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Education in Rural Kentucky - Recommendations



        To:  York Porter, School Board Member


        The following is submitted in reply to your request for 
        specific ideas for improvement of the school system:

        An excellent education is essential to each of us as individuals 
        and to our children.  It is only though education that we can 
        achieve all that we are capable of achieving and have as happy 
        and fulfilling a life as possible.  Education is necessary to 
        gain economic independence, philosophical value systems, and 
        cultural appreciation. 

        An excellent educational system is also essential to our 
        nation.  The strength of a democracy is dependent on intelligent 
        informed voters and skillful, well-trained workers.

        It is my belief that to get excellence in education, it will be 
        necessary that we have a statement of objectives and plans for 
        our educational system on which the majority can agree.  This 
        can be formulated only with a lot of public discussion and 
        compromise on divergent view points.

        The following pages contain my ideas of problems and proposals 
        for some guiding principles for the school system in Clinton 
        County, Kentucky.  They are submitted with the hope that they 
        can act as a starting place for the type of discussions 
        necessary and that they can eventually be expanded and modified 
        to become the statement of purpose and planning framework that 
        can guide our school system toward improvements now and in the 
        future. 


        __________________________
        Duane Bristow
        Albany, Kentucky
        (606) 387-5884
        March 23, 1992
        -----------------------------------------------------------

               Observations about the Clinton County School System
                        by Duane Bristow, (606) 387-5884
                                February 23, 1992

        The purpose of an educational system is to give students the 
        life skills necessary to enable them to lead happy, productive, 
        and useful lives.  This means they must develop communication, 
        social, vocational and study skills, learn the essence of their 
        culture, and get a good working knowledge of math and science.  
        In general a high school graduate should be well prepared either 
        for college, trade school, or entering the job market or the 
        military.  He should also have a knowledge of his culture and 
        the social and family skills necessary to live a satisfying 
        life.  The job done by the Clinton County school system in 
        preparing students is not at all adequate, either in comparison 
        to what is needed or to what is possible or to the job done by 
        many other school systems in the nation and the world. 

        This is because there is no overall commitment by school 
        officials and employees, parents, students, and the community in 
        general to a well defined and accepted set of educational goals 
        and to a plan for achieving those goals.  As a result there is 
        no sense of continuity, high expectations, pride, or 
        accomplishment in the educational process.  The present purpose 
        of the system seems to be to hire as many local people as 
        possible to staff classrooms in which as many children as 
        possible will spend the required number of days for 12 years of 
        their life and to call the result an educated person.  The 
        emphasis is on employment, baby sitting, and sports. 

        Students entering high school lack adequate motivation, 
        discipline, and preparation to learn.  This is because that we 
        do not instill a sense of purpose and love of learning in the
        first eight grades and we do not give students the necessary 
        study skills and basic background knowledge.  Many students 
        therefore, instead of viewing school as a window on the world 
        which can shed light on their lives, see it as a dungeon in 
        which they are sentenced to kill time while awaiting adulthood.
        We have a tendency to destroy the young child's natural 
        curiosity instead of encouraging it.

        Our school system is run for the benefit of the employees not 
        for the benefit of the students.  To some degree courses are 
        offered in the high school based on what teachers want to teach 
        rather than on a plan for offering what students need to learn. 
        Employee salaries are raised based on the maximum amount 
        available to give.  The purpose of employee raises should be to 
        attract and keep high quality employees and to reward good and 
        outstanding performance.  Budget considerations should be given 
        first to student needs, then to employee raises, not vice versa.  
        Recently employees were being given large raises while 6, 7, and
        8 year old children were sent door to door selling candy to raise 
        money to buy equipment for the school playground.  Very seldom, 
        if ever, has our school system made a conscious effort to 
        recruit teachers with the skills and background needed for a 
        perceived student need.  Rather jobs have been created for local 
        people who needed a job.  The present system of assigning bus 
        drivers for field trips is based on rotating drivers to be fair 
        to the drivers, not on choosing the best driver for a specific 
        trip with the safety of the children in mind.  Many other 
        examples could be given. 
 
        Examples of the lack of high expectations abound.  Children are 
        not provided soap in the bathrooms when they wash their hands.  
        I have observed students at the high school at the end of the 
        day taking down the American flag.  Once I saw them fold it into 
        a cocked hat and carry it reverently into the school.  On other 
        occasions I have seen them use the flag for a tug of war, drag 
        in on the ground, wad it up, or simply throw it over their 
        shoulder to carry it into the building.  At most schools many
        teachers race the children at the end of the day to be the first 
        to leave the school parking lot. 

        Students come to high school unprepared.  While in high school 
        they do not have access to the proper courses, an adequate 
        variety of stimulating courses, or courses offering enough 
        detail.  In almost all courses the students do not even complete 
        the text book during the school year.  This is because they are 
        not prepared or expected to work hard enough to do so and 
        because it is usually not one of the teacher's goals.  I doubt if 
        there is any serious goal as to what the student is supposed to 
        learn in most courses.  More likely, the goal is simply that the 
        students spend so many days studying the subject.  Teachers are 
        often not adequately trained in the subject they are teaching.  
        Tests are usually designed to be easy enough for most students 
        to pass not as a goal or standard for which to strive.  Very 
        little and usually superficial homework is given.  The emphasis 
        is on memorizing and parroting back facts, not on hands on 
        experience in the subject field.  There is very little challenge
        for good students.

        Our schools were criticized several years ago because students'
        scores on statewide achievement tests were low.  Since then I 
        think I have noticed a disturbing tendency to emphasize tests 
        and test taking, perhaps at the expense of learning the subject 
        material.  I submit that memorizing facts in order to pass a 
        multiple choice or true false test is not the same thing as 
        becoming a master of subject material.  We would probably do 
        better to emphasize hands on, small group research projects, 
        simulations, essays and papers, essay type tests, outlining, 
        thinking, problem solving, and grades based more on daily 
        evidence of mastery of the subject material rather than tests.  
        I am afraid we are in danger of graduating students who know 
        full well who wrote the Declaration of Independence and when he 
        did it but have not the foggiest notion of why the heck he did 
        it nor of its significance. 

        When my older son went to college he found that many kids from 
        other school systems were much better prepared than he was even 
        though he had been an A student in high school.  He found that 
        he had been taught less and graded easier than many other 
        students.  As a result he feels that our local educational 
        system has failed him.  I hope that each principal in each of 
        our schools is fully aware of the type of teaching job being 
        done by each teacher.  I hope they are commending and 
        recommending higher pay for the best ones and I hope they are 
        helping and counseling the worst ones.

        The two most important things a teacher can do are to motivate 
        the student to learn and to give him the study skills to do so.
        ----------------------------------------------------------------

               Fundamental skills needed by a high school graduate
                     as envisioned by Duane Bristow, Philom.
                                Albany, Kentucky
                                 (606) 387-5884
                                 CIS 72711,1414
                               BBS (606) 387-4002

        1.  Ability to think, learn, & communicate
                Logic & propaganda - problem solving        --  1 unit
                        scientific methods
                        american judicial system
                        advertising & propaganda analysis
                        elementary rules of logic
                Research & study skills & writing           --
                        libraries                             |
                        interviews                            | 1 unit
                        computer use                          |
                        writing skills                        |
                Humanities - philosophy & religion            |
                        Purpose of life                       |
                        Answers given by the major religions  |
                        philosophical thought               --
                Public speaking & presentations
                        speaking
                        visual & other aids
                        how to win friends & influence people
                        debate
                Media studies
                        influence of TV, Radio, newspapers
                        how are they structured?
                Statistics
                        How to do the math and interpret statistics
                        Use and misuse of statistics
                        hands on statistical studies
        2.  Cultural awareness
                World History                               --  1 unit
                American History                            --  1 unit
                Government & political science              --  1 unit
                Literature                                  --  2 units
                Art                                         --  1/2 unit
                Music                                       --  1/2 unit
                Drama
                Foreign language(s)
                Geography
                Economics
                Environmental issues
                Social issues

        3.  Science skills                              any 4 units
                Biology with lab                        at least one
                Chemistry with lab                      with lab
                Physics with lab
                Astronomy
                Geology
                Psychology
                Sociology
                Human physiology
        4.  Math skills                                  any 3 units
                Algebra I & II
                Geometry
                Trigonometry
                Calculus
                Computer Science
        5.  Life skills
                Sex education, family life                  --  1 unit
                Health, drugs                               --  1/2 unit
                P.E., sports                                --  1/2 unit
                Driver's education                          --  1/2 unit
                Touch typing (could be taught by computer)  --  1/2 unit
                Business Mgt. & Accounting                  --  1 unit
        6.  Vocational skills
                Agriculture
                Home Economics
                Photography
                Journalism
                Office management & office machines
                etc.

        The schools should emphasize learning by doing.  There should be 
        a number of projects in each department designed to immerse the 
        student in the learning process usually in a group situation and 
        usually involving extra work outside the classroom both during 
        and after regular school hours.  We should do away with multiple 
        choice and true/false tests as well as test grading machines.  
        Grades should be based on the student's daily work, research 
        papers and essay type tests.  Communication skills including 
        speaking, writing, reading comprehension and preparation of 
        visual aids should be emphasized in all classes.  Technology and 
        application to the student's daily life should be utilized in 
        all departments.  Projects carried out by learning groups of 3 
        to 8 students should be designed so that the active 
        participation of all students is necessary to accomplish 
        objectives.  Learning occurs almost exclusively through 
        experience and through reflection on that experience. 

        Each student should come to school each morning with high 
        expectations of the work to be done, the knowledge to be gained 
        and the school environment.  He should leave each evening with a 
        feeling that there is more to be done and to be learned and he 
        should continue work at home or in groups with other schoolmates 
        on projects begun that day.  These projects should result by the 
        next day in a number of questions for the learning facilitators 
        and with plans for the students exploring answers for 
        themselves. 

        Each teacher should have a detailed and written outline for each 
        class stating the goals of the class as far as material to be 
        covered and mastered by each student as well as criteria for 
        determining when and to what extent each student has mastered 
        the material.  This should be supplemented by detailed lesson 
        plans for teaching each unit of the material.  The plans should 
        include essays and term papers, text book use, class exercises, 
        outside research materials and activities and expected time 
        required to cover each unit.  All these individual class plans 
        should be reviewed by principals and staff planning committees 
        so that they are integrated into the school district goals and 
        plans.  These plans should then be reviewed and revised as 
        necessary during and at the end of each school year to ensure 
        continuous improvement.
                                    
        Fundamental Principles:

        Educators should be involved in education at least 90% of their 
        time. 

        School support functions including bookkeeping, transportation, 
        food, and maintenance do not require educators and should be 
        supervised by experts in these respective fields. 

        Principals and administrative educators including the school 
        superintendent should spend their time innovating, improving, 
        and supervising the educational process and should not be 
        directly involved in support functions except for making 
        requests of needed services or changes from support function 
        personnel and, in the case of the superintendent, providing 
        direct supervision of a Business Manager. 

        The Business Manager should be a business management professional.

        It is necessary that there be vastly improved lines of 
        communication between the administrative staff and the general 
        public, parents, teachers, students, etc. 

        Change attitudes of pupils and parents toward the schools 
        starting at 1st grade.  Emphasize: 
        a.  Learning is fun.   (motivation) (the world is a mystery and
                      we learn to solve it through education)
            Success is a satisfying life derived from knowledge.
        b.  How to learn (study skills).
        c.  Reading and Writing (communication skills)
        d.  Cooperative effort between schools, students, parents, community.
        e.  We can do it if we believe we can.  (Our school system can be
            the best in the state.)
        f.  School behavior will be proper.  No tolerance of:
              1.  Disrespect toward teachers.
              2.  Disrespect or improper behavior toward fellow students.
              3.  Destruction of school property.
              4.  Uncivilized behavior.  Littering, unflushed commodes, 
                  throwing food, etc.

        Questions & notes:

        What should be the ground rules for school field
        trips?  What are their advantages?  What are their
        disadvantages?  Should they be encouraged 
        or discouraged by the system?

        What should be the place of sports, band, choir,
        academic and other clubs, and other extracurricular
        activities in the school?  What about academic teams?
        What are the advantages and disadvantages of all
        these?  What should the ground rules be?

        In what ways should teachers be held accountable for
        their performance?  What should be the rules for 
        rewards for good performance?  How should poor 
        performance be handled?  How should performance be
        evaluated?

        How much should homework, other outside class work, summer 
        reading programs, etc. be stressed?  What are the problems and 
        advantages of these? 

        In what ways can the teacher's schedule be changed to allow 
        cooperative planning among teachers and exposure by teachers to 
        new and different teaching methods? 

        What are our needs regarding research materials and 
        opportunities? 

        We have 175 days of instruction per school year ?
        After graduation follow-up - college and job success rates 
        ungraded education ?
        Sex education 
        cooperation among teachers, parents, etc.
        cooperative learning & hands on learning
        grades, tests, goals, course contents
        curriculum and subjects - graduation requirements
        textbooks
        technology
        --------------------------------------------------------------
        Examples of school projects:
                To prevent the dry memorization of facts and parroting 
        them back which turns so many students off to the educational 
        process the following examples of projects are offered.  I'm 
        sure a brain storming session could come up with many others.  A 
        cooperative effort among teachers and involvement by the parents 
        and the entire community would be necessary. 

        History:
                Use a video camera to record oral history interviews of 
        local people and create an ongoing series of these interviews on 
        video tape in the library. 

                With the Art department create a mosaic time-line of 
        American History all along one wall of a high school hall.  
        Include items of Kentucky History and local history as 
        appropriate.  Display items used in the past but no longer 
        common.  This same idea could, of course, be applied to World 
        history, or European history or Chinese history. 

                Research projects, oral presentations, group written 
        essays along with visual aids for various periods of history 
        including viewing movies such as Ken Burns, "The Civil War" 
        series, etc. 

                Outside reading and book reports on well written 
        biographies of historical figures. 

                Encouragement of additional research on any time period 
        in which the class shows unusual interest. 

                Essays on the student's impression of daily life for a 
        person of a certain age and occupation at a specified time and 
        place in the past. 

                Develop and present plays about specific historical 
        occurrences.  This should involve the drama department. 

        Math:
                Use the pythagorean theorem to measure the distance 
        across a stream or other unreachable area. 

                Use similiar triangles to measure the height of a tree. 

                Let various students groups measure the height of 30 
        people selected at random from the population.  Do a statistical 
        analysis of the data stratified by age and sex.  Discuss 
        conclusions which can be drawn and how valid they are likely to 
        be. 

                Survey the school grounds and calculate the area in 
        acres. 

                Set up time and distance problems.  Calculate the
        speed of automobiles passing the school grounds.

                With the social studies class measure the flow of a 
        stream and calculate its suitablity as a water supply for the 
        town.  Calculate the population that it could supply and the 
        effect on the stream of doing so. 

        Put a much greater emphasis on reading problems in math so that
        the student is forced to think of applications of what he has 
        learned.

        Social Studies:

                Assign student groups to take each side on any 
        controversial issue now in the news media, do research, and 
        conduct a public debate on the issue. 

                Give out play money and let student groups do economic 
        research and design a strategy to invest in the stock market for 
        a two month period following up with stock market prices from 
        the newspaper each day. See which group can make the best return 
        on investment. 

                Assume that Lake Cumberland disappears overnite.  Assign 
        student groups to find the best alternative water source for the 
        community, other student groups to determine costs and find 
        financing methods, other groups to consider environmental 
        impacts, etc. 

                Assume that the County Government is given free of 
        charge a 100 acre tract of land near Albany.  Assign student 
        groups to make arguments for using the land for recreation, 
        industry, education, housing, and other uses.  Let them do 
        research and develop arguments to present to the fiscal court.  
        Finish with an actual presentation to a mock fiscal court which 
        must decide the issue. 

                Design a computerized Sim City with the largest possible 
        population. 

        English:

                Sponsor a school newspaper complete with editor, 
        reporters, columnists, sales staff, etc.  Publish monthly. 

                Put on talent contests including readings of original 
        poetry, comedy skits, excerpts from popular movies and plays, 
        musical renditions (with music department) etc. 


   .....continue here with examples from other departments:...........

        ----------------------------------------------------------------

                               A Student's Creed

        I am a student of the Clinton County School System.  This means 
        that I can be proud because I am better than the other people I 
        will come in contact with throughout life.  I am better because 
        I was given a better start in life due to the determination of 
        my family, people in my community, and the leaders of my school 
        system to give me the highest possible quality of education.  

        Therefore if I go on to higher education or a professional 
        career I will be able to succeed and excel.  If I join the 
        military, I will be one of the best soldiers and one of the 
        first to be promoted.  If I become a part of the labor force I 
        will be a leader, a hard worker, and the worker showing the most 
        initiative.  If I become a businessman, I will, not only be 
        successful, but I will also be an asset to my community always 
        making it better than when I found it.  If I become a secretary, 
        or a housewife or a politician or an explorer or any of the 
        hundreds of other opportunities open to me, I will always excel.

        I can be proud because I come from a school system and a 
        community with the highest standards.  A place where everyone is
        expected to be neat and clean in personal habits, respectful of 
        and tolerant of the rights of others, respectful of both public 
        and private property always caring for the property of others as 
        if it were my own.  A place where there is a love of life and of 
        learning to reach the highest potential of each individual.  A 
        place where there is a tradition of hard work to achieve lofty 
        goals.  A place where expectations are not for us to be as good 
        as anyone but to be better.  A place where we are provided with 
        the very best teachers and faculty who teach us more and expect 
        more of us than in other school systems.

        I can be sure of myself and confident of my beliefs, my 
        standards, and my future success because I know that my school 
        system gave me an excellent background in:

        Philosophy so that I could decide what life is about and what I 
        want out of life and be motivated to work to get it.

        Health, hygiene and social relations so that I can live a long 
        and healthy life, have good manners and get along well with 
        others. 

        Study skills so that I know how to do research and learn the 
        things I do not know.

        Language, composition, and oral communications skills as well as 
        public relations so that I can communicate effectively with 
        others.

        Mathematics and logic so that I am adept at abstract thought and 
        am able to see mathematical and quantitative relationships.
 
        History, geography and social studies so that I can have a sense 
        of perspective of my place in the vast scheme of the universe. 

        Science so that I know how things work together and so that I 
        know how to obtain knowledge.

        Literature, poetry, music, drama and art so that I will be aware 
        of and appreciate my cultural heritage. 

        Physical education and sports so that I have a strong and healty 
        body and am aware of the value of hard work, practice, and 
        teamwork for success.

        In my behavior both now and throughout my life I will always 
        strive to bring honor and never dishonor to my family, my school 
        and my community.  I will always work to and expect to succeed 
        and, if in some things I fail, I will hold my head high and 
        determine to learn from the experience and do better in the 
        future.  I will know that my successes are due to my abilities 
        and my hard work and that my failures will never be because I 
        did not do my best.  I will always live so that others will be 
        impressed by the example I set and so that I am always an asset 
        and never a liability to any group of which I am a part.

        In the Clinton County School System our sports and academic 
        teams are always present for practice, listen to their coaches, 
        and work hard so that they can usually win.  And if we play 
        another team and, through some freak accident of nature, lose, 
        we will so impress the other team and their fans with our good 
        sportsmanship, our polite behavior, our neat dress, the 
        cleanliness and quality of our team bus or, if at home, our 
        school facilities, that they will remember for a very long time 
        the fact that they played us and the hard game we gave them. 

        Clinton County School students love to learn and expect to work 
        hard at the process.  It is common to spend at least two hours 
        every night on homework.  If enough homework is not available 
        most students will work on extra credit projects assigned by the 
        teachers at the beginning of each school year and thereby learn 
        more.  After twelve years of school in this system then, we will 
        all have been exposed to more education than students from any 
        comparable school systems. 


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Last revised June 2, 1996.

Please send comments to: Duane Bristow (72711.1414@compuserve.com)