A School That Raises People, Not Students

Education is, without doubt, an integral part of our lives and something that has to be treated very seriously. However, there are some problematic aspects to it, particularly in the way it's being implemented in most parts of the world. The common trend is that schools focus entirely on the academic aspect of kids' education, and completely forget to teach them the other important parts of being a good human being.

That's why it's very important to consider where you want to send your children to study. A regular school may or may not work for them, but what you can be sure about is that your kids will benefit most from a school designed specifically to raise good people, not simply bright students.

These two things don't have to be mutually exclusive either, which is what some parents tend to fear when it comes to choosing the right school for their kids. No, your child won't fall behind in classes simply because his/her teachers are also taking the time to explain good human values to them. Quite on the contrary, a child being raised this way will be quicker to adapt to and accept their responsibilities in life, and they'll know how to contribute to society and be a better person.

Are you confused over where to send your kids in order to give them an education like that? Don't worry - there are plenty of good places, and in fact, there's probably a good school of that type in your local area if you're willing to spend some time looking for it. The Internet can be a great friend here, as it can quickly reveal all the good schools in your area that focus on this type of education.

Remember though, just because you've found a good school for your kids doesn't mean that your responsibilities as a parent end there. Quite on the contrary, there are some serious expectations for you with regards to what you teach your kids at home, and this will be just as important in their upbringing as giving them a good education at school. As long as you follow what the school is trying to teach them, and contribute something of your own in the same tone, you should handle that job just fine.

So, with all that in mind, don't limit your kids' potential and future development just so you can stick to the traditional model for schooling. A lot can be done to improve on that model, and if you're concerned with making your kids better people, then you'll spend all the time it takes searching for the right school.

Just one last thing to be careful about - if there are multiple schools that seem similar (and suitable) in your local area, you should go and talk to the teachers around them personally. This will solidify any impressions you might have of the schools (or break them, sometimes), and will show you exactly where your kids will feel at home - you should know, as a parent!

If you are worried about selecting a good school, you can consider Catholic Coeducation School in Adelaide.

By Trevor Levine

What Happened to the Student Portfolios?

Many teachers want to change the way they do things, but sometimes there's just a lack of tools, a clear plan, or systems already in place about how to proceed. Teachers and administrators are so busy, that unless the tools and the plans are ready to go, sometimes the best intentions have to get left behind.

Authentic assessment is a great example of something so many teachers want to do, but can't always pull off. At one school I worked at, teachers all agreed to a new plan of authentic assessment. The administration had made it clear that each student should have a student portfolio of real work samples. Not only would teachers view this work as part of the assessment process for report cards and conferences, but each portfolio would be passed on at the end of the year to the next year teacher so they could get to know their new kids.

It started as an exciting idea by administrators and teachers - instead of just using test grades, let's look at real student work! Let's get on the bandwagon of portfolio assessment! So the teachers made boxes to store some of the students' best work throughout the year.

Well, at first all was going well. Good samples got saved, and some of it got used a few times during parent teacher conferences. But then, as the year progressed, the realities of paper and time started working against the teachers. The boxes got more and more stuffed full of paper and there was no system set up for weeding out work as more came in. Some teachers kept the boxes in order, and others let them get increasingly messy. At the end of the year, some teachers were stressed when the administration asked them to prepare a final folder of best work spanning the year for each student, to pass on to the next teacher. Some of them managed this better than others - the ones that were very well-organized. Finally, the boxes that some of the teachers made were all lined up and labeled. It was at this point that everything started to fall apart.

The teachers started moving faster and faster to finish cleaning their classrooms for summer vacation. Students were revved up with end-of-year energy and kept the teachers very busy. Some of the portfolios were meant to be labeled, but that just wasn't a priority with everything else going on. And some of the boxes weren't labeled that well either. When the kids left on the final day, admin asked the teachers to move the portfolios and other boxes all into the hall so the cleaners and painters could work in the summer. Some of the portfolio boxes that were labeled well got moved to a hallway storage area. Some stayed mixed in with the rest of the boxes.

Well, sometime late in the next fall, I was helping out at the school, and there was a need to clear out some storage space. Someone said there were a bunch of boxes lying around. They asked me to help figure out what they were and get rid of them. Well... there they were, the boxes of portfolios of beautiful student work. Most of them had never made it to the next grade teachers. "Wait!" I said... "There are teachers expecting these! This is student work! This is supposed to go to their next teachers!" I frantically tried to contact teachers. Some had left the school. I checked on student names... they were all in different rooms now, it would be a long process to match the folders to their new teachers, and some were missing last names and grades. Some folders were meant for the middle school down the road but had never made it there. No one at that school was expecting them or ready to pick them up - it was already way into the school year and they were on to other things, too, and no one had time, energy, or cars to deal with these boxes of mixed up student work. No one could even organize getting the work back into the students' hands or their parents' hands because the kids were all spread out in different rooms and grades. No one wanted to deal with these darned boxes. In the end, they had to be tossed in the recycling bin. At least they were recyclable; I rationalized, as I watched them get hauled away. And at least some of the other portfolios in the school had made it to their destinations and not to this corner of the hallway. But, it made me think, there must be a better way.

Now, just a few years later, at least there is a much better way - digital portfolios are starting to become available to replace big heavy boxes filled with papers. But even as we find good solutions with technology, we still need to remember, that behind every good idea, there's a need for good implementation and planning, so that all of our teachers, students, parents, and administrators can see good things come of their good intentions.

June Schwartz is writing expert for digital portfolio at Open School ePortfolio.

How Mighty Is the Pen? The Dire Problem of Education Finance

School funding in the U.S. is essentially unfair and inequitable. In a society in which it is nearly impossible to advance without a good education, in which education has become a civil right of man, it would be wrong to deny any child quality education.

We cannot logically expect our children to advance in society that will not give them the money they need to get a decent education. And even after primary and secondary education, it makes no sense to put the poor in college debt when they were already given less opportunities to get into that college than the rich. Making college so expensive continues to burden the poor and when the time comes, their children are put in this cycle. This violates the original intentions of American life, giving equal opportunity for all.

Why are there so many struggles placed on those who work hard? Currently systems are based on a revenue limit, meaning districts provide money for schools depending on property wealth of the school. School finance should be given based on the current wealth for one family and society, more finance on the less fortunate and vice versa. If this cycle of giving less to the less fortunate continues, it will create a socioeconomic gap that hurts quality of education, teacher fold, and school ranking.

School funding works at three different levels: local, state, and federal. Federal funding is minimal for lack of educational clauses in the constitution, while state governments are the sole voice in taking control of financing. Yet instead, local funding has shown to be the most domineering and main source for school funding. This has become a problem because local funding depends on property wealth, and property wealth widely varies within city and district. Cities that suffer from a predisposition of "poorness" get poorer the funding. Those schools are stuck in the ditch of debt and are unable to escape due this revenue-limit system.

As well as the federal and state funding level needing repair, the local and district division is also issue. Districts may be considered the smallest unit of funding, but funding inequality is prevalent within districts too. This disparity is exemplified in the rising differences among schools in material and teacher quality. Teachers get paid more in low poverty districts and as a result compete for those jobs. Consequently, high-poverty districts suffer from a shortage of teachers, lower quality teachers, and a high turnover rate. And in our current system, schools finance judgments are per-teacher-based, so high-poverty schools are unable to receive the aid they need because of surface teacher salaries. Schools instead should be given enough money in a per-student system rather than per-teacher system in effort to increase output per student.

Renowned economist and critic Eric Hanushek addresses the finances of education issue in his novel Courting Failure. In his novel, he explores and discovers the correlation that low student performance indicated inadequate funding. It is precisely this situation that shows children's right to adequate and equal education cannot be pursued if do not fix the underlying problems, such as that of public funding state levels need to provide a safety net for the schools of their region. States can do so by providing more to the less-wealthy and less the more-wealthy. Yet while doing this, they must make sure the funding level is high enough that all these schools can function properly, instead of the "minimum" levels they currently adopt.

Hanushek also questions the term "adequacy", the current national requirement for school education. Strikingly, 28 states have been ruled unconstitutional in this area. States assert minimal education standards that no reasonable people would consider acceptable. Adequacy's violations can be visualized if we imagine fully efficient public school and an actual public school or what society believes students should learn and what they actually learn. The space between these two ideas is incredible and throw off all vouches for adequacy. This gap comes from how finance calculations are made, typically through teacher-salary, lack of inclusion for more expensive students (e.g. English language learners), and different standards of adequate funding. We need to stop resorting to traditional terms of what is "sufficient" and instead adopt concrete definitions needed to give real standards to schools so they can be efficiently and thoroughly funded.

Another widely claimed label is "equity", the idea to distribute resources equally throughout schools in a state. If we are to allow all students equal opportunity in school quality and ranking, this distribution should be done in a way that lessens the differences ranging across school districts' abilities to raise funds. Lawsuits claim that such is a violation of the "equity" principle, that poor districts should not get more money than rich districts, but if we do not help or nurture those in need, we are raising them for unequal chances and opportunities for their future lives. Indeed, it is necessary to limit the poorness of these districts.

Studies suggest this inequality can be reduced by transferring more of responsibility of funding from local to state. Well respected Californian finance reform advocate, Arun Ramanathan, proposes a plan to better state-wide academic funding.

1) Instead of a revenue-limit formula, adopt a student weighted formula.
2) Ensure that school funding gets allocated directly towards students.
3) Require districts to clearly show district and school level spending
4) Monitor correlation of financial inputs and academic results. Ensure that those who need special help get the help they need.

A plan similar to the one Ramanathan proposed was implemented in Colorado recently. The plan itself calculates the difference that state funding has to make up for local funding to be equal throughout the state. The idea is that if the districts can raise more from local taxes, the state does not have to make up the difference if the locals make less. The new finance act makes sure to have expenditures visible and comparable for the public, allowing for direct regulation of financial reform. The plan also accounts for those who qualify for reduced-lunch and ESL learners. By diving 20-40% more money toward those students, the financial system balances giving all students equal opportunity. Using these plans, Coloradans have begun showing improving trends in educational finance.

With plans like these, there truly is a future in education reform. But it is up to all the other states, or rather, the federal institution to begin addressing the concerns the students' well-being as students.

By Tanzeela Khan

Studying Abroad Helps to Prepare You for an International Career

Your college years are a time of expansive learning, adventure and hopefully fun! Taking time to study in Italy for a semester, summer or year can broaden your horizons and teach you important linguistic and cultural skills. Italian is a romance language, and as such, is linguistically related to English, French and Spanish. Although learning Italian may be challenging at first, your ear for the language will be facilitated by your native language and your familiarity with other romance languages.

Studying Abroad Helps to Prepare You for an International Career

Learning a new language is just the tip of the iceberg when you go for an extended time period to study abroad in Italy. If you choose to stay with an Italian family as a foreign exchange student, you will learn both the language and the culture much more quickly because of your immediate immersion into all things Italian! Learning a new culture can also help you to quickly develop the sensitivity, awareness and cultural understanding necessary to successfully pursue an international career. Studying abroad in Italy will hone your interpersonal skills and deepen your understanding of other cultures.

Study Abroad Scholarships are Available

If you would love to study the culture, history and language of Italy, but aren't sure if you can afford it, there are scholarships available. A college education can be costly, and often students take out federal and private student loans to cover the expenses. If you are receiving financial assistance through your college or university, you may also qualify for a scholarship to study for a semester or longer in Italy. If you are not receiving financial aid, you still may qualify for a scholarship to study abroad. Please contact your college's financial aid office for more information about available scholarships and to see which study abroad scholarships you are qualified to receive.

With some financial assistance through a private scholarship, you will be able to immerse yourself in the rich and varied history, architecture, art, and culinary delights of the old world. Imagine sipping an espresso on the Piazza Navona after viewing contemporary artwork in a local art gallery in Rome, and then visiting the Roman Colosseum as the afternoon sun slowly sets over the horizon. Spending time studying in Italy will also afford you the opportunity to visit the resplendent Vatican and the Pantheon.

Taking some time to study in Italy for a semester, summer or year is very exhilarating and exciting. It is also a great way to prepare for an international career in our globalized economy. Studying abroad expands your horizons and teaches you cultural flexibility and sensitivity. It also deeps your knowledge and appreciation of current events and politics affecting areas of the world outside of the United States. Another benefit of studying abroad is that it teaches you a new language, which has been clinically shown to increase the efficient functioning of the brain. And, of course, it is very exciting and fun to travel to another county and experience a completely different culture way of experiencing the world.

Visit John Cabot University for more information about study in Italy.

By M. Patrick Quinn

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