Smaller and distributed instead of big and centrally controlled are usually better for a lot of reasons: freedom, choice, scalability, security. Historically, concentrations of people and power are not always beneficial and are often very difficult to break up.

This is one Roane Countian not discussing making all the towns of the county into one big entity.

Both the consolidation of the towns and the consolidation of the schools have been discussed here at RoaneViews, and the issues are not unrelated.

"Small is beautiful" applies to our schools, too.

There is ample evidence in many studies showing that larger schools are likely to be worse for economically disadvantaged students, and even for all students in schools with disadvantaged students. I have seen nothing that says otherwise. There are studies showing that larger schools can be better--for the upper crust.

If we wanted a consolidated school to save money, we would be better off instead buying each child one of those one-laptop-per-child computers and paying even out-of-state tuition for each child at an accredited distance-education primary or secondary school; it costs a lot less than one would think.

We could use some of the considerable per-student savings for intensive phonics tutoring to get students' reading levels up to that needed for the text-based portions of web-based distance education, and some of the rest for running a reduced number of physical classrooms for those students so bad off they could not benefit from the many advantages of web-based education or for those students so young they still need in-person supervision for reasons of safety.

There would still be plenty left over for enhanced sports and enrichment and tutoring programs--even for a huge marching band!--all without mortgaging our county's future by buying a big mistake of a consolidated school.

[And web-based instruction does not discriminate on the basis of physical appearance. It is a meeting of minds, not of bodies, and can be very freeing for those students who are not fortunate enough to look like rich upper-class models.]

To minimize change for current high school students, we could phase the new program in one year at a time, starting with the freshmen. Even getting most of the freshmen out of the physical schools would eliminate the high school overcrowding problem in the very first year.

Parents could monitor their children's actual activities on a minute-by-minute, even keystroke-by-keystroke basis if they wanted, keeping tabs far more closely than they can in the current way of doing things.

Eventually we could even make our own accredited online school or schools, so that the jobs would be kept here. I taught for years online and have developed online classes; the technological hurdles are not great.

If folks want a bigger rated football team let's make a county-wide team, but we don't need to run education into the ground in addition.

As in soccer leagues, football teams do not have to be tied to a school. We could make football something separate, outside of the school system, so that the emotional issues of competitive male prowess and civic battle pride would no longer cloud our important school decisions.

Or we could do as MIT does and forget about football. Somehow they manage OK. :)

I don't think people really would implement these ideas here--although they just might improve things and save money too--but write them now in hopes more folks will be inspired to "think outside the box."

-- OneTahiti

Hmmmm

One would hope that a former and sometime teacher's idea for our schools that would lower per-student costs, eliminate overcrowding, increase enrichment and sports, emphasize reading and writing, and put a computer in the hands of every student while not costing anything in new buildings would generate at least one comment, even if it is just to tell me to go jump in the lake. :) Researching this took a long time....

-- OneTahiti

Again - don't be jumpin in the lake!

Having re-read your short epistle...

I have done some web-based education. I think it has some limitations, but basically is a sound proposal. It would have to be managed correctly. And it would take teachers who have the skills to produce really good instructional material TAILORED to be most effective on the medium in question. It should also be technically produced so that it doesn't matter what web browser one uses. Web based stuff that dictates what browser one must use really pisses me off (since it's usually IE!). It should be browser and OS neutral.

I know teachers who instruct via TV and such in colleges have specific courses they can take (maybe are required to take?) so they can learn to be optimally effective in that medium. Perhaps there are similar preparations pedagogs can make in order to be optimally effective in preparing and evaluating (grading) work taken via a web-based medium?

RB

Thanks, RB!

I'm still tuckered out :) so won't write and post a long answer detailing courses and resources for teacher training in web-based instruction right now. I have taken a number of such courses and in retrospect it seems the time would have been better spent reading a few pages of practical guidelines, but that is just my experience.

I'll try to work up a longer and more informative answer "soon." :)

Thanks again, RB!

-- OneTahiti

DON'T...

go jump in the lake.

I'm ruminating on some responses...

I agree with RB...

And that will probably never happen again, so pay attention.

I'm glad I re-visited this page...

At that time I would have agreed with you. But, alas, we have disappointed our readers, WC. By now we have agreed on several things :-)

RB

Can you Swim ??

I kinda have done a half-assed experiment that possibly can shed some light on the subject - but it is undoubtedly statistically insignificant:
We raised 8 kids in the local school systems (7 of ours and one stray).
Half (4) went to the Oak Ridge School System (before they ran me out of town) and the other half (4) received their education from the Rockwood School System. The comparison of the results is clearly in favor of the latter group, the Rockwood Scools System doing a much superior job. I could go into the details but my wife would probably kill me.

The Oak Ridge system is a large operation with all kinds of high tech frills and designed for the above average student, normal kids being left behind. The first experimental group survived this but did not retain much of educational value from this experience.

On the other hand, the Rockwood system was designed for ordinary kids and the second experimental group faired much better. Their subsequent record for obtaining College Degrees turned out to be 400% better than the first group.

Yes, I think large consolidate schools suck !!

My 2 cents worth.

Interesting, Corvus...

There is a different emphasis, and each emphasis - predictably - produces some different results. Methinks there is SOME benefit in each. Perhaps we could learn SOME things from systems like OR, and appropriate them in our own way, in neighborhood schools in Roane.

One T - I think I like your basic ideas about bigger not necessarily being better and sometimes being worse.

I also don't think metro government equals consolidated schools. It's two different issues that don't have to be in lock step with each other.

RB

Metro gov. would make consolidated schools more of a temptation

RB,

Thanks for joining the discussion! :)

I agree with you when you wrote, "I also don't think metro government equals consolidated schools. It's two different issues that don't have to be in lock step with each other."

However, I strongly suspect that having a metro government would make consolidation of schools a continuing temptation. :(

-- OneTahiti

That's possible, OneT...

But that would depend more on the mindset/intent/goals of the school board.

IF one assumes that a metro government (let's assume for the sake of discussion) would allow for more efficient use of dollars, and have fewer places to waste dollars in duplication of services, then perhaps the monies available to the BOE would allow for more flexibility of thought. Perhaps they could feel free to pursue the small school communities as discussed in the online forum I reported on in another thread.

I don't know... metro gummint may just allow them more freedom of thought to think outside the box. Maybe web-based, non-traditional learning, who knows?

I think consolidation of schools will be and is its own temptation, form of government notwithstanding.

And, as the discussion a couple of days ago revealed, the small school concept can be constructed organizationally in what we might consider (in largely rural Roane County) to be a larger type school.

I look forward to what you put together. Just take care of yourself and don't poop out on us :-)

RB

I'm still tempted

Whether we get Metro government or not.

It's not as simple as size of the buildings...It's more the Administrative organization that I think should consolidate.

Oliver Springs is a geographic flyer but the other four would not be that much of a problem. Maintaining four separate high school administrative offices seems wasteful, particularly when some of the offices serve over twice as many students as some others.

The course diversity of our curricula is not what it could be or should be, with the greater enrollment of a consolidated school.

Same Thing, Same Results

Don't think I have enough experience to weigh in much more than to say that consolidation certainly seems like something worth debating. I grew up in Oak Ridge schools, and have no children, so I don't know any better, but I do know that Oak Ridge is a testament that great football and great education can coexist.

I would also like to note that Knox County's experience supports RB's "different issues" point. Metro government has consistently failed there, but the county took over school operations from the city back around 1990. I'll leave it to others to comment on whether, and, if so, how, that has worked.

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