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Repetitive Cycle of Remediation

Much of public schools’ instructional practices are designed to rehab or repair a student’s learning deficit. These remediation and corrective methods help resolve a student’s skills gap quickly and effectively. This is a widely-recommended instructional practice because of its success rate in reducing learning difficulties for kids in regular education programs. Remedial instruction is designed to close the gap between what a student knows and what s/he expects to know.

However, for children diagnosed with a learning disability in special education, remediation and corrective methods may not be as effective. In fact, most learners in special education consider remediation mentally painful.

Remediation is typically rote learning. In most remediation classes, special education students are required to repeatedly practice a specific skill until they reaches mastery. Even though, their learning disorder may prevent their brains to fully receive, process, analyze, or store that information; the student is still compel to complete remedial school work.

Students describe this as a painful act because no matter how much they try; they just can not attain mastery of certain math and reading foundational skills. And because they can not reach mastery, they are stuck in a repetitive cycle of remediation.

Special education instruction does not have to be implemented in this matter. Instead, public schools can build on a learner’s strengths and work around weaknesses. The primary focus is to use the child’s dominate learning style to teach them the grade-level curriculum and reinforce learning math and reading foundational skills. Students have multiple ways to complete assignments based on their learning style.

There are benefits to moving ahead with a strength-based approach to special education as opposed to staying with remediation current model. A strength-based approach is possible alternative to remedial instruction.


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The Spoon-Feeding Mindset

When I started as a training consultant, I was hesitant about working with non-educational organizations. I was worried that business minded clients would not take me seriously because my primary experience was in education. Well, I quickly discover, that my experience in the educational sector would not be the problem. Ironically, the biggest obstacle I faced in corporate training was engaging learners in independent thinking and action.

Sounds odd, but it’s true.

For years, these workers were expose to training consultants that spoon-fed them information. They were so conditioned to being spoon-fed that it  was difficult for them to accept another training paradigm. Many of them felt that I was wasting their workday by asking them to think beyond task-level work.

By holding on to a “sit back and wait” approach, these workers were obstructing opportunities for innovation and growth. This particular organization wanted to change this way of thinking. This is why they hired me.

After six months of direct coaching support, only 45% of the staff modified their work habits. Unfortunately, the individuals that selected not to change were slowly replaced with new staff members, which would follow the new directive. It took executive team and myself almost two years to stop the spoon-effect in this company.

This has become a common trend in many businesses nowadays. I am constantly coaching organizations on how to counter the effects of  spoon-feeding. Organizations that typically have this problem tend to micromanage their workers. Managers or executive officers do not fully trust their staff to take ownership of the company’s outputs. This of course creates a passive work environment and discourages staff members from engaging in any independent thinking or action. Once this type of culture is established it difficult to shift this mindset.

So, why does this happened?

Throughout my work, I have learned that most adults are conditioned to be spoon-fed. This is because nearly all adults – from elementary school to their undergraduate education – are taught using the spoon-feeding method. By the time these individuals reach the workplace, this is all they know. This is how they learn information and this how they train their peers.

It takes time and effort to change this mindset. It requires organizations to design their work environments to promote and encourage independent thinking and action.  And, it also means they need to trust their staff’s abilities and talents.


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Why have Schools Abandoned Performance Assessments?

Performance assessments were once a hot topic in education. School districts across the nation anticipated that Common Core State Standards national test would resemble a performance assessment. This spur school systems to train all their staff  in how to design and implement performance assessments.

I spent the last four years training thousands of teachers in performance assessment design. Each of these professional did a remarkable job incorporating this new assessment system within their classroom routines.  And, just like all things in educations, the demand for this type of training simply stopped.

It’s not a coincidence that performance assessment’s popularity plunged among our public schools. A performance assessment is a time-consuming test to administer. It is not a practical evaluation for districts that are bounded to specific testing restrictions. This type of evaluation takes longer to design, to implement and to grade. The data results from these assessments are not instantaneously. It takes about a two weeks to collect and analyze the results.

Schools systems instead returned to a multiple-choice test format, which measures simple skills and concepts. Schools are aware that these assessments do not fully evaluate a student’s academic abilities, and can give false test score of what a child knows and can do.

Because these multiple choice assessments are cost-effective and faster diagnostic test, they are preferred over a performance assessment. Most of these tests are pre-packaged bulk evaluations, which can be automatically corrected by a Scantron machine. No longer do districts have to allocate funds or time for teacher training or a school coach. It does make the process easier for schools.

But faster, cheaper  and easier is not always a better way for our students.

A performance assessment maybe a more resource intensive evaluation, but it is a more accurately indicator of how well students can apply what they have learned. These assessments also quantify how a student is using prior knowledge to reinforce new grade-level content. The data it reveals is valuable in understanding how a student retains and transfers content being taught. It is unfortunate that these assessments are no longer being used by all our public schools.

Hopefully one day, school districts will give performance assessments another try. It is always a possibility in our education system.


Beyond Basic Skills: The Role of Performance Assessment in Achieving 21st Century Standards of Learning

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School Vouchers are a Limited Solution

Parents and educational advocates, who support school choice, believe that school vouchers are just another option to help disadvantaged students receive a first-class education. School voucher programs allow parents to use monetary vouchers from the city, state or federal government to pay for their child’s private school education. The amount of the voucher is generally about the same amount that is granted to public schools for each child’s educational needs.

School voucher proponents insist that is a viable solution for students, who are stuck in a low performing school. According to school voucher advocates, voucher recipients are more likely to graduate from high school compare to their public school counterparts. A greater majority of these kids graduate college and career ready. They are academically capable to handle college-level work, and have the requisite work-based skills to clinch an entry-level job.

On paper, school vouchers appear to be the solution to our educational problems. But, like all reform initiatives, this program has its limitations.

Voucher recipients are not guaranteed admittance to a private school. Private schools, which accept vouchers, still require all students to meet their admission requirements. Kids, who do not measure up academically or behaviorally, are typically not accepted. In most cases, special education children, truants, and academically “mid-of- the road” students are typically denied admission to most private K-12 school systems.

It is possible that 80 percent of our public school kids will never benefit from a voucher program.

This program can also be very costly for many families. School vouchers only cover the school’s tuition payment. Any additional school fees such as textbooks and  transportation costs are the parent’s responsibility. Remember, that most voucher programs are targeted at low-income families. These added expenses can be a significant financial burden for them. And, it can also deter many of these parents from enrolling their child in a voucher program.

For school voucher programs to be effective, policymakers need to address these issues, and consider expanding the program’s reach to include publicly operated schools.

Currently, students can only use their voucher to attend a private school. However, not all private schools are great schools. There are actually a number of high performing public schools that are more innovative and rigorous.

Kids should be allowed to use their voucher to attend any  high-performing public school. The voucher would cover the out of district fees. Since these schools are public, all students would be granted admission. It is a win-win situation for all students.