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Is Expeditionary Learning The Answer To Failure In Schools?

By Nigel Boys

According to Andri Antoniades, journalist and medical writer, in an article on Takepart.com, one solution to the problems that public schools are now facing in the U.S. could be to take the approach that Expeditionary Learning. This approach is teaching students things that will be of use to them in later life.

The Bay Area native goes on to write that, since its beginning in 1992, when former President George H.W. Bush selected the program to be part of his “America 2000” education initiative, the Expeditionary Learning system has grown to encompass over 165 schools in 31 states across the country.

The program, which includes teaching students project based learning, in other words, asking them to solve problems that they would find in their own communities, has had remarkable success, according to Cheryl Dobbertin, director of professional development for Expeditionary Learning.

Dobbertin goes on to say that the aim of the program is to encourage children to learn to solve problems that they might face later in life and allow them to have fun and adventure while doing so.

Some of the schools that have taken this new approach to teaching include: Gary and Jerry-Ann Jacobs High Tech High, San Diego, California; Genesee Community Charter School, Rochester, New York; and Capital City Public Charter, Washington, D.C., who were visited by President Obama in 2009.

Part of the new approach of the Expeditionary Learning program includes getting teachers to work together, instead of separately, continues Dobbertin. This would mean that for a water conservation project, for example, science, social studies and English teachers would get together for the project.

According to Dobbertin, a plan to revitalize the downtown area in Rochester, New York, was submitted to the mayor by the Genesee Community Charter School. She adds that the mayor gave the students credit for the plan and initiated a scaled-down version of their proposal when he committed millions of dollars to a new project.

An independent study by Mathematica, a social policy assessment company, found that students who are part of a school that fully implements the E.L. system, are performing better in English and Math than their counterparts in other public schools, says Dobbertin.

The director of professional development continues that in schools which fully implement the E.L. program, there is a typical graduation rate of 100 percent.

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