Now it's your turn to take a bite
Boston — It's your turn now. For 51 weeks the Monitor has been suggesting a variety of ways schools around the world might be improved.
Every one of the suggestions has been tried in some school at least once, but most are ''new'' to the majority of teachers and administrators, even in the most innovative, highly financed school districts of the developed world.
The final suggestion is that you try one or more of the 51 previous recommendations and keep track of what happens, sending a copy of your final report to the Monitor.
For example, the first in the series suggested children not be grouped in classes governed by a single age, but be grouped in ''families'' with children of several ages and abilities, expecting the older or faster children, or both, to help the younger (or slower).
The fourth suggested that dancing and ping-pong should be added to the physical education program; the seventh called for schools to provide an ample number of telephones for use by students; the 11th suggested that the teachers and pupils commission original works of music from professional composers; the 14th, that the children in the school do daily chores to cut down on vandalism, bad manners, and maintenance costs; the 19th, that teachers read and discuss five specific books.
The suggestion to commission an original piece of music from a professional composer, or to buy original works of art for display outside or inside the school, or requiring school staffs to use the pupils' restrooms and to have the pupils clean and inspect them on an hourly basis, are things that can be tried immediately, and for which the outcomes can be measured fairly quickly.
For these ideas, we could expect a report at the close of the current school year.
Now, changing class groupings from age-group assignments to ''families'' is something that can be organized ''overnight,'' but not something which can register a significant change in pupil outcomes without deep and fundamental changes in how teachers teach and how pupils are guided in their learning.
Ten years! That's the figure often given for this change to be more than superficial, as it calls for massive retraining of existing staff, as well as training the new staff that way. But even if it does take 10 years, won't you start your history writing when you start the discussions, and remember to send the Monitor, in 1992, a copy of the report?
The Monitor, of course, is as interested in the failure of one of the 51 ways as it is in its success. We can learn much from failures, and reports that explain what paths were explored and abandoned are much more useful to the next pilgrim than those which only tell of the paths that led to success.
The Monitor cannot, of course, reprint the reports as they come in. But from time to time the education feature pages can tell how one or more of the ideas has succeeded or failed (or a little of both) in schools somewhere around the world, taken from the reports you do send in.
A few of the suggestions lend themselves to precise measurements (such as a follow-up study of dropouts, or the use of diagnostic rather than achievement tests), while others (like bringing a ''favorite'' person to show and tell) can only be measured intuitively and deal more with school atmosphere than with grades or test scores.
Yet, it's this intuitive quality, educational researchers argue, that is the more significant. The ethos or feeling of a school, it is argued, is what dignifies the good from the bad - and for this there is no wooden ruler.
Making sure every child gets an award, fitting homework assignments to individual children - plus integrated faculties, smaller schools, and more telephone contact between teachers and parents - these all touch on the all-important school atmosphere.
What's needed to determine whether or not there has been improvement (as well as how much and how deep) is a description, as clearly as possible, of the atmosphere before a new program is tried. This can act as a benchmark or starting place to assess the success or failure of one of these intuitive ''ways to improve schools.''
We're looking forward to hearing from you in 1982 - as well as in 1992!