Can schools be innovative?

I covered Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting and listened to different presentations about how schools in Georgia are trying to be “innovative.”

Forsyth County school leaders talked about why they want the flexibility promised through IE2, which exempts districts from many state rules so they can try new methods to boost student achievement. Forsyth discussed how the program will let them decide how to spend money and where to assign teachers and how much time kids should spend in class — regardless of what state rules exist in these areas.

Different charter school applicants talked about plans to offer smaller class sizes, focus on different careers and have students attend school year-round.

All of these are interesting concepts and will help some students do better in school. But are these ideas really innovative? There are other schools in Georgia and across the nation experimenting in these areas.

What type of innovation would you like to see in schools?

35 comments Add your comment

Educator

April 2nd, 2009
10:29 am

I would like to see more schools like the Central Educational Center in Newnan where students choose to attend during the day from their base high school. They not only teach all of the CTAE classes along w/ selected academics but they teach work ethics and really prepare thier students for the world ahead of them.

Harper's Mama

April 2nd, 2009
10:29 am

I’d like to simply see students held accountable for their grades and their behavior. If we went back to that, we would probably have smarter students who know how to work hard and to succeed in life.

Reality 2

April 2nd, 2009
11:10 am

I think schools and teachers should focus on teaching better – don’t worry about whether or not what they are trying to do is “innovative.” I think trying to be innovative is such a stupid focus.

jim d

April 2nd, 2009
11:19 am

No, not as they are currently being operated.

Only when the Fed. becomes uninvolved in public education can schools actually become innovative rather than looking like dancing Marionettes

Dr. Craig Spinks /Evans

April 2nd, 2009
12:28 pm

Is innovation as important as efficacy? Is new as important as effective? Is “cute” as important as sought-after results?

V for Vendetta

April 2nd, 2009
12:38 pm

“I think schools and teachers should focus on teaching better.” You mean it really IS just that simple? Good lord, what have I been doing all of this time? I should have just been “teaching better” all along! The answer is so EASY!

Right.

Many of you have already hit the nail on the head: The primary route to improving student education lies not in the new, shiny, innovative lessons promoted to us by every pop psychologist and alleged “expert” but in improving the fundamentals that disappeared so long ago; things like accountability, discipline, and integrity have been replaced by rampant egalitarianism and a morality of altruism. It makes me sick. However, I fear that JimD is right. Nothing will change until the government gets the heck out of the education business, but, since the government can’t even seem to get out of the business business, I don’t see that happening any time soon. Oh well. We’re just a hop, skip, and a jump away from socialism anyway.

HS Teacher, Too

April 2nd, 2009
12:46 pm

V, We’ve already done the hop and the skip, and we’re midair for the jump. Sometimes I think the only thing holding us back is waiting to hear “how high” before we come back down.

Reality Check

April 2nd, 2009
1:34 pm

No real change in public education will ever take place until we switch over to an educational structure like that in most European countries. Test students at 6th grade, track them, give them a chance at 9th grade to switch tracks, then focus on the pathway the student is in. Our NAEP scores may even be more competitive with our foreing counterparts. Not all students are equal in ability or desire to learn certain things…yes, all students can learn. NCLB is the great equalizer (sound like Socialism?). Get rid of NCLB and use the British or German models for schooling and we’ll be much better off addressing the needs of our students. Everything else is just putting lipstick on the same old pig!

Reality Check

April 2nd, 2009
1:35 pm

FOREIGN, not foreing

jim d

April 2nd, 2009
1:35 pm

well folks, guit jumping.

the link below provides an opportunity for you to be heard, take a chance and consider joing the ranks of people wanting to bring down government involvement in at least one area of education.

http://www.wholechildeducation.org/

DB

April 2nd, 2009
2:53 pm

Stop assuming every child is college material. They aren’t. They either lack the brain power and/or the work ethic to be successful. Give those kids who aren’t college material a viable option — tech school, whatever.

That’s not particularly innovative, though — that’s actually pretty ol’ fashioned :-)

Old School

April 2nd, 2009
4:11 pm

How about this? Toss out some of the technology in the lower grades and get back to basics. Teach penmanship. Give kids opportunities to read for FUN. Let children be children on the playground by reintroducing some of the games their grandparents played (red rover, tag, swinging statues, hopscotch, marbles, duck-duck-goose, dodgeball, four square, etc.) Make kids recite the multiplication tables and use pencil & paper to solve math problems. Anchor the academics in real world problems so kids “get” the connections.

Keep “experts” out of the schools for a few years and allow teachers to teach. Admins: visit in the classrooms and reconnect with students. That way you will know which teachers teach and which need to change or move on. Ditch some of the copy machines and encourage TEACHING/LEARNING.

But here’s a real innovation that could make a big difference: LISTEN to your teachers; LISTEN to your students; take a little time to mull it over before taking out the broad brush. Target the real problem areas and work with those involved to bring about good, lasting change.

David S

April 2nd, 2009
4:16 pm

Government schools fundamentally cannot be innovative. They are too tied down with regulations coming from the Gold Dome and Washington. Back in 1994 the Republicans promised to eliminate the Dept. of Education but they didn’t follow through and then the republicans under Bush burdened the system with NCLB to further worsen the situation.

Government schools do not have customers. They have no reason or motivation to either go well, or innovate. Only companies that must EARN their money and business will innovate or perish. Government schools continue to fail and then say they need more money despite spending way more than private schools on education.

The unregulated free market in combination with scholarships, charity, and other private programs to assist the poor is the only solution that will ever improve education for the masses.

Ben

April 2nd, 2009
4:17 pm

Administrators (principles etc) need to get out of their chairs and walk the halls to determine which teachers are teaching and which aren’t. An occasional unannounced visit to class rooms would also help. We don’t need more innovation, we need parent involvement and good teachers. Teachers need to be tested about every five years on the subjects they are teaching. I support DB. We should decide in 8th grade who should be a candidate for tech school and let the tech teach 50% every day business and 50% tech.

Anne

April 2nd, 2009
4:28 pm

As long as Georgia schools have no clue about teaching children – senseless worksheet based drill even for kindergarten kids instead of meaningful, age appropriate hands-on learning like it is practiced in successful school systems around the world – not much is going to change here. But I have yet to see the school and school system around here where the decision makers REALLY use what research in early childhood education has shown and proven over the last centuries (and longer). Plus pushing the curriculum one year up doesn’t help either when the teachers have neither a clue nor the time to teach in a way that it sinks in. If the teachers have a degree in Early Childhood Ed anyway, because many simply don’t. With the class size reductions Georgia has pretty much accredited anyone who needed a job and somehow seems capable of handling a script. Charter schools have a hard time getting approval and forget about funding because the decision makers fear that they are innovative and possibly successful with it. It is a shame and the reason why more and more people home school and why so many kids attend private school – if the parents can afford it. For those who can’t afford private school or home school with a stay at home parent the prospect is dim.

The Voice

April 2nd, 2009
4:34 pm

Since when should the government be involved in education at all. The design of schools, the teachers they hire and the subjects they teach should be a LOCAL decision. Not by the Feds or the State. If this were true then the people held accountable would be LOCAL and therefore more responsive and in a shorter time frame. Leave the discipline to the parents. If the child is a behavior problem, send him home with a letter for a session with him or her, their parents and a school administrator. At that session the parents would be informed of the behavior issues and told that the child would be allowed to return to school when the problem of his or her behavior had been solved by the PARENTS. If the parents do not solve the problem and the child does not return to school the parents are reported to DFACS and must answer for their neglect. This way all behaviour problems are solved at home where they should be and teachers can teach and administrators can administrate. We would need far less administrators due to behaviour issues not being addressed at school and therefore we could hire more teachers to bring down class size for more individual attention to the student….a win win win situation. But hey…nobody asked me.

TW

April 2nd, 2009
4:40 pm

Gonna get what you pay for, GA. Innovation? How about increasing teacher to student ratio which has been proven effective? How about creating teacher salaries so the profession will draw talent?

Nah, much better to mull around ‘innovation.’

The people of a democracy get the government they desrve. Want good public schools – move north.

historydawg

April 2nd, 2009
4:49 pm

David S, your paradigm is faulty. Education is not an economic system, and kids dont reply to laws of supply and demand. In a democracy, the responsibility of education (per most folks like Jefferson) was taken by local communities. Local governments, being those in best position to include all people and determine/distribute education according to the wishes of all people in a community. Private education supports aristocracy and has always buttressed the interests of a select few. Private schools can do things more cheaply because they do not have to include those who cant afford to eat, have a car, etc. In a democracy where we hold all people to have an equal chance, public education provides the means for all people to learn and work together, as they should in democratic adulthood. The war against public education has been long for us who champion the responsibilities of democratic society, rather than our ability to keep our entire paychecks. Our nation used to have people willing to invest in their neighbor and not so quick to check out (ancient Athenians called these people “idiots”) in the name of race, religion, and greed. BTW, “government schools” have historically always been more innovative than private schools. Any basic understanding of curriculum history can tell you this. The problem with “government schools” is that ignorant ideas, such as the conflation of capitalism and education, have always trumped those who have any knowledge of history and how children actually learn.

Tired8thgrademathteacher

April 2nd, 2009
5:41 pm

I think sometimes the more we try to be “innovative,” the less responsibility the kids take for their learning. Already my students think it is my job to entertain them above all else–and if they are bored or have to exert themselves more than they care to, then the fault is mine for not making it fun and interesting. Hey, sometimes math is just hard work–it can’t be Christmas every day.

Perfect example: I gave a unit test today to my students–a test that looked exactly like the study guide I gave them and covered extensively in class (with answers) on Tuesday. The bonus question was: “Did you study for this test?” A very smart student failed the test with a 40% (There were 25 questions). His answer to the bonus question: “No, I did not study. I don’t study that much. I think you should play more games though. Some of my teachers play games and I think that is what will help me if you do it.” When I showed him his grade, he immediately said “You are going to let me retake that test, aren’t you? It’s not my fault I failed. I was absent yesterday!”

Good grief. Innovation is not what this kid needs. Sadly, he’s not that unusual–I’ve got 100 more just like him.

TeacherTeacher

April 2nd, 2009
5:57 pm

Innovative schools – how about kids that DO their homework? Study for tests? Care about their future?
I am a great teacher, but even I cannot perform miracles when students refuse to do anything and parents just make excuses – we need more innovative parenting.
However, as someone mentioned – the Admins need to get off their butts and into the classrooms! Especially when they KNOW there is a problem!!! I’m a great teacher so my admin had someone from the county office observe me for my yearly observation – that means this year the principal will have spent less than 15 TOTAL MINUTES in my classroom! But, some stranger gave me full marks!
We need to make it easier to get rid of bad teachers, administrators and STUDENTS who disrupt the learning process!

Reality 2

April 2nd, 2009
6:07 pm

(some? most? all?) Teachers say they need students who study and work hard.

(some? most? all?) Students and parents say they need teachers who know how to teach.

Clearly, we need both, and, unfortunately, we certainly lack both currently in many prisons called schools.

eazye

April 2nd, 2009
6:34 pm

schools cant be “innovative” unless there is no more teachers unions.. get rid of teachers unions…….people also need to be realistic. some students just dont want to learn and are disrespectful and the parents dont care and some teachers dont want to teach…….. there is no more passion for teaching when the pay is sooo little. there are few exceptions, however things will never change if teachers cant bring discipline back into classrooms…even teachers say their students are dumb behind their back and dont wanna learn…teachers now fear the students. not the other way around. it is a hopeless case and it all goes back to liberalism……… it is a mental disorder.lol a teacher nowadays cant do this cant do that etc etc…….. so it is what it is

Real Innovation

April 2nd, 2009
6:49 pm

You want REAL innovation? Innovation that has the ability to shape lives for the better?

It’s the discipline, Stupid!

N. GA. teacher

April 2nd, 2009
7:29 pm

Charter school promises sound good, but rarely live up to billing. How can charter schools accomplish “smaller classes” without more money? And just exactly which “rules” are they allowed to bypass? The most precious rule that public schools all had in the “golden age” of the 1950s-1970s was that troublemakers would be expelled. Ironically, this rule existed when it was needed least, because fear of what our dads would do kept us in line at school. Most of the “great public schools” that DO work today are magnet schools that siphon off the better (properly parented and internally motivated) kids. These schools often require parental volunteer hours, which eliminates slacker parents with like kids. and these schools can “return” problem kids to the public school they are zoned for. Ironically again, paranoid of the grim “AYP” reaper, at a time when a generation of broken and dysfunctional families are sending their kids to school in record numbers, public schools are graded on attendance and graduation rate, which means keeping troublemakers in school no matter what the psychological, social, financial, or physical costs are to other children and employees. WhenI was in high school kids EARNED graduation. Our idiocracy now demands that schools “graduate kids”.

GA Mom

April 2nd, 2009
7:37 pm

Innovation is fine, but nothing is more important than parents who are engaged in their child’s education. If parents learn to expect more from their students and work with the schools, they could drive amazing results. Find ways to engage parents in the process. I see way too many parents who don’t seem to care.

TeacherTeacher

April 2nd, 2009
7:42 pm

There are no teachers unions in Georgia – there are in states that have much better test scores. I make a decent salary – but, I make about $15,000 less than my friend did when she STARTED in PA – and I have been working almost 8 years and have a Master’s degree! She has been working about 4 years and has a Master’s degree. Fortunately, we both love our jobs and neither are doing it for the money – we both made more in the business world before going into teaching…

V for Vendetta

April 2nd, 2009
8:51 pm

historydawg, “Invest in your neighbor?” Please. That sounds like the socialistic nonsense that’s become the norm in this country. The only answer is true laissez faire capitalism, and the only way to achieve that is to get the government out of schools–at EVERY level. I don’t subscribe to a morality of altruism and neither should anyone else in these trying times. I want to trade value for value, and I will gladly take the taxes stolen from me by the government and invest them in my child’s education. In a capitalistic society, there would be schools to cater to every socioeconomic strata. The primary difference would be that none of the schools, no matter which strata they served, would have to tolerate the kinds of behavior and attitudes present in our egalitarian public schools. The reason so many people don’t value education is because education has no value. When something is free, it, by definition, has NO value; however, when something must be earned (i.e., paid for by trading value for value), people tend to ascribe the appropriate value to it. That’s the magic of capitalism.

involvedparent

April 2nd, 2009
9:35 pm

Speaking of innovation, I am interested in sending my 7th grader to the Gwinnett Science and Technology Charter school. It sounds like a perfect fit for him. They won’t have a graduating class until he would enter in 9th grade, so it is currently hard to evaluate its success. Does anyone have any personal experience with this school. Would you recommend it?

Reality Check

April 3rd, 2009
7:22 am

V for Vendetta…is that why almost every private school teacher I know will openly say it’s almost impossible to fail even a student who does NOTHING because “the school looks down on giving a failing grade to the child of someone who’s paying $10,000+ tuition to go there?” Oh, wait! The aristocracy is above all that.

Track, track, track the cherubs! The big push for differentiated instruction will be fully realized if the educational structure recognizes students ARE different and have DIFFERENT interests, goals, and motivations. Until we truly value the students who will make great plumbers, nursing assistants, or office workers (among all the other professions the CTAE programs target) we will never advance anything in educating a viable, competitive work force. Providing a tracked system in which students have earlier opportunities to complete apprenticeships and the like would work wonders in addressing student retention and graduation rates, and would certainly reduce the number of discipline problems brought on by student “boredom.” Not everyone is going to be a lawyer (thank God!), but at some point everyone will need the services of one of the many professions that do not require the ivory tower (oops…college) degree.

Lee

April 3rd, 2009
7:52 am

Innovation blah, blah blah.

Where have we heard that before? Oh yeah, “Try our new and improved….”, “Four out of five dentists recommend….”, or “NEW Coke!!!”.

Funny how information has been passed from generation to generation for thousands of years, but now, we’ve got to get “innovative.”

We don’t need “innovation”, but rather, a return to common sense. You know, the kind of common sense that says you don’t put a student with an 85 IQ in the same classroom as a student with a 120 IQ and expect them to learn at the same rate. The kind of common sense that says you don’t allow one or two troublemakers to disrupt the other twenty students in the classroom.

We know what needs to be done. Question is, will the politically correct pathogens allow us to do it?

Gwinnett Parent

April 3rd, 2009
9:17 am

As my post suggested a few days ago, let’s quit treating our children like lab rats. I would rather see my daughter’s teacher that has a master’s degree, knows the kids in the class, and is innovative herself, be in charge of the curriculum. We are wasting money on these “experts”, that have never stepped foot in the classroom, to come in and dictate their methods of teaching. I am sick of hearing about differnt studies and experiments. It is pathetic when I see the kids in my daughter’s class learning a concept have to relearn the same concept a different way, because Dr. so and so and La di da U. has an idea. Also, the schools need to take a few ideas from the business world. The best way to harvest ideas is from the trenches and work upwards. Good ideas very seldom come from the ivory tower. Anyone that has taken a Psychology class will tell you there are certain levels of development that occurs at different ages. In other words….Teaching word problems to kindergarten boys is going to be quite intersting. Today there are more teachers with advanced degrees, why don’t we let them use their ideas and get creative in the classroom. The resource is already there and paid for. Perhaps we could save some money by cutting these clueless”experts” and lower class size, or at least save a few teaching positions.

[...] yesterday’s post, would this be considered an innovative [...]

V for Vendetta

April 3rd, 2009
10:50 am

RealityCheck, if ALL schools were part of a larger private industry, then they could willingly fail a student who was not performing because there would be countless others happy to take his place. Furthermore, all schools wouldn’t be elite private institutions. Some schools would still serve the aristocracy, but other schools would serve the (dwindling) middle class. Of course, none of this would ever be possible without an end to the welfare state in which we live. Until we remove handouts—abhorrent programs such as free school lunches—from the fabric of our society, no progress can be made. It is the statists, collectivists, and socialists who demand otherwise. Those who choose to earn what they keep and keep what they earn (i.e. capitalists) would prefer to do just that.

You’re absolutely right about the elite private schools neglecting to fail a student who deserves to be failed; however, that’s their own decision. They are a business, and, if they seek to keep their customers by providing them a lesser value, they are free to do so. But what of the public schools who give no grades lower than a 50? What of the public schools who wont fail a kid because he is of a certain race? They’re no different.

V for Vendetta

April 3rd, 2009
10:51 am

Gwinnett Parent, then YOU must do something about it by protesting the dictatorship over education in Gwinnett. Teachers can’t. They’ll lose their jobs. (But we ALL agree with you!)

jim d

April 3rd, 2009
12:24 pm

V,

5,000 to 10,000 teachers joining the ranks of unemployed in Gwinnett? I don’t think so! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–Not even Napoalvin is that stupid, regardless of the threats.