Monday, November 16, 2009

The School of One

The latest issue of Time Magazine features a list of the Inventions of the Year, which includes a pilot program in New York City public schools called School of One.

In a system of over one million students, the program is tiny; it began last summer with an initial group of approximately 90 seventh graders in a single middle school and plans are to expand it to 20 schools by 2010. The initial group of students submitted applications to be included in the program and all had passed the New York State tests for their grade level. The summer start allowed the initial students to try the program during the abbreviated summer day of only four hours. The students all worked in one large renovated school library, to keep careful tabs on how the program was implemented. There was significant outside funding and corporate support and the subject matter was limited to math. In short, conditions were as close to ideal as could be created in a New York City public school.

These considerations mean that we should this program with some reservations. So, why the enthusiasm and plans for expansion? Because this is a significant departure from the basic way students have been educated for the last 100 or more years. Instruction is completely individualized, with evaluations before and after every learning segment to determine whether the student has mastered the material. Goals are separately targeted for each student, and interactive game-like activities engage the students as they work both alone and in groups to master the subject matter. This approach is very much in line with that of CAST, The Center for Applied Special Technology, where Dr. Yellin is a member of the Board of Directors. It may well be the model for the classroom of the future. But there is a long way to go before it can be even tried in a wide arrange of classrooms, for all kinds of students and for every subject. We'll see how the School of One project progresses over the next few years.

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