Back to the Future…2011

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I very much appreciated the link to Ed Brazee’s blog regarding the future of middle level education. It certainly brought back many (mostly fond!) memories of my own experiences  leading efforts in middle level for about 25 years.  I must thank Ed for inspiring me to start on that exciting journey!

My first middle level class with Ed in the summer of 1987 was truly a turning point in my professional life.  My colleagues and I were so excited to learn that we were not crazy to think that there were more effective ways to teach young adolescents! As a result of Ed’s classes, we began to change our teaching practices to engage our  students in learning. Much to our delight, these changes were very successful; students were learning and having a great time!

Then Maine’s Common Core of Learning was published in early 1990.  This document should not be confused with the national Common Core standards that are being promoted (mandated?) currently.  The “old” Common Core presented an integrated model of learning for grade clusters which focused on:

Personal and Global Stewardship

“Responsible citizenship requires awareness and a concern for oneself, others, and the environment. It involves interactions not only within the self and family, but between the self and friends, the community, the nation, and the world. It includes the knowledge and care of all dimensions of our selves as humans, an understanding of the group process, and a willingness to exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Stewardship also includes the study of current geography and foreign language and an appreciation of pluralism and human rights.”

Communication

“The ability of human beings to communicate through a variety of media with a high degree of specificity is one of our most remarkable achievements. In a rapidly-changing world, communications skills will become ever more essential to our students’ future success.”

Reasoning and Problem Solving

“Knowledge is power. We must help students want to gain knowledge, show them how to get it, and encourage them to use it to reach a new understanding or to create a new product. We must help students learn to reflect on their processes of learning, regardless of their field of study.”

The Human Record

“The study of the human record not only includes the actions and events of the past but also the constructs of human thought and creativity as they have evolved through time. The human record includes works of literature and the arts; scientific laws and theories; and concepts of government, economic systems, philosophy, and mathematics. In fact, much of what we now think of as “subject matter” in today’s curriculum belongs in this section.”

These Common Core goals provided a wonderful framework for my colleagues and I as we developed integrated learning units for our multi-age grouping of students. I can still vividly recall the excitement of collaborating with my colleagues as we designed meaningful units based on these goals.

This doesn’t sound much like the Common Core standards of today which focus on very specific content area standards that are articulated by grade level. The “new” Common Core is a national effort to standardize learning outcomes that are then assessed through high stakes tests such as the NECAP in Maine. I don’t know about you, but this Common Core does NOT inspire much excitement for me!

But I digress… Back to Ed’s blog….

At the end of his blog post, Ed asked:

But, where are we now? Are we headed back up or are we on a plateau waiting for better days ahead? And what can each of us do to make sure that we provide the type of learning situations that each and everyone of our students need?

The Bright Futures report provides middle level educators with the basis for doing what IS right for young adolescents. While it will take incredibly courageous leadership to move our middle level schools “back to the future”, this IS the time for middle level educators to regain the excitement of educating our young adolescents in the best possible ways.  Since our state legislature has a lot of influence on what is taught in our schools, I encourage each person that is reading this post to review the Bright Futures report and then contact their legislators and request a time to meet and discuss it. We cannot assume that these individuals understand what is educationally sound for this age group.

So, I propose a 2011 New Years resolution for each middle level educator to  “…help students want to gain knowledge, show them how to get it, and encourage them to use it to reach a new understanding…” AND for middle level educators to regain the excitement of designing meaningful learning opportunities for their students.

What a gift that would be!

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2 Responses to “Back to the Future…2011”

  1. Chris Toy Says:

    I remember Maine Commissioner of Education Duke Albanese opening the MAMLE Annual Conference at Sugarloaf the year Maine’s Common Core was published. He told the several hundred middle level educators that Maine’s Common Core and good middle level practices were a perfect match for one another…rigorous, integrated, engaging, and relevant. Both advocated for what was best for student learning. Although Maine’s Common Core has been replaced by current policies, current research indicates that the Bright Futures and effective middle level practices are still the best match for reaching and teaching Maine’s young adolescents!

  2. Jim Burke Says:

    Thanks for reminding me of the Maine Common Core . . . one of my favorite documents, one that I’ve gone back to often.

    Jim

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