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Log in to Witsby: ASCD’s Next-Generation Professional Learning and Credentialing Platform
April 1, 2002
Vol. 59
No. 7

EL Extra

Welcome to EL Extra. We have designed questions to help you and your colleagues foster meaningful discussions around this issue of Educational Leadership.
These questions will not cover all aspects of this issue, but we hope that they will help you generate a conversation around key ideas. Feel free to adapt the questions to be more relevant to your school or school district. Although you can consider many of the questions on your own, we encourage you to use them in pairs, small groups, or even large study groups.

The Aims of Public Education

Larry Cuban (“Customization and the Common Good”) discusses three major aims of schooling: providing individual benefits to students (such as high school diplomas), preparing students to become good citizens, and preparing students for careers. What priority do you personally place on these three aims? Get together with your colleagues to compare views. Which of these aims does your school, school district, and state emphasize most? Cuban asserts that schools in general focus too much on workplace preparation—is this true in your own community? What changes in curriculum and instruction are needed to achieve the best balance of aims in your school district?

Parental Choice

Ron Brandt (“The Case for Diversified Schooling”) asserts that parents should be able to choose the best educational program for their child, and that school districts should offer a variety of good programs to make that choice meaningful. Discuss in a group Brandt’s statement that people’s educational philosophies are as personal as their religious beliefs, and should be respected in the same way. Do you agree? Then consider your own district: Do parents have choices among a variety of different public school programs? If so, does the system work well, or does it need improvement? Would the Edmonton, Alberta, model described by Brandt work in your community?

Home Schooling

Three articles in this issue deal with homeschooling. Brian Ray (“Customization Through Homeschooling”) writes that the home is the natural environment to customize education. Rob Reich (“The Civil Perils of Homeschooling”) asks whether such customization “reflects a consumer mentality in education and potentially dilutes active democratic citizenship.” With a group, discuss your views about homeschooling. Do you know parents who homeschool their children? What are their reasons for choosing this option? Consider forming a task force to explore how your school district currently interacts with homeschooled children and their parents. Could an active program like the one described by Mark G. Eley (“Making the Homeschool Connection”) work in your school district?

Redesigning High Schools

  • Making time flexible. In “Must High School Be Four Years Long?” Clifford B. Janey describes a program that allows students to set their own pace and complete the high school program in 3, 4, or 5 years. Would such a program benefit students in your school? Do you know students who have failed or dropped out because they needed more time, or students who needed to move at a faster pace? How can you create a culture in which all time options would be equally respected?
  • Making student engagement a priority. Eliot Levine (“One Kid at a Time”) describes The Met High School, where the formula for student engagement is simple: “Powerful relationships and high standards provide the context for learning that occurs through pursuit of student interests and real work.” What priority does your school place on student engagement? What programs are in place—and what programs could be developed—to foster strong personal relationships between students and adults? To build students’ coursework around their personal interests and goals?
  • Using technology to empower students. What do you think about the vision of the new high school advocated by Bob Pearlman in “Redesigning the High School Experience”? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the school as a workplace? How would students benefit? Does your community have the resources to establish a similar school?
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