kitchen table math, the sequel: Post-Doc Academy Charter School? "Academy of Wisdom and Learning"

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Post-Doc Academy Charter School? "Academy of Wisdom and Learning"

(Although published on April 1, not a spoof.)

Michael Drout's dream high school, Academy of Wisdom and Learning

I would open a school staffed entirely with new Ph.D.'s, probably mostly from local New England universities, who wanted to get teaching experience. It would pay $42,000 per year with full benefits on two-year contracts. The idea would be that faculty would teach at the Academy as a way-station on their academic careers, kind of a teaching and research post-doc. They would receive intensive on-the-job training about how to teach (because there is no tougher audience than high-school kids), though even if they weren't great teachers at the start, they would have energy and excitement about their work and would become good teachers.

Everyone would be expected to do research as well. We would have weekly colloquia and presentations, part of the benefits would include Interlibrary Loan and access to academic databases, etc, and time would be set aside each week and within each day to do and present research. The headmaster (me, to start) would advise and support the staff in interdisciplinary research efforts, bring in speakers, etc.

The "catch" would be that the students would have to be included in this research in various ways--you'd have to design your projects so that students could help, and this working on cutting-edge research projects would be a way to focus student learning. If a student was helping, for example, on a 19th-century history project, then the teacher would be teaching the students the background they needed to understand the project and contribute to it.

OK, KTMians, what's your take? Go over to Prof Drout's blog to comment


Anonymous said...

Hmm... 42K per year: teach AND do a research? I wouldn't apply there.
As a very new teacher - all energy and time are put into lesson planning, and basic surviving.
Another point: I started in NYC with a Bachelor degree 4 years ago at 42000...


Anonymous said...

"The idea would be that faculty would teach at the Academy as a way-station on their academic careers..."

But teaching doesn't help one get tenure. And I doubt that research in a high school would help get tenure, either.

How is this a way-station rather than a dead-end for people wishing to pursue an academic career?

-Mark Roulo

Allison said...

well, it's no worse than most post docs, the vast majority of which are also dead ends for people wishing to pursue academics careers, and it pays better than many liberal arts post docs, at least.

I guess I don't understand. Why is a sink-or-swim model of teaching good? It's constructivist, granted, but it makes no sense. Certainly some folks are really good naturally. But good teachers can be made, and great teachers can be made, too. So why not create them---give them an opportunity to improve before giving them the difficulty of handling 30*5 high schoolers.

I don't understand why a sink or swim model is good for *students* either. Do they deserve to be experimented on?

If you're within driving range of a university, you've got access to academic dbs, and certainly phds hve better access to academic dbs than non-phds.

If the point is really to grab new phds, why not grab them BEFORE then, while they are in grad school? Why not do this teaching and research AS a grad student, supervised by full time teachers who can hone the research aspects, too?

Allison said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ChemProf said...

I wonder what he thinks would happen with science though. Most science research projects need significant start-up funding, and coming up with a project that can involve undergrads is challenging, much less high school students.

Mark Roulo is right that this job wouldn't help you get a job, however, not even at a liberal arts college. I did a teaching/research postdoc, and while the teaching experience was good, it wasn't any more help in finding a tenure-track job than my later straight research postdoc.

ChemProf said...

Sorry, should have looked up Dr. Drout before I commented - he's a professor of English at Wheaton, so the answer is he didn't think about any kind of science (and probably barely thought about math).

For the humanities, and for Ph.D.'s who wanted to teach at a liberal arts college, it wouldn't be a bad idea. It is a better life than adjuncting, for sure.

Allison said...

Even if this is good for phds, why is it good for students?

My kid goes to a lab preschool, at the Univ of MN. The lab part is twofold: it's a lab in the sense that the child psych dept interact with the kids for various experiments, and it's a lab in the sense that the preschool itself changes its curricula with what's currently shown in the research. More, the early childhood ed program funnels all students getting a certification through the preschool, so every student has one of these four classrooms as a student teaching experience, and there's complete cohesion and focus on what the student teachers are taught.

But what makes this work for the children is the lead teacher. Changing student teachers every quarter, and having those student teachers cover a wide variety of skill and talent at teaching would make the whole thing unworkable if not for the great lead teachers, who knit together the room's feel, style, curricula for the kids--and are not just leaving the student teachers to figure it out for themselves. The lead teacher is the core that makes this function, defining the values in the room, defining the organizational principles, managing toward a goal. Most new teachers --esp. if they are young and not from the work world--really don't know how to do that.

A group of high schoolers has different needs from a lead teacher, but they aren't minimal. A two year stint isn't long enough to overcome the rookie mistakes. Dr. Drout's blog post rolls this all up into "Students would have the benefits of an all-Ph.D. faculty who would every single day model for them the value of intellectual effort. The faculty would make up for in energy what they might lack in experience, and students could count on being as entertained as they were challenged (because we know how new Ph.D.s are about their research projects). "

Hogwash. 1. Modeling what phds do doesn't help a novice to learn. 2. Enthusiasm might be a necessary component to learning, but is not sufficient to going from the concrete to the general. 3. Struggling students aren't going to be better off because their peers simply care. This idea is a piece with believing that sitting a black kid next to a white kid magically teaches the black kid to read at grade level.

LynnG said...

At first I thought this was an April Fools Joke. Then I realized, it wasn't!

Putting a cadre of well-papered academics into classrooms with no experience and tons of professional development? And then pay them decently with full benefits?

Isn't that what we do now?

After 2 years, the good teachers will all leave? basically, this model says, if you can't find a better job elsewhere, come teach kids for 2 years while you wait for the economy to improve.

Yeah, that's exactly what I want for my kids.

Allison had it right. This is a model designed to help the adults, not teach the kids.