Responsible elementary schools strive to ensure that all pupils know more today than they knew yesterday thereby better preparing the youngsters for tomorrow’s lessons. However essential that aim, achieving the goal faces serious challenges due to what confronts quality classroom teachers daily: “It’s not the budget crisis or standardized testing…It’s the enormous variation in the academic level of students coming into any given classroom…” Our current educational system’s rigid graded format, i.e., first grade, second grade, is unable to accommodate this extraordinary pupil diversity. By habit rather than wise thinking, schools assign 25-30 children to classrooms and a teacher’s curriculum on the basis of age with no consideration for skills, a flawed approach called “lumping.” Doing so, even superior teachers are forced by time constraints to ignore many youngsters’ educational strengths and weaknesses thereby increasing the likelihood those schoolkids will suffer discordant “curriculum mismatches.” The book provides teachers and principals an effective alternative to the antiquated “one-size-fits-all” approach that ignores both advanced and struggling pupils, leaving many school children without essential everyday skills. The promising option offers all youngsters—low achievers, high achievers, and those in between—the opportunity to advance through the curriculum as far and as fast as their acquired skills allow.
Joel Macht has spent nearly 40 years providing inservice presentations and direct services to teachers, principals, parents, and school children. He has taught courses that include the book’s essentials in various U.S. universities and colleges within their educational psychology, special education, and/or psychology departments.
Chapter One: Schools and Basic Issues
Chapter Two: The Underserved
Chapter Three: Celebrating the Individual Child
Chapter Four:Age, Grade Level, and Peers
Chapter Five: The Consequences of Lumping
Diagnostics, Strategies, and Formats
Chapter Six: Tailoring Instruction: Getting Started
Chapter Seven: Authentic Performance-Based Assessment
Chapter Eight: Error Analysis
Chapter Nine:Formative Assessment
Chapter Ten: Tailored Education of All School Kids
Chapter Eleven: Format: Graded
Chapter Twelve: Format: Ungraded
This book questions many structural systems and practices in our traditional educational system and proposes ideas that may better support students and teachers in the classroom. This is an important book for those in a position to make changes, as well as for those practitioners in the classroom that are able to make adjustments in their own scope of influence. Dr. Macht addresses our educational challenges and self-imposed barriers from a 30,000 foot view, but he also considers changes that can happen in day-to-day instruction. This is a good read for pre teacher programs because it challenges traditional thinking around teaching and learning and may set up the teachers of tomorrow to question the status quo.
This insightful and important book by Joel Macht challenges many of the basic assumptions of our current educational system and offers alternatives that would help teachers and students be more successful in the classroom. Dr. Macht reviews the typical structure and format of our schools, how student knowledge is assessed, how their struggles are measured and perceived, how students are taught, and how student learning is evaluated. While Dr. Macht takes a wide view of school-system policies, he does not forget the teacher in the classroom trying to address the diverse needs and challenges of the typical American classroom today, especially struggling students. Thus, this book is appropriate for both pre-teaching training and those who hope to become educational leaders, especially, I believe, curriculum leaders. For those looking for small changes or a tweak of the current system, this book is not for you. Dr. Macht explores and encourages significant changes for serious discussion and debate on what we are doing in the American classroom today.
Macht’s book is thought-provoking and energizing. It is written in a highly engaging style. Macht focuses doggedly on one of the most important and, ironically, most overlooked variables in educational reform – instruction. Improving instruction should be the foremost concern of anyone wishing to make education better than what it is today. Improving instruction also requires ensuring that teachers have the training, working conditions, and support they need to deliver instruction effectively. Macht’s proposed solutions are ambitious and deserve serious consideration, while recognizing the important political, logistical, and even legal hurdles they will almost certainly encounter, especially if educators and administrators heed Macht’s advice to ‘go rogue’ at the local level, good intentions notwithstanding.
I commend Macht’s insistence on pushing instruction, formative assessment, and differentiation according to the instructional needs of individual students to the center of thinking about education and how to fix it. For those trying to solve education’s problems, reading this book would be time well spent.
Tailored Learning and Non-Graded formats, critical components for student success, provide all students with customized learning built upon students’ strengths, skills, needs, and interests while providing for irregular upward progression so that each student can advance as far as their abilities allow. Having reviewed the need for change in our educational system’s format, the book clearly explains the transformative approaches that cut across race, language, ethnicity, ability, gender, orientation, and family circumstances enabling schools and school officials to prioritize each learner and each learner’s successful academic achievement. This book is a well-timed guide for policymakers, educators, and families as we take crucial next steps to assure equitable and effective education for all school students in our classrooms.