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A concept of a school and a movement: as a part of a facility designed and designated
specifically to study learning and teaching processes.
To Appendix I: “The core of this approach is openness.”
According to Niels Borh, in order to be true, a new idea should be crazy enough to stand out among the mainstream views – think big, have a vision, dream on!
The concept described below might seem too “crazy”, but it is based on the scientific and technological realities, as well as on the experience and expertise of the author. The mission of the project is to prove that good schooling (a) is possible, and (b) to generate scientific data badly needed to promote current education research to a state of a true science (please, note, this page represents only one of the versions of such a school).
(click hear to skip this part and go directly to the part on financing)
A regionally- and facet- distributed joint onsite-online-live-streaming collaborative high school is a new kind of school, which is innovative and unique.
The mission of the school is to prepare all its students for a thriving future. The school will be a nucleus of a research faculty. The mission of the facility built around the school is to organize, conduct and analyze results of a longitudinal study of all aspects of learning and teaching processes.
The school is composed of classes (= school units) set in different school districts (eventually in different states: 50 states, two school units in each state, one class for each years of school, 30 students in each class = 12000 students). Classes in the same time zone are run on the same schedule. During each lesson there is one leading teacher who is primary responsible for preparing a curriculum, lessons plans, exercises, assessments and all other relevant teaching materials. Students in all other classes have a live connection and communication with the class of the leading teacher. Each class during each lesson has at least one teacher assistant (two – for a large class). One of the assistants is a “first assistant”, who takes the leading role in the absence of the leading teacher. Each classroom is equipped with the streaming equipment. Each lesson in each class is being streamed live and being recorded for the further analysis and further editing. Technical requirements: live communication between all classes must be fluent and flawless and provide for students and teachers the means for immediate interaction and a sense of being immersed in the mutual process of discovery. Legal requirement: every student, parent, teacher, staff member is required to sign a release form to concur that he or she allows the release of video and audio materials which include his or her.
For each subject the school has one leading teacher; leading teachers should not work in the same districts.
Each leading teacher is also a leader of a team responsible for preparing a curriculum, lessons plans, exercises, assessments and all other relevant teaching materials. Team members communicate regularly using remote communication technologies.
A team of full-time professionals - including educational psychologists, experts in curricula development, experts in development of assessment tools and analysis of the results of the assessments, experts in team building and knowledge elicitation, managing consultants, legal consultants - works regularly and closely with each team of teachers and teacher assistants, helping with preparing lessons, analyzing lessons and their outcomes, adjusting teaching techniques and approaches. This description might seem like a description of a Teachers– Professionals Partnership (e.g. Professional Development School Partnership). However, every partnership is based on a collaboration of a school educators with educators who work full time at a college, or a university, or a school of education, and only visit a school from time to time. The new type of school described in this proposal will require all professionals work full time at the school, participate in all teaching activities, including teaching students.
The school has a complete staff roster, which includes all staff positions necessary for the everyday functioning of the school. All staff members are essential for the school wellbeing and can participate in team meetings (as long as it does not interfere with the required duties). When a team has to decide on the matter at hands the final decision is made by the leading teacher.
(a slide from http://www.teachology.xyz/30uS.html)
Functioning of the school is directed by the motto: “The school is a community, every member of the community is equally essential, every member of the community helps others with achieving their goals, every member of the community vows do not do any harm neither physical nor psychological to any other member of the community”.
Teaching is based on principles of constructivism, asserting the importance of a zone of proximal development (this statement has to be also seen as a constraint on the selection of the school employees such as teachers and school specialists).
As part of the requirement, all subjects include components helping developing metacognitive abilities and metaskills (including but not limited to an ability to communicate, an ability to cooperate and work as a team member, an ability to self-reflect and to describe internal cognitive processes).
In addition to the standard high school subjects the school requires taking subjects specifically designed for helping developing metacognitive abilities and metaskills (a student theater, a debate course, chess, piano – or equivalent). “A successful person is a harmonic person”.
Students are regularly involved in competitions, Olympiads, games which help developing metacognitive abilities and metaskills.
Each parent of a student (or student’s legal representative/guardian) and the school administration has a signed contract, according to which:
(A) the administration takes the following responsibilities (this implies that a parent or a legal representative fulfills all his or her responsibilities bound by the contract):
1. do not make any harm in any way to a physical and psychological wellbeing of a student;
2. provide all resources necessary for a student to succeed in the school and life;
3. motivate a student to communicate with fellow students and teachers all his or her desires and doubts, achievements and troubles;
4. motivate a student to work hard on the assignments at home and in the school;
5. motivate a student to participate in extracurricular activities, including participating in TV episodes.
6. assessing student’s knowledge, skills, and abilities, and based on the results of the assessment projecting the graduating outcomes for the student (including the probability of being ready for entering college, the probability of needing extra time to graduate from the school);
7. if the results of the assessment allow, guaranty that student’s achievements including learning outcomes will be sufficient to be accepted by a college and to be successful in a college, as long as (a) the student is willing to pursue college education, and (b) the name of the college is on the list provided in an addendum to the contract.
(B) a parent or a legal representative/guardian takes the following responsibilities (this implies that the school fulfills all its responsibilities bound by the contract):
1. do not make any harm in any way to a physical and psychological wellbeing of a student;
2. motivate a student to communicate with fellow students and teachers all his or her desires and doubts, achievements and troubles;
3. motivate a student to work hard on the assignments at home and in the school;
4. motivate a student to participate in extracurricular activities, including participating in TV episodes.
5. communicate with teachers and administration all the desires and doubts, and issues related to the wellbeing and the study of a student;
Because a regionally distributed school cannot be formally designed as a public school, the school is a private (non-profit) school. However, by its spirit the school is public (students do not pay a dime). In each district the school participates in the lottery as a regular public school. Students and parents do not pay for education and for any supplementary/complementary school functions.
The school is governed by a principal. The principal conducts and concludes the hiring of all other employees. The principal and an employee sign a contract which defines their mutual rights and responsibilities. The principal is responsible for the number of the employees and their work schedule, the principal defines responsibilities of the employees. The principal makes all financial decisions. The everyday functioning of each school unit is governed by a unit director to whom the principal delegates rights and responsibilities necessary and sufficient to govern the school unit, and described in the contract between the principal and a director.
The principal is selected upon the search conducted by the school board. The school board is composed of representatives from the districts, donors, and exceptional personalities. The rights and responsibilities of the principal and the board members are defined by the bylaw, which is accepted on the first board meeting. The board provides the principal with oversight and advising on his or her everyday functioning and on the general school policies.
The financing is provided by the donors (charities, philanthropists, NSF), but a large part of the budget will be coming from business activates of the facility.
In order to supply an internal income, the school establishes a for-profit company. The school principle is also the director of the company. The company will have two main departments: a broadcasting department and R&D department.
The school is expected to have a stream of a revenue due to (a) business activities of a broadcasting department , and possibly, (b) revenue coming from consulting activities of the professionals, from printed and digital items developed by the professionals as a part of research program (R&D department), and (c) stocks offering for a for-profit company.
The mission of the broadcasting department and its business activities are aimed at promoting the school via a reality-like TV-show. The school has to be designed in such a way that – within limits placed by privacy laws – the whole world could be watching all in school activities 24/7.
There are several streams of revenue.
Subscriptions to the content provided on the school website, subscriptions to live stream from the school, subscriptions to a TV channel designated to run 24/7 live events and reruns of the events happening in the school, like “learning with the stars”, where “stars” (including football players, basketball players, other star personalities) take classes and exams together with students.
A product placement. School furniture, school uniform, students’ breakfasts and lunch, textbooks, worksheets, calculators, hardware (computers and tablets) and software they use, pens, pencils, erasers, etc. - everything is a part of the business practice of the company.
School team members develop their own teaching tools of all kind, from syllabi to textbooks, to TV and online lessons (those tools are better than many on the market). Team meetings are televised. School members give lectures, provide consulting services to schools and districts on better teaching practices, provide reviews on teaching tools which have been selected for approbation.
With the help of R&D department, all inventions done by the school team are to be protected by patents. Every modification leading to improvement of teaching instruments selected for approbation is protected by a patent shared with the original patent holder.
A half a year after the initiation of the first class the school opens doors for interns (expecting a long line of pre-service and in- service teachers to become an intern). The work of the interns is also televised.
In two years after the initiation of the first class, a regionally- and facet- distributed joint onsite-online-live streaming collaborative college starts providing the best in the country teacher preparation courses (school graduates are welcomed to attend this college).
The school is a model of a good schooling; it provides the market with robust and internally consistent teaching tools; school interns and college graduates bring their teaching experience into other schools. Because of the openness of the school via a TV-show all other schools in the country have to compete with the school to prove to parents that they also can do good teaching.
It is expected that within five years the facility becomes financially self-sufficient.
The success of the school is solely based on the team, the members of which are selected by the principal; the vision of the team members must mirror the vision of the principal, who is selected by the board. It is also crucial to have the board members who share the vision described in this concept letter.
About the author: my website provides all information about me, including my experience, the areas of my expertise, my projects. The reader finds that I have been immersing myself in research on how students learn. I have spent significant amount of time unearthing student needs, as well as exploring the changing demands of the world. I have undertaken the rigorous thinking necessary to shape my ideas into the model of the next American high school. I know exactly how to build the new American school, which will be unique in its design, functioning, and financing. The new school will be innovative and engaging, and will prepare all students for a thriving future.
The core of this approach is openness. I would invite teachers, administrators, philanthropists to support “An Open Classroom” initiative.
I firmly believe that no matter what new technologies will bring to the classrooms, the quality of education has been, is, and always will be defined by how many good highly qualified teachers teach our students.
And one of the strongest motivators for a teacher to grow is to have his or her classroom open for observations to the parents of his or her students, to administrations, to fellow teachers, and basically to anybody who has time and interest to watch their lessons.
That is why I invite everyone who feels the same to support “Open Classroom Initiative”.
All the teachers participating in the project will allow their lessons be captured and posted online. The project will need some hardware, such as web cameras, servers, Wi-Fi routers, DVRs, and also various processing and editing software, Internet and cloud services. The Initiative will be helping teachers to be better prepared for their classes, helping them with purchasing materials for their lessons, with consulting on the best practices they can use to help students learn.
From every participating teacher, it is not just recorded videos of the lessons that will be available for the viewers, but also materials they prepared and used, comments and analysis of what worked and what didn't work, and recommendations on how a teacher could improve his or her teaching practice.
To address privacy concerns a special software will be used which will blur the faces of students and teachers.
The “Open Classroom Initiative” will lead to the development of a library of lessons with the corresponding materials useful for every teacher anywhere around the world.
Teachers from any country can participate in the Initiative and join the open classroom movement.
But the benefits of the Initiative will go beyond just teachers who participate.
Every teacher will be able to compare his or her practice with the practices of fellow teachers teaching the same subjects in the same grade.
The library will become an open source of the invaluable research material for every scientist in the field of education.
Every parent, teacher, principal, or a district administrator can send an invitation to the Initiative, and the Initiative would come to his or her school to find the teachers who would like to join the project.
The Initiative will be posting regular updates on the evolution of the project.
And BTW: this is a good way to assess how professional a teacher is – by asking “would you mind if your lessons would be broadcasting live, and captures and made available online?”
NB: It would be hypocritical of me to call on teachers to open their classrooms but hide my own lessons.
That is why for the last two years I have been posting my own lectures on YouTube.
All the videos are free, as well as all the materials I used for the course (well, except the exams).
This project has been developed as an answer to the call from Ms. Lauren Powell Jobs. At first I wrote an open letter in which I criticized the approach chosen by XQsuprshool project. Particularly, I stated that funding 5 (five!) super-schools will never let to achieve the goal, which was declared as “to transform high school education in the whole country” (paraphrasing). But then, assuming that the authors might indeed have been seeking projects with drastically new approaches to schooling, I offered the project described above.
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