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We Already Know How to Fix Education

teachers changing education

Just imagine if all teachers were given a break from constant new programs introduced from above and allowed to teach this way. Imagine the growth we could see.

One of the most frustrating experiences as a public school teacher is being forced to start a new fancy program each year, sometimes not even at the beginning of the year, based on what is trendy at that moment in education. A college professor, politician, business person, or someone at a testing company comes up with an all new approach to teaching my struggling students how to read or do math and we have to stop what we were told to do last year and start this new program. We are always assured that this new curriculum is so much better than the old one. But guess what? The next year, just as we are getting used to said program, we are again told to try something different.

You may be thinking that I am stuck in my ways — another educator adverse to change. However, I actually think that change is needed, but change for the sake of change will not improve education. It also causes several big problems for the classroom teacher:

  • When programs are changed often and implemented quickly without the proper training, no one can learn how to use them correctly, and by the time the teacher starts to learn, the system has moved on to something else.
  • Having no program consistency over the years from one teacher or grade to the next causes students to become confused and does not create the needed improvement in student achievement.
  • This approach over the long-term causes teachers as well as those outside the school to begin to doubt a teacher’s ability to choose what is best for their students. This results in a drop in teacher morale which affects student morale.

What if I told you we already know what the best program is? And guess what? It was not created by corporate America or an academic; it was created by a preschool teacher. It is called the Direct Instruction Follow Through Model by Zig Engelmann. Interestingly, I think it is most similar to what teachers would probably choose, if they were allowed to make the decisions about how to teach in their own classrooms.

The largest educational experiment of all time was called Project Follow Through. It was conducted from 1967-1995 by the Department of Education and the Department of Economic Opportunity at 180 sites, with over 200,000 children (grades K-3), using 22 programs, and costing about a billion dollars. Student achievement data was used to determine success. This study sought to find a way to improve schools that were poor educationally and economically so that their performance matched schools in mainstream America, and they did. The only model that succeeded in bringing children close to the 50th percentile in all subjects was Direct Instruction. Here are some of its basic tenets:

  1. Students are tested to find out their current skill level.

This involves giving them a diagnostic test to determine the skills that they can and cannot do. Knowing this is the key to measuring growth, as we must know where a student begins in order to determine if they have learned anything at all. Currently, many students are just given a proficiency test at the end of the year. This test measures whether a student has mastered certain skills that are determined by the curriculum to be appropriate for that grade level. There are several problems with just measuring proficiency at the end of the year. For example, some students who are advanced or gifted start the year at the proficient level or, conversely, some students who begin the year well below grade level may make years of growth but still not show proficiency. When the latter happens it is a huge achievement for both the teacher and the student but often one for which the teacher is punished when only proficiency is tested.

  1. Students are instructed at their current skill level

Based on their testing, students are then grouped and instructed at their current skill level. There was nothing more frustrating for me as a teacher than feeling like I had to rush students along through a curriculum that they were not ready for. Imagine how effective it would be if we just met students where they are and taught them what they needed to learn.

  1. The focus is on mastery of each skill and students move at their own pace

In Direct Instruction, skills are introduced gradually and students are expected to master those skills before moving on. This is in stark contrast to what is common practice in many schools right now, where teachers feel that they must move on, regardless of student progress, because that is what the curriculum map dictates. With Direct Instruction, when a student does move on, ten percent of the lesson is new material and 90 percent is review. This eliminates the problem that we encounter as teachers ALL THE TIME, where we are left asking ourselves, “Why don’t you know this, I just taught it to you last month?” when a student has forgotten. Students don’t forget when they are constantly reviewing. They forget when they are taught skills exclusively in isolation. If students have not learned the skill yet, they can be provided with more practice. If a student quickly masters skills, they can move on quickly.

Just imagine if all teachers were given a break from constant new programs introduced from above and allowed to teach this way. Imagine the growth we could see. Imagine how many fewer behavior problems we would have. Imagine the morale boost. I am not suggesting a mandate, maybe just simply providing accurate information about what works best and then letting educators themselves choose and stick with what is working.

-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.
Owner | Parrish Learning Zone, LLC

 

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                                       ~Nina

Nina Parrish, M. Ed.

Nina Parrish, M. Ed.

Co-Owner and Director of Education

Proud mom of two adorable girls. Teacher who has developed an education business that started at a kitchen table and has grown into a thriving small business... Click here to Learn more about Nina.

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Ms Brown was wonderful with tutoring my child in Algebra ll.
Pam Cantrell Burton
Pam Cantrell Burton
2020-10-14T16:15:51+0000
Parrish Learning Zone helped my daughter with on-line SAT and college essay preparation. She not only scored in the top 90 percentile on the SAT after working with Lauren Cannavo, she especially benefited from the tutoring she received for her admission essays. My daughter was accepted at Notre Dame, UVA, William and Mary, and received scholarships to George Washington University and the University of Alabama. She was initially deferred at the University of Chicago and waitlisted at University of Michigan and Emory University. She eventually chose not to remain on the waitlists and committed to UVA.Lauren also advised our daughter regarding her submission of a 20 page essay on community service for DECA, a high school business club. Our daughter, along with her partner, won second place in her category at the DECA state competitions in 2019 and 2020, and received second place at the DECA international competition in 2019.Lauren was not only a top-notch professional, she really cared about our daughter and was so pleased about her accomplishments. We are so very grateful to her and Parrish Learning Zone.
Marijayne Kruus
Marijayne Kruus
2020-05-11T21:51:37+0000
My daughter has a math learning disability and hated math. We started working with Nina Parrish and stuck with it for several months. Her grades have improved, but more importantly, so has her self confidence. She now loves going to work on math and will even work on it at home by herself. We are grateful for Parrish Learning Zone!
Laura Ellis
Laura Ellis
2018-12-14T14:36:43+0000
Mr. Chaves is an extremely gifted chemistry teacher. It's such a difficult subject--my son was drowning by the time we found PLZ. This was truly a last ditch effort on our part. Mr. Chaves was able to turn that ship around after only 4 lessons and my son passed the SOL! He was able to distill difficult concepts in a way that made them comprehensible and he was patient and kind and gave my son the confidence to succeed. His actual eacher expressed surprise and made a point of telling him he didn't know how he did it but he was impressed. It takes a gifted teacher to get results like that.I only wish we'd found PLZ and Mr. Chaves in the beginning of the school year.
Wendy Zelazny
Wendy Zelazny
2018-06-08T02:05:15+0000
Highly Recommend
Anne Kater Reeves
Anne Kater Reeves
2018-06-07T22:46:05+0000
I highly recommend Parrish Learning Zone. My daughter was able to achieve the SAT score she was aiming for with the help of her Math (Mr. James Slane) and English (Mrs. Lauren Cannavo) tutors. Not only did they help her with practice tests but they also boosted her confidence in taking the SAT. The owners (Nina and Jay) were always prompt in answering my emails. They are very accommodating and worked around my daughter’s schedule (thank you Shiela for all your help in finding available dates for my daughter to meet with her tutors). Thank you Parrish Learning Zone for helping my daughter achieve her goal!
Beth Yankovich
Beth Yankovich
2018-03-23T20:29:18+0000
I can't say enough good things about Parrish Learning Zone. My son has historically suffered from low reading comprehension. I felt he needed a little extra help so I contacted Parrish Learning Zone. The owners at Parrish matched my son with the perfect tutor for him, they developed a rapport almost immediately. He is now in 8th grade and doing well in all his classes. My son is very active in school sports and the staff at Parrish are always very accommodating. They always reschedule with no problems. My son even likes to go early to chat with Sheila.
Beth Kent
Beth Kent
2017-11-08T18:59:11+0000
Awesome! Very structured and student focused - they identified the areas of weakness and turned those into areas of strength in a very short amount of time. I loved the communication from the tutor and the company. I received a specific report of my child's tutoring session including improvements and areas that needed continued work. I received reminders of upcoming tutor sessions - which I needed!! I felt the individual attention and service was worth every penny AND found the prices to be much more reasonable that other tutors in the area. I would HIGHLY recommend Parrish Learning Zone to any parent that needs to find highly competent tutoring help for their child. Parrish is simply the best!
Michele Hiltbrunner Freemyers
Michele Hiltbrunner Freemyers
2017-03-14T15:53:50+0000
An excellent place to take your kids for any tutoring needs! PLZ is a very personalized and hands on service! Both of my teenage boys have been through here for various reasons and I know we will continue to make use of them!
Tammy Elms Mosco
Tammy Elms Mosco
2016-06-02T12:20:59+0000
SAT Prep Course with Parish Learning is definitely a worthwhile invest !!...My son's scores improved over 200 plus points!!
Janice Boles
Janice Boles
2014-12-02T22:34:32+0000
I am extremely thankful to Parrish Learning Zone. I have a son that is a freshman in college majoring in mechanical engineering. I am so glad that we found out about the Parrish Learning Zone because they were very caring and really worked hard around my sons high school football schedule to ensure that he received all of the needed instruction in order to do well on the SAT testing. It was a great investment for his future. I believe this experience prepared my son for the transition to college life. He was able to attend a top engineering college and to play football there. My daughter is a senior in high school now and was admitted into two of the top ranked public schools in Virginia. She will be a freshman at one of these schools next year. She also was enrolled in the Parrish Learning Zone for preparation for the SAT. I am again thankful to the Parrish Learning Zone and feel that this was a great long term investment into their futures. I would strongly recommend the Parrish Learning Zone to anyone looking for an environment that offers a caring and knowledgeable approach to educating students. They are the best.
Angela Jackson
Angela Jackson
2014-05-15T00:39:39+0000
Andrew Powers
Andrew Powers
2014-02-09T12:32:29+0000

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