A class of freshman and sophomore high school students from Turning Point Academy (Emporia, Kan.) participated in a video teleconference conversation with Department officials this week, to discuss their advice for reforming education in the U.S. Prior to the meeting, the students produced a 25-minute video outlining nine recommendations for improving the teaching profession and 21st century learning.
During the meeting, students urged the Department to promote project-based learning, access to educational technology, and the concept of flipped classrooms, among other things. Students told Brad Jupp, a senior advisor to Secretary Arne Duncan, that the goal of education should be broader than simply graduating from high school. Instead of helping students to retain facts, they argued that school should “teach me how to learn.” Morgan, a student at Turning Point, explained, “There’s more to life than just academics. It is about giving back to society in the end.”
Students also extolled the virtues of small school environments where they can learn at their own pace and follow their interests. Keegan said he benefits from being in a place where “failure is not an option,” where teachers insist on everyone learning the content. Keegan described an experience in another school where he was not motivated because he felt like “part of a factory assembly line” rather than like an individual. “Everyone needs something different,” Keegan said, “the other schools punish you for that.”
At the end of the session, Dillon described why this type of learning worked so well for him and his classmates. He said they learned to collaborate because “everyone had a stake in [the product]” because they “didn’t want to look like fools” in front of the U.S. Department of Education.
Laurie Calvert is the Teacher Liaison at ED. She is a 2010-11 Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow and a classroom teacher from Asheville, N.C.
Read the blogs written by students at Turning Point Academy who participated in the project.