Nature of the Problempurpose Term Paper

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How project-based learning can be utilized in order to fully engage the student in the learning community.

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Data - Driven instruction (the second half of the breadth - vs. - depth debate). The students must be held accountable to learn a specific knowledge base of facts, figures, and formulae. Without objective measurement of the educational progress, the new initiatives are failing meet the presidential "No child shall be left behind" initiave, and the school is not meeting the responsibility which the community has entrusted to it.

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Finally, this framework includes getting the student's home, and community involved in the educational progress. The definition of the community includes parents, extended family, and the larger commercial community. Many corporations have established programs to commit their resources to imporving the educational progress of the community. Corporations benefit from the community which they serve by earning profit from the goods and services they provide. In response, many corporations, (Mc Donalds, Wal-Mart) have taken established programs to give back to the community by assisting in educational projects. The schools are ultimately providing a 'product' to the community, an educated future citizen. The community is the schools customer, and as such, the schools must consider themselves directly accountable to the community which they serve, and they are the heartbeat of the community as they prepare the next generation of citizens.

Nature of the Problem

The problems facing our nation's education system are serious. There is no single cause, and therefore no single cure. There are no shortcuts to improving student achievement and creating a world-class workforce.

With this foundational undestanding, it is important to recognize that education in America is not working. Even though the United States spends more money per student than any other country, our students still rank far behind most of their international peers in math and science -- and well behind U.S. test scores of 20 years ago. Twenty-eight percent of our high school students drop out -- the highest rate of any industrialized nation -- and those who graduate are often ill prepared to enter the workforce.

Drug and alcohol abuse continues to undermine our nation's students and rob them of their mental clarity, motivation, self-esteem, and ability to focus. Moreover, juvenile violent crime has increased markedly during the past decade, especially gang and school violence using guns. According to the Centers for Disease Control, American youths are 12 times more likely to die by gunfire than their peers in other nations.

Further complicating the problem, is a decreasing attention span of modern youth. In the age of MTV and Nintendo, attention spans can be as short as the time between commercial breaks. Many students with learning and behavior problems are often characterized as being distractible and having short attention spans (Bos & Vaughn, 1994). These students spend less time engaged in on-task behavior and more time in off-task behavior. They are often inattentive, uninvolved, and impulsive. In addition, students with learning and behavior problems often waste time, accomplish little, and require increased instructional attention and effort from teachers and supervisors. As a result of these behaviors, school work is incomplete, students do not make hoped-for gains, and teachers are frustrated.

The U.S. government shells out billions each year to improve public education. Yet many students can't read well or do basic math. While the past 15 to 20-year have been filled with debate within the academic community over the methods to create a stimulating educational environment and without compromising performance, the President Bush took an down-to-earth Texan approach, and with the "No Child Shall Be Left Behind Act" identified three means by which to initiate the much needed educaitonal transformation, to boost performance and close this achievement gap.

(a) Mandate more testing.

(b) Stiffen standards -- and the consequences for failing to meet them.

(c) Increase funds for teacher training, after-school programs, and early childhood reading initiatives.

While regulators still have yet to hammer out the details, the 1,184-page No Child Left Behind Act, which President Bush signed into law January 8, will redefine and expand the federal role in public education. It treats schools like businesses, requiring annual performance evaluations and data-driven results. It provides more money, with less red tape, to turn around failing schools which operate more like dilapadated factories than exciting learning environments. The Act also sets out a set of objective standards by which the ultimate customer of the school system, -- the students and parents -- a way to "comparison shop." The Act has forces a change in the perception of the public school system. It is no longer satisfactory for the federal governemtn, and the local tax payer to pay for educational services; now the message had been given that those who spend the money expect a world class return. They expect to be investing in achievement.

While states, and schools can languish at the rising amount of federal red tape, many educators herald this bill as a muych needed stimulus for real educational reform. Most states have required annual math and reading assessments for years. And far from being a burden testing can illuminate problems that otherwise go undetected, allowing teachers to tweak their lesson plans or add hands-on projects. The strategy has helped lift many schools, which serves a culturally and economically diverse student body, from acceptable to exemplary status on the state assessment in just three years.

There has been a significant opportunity cost to the educational system. While the philosophy of education has been debated, the energy spent on debate, and trying new approaches could have been spent on reinforcing a crumbling educational classroom environment, and insisting on better performance from both teachers and students.

In urban settings, this problem has been experiences at higher levels. While increased educational funding and decreased class sizes have been held out as the goose which would lay the golden educational egg, evidence which would support these hypotheses is non-existent. In the cities which have the highest levels of spending, Washington DC, and New York, there exists the lowest level of academic performance. Parochial and private school typically have the largest class sizes, and spend the smallest amount on education per student. Yet these institutes consistently produce higher caliber students from all ethnic and social backgrounds

The need exists to create a framework for education which leaves the debates of 'depth vs. breadth of education', and 'learning environment vs. learning community' behind. The students need to be taught to be learners who follow instruction and attain full mastery of a specific knowledge base to the point of automaticity, as well as learners who will continue to learn for the rest of their lives.

Purpose of the Project

Engaging the student in educational activities is the process of developing creative exercises in order to engage the creative centers of the brain, and activate the natural curiosity which all students possess. This requires that the student be engaged at many levels. Education includes social and emotional growth. Schools have recently focused on the concept of the school as a community, and a learning environment. However, the primary community for each student is the family which entrusts the student to the school.

Whether the family is an intact, primary family, a family blended due to remarriage, single parent or another configuration, it is from this primary learning community that the child receives the building blocks with which they arrive at the schools front door. This primary community from which the child finds acceptance, self-esteem, and identity is the family. As the school has focused on replacing the family community, it outsteps its purpose, and spends valuable resources duplicating efforts of the student family. While it is true that many families experience difficulty performing these formulative aspects in the students' lives, schools have had greater effect by involving the parents in the education of the children than attempting to replace the family as the center of the students health, nutrition, and provider of social security.

The students' maturing process includes physical neurological growth in the students brain as well as physical growth of the body. In the process- vs. - outcome debate on pedagogy, the only truly general principle that seems to emerge is that focused and guided instruction is far more effective than naturalistic, discovery, learn-at-your- own-pace instruction. This may be due to the truth that growth happens be overcoming resistancen and thereby covering new ground, and attaining new goals. No athlete would assume that by doing what feels good, and allowing the natural course of physical activity to take place in his life that he would become a world class athlete. Physical growth takes deliberate effort, working toward planned goals, and overcoming the resistance of the existing state in order to reach new levels of physical ability. This same approach, when applied to education, reaps similar results. The education process, in the end, is a physical, and neurological process within the brain. The process takes place in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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