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Monday
Feb142011

Three futures: Skinner Elementary

I am working on the last chapter of my technology "survival" book for classoom teachers. Its focus is on the future and how it is up to each of us to help create the future we desire for ourselves and our students. The chapter will start with three possible scenarios for "high tech schools," based on trends I see today. I'll be sharing the drafts of these scenarios over the next few days. Your comments, as always, are welcome. 

Scenario One: Skinner Elementary

The future is already here – it's just not very evenly distributed. -  William Gibson

Carla’s inner-city school has one-to-one ratio of computer workstations to students. And Carla spends about four hours each day online. Carla, now in sixth grade, has been learning this way for the past four years.

The primary goal of Carla’s elementary school is to make sure all students pass state and federal tests in reading, mathematics and writing. Instruction in the “basic skills” is provided by carefully designed courseware that offers short tutorials using a variety of media, frequent assessments, and remedial instruction using several approaches. At the end of each school day, Carla’s progress is summarized and sent automatically to the school’s assessment office where it is monitored - along with the daily reports of the other 600 students in the school.

Carla uses one of the schools computer labs for four hours a day – from 8:05 AM to 12:05 PM.* At 12:30, the other half of the student body uses the computer labs. There are three large labs that each contain 100 workstations. These workstations run only the courseware. The lab is staffed by four paraprofessionals who help Carla if her computer is having problems. There are also two certified teachers in the building who are available when a paraprofessional can’t answer a question.

Carla is a good student, but she struggled with fractions last year. When the daily report showed this, Carla was scheduled for addiitonal remedial instruction. Carla met with a certified special education teacher for an hour a week. This teacher provided a small device that had single-purpose software dedicated to practicing fractions. Carla caught up quickly.

Doing well is important to Carla. At regular assembly programs, students are recognized for high percentages of right answers, good attendance and, especially, for good behavior. Although she does not do it herself, Carla knows most of the kids in her class bring their smart phones to class and use them to text each other and read popular books and magazines, despite this being strictly forbidden.

Carla looks to be on track for graduation from elementary school and is looking forward to beginning the technical school track at the nearby middle school in the fall.

Skinner Elementary is often singled out by the media and politicans as an exemplary school since such a high percentage of students meet state and national testing goals and operates on about 80% of the funding of “traditional” schools, thanks in large part to the use of educational technology.

* Parents are responsible for childcare outside the four hours students are in school. While Carla cares for her younger brother and sister until her parents come home from work, other students take part in latchkey programs organized by the YMCA and local churches. The school saves money by not providing a hot lunch program; a library; art, music and physical education classes; or a playground. There are no school counselors, nurses, and but a single administrator. 

Next, John Dewey High School

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Reader Comments (2)

Nice. I would just note that there are no "basic skills" anymore, just college and career-ready skills. Also, no reason to think there will be a "technical school track" in the district for the same reason.

February 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTom Hoffman

Oh my. And I saw this right after I read this one over at Schools Matter: http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2011/02/number-1-in-world-mr-duncan-really-you.html

February 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCathy Nelson

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