Sunday, August 11, 2013

Shifting the public education paradigm

Posted by CotoBlogzz

Rancho Santa Margarita, CA – Is the health care system broken?  Whose fault is it?  Is it the insurance companies, or is it the government’s fault?

Atul Gawande, a general and endocrine surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and a staff writer at The New Yorker, says yes.  The problem he argues is that the current system was developed in the pre-penicillin days, but now is much more complex, which requires a paradigm shift.   In the 1970s it took 2 clinician equivalents to take care of the average patient.  By the 2000s, the same patient requires more than 15 clinician equivalents, for example.

In his most recent book, The Checklist Manifesto, Gawande shows how even a simple five-point checklist can decrease up to two-thirds of ICU infections. He suggests that as modern medicine -- and indeed, the modern world -- becomes increasingly complex, we should respond with ever-simpler measures.

Similarly, Sir Ken Robison argues that the current public education system is not broken.  It is doing exactly what it was designed to do, in the Industrial Revolution.  Not appropriate for the Information Age.

Why don't we get the best out of people? Sir Ken Robinson argues that it's because we've been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. Students with restless minds and bodies -- far from being cultivated for their energy and curiosity -- are ignored or even stigmatized, with terrible consequences. "We are educating people out of their creativity," Robinson says

A visionary cultural leader, Sir Ken led the British government's 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education, a massive inquiry into the significance of creativity in the educational system and the economy, and was knighted in 2003 for his achievements. His 2009 book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, is a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into 21 languages. A 10th anniversary edition of his classic work on creativity and innovation, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, was published in 2011. His latest book, Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life, was published by Viking 2013.

Jaime Escalante shifted the public education when in 1982, 14 of his Garfield High School students who passed the Advanced Placement calculus exam were accused of cheating. The paradigm at the time was: It is not possible that various students from a struggling campus of working-class, largely Mexican American students can pass a demanding AP calculus exam. Escalante's eventual triumph  with the Garfield 14 is told in the James Edward Olmost movie, Stand and Deliver, leading to educators from around the country traveling  to see Escalante in action at Garfield - which built one of the largest and most successful AP programs in the nation.

To be sure, Jaime Escalante was a polarizing figure who did not get along with many of his public school colleagues. He pushed for tougher standards and accountability for students, educators and parents, but he motivated  students with his entertaining style and thorough understanding of math.

When Escalante's is merely characterized as " the East Los Angeles high school teacher who taught the nation that inner-city students could master subjects as demanding as calculus, " largely misses the point. Escalante was a paradigm changer, not unlike  the story of the four-minute mile:  Experts a the time, feared that the human body was not designed to run the mile at less than 4 minutes, and if people tried, the body would be damaged at that speed.

Once  Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile barrier, psychologically as well as physically, it opened the floodgates for those who followed. As Steve Chandler wrote in 17 Lies That Are Holding You Back & The Truth That Will Set You Free, after Bannister turned his dream into reality, runners "expanded their minds and accomplished even bigger things."

However, based on the state of affairs of public education in California it seems like Escalante's paradigm shift may have perfect elastic memory.  That is, until the modern day Escalante shows up:  Pearl Arredondo.

Pearl Arredondo grew up in the impoverished East Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights. She was raised by a single-mother, a long time Los Angeles Unified School District office secretary, who saw firsthand the challenges facing students in public schools. To ensure that she got the best education in the district, Arredondo was bussed to schools almost an hour away from home.

Arredondo graduated and moved on to Pepperdine University, where she received both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Education and Instructional Leadership. She was the first in her family to graduate from college and began her teaching career at San Fernando Middle School (SFMS) -- the very middle school she attended eight years prior.

At SFMS, she embraced the mission of enhancing educational opportunities for historically underserved students. To do so, she launched the school’s Multimedia Academy, which serviced 350 low-income students. After three successful years, the Multimedia Academy faculty decided it was time to make a full split and become a separate school. In 2010, she helped lead an ambitious reform agenda, through a pilot reform model, that focused on technology development, improving outcomes for children and strengthening families. The team founded San Fernando Institute for Applied Media (SFiAM), the first pilot school established in the Los Angeles Unified School District at the middle school level.. She is featured in the short documentary film TEACHED Vol.1: “The Blame Game,” and is a role model for young Latinas seeking to make a difference in their communities.

Ms. Arredondo, like Dr. Awande, Sir Ken Robinson and Jaime Escalante have shown that excellence in public education is not about simply dumping more money, and more about shifting paradigms:  View education as a system, with accountability and a fine-tuned feedback mechanism.

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