School Success Criteria Vol 1: Parents

In the news lately there has been a lot of talk of underperforming “Renaissance” schools who will forced to dismiss many of their teachers.  On the one hand, I applaud the attempt to shock our worst schools into improvement.  On the other hand, I am dismayed that the teachers are being disproportionately punished for the failures of their schools.  It occurred to me that so many factors contribute to the success of schools beyond the teachers.  I am going to try to go about hypothesizing what those factors are so that can be an angle for my research and school visits moving forward.

My first hypothesis–schools that have involved parents perform better.  Groundbreaking idea, I know.

On a recent tour of Meredith, I was struck by how many Read the rest of this entry »

More On Language Immersion

After my post last week on language immersion programs in the area, an Independence Charter parent emailed me a list of resources on the philosophy of language immersion.  This list is from the Independence Charter website.

Recommended Websites

Research on language acquisition
Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL)
Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)

Parent/teacher resources
Ñanduti: Foreign language learning for grades K-8 (run through CAL)
Contains section on learning benefits of early language acquisition.

Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)
A collection of newsletter articles, including “Immersion 101” and “Points for Parents.”

Additional parent resources are listed in the Parents section.

Specific articles
“Why Immersion?”
Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition
“What Parents Want to Know About Foreign Language Immersion Programs”
Center for Applied Linguistics
“Homework in an Immersion Classroom: Parental Friend or Foe?”
Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition

Language Immersion And Philly Primary Schools

In the book, Critical Issues in Early Second Language Learning: Building for Our Children’s Future Myriam Met collected a series of essays and studies on foreign language study in early childhood (abstract).

In sum, the essays assert that learning a second language at an early age…

  • Has a positive effect on intellectual growth.
  • Enriches and enhances a child’s mental development.
  • Leaves students with more flexibility in thinking, greater sensitivity to language, and a better ear for listening.
  • Improves a child’s understanding of his or her native language.
  • Gives a child the ability to communicate with people he or she would otherwise not have had the chance to know.
  • Opens the door to other cultures and helps the child understand and appreciate people from other countries.
  • Gives the child a head start in language requirements for college.
  • Increases job opportunities in many careers in which knowing another language is a real asset.

An interesting point that is made in the book is that Read the rest of this entry »

Wild Waldorf Ride

Wow.  I visited The Waldorf School over the weekend.  It was really a game-altering experience for me.  Their program is like nothing I had ever seen or heard of before.  One of the teachers that I spoke with summed up the uniqueness in their program stating that ‘The most impoverished public school has more in common with the most well-endowed private school than we do.’  It was really true.  Most schools that I have ever been exposed to follow very similar teaching approaches with minor differences.  I am not sure whether the Waldorf philosophy is in any way superior or inferior, but their pedagogical philosophy is certainly very different than any other school I have visited, public or private.

For several reasons, I think that the school itself is not going to work for my family.  [EDIT–Here’s why I am not elaborating on that statement].  Even so, I am very happy that I went to the open house.  I am not an expert on childhood development, learning styles, or pedagogical philosophy. As a lay person, I can’t make an evaluation as to which pedagogical approach is better.  What I can say is that seeing the school and hearing the teachers, students, parents, and administrators discuss their program was eye-opening.  I will no longer hold steadfast to the assumptions I have about how children learn or how a school should be structured.  Even if I never go back to Waldorf, my visit there will make me evaluate schools and pedagogical approaches differently than I ever would have.

What is so different about Waldorf?  Well, I am not an expert in the philosophy, so here are some resources so you can read about it for yourself if you are interested.