Two major problems underline the current crisis in education: the student performance and teachers prepared by mediocre schools of education. Regarding the first problem, we quote from Diploma to Nowhere prepared by Strong American Schools and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,
"... When high school graduates enroll in college as many as one million students fail placement exams every year. Well over one third of all college students need remedial courses in order to acquire basic academic skills. ... A high school degree no longer demonstrates that a graduate is ready for college. Students’ inadequate preparation for higher education has become a deep and widespread problem."
"Some of the nation’s most selective universities—like the University of Wisconsin, Madison—now test all incoming students in order to determine who needs extra academic help. Ivy League universities like Dartmouth College offer year-long remedial courses in writing. Graduates from prestigious secondary schools ... struggle with university-level academics. The students who did everything right in high school—the advanced classes, the good grades—require extensive college remediation."
With regard to remediation, the article continues to state, "Currently, students who enroll in remedial classes are far more likely to drop out than those who do not, and although there isn’t much research on the effectiveness of various approaches to remediation, there are many small institutional efforts that hold great promise. [The Gateway Academic Program of] the University of the District of Columbia, an open admissions institution, recently selected 17 students out of 43 applicants to participate in a summer math “boot camp.” Those selected were considered to be the most academically disadvantaged. As a result of an intensive, eight‑week program, nine students tested out of both remedial math courses and five others tested out of basic remedial math. One student dropped out, but the remaining two students also made considerable progress."
In many minority institutions of higher education, 80-95% of entering freshmen students are required to take remedial courses in math, reading, and English. Even in these courses, the dropout rate is estimated to be around 70-80%.
Concerning the second problem of the quality of teachers and the schools of education who are responsible for preparing them, we cite from a recent speech by the U.S. Secretary of Education, Mr. Arne Duncan. He stated, "By almost any standard, many if not most of the nation's 1,450 schools, colleges and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st century classroom." For the complete report on the speech, click the link, Are Teacher Colleges Producing Mediocre Teachers?
After Mr. Duncan's speech at the Columbia University's Teachers College, The New York Times wrote, "Calling scores of education school programs 'mediocre,' Education Secretary Arne Duncan ... implored universities to significantly change the way they prepare teachers to run classrooms, saying a 'revolutionary change' was needed to train as many as one million new teachers in five years." The article further states, "A report by a former president of Teachers College, Arthur Levine, found that roughly 60 percent of education school alumni said that their programs did not prepare them to teach." For the complete article, click the link, Teacher Training Termed Mediocre.
Also at the high school level, the Oprah's Special Report: American Schools in Crisis stated that the dropout rate is approximately 50% in many large urban school systems. So ...
Why Are the School Systems Not Improving?
In our opinion, the real problem with improving teaching is that educators, by and large, don't really seem to know what the specific skills of great teaching are. This point also was made by David Steiner, New York's Commissioner of Education, "And if we can't identify the skills that make a difference in terms of student learning, then what we're saying is that teaching is an undefinable art, as opposed to something that can be taught." Steiner further maintained "that institutions need to turn their eyes toward the practical and away from the hypothetical." For the complete article, click Are Teacher Colleges Producing Mediocre Teachers?
Our interpretation of these statements is that the secondary teachers are unable to translate the "hypothetical" knowledge acquired in their education courses, such as learning principles, into specific skills required for the successful teaching of their own discipline, like math. A professor of education, for example, must have credentials in math in order to demonstrate effective pedagogy for that discipline. Otherwise, the pedagogy is free-floating.
A Solution: GAP Successful Teaching Strategies
The GAP team has successfully identified the specific skills of the art of great teaching. Our researched-based training projects have demonstrated that these skills can be taught successfully to other teachers and college faculty. To us, a master teacher must be content qualified and must constantly apply the practical -- and observable -- skills of pedagogy. That is, both content proficiency and practical pedagogy are thus fused into the same master teacher.
GAP uses five specific strategies to effective teaching, and each one of them contains numerous interlocked specific skills or tactics as illustrated below. These strategies are:
Classroom management (allowing no cell phones, organizing and checking students' note-taking).
Inductive strategy to classroom teaching (using students' differential knowledge bases, anchoring new concepts to students' experiences).
Daily assessment of teaching effectiveness (using "exit" questions, "priming" homework).
Streamlining of course content (pruning the course content of its "frills", organizing, teaching basically similar topics in a "parallel" way). Automaticity for student learning (capitalizing on "good errors", providing adequate review and practice).
For additional information on the successes of these techniques, click on the following links:
The Gateway Academic Program, GAP, is a research-based program designed to reduce and/or eliminate the need for remedial math, reading, and English courses for recent high school graduates who will be entering higher education and whose performances on nationally based placement tests show they will have to enroll in remedial courses. For additional information, Check the GAP Prospectus
Planned Student Outcomes
1. Avoid extensive remediation.
2. Increase their options for majors in STEM areas and English.
3. Increase likelihood of graduating in the typical 4 - 5 year period.
Secondary Student Outcomes
1. Results in a higher level of confidence in their ability to succeed in college.
2. Results in efficient note-taking and study habits.