ED100 Breakdown: Module 10

Hello once again! It’s a sad day as we’ve finally made it to the last blog where I will cover the final module of ED100. The words below will attempt to wrap everything up as well as introduce new ideas about what we can do for the good of education in the future. If you liked these module summaries or are looking for more facts I urge you to go to the ED100 site and read it yourself. Finally, I’d like to thank Jeff Camp, the founder and primary writer of ED100, for providing society with such an informative and easy-to-read resource that tackles such a difficult and complex entity. Without further ado, here’s the rundown:

As we all know by now, America’s educational system is huge. Just in the K-12 grades, America employs more than three million teachers and spends well over half a trillion dollars per year. I was also shocked to hear that roughly a quarter of the U.S. population is currently enrolled in school. Did you know that there are about ten schools for every one Starbucks? So yeah, getting education right and working for everyone is a pretty big deal. And what better way to do so than through change? Change is on the horizon for education in our country. Do you think that in fifty years students will still sit in rows, reading textbooks and writing in workbooks while teachers lecture from a whiteboard? Only time will tell. However, there are some entities that could resist change termed by ED100 as “inerties”. The first one, policy inertia, has to do with the slow momentum most movements have in fostering change in the government. The second, organizational inertia, refers to the ecosystem of education such as teachers, parents, and students who would all need to carry out the changes. The last possible resistance, people inertia, concerns whether school staff and more specifically, teachers, will choose to implement the change in their lesson plans. There is one major factor that affects the speed of implementing most change. It’s actually the accumulation of change, several dollars even, which provides the system with wealth.

Yes, money is important and I’m not so good at jokes. The big question, though, is what can money actually do? For the answer we can turn to private schools where some charge fifty thousand annually per student. What do these schools spend their money on? Firstly, they pay for great school leadership in principals, administration staff, and teachers. They’re able to keep class sizes small and hire faculty with specific subject expertise. They also offer a full curriculum that doesn’t cut corners such as various arts, STEM, and computer science classes. They’re able to afford good facilities including modern technology to supplement lesson plans. Additionally, they focus resources on student growth by assigning individual students to counselors and other academic support with the end goal of college in mind. For these schools, college admissions is a more important sign of success than test scores. Finally, they keep close with their alumni and only admit students who are on the right track to academic success. Alright, so hopefully I convinced you that money could solve a lot of our problems, but clearly this isn’t a realistic solution to solving California’s educational system.

So what can we do if we’re operating with only a small amount of financial resources? Remember that California is a “low effort” state when it comes to education spending meaning when compared to other states it spends less on education relative to its overall economy. Most of the money schools get go into paying teachers. The small amount of “savings” schools have accumulated over the years has gone into hiring more teachers to drive down class sizes rather than keeping teachers’ wages consistent with the growth of average wages. California is an exception, where we have struggled to even keep class sizes down. This theme has been a direct consequence of the “no child left behind” policy. As many people foresee, the future of efficient education might be in technology. Perhaps the use of computer learning will free up more teachers’ time and allow more teachers to focus more of their time on students falling behind. Another idea that has been considered is having students advance in grade level based off of their own achievements rather than following the school calendar. This system has been predicted to save schools money as many students will finish faster than they would in our current educational system. Finally, could teacher pay be manipulated to save money? One idea proposes differentiating teacher pay to attract and retain teachers maintaining exceptional roles. This option proves to be difficult however, as unions hesitate to drop their collective bargaining agreement platform.

The final lesson looks at how we can actually implement change. Because the educational system is so large it is incredibly resistant to change. But change can still take place. Even big change. These are the general steps that an idea takes to go from a being simple thought to becoming implemented in the system:

  1. Reports from analysts and academics that identify an issue

  2. Coordinated research that gets at the true facts and information

  3. Committee reports that call for change in the system

  4. Leadership to play a key role in implementing change

  5. Timing to account for proper money influxes and government officials

  6. Action

I believe that the key takeaway as to why this is all important is the following: educational success drives economic wellbeing and vice-versa. This largely agreed upon theory has been the result of countless studies of diverse communities across the country. And even if you and I have graduated from the educational system, we are still living in a society that is dependent on the success of today’s economy. Moreso, the generation that follows us – our kids, grandkids, nephews, and nieces – will all be products of tomorrow’s educational system which we can help fix today. So that’s it! You’ve made it through ED100 and are now armed with the facts and ideas to be a significant voice in the positive change of our schools. Thanks again for reading and be sure to stay tuned for exciting news on what we’ve accomplished here at Project SCIFI.

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