For about the past year I have been working at changing the education paradigm in Knox County. If you go to the education consumers foundation website you can pull up the reading scores for Knox county. The state minimum is 45% while the state average is 60%. In Knoxville, twenty five schools are above the state average while twenty two are below the state average. At the bottom are two mostly black schools with only 12.4% and 14% proficiency. Traditionally, it has been easy to ignore such failure. Indeed, in the strike of teachers in Chicago last year, the head of the teachers' union say that they would continue to oppose subjecting teachers to the achievement levels of the students because "inner city children do not have the capacity to learn." Now understand this is a black woman talking about black children. However, these kids do have a capacity to learn but don't because the delivery system is flawed. I have asked teachers, why is it that their slowest learner could somehow know all the words to the most complicated rap upon a couple of listenings if they lacked the capacity to learn? The answer lies in the delivery method. The traditional method is what I call the boring method and is what is taught in our colleges of education. There is an alternative method called direct instruction that has proven successful in teaching at-risk kids and is being used by Elgin Foundation of Knoxville in systems in Virginia and Kentucky and achieving 90 percent efficiency. These are schools in poor mostly coal mining communities and one county in which 60 percent of the children do no live with their biological parents. Elgin has found that to teach effectively one needs to change the education paradigm. The use a method called Direct Instruction (see http://vimeo.com/5293093). It is interesting that the method of instruction in our schools has basically been unchanged since the invention of the printing press - and probably unchanged from the beginning of time. It is essentially mass produced and mass delivered. We herd all our kids into a building, separate them by age and teach them all the same stuff. What is interesting is that we are doing less and less of this mass production in other industries. Automobiles are essentially custom built with the buyer deciding on what extras and accessories come on the vehicle. You can get a custom made suit or shirt for almost the cost of one off the shelf. We now have just in time production and supply chain management. Yet we have brought few if any of these innovations into our schools. I know that I was taught mainly at home by my parents after I got out of school. I did the same with my children. That is their education was customized to fit them and not for the convenience of some school system that they happened to be attending. We must rescue all our children from the clutches of outdated obsolete school systems. Today the only party in the schools who do not have an advocate are the children themselves. I am working with a group of concerned citizens to advocate for the children. More on that later but for now look at this video on the education paradigm.
Harold A. Black is professor emeritus in the Department of Finance, University of Tennessee, Knoxville having retired after 24 years of service. He has served on the faculties of American University, Howard University, the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Florida. His government service includes the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and as a Board Member of the National Credit Union Administration. He also has served on the boards of directors Home Savings of America and its parent company, H. F. Ahmanson & Co., Irwindale, California prior to its merger with Washington Mutual Savings Bank, on the board of New Century Financial Corporation, Irvine, California, then the nation’s largest real estate investment trust and as director and later chairman of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He writes an occasional article for the Knoxville News-Sentinel at http://www.knoxnews.com/staff/dr-harold-black/. His web page is haroldablackphd.com