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.)
There’s an educator in my town who has, IMHO, rolled out some new approaches that have shown success. My understanding is that prior to starting his own school, he was the Director of Special Education Studies at a large suburban regional middle school. His area of expertise was implementing programs that the academic literature on academics had shown efficacy. Those programs were so successful in his Special Ed program that they started to be implemented in the rest of the curriculum.
When he was evaluating schooling options for his own child who was approaching school age, he was underwhelmed and decided to start his own private school. As examples they instituted a math program developed in Singapore and a reading program developed in Italy. They cycled through different eras of history that were repeated on a 4-year cycle and the history was applied not only in the history classes, but extended to language and science programs.
Just a few years ago they had their inaugural 8th grade class and from what I understand every student got placed in his or her second or first choice of high schools. The test scores their students have produced have been consistently fantastic.
That said, there’s certainly a selection bias reinforcing parental involvement, time, and effort, but relative to other private schools, I thought the academic curriculum and outcomes were far superior given the level of parental involvement, time, and effort relative to competitor schools.
I woke up with a thought that touches on your comment, although not in agreement with it at all. Were I to retouch the post I wrote, I would have stated something about many of these new programs having worked or showing signs of working when they first were launched but somehow they don’t work when applied more broadly or over more time. The Daviess County case is one example – at least if the article I cited is accurate, early on there were signs it was working.
So what is going on? Well, it could be problems of scale. It could be that the teachers/administrators/parents for a program that is just rolled out are more enthusiastic. Perhaps more resources (not money – more teacher time?) gets funneled at the program. Or perhaps the teacher who first runs with the program happens to be one for whom that style of teaching works, but other teachers don’t function well that well. (Having been an adjunct for five years in the MBA program at Pepperdine, and occasionally giving a guest lecture there since, I would say it seems obvious to anyone in the classroom that every teacher has a different style and what works for one teacher won’t work for another.)
So without knowing anything more about the program you mention, I would with-hold judgement until after it has been tried more widely and results of a broader experiment come in.
Also… perhaps something akin to a placebo effect for the students? “Hey, you are going to be in a snazzy new test program that no other class is doing” might get some students more interested in education, even if the snazzy new test program is just the same as what everyone else is doing. I don’t know. Just a guess.
This school is for 3-year olds through 8th grade, so I don’t think your last point holds. The way the school was built was the inaugural class started with the school founder teaching that grade. Then each year, when another class would enter, the founder would hire someone for the then-new grade and he would continue to teach the inaugural class. So in year 4, the founder was teaching 1st grade, there was a new teacher for senior kindergarten, the junior kindergarten teacher had been there for a year, and the pre-school teacher had been there for 2 years.
Scale, inertia and path dependency could definitely be limiting factors. I’ve seen other private schools switch from a different math program to Singapore math, but it literally took years of deliberation and even then was implemented on a trial-basis. And the founder of the aforementioned school had the opportunity to build his school in his vision without having to convert a teacher with 30 years of experience teaching math one way and then all of a sudden using a completely different methodology.
What?! A Google search for “Sousa brain-based learning” leads first to popular, anecdotal information on the subject. Adding “effectiveness efficacy” to the search terms leads to more scientific and more professional assessments…
Thanks for the comment, BRinPittsburgh.
I did the search you suggested and came up with a number of articles, mostly from around 2009 – 2011. I don’t have the time to wade through them now, but will make an effort later in the week. Perhaps Sousa’s book as well.
But that raises a question… do you predict that this method is going to become widely used, and if so, it will generate great results on a larger scale? I’d like to believe there is something out there that won’t go through the cycle of “works beautifully in a few small tests” –> “large scale adoption with great fanfare” –> “some years later, it seems this doesn’t really work.” Since I’ve never heard about this technique and you brought it up, I am curious why you are certain this time will be different?
There really is no magic formula. No one has ever really been satisfied with how children are taught. I have books from the 1920s complaining about poor teaching methods and the need for going back to basics, accounting for modern psychiatric knowledge and applying educational theory. There was a post war baby boom in the 1920s and the sense was that, in the future, grade school wasn’t going to cut it. Have you ever seen Auntie Mame? There’s a good parody of at least one progressive school in there, and it’s even funnier in the book.
The next baby boom had its own series of discontents with education and an even broader set of remedies.
I will say that, if you can, see that your kid gets taught grammar and fractions. It’s amazing how hard kids have it when they’ve never been taut sentence structure and the parts of speech. Math is even more serious since it is serial. If you miss one step, you can simply fall off the ladder. Worse, they try to pack so much into the curriculum that they often have to rush on before anyone understands anything.
I think you have the formula. Parental involvement, time and effort really seem to be the magic sauce. This puts the children of less educated parents at a serious disadvantage, but no one seems to have come up with a substitute.
“taught grammar and fractions”
Imagine cooking without knowing what a 1/4 teaspoon is or adding 1/3 and 1/4 cups together. I was never excelled at writing until college and I had to take an independent study with the Department Chair to graduate. “If you do not study, you will not pass.” were his words to me. He did me a favor to which I am always grateful. At a consulting firm, I ended rewriting the engineering reports before they went to the customers. I am not great at it; but, I can get my point across.
I believe I am saying I agree!
Your last sentence is key. I’ve been saying for a long time, disparate outcomes are not always the result of insidious behavior on the part of the people who do well.
It was through cooking that I introduced my kids to working with fractions. As for grammar, Latin is hard to beat. With Latin, the verb conjugations and the noun and adjective declensions really drill in the tenses, moods, genders, and cases, and the vocabulary builds a good foundation for English, the Romance languages, and even some German.
Math is difficult. Part of the problem I have seen is those teachers who teach how to DO the math well enough, but not in a way that provides understanding for the math that will follow. For instance, if you first teach multiplication, then multiplicative inverses (the inverse of 7 is 1/7, for instance), then “division” is explained as simply multiplication by the inverse, dividing fractions and dividing matrices become natural extensions of that concept, and are easily grasped. (You still teach the techniques of long division and L-U decomposition, of course.)
In addition to being a rocket scientist, I am also a FIDE-certified National Instructor. (I know — not so impressive. It is only the second of five certification levels. Anyway….) While I love the game, and believe that it teaches many good lessons, I am not convinced it improves academic performance in other areas. Double-blind studies are not possible. But if teachers, parents, and students think that studying chess will improve their academic performance, then it probably will. Who cares whether it is a placebo effect or not? The effect is what is important, not the cause. And if they enjoy the cause, even better!
From: “Argument analysis: Merchants seem to fall short in challenge to New York statute banning credit-card ‘surcharges’”, posted yesterday at Scotusblog, at http://www.scotusblog.com/2017/01/argument-analysis-merchants-seem-fall-short-challenge-new-york-statute-banning-credit-card-surcharges/:
“A second theme was a strong sense among the justices that neither side’s reading of the statute has much to do with what the text actually says. Justice Sonia Sotomayor pressed that point most firmly:
“’I’m not sure what you or anybody is saying about this statute or what it means, but not because it’s necessarily vague. I just don’t see anything about speech in the statute. The statute simply says, ‘No seller in any sales transaction may impose a surcharge on a holder who elects to use a credit card in lieu of payment by cash, check, or similar means.’ To me, it’s very simple: One price for everything.’
“Justice Kagan seemed similarly minded, worrying that ‘the law as written actually can be read – and Justice Sotomayor said this before – as just requiring a single price. Now, that’s something that none of the parties here say, but if you just look at the law, that’s what the law says.’”
I don’t get it. Sotomayor managed to make that statement, about a statute that has nothing to do with identity-civil-rights, even though she probably never participated in an experimental brain-building program–at least not the entire program.
She was an affirmative action appointee, for whom the soft bigotry of low expectations was at work in her nomination. Yet she understood what the statute at issue actually says and that it does not say what that attorney was saying it says.
A one-off, of course. But still.
In my senior year in college I needed a couple of “filler” easy electives, and at the recommendation of education-major friend took a Teaching Reading course with a prof whom my friend said she’d heard was awesome. My friend would be taking the class.
It was one of the very best classes I ever took. It was largely a linguistics class that taught how to teach kids (and that taught me!) a lot about the structure of English. I realized then than any teacher who actually taught kids to read using that knowledge, or for that matter used it to teach adolescents, teens or adults taking a remedial reading course, would accomplish a lot for those students.
I’m mega-big on teaching the basics—really teaching the basics—reading, grammar, math. But another big part of teaching reading successfully is that, after the basics, having kids read INTERESTING STUFF—giving them options about what books to read, as well as assigning certain novels (including historical novels) AND nonfiction history books and such.
BTW, many of us right-wing-nuts are NOT HAPPY with Bush’s “No Child Gets Ahead” law. It totally goobered up our schools.
I guess I should spell out that that two-sentence paragraph at the end of my comment above–“A one-off, of course. But still.”–is sarcastic.
I.e., intended to mean: “Mike Kimel, of course, presumes that.”
For those who are wondering what that comment of mine is really about, it’s an extension of a series of exchanged comments between Kimel and me in the Comments thread to this recent post of his:
Warren, I really agree with you that illustrating math, by, say, putting together a dish, following a recipe, to illustrate fractions, would be a terrific way to teach kids what fractions are really about. Most recipes are put together before the dish is cooked, so this could easily be done in classrooms.