Saturday, October 18, 2008

Breaking the Stepford Mold

As promised in my Oct. 14 blog, solutions to the educational crises in America are available. One of the struggles is bureaucracy in the national educational system. The rest of the world is changing yet schools are stagnant in their efforts to challenge, stimulate and prepare kids for the future.
I came across “The Ron Clark Story,” a movie about one educator who dared to make a difference. By watching the special features on the DVD, I learned that the story was pretty close to real life and it prompted me to do more research online.
Ron Clark is originally from Aurora, NC and after teaching there several years, he heard that teachers were needed in Harlem. He packed up, moved to New York and managed to find a position at an elementary school. The principal was hesitant, but Ron took the worst class in school and by the end of the year, their test scores were the best in the school, exceeding the gifted and talented class.
After winning Disney’s Best Grade 3-6 Teacher Award and National Best Teacher award in 2000, he was invited to the Oprah Winfrey Show. Producers in Los Angeles saw the show and contacted Ron to make a movie about his story. Ron also wrote “The Essential 55” based on rules in the classroom that hit the best seller list. The rules address issues for getting along in the classroom, teach respect and lead kids to perform better in school.
With the proceeds from the book, he opened The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta which will be a model for charter schools across the nation. He will have visitors from around the world to see innovative ideas for teaching. Looking at the list of board members is like reading a “Who’s Who” directory.
I highly recommend the movie to anyone interested in better education. For a glimpse into the academy visit

1 comment:

  1. I taught adult students seeking their GEDs (and high school diplomas from the adult his\gh school) at a local community college. Many were between 17 and 24. Had some fairly decent success once I made the students believe that they could succeed, using an unorthodox approach which I devised. However, first I had to kick out the juvenile delinquents. Their disruptive attitude had numerous negative effects.

    Once the distracting and disruptive factors are taken out of the equation, then I think it is significantly about the instructor.

    Now, there are other factors.
    Saw two PBS documentaries fairly recently. In the first, a researcher had inner city kids who were faring poorly (roughly 2 yrs behind their peers) get up an hour earlier each day. He made sure that the kids were picked up and taken to a place where a healthy (non-fat)breakfast was provided. At the end of the day, the kids were picked up and placed in an educational environment until which time their parents arrived. The parente were then included in evening session with the instructor. Within a relatively short period of time, around 9 mos if I remember correctly, the kids had erased a significant portion of the performance deficit.

    In the second study, kids in special education classes, labelled as problem kids, some with ADD, were fed an entirely different diet and within 6 mos, they were better behaved and more attentive than the "normal" kids.

    There are many things that can be done, most of which do not cost a lot of money, but require focus. Getting the disruptive kids out of the classroom is a start. After that it is focus and energy. I think....