Why Student-First Accreditation for Our Public High Schools
Contributed by Jason Isringhouser
Student-First accreditation for high schools was pioneered by Linda Christas and their affiliate, International Association of Schools and Colleges (I.A.S.C.) over a nine-year period, without a dollar of tax money being expended.
There is a huge benefit for all high school students and teachers when Student-First accreditation creates a foundation favorable for all persons in a classroom being able to lead with their strengths, at the proper time and in the proper way.
Student-First accreditation costs much less to deliver than the current Management-Syllabus model that we have used in American public schools for the past fifty years. Without a change from the Management-Syllabus accreditation model, all programs, including 3R, Vision 15, NCLB, Back to Basics, etc. all have the effect of resurrecting systems from the past and imposing them on the students of today, that is, putting new wine in old wine skins.
In a Student-First high school, for example, the teacher isn't a teacher. He or she becomes an information and direction resource, a student psychologist who understands how students develop, how they learn, and what motivates them. Teachers in this setting have "emotional" intelligence and the skill to cultivate a relationship with each individual student. They must determine exactly where each student is in the development process and what their (the student's) strengths and weaknesses are. They give each student the individual attention he or she needs to feel valued as a human being, which generates motivation.
By establishing a personal relationship with each student, the teacher can determine which subjects and skills need emphasis at each stage of education. Teachers can then protect students from the often cruel criticism of others by not putting them into classes and learning experiences for which they aren't yet ready. They can push or challenge a student to go to the next level just when he or she needs it. In other words, teachers in the Student-First organizational model become expert at delivering customized education. They don't apply the same standardized teaching and testing methods to every student in the classroom regardless of individual differences.
Teachers at the front line facing a room full of students each day are supported by a back line of experts that they can consult. Primary among these are experts available through the Internet, on-staff student counselors and vice-principles and principles, superintendents and school boards. They can put each student in special study courses---self help or online and interactive. If a large enough group of students will benefit, there can be live presentations by local or traveling specialists, either within or beyond the school. And, of course, there are regular courses that almost all students take, but at the right time.
By adopting the Student-First accrediting model, the school becomes wired into the wider community. The community can provide supplementary funding, vocational education suitable to the business interests of the community, and guest lectures by expert retirees. With Internet-capable computers in the classroom, the teacher can rely on an assortment of online programs, videotapes, audiotapes, workbooks, and manuals as teaching aids. Parents, too, can become more involved in stimulating extracurricular education and activities in the home that will augment the school programs.
Our current top-down Management-Syllabus system is primarily a mass educational effort based on left-brain skills that cannot provide the individualized education that our students need to develop their unique creativity, and the right-brain skills needed for a successful future. One expert has postulated that merely by entering the American school system, a student will lose over 90% of his or her natural creativity by the time he or she is finished. Programs such as the 3R, NCLB, and Vision 15, without the foundation of Student-First accreditation, only make this problem worse.
Just as management's fixation with command-and-control hierarchy prevents them from seeing the obvious benefits of the Student-First model, and stifles innovation, so does the the old authoritarian teaching methods keep many teachers and parents from considering the radical changes in high school accreditation that we desperately need.
Many education administrators will tell you that it is the parents who insist that the schools return to the "tried and true" and tested methods of the past.
Our advice to such administrators or parents would be: If you want our children to only learn the linear, left-brain skills that will one day pit them against computers, that would be a good approach. If not, perhaps you should consider the wisdom of the Student-First accrediting model offered by Linda Christas and the I.A.S.C., and begin demanding real change in our educational system rather than a return to outdated tradition.