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Educational reformation adjusts curriculum

The birth of this campus marked a celebratory point in history for its founders, 31 years ago. However, the rest of America began demands for reformation in its educational system as they could no longer boast in having the best-educated work force in the world.

According to the National Center on Education and the Economy?s (NCEE) executive summary, Tough Choices or Tough Times, ?One country after another? surpassed the US in proportion of the entering labor force with the equivalent of a high school diploma.

The NCEE states the United States, 30 years ago, claimed to have 30% of the world?s population of college students. Today that proportion fell to 14% and continues to dwindle.

In Jeanne Batalova’s Feb. 2005, article, College-Educated Foreign Born in the US Labor Force, she found nearly 50% of college-educated foreign born who came to the US were from Asia; China and India being the two largest sending countries.

Jennifer Yang, ’09, transferred to this campus from Taiwan this year with her brother Peter, ’09.

“They are very different educational styles,” Jennifer said. “It seems we learn the same things only much faster in China and if you didn’t do an assignment the teacher could hurt you. Its better here though, in China, there is so much pressure from parents. Everyone wants to be the best.”

Both believe pressure and repercussions contributes to rising number in China’s work force.

“It’s easier here,” Peter said. “The hardest part of my classes is the language barrier. I’m in trig and we took it two years ago. Students there want to learn. Not only does class last longer (7:25 A.M.-4:15 P.M.) each day, you need to study until you go to sleep at around 12 A.M.”

The NCEE believes the core problem is that the educational systems were built for another era, when most workers needed a rudimentary education. Since ?American workers in every skill level are in direct competition with workers in every corner of the globe,? the nation needed to adopt internationally benchmarked standards for education.

?The best employeers in the world? will adapt these standards to look for competence, creativity and innovation; ?and will be willing to pay them (their employees) top dollar for their services.?

Reformation impacts campus programs

Administration continues to reformat curriculum for their fourth year to adjust to the demand. Debbie Siebert, Interim Superintendent, remains optimistic in retooling, as this campus does not only have grade level and department collaboration, but vertical teaming (across grade levels). This allows faculty to maximize everyone?s strengths.

?The heart of it (reformation) has to do with demands on the future; the world is different from how adults found themselves 20 years ago,? Siebert said. ?It?s not enough to know answers to questions.?

?You are required to have discernment and wisdom to put together all the pieces of information to come up with viable solutions for higher level critical thinking skills and problem solving strategies,? Siebert said. ?Analyitical skills are much more critical to your education now, in addition to acquiring a base of knowledge in basic skills in reading and writing.?

Siebert believes the challenge for this campus is to reconstruct curriculum and have instruction provide opportunities for students to practice a higher level of critical thinking through collaboration.

?We previously used curriculum driven instruction,? Siebert said. ?It was based on publisher textbooks. Now teachers have more freedom and responsibility to analyze textbooks and use professional judgment when designing lessons that meet the California curriculum content standards and our Christian world view.”

“We are also using assessment,” Siebert said, “our goal is to teach to a student zone of proximal development so each student reaches the maximum potential from their educational experience.?

Math department embodies reconstruction ideals

Evidence of reconstruction appears in classrooms, as teachers implement various analytical assignments and hands-on projects.

“I have not noticed there has been a substantial change (in curriculum), because I have always felt there has been an analytic atmosphere here at Fresno Christian,” Matt Nickel, ’08, said. “Our math department is with the times and administration continues to enhance it, along with other programs.”

Michael Fenton, math teacher, joined the staff four years ago and instructs algebra I through AP calculus and believes his primary academic goal as a teacher is help students think independently.

“The only alternative to critical and creative thinking is non-critical and non-creative,” Fenton said. “You can non-critically get a perfect score on homework and ace a test, but these skills do not transfer later in life.”

“The biggest complaint of people hiring a person for a job is their lack of basic skills and inability to think to learn those skills. They don’t have the time or money to re-teach someone, when they should have been taught how to think during high school and college.”

To encourage students to push their mental limits, Fenton made problem solving credit a portion of their final grade.

“For all classes, especially higher math levels, I assign explorations,” Fenton said, “I usually just wander around the classroom, forcing you (students) to think independently. The goal is to be able to teach yourself new things.”

One example of solving a “real world” problem, occurs every two weeks for trig/pre-calc students. Fenton supervises groups measuring angles to calculate the height of buildings and objects around campus.

“With scheduling we haven’t been able to do that much, but I want students to go outside and see they can use trig in the real world,” Fenton said. “If you get a 10 on an assignment and don’t know how to use it, the material is only half understood at best.”

While adjustments continue, faculty agrees with Siebert their primary goal of instruction is to develop a Christian world view in each subject.

“I’ve felt I’ve always been well-educated and challenged here,” Nickel said. “I feel the teachers have done a great job at teaching and strengthening our faith. I feel comfortable moving towards challenging things at a big university; I think I’m more than prepared for the world, not just on an educational level.”

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