Edutopia’s 10 Big Ideas to Improve Public Education


>>George: I strongly believe that education is the
single most important job that the human race has.>>Teacher: We’re actually out to
reform the public school system.>>Student: You know, we’re not
stupid, we have a lot of drive in us. We could do anything
we put our minds to.>>Teacher: You know, it hits you, as
a teacher you’re like, “Oh my god. Something that I designed made
this kid feel like a hero.”>>Teacher: Jeffrey?>>Student: Are we going
to have enough room for the whole webpage
just on that one line?>>Teacher: You’ll be surprised,
it just goes right down.>>Student: Water.>>Student: And the water…>>Teacher: Imagine if kids from
the beginning could be learning through developing their interests
through things that they’re in love with or that they cared
about, you know, just imagine.>>Teacher: We would place the
dome right here for instance.>>Narrator: These sophomore geometry
students in Seattle have a problem, and they’re excited about solving it.>>Teacher: The problem that they have to solve is how do you design
a state-of-the-art high school in the year 2050 on
a particular site. Students are in teams
of three to four, and they’re in a design competition
for a contract to build it.>>Student: It’s the fire-eliminator. This is a vacuum, there’s
water inside it.>>Narrator: In Lackawanna,
Pennsylvania, these fifth graders are designing
a tool to put out fires in space.>>Student: If you turn it on
high, it sucks up the fire balls.>>Narrator: In Hawaii, high school
students are building electric cars and racing them. These students have something in
common: they are energized, focused, and challenged, determined
to do their best. They are collaborating in hands-on, real-world projects studying
everything from robots to worms, learning lessons they’ll never
forget and having fun in the process.>>Student: We did an
experiment on dead worms. We smelled them and
they didn’t smell good.>>Marco: We have a camera now that
you guys can go out and shoot.>>Marco: If I look back
at my own education, I remember the projects I made. I remember the hand I
made in kindergarten. I remember the volcano
I made in third grade because they were projects. They were things that
had an end to them. Something tangible,
something that I can say to my mom, “Mommy, look what it is. Look mom, look what I did.”>>Teacher: So that’s not
absolutely set in stone.>>Narrator: Twice a year, students
work with their teachers to come up with a question or area of
inquiry that they will pursue for the next several months. They integrate math, science, and
English studies, and with the help of local artists, express
themselves in art work, dance, video, drama, and music.>>Student: [Sings]>>Narrator: The process
of deep inquiry into a single subject is the same
whether it’s seventh graders studying the war..>>Student: Well I realized this, you
look at this picture, you feel sorry for the soldiers and that kind of
makes you want to support the war. But then if you look at this picture,
you feel sorry for the Iraqis, and that makes you think
that the war isn’t necessary.>>Narrator: …or first-graders
focusing on frogs.>>Student: That little green
dot is called a spiracle.>>Teacher: If you study
something really deeply, you become very invested in it. So what you’re seeing, even with
the frogs in the first grade, is tremendous investment. Kids really, really care about frogs. It wouldn’t have been as deep if they
would have studied frogs for two days and lizards for two days.>>Students: It’s just a frog that
we made that sticks out its tongue. Not many people — a lot of people
wanted a tongue, but they didn’t have to get a tongue, but I did.>>Narrator: Gulfport, Mississippi’s
Harrison Central High School hasn’t changed much since it
was founded in 1957. But over the past several years,
there’s been a quiet revolution going on that has transformed
Harrison’s curriculum. In almost every classroom, cutting-edge technology tools are
facilitating a new way of learning.>>Student: There in the guild
today, what could be said about national politics is A, the Republican party held
the majority of voters, B..>>Narrator: Now history lessons
are as exciting as game shows.>>Student: What is your final answer?>>Narrator: Digital cameras help
reveal the principles of physics.>>Teacher: Are we collecting?>>Narrator: Probes
and laptops are used in real-world scientific
explorations. They even use technology to
improve their nationally-ranked cheerleading squad.>>Teacher: We tried to come up
with a conditioning program, and we used the computers
and the probes to tell us what the heart rate
was before they exercised, and then what it was afterwards,
and also the respiration.>>Student: Life without this stuff, we’d have no idea how
much things have changed, and where we started
and where we’re at now.>>Narrator: Data from the cheerleader
workouts is given to students in an Algebra Two class for analysis.>>Student: We used a thing
called linear regression to get basically the
average increase or decrease.>>Karen: So you want to
put your GPS’s up this way. Those six numbers, those numbers you
see there are satellites circling the earth.>>Karen: They feel very comfortable
with any of the technology nowadays. They follow their instructions
very well because they’re serious about it.>>Karen: You see that
word “position”? Tap on the “position”
and look for “status.”>>Karen: It’s not a field
trip, when we go out there, the kids know that we’re doing real
science, and they’re much more alert. But if it was just a field
trip, they wouldn’t be there because what does it really mean?>>Karen: So if we know where
Horney toads are, we want you to go to that site and we want you
to write down that latitude and longitude on your paper, okay?>>Narrator: To engage their
students at the end of the year, the eighth grade teachers came up
with a project focusing on cars.>>Student: Oh a car, look at it.>>Narrator: Like most Landry
projects, the car unit was featured across the eighth grade curriculum. In science class, students
made balloon-propelled cars out of recycled materials, and
road tested their various designs.>>Teacher: Try to write some
different selling points.>>Narrator: In Language Arts,
students wrote car commercials, and in math, they calculated
loan payments.>>Teacher: The six percent of whatever you get
for item number seven.>>Student: So multiply six percent…>>Teacher: Times that.>>Narrator: They also use the web
to plan trips and find information on fuel economy, and
environmental impacts.>>Linda: I’ve had kids come
back to me and tell me, “Do you remember that
project we did?” They have never, ever
come back to me and said, “Do you remember that test we did?” So I think that’s the impact. If the kids remember,
test scores will go up, and our tests always have.>>Teacher: To the outside
classroom, so..>>Narrator: While students must draw
on their knowledge of everything from math and English, to
the aesthetics of design, they also learn an
invaluable lesson in teamwork.>>Joe: We can see how
many we can fit. We can see how many we can fit.>>Student: I’m thinking because..>>Joe: When we finally
started on the site model, there was constant little squabbling
about, “Oh, this should go there.”>>Student: Just the
bottom row itself, just holds twelve hundred
people, right?>>Joe: No, no, no, this entire
thing holds twelve hundred people.>>Student: Oh, the entire school.>>Teacher: They’re faced with
this really complex problem that has certain constraints, and
they have to figure out how to begin to make the decisions, and
move the process forward. And how do you do that
decision-making within a group? These are the things that are really
maybe the most powerful learnings that come from it. The real life problem-solving
communication, collaboration skills.>>Joe: I did learn how
to work with people that didn’t think the way I did, and
thought non-linear, didn’t believe in deadlines sort of thing. They really think out of the
box, which is not like me. I’m a completely in
the box kind of person. You’ve got to make sure
you work together good.>>Student: Why not have
the whole site’s wall open? Be glass, facing the water.>>Howard: People may
be good test-takers, but once you leave the world
of testing, you have to think for yourself because the
world doesn’t come organized in four choices with the fourth
one being “none of the above.”>>Narrator: For schools that are
challenging the high stakes testing movement, the goal is to put less
emphasis on cramming, drills, and test-taking strategies,
and focus on in-depth learning.>>Anne: I’m all for high standards, I don’t know of anybody
who’s for low standards. The question is do we get at what we’re saying we want
using the test to drive this? That’s the real crux of it. And I would argue that we don’t.>>Teacher: R’s represent that
these are his strength areas, and also any time you see
the shape of a triangle, those also represent the strengths..>>Pat: We’re interested in
how students apply knowledge, and so students are required
through their high school to do major projects each semester. At the end of high school, they
should have eight major projects that they would have developed, that
all of this is to be put together on a multimedia portfolio to document
what it is they’re capable of doing.>>Leili: We’ve been working with
the Egyptians because they had so many symbols and
hieroglyphics and..>>Leili: Compared to what sort of
my friends in other schools do, I think it’s more interesting
over here because you really get to understand the thing more than
just memorize stuff for a test, and write it down and forget it.>>Narrator: Sarah Button is about
to tear her heart out in front of her fifth-graders at the
Patrick Daly school in Brooklyn.>>Sarah: And her sister came into
the room and said, “Are you going to wear those old rags to school?”>>Linda: We are talking about a whole
new vision of education that says that educating the heart is as
important as educating the mind.>>Daniel: Emotional intelligence, which refers to how you handle your
own feelings, how well you empathize and get along with other people
is just a key human skill, but it also turns out that
kids who are better able to manage their emotions,
for example, actually can pay attention better, can take in information
better, can remember better. In other words, it
helps you learn better.>>Student: When I first moved here
a year ago, no one really wanted to play with me, and all the
fifth graders called me names.>>Michael: What was it
doing to your heart?>>Student: It just made
me feel really bad.>>Michael: And what I try to
teach the kids is that we have to be more real about our emotions,
and back to the time of Macbeth, Shakespeare said, “Always
give sorrow words. Grief that doesn’t speak whispers to the overfraught heart
and bids it to break.”>>Student: My main
thing that’s gotten me through all this is empathy.>>Tony: I believe that the social, emotional component is
clearly the most important part of a child’s life, and I don’t
know of any child who learns best when they don’t feel
good about themselves. If we can create an
environment where we feel good, and care for each other,
everything else falls into place.>>Student: It shouldn’t be a world
hate, it should be a world love.>>Michael: Yeah.>>Teacher: Speaking
of ionic compounds, we’ve got this cool card game that
you’ve seen before, but we’re going to modify it a little bit.>>Narrator: While project
promised students are placed in classrooms just three weeks into
the program, they don’t go it alone. They are constantly monitored
and supported by their peers.>>Teacher: How do you think it went?>>Teacher: I was really
excited about the students.>>Narrator: They’re mentor teachers..>>Teacher: It worked well,
and it worked well for review.>>Narrator: …and by one
of the program’s directors.>>Director: Then you had
closure today and that was great. I think that’s one of
the first times, Carrie.>>Teacher: I think the
most important issue in teacher preparation is
getting prospective teachers into real life classroom
settings early. And if you’re working with a mentored
teacher, or an experienced teacher or college professor, that
interaction can be very effective in learning how to teach.>>Director: Your transition
from the food labels to the game was a little rough, so
just tie in what you’re doing here and how it goes to there,
and that’s really going to help them make the connection
about what they do instead of just having disjointed things.>>Teacher: I like the way that
you’ve taken that original card game, but then you did take it to another
level this time, so the students had to write down the formulas. They could challenge each other. I thought it was great [Singing].>>Narrator: Like most student
performances, this winter celebration at Susan B. Anthony
Elementary School in Sacramento, California gives parents a chance
to watch their youngsters shine. But this holiday concert
is different. The speeches and songs are translated
into Spanish and a Mung dialect, just two of the 21 languages
spoken by students at the school. A few years ago, this kind of
gathering seemed impossible because language barriers and cultural differences made
parents leery of any involvement with the school, and the
disconnect between the school and community led to other problems.>>Carol: When I first became
principal here at Susan B. Anthony, the year before we had a
tremendous number of suspensions, about 140 to be exact
out of 500 children. Our attendance was
not what it should be, and there were just not
the day-to-day connections with the community that we needed
for our students to achieve.>>Teacher: Good job.>>Narrator: Things began to change
in 1998 when a small group of parents and staff at Susan B.
Anthony got together with a non-profit community group
to start a home visit program. Teachers from the school
volunteered to visit the homes of their students twice a year to
solicit input from parents and report on their child’s progress in class.>>Parent: I haven’t seen
you in a long, long time.>>Teacher: It’s not your usual
the teacher’s stopping by. It’s we’re coming together
two by two, we’ll visit you, we’ll talk about what are
your goals for your child, and how can we get
your student there?>>Teacher: How long have you lived
in this area, in this community?>>Leng: The kids are
doing much better. I mean if they’re misbehaved, I say,
“I’m going to call your mom and dad.” And then they stop, so they change. And also it really enhances
their self-esteem too. It helps them feel good that
I actually care about them. I actually take the time to
go visit them in their home.>>Teacher: Very good.>>Carol: If you’re getting a pin
or a medal, and your parents is in the audience, please locate
their hand and bring them up because they are part
of your learning plan.>>Narrator: Carol Sharp
credits the home visit program for improving attendance and academic
performance, and creating a new level of trust of communication.>>Carol: I see students that
really believe in themselves. I see parents that call me with
questions on academics now. I also see a low suspension
rate, less vandalism, increased in achievement,
and attendance. So as I look at year-to-year,
it’s gotten better and better.>>Carol: Congratulations, Angel.>>Voice: Well howdy, boys and girls. Welcome to the McCaw School of Mines.>>Narrator: Community volunteers
built and financed the School of Mines, and local architect, Bill
Snyder, volunteered to design it.>>William: So we went to Disneyland
and we went to the Indiana Jones ride where they created the illusion
of taking people down underground and into a cave situation. So we sort of figured
out with the resources that we had what we could
do, and it’s kind of funny because the company that built the
Indiana Jones ride actually did the work here for us as well, and what
we did to get them to do that, we had several kids help us
write pleading letters to them and we took the model that we built
of this and we set it in their lobby for about a month before
they said, “Okay. We surrender. How can we help?”>>Teacher: Everybody thinks
we’re just this Disneyland that people come to and leave. No, we have over one and a half
million people in the valley here, the community really is
involved in the school. The top CEOs come in to read to kids
in our school district, mentor kids, and be good role models so that
our kids feel they’re valued in our community.>>Thomas: Now who helps you
with your homework at home?>>Student: My calculator.>>Thomas: Your calculator,
but does your mother help you?>>Thomas: The more smart kids we
have, the better our future will be. The more kids that are able to
take care of themselves and provide for themselves, the
better we’re going to be. So I said anyone who does not
have a kid in the school, share. Just share what you have.>>Narrator: There is an
extraordinary community center in the heart of New York City. It offers a complete range of
medical services from dental and medical check-ups, to
mental health counseling. There are adult education classes,
and computer training courses, a basketball program,
and a bicycle shop. A dance company, and
a string ensemble. Those are just a few of the
activities offered afterschool at IS 218, a public intermediate
school designed from the beginning to meet the needs of
the entire community.>>Jane: When I first came to this
school, I noticed two things. I noticed that the
children seemed happy, and I noticed that there were
a lot of extra adults around, and I wanted to know
what was happening here, and how we could make it
happen in more places.>>Teacher: Do you want
to spell this one first?>>Student: Okay.>>Narrator: IS 218 is open six days
a week from seven in the morning to nine at night all year long. It’s the product of a partnership
between the New York City Board of Education, and the Children’s
Aid Society, which pays for and administers the
extracurricular programs.>>Teacher: So I think that’s
comforting for the parents to see what type of stuff we have.>>Jane: The needs are always greater
than the resources that we can bring to the table, even collectively. But I think that we have found that
if you have the word “Yes” written in your heart, you can make
almost anything happen. And I think that we’re
living proof of that in our schools in New York City.>>Students: Hooray! [Cheering]

4 thoughts on “Edutopia’s 10 Big Ideas to Improve Public Education”

  1. I would agree that this is a great overview, if only more ideas like this could be given a chance to work.

  2. One person dislikes quality education. Huh? Or maybe they dislike the quality of the video. You know, George Lucas has a hard time keeping up with all these amazing film makers here on YouTube. ;P

  3. Nice video! I'd also encourage educators to explore the concept of place-based learning,in which curriculum is taught through community and local environmental projects which students (ideally) help define. These projects make a local difference, transform students into right-now citizens & make curriculum memorable. PBE projects are happening across the U.S. & in Scotland, Denmark, Ireland, the UK, Thailand & beyond, as shown on our volunteer group Pinterest board.

  4. My education nearly sucked the light out of me. I'm happy for those with good learning foundations, to truly learn, we must want to in the first place. Not because you have to. Same goes for teaching. 

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