Kansas Students Weigh in on Education Reform

Mr Newell's Class

Dennis Newell and Abbi Moser with their class at Turning Point Academy. Newell is a National Board Certified Teacher who contacted the Department and collaborated on their students’ project.

A class of freshman and sophomore high school students from Turning Point Academy (Emporia, Kan.) participated in a video teleconference conversation with Department officials this week, to discuss their advice for reforming education in the U.S. Prior to the meeting, the students produced a 25-minute video outlining nine recommendations for improving the teaching profession and 21st century learning.

During the meeting, students urged the Department to promote project-based learning, access to educational technology, and the concept of flipped classrooms, among other things. Students told Brad Jupp, a senior advisor to Secretary Arne Duncan, that the goal of education should be broader than simply graduating from high school. Instead of helping students to retain facts, they argued that school should “teach me how to learn.” Morgan, a student at Turning Point, explained, “There’s more to life than just academics. It is about giving back to society in the end.”

ED Conference Call

ED staff hold a video teleconference with high schools students at Turning Point Academy.

Students also extolled the virtues of small school environments where they can learn at their own pace and follow their interests. Keegan said he benefits from being in a place where “failure is not an option,” where teachers insist on everyone learning the content. Keegan described an experience in another school where he was not motivated because he felt like “part of a factory assembly line” rather than like an individual. “Everyone needs something different,” Keegan said, “the other schools punish you for that.”

At the end of the session, Dillon described why this type of learning worked so well for him and his classmates. He said they learned to collaborate because “everyone had a stake in [the product]” because they “didn’t want to look like fools” in front of the U.S. Department of Education.

Mission accomplished.

Laurie Calvert is the Teacher Liaison at ED.  She is a 2010-11 Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow and a classroom teacher from Asheville, N.C.

Read the blogs written by students at Turning Point Academy who participated in the project.


  1. i think teachers should search student because what if they have a weapon and is planning to do something bad. who knows?

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with Norm’s comment. Let me add some detail ideas to his comment as follows:
    The education for middle and high school students should not only be by teaching or urging them to memorize all facts but to guide them, at least part of the time to explore new or at least slightly different topics or ideas in their individual interests. However, the school may not be able to arrange all of the additional activities, such as outside instructors or tutors. However, some students may have strong motivation to form a small group to learn or develop certain ideas under the guidance of the existing teachers in the school or some outside volunteer experts. The school should facilitate and support such initiatives as well as permitting these students to skip some boring home works as long as the students can pass the required skill level qualifying tests (for their graduation). Personally I found that some of the drills in science and mathematics are completely unnecessary, sometimes even tend to turn students away from schools because they were utterly bored by such activities. The government mandates seem to discourage learning by intelligent students, but push the others to quit school, and overall, LOWERING THE SKILLS OR INNOVATION OF THE K-12 GRADUATES, COMPARED WITH THE COUNTERPART OF THE INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS, OR TO THE U. S. GRADUATES 60 YEARS BEFORE.

  3. We need to allow teachers to be themselves rather than trying to choreograph everyone with rules, standards and group think.
    Young people today need mentors, advisors and teachers who can fill in the gaps by adding the glue that hold facts and ideas together. It is not simply about providing well-rehearsed “units” of standardized, state-sanctioned learning but it is also about imparting common sense and sound. practical advice. Often, this can only be supplied by tangential, self-teachers and not solely by the pedagogically indoctrinated.

    Teachers’ ranks should be filled by certified, state-programmed individuals but also by non-academics who have experienced life, solved problems, thought outside-the-box and have engaged in analytical, individualized thinking.

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