We've moved!

Social Icons

twitterfacebooklinkedinrss feed

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sioux Falls Reinvents Education Wheel: What's Not "Real World" about My Classroom?

The Sioux Falls School District touts a new high school that KELO's Ben Dunsmoor says will focus on "real world skills." Perhaps this new school can teach Ben Dunsmoor the real-world skill of writing in complete sentences. A skill all professional journalists should have. (That's an example of the modifying sentence-fragment style that KELO appears to impose on all of its journalists. Dunsmoor commits this error twice at the end of his written report.)

Another real-world lesson the new "Performance Based Learning" school will teach that is specific to South Dakota: life is about the lottery. Instead of doing the hard work of reviewing applications and choosing the students best suited for this educational experience, the Sioux Falls School District will simply draw names out of a hat. That's just like how we fund our state budget, relying on the lottery instead of taking leadership and making hard tax choices.

But wait a minute: is the implication that all of our other schools are teaching imaginary skills? Must we all drop everything and join a project team in a one-to-one computing environment to learn anything useful?

Funny: I thought my years of lectures were helping pass on useful practical knowledge, not to mention instilling listening skills. I thought requiring students to spend hours in quiet contemplation of classic novels was developing appreciation of culture (which is part of the real world) and long-term attention spans (which should be part of the real world). I thought reading and discussion about literature, history, government, and philosophy developed critical thinking skills and well-rounded employees and citizens. I thought an education in the humanities helped make people more decent and interesting.

Silly me. Sorry to have wasted your tax dollars all these years on imaginary skills. Let's all do projects... until the next educational fad comes along.

Of course, if we want more projects and performance-based learning, we don't need to create a whole new high school and send money to California consultants. We could just encourage more kids to join the debate, interp, and theater programs in our high schools. Debate is a year-long project requiring research, writing, and collaboration. Interp requires months of cooperation and coordination with team members and coaches. Theater requires combination of creative and technical skills to produce a good show. Speech and drama activities require rigorous scheduling and test students' learning in the crucible of live performance. Our arts programs are already doing performance-based learning and long-term projects.

...But I guess educational trendiness requires that we reinvent the wheel. Sigh. (That's not a sentence fragment, Ben; that's an interjection.)


  1. Well said Corey - well said. Unfortunately, a lot of good students fail to take advantage of debate, oral interp or theater. We can try to change that, I hope.

  2. Let's see: we're going to spend $2.5 million to start a whole new school that kids will get into by dumb luck. I could probably use $2.5 million to hire 5 assistant coaches for each public high school in Sioux Falls, buy three more buses for travel, and outfit every debater with an HP netbook for research (plus rig every debate bus with a wireless router and mobile connection for further research and homework en route to Speech Fiesta). I could also spend $500K on an aggressive recruitment campaign... or I could just change the curriculum requirements to mandate every student compete at three speech tournaments and hire ten more communication teachers for the district.

  3. What exactly is this? I don't get much information from the article. What are the kids learning? Are they tested so they actually know the material? This cooperative learning technique was tried when one of my kids was in middle school, and my child hated it. Not all the kids contributed to the projects, but they all received the same grade, which meant that if my daughter wanted an A, she had to do most of the work. I have no faith in this type of system.

    Just what is supposed to make this type of learning better? I'm curious. And what happens when these kids get to college? Will they be prepared? Will they be at a disadvantage with ACT tests? Has this been tested and proven as a teaching method? Or is this just for those who don't intend on attending college?

  4. Sorry, fingers got ahead of brain again. Above is Nonnie.

  5. The "modifying sentence-fragment style" is not something just KELO does. TV reports are not written to be read, they are written to be heard.

    When I post my stories online, I have to re-write them to be read.

    But that's not the point here. I too don't see the point of this new school. I'm not opposed to kids using technology, but they need to understand the concepts more than the hardware, because it'll be outdated by the time kids get to the "real world."

  6. Don't get me started about what is going on in Texas. I weep for the future, literally.

  7. Michael, if you've had experience with this PBL stuff, do tell!

    Steve, I agree the program seems unnecessary. Technology doesn't teach thinking. And if this new curriculum is worth the money, why not implement it for all students? Why not find the money to make it available to everyone who wants to benefit from it? The public schools are supposed to make the same opportunities available to everyone, right?


Comments are closed, as this portion of the Madville Times is in archive mode. You can join the discussion of current issues at MadvilleTimes.com.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.