We described why it is so important that as close to EVERY young person as possible get an education that will enable them to become highly productive and contribute to paying for the increasing cost of society due to the combination of education not keeping up with the requirements for better paying jobs and the increasing number of baby boomers that will be moving from being productive contributors to paying for society to non-productive members looking for financial support (Need).
We then presented the recent situation in education and described some major reasons why so many students are failing to get the education they will need to get highly productive jobs (Why many fail).
This was followed by the presentation of a strategy for dramatically reducing the education gap and dropout rates while simultaneously raising the overall achievement of the great majority of students by initially focusing on getting almost 100% of students in a single grade (4th grade) and single subject (math) to 100% grade level mastery in that subject and then expanding the initiative in subsequent years to additional grades and subjects until almost all students in all grades are at 100% grade level mastery in all core subjects (Strategy).
This section presents a vision of what the solution could look like that would result in getting close to 100% of 4th graders to 100% grade level mastery in Math in just 1 year (including any gaps from previous years).
We have clearly defined the goal of the initial year of the Ready-for-fifth Initiative as getting 100% of 4th graders to 100% grade level mastery in Math before the end of 4th grade so that they will enter 5th grade 100% grade-level-ready (in math and in attitude).
Even though the strategy stressed the benefit of focusing on a single grade and single subject for the first year, there is still the question of HOW can we get 100% of students in that single grade to 100% grade level mastery in Math by the end of the year? Let’s go back to the main reasons we presented in the Why many fail section. We stated that the primary reason for many of the students failing was due to widely varying degrees of learning preparedness for the current grade which was generally in the form of:
- Widely varying mastery of prior (often prerequisite) learning goals (with some students years behind even by 4th grade)
- Widely varying home environments with regard to learning conduciveness (support for learning, doing homework, valuing education, etc.)
- Widely varying degrees of interest/motivation for learning (due largely to the home/peer environment)
When we asked the question, “what would it take, other than having all the students start the year with 100% mastery of all prior material, to get almost every student to succeed in achieving 100% grade level mastery”, the most frequent answers were “having the students EACH putting in a reasonable amount of effective learning effort every day” and “having the students have effective learning support beyond the teacher (e.g. effective parental support).”
This tells us any effective solution needs at least the following components:
- Student desire to achieve the 100% mastery goal and their willingness to put in the effort to get there.
- Resources to support differentiated, individualized learning.
- Resources to mitigate any deficiencies in home or environmental support of learning.
- Teachers willing to enable/organize differentiated, individualized learning for all students they are not sure they will otherwise get to 100% mastery of all the K-4 requirements before the end of the school year.
- Administrators willing to ensure no student is hindered in achieving the goal due to any bureaucratic reason.
The following solution overview is intended to meet each of these needs.
Many will say that there is nothing new to this initiative; that that is what each of these groups is already supposed to be doing/is doing today. But are they?
- Have all the teachers publicly committed to doing everything needed to get 100% of their students to 100% grade level mastery by the end of the year? Have they agreed to arrange differentiated education that they truly believe will work for those students they are not confident will achieve the goal with their (the teacher’s) current standard solution?
- Have students pledged to take responsibility for not simply coming to school and doing what the teacher says, but for achieving the learning goals and for reaching out for help if they feel they are not on track to achieve the goal? Are they all showing willingness to put in extra effort on their own to stay on track to achieve the goal?
- Do all students that need additional differentiated help have access to effective personal learning support (parents or mentors/tutors) to help them achieve the goal? Are these learning supporters trained in methods and tools to get the students to the goal of 100% grade level mastery by the end of the school year?
- Do ALL students have access to the learning tools and enabling resources they need (whereby this does not mean those that school administrations or parents want or need but simply those that would work best for the students)? In other words, ensuring issues like integration, long-term administration/maintenance, etc., do not hinder access to the most effective tools for this one year initiative.
- Are the communities actively engaged in ensuring that EVERY student is doing what is needed for them to achieve the 100% grade level mastery goal by the end of the school year and actively intervening to help where that is not happening (arranging resources, motivational rallies, programs outside of school where needed, etc.)?
If the answer to all the above is yes, then …? (I am not even going to bother trying to answer this because I don’t believe there are many communities or schools that would even try to claim this is the case). Are these really that difficult to do or arrange (especially if we are initially focused on a single grade and subject)?
Making it happen!
The next section of this site will present ideas for implementing this solution, nationwide, in the short period of a couple of months (How?).