U.S. Falls Behind in FL
As usual, the same group of “shoulds”. The U.S. should have a central planning approach to fl ed; the U.S. should encourage fl learning; the U.S. should provide opportunities for fl study; the U.S. should start fl ed at an early age; and on and on.
What if the U.S. were to take over a large school district that represented a broad spectrum of U.S. education, i.e. one that provided cases of well-off communities, poor communities, working-class communities, etc. The district I worked in is a good example: we had high schools where almost all the kids were White and upper-income, one where most were minorities and lower-income, some elementary schools that were 98%-100% Hispanic with hundreds of monolingual Spanish-speakers, and so on.
The federal government could take over such a district as a demonstration. Fl teachers would be hired who had a track record of high performance, good results. The same could occur in science, physical ed, art, history, English, math, and so on, across the curriculum. The school would be provided with what the teachers asked for as opposed to being flooded with high-tech equipment and told, “Use it.”
Teachers would be loosely organized into departments but also into cross-curricular teams, school-within-a school, or other organizational configurations deemed productive by the faculty. Admins, teachers, support staff, coaches, etc. would be paid a decent wage with no regard to their transfer from another district, i.e. their seniority would be respected.
Then they would teach. Testing would be intelligently done, incl. fl testing, i.e. ACTFL, FSI, or anyone else bent on producing proficient users of a fl, would be invited to provide the exit exams out of at least one fl. At least six languages incl a classical one would be offered. Math, English, history, science, athletics, fine arts, etc. would all provide a reasonable cross-section of the discipline but there would be no levels, i.e. no “consumer math” set up to satisfy some state requirement for math but without the guaranteed failure of putting a kid from a poorly performing school into a grade-appropriate math class.
The methodology would be left up to each individual teacher; the only criterion for selection of the teacher would be the teacher’s students’ performance on a fl proficiency test. Up in the air, at least in my mind, is how these teachers would be selected. Would teachers apply to work in this demonstration and have their recent students tested or would recommendations alone be the criterion on which they would be hired? That’s a tough question.
The government would have to find some way of guaranteeing those teaches a return to their old job – quite difficult to manage, I would say – should the position not work out or the demonstration end prematurely. Retirement, health care, and all that would have to be set up so as to attract people not given to impulsive leaps. Nor could we use credentials as a criterion. IOW, we would have to be careful not to unintentionally select for a certain kind of person. A U.S. government-run district might cut out some conservatives, but I don’t think we’d necessarily wind up with a left-leaning faculty any more than most faculties are left-leaning (b/c they are educated).
Well, I’ve manged to end this with a snide dig at conservatives, but I’d like to see someone in power to consider this. Then, at the end of ten years, we could assess the success of the project, incl fl ed. We might discover that the school as a whole is a great success and, no matter their methodology, all the fl teachers did equally well. What a shock to those of us who pump for one or the other methodolgy or approach.