A simple solution:
- Get everyone to pledge to do what is needed to accomplish the goal:
- get all 4th grade math teachers to pledge to do all they can to get 100% of their students to 100% grade level mastery before the end of the school year.
- get all 4th grade students to pledge to take primary responsibility for getting to 100% grade level mastery by the end of the school year (and to help their classmates get there also).
- get everyone else to pledge to support and help the teachers and students with needed resources and encouragement.
- Get everyone to honor their pledges and provide as much help as possible to everyone in the fulfillment of their pledges.
Could it really be that simple?
In the Strategy section of this website we described a plan for dramatically improving education based on getting 100% of students in a single grade that is conducive to improving (4th grade) to achieve 100% grade level mastery in a single subject conducive to mastering equally (math) in just one year and then expanding this program to the next grade level (i.e. 5th grade, then 6th grade and so on) and to additional subjects in subsequent years until close to 100% of students are graduating high school with close to 100% mastery of all core subjects with the confidence and attitude that such an accomplishment would bring with it.
In the Strategy section we heard that there are learning tools and methods out there (computer-based learning tools, or even textbooks or well designed curricula) where:
- if students successfully completed the appropriate series they would be at 100% grade level mastery
- if students were to put in a dedicated hour a day to learning with effective learning tools & mentor/tutoring support, most should be able to complete the requirements for 100% grade level mastery (including filling any learning gaps from previous years) within a year.
In the Solution section we described our vision of what the solution would look like in practice in that first year (2020/21 school year).
This section describes how we intend to accomplish this for 4th grade math before the end of 2020/21 school year. The question of “How” can be addressed from the following perspectives:
- How can we get the majority of 4th grade teachers, nationwide to pledge before the end of September?
- How can we get the majority of 4th graders, nationwide to pledge before the end of September?
- How can we get resource providers (learning tools, computing devices, internet bandwidth) on board?
- How can we get adequate numbers of trained mentor/tutors available within a month or two?
- How can we encourage ongoing high levels of engagement throughout the year?
1. How can we get the majority of 4th grade teachers, nationwide to pledge before the end of September?
- Part of the kickoff campaign will be to publicly challenge all 4th grade math teachers to publicly pledge to do the best they can to get 100% of their students to 100% grade level in math before the end to the school year. Teachers will be asked to wear a colored wristband as a symbol of their pledge to the initiative and their students.
- At the same time, we hope that this project will be co-sponsored by the main teachers unions and/or other education associations. This will be part of a sub-campaign to move many teachers back into the hero role for taking the initiative to make a major difference in education. It will therefore be the collective of teachers challenging themselves and their colleagues to pledge to make a major difference.
- We look to encourage local political, business and other community leaders to publicly announce their support for the initiative and especially their support for the local 4th grade math teachers (e.g. with press releases to the local press).
- The initiative does not make suggestions for how teachers teach their students other than asking teachers to pledge to take special action for all students they feel will not achieve 100% grade level mastery by the end of the year with their normal programs. We simply ask that, in those cases, teachers take advantage of some of the special support we hope to generate so that those students will each have a program that is likely to get them to the 100% mastery level by the end of the school year. In some cases, this will provide teachers with resources they did not previously have access to. Basically, we are simply saying, “Teacher, pledge to try to get 100% of your students to 100% mastery and we will do all we can to ensure you have what you need to do it.” (Other than getting parents to change their behavior.)
- Part of the initiative will be a massive campaign to get lots of resources to help 4th grade math teachers. These would include free learning tools that have been shown to be effective in helping students learn K-4 math; the enabling resources to use such tools such as computing devices and bandwidth and a significant number of specially trained mentor/tutors to assist teachers with students that need differentiated learning approaches.
- Teachers will be provided a kit of tools and resources to help them get students and parents behind the initiative. We also hope to generate lots of encouragement from school administrators and many others in support of the teachers’ efforts related to the initiative. Finally, we hope to generate a lot of local media and community noise in support of the initiative.
- We hope to follow the kickoff with an article in every local newspaper where local 4th grade teachers are interviewed regarding the initiative and asked directly if they are pledging to work to get 100% of their students to the 100% grade level mastery level by the end of the school year. (Keep in mind that we hope to have the national association of local newspapers as a partner in the initiative.)
- Teachers say that getting and keeping their students engaged and committed is one of the biggest challenges they face. This initiative is really about helping teachers create an exciting movement among the students. This, the additional resources the initiative should generate plus the public visibility of the initiative combined with the fact that the initiative asks for nothing more than what teachers should already be trying to do and the fact that the initiative should be seen as the educator community’s own initiative should be enough to get a high % of the teachers to pledge. The more the press/media report about large numbers of teachers pledging, the easier it will be for other teachers to “join the crowd.”
2. How can we get the majority of 4th graders, nationwide to pledge before the end of September?
- We assume the local teacher is participating in the initiative.
- We envision that many students will be aware of national publicity related to the initiative through their parents or other students.
- We envision that teachers will have a kit containing suggestions for getting students to pledge, including access to one or more motivational videos they can show the class, colored wristbands for the students that are pledging, letters and wristbands for the students to take home to their parents describing the initiative and how parents can help, etc.
- We envision that many school administrators, high school students, perhaps some community leaders will come to the 4th grade class to add their voices of encouragement to getting the students to pledge. (Keep in mind that the students are pledging that they will be personally responsible for putting in the effort to get themselves to the 100% mastery level. It is no longer the teacher’s sole responsibility. Students will be reminded daily that it is their responsibility – but at the same time that almost anything they need to help get themselves to the 100% mastery will be made available to them – they just have to ask.)
- The pledge would take place in the first month of 4th grade. At that age (just a few months out of 3rd grade), most students will follow the lead of the teacher (most of the other events surrounding the pledge event are to add weight to the student’s pledge so that enough of the students are more likely to want to honor it and therefore create peer pressure on all to work to achieve the goal.
3a. How can we get learning tools publishers/providers on board quickly?
- The number of significant potential resource providers is relatively limited.
- There are fewer than a half dozen publishers/providers of complete K-4 math learning tools with a record of effectiveness (e.g. Khan Academy, McGraw Hill ALEKS, dreambox, etc.)
- We will be reaching out to these publisher/providers in advance of the initiative publicity campaign to enable maximum effectiveness of the publicity campaign for both the initiative and the publisher/provider.
- We will offer to showcase and recommend the products/services of these publisher/providers in exchange for their making special efforts to:
- ensure availability of their products/services to all 4th grade classes that want to take advantage of them
- ensure special training to mentor/coach volunteers on how to use their products/services effectively
- provide special support to teachers, mentor/coaches and students/parents to help them use their products/services effectively so as to achieve the goal of 100% K-4 mastery within 1 year.
- We will be offering these publisher/providers a great opportunity for significant positive publicity in conjunction with the initiative kickoff.
- The publisher/provider will have a great opportunity to develop showcase reference examples of success with their product/services.
- The benefits of a nationwide campaign encouraging products/services such as theirs is a tremendous publicity/marketing benefit. At the same time, not participating in such a high profile program would put that publisher/provider at a significant disadvantage for future business in that market.
- Even if many potential learning tool publishers/providers do not commit support in advance of the initiative publicity kickoff, we anticipate many will jump on the band wagon as publicity spreads or as VIPs endorse and specifically ask for their assistance.
3b. How can we get computing device manufacturers/bandwidth providers on board quickly?
- (The availability of computing devices has increased significantly since this website was originally created. However, there still are some 4th grade students who lack effective access to suitable learning tools. This section is about ensuring access to as many of those students as possible.)
- The number of significant potential resource providers is relatively limited.
- Many of the targeting device manufacturers/bandwidth providers have already pledged significant support for education though the national “ConnectEd” and similar initiatives. We hope to leverage such initiatives to provide teaches/schools a concrete initiative they can link to such resource needs.
- We will be reaching out to these manufacturer/providers in advance of the initiative publicity campaign to enable maximum effectiveness of the publicity campaign for both the initiative and the manufacturers/providers.
- We envision providing a Needs Clearing House web site (or partnering with an organization already doing so) where schools/teachers can simply post their needs related to the Ready-for-fifth initiative and the manufacturers/providers can easily see who has needs and start the process of satisfying those needs.
- In exchange for showcasing the products/services of these manufacturers/providers as part of the initiative publicity campaign, we expect a commitment from these manufacturers/providers to ensure those using their products/services would have a very simple and unbureaucratic solution for their students for the duration of the initiative.
- We will be offering these manufacturer/providers a great opportunity for significant positive publicity in conjunction with the initiative kickoff.
- The manufacturer/provider will have a great opportunity to develop showcase reference examples of success with their products/services.
- The benefits of a nationwide campaign encouraging products/services such as theirs is a tremendous publicity/marketing benefit. At the same time, not participating in such a high profile program would put that manufacturer/provider at a significant disadvantage for future business in that market.
- In addition to the direct relationships with the vendors, we will be encouraging community leaders (political, business, service clubs, religious, etc.) to organize community support organizations in every community to help provide any needed resources (e.g. working with manufacturers/providers to quickly provide needed resources so that no student is hindered in achieving the 100% mastery goal due to lack of access to resources (e.g. finding ways to bridge any gaps between what manufacturers/providers can provide and the full cost).
- Even if many potential resource providers do not commit support in advance of the initiative publicity kickoff, we anticipate many will jump on the band wagon as publicity spreads or as VIPs endorse and specifically ask for their assistance.
4. How can we get adequate numbers of trained mentor/coaches available within a month or two?
- In conjunction with the campaign publicity kickoff, we will be making an appeal for a large number of volunteer mentor/coaches.
- There is a relatively small number of large organizations recruiting and providing mentor/coaches to students/schools, nationwide or to large numbers of schools/students. We hope to partner with most of these in that we will help to recruit volunteers to their programs and to arrange special training in the effective use of learning tools for the ready-for-fifth initiative and we would expect them to assist in the recruitment publicity campaign and the administration of the local volunteer efforts through their already existing services.
- We will arrange/provide a website for volunteer mentor/coaches to be able to share issues and successes and experiences in general to maximize the success of the mentor/coaches.
- We will be reaching out to these mentor/coach provider organizations in advance of the initiative publicity campaign to enable maximum effectiveness of the publicity campaign for both the initiative and the mentor/coach provider organizations.
- Many of these organizations will also receive heightened awareness for their volunteer services in general which could also benefit many other programs that they support.
- To the degree that the Ready-for-fifth initiative is significantly successful, this should help these organizations in their fund-raising efforts to support continued and expanded efforts to improve education as well as other initiatives they are involved with. (Nothing helps fund raising like high-profile success.)
5. How can we encourage ongoing high levels of engagement throughout the year?
- Thus far we have shown what we can do to encourage most 4th grade teachers to pledge to get almost ALL their students to 100% grade level mastery; to encourage almost ALL 4th graders to pledge to get to 100% grade level mastery; to get most K-4 math learning tool providers, providers to learning tools and enabling resources such as computing devices and internet bandwidth and also large numbers of people to volunteer to be mentor/coaches for the initiative. Many have said they can imagine we will get large numbers of teachers and students to pledge but the real challenge will be getting everyone to honor that pledge for an entire year.
- As mentioned above, we envision a partnership with local press and media. We also look to establishing a network of student reporters at the high school and college level to write frequent articles and keep the initiative-related efforts and especially the participants in all roles in the news (establish “bragging rights” that participants will look to “live up to” in as many cases as possible and shine spotlights on situations that are hindering the educational achievement of students and need rectifying). We also envision having students be self reporters posting articles and videos about the progress in their schools on a website and YouTube, etc.
- We also look to community support efforts in the form of frequent rallies, awards ceremonies (not just for 4th graders), etc. to maintain a high level of engagement by all concerned.
- We envision also maintaining a continual flow of information about the initiative to national and regional press/media form many sources, including various high visibility personalities (perhaps even a TV special that tracks the progress of the initiative).
- We envision a national website that will serve multiple purposes, such as: providing forums for participants in various roles to exchange problems, questions & answers, success stories, etc.
- We envision a nationwide network of activist high school students that see the initiative as important for the future well-being of their generation that are organizing and working to ensure the success of the initiative both in their community and nationally.
- We envision many entities from sports franchises, sports-, entertainment- and other personalities, corporations, wealthy and not so wealthy individuals, clubs of all kinds, etc. to pledge incentives (e.g. free tickets to a sports or other event, a visit to a school by a personality, etc., when the school or class achieves greater than a certain % of students achieving 100% grade level mastery by the end of the year, etc.). We envision an incentive pledge wall where people and organizations can pledge incentives for certain schools, regions, etc. In fact we envision almost a competition to see how imaginative people and organizations can be in establishing incentives. Schools and classes will be able to see a list of all the current incentives being held out for their school or class at any time.
- We envision also organizing the 4th graders themselves to seek out and implement ways to help the entire class achieve the goal of 100% mastery (helping one another, buddy systems, etc.). There would be special reports in press and media about what students are doing to advance their classes (more “bragging rights”) as well as a website where students can exchange ideas for helping classmates.
- These are just a few examples of measures we envision being able to help maintain engagement throughout the year. We would be continually working to come up with and launch additional programs to strengthen engagement and results during the year.
Basically, the strategy is to focus on getting the students and teachers to pledge on the assumption that the resource providers and community leaders and organizations will join in (especially given that many of the resource providers have already pledged to provide $billions in resources via the ConnectEd initiative and others are already have initiatives that fit the needs described in the Ready-for-fifth initiative). Having said that, there will be a push to get a number of the resource providers to agree in advance to publicly endorse and support the Ready-for-fifth Initiative (essentially the Ready-for-fifth Initiative will be supported by a consortium of entities interested in dramatically improving education nationwide. More about this aspect if the initiative toward the bottom of this section.
It is September, 2020. For the past several days, everywhere one turns one hears about the Ready-for-fifth Initiative.
- The news is reporting about large students rallies in major cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, etc.) with huge numbers of high school students and others challenging the nation (and specific individuals) to get behind the Ready-for-fifth Initiative, an initiative sponsored by a coalition of major national educator organizations, a national network of engaged high school students and a number of non-profit organizations.
- Almost hourly some politician, entertainer, sports figure, business or other leaders is holding a press conference announcing their support for the initiative.
- All kinds of corporations and non-profit organizations are announcing their support for the initiative in press conferences and advertisements.
- A massive communication campaign by students all over the country targets educators in all positions, local politicians and business leaders, local press & media outlets, local service clubs, local charitable, youth, religious and other entities encouraging support and active involvement.
- More and more people are seen wearing the colored wristband symbolizing support for the initiative.
After a few days, school administrators, teachers, high school students and others come to each 4th grade class and encourage the students to pledge to take responsibility and put in the effort to achieve 100% grade-level mastery before the end of the school year. They are reminded of all the support ready to help them. Students are shown a short video about the Initiative showing all the forces pledging to be behind them and ready to help them and encouraging them to go for it. There is a local pledge sheet and wristbands. Students are asked to sign the pledge and wear the wristbands (pledge stays with the teacher). Students are given a letter to take home to parents asking them to also pledge to their child and to wear the wristbands that accompanied the letter.
Can you envision a large % of students pledging? (Where schools or teachers do not participate, students can make a private pledge by simply wearing the wristband which they can get from many sources or easily make themselves.)
Students/classes will also be invited to make videos encouraging other students to join in and post them to a special YouTube channel where they can earn bragging rights.
Can you envision increasing participation (and outside encouragement) causing even hesitant schools/teachers to join in at some point?
This is a movement, the more people join, the more others will be encouraged to join. This is an initiative that it is easy for many to benefit by being associated with and no downside for any to be associated with.
Imagine the following (if everyone pledged and followed through on those pledges):
- All 4th graders are putting up to an hour a day into intensive math learning.
- 4th grade teachers are committed to getting 100% of their students to 100% grade level mastery. They are continually identifying students that are not on track to achieve the 100% mastery goal and ensuring they have the differentiated support they need to reach the goal.
- Tens of thousands of specially trained volunteer mentor/tutors are helping teachers provide the differentiated support that students that are not on track need to succeed.
- Providers of learning tools, computing devices, internet bandwidth, etc. are ensuring that no student is hindered in achieving the goal of 100% mastery due to lack of access to resources.
- Parents, community support groups, corporations, foundations and individuals are providing encouragement and incentives to students and educators to strive to achieve the goal of 100% of students at 100% mastery.
If the majority of the above happens (or at least the first 2), can you see a very significant improvement in the % of students achieving 100% grade level mastery or close to it (especially in those school systems where relatively few students – less than 20% – are currently at grade level)?
Even if we do not achieve 100% in either % of students or % of grade level mastery, we should see very dramatic improvement in both these numbers and that will remain regardless of anything else. If the success is dramatic, we will have demonstrated a viable solution and there is no reason why that model should not continue and expand in subsequent years. Do you agree?