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Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: Gildo Rey

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April 30, 2014 at 4:31 PM

Guest: The drawbacks of Direct Instruction

jackschneider2

Jack Schneider

Direct Instruction works. And I’d never send my own child to a school that uses it.

That may seem like a paradox. But the picture becomes much clearer once you have a sense of what Direct Instruction looks like. Half a century old, the program groups children by ability, breaks learning objectives down into their component parts, utilizes frequent assessment and immediate correction, and even scripts teacher instruction. According to the model’s designer, Direct Instruction is “a set of procedures for producing a change in behavior toward a pre-stated objective.”

Not surprisingly, students in Direct Instruction classrooms tend to score well on tests. Even in less-formal applications of the model — in which “direct instruction” is not capitalized, teachers work without scripts and the school does not purchase materials from a DI provider — the approach is teacher-centered, simplifies classroom aims to the basics, maximizes instructional efficiency and emphasizes repetition and drill. Want to raise reading comprehension scores? Direct Instruction (or direct instruction) is a surefire way to do it.

But the strengths of the program are also its weaknesses. The program dramatically narrows the aims of education and leaves little room for creativity, spontaneity and joy in the classroom. Although test scores may go up, the improvement is not without a cost.

Where do we see Direct Instruction? Not in affluent neighborhoods or in prestigious college-preparatory schools. Instead, the program is almost exclusively the preserve of schools serving our most vulnerable students.

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Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: direct instruction, Gildo Rey, Jack Schneider

April 27, 2014 at 10:26 PM

Monday story: Auburn school is a shouting success

Students are eager to answer a question posed at them by fifth-grade teacher Michael Fitzgerald at Gildo Rey Elementary in Auburn. Fitzgerald takes part in a style of teaching called direct instruction that involves constant engagement and vocal repetition between teacher and student. Photo by Genevieve Alvarez / The Seattle Times.

Students are eager to answer a question posed at them by fifth-grade teacher Michael Fitzgerald at Gildo Rey Elementary in Auburn. Fitzgerald takes part in a style of teaching called direct instruction that involves constant engagement and vocal repetition between teacher and student. Photo by Genevieve Alvarez / The Seattle Times.

As a morning math lesson wound down at Gildo Rey Elementary, a class of fifth-graders prepared to take a unit test.

“Say ‘I can do it,’ ” teacher Michael Fitzgerald called out.

“I can do it,” the students chanted back.

“Take two deep breaths,” he said.

The students inhaled in chorus, then blew the air out.

A decade ago, few would have predicted that Gildo Rey, a collection of brick buildings tucked between apartment complexes and aging trailer parks in the South King County city of Auburn, would become one of the top-scoring public elementary schools in Washington state.

Go here to read the full story.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Gildo Rey

April 27, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Guest: Districts must provide path for schools to innovate

Kip Herron

Kip Herron

Sixty percent of King County residents living in poverty are now located in the suburbs of South King County. In Auburn, the last decade has brought a two-fold increase in poverty and a 10-fold increase in non-English speaking students.

During this time, two elementary schools, Gildo Rey and Pioneer, became Auburn School District performance outliers, achieving high levels of proficiency in both reading and math despite high poverty and a high population of students learning English. They achieved success through school-based leadership, collaboration and analysis and measurement of student progress.

More importantly, they developed customized systems for the delivery of the aligned instruction called “walk to read” and “walk to math,” as well as other innovative frameworks involving child nutrition, co- teacher internship models and fitness programs.

Amid this progress, our district leadership has had to support the beta processes for continuous improvement at the school level and realize that many times it is the mothership that blocks achievement. The road to academic achievement travels from the board room to classroom. Strategic planners, including school boards, superintendents and directors, have to create the conditions that allow principals and teachers the autonomy to deliver customized instruction for students.

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Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: Auburn School District, Gildo Rey, Kip Herron