The goal is clear: 100% of students at 100% grade-level competency by the end of the school year.
Having 100% of students at 100% grade level by the end of a school year is impossible!
That is the typical reaction of most teachers, especially those in public schools in major cities.
In the previous section (Why many fail) we saw that the biggest problem for a teacher is usually
- the widely varying prior knowledge/skills
- and the widely varying home/family situations that result in varying degrees of effective homework and even interest in learning.
Let’s turn our attention away from why students fail and look at this differently.
What would it take to have 100% of ALL students (*other than those with “true” disabilities) achieve 100% grade-level-mastery?
Ask this today and you are likely to not get an answer other than, “it would be beyond what is possible.” What if we said EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE other than requiring the family be something other than what it is.
I think most teachers would say that if you gave them such a class (which most do not think is possible), then they believe they would be able to get close to 100% of students to 100% grade level mastery by the end of the school year.
The Mission is clear: Deliver the above!
There are many programs that deliver learning aids, mentor/tutors and other resources and they definitely help, but they have not achieved the desired, nationwide breakthrough.
We will go out on a limb and say that we believe, by and large, that motivation and willingness to do effective homework, are heavily influenced by the student’s current standing in a subject. Students with a history of straight A’s in a subject, are probably more motivated to put in effort and try to maintain that high standing. If they have a history of failure in a subject they are probably not very interested in putting in extra effort to do well. In other words, “Confidence “
In other words, we believe that if students have confidence in their ability to do something they will be much more likely to do it and to feel good doing it. If they lack confidence in something they will avoid it as much as they can.
We have asked teachers, “How much of a difference would it make if…
- 100% of your students were coming to class with a history of straight A’s in the subject?
- 100% of your students came to class fully prepared for the day’s class, having done all their homework effectively?
- 100% of your students were confident of their ability to learn your subject?”
Almost all teachers said it would dramatically improve the results, especially those in major cities.
Confidence is a result of past successes or lots of encouragement or both.
Our goal: Have 100% of students start the school year having experienced 100% success (= 100% grade level mastery) at the previous grade level. This will give these students confidence in their ability to achieve at that grade level so that they are highly likely to succeed at that grade level(s).
We also want these students to have at least one year of effective learning experience behind them.
Can we get every student in every grade to be at 100% grade level in one year?
Probably not. A 10th grade student that is 4 or more years behind grade level (or even a 7th grade student more than a couple of years behind) has a huge learning gap to overcome and probably has attitude problems due to years of failure (and many go to schools where a large % of students are failing which results in negative peer pressure).
We said that a goal is to have every student entering each grade level 100% at grade level with a history of successful learning. This would mean that there would not be any learning gaps to overcome and students would generally have the confidence and attitude that years of successful learning bring with them (not to mention that having close to 100% of classmates at full grade level would eliminate most negative peer pressure).
An approach with promise…
- Start with a single grade level where:
- almost no students have a learning gap that can not be overcome in a single year
- where most students do not yet have a significant attitude problem
- where most students are able to get enthusiastic about a special movement in school (especially one that provides them with special recognitions and bragging rights)
- where there are far fewer distractions due to extracurricular activities, puberty, etc.
- Start with a subject that:
- has a relatively small vocabulary/scope
- has a number of effective learning tools that could support achieving complete grade level mastery in a single year
- Get almost 100% of students achieve close to 100% grade level mastery in a single year in a single subject
- In subsequent years leverage the success of the first year to:
- add an additional grade level each year (until all grades are covered)
- add one or more additional subjects each year (again for a single grade level to start and adding grades each year)
In the past we have tried to fix every aspect of education at once with the result that most initiatives have remained talk or were only short-lived and we have almost nothing to show for it or we have focused on older students that were in last chance mode where we are only able to effectively help a relatively small % of all students in need.
Where should we start?
In the case of this initiative, we want to:
- focus on a single grade level that is both conducive to improvement and has a manageable leaning gap to overcome and then demonstrate that we can change the results of the entire nation for that grade level in a single year
- then expand to the next grade level and the next and so on until all grade levels are succeeding at the same rate.
4th is best grade to start. Why?
Math is best subject to start. Why?
If we were only talking about the most important subject, reading would be the clear priority as this is a prerequisite for almost every other subject. However we are focused on both providing students with a core skill/knowledge upon which to build as well as ensuring students succeed in achieving 100% grade-level-mastery in just 1 year. Math is the best subject to get started for the following reasons.
While Math is the focus of the first year of this initiative, the second year will focus on adding Reading and Writing. To that end, we will be actively encouraging learning aid publishers to use that first year to accelerate development of their tools in preparation for year two. Other subjects will be added in subsequent years.
Do you agree that if we succeed with 4th grade math we will be able to succeed with other grades and subjects?
We hope that most of you reading about this initiative will agree that IF we are successful in getting close to 100% of 4th graders to achieve close to 100% grade level mastery in math in just one year, then the odds are good that we will be able to continue this success in the 5th grade the following year (with the students that started 5th grade already 100% grade-level-ready) and then the following year with 6th grade, then 7th grade and so on until we have almost all students succeeding at close to 100% grade level mastery for all grades. Having close to 100% of all young adults being fully prepared for high productivity careers and the “can-do attitude” that comes with the confidence of knowing you can learn anything anytime you need to would result in a dramatic change of the entire society.
But first, we have to succeed in the first phase of getting 100% of 4th graders to 100% grade-level mastery by the end of 4th grade. Then they will be
How we will do it!
To see how we will do this, continue to the menu item “Solution“.