District Administration- August 2008 - (Page 64)
SPEAKING OUT • Gary Stager Enrichment Programs The winners win more at the expense of their classmates. ONE COULD HARDLY DISAGREE that recent generations have experienced increasingly mechanized school practices. Issues impacting school administrators such as data-driven decision-making and management theories, borrowed from industry, are obvious examples of this trend. Most educators accept ability grouping, standardized testing, A-F grading, zero tolerance and compartmentalized curricula without a second thought because they have never been exposed to an alternative. Schooling is on cruise control even when common assumptions are not in the best interest of learners. The automation of schooling limits autonomy and allows services to be “delivered” on the cheap. When skillful teachers get to really know their students, they can use their creativity to design activities and materials that meet each student’s needs. In such contexts, curricula, pedagogical strategies, assessments and even the physical learning environment may be changed to realize the potential of each student. School leaders can get away with homogeneity or mechanized instructional practices until kids fall through the cracks and parents complain. This partially explains the curious epidemic of learning disabilities as well as the proliferation of IB and AP courses, and gifted and talented programs. When children are treated like interchangeable widgets, parents will demand labels designating their children as unique and deserving of services. Enrich What? I’ve taught incarcerated teens diagnosed with a plethora of learning disabilities and ten-year-olds engaged in cancer research, engineering and music composition. These kids have more in common than one would think. They need productive 64 August 2008 they enjoy, play games and take ﬁeld trips. Sometimes any child (who can aﬀord it) may elect to be part of enrichment. Field Trips I am all for ﬁeld trips—lots of them! That’s where many students see their ﬁrst play, hear a cello, touch a squid, see a Van Gogh, meet a scientist, climb a ﬁre truck, consider a career, or spend their own money in a gift shop. Field trips oﬀer the opportunity to learn many lessons related to the curriculum and life outside of the classroom. Field trips provide poor children with the sorts of opportunities more aﬄuent students take for granted. At a time when funding priorities have made ﬁeld trips a distant memory, they are a hallmark of enrichment. Not only does this aggravate educational inequity, but the ﬁeld trips for enrichment students often have little educational value. Trips to the mall, Disney ﬁlms, Broadway shows, or even the circus are not uncommon treats made available to enrichment students whose parents can aﬀord them. Such ﬁeld trips are an entitlement that sends the message to a handful of children that you are deserving of privileges your classmates won’t enjoy. Curriculum connections could be made to ensure that ﬁeld trips are educationally meaningful, but why bother? There isn’t time during the occasional enrichment session to explore the signiﬁcance of the Titanic. But what the heck, we’ll bus them to look at Titanic artifacts anyway. Besides, enrichment and its ﬁeld trips aren’t about enriching the curriculum. They are about telling one group of parents that their children are better than the rest. DA Gary S. Stager, email@example.com, is senior editor of District Administration and editor of The Pulse: Education’s Place for Debate. Enrichment is derived from Latin for “children of rich parents who complain.” contexts for learning in which teachers build upon their individual needs, talents, expertise and desires without sorting, labeling, name calling, fear or coercion. Students need to engage in meaningful work with the support, materials and time necessary to demonstrate understanding. In the absence of learner-centered conditions, gifted and talented and special education services are required. Ironically, these interventions are endangered by the very forces that required their existence. Today, shortages of funding, leadership or imagination cause gifted and talented programs to be sacriﬁced for something called enrichment. Enrichment is derived from Latin for “children of rich parents who complain.” In many cases, enrichment becomes its own course for children fortunate enough to gain entrance. Enrichment is too often a pull-out program where a very small number of kids leave their regular classroom to engage in the sorts of enriching activities that would beneﬁt every child, while disrupting the child’s classroom. My informal research and experience suggests that enrichment is where lucky students experience project-based learning, read books District Administration
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration- August 2008
District Administration - August 2008
8th Annual Salary Survey
Do You Know the Drill?
The Evolution of Notification Systems
How Well Does This Web Site Work?
Calendar of Events
Understanding the Times
District Administration- August 2008