Join Focus on Change in Education and Esolution

Monday, May 11, 2009

Breakthrough Collaborative

Here is another Solution: Breakthrough Collaborative

We have been arguing for a PARADIGM SHIFT IN EDUCATION. That shift must include a transition from the traditional COMPETITIVE model to a COOPERATIVE model, where students and their families work together to maximize their potential, instead of tearing one another down to make themselves seem superior.

The Competitive model of education has failed miserably over the last thirty years, as our students learned not how to learn and create, but how to test and cheat. This is why our society now suffers from historic corruption in every sector of the economy, and our citizens are no longer competitive with students from abroad. If we can replace our A-F grading system with and evaluative system (1-4, Mastery - Not-sufficient) we can encourage students to work cooperatively and educate not only themselves but each-other.

Some would argue that competition is part of life, an thus necessary for a well rounded education, and I would agree. Once every child has the basic literacies necessary to learn and survive in this information age, we should take the gloves off and have full competition. However, in our public school system we have failed to provide even those basic literacies to the majority of students before they exit the system. The crisis in education is taking down our country one generation at a time.

In a cooperative K-12 education system, competition is inappropriate as children develop, so there would be no competition between elementary students. Limited competition would begin in Middle School, between teams and classes of students. Ideally by 8th grade, ALL STUDENTS SHOULD HAVE MASTERED THE BASIC LITERACIES NECESSARY FOR SURVIVAL IN OUR INFORMATION AGE. But in today's public education system that isn't the case, many students fail to complete their education, and even graduate without basic literacies.


Basic Literacies include English Language Skills (reading and writing) of course, but must include math and financial literacy, health (i.e. sex ed. and nutrition) and fitness education, social and political literacies, and the fundamentals of information technology. These are not abstract abilities but skills necessary for survival in our changing world. Without them competition is not possible.

Any student unable to complete their literacy exam at the end of 8th-grade would be held back one year for intensive education with re-doubled resources and intensive mentoring. Those still at risk would be tracked to special High Schools, to bring them up to levels adequate for self support before it is too late.


Of those who do graduate, most find it difficult to pass an 8th grade levl exit exam. In our major cities the situation is worse. Unless and until we begin to work together, and insure that ALL CHILDREN ARE GIVEN the chance for survival, the ability to support themselves, the skills necessary to teach themselves, then we have no right to ask them to compete.

"The PURPOSE of a Public Education is not to prepare the gifted for university, but to set the fundamental foundation necessary for all people to survive in this brave new world."

As long as parents prefer their own child over others we are doomed to battle for scarce resources. The wealthy, the gifted, and the strong all believe that competition is in their short term best interest, as the poor, the slow, and the weak, become dependent upon the others. This strategy seems efficient, until you realize the longterm costs, and inefficiencies. When children compete, they learn to manipulate, to cheat, to steal, and to destroy others to protect their advantage. When kids cooperate, they learn to communicate, to understand, and to teach, to work together to achieve goals greater than those they could accomplish alone.

Enlightened educators understand this problem, and struggle with their own bias as they compete to keep their job as the burden of education falls on them. Ignorant administrators and politicians spin the data, manipulate public opinion, and cheat our kids to produce test scores. Unenlightened parents love only their own, but the fundamental question remains, would you rather your child survive in a world where all people can achieve their potential, or leave them to rule a dying planet?

The Breakthrough formula is simple. Take a community that believes in children, add young people who will give their time to change the world, and throw in a delightful combination of kids at the most vulnerable time of their lives - middle school. And then, set deliriously high expectations for everyone involved - for the community to give more than seemed possible, for the teachers to work harder than was dreamed necessary, and for the kids to learn more than seemed available. It works. It’s wonderful. It’s Breakthrough."
- Laura Noyes, Former Director, Summerbridge Sacramento