Response to Intervention (RTI)

A very popular method of structural intervention called Response to Intervention (RTI) was introduced by the United States Department of Education in 2009.  According to their website, their goal is “to enhance student achievement and to reduce the prevalence of reading and math disabilities.” Their ideas are great, but they are only giving a name to a practice that good teachers have been doing for centuries.

RTI’s intervention process is three-tiered.  On the first tier, students of all ability levels receive instruction form their instructor.  Those who do not comprehend the lesson are then provided with a more intense, small group instructional setting, which constitutes for the second tier.  If students are still unable to grasp the lesson, they are then placed into the third tier of instruction- one-on-one, highly intensified lessons by the instructor.

Is this not what Jesus did in Matthew 13: 36-43?  He “dismissed the crowd”  (tier 1) then spoke to His disciples who told Him, “Explain to us the parable” (tier 2).  The only tier that is missing is tier 3, which we receive every time we enter into prayer with Him.

Just as our relationship with God is solidified on the tier 3 level, so will our relationships with our students be unified in the same way.  Although a general dynamic will develop between you and your students as a whole, spend as much time as you can with them individually, especially with those who struggle and those who ask for your help.  These are the ones God has sent you to intervene for. 

Data Overload

I recently found an interesting website that covers the history of the scientific method.  It headlines that there is no one “official inventor” of a logical pattern of observations that lead to reasonable conclusions, but it does highlight many names (like Aristotle, Bacon, and of course Galileo) who added to its creation. What strikes me about these names however, isn’t their importance to modern-day thinking; it is the time period in which they became relevant that makes me marvel- 1,500 to 1,600 years after the death of Christ.   
Few people take this period of time into its correct context.  For many centuries, human thought was dominated by folklore, myth, faith, and raw logic.  Sure, people found out that if they didn’t eat, they would starve and if they didn’t defend themselves from tyrants, they would be killed.  However, they might not have known that if they bathed in the same river as their infirm community members, they too would become sick.  In their innocence they were blessed to survive on their God-given gift of human intuition, but cursed to suffer because of their lack of scientific understanding.
Why is this important to education?  Well, in these post-scientific method times it seems as if everything we do as teachers must have the precursor “The research says…” attached to it.  Data as a result of constant academic probes and tests has poured over in troughs upon us to the point that I wonder if we are losing our grasp on the essence of education- the raw talents that spawn from our students’ intellects.  
Don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying that we should eliminate formal assessment all together.  It is a necessary and valuable tool for all schools and personally, I like knowing that modern medicines exist to cure the ailments of those who suffer.  My quandary arises when “data driven instruction” compromises “teacher discretion,” which I believe to be the soul of effective teaching.  
For  thousands of years, humans have benefitted from their giant intellects and creativity.  In today’s educational world, however, I’m not so sure we are capitalizing on these God-given gifts as much as we could.  The constant assessment has the potential to show us our students’ understandings on a surface level, but it can also obstruct truth.  
I’m not sure I like those odds.

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!

Common Core

If you went to school in the U.S. at any time from the early 1900s to the turn of the century, you might be familiar with a report card that looks something like this:

To follow suit with the ever-changing educational system, the U. S. is now considering a new way of presenting academic achievement. It is called the common core. Through the common core, many states will be expected to adopt common core curriculum maps that supposedly create a common framework for students across every region of the Nation. These curriculum maps would, in theory, align achievement standards across states so that every student would have the same learning expectation according to their grade level.

As a result, report cards would look a bit like this:

Now, I am not sure on how all of this will work out, but I do remember something like this happening in the past. I remember a very old but very wise Teacher instructing His students in a very commanding way. His classroom management, methodologies, pedagogy and tactics were rarely questioned and yet, his standards were so high that almost all of his students were expected to reach high and push themselves to achieve greatness. His report card looked a bit like this:

1. You shall not have strange gods before me.
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
3. Remember that you keep holy the sabbath day.
4. Honor your father and your mother.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s possessions.

10. Neither shall you desire his wife.
(Exodus 20: 1-17) taken from http://www.newadvent.com at http://www.newadvent.org/bible/exo020.htm#vrs3 on 1-28-11

Then, His Son came along. If you are a Teacher and you have children, you know how much your instruction changes when your own child comes into the picture. For this wise sage, it was no different. His Son lived up to every one of His Father’s expectations and, as a result, was able to teach the rest of His classmates how to do the same. In fact, He translated the first report card and made it easier to understand without sacrificing its original rigor. After the modifications were made by His Son, the wise Teacher’s Report card looks a bit like this:

1. “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.”
2. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
(Mark 12: 29-31)

According to commoncore.org,

“The No Child Left Behind Act has increased the amount of time schools devote to basic reading and math skills, squeezing core subjects out of the classroom. Because schools are sacrificing the subjects that open students’ minds and teach them to think critically and imaginatively about the world, we’re working to restore teaching of core academic disciplines. Only a complete liberal arts education will enable today’s students to become tomorrow’s well-prepared citizens.”

Schools might be “sacrificing subjects that open students’ minds,” but God sacrificed His Son to open our, His children’s, hearts. If we really want our students to become “tomorrow’s well-prepared citizens,” we must first accept the Wise Teacher and His Son and make their Spirit the guiding force of our service to others. Perhaps then we can truly understand what it means to become part of a common core.

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!

New Schools, No Grades

Think about what it would be like if our schools had no grades, no tests, no quizzes, and almost no homework. Sounds like a dream for students and perhaps for some of us teachers as well right? Well, these types of Dream schools are popping up across the United States recently, and they seem to offer their students something that every teacher wishes for their students to have: a passion for learning.

The MET school in Providence R.I. is one of these schools. They boast that 80% of their graduates continue on to an accredited college or university with the majority of that population graduating within five years from those institutions.

But just how do they get to college if they are given no tests? How are they assessed?

Along with the community, these students create projects alongside their school advisor and a mentor from the community with whom they work through an internship. After experiencing the real world learning environment hands on, they present their projects orally along with a written portfolio which is then given approval by the advisor. This form of assessment happens after every nine weeks.

Once the student becomes a senior, they are expected to complete the same standardized testing requirements to enter into the college or university level. According to their statistics, they usually earn a higher score on these tests than the other two Rhode Island public school systems.

Numerous schools are adopting this model of no grades and no tests and opting for a more hands-on, real world approach to learning. In Newark, they are proposing the No grades based schools for alternative education students.  Compass Rose Academy, a private school of Florida is also going the no grade route to enrich their students learning. These are just a couple of schools who have decided to go through with this model. Several more are looming in wait to see just how these systems pan out in the future.

The question I pose to educators in regard to this new model is, is it beneficial? Furthermore, is it Christian? After all, Jesus didn’t use worksheets, but He did speak of a “final test.”

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!