New Paradigm for Education






There is much discussion about the best way to educate children.  Many education educators provide techniques for not only teaching to the middle. These are valuable techniques for trying to modify a design flaw in our educational system. Teaching to the middle frequently winds up being beneficial to no one. And what about special education?  The terminology alone may set up a false promise. It’s not always so special and in many cases the education falls far short of a learner’s potential.

Differentiated education is being viewed by many as a direction that must be assessed.  We need to evaluate if this method of educating the whole child has merit—every child at their own pace—intriguing. How can a teacher manage so many different educational paces? We know that every child is different, that not everyone learns the same way, or at the same speed.  We already make a differentiated education plan for 10% -12% of our student population that has been identified as having extra needs.  That process is cumbersome, very adversarial, and definitely not something we would want to replicate. But if every child was given the help that they needed, at their own pace, it could revolutionize special education and shift it to the norm.  

The Chugach school district of Alaska has been using a differentiated education system since 1992 and every child has their own education plan. There was a major paradigm shift as the district disconnected time and learning and every child learns at their own pace.  It is a small school district and faces some unusual challenges.  They found that one of the central components to success was the teaching of local values and ethics as a component of the curriculum. I was fortunate to speak with three superintendents who have experienced this system to learn what they did and why.

Roger Sampson was the superintendent of the Chugach school district and is now the President of the Education Commission of the States. Roger talks to me about the background that motivated him to try such a bold and creative change to his schools system’s teaching methods. Roger also speaks to the issues they encountered and what their results were, both good and bad.