School Fieldwork Study

School Setting My field study was conducted at the Talented and Gifted School for Young Scholars (T. A. G.

) Middle School located in the East Harlem section of Manhattan. T. A. G. is a selective public school, governed by the NYC Department of Education. It was founded in 1989 as a magnet program within the school system’s District 4, and became an independent K-8 gifted and talented school in 2004.

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T. A. G. is one of only three gifted and talented programs in New York City. It serves students identified with gifted abilities in grades K-8.

Children are admitted to kindergarten through 2nd grade based on their scores on two tests, the Otis-Lennon School Abilities Test (OLSAT) and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment (BSRA). Children whose scores put them in the 97th percentile nationally are eligible. There are a handful of seats open in the upper grades. Middle school admission is based on grades, standardized test scores and teacher recommendations. There are approximately 500 students comprised mainly of African-American, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern backgrounds, reportedly only 2% of the student body is Caucasian.

Each grade level has two classes of up to 25 students each. The school is located in a building that houses four other mini schools, a common practice in schools these days. For instance the high school I attended has been divided into five different high schools. T. A. G.

is located in a community which could be described as a lower socioeconomic area, 36% of the children live in poverty. A majority of the students, approximately 63% are on free or reduced lunch. TAG serves a predominately minority, working-class population, mostly from Upper Manhattan, the Bronx and nearby parts of Queens.The students’ standardized exam scores are consistently strong, with 92% scoring at or above grade level in ELA and 97% in Math during the 2008-2009 school year. 8th graders take Regents exams in Science, Social Studies, Math, and Spanish. I observed the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade classes of the middle school during the instruction of various subjects such as language arts, social studies and math.

The middle school is departmentalized meaning specialized–teachers teach only in their areas of specialization, and students move periodically from room to room for each content area.Classroom Description The classes were comprised of students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grade level. The students ranged in ages from 12 to 14 years old. There are approximately 25 students in each class,12 boys and 13 girls. No one in TAG has special needs or requires related services during school hours.

Many of the students are bi-lingual. The classes are culturally enriched as some of the students come from varied parts of this country and other countries as well. Four students are from Africa, two from Asia, and three used to live in the Middle-East.These students help diversify the class because they share their previous cultural experiences with the entire class. Even though English is not their first language, these students are able to speak English fluently and share their culture/language with the rest of the students.

The classroom has several learning centers, also referred to as “learning stations” set-up around the room that are designed for a specific activity such as, the annotating and analyzing a poem center.At the different centers, students focus on developing and/or mastering a particular skill and/or concept while working either individually or in cooperative or ability groups. The grouping depends upon the teacher’s objectives for the center activities as well as the dynamics of the students in the class. The centers are an excellent way to incorporate many skills and concepts as well as state learning standards. Centers can be used to supplement instruction for reinforcement or to provide review for an upcoming test or end of chapter/unit assessment.

Interesting and attractive visual aids, such as bulletin boards and posters, are displayed in the classroom. Wall decorations are appealing and relevant to current class work. Reportedly they are rotated and refreshed frequently. Ther are displays of the students work; essays and paragraphs posted on the walls. Classroom rules are posted in the front of the classroom. Rules should not only include expectations for the student, but also expectations for the teacher.

All schools have a discipline policy that should be followed, but usually the classroom teacher has a few strategies to use before a child receives a detention or visit to the principal. Explaining teacher expectations on the rule chart helps adolescent students understand that learning is a partnership. Student desks are placed in groups of four. The desk is arranged in a pow wow style, where the students can openly discuss any topic viewing their class mates and the teacher. All students are able to see the board clearly.

The groupings are a mix of genders and cultural backgrounds. The classroom is equipped with the basic green chalkboard, there is also a smart board in the classroom. Educational Practices At TAG The instructional programs from class to class and from grade to grade tend to vary quite a bit in both instructional approach and structure. TAG teachers have great freedom to establish a classroom environment and educational program as they see fit for the students in their classes, through the school is united by the principles of progressivism as the framework for teaching and learning.As a public school under the umbrella of the NYC Department of Education, TAG is held accountable to New York state standards and students in grades 2 through 8 are assessed yearly on those standards.

However, the teachers at TAG are given permission to address the standards using any generally accepted methods as they see fit. Our school believes in planning curriculum and instruction based on many forms of data available on our student body. Differentiating curriculum and instruction is a practice that is becoming part of the fabric of our school culture.At TAG the is a mix of the Child-Centered and the Content-Centered Educational approaches. According to the child-centered approach, education is characterized by reference to the nature of the individual to be taught. This approach, it is believed, recognizes the value of the individual.

TAG’s mission statement states “TAG young scholars: where children come first”. The child-centered approach to education has the following features: The curriculum is constructed to promote Healthy attitudes toward self, peers, and learning. The ideal of self-actualization is at the heart of the child-centered curriculum.The humanists, pragmatists, and existentialists hold that since the needs of the learners change, the curriculum should change and expand to meet their needs. To the pragmatists, the educational process should enable the child to manage change in a healthy manner and to adapt to the constantly changing world of the present and future. Education is thus continuous throughout life, fluid, dynamic, and open-ended.

The child-centered educational approach holds that the teacher is a facilitator, a guide, an advisor, and a fellow traveler.The teacher motivates students through mutual trust. A variety of methods suitable to the developmental level of the learner and the subject matter are favored. According to the pragmatist, the learner-centered curriculum necessitates team teaching and interdepartmental offerings. At TAG Projects are preferred to lectures. The classroom is a scientific laboratory to put ideas to the test and to verify them.

In my observations Classroom activity focused on solving problems, rather than on artificial methods of teaching subject matter.The social atmosphere of the class and school was that of a democratic and cooperative community. The content-centered approach is characterized in terms of the social or other goals external to the individual. The subject matter, not the child, stands at the center of the educational endeavor. the curriculum is the vehicle by which learners are introduced to subject matter disciplines and to organized fields of study. The organized content of subject matter is viewed as a curriculum to be pursued rather than as a source of information for dealing with local and personal problems.

The curriculum is seen as the best way to develop the mind, that mastery of the kind of knowledge commonly found in such a curriculum contributes to rational thinking. The mastery of reading, writing, arithmetic, and religion would eliminate the necessity for basic English at the college level, and would eradicate functionally illiterate graduates of high schools. At TAG memorization, drills, problem-solving, computation, and scientific methods, are chosen methods to enhance learning in some of the classes I observed such as mathematics, however I think in a subject such as math this is the best way to run the class.The instructional methods used by the realists include lectures, field trips, demonstrations, sensory experiences, inductive reasoning, film, filmstrips, record, television, and other audio-visual aids which might serve in the place of direct sensory experience. While there weren’t any trips scheduled during the times I observed the class, TAG does take the children on several field trips during the course of The school year. The children are then required to write a paper or complete some other type of assignment pertaining to the experiences encountered during the field trip.

The language arts teacher reports that the means of evaluation vary according to the objectives of the different subject matters. Value is placed on the learner’s use of given processes and modes of thought as well as knowledge of facts and themes. Historical Perspectives I have noticed the Socratic Method being used in the social studies classroom I observed. Socrates believed that the purpose of education was to develop in the individual his inherent knowledge and to perfect the ability to reason. The teacher teaches by asking guided questions and then allows a discussion about the question to bring about a conclusion.By following up all answers with further questions, and by selecting questions which advance the discussion, the teacher forces the class to think in a disciplined, intellectually responsible manner, while yet continually aiding the students by posing facilitating questions.

The teacher called this process of learning a Socratic Circle. An ancient form of discourse, the Socratic method is over 2400 years old and is reportedly founded on Socrates’ belief that lecture was not an effective method of teaching all students.Socrates valued the knowledge and understanding already present within people and thought that using this knowledge could potentially be beneficial in advancing their understanding. The goal of the Socratic method is to help students process information and engage in deeper understanding of topics. Most importantly, Socratic teaching engages students in dialogue and discussion that is collaborative and open-minded as opposed to debate, which is often competitive and individualized.

Socratic circles can be used to engage in the Socratic method in various subjects. Typically, when participating in Socratic circle activities, students first read a passage critically, in the case of the class that I observed the students had read a passage from “The Giver”, and then form two concentric circles. First, the inner circle examined and discussed the text and the second circle commented on the quality of the dialogue. Then, the two circles switched places and roles, and the process was repeated with the new ideas from the new circle.The outer circle was required to remain quiet while the inner circle reacts and dialogues, and conversely, the inner circle had to listen quietly to the outer circle’s evaluation of their conversation.

Socratic circles turn partial classroom control, classroom direction, and classroom governance over to students by creating a truly equitable learning community where the weight and value of student voices and teacher voices are indistinguishable from each other. Socratic circles help to develop critical and creative thinking skills that will ultimately facilitate the growth and development f the students into productive, responsible citizens. Socratic circles encourage students to work cooperatively to construct meaning from what they have read and avoid focusing on a ‘correct’ interpretation of the text. Education enables humans to achieve their fullest personal, spiritual, mental, social, and physical potentials. It is the ability to be educated that distinguishes humans from animals, and the use of opposable thumbs. Education transforms an individual and allows that individual to effect change in their environment.

Major Philosophies and Educational TheoriesOne of the cornerstones of the T. A. G. educational philosophy is that parent involvement is critical to student success. To enroll, parents must attend an informational session, take a school tour led by parent volunteers. Ample opportunities to contribute to the school in a volunteer capacity are provided on both the classroom and school-wide levels, including home-based and weekend opportunities for working parents.

Most families at TAG are highly involved in their children’s education and regularly communicate with teachers and staffOne of the major philosophies emerging in the classes I have observed is epistemology particularly idealism, the children are encouraged to use inductive and deductive logic and reasoning. The theories of education I observed were a combination of progressivism and essentialism. The class instruction is designed to develop the problem-solving and decision-making skills of the students, also to teach knowledge and skills. Essentialists believe that there is a common core of knowledge that needs to be transmitted to students in a systematic, disciplined way.The emphasis in this conservative perspective is on intellectual and moral standards that schools should teach. The core of the curriculum is essential knowledge and skills and academic rigor.

Although this educational philosophy is similar in some ways to Perennialism, Essentialists accept the idea that this core curriculum may change. Schooling should be practical, preparing students to become valuable members of society. It should focus on facts and “the basics,” training students to read, write, speak, and compute clearly and logically. This approach was in reaction to progressivist approaches revalent in the 1920s and 30s. William Bagley, took progressivist approaches to task in the journal he formed in 1934.

Other proponents of Essentialism are: James D. Koerner (1959), H. G. Rickover (1959), Paul Copperman (1978), and Theodore Sizer (1985). Progressivists believe that education should focus on the whole child, rather than on the content or the teacher.

This educational philosophy stresses that students should test ideas by active experimentation. Learning is rooted in the questions of learners that arise through experiencing the world.It is active, not passive. The learner is a problem solver and thinker who makes meaning through his or her individual experience in the physical and cultural context. Effective teachers provide experiences so that students can learn by doing. The scientific method is used by progressivist educators so that students can study matter and events systematically and first hand.

The math class I observed used this method because it is a very effective way to teach that subject matter. The emphasis is on process, how one comes to know.The Progressive education philosophy was established in America from the mid 1920s through the mid 1950s. John Dewey was its foremost proponent. One of his tenets was that the school should improve the way of life of our citizens through experiencing freedom and democracy in schools. Socio-cultural Context Schools are embedded within districts established by communities to provide both educational and extracurricular activities for young people and a center for social, political, and cultural community events.

Moreover, in the United States, schools are preeminently local, not national.They are controlled by locally elected officials and their appointed superintendents, and are largely funded by local property taxes. Nowhere else other than the United States are public schools so explicitly run by locally elected school boards. This means that those most active in educational affairs are often business and professional persons, since they are more likely than working and middle-class individuals to have the time and money to run for elected office. The United States also differs from other countries in that more than half of all revenue for schools comes from the local community.

The federal government, in fact, contributes only about 7 percent of all educational revenues, and only for specific programs such as school lunches; vocational training; entitlement programs to educate disabled and language minority students; and compensatory educational programs for children in economically disadvantaged communities. These patterns of governance and funding make U. S. schools extremely vulnerable to influences from interest groups, taxpayers (particularly property owners), upper and middle-class residents, and business interests.TAG has always served a predominately minority, working-class population, mostly from Upper Manhattan, the Bronx and nearby parts of Queens. Many parents of the children who have passed the test and qualify for eligibility to attend a gifted program avoid TAG.

This is particularly true for white parents, and to a lesser extent, Asians, creating a noticeably segregated gifted school landscape. On the prospective student tour, the white parents focused the most on security concerns. One father, whose wife later asked that he not be named, said he would feel uncomfortable if his son were the only white child in his class.But Stephanie Thacker, whose son, Elijah, is in the sixth grade, said she chose TAG over another gifted program located downtown four years ago in part because she wanted her son, who is black, to feel like he could be himself. “This is a school that is as good as any other,” she said.

TAG is more than 80 percent black and Hispanic, and only 2 percent of its children are white. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)annually test a national representave sample of students in public and private schools in certain subjects and skill areas.According to the results of these assessments achievement is related to parental education and student eligibility for free and reduced lunch. 63% of the TAG student body qualify for free lunch, however there was not one student in the entire school who scores placed them below level 3 on the state standardized tests. Generally the education level of the parents will have a negative effect on the achievement level of the child, however it is not an absolute and these children should not be shuffled through the educational system receiving a subpar education.Cultural diversity in the classroom is extremely important to have, because it opens the minds of students (and others) to a different experience.

Cultural diversity in the classroom opens the minds of students to an enriching experience. They learn about different cultures, their varied ways and techniques, the lifestyle of the people belonging to that culture and the likes. In the process, it leads to a lot of learning. Novels and stories by today’s authors provide a wealth of cultural diversity.By using these wonderful trade books in the classroom, teachers can promote both understanding and pride among their students.

One of the best things that a teacher can do for his or her students is not to ignore differences, but to explore them, to give meaning to them, and to help students to appreciate and celebrate everything that everyone has to offer. In the classrooms that I have observed there was a diverse student body in terms of ethnic background, gender and socioeconomic class. The student body was comprised of an equal amount of boys and girls.There are African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Middle Eastern ethnic groups, however there were only a few Caucasian students. Some of the students come from homes where the source of income is government assistant while others are from upper middle class families. It is important to learn how to promote cultural diversity in the classroom because only when that happens will the students learn to appreciate other cultures.

Their belief in their own culture will be enriched and it will make them more open to diversity. Thus it will lead to less prejudice.