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MORE ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION MODELS

TIME SPENT UNITS AND LONG TERM BEHAVIOR PATTERNS

One of the repercussions of the patterns of behavior transmitted from one event to another is reflected in time-spent units. Most adults experienced the school day divided into segments of 50-minute periods. This has been translated to television and media viewing which is divided into the same segments sixty-minute blocks with 15 minutes of commercials (or the time it takes to get from one class to another). This has also been further divided into billboards, movie, television and computer factoids. The work day is filled with scheduled meeting from one profession to the next in time organized fashion. Which has been further segmented into the time spent by families with their children divided into frames of eating, sleeping, extra-curricular, technology viewing. There is so much emphasis on time-spent that one cannot imagine a world without a clock or watch. There is so much emphasis on time to the second and minute that it must be manipulated for accuracy twice a year. There is no end to the division of the day, all employed from having been preprogrammed with the time-spent units while in school.  Having researched newspapers, magazines and other printed media prior to the advent of time-spent units in schools and the innovation of television, there existed depth of coverage of articles and events, depth of interrelationships with people and more depth in finding causes and treatments and cures for ailments. Although the doctor valued his time in the past, his emphasis on the patient and spending time with the patient was utmost to recovery. Today, if you spent 15 minutes with the physician in a clinic or office setting, one feels lucky. The ramifications of the time-spent unit has evolved the career path of psychology because no longer do friends and neighbors have the time to converse. No longer is there time to listen. No longer is there time to figure out, much less relax and take a breath, the problems faced daily. This fast forward pace, although a few decades ago, marketing moguls informed the public that ‘leisure was the basis of culture’ and that technology would enable us to have more and more leisure time. Remember how the  work week was going to last 20 hours and that more and more time would be spent on fun and enjoyment? The continuous pattern of segmenting the day further and further to one activity and another has created more stress for us and our children, more anxiety and less joy and fun. Time-spent has become life spent.

CHARTER SCHOOLS AND VOUCHERS

Elementary and Secondary School Act allowed for Charter Schools in 1965 but the first school in US was 1991. The General Standards of the PA Public School Code of Act 22 1997 enacted legislation for Charter Schools in PA Charter schools, were an attempt to develop new and innovative curriculum, programs or whole school models into the public schools without disrupting the status quo. Like their counterparts, the university laboratory Day Care centers of the 1960’s, the government decided that this would be the best venue for alternate models to be developed outside of the public institution. Research demonstrated through the restructuring efforts of many school districts in the 1970’s and 1980’s, that the only time the school infrastructure could be changed was from small successful pilot projects not whole school district endeavors. In restructuring, an outside team would assist all major players to agree on a common goal- that is, school board, superintendents, principals, teachers, parents and community leaders. Unfortunately, after three to five years of committee meetings, all experimental districts returned to what was familiar and safe.

Educational changes linger over committee meetings, continual changes in administration, school boards, governmental legislation, red tape and union negotiations. If education is going to keep pace with technology, then Distance Learning is the obvious choice.

The greatest assets of Distance Learning include:

  • eliminating time spent units by enabling student to complete tasks at their own pace;
  • enabling students to study subject matter with more depth;
  • ability to determine which courses are studied;
  • desire to be in the safety and security of the home rather than the crime ridden schools;
  • one-on-one relationship to professor;
  • responsibility of learning is on the student where it belongs.
  • greater time demands on teachers
  • immediate realtime communication
  • instant results
  • long held beliefs the children need an adult supervision is dismissed
  • continuity rather than time-spent units
  • upon graduation, mysteriously and magically student have a clear integration of subject matter unlike their public school counterparts;
  • everyone learns at their own rate regardless of their age;
  • textbooks need is eliminated
  • technology innovations occur every 6-12 months. A student attending community college for technology certification has obsolete skills before she graduates.

Charter Schools like the Harambee Institute of Science and Technology in Philadelphia, are giving students an identity, a community, nurturing and competence, the essentials lacking in most urban districts. In a comparative analysis, research shows the following about Distance Learning;

If monitored properly: If unmonitored:
STRONG POINTS WEAK POINTS
One-on-one lack communication skills
Private, quiet, good concentration lonely/alone
Time to play isolation
Time for quiet brain dysfunction; overuse
Humane cocoon existence
Sensitizing social skills lacking
Time spent responsibly emotional skills lacking
Self-motivation wired; edgy
Initiative active
Creativity addicted
Violence free  
Free of peer pressure
Stable, family fundamentals  
Free of conflicting values  
Cause-effect healthy  
Graduation in less time
Instant accessibility to information  

There are so many misperceptions about the success and failure of charter schools that only a few reasons will be cited here as examples. Novel enterprises are a threat to the status quo. As wonderful as this laboratory setting of Charter Schools may seem, it has had little success in changing the status quo of the school district it inhabits because from the very beginning, the charter concept has been labeled as a threat to public education by some and adds to the difficulties of dwindling finances from state and Federal coffers for others. Charter schools are considered ‘evil’ by schools districts because the financial base of the district is threatened by its presence. For every child that attends a Charter school, the jurisdictional public school district must pay that Charter school a per-pupil amount equitable to the tax base. For some school districts, that could be anywhere from $6,000 per year to $8,000 per year per student. For example, in Pennsylvania, children who attend Charter Schools, for the most part, cannot use any public school resources. This includes participating in after school programs, sports clubs or summer school. This is in direct violation of the purpose behind Charter Schools which was meant to enhance the district not detract from it. The problem with the human condition is that novelty always engenders fear, especially fears of loss. So charter schools have been plagued in most states with the assumed fear of loss of jobs, funding and collapse. Unfortunately, districts do not see the potential of charters as a means out of the dilemma of declining student performance but rather as another burden.

In addition, the combination of vouchers and Charter schools has posed an impending peril for school districts. Rural portions of some states which might have a per pupil ratio of $6,000 per child, found students who are attending Charter schools on line. In rural schools district, which might have an agricultural base and few students, $42,000 is a lot of money to lose for one year for a student who is attending an on line accredited school. Yet, who are politicians to judge what constitutes a good education for student? If the student excels in studies and the school district is not meeting the needs of that student, WHY don’t the student and parents have the option to define what is best? The legislators are deliberating about this dilemma.

In one year, the mayor of Philadelphia declined 23 of the 25 charter applications. For example, one of the reasons the mayor declined one school application was because there were a number of private Catholic schools in the area. The private school children would then come to the charter school, adding to the burden of the school district who did not have these students enrolled the previous year. Having been elsewhere and not previously enrolled in the public school, the district did not receive reimbursement for them. However, the reason for students attending the Catholic school and the reason for the Chinatown charter being declined was because the public schools in that neighborhood are so deplorable, parents have no other choice but to send their children to the Catholic schools. Imagine the dismay of parents in Chinatown who are Buddhists or Hindu’s having to send their children to Catholic school because it is the only decent school in the area. Yet, in many states, charter schools have been the redeeming quality for faltering, unmanageable public schools.

The voucher or privatization of schools like the Chester Upland, in Pennsylvania, which was taken over by the governor Tom Ridge through the Empowerment Act of 2000, is now becoming a private school. This means that the parents in that area will receive a stipend from the state to attend the private school of their choice in the Chester area where there is only one public school and two charter schools. If the tax base in Chester is $4,000 per pupil because of the economic base then that is all parents will receive in reimbursements. However, the private school has no ceiling over what it charges for tuition because it is a private enterprise. So, the private school charges $6,000 per pupil. Where do poor parents find the resources to pay for their child’s education? Further, as a private school, it has the discretion to permit or eject students based on behavior, grades or any other standard it chooses. It can also raise tuition year after year without any obligation to students with vouchers. These schools tend to become elitist and poor children are barred from attending for one reason or another. These are the untold secrets of vouchers. Just because the state allots certain amounts of money per pupil does not mean that it will cover the yearly tuition and book fees.

A prime example is the Edison project, private schools across the nation established by a group of wealthy businessmen who assumed that operating a school was no different than operating a good business. Confident in their philosophy, the corporation is listed on the stock exchange. Seeking to cure the ills of education, the schools were internally organized with methodology that reflected the deficiencies Americans considered critical in order to restore order such as under paid professionals, lack of ownership by major players, longer school year to complete subject matter. Children have a longer day and school year and wear uniforms. Teachers are paid higher salaries and receive stock in the company. Company executives designed the curriculum. In a television interview, owner Chris Whittle, stated that they have exactly the same problems as every school and recently they have been collaborating with local pubic schools to ‘think tank’ the problems away. In addition, Chris must constantly focus on the bottom line- his stockholders, whose interests are profit margins. Is this the cure for the educational dilemma? Do profit margins and a children’s welfare go hand-in-hand? IF vouchers were the answer, then one state in the US that has had vouchers for thirty years would be number one in the nation in education. Do you know what state that is? My point exactly….

DISTANCE LEARNING

Attila the Hun’s greatest war plan was to always find the weakest link in the opponents battle strategy and strike that weak link repeatedly until they fell. Like the Hun, Distance Learning has managed to capitalize on weaknesses of the educational infrastructure and come in through the back door. On-line schools are attracting more and more of bright and wealthy children and the public schools will be left with the poor minorities.

DL is affecting every aspect of the educational internal infrastructure that appears obsolete. Some of these areas include; textbooks, controlled environments, core curriculum, Carnegie units, time, testing, group/peer interaction, and theories of learning.  Distance Learning is changing the landscape of American education. This is not a new concept. Years ago, it was called Correspondence School. Students have been receiving an education in other manners other than the four corners of the classroom for generations. Pat Montgomery became weary of the public school system in Chicago and 28 years ago, started the Clonlora School, one of the first K-12 distance learning schools in the world. Pat travels the globe educating countries demonstrating academic excellence through the distances. Sandy Hurst of Upatinas School and Open Connections in Pennsylvania are private schools catering to the distance learning student as well.  Distance Learning is a time-honored method of learning that has been traditionally open to children who were at-risk, home schooled or did not fit into the traditional educational setting.

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