So, what's the solution? How do we ensure children aren't left behind? Obviously testing is not the answer. The "failing" schools are now making even less of an effort to give kids a well-rounded education and instead spend all their time teaching to the test or dumbing down the work.
I think the real solution is to create communities again. People who want to go back to the "one room schoolhouse" philosophy forget that school used to me more than just something teachers did 5 days a week. Families would take turns hosting the teacher at their house for dinner (imagine how many cases of child abuse could be prevented and how many teachers would realize that what most of the children really need isn't more homework). Children would work in the classroom as teachers, custodians, and they had recess! They had a responsibility for their own education.
Since we probably can't honestly re-create the one room schoolhouse for most children, what can we do for them?
- Monthly or weekly in-home visits by a professional (teacher, counselor, nurse, etcetera) for at-risk children, starting at or before birth
- Weekly one-on-one peer mentor reading groups (i.e. pair up all 3rd graders
- Hands on group learning
- Reinstate recess and physical education for all children
- Give kids real world work (in-school gardens, beehives, shop class, home ec class)
- Encourage churches or social groups to "adopt a class" or "adopt a school" and give the teachers whatever community support is needed whether it's redoing a bulletin board or sitting with a few students who need individual attention.
- Get rid of desks or make them easily portable so students can lounge, move, sit, or stand in class as needed.
- Sponsor field trips for kids, and encourage involvement in extracurricular activities
- Reduce homework and test time.
These are just a few of my ideas, feel free to share your own!