Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ending the School Budget Crisis Today

IF we immediately stopped buying textbooks, AND used some of the strategies here,
we cancelled all copying machine rental contracts, all laminating machine and most paper purchases AND used curriculum resources from Larry Ferlazzo selected by subject area, free resources from the Net for (Special) Education by Paul Hamilton, the free UDL resources here at CAST, and the Free Technology Toolkit for UDL in All Classrooms,

we would end the school budget crisis TODAY and make the curriculum accessible to 99% of all students, including those with learning, cognitive and physical disabilities.
Reducing unneccessary budget expenditures while removing the obstacles to learning and shifting instructional methods away from textbooks, lecture and print-based materials (which no research has validated as superior methods) provides money for actual learning.
Do you have a better solution?


Steven Katz said...

You nailed it!! I'm helping to plan a new school and this is the exact conclusion we came to.

Robert Talbert said...

I agree with everything here except the word "lecture" in your last paragraph. What evidence is there that a move away from lecturing will provide more money for "actual learning"? Is lecturing necessarily more expensive than any other pedagogical method?

Not trying to be disagreeable here, I was just wondering if there is objective evidence that supports this point. If so, I'd be interested in seeing it.

Karen Janowski said...

Tell me more about the new school you are planning. Very interested to hear about it.

See your point; poorly written. Lectures, per se, do not necessarily cost more. I was lumping "lectures" in with more traditional methods of accepted instruction and was implying think in new ways about classroom instruction. Lectures are not the most accessible format for many students with disabilities and often erect obstacles to learning for kids on IEPs. So, not really a cost issue but instead an accessibility issue.

narrator said...

The "paperless school" (an Irish/British term) offers a ton of benefits. Just the elimination of textbook budgets would usually offset the costs of equipping students with tablet PCs, then... eliminate paper costs, copier costs, printer costs (consider the trash savings just there), and by personalizing learning environments would allow an essential reallocation of Special Needs resources (to actual support, away from creating dependence).

Charge those tablets via solar powered panels on the roof, and you are sustainable, better educationally, and less costly.,,2236718,00.html

- Ira Socol

loonyhiker said...

Great post but it makes too much sense. In the world of politics and profit making, this would cause publishers etc. to lose too much money and they have powerful lobbyists to keep this from happening. We could alleviate the oil crisis by using alternative resources that we know we have but we don't. It';s all about politics and who is getting richer.

Alexa said...

What about those of us who respond better to physical books and paper?

Anonymous said...

Alexa, I think is on that one.

I love the new sunlight readable displays in the OLPC XO and each month that goes by it will get better and better.

Steve, the redesign issue is exciting. A fresh start with a committed group of teachers and professionals would be very cool to see/ be a part of.

Ira, nice point about using alternative energy to power the technological enhancements.

narrator said...


I honestly believe that students who want paper copies should be able to have them - print-on-demand. Just as I think that no student in a "paper" school should be forced to use ink-on-paper books, etc. I think, over time, fewer and fewer students would ask for this option, as they learn the advantages of the best digital text systems, but there will always be some, and universal design should accept that.

The new displays that are on the way are stunning, but we need to combine Kindle-style displays with both flexible technologies, including touch screens, and, of course, it would be nice if Amazon ever thought about accessibility. But it will all come together soon. Just watch.

- Ira Socol

Kate said...

But first schools need computers in UDL workstations or 1:1 laptops/tablet PCs and more intense alternate access devices for those who need them. We need internet access (I just spent a year in a school without computers or internet in the classrooms) without blocking sites that are needed for teaching. We need teachers who KNOW how to use those computers and the internet, plus Web 2.0. Not all schools/districts are in the same place, some schools (for example the one I worked in last year) haven't even made it to 1993 one computer classroom standards.

But we need to keep in mind students for which paper, laminated visual cues are a lifeline and we need to remember the students for which a backup communication system of laminated pages of picture communication symbols is absolutely needed when the high tech option goes on the blink. I'm all for thinking outside the box as long as we aren't crushing anyone under it while we are standing on it looking around for better options.

Most of all we need the continue to sparking the revolution!

colleenk said...

Your portrait of an "educational utopia" has my mind racing with ideas. Have you mentioned this at school board meetings? If so, what kind of response did you get?

My niece teaches 4th grade in Wakefield and has been incorporating into her curriculum some of the ideas you point to in this post (at the relentless behest of her aunt and uncle). As a result, her students' MCAS scores are among the best in the state. Her students are engaged and motivated to learn.

In addition to consuming school budgets, I think textbooks squash teacher creativity. Math textbooks, at the elementary and middle school level, often come with scripts for teachers to follow complete with anticipated student responses. In contrast, many online resources available are open ended and promote creativity.

I think the kind of reform you want has to occur one teacher, one classroom, one school at a time. Perhaps a faster way is to put these ideas into action at a school of your own. Have you ever thought of starting a charter school? Tom and I have been approached many times to convert our math center into a full service school. We just didn't know where to begin with the process. Perhaps this is something we could plan together.

Paul Hamilton said...

Another thought provoking post, Karen. Good discussion in response, too. (You can sure miss a great deal when you're out of the loop for a few days!)

I haven't followed all the links in the discussion here yet, but I wonder if anyone knows what the research says about the relative effectiveness of the lecture method of instruction. Can someone point me in the direction of research that would help?

Intuitively, I suspect that the traditional lecture method works well for only a very small percentage of learners.

As for paper texts, I think it would be best if learners could print those as needed from the digital source.


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