I must give credit where credit is due, and give a positive shout out to Jay Mathews for yesterday’s column, “Boosting Schools’ Value Without Spending a Dime.” (I’m not always his fan..especially on APs and the Challenge Index). He comes up with this list of ideas for schools in these tough economic times:
1. Replace elementary school homework with free reading…
2. Unleash charter schools….
3. Have teachers call or e-mail parents — one kid’s parents a day would be fine — with praise for their children. Some great classroom teachers make a habit of contacting parents when kids do something well….
4. Have parents call or e-mail teachers with praise. Successful teachers are often taken for granted. Struggling teachers need moral support. Both kinds would be fortified by a friendly message. They would also learn something from what parents say is working for their children….
5. Have every high school student read at least one nonfiction book before graduation….
6. Encourage teachers to call on every student in every class. Teachers who have exceptional results talk to me a lot about this. A lesson has to be a conversation, they say….
7. Furlough everybody — including teachers, students and parents — for an unpaid national reading holiday….
No. 1? For kindergarten through 2nd grade, absolutely, and after that gradually increasing amounts of meaningful work. No. 2? I don’t really have an opinion on charters. But No. 3? YES! I’ve blogged this suggestion before. And as for No. 4, I have done that when warranted. No. 5? I’m kind of amazed that kids could come out of high school not having read a non-fiction book. I swear I’ve seen things like “A Walk in the Woods” and that one about the disastrous ascent of Mt. Everest whose title is escaping me right now on the Barnes and Noble “Summer Reading List” table. N0. 6? Agreed. Chalk and talk is a recipe for bored and disengaged. And as for the final suggestion? Well it’s a fun idea. We can all dream.