Monday, March 27, 2017

Remember 'Open Schools'? Probably Not, And Here's Why : NPR Ed : NPR

Remember 'Open Schools'? Probably Not, And Here's Why : NPR Ed : NPR:

'Open Schools' Made Noise In The '70s; Now They're Just Noisy


It's a perennial debate in American education: Do kids learn best when they're sitting in rows at their desks? Or moving around, exploring on their own?
Back in the 1960s and '70s, that debate led to a brand new school design: Small classrooms were out. Wide-open spaces were in. The Open Education movement was born.
Across the U.S., schools were designed and built along these new ideas, with a new approach to the learning that would take place inside them.
It was a response, historians say, to fears that the U.S. was falling behind in key subjects like science and math. The approach "resonated with those who believed that America's formal, teacher-led classrooms were crushing students' creativity," Larry Cuban, a professor emeritus at Stanford University, wrote in 2004.
"No whole-class lessons, no standardized tests, and no detailed curriculum," he wrote. "The best of the open classrooms had planned settings where children came in contact with things, books, and one another at 'interest centers' and learned at their own pace with the help of the teacher."
Sounds great, right? But within just a few years — by the late 1970s — the open schools movement had faded. A backlash set in. "Traditional schools sprang up in suburbs and cities," Cuban wrote. "This time the call was not for open education but for a return to the basics."
Of course many open schools remained in operation long after that. I remember visiting one in Detroit in the 1990s, when I was a student teacher. By then, open schools were already an endangered species: education's equivalent of a red-cockaded woodpecker. Or a Ford Pinto.
So, what happened?
Recently, I ran across another survivor just a few miles from NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. What better place to explore this mystery than a visit to Benjamin Orr Elementary School?
I asked the principal, Carolyn Jackson-King, what she thought the philosophy behind this model was back in 1974 when the school was built. "I think it was mainly for collaboration for teachers," she explained. "A lot of times, teachers are in their silos, by ourselves, doing our own thing."
The openness allowed them to work together and students too: "If I'm a first-grader doing second-grade work," Jackson-King says, "I could easily go over to that second-Remember 'Open Schools'? Probably Not, And Here's Why : NPR Ed : NPR:


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