Big Picture Change Could Come To Tulsa School

Monday, May 18th 2009, 10:45 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- When educators talk about failing schools, many parents assume they're not talking about their child's school.  But the reality is, even some of our high performing schools are producing students that don't measure up to their international peers.

American schools used to lead the world.  Author Tony Wagner says not anymore.

"They had no idea how stunningly mediocre American education has become," said author Tony Wagner.

About 70% of American high schoolers graduate, placing us behind Italy, Poland and Japan.  Denmark bests us by about 26%.

Of those that do graduate high school, a whopping 40% have to take remedial courses.  And the nation once unmatched in the percent of students graduating from college, has tumbled to 13th in the world.

Author Tony Wagner spoke to Tulsa and Oklahoma City educators last week.  He says Americans haven't gotten dumber, it's just our schools haven't gotten any smarter and they're stuck in the past.

"It's not about trivial pursuit anymore, memorizing as much stuff as you possibly can," said Tony Wagner.  "It's not what you know in the 21st century. That's important. But, what's more important is what you can do with what you know."

Wagner says there are schools that are doing things differently like The Met in Providence, Rhode Island.  It's a Big Picture School.  There are no traditional classes, no grades, and no school at all two days a week.

"The Met in Providence spend 60% of their entire four years in high school in the workforce learning," said Tony Wagner.

Met Co-founder Dennis Littky says at first people laughed at the concept and then they see the results.

"97% attendance, rest of the city had 77%. Then they started looking at dropouts, 2% dropout, the city was 46%. They stopped laughing a little bit. Then, it became senior year, every one of our kids got accepted to college," said Dennis Littky, The Met cofounder.

The proof isn't just in the numbers, but also in the befores and afters.

"I was getting suspended every other week, fights, just disrespecting authority figures," said The Met senior Melvin. Now that I'm in my senior year, I'm at MET Life, MET Life Insurance company. It's a paid internship and all of that money is going into a scholarship for me for next year."

Some Tulsa school leaders went to Providence to learn more.  Now, they want students at Tulsa's Franklin Youth Academy to see the Big Picture.