>The U.S. Department of Education just recently released a paper titled Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology. While I applaud a large portion of what I am reading, I am noticing a gap between expectations and reality. I realize that expectations need to be set high and that our goals should require some effort to meet. However, I take issue with the point I am at now on pages 11 and 12. The paper discusses individualized, personalized and differentiated instruction. Each has it’s own explanation given and each refers to a way to reach students on more than one level. As educators, we want to do our best to reach every student, but to what extent do we individualize, personalize and differentiate instruction? Are we to become teaching contortionists? Also, how do we address the students that simply don’t do the work? We can make every effort to engage our students in diverse and meaningful ways, but when a student fails, it is all too often that the teachers, the school, and the system get blamed. At what point do we stop cow-towing to the students and set expectations for them to put some work into their own futures? We cannot always blame the system.
Yes, however, we do need some fundamental changes to our education system, but we NEED funding first. So much of what we’d like to do in our schools is hampered by money or really a lack thereof. How can we provide an education environment where teachers are knowledgeable in emerging technologies and where laptops, smartboards and handheld electronics are integrated into lessons, when our budgets are shrinking and classes sizes are growing? How can a teacher effectively individualize, personalize and differentiate learning at a high school level for 125 students, when at any given time students are absent, cutting, suspended, being called out for assemblies, meetings, and drills and teachers must grade 5 page essays for each student, call parents, email, network, attend meetings, and acquire training on this or that state mandated thing. If our expectations are such that we should be innovative and match modern day, real world practices to learning in the school, then teachers should be able to expect modern day, real world salaries and funding.
No, it’s not all about money, but yes, money has it’s role. You can’t produce diamonds from our schools by simply applying pressure.