Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Is Bigger Really Better?

By Sean Scarpiello

Currently in New Jersey, there has been a huge cut in education funding. This has left school districts with the job of finding cheaper ways to educate students. One of the main ways districts have reduced costs is by laying off teachers. This then causes class sizes to increase. What effects does this have on the quality of education being given to students? Perhaps larger classes may benefit students, or maybe not.

In the field of education, experts are always arguing that smaller is better. Students get more individualized attention and can get the help they need. It also gives teachers the ability to focus on individuals in class and get them where they need to be. The idea of smaller classes being better holds true for only two groups, students in grades 1 to 8 and special education students. Younger students will definitely benefit from having more one on one contact with teachers, as well as students who can’t learn in a regular classroom and need extra help in learning the basics.

Other than that, there hits a point when you are around 15 years old and you have to become more independent. In actuality, a classroom with 30 to 35 students is not going to affect your learning. If anything, it will be a good transition for junior high and high school students as they prepare for college. Many will argue that teachers in English and Math will overlook struggling students because of this large number of students. That is not a valid argument. Starting in 6th grade, teachers have always made themselves available for extra help at lunch or after school. There is a point in high school where students need to sink or swim on their own. If students cannot be somewhat self-sufficient and independent by this time of their lives, then they aren’t ready to be accepted into colleges and universities. Each of these characteristics is vital as most college students are attending larger colleges and universities with even larger classes.

Within the past few years, parents have caused their children to become more dependent of teachers’ authority. There have even been cases where schools have banned playing tag at recess and avoided contact sports in gym class due to their argumentative nature. This sort of authoritative voice which accompanies smaller class sizes is ruining students’ independence in school. In the real world, everyone has to settle arguments and learn to deal with different sorts of people; it would make sense that children learn to compromise in school. Smaller classes in high schools are not helping students as much as experts tend to believe. This example is just the start of how smaller classes are turning teachers into replacement mommies and daddies, which only hinder independence and intelligence for students.

There is also the argument that teachers will assign fewer papers and make easier tests so they lessen their increased workload. It is pretty rare that this would be the case because most junior high and high schools have very rigorous curriculums which are highly monitored by the school’s administration. In schools where this is a problem, there is an easy fix. It’s called unemployment. If high school teachers were getting laid off because they needed less teachers to teach larger classes, teachers would be working harder than ever to avoid getting laid off or fired and placed into a sector of unemployment where there is a low demand for teachers and a large supply of them.

Although I preach the bigger is better theory, some students are more comfortable in a smaller setting for high school and college classes, and there is nothing wrong with that. The point is that to provide a cheaper, yet equal quality education, an increase in high school class sizes will not hurt the students in the long run.

Source: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/11/nj_schools_struggle_with_incre.html

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The National Center for Academic Transformation

By Sean Scarpiello

The National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) is one of today’s leaders in reducing costs in education. NCAT is a nonprofit organization that works with colleges to redesign course structures and learning environments in the most efficient manner. Therefore, students excel in learning while the college saves masses of money.

With programs for both 2 year colleges and 4 year colleges, NCAT, led by Dr. Carol A. Twigg, uses its experience and information technology to create the Program in Course Design (PCD). To date, there has been over 150 course redesign projects which have been a huge success. Here are some of the staggering statistics as described by Dr. Carol A. Twigg:

"The National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) has worked with more than 150 institutions to redesign a set of core courses since 1999. NCAT works with institutions to break down their instructional model­-mapping who is involved in doing which activities­-to identify how to most efficiently leverage technology, faculty, graduate students, peer interactions and other learning resources, to improve quality and efficiency. NCAT has found that on average, costs were reduced by 37 percent in redesigned courses with a range of 9–77 percent. Meanwhile, learning outcomes improved in 72 percent of the redesigns with the remaining 28 percent producing learning equivalent to traditional formats. Based on a review of the participating institutions, NCAT has identified six redesign models that vary in format, student experience, and use of technology."

Currently, NCAT has proved to be a leader in the fight to reduce higher education costs, without reducing the quality of education and its enjoyment among colleges. There are workshops all across America run by NCAT in order to spread their knowledge about their ideas to reduce education costs.

Source: http://www.thencat.org/whoweare.html

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Advertising in Schools for Lower Education Costs

By Sean Scarpiello

These days, schools are run like businesses and just as other businesses struggle in a poor economy, so do schools. Unlike other companies, public schools cannot file for bankruptcy and escape with the little money it still has. On the other hand, schools do have hundreds of customers that are required by law to show up every day. Administrators should take advantage of this by reaching out to large corporations for advertising. Advertising in schools should definitely be utilized in order to give your child a higher quality education at a lower price.

When the extremists hear about advertising in schools, they scare parents into believing their 2nd grader is going to be exposed to Guinness and Marlboro advertisements in their cafeteria. That will never happen because the target market for those companies are not people who still need to hold someone’s hand to cross the street. Other disparagers of the idea complain that schools will become the battlefield of Pepsi and Coca Cola. My question for them is….So? These same little kids are going to go home, turn on Sponge Bob and be bombarded with the same ads from Pepsi and Coca Cola. If your fear is that little Johnny will get fat because he drinks soda at school every day, just give him the 45 cents for milk or juice instead of the $1.50 for the Coke. Also, it is argued that parents will lose the ability to control their children’s lessons and values, because at school they will go out the door with ads everywhere. This goes back to the fear parents have that their children will develop poor eating habits because of school advertisements. How is this going to happen? Parents have 16 other meals per the week teach their children healthy eating habits. Also, the only way to hide advertisements from your child is to lock them in a closet. Everyone has been the target of advertising from every imaginable form of media. This includes everything from the State Farm Insurance billboards that line highways to James Bond’s Aston Martin.

The point of my argument is that not all school advertising is bad. For the most part, the same ads kids are seeing on their favorite TV shows will be the ones popping up in schools. Some are even being clever in their advertising. For example, companies like Disney are incorporating Mickey Mouse and company into word problems in math class (1). Everyone knows these characters already so what’s the big deal about reiterating these characters to students in order to decrease the price of education? Even if local businesses paid to put up posters on schools’ walls. Small businesses like play zones or birthday party entertainers can build reputations as schools use their money for new computers.

Companies will pay big bucks to have their advertisement posted below the school’s scoreboard. In fact, a good contract with a major soda company can get a school district $100,000 to $300,000 (1). At this point, the extremists need to back off so this country’s education system can benefit from large corporations. Then we will be able to bring higher quality education at lower prices.

1) http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin083.shtml