| Previous Page| EDUCATION TOUR| Next Page|
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.
Please send comments to: Duane Bristow (firstname.lastname@example.org)