EducationWeek recently opined that “flipped classrooms may exacerbate student achievement gaps.” The notion of a “flipped” classroom is one in which the “traditional rhythm of class time” is flipped by “introducing teacher lectures online so that students can view them at home, while using class time for projects and group activities that might traditionally be consigned to homework.”
Here’s where they missed the mark: A flipped classroom does not give the student any more required time to fully grasp the material at hand. So the notion that flipped classrooms may exacerbate the student achievement gaps isn’t the issue. The crux of the matter is how long these students have access to learning. In order for educators to meet the needs of all students in the class, they should become more available to the students.
Don Nielsen, program chair of ACTE, instead advocates for a longer educational day and year. In Every School he argues that “the longer day and the longer year would help eliminate the achievement gap…and it would reduce, if not eliminate, the dropout problem we now face.”
Here’s how. When it comes to education, time is the constant and achievement is the variable. This must be reversed. Moving to an achievement-based system of learning forces schools to instead adjust scheduling to optimize achievement. For example, “the summer break, for some students, would not take place in mid-June, but would fall later – and more briefly – in the summer.”
Another idea for reducing the achievement gap would be organizing the classroom as achievement groups or levels, not by ages. Less prepared students would be in smaller classes with more individualized construction. Less-prepared students would be in school longer until they have reached the appropriate standard for that age, moving up the ladder only then. For example, in an achievement-based system, a math student would move once he or she had mastered Algebra I, regardless of the time required.
As Nielsen concludes, “Treating all children the same, as we mostly do in our current education system, does not recognize how different we all are from one another. Our education system needs to cater to those differences.”
To leave you all with a question to ponder, Is our 180-day school year the right number? Here are some examples of what other countries provide: Russia—210, Japan—200, Singapore—200, Germany—193, South Korea—190, England—190, Finland—187, and Canada—183. All of these countries outperform U.S. students in international exams. Coincidence?