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Ordinary Shoes

Depth over Breadth - Mission Hill School

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I just came across this documentary about a pilot school in Boston The entire school follows a curriculum based on themes. There are three themes a year: Long Ago, Struggle for Justice, and Science. This is from their curriculum page. 

Quote

It is the school’s belief that students learn best when engaged in meaningful topics where the focus is on depth as opposed to breadth. The idea is that a student will learn some things well, rather than a great many things with little understanding.

I thought I'd share in light of the recent discussions here about rigor. 

I think it's an interesting idea. I'm sure that some homeschoolers are doing things like this. I guess it's like a unit study where you wrap up all of the subjects as part of the unit study. 

 

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I've only watched the first two videos, but I had to laugh that they call that progressive education. That is OLD SCHOOL education! Giving teachers a voice, letting them control what/how they teach, serving the community and meeting kids where they are at! Teaching kids about community and social skills in the early years instead of cramming worksheets and skill. Glad to see a PS trying that again. Reminded me of the private school my dd attended. 

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1 hour ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

I've only watched the first two videos, but I had to laugh that they call that progressive education. That is OLD SCHOOL education! Giving teachers a voice, letting them control what/how they teach, serving the community and meeting kids where they are at! Teaching kids about community and social skills in the early years instead of cramming worksheets and skill. Glad to see a PS trying that again. Reminded me of the private school my dd attended. 

Not to be argumentative but when was this normal in public school? Schools have been dictating curriculum to teachers for a long time. 

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21 minutes ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

Not to be argumentative but when was this normal in public school? Schools have been dictating curriculum to teachers for a long time. 

I can only speak to my local experience growing up- I only went to PS for high school but many of my friends' parents were teachers, and now several of my friends are so I have gotten to hear a lot about the changes. Most of them would never encourage anyone to go into teaching at this point. Back then (80's/early 90's),  while the school may have dictated the curriculum/publisher or the "Essential Knowledge and Skills"(EKS) the teachers had a TON of flexibility on how they taught what. They weren't scripted and they weren't bound. They had choice in what they taught. If you were in Mrs. A's class you might read these novels, if you were same grade but in Mrs. B's class you might read different ones. Same textbook, but one teacher might have everyone put on a Shakespeare play, the other might have them write a play etc. That is what I mean by letting them control how/what they teach. They might not have gotten to choose the textbook, but they could decide what they taught out of the textbook and how within a certain extent. The EKS were not as tightly bound. Our teachers were not in lock step to where every class was a replica of the others. 

Of course, back then financing was local and they weren't at the mercy of the state and tax redistribution and of most importance, standardized testing was not THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ON EARTH with everything hinging on that. I think that- the test culture-  has made a massive shift in schooling. Not to mention the added burden of administrative tasks onto teachers that did not exist in other decades, and the liability concerns stripping out playgrounds and any hands on experiences or field trips which have resulted in kids essentially locked in a prison like building for seven hours a day and if they are lucky they get one 15 minute recess after lunch. Maybe outside if they are lucky. But not if it's a test day. And it seems like there are a lot of test days. 

And we did have standardized testing growing up- both in my private schools and when I went to public high school.  And yes, you had to pass it to graduate. But it wasn't plastered all over the front of the school buildings how they ranked and controlling the teachers jobs. They were not teaching to a test. Elementary students were not failed by standardized testing. And most importantly teachers were not being canned for Standardized Testing results. Everything now rotates around those stupid, stupid tests. The teachers have no say over what they teach because every year, they are answering to the tests. I don't blame the teachers. I do however blame the state and the local ISDs and the godforsaken Teachers Unions even more so for allowing it all to happen. I think the whole thing should burn down to the ground and then that ground be sowed with salt as far as Standardized Testing is concerned (and I include the College Testing industry with it). 

But until you ditch the testing, teachers will never have a say of what they teach or how they teach, as the testing not only dictates what they teach but how it's taught due to the asinine testing "strategies" Pearson and other idiot companies come up with to peddle more tests and programs they then change every 24-36 months just around the time the teachers get a grasp on how to teach to the stupid test. 

Not that I am opinionated on the topic. 

I am surprised a public school is trying something so bold in the age of standardized testing because imo, the type of learning that school is doing , and the type of school a lot of us do at home, do not reap in predictable instant results. They will reap, but its going to take a while and most PS ime have zero patience. They want a metric and they want it NOW. So for going outside of that box, I applaud that school for being "progressive" as I guess they are indeed Progressive against the ludicrous Standardized Testing Industrial Public School Complex. 

 

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I agree with you about the testing. 

My mom taught school for a few years in the mid 1960s and she says that she was told exactly what to teach and had no flexibility. She taught middle school English and was given a list of the novels they had to read. 

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1 hour ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

 

And we did have standardized testing growing up- both in my private schools and when I went to public high school.  And yes, you had to pass it to graduate. But it wasn't plastered all over the front of the school buildings how they ranked and controlling the teachers jobs. They were not teaching to a test. Elementary students were not failed by standardized testing. And most importantly teachers were not being canned for Standardized Testing results. Everything now rotates around those stupid, stupid tests. The teachers have no say over what they teach because every year, they are answering to the tests. I don't blame the teachers. I do however blame the state and the local ISDs and the godforsaken Teachers Unions even more so for allowing it all to happen. I think the whole thing should burn down to the ground and then that ground be sowed with salt as far as Standardized Testing is concerned (and I include the College Testing industry with it). 

I loved your whole rant, but this is the quote of the day! 

If anyone wants more info about this, here are some great and appalling books:

The Death and Life of the Great American School System

The Testing Charade

More Than a Score

None of these books care about or discuss homeschooling (and some are very anti charter school); their whole thing is exposing high stakes testing as soul-destroying purveyors of mediocrity.

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