American School Accreditation - THE BLIND SIDE - Linda Christas Linda Christas

American School Accreditation - THE BLIND SIDE

By Randall Petersen, LC College, Class of 2011

Michael Oher at Work

Michael Oher at Work

In the American film, The Blind Side, a young Michael Oher, destined in later years to play tackle for a professional football team, Baltimore's Ravens, is portrayed as a teenager about to become yet another of the millions of students each year under-served by America's schools.

These students are not under-served because there aren't sufficient talented teachers or skilled administrators.

Neither are they under-served because of a lack of funding, or facilities or any of the other peripheral justifications often cited for America's abysmal international standing at the secondary school level, and, more and more, at the undergraduate college level as well.

No, these millions of students are under-served because the U.S. has not changed its method of accrediting schools, that is, the underlying formula or structure of its schools, for nearly a hundred years.

America's public schools, and the private schools that must follow their example or suffer from a lack of "recognized" accreditation, are all structured in the same way, that is, textbooks and syllabi (overall plan or course statement) are adopted from afar. Said differently, the instructional game plan for every student is adopted before that individual student's name is known or his/her subject skill levels, learning style, interests, and aptitudes are determined. In many cases, such an evaluation is never done even in a general way, let alone for each course the student undertakes.

Michael Oher - Saved by Student-First (SF) Method

Michael Oher - Saved by Student-First (SF) Method

In addition, students-to-be are grouped, not by level of maturity, but by age, as if students matured at the same time and in the same way, much like apples on a tree. (The American system was taken from a Prussian military manual by John Dewey, and it is a good system if the goal is to train an army whose strength often requires individuality to be fully submerged, and never ever to have the individual soldier in the ranks to think creatively when authority barks an order.)

This article, like literally thousands before it, is not an appeal to the Federal Department of Education on behalf of just America's poorer students, but is rather a re-statement that EVERY student, brilliant or otherwise, subject to the type of accreditation defended so fiercely in the U.S. is being under-served, in that, with the current structure, the best a student will be able to do is score 70% when compared to his or her potential. (See: Stupid in America with John Stossel - YouTube).

Clearly, no other profession, no physician or dentist, no attorney or researcher would decide, before knowing exactly the parameters of a problem or situation, what treatment, precedent, approach or strategy to use to achieve a goal, which, in the case of education, is to launch an individual on the path toward what may in an inexact way be expressed as "being competitive in the international marketplace," with relation to the world's graduates taken as a whole.

True, someone must be on the bottom of the pack, but Belgian and Danish teachers, so long having to swallow their pride as the U.S. dominated the educational universe, now, take a certain satisfaction at America's totally avoidable, self-inflicted implosion.

classroom full of disengaged studentsTo illustrate:

City: Anywhere in the U.S.

Location: Local Public High School or Community College

Who: Students A, B and C

What: Mathematics 2b - Algebra II (Advanced)

1) Student A is an auditory learner. He learns anything he hears almost instantaneously.

However, his visual and tactile learning skills are near zero. Student A has a basic grasp of computational math, but no more, has attained 4th grade reading competence, and has developed to the level of a ten year old in terms of personal maturity.

2) Student B is a visual learner, that is, a student who must see something graphically in order to internalize it. This student has a good grasp of advanced algebra, and is said to have a maturity level well beyond his years.

3) Student C, again placed in the same mathematics classroom, is a tactile learner, and, like Isaac Newton who said, "I don't really understand anything until I can build a model of it," benefits little from either visual or auditory inputs, but blooms when presented mathematics examples that she can feel and hold, i.e., models. This student has a fairly good grasp of basic algebra, and is just about where psychologists say she ought to be in terms of social adjustment.

If I Can Build a Model of It, I Can Understand It - Isaac Newton

If I Can Build a Model of It, I Can Understand It - Isaac Newton

4) In addition to these three students, twenty-three others of various backgrounds, abilities, and interests are placed in Classroom 12D just down the hall from the Principal's or Dean's office, and assigned a teacher who has been given an approved textbook from which to work.

5) Finally, the teacher assigned to this classroom, although a very good instructor - as was on display just two years ago when the students she tutored all passed the AP Calculus BC examination - has never met any of the students she will shortly address, and has no idea about where they are in terms of their subject knowledge, learning styles, maturity levels of any of the other parameters that make up her students to be.

Given this reality, the current accredited system in the United States dictates that this classroom and class situation are complete. We are ready to begin instruction.

The result of turning such a diverse situation over to the teacher is predictable. At best, this teacher will function at a 35% - 70% efficiency level.

However, at worst, we have what we see in the U.S. Two-thousand public high schools in the United States graduate fewer than 50% of their students. Those who are fortunate enough to be placed in a school where the students are more homogeneous are likely to achieve at the high end of this inefficient instructional model.

Stated differently, the more diverse the students to be taught using the top-down, textbook/syllabus system, the closer to the bottom of the assembled group the educational output will be.

student first instructionSince 1960, U.S. classrooms have become MORE dramatically diverse than ever before in the Nation's history.

So, if the U.S. was losing students before 1960 (and it was), if the U.S. was under-serving students before 1960 (and it was), NOW the U.S. has no chance whatsoever of serving the large majority of students, and those we claim to have been served, e.g., the valedictorians of our public schools, do not compare well in terms of acquired knowledge and thinking skills with the average students graduating from similar schools in other developed nations.

The solution to our educational problem presents itself immediately, and to some extent is actually being fought on many undergraduate school campuses where lecturers having "made the mistake" of committing lectures to disc, suddenly find that students do not show up for classes, thus undermining the "system" approved by DOE recognized regional accreditors. These students are telling the schools how best to function, and the schools, even in these situations, are forcing students back into the lackluster mold for the purpose of satisfying accreditors.

The (Student-First) solution has been explained to every President of the U.S. for the past sixty years, all of whom have vowed to correct the educational situation in America. And they have tried. They have also failed because no one will simply change the accreditation requirements, the format that the U.S. is stuck on.... everywhere except for a very few schools, like Linda Christas, the true (original) Waldorf schools before many of them were forced by the state to "change their ways" or lose their funding, and a few others.

dejected studentsLike true professionals, teachers at these few schools are given the information they need to develop an educational experience for each student, to discover the educational solution for each student. And, for the first time, using technology, they can do this job using the same number of teachers and administrators.

In his book, The Roaring 2000's, chapter five, Harry Dent, in a few paragraphs, presents us with the vision of schools as they should be in America, but aren't.

With the talent we have already in the schools, we could do the job, and teachers (and students) would enjoy the educational process, instead of having to be "heroes," in the words of the National Education Association, for reporting to their classrooms.

Student-First (SF) Method Modeled in The Blind Side

Student-First (SF) Method Modeled in The Blind Side

In the 21st century, U.S. students are going to have to compare well with the best graduates the planet has to offer, and, if the U.S. simply gives them a chance to compete, like Michael Oher, Americans still have the most diverse talent array of any group of people on Earth.

In other words, currently America's diversity is working against the Nation.

In a Student-First accredited school, diversity becomes an advantage.

In The Blind Side, we see some teachers in the Student-First mode who are willing to accommodate Michael Oher as an individual.

We also see another group of teachers who, sincerely believing they are upholding quality education, demand that either their students meet the standards by themselves, or fail.

common sense is a superhero powerWell, there are plenty of F's given in America.

The U.S. enjoys the worst dropout rate in the developed world. And, as icing on the cake, we also have the highest expulsion rate of any developed nation. (And, of course, we have the most people incarcerated per capita than any other nation.)

Currently, when we are told that a school in America carries a "recognized" accreditation, that simply means that an accreditor approved by the Federal Department of Education has verified that textbooks and syllabi are in place before students are known. Accreditation in America means that programs are adopted without teachers being aware of any of the specifics, most commonly not even the students' names, prior to the first day of instruction.

With twenty-five to thirty students in a classroom, all with different talents, different ways of approaching learning, different levels of skill, different maturity levels and different aptitudes; and teachers who know nothing about their students the first day of class, what chance is there that each student is going to flourish, each student is going to be given a 100% opportunity to pursue the happiness that success in any endeavor brings?

Common sense tells us what we should expect from such a system, and, as is usually the case, common sense hasn't let us down.

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