Wasting Minds Why our education system is failing and what we can do about it

APA citation:

Wolk, R. A. (2011). Wasting minds: why our education system is failing and what we can do about it. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Review of the first third of the book:

Author's views:

  • New practices and reforms to the existing education system won't work
  • Wolk believes that the "engine for a new schools strategy is personalized education anchored in the real world"

"With an idealist's heart and pragmatist's spine, [and] he shows how to build an education system centered on students and true to the ideals of freedom, rigor, and fairness" - author Ronald A. Wolk

Key Points:

  • Wolk promotes smaller, innovative schools
  • Individualized instruction, with various pathways for learning
  • Real-world context for learning

Review of the second third of the book:

The Dropout Epidemic:

  • The dropout rate is increasing constantly, specifically in urban districts among poor minority students
  • It is costly to our society and the US economy would grow significantly if the number of high school drop outs were cut in half
  • the "just say stay" policy rarely works- the get tough approach of NCLB has not worked; it hasn't closed the achievement rate or increased the graduation rate

Never Enough Money:

  • the funding is short even though the US spends more on public schools than any other nation in the world
  • the issue is that we can't figure out a successful education system and agree on it, so we can't determine how much it costs or how to achieve these funds

Many Paths to Success:

  • it is not the public schools' job to train specific students for specific jobs; it is their job to teach them the basics, how to read, how to write, how to do basic math
  • there are many pathways for students in high school such as traditional college prep, learning communities, career and technical academies, virtual schools, independent study

Third part of the book:

The Essential Role of Performance Assessments:

  • in a new schools strategy of education improvement, performance assessments are not only compatible with personalized education, they are inextricably linked
  • what teachers learn from performance assessments is whether the students have or have not learned the material and where further is most needed
  • performance assessments can produce significant benefits such as better student attendance, fewer dropouts, higher graduation rates, increased student motivation, high- quality student work, etc

Start them early:

  • an advocacy organization called Pre-K Now shows children who attend pre-k have higher graduation rates, were less likely to repeat a grade, were less likely to require special education services, and were more likely to be employed in the future
  • Research shows that children who engage in complex forms of socio-dramatic play have greater language skills than non players, better social skills, more empathy, more imagination, and more of the subtle capacity to know what others mean


Created with images by umezy12 - "Classroom" • TeroVesalainen - "mindmap brainstorm idea" • jarmoluk - "apple education school"

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