"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Edison Teacher Speaks About For-Profit Charter

In January Peter Campbell did this piece on his visit to Confluence Academy, one of Whittle's corporate welfare schools in St. Louis that is soaking up public dollars to turn a profit for Edison stockholders. This morning a Confluence teacher responds:
I am a white teacher in an Edison school, and I could not agree with this article more. I believe one of the greatest problems facing Edison schools is that its priority for making a profit comes before the education of its children. I believe in this educator’s philosophy of education - that students learn by being engaged in the learning process. At Confluence Academy this might be possible if there were not nearly 30 children in each classroom. 25 - 30 students to one instructor in an urban elementary environment is a ridiculous idea, an idea that is motivated by money and a reality that is absolutely daunting for many of the new, inexperienced teachers it chooses to hire. Superfluous spending should be cut so that classes can be smaller. Smaller classes would offer each child more attention, making it less likely that children would feel the need to fight for attention. Smaller classrooms would naturally create an environment where students could more positively interact with their teacher and one another, and less time would be spent on classroom control. Many elementary schools are able to offer this kind of environment, even though many receive just as much, if not less money.

Students at Confluence Academy are bored. They arrive at school at the crack of dawn and are in the building 8-9 hours each day. During this time, especially in the winter, few students are given recess. No wonder they wiggle!

While I do not believe a teacher’s role is to entertain students, I do agree that the learning environment should be highly interactive and oftentimes fun, and the teachers should strive to spark the imaginations of their students by taking them out of the classroom for starters. Edison Schools would probably say it agrees with this idea, but its current system is too inefficient to make this possible. Confluence Academy is in need of ground-up reform if it really hopes to make a difference in the lives of the students it claims to serve.
In the 19th Century, Hampton's Industrial Model was seen as the solution to the "Negro problem." In the 21st Century, will it be called Edison, or will we use the more generic term, Direct Instruction?

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