Education Update: 1/28/15

Integrus ArchitectureEducation Update is a weekly blog post highlighting recent developments in the world of education. The linked articles and summaries are not endorsements, rather frame points of view to begin conversations about the state of education, trends, and how we as designers can play an active role in shaping schools.

Rewriting No Child Left Behind: Competing Views

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is the current installment of a 1965 law called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Signed in 2002 and hailed as a triumph of education legislation, NCLB has fallen under harsh criticism for its testing requirements, which are directly tied to school funding.

Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate education committee, and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the senior Democrat on the committee, are both taking stances on potential changes to the law. Sen. Alexander has stated that he hopes to push a bill through congress in the first half of this year. Either outcome will have a significant effect on the federal government’s funding of local schools. This article by the Washington Post contains the full text of the draft bill from Sen. Alexander’s desk, as well as Sen. Murray’s floor commentary.

What the Heck is Project-Based Learning?

As designers we hear Project-Based Learning (PBL) thrown around in pre-bond and programming meetings, but what does it actually mean? Edutopia’s Heather Wolpert-Gawron, an award-winning middle school teacher, sheds insight into what it means and how it can be implemented. “Teaching with PBL is the difference between the atmosphere at Disneyland and the atmosphere at a Six Flags resort…  At Disneyland, you are submerged in the story of each ride from the time you enter the line,” explains Wolpert-Gawron.

In School Discipline, Intervention May Work Better Than Punishment

The Seattle Times Education Lab reports on Big Picture High School in Burien, Washington, which uses a restorative justice method of discipline focusing on trust and relationships over punishments. With many students having behavioral and legal problems in their past, interventions instead of suspensions are used to help students understand the consequences. In contrast to traditional zero-tolerance policies restorative justice does not interrupt instructional time, and has been shown to be effective in reducing assaults and disorderly conduct.

This type of policy shift does not come without cost. Teachers and administrators must undergo training and buy into the theory. Educators must be willing to sacrifice the traditional teacher-pupil relationship for a mentoring position, requiring a significant time and emotional investment for each student.

Parents Investigated for Neglect After Letting Kids Walk Home Alone

The Washington Post reports on parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, who are being investigated by Child Protective Services after allowing their children—ages six and ten— to walk home from a park approximately one mile from their suburban District of Columbia home. The Meitivs believe in “free range” parenting, a stark contrast to the typical “hovercraft” parent seen today.  “Abductions are extremely rare. Car accidents are not. The number one cause of death for children of their age is a car accident,” said Danielle Meitiv.

Childhood independence and the home-to-school journey is a massive opportunity for designers. As neighborhood schools are consolidated and travel distance increases, establishing safe streets and pathways for kids on foot and bike to access their schools will only become more important.

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