant to the students learning? Darling-Hammond, (2010) says teachers should be getting away from fill in the blank worksheets and having students produce more meaningful work such as research reports, discussions of problems, and open-ended questioning to challenge students more (p. 249). These types of challenging assignments help prepare students to become critical thinkers, and get them ready for college.
Successful schools also ensure that teachers are giving performance-based assessments, Darling-Hammond (2010) states: All of the schools engage students in completing complex projects and investigations of various kinds, and most of them require the completion of portfolios for graduation, which include high-quality work illustrating disciplinary inquiry in each of the major subject areas (p. 257) These types of assessments are helping create students that are critical thinkers, rather than just recall and memory, which were previously performed.
These high-quality assessments are beneficial to students in helping them be more prepared for success in college and beyond. The final aspect of Darling-Hammond plan to improve education is “highly competent teachers who collaborate in planning and problem solving” (2010, p. 244). The idea of collaboration allows teachers and students significant time to discuss, problem solve and create valuable lessons. If teachers were just left to their own means they could teach lesson with little to no results. There is the need for collaboration to identify ways in which they can teach lesson to better help their students. When time for professional development is built into teachers’ working time, their learning activities can be ongoing and sustained and can focus on particular issues over time (Wei, Andree & Darling-Hammond, 2009, p. 39).
In the U. S. very few hours are build in to the work week for teachers to plan and many times the planning is done individually and not collaborative with other educators. Many high achieving nations provide the opportunity for continued staff development as well as a wide-range development to teachers, where as the United States give one day workshops with little to know follow up (Wei, Andree & Darling-Hammond, 2009, p. 1). The small amount of time by U. S. teachers spend on collaboration has an adverse effect on students achievement. Prioritizing the Essential Aspects The most important of Darling-Hammond’s aspect is providing students with highly competent teachers that are given the opportunity to collaborate with their peers. As addressed by Darling-Hammond and Richardson (2009): Current research suggests that providing intensive, content-rich, and collegial learning opportunities for teachers can improve both teaching and student learning.
When schools support teachers with well-designed and rich professional development, those teachers are able to create the same types of rigorous and engaging opportunities for students—a foundation for student success in school and beyond (p. 52). Teachers are one of the key features to the important of student’s education, therefore they need to be given the opportunity for collaboration with their peers to gain the knowledge needed to reflect and plan to become better at their profession.
Research done by Darling-Hammond shows that professional communities are an aspect that is important to schools that are achieving high levels of student learning (2010, p. 261). The next important aspect is providing instruction that is challenging and relevant to instruction. Teachers need to have high exceptions of their students and give students experience through task that are relevant to the real world and future success. Students are placed in internships and volunteer work as young as 11th grade to provide students with real-world experiences (Darling-Hammond, 2010, p. 257).
According to Darling-Hammond (2010): Students reported that, even when they found they did not like the work or setting they had chosen, or when they experienced conflicts on the job, their internships made them feel more capable, responsible, and confident about solving problems and succeeding in their world beyond school (p. 256). These skills that students are learning from their internship are helping them become more prepared for their future. Keeping instruction relevant helps keep students interested in learning. Just as important as instruction is on education is the types of assessments used.
It is important that the school system gets away from memorizing and gives more performance-based assessments, where students are involved in the revision of their work. Students need to be given more authentic assessments that are relevant to their learning and then have the opportunity to present their portfolios to communities of students. In the study by Darling-Hammond (2010) “…a deep sense of accomplishment from their experience, and, having repeated it several times before graduation, a growing sense of confidence” (p. 260).
These types of assessments are giving students the skills needed to be successful in life. Schools that allow for personalization and strong relationships are important to students’ growth in school. Today students are cranking through each day like an assembly line (Darling-Hammond 2010, p. 250). Teachers know very little about the potential of each of their students, and therefore the students suffer. Students from the study by Darling-Hammond have said that they feel like teachers care about them and their work as well as pushing them to perform at their ability (2010, p. 50). The last aspect is also related to personalization of students, it is small sized school and or classes. With the small class sizes teachers are better able to know each of their students to help tailor their learning to meet those needs of the students.
It is not a surprise that smaller schools have the ability to have a focus on safety. These smaller schools have an increase in safety a decrease in incidents, because the adults know the students in the school and hold them accountable for their actions (Darling-Hammond, 2010, p. 45) Implementation The changes that need to be made to school system are something that is not going to happen over night by one teacher. These changes need to start at the state level with help of the district, schools and teachers. Teachers cannot implement all of these changes on their own. The aspects that teachers can control are changing the way that they teach to create students that are more critical thinkers and provide students will more meaningful assessments. Teachers can also help guide students to assess their own learning.
Another aspect that teachers can control is the amount of time they are spending collaborating with colleagues to share strategies, and solve problems. Teachers can so also try to get to know each of their students, but this a daunting task with such large class sized. There are many changes that need to be made that are out of control of the teacher’s hands. One of these changes is the amount of time they spend collaborating with other teachers. The district and school site needs to make this a priority and give those teachers the time they need to become more effective teachers.
The district and school also needs to implement more meaningful staff development training. As teachers can start implementing more meaningful assessments for students, it is the district that will need to set graduations requirements associated with these assessments. To more effectively tailor students learning it will be the districts responsibility to lower classes sizes or implement an advisory period. Teachers can try to get know each of their students’ strengths, but with such large class sizes it is very difficult to individualized instruction. The aspect that teachers have no control over is the school size.
If the district wants students to feel safe and accountable for their actions, this is something they will need to implement. Conclusion The traditional model of education that was designed for the 20th century is not working to educate the youth in the global world of the 21st century, and changes need to be made to better reach the needs of the students today. Some schools have already implemented and embraced these changes and have seen great results in achievement of students. By making the necessary changes to the education process students will become better prepared with skills to help them be successful beyond high school.
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