You will find that virtually every “new” program being implemented is in some way attempting to provide more time and support to students. You may also observe (if you’ve been in the education field long enough) that every current “innovation” is something that has been tried many times, in many places, in many variations over the last four decades.
This is not to say that these innovations have not been beneficial. Indeed, it is our experience that whenever any effort is made on behalf of struggling students, some gains are made. But honestly, have any of the innovative practices of the last four decades succeeded in reversing the over-all downward trend in education in this nation?
If this is a national trend, doesn’t that tell us something? Schools are run by local constituencies. In such a decentralized system, shouldn’t we see some school district, somewhere that is running counter to the national trend? How can the failure in public education be so pandemic? Is there no school system in our nation that is implementing an effective program that helps all children achieve at high levels on time? No? Then the problem is not programmatic at all, but as we have indicated before, systemic in nature.
The many programmatic interventions such as an extended instructional day or year, after-school tutoring, homework centers, pull-out programs, intervention and remedial classes, loss of elective programs, multi-year student cadres, cross-age tutoring, special curriculum interventions, technological upgrades, mentoring, and so many others are the equivalent of putting band aids on a terminally ill patient who is now in an accelerating phase of chronic hemorrhage, while we continue making bright prognosis for the sake of political expediency.
A root cause for this failure is that we have been looking at the educational system as though it were a “manufacturing” process. For decades, we have been constantly trying to “re-tool” various components of the system machinery, thinking that if WE could just do something better, we would get an improved “product.”
In real life, the industrial model relies on several constants for success. Chief among these is the need for uniformity of raw materials. If for no other reason than for this alone, the industrial model of education has failed, because the “raw materials” - our students - are incredibly diverse.
Those who work on the frontiers of research are continually discovering new ways in which humans express vast diversity. Socio-economics, culture, beliefs, values, parental influences, nutrition, health, genetics, and a host of other factors guarantee that every student enters the classroom door with their own unique set of attitudes, aptitudes, interests, and motivations.
the trend in American student demographics is one of ever-increasing pluralism.
Our traditional systems are becoming less and less effective as the diversity
of the student population increases.
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