Rhode Island is spending more than $14,000 per student each year educating our public school students. However, the R.I. Department of Education recently reported that 31 percent of Rhode Island’s public schools are low-performing schools. The question is, “Why is the cost of education high and the performance low in many of Rhode Island’s public schools?”
One reason that the cost of education is high and the performance of students low is the use of textbooks in the classroom. Many students find textbooks boring and difficult to understand because the reading level is often too high.
In addition, school systems have no control over textbook content. The publishers and states with large school populations control textbook content. The high cost of textbooks means that many school systems are using textbooks that are out of date and/or damaged.
Finally, many perfectly good textbooks are thrown out because a school system decides to use a new teaching method.
A better way to go would be to use computer technology to store and print out the daily lessons to be taught in each subject. These lessons would be created and computerized during the summer months by the Department of Education in conjunction with the professional staffs in each school system.
Each daily lesson would match the curriculum, and each printout would include the lesson plan, the materials needed for the lesson and suggestions on how to teach the lesson.
Printouts of student reading materials would be short, written at least one year below the reading level of each student and cover only two or three concepts. Drill and testing assignments would be corrected in class by computer and provide immediate feedback to each student.
Homework assignments and supplementary materials would be provided online with many opportunities for after-school teacher/student/parent interactions. If the curriculum changes, only the lessons involved would have to be updated. These computer lessons would always be up to date, and parents, teachers, school administrators, business leaders, labor leaders and elected public officials would have computer access to the daily lessons being taught in each public school classroom. Local control of curriculum content would be guaranteed.
All grade-level teachers of the same subject would begin with lesson one and teach each succeeding lesson in order during the year. Doing this would allow for coordinated, large-group instruction in each subject area when needed and make sure that all students receive instruction in all the required grade-level skills.
Because teachers in each subject area would be using the same basic daily lesson plans, teachers would be evaluated based on how well they teach these lessons and not on their students’ end-of-the-year test scores.
In a short period of time, new teachers and weak teachers would become confident in their abilities to teach the skills contained in each daily lesson.
All children have the ability to learn. They just have to be given the opportunity to learn on a day-to-day basis. Organized learning begins when a teacher teaches a lesson. •
commentary. Secondary education,
op-ed / letters to the editor¸ Kenneth Berwick,