School of the Future Documentary Calls Home “Where the Magic Is”

A new documentary that recently premiered on the popular PBS science series NOVA reaffirmed that homeschooling provides many of the advantages public schools are trying so hard to achieve.

Focusing on public schools in America, School of the Future, which is narrated by Reading Rainbow star and PBS legend LeVar Burton, traveled the country asking teachers and psychologists if the science of learning can help more children reach their potential. Not surprisingly, they found that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for education.

“The enduring theme of the film is that the school of the future is going to be a more individualized, more innovative, more engaging learning experience tailored to the whole child,” wrote Mark Walsh in his review for Education Week. “Of course, the future is already here in some of the featured schools and communities, but most of the nation’s schools are stuck in the present.”

In an interesting comparison, the film compares today’s education system to a time when U.S. Air Force pilots were struggling to transition to jet-powered aviation. After test flights were crashing at an alarming rate, it was determined that the main issue was not pilot error, but the fact that all the planes were being designed for an average-sized person. The Air Force solved the problem by creating elements that are very familiar to us today: adjustable seating and steering.

“It’s a recognition that average-based industrial systems have failed,” said Todd Rose, a faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “So when I think to the parallel of education, I think we will see pretty big gains just from shifting toward individuals and away from averages.”

Another large focus of the film was the need to recognize that the role of parents is critical in a child’s education.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to close the achievement gap without learning how to effectively engage parents,” said Alejandro Gac-Artigas who founded Springboard Collaborative to encourage reading at home. “The home is where children spend 75% of their waking hours, yet our system does shockingly little to try to capture any educational value from this time.”

As a 1st grade teacher in Philadelphia, Gac-Artigas was appalled that it took until November for his students to catch up to their reading level at the end of kindergarten. However, after implementing his 5-week summer reading program that targets student instruction with a special emphasis on parent training, his students were replacing a three-month loss with a three-month reading gain.

“I began to realize that summer learning loss is a symptom of an underlying deeper problem, which is that parents have largely been left out of the process of educating their kids,” Gac-Artigas said. “I can think of no more natural way to personalize instruction than to do so with a family member. That for me is where the magic is, and I think it’s every bit as magical for low-income kids as we know it to be in higher-income places.”

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