Graduation 2010 – Daviess County, KY

An acquaintance was talking about a program called Graduation 2010 which was implemented in public schools in Daviess County, KY (total county population just south of 100K). Here’s an article from 2003:

Michelle Hancock doesn’t need to read brain research books. She reads her children.

One got in on the start of an experimental brain-building program in Owensboro, Ky., and one only experienced part of it.

Eleven-year-old Adam Hancock is in the first target class. He’s due to graduate in 2010. The program started when he was in kindergarten with special brain research-based programs in foreign language, music, art, exercise and chess. He knows some Spanish words, he reads music, he plays chess — and his brain just works differently from his older sister Tori’s, says Hancock.

“Adam is much more of a planner than his sister. He has got to know what he’s doing ahead of time. He thinks things over, then makes his move,” his mother says.

“It could be just a difference in personalities, but I have to think the chess has something to do with it.

“He’s getting things that Tori wasn’t exposed to. When kids are younger, that’s when their brains supposedly absorb like sponges.”

The article goes on:

That research is infused into the Daviess County school system’s classes, creating what internationally recognized author and brain-based education consultant David Sousa calls “a lighthouse district” among the nation’s schools.

Sousa, author of “How the Brain Learns,” served as a consultant to the school district. He spoke at community meetings, helped train teachers and has watched the program progress.

“It’s a well-organized, well-thought-out plan that’s been working for six years now,” he says. “We’re beginning to see more schools changing their programs (to reflect brain research), but Daviess County was one of the first.”

The program emphasizes major research areas in brain/education science: the well-accepted “window of opportunity” for foreign language learning that closes around age 12, the connection between making music and ability in mathematics, and the development of what Sousa calls higher order problem solving using chess and other challenging games and teaching methods.

It also incorporates a fitness program and expanded arts programs including dance and professional performances.

There’s a strong emphasis on parent involvement and a program wherein corporations adopt a class for those students’ full 13 years in school, acting as mentors, and participating in class-room and community projects with the students.

Every Daviess County teacher has received brain-based training.

From kindergarten on, children are exposed to nongraded Spanish language lessons, music and keyboard labs, dance and chess lessons to encourage critical thinking skills.

“I see a difference in the way these children respond to learning, and children 10 years ago,” Stacy Harper says. “These students are much more involved in their learning process.”

She’s read about the brain research findings, but the students prove it every day, she says.

“You can see, they’re developing those connections. We do Spanish videos two or three times a week, and we’re learning together. It’s so much easier for the kids to learn Spanish than for me as an adult. Now is the opportunity for them.”

Children who learn early increase their learning capacity forever, says Daviess County Superintendent Stu Silberman. That’s a staggering concept that educators can’t afford to ignore, he added.

Sadly, I have found very little on this program online. The name of the program doesn’t help: “Graduation 2010” is a bit too generic. Nevertheless, it is hard to escape the conclusion that if the program did work, it would be touted more widely. So it probably didn’t work. (Note: the state of KY did experience a large increase in graduation rates from 2010 to 2013, but since Daviess County is so small I imagine the two facts are largely unrelated.)

Anyway, since I have a school-aged child, I have started paying more attention to children’s education. An awful lot of well-meaning and and logically-sounding ideas and concepts seem to have been tried over the years, only to be overtaken by the next generation of ideas and concepts. Other than parental involvement, time and effort, have any of these new approaches rolled out by the educational complex really helped? (This is a question, not a statement.)

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