Education must join 21st Century

Published 5:20 am Sunday, August 11, 2013

Are we teaching our children to think or simply memorize facts to answer questions on standardized tests?

In many cases we are using 19th Century teaching techniques to educate our 21st Century students.

That has to change.

It is a large reason why both America’s education system and our economy is falling behind others across the world.

Don’t miss the cover story in today’s issue of Parade magazine that should be inserted inside your Tribune. It offers eye-opening commentary on ways experts believe our education system can be improved.

Many of these are commonsense initiatives that have been implemented in at least some capacity but others can only be achieved by innovative thinking that isn’t driven by static measures of success like No Child Left Behind.

For those who haven’t seen it, here are direct quotes of what the magazine editors point to as key elements featured in the article:

Begin the Day “Over Easy” With Breakfast — A 2011 survey found that though 77 percent of young children eat breakfast every day, only 50 percent of middle schoolers and 36 percent of high schoolers get a regular morning meal. At Ellis Elementary in Denver, teachers are reinventing homeroom as a morning meeting over eggs and toast. Tardiness and missed school days have dropped off significantly since the program began.

Learning, Not Testing — Government programs like No Child Left Behind have left educators overwhelmed with testing and test prep, leading to an increasingly dysfunctional public school system, experts say. As a result, we are producing many grads who are great test takers but not great learners.

Teach 21st-Century Skills — In a Gallup poll this year of 1,014 young adults, those who said they had learned “21st-Century skills” (like developing solutions to real-world problems) during their last year in high school were twice as likely to describe themselves as successful in the workplace. Three ways to develop such talents: Emphasize long-term projects; use technology; make classes multidisciplinary.

“Flip” The Class Work — In a “flipped” classroom, instead of listening to their teacher give a lecture, students are sent home with short video lectures, then spend class time having the concepts reinforced with interactive labs or discussions. When the system is implemented correctly, students get exposed to the most engaging lectures available and teachers get to spend class time on collaborative work and feedback for students.

Say “Yes!” To Recess — Says one expert, “Studies show that daily physical activity allows students to perform at their optimum. It’s counterproductive to push for more academic time without also allowing regular breaks to process what they’ve learned.” Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign asks schools to build at least 60 minutes of physical activity into each day.

Get Creative! — Another way for kids to get those much-needed breaks is to reincorporate creative subjects like art, music, theater, or dance. Creative pursuits engage different parts of students’ brains and can actually enhance kids’ performance in core subjects.

Go Longer … And Better — In today’s society, where nearly 60 percent of families have two working parents, lengthening the school day to better align with the workday makes sense, as long as longer days don’t translate into more time spent sitting in class, learning the same things. The school day should be supplemented with more opportunities for learning, which can also help close the achievement gap between affluent and low-income students.

In most cases, the problem isn’t the teachers but instead the system put in place by state and local governments.

It’s time to give our children a chance to learn in ways that will help them succeed in life. Shouldn’t that be overall objective of education?


Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCaldwell_IT.