One of the main criticisms of education is that classroom instruction is not flexible to students' individual needs.
More specifically, critics say textbooks used in classrooms teach at one learning level only.To a certain extent, Orem High School science, algebra and chemistry teachers agree. That's why the school is implementing a program to develop new instructional material and teaching methods for those subjects.
Under the direction of Edward Green, a Brigham Young University instructional science professor and part-time algebra teacher at Orem High School, the school is developing teaching materials that require more interaction on the part of students. A team of teachers, students, BYU students and BYU faculty members is developing the new materials on-site at Orem High School, at BYU and at a downtown Provo office donated by US WEST.
The team is developing interactive computer programs and videotapes designed to personalize instruction. The program also involves using desktop publishing to print textbooks on newsprint - textbooks students are allowed to write in and keep. The school's pre-algebra classes are already using the newsprint textbooks.
Other parts of the program will include a student homework center that will remain open until late at night, take-home videotapes of classroom instruction and videotapes of real-life story problems.
"We think that's what we need to create better instruction at a lower cost for more students," Green said. "We think this is the trend in education."
Principal John Childs said the program will help students learn better study habits and will teach them how to take advantage of study materials. Childs said the homework center will make the adjustment from high school to college easier for students.
"We don't teach students to use their time and the facilities for studying," Childs said. "They go from a school that doesn't have a lot of facilities to a college where the facilities are open all night. They need to know how they can benefit by using these things."
Total cost of the program is expected to be more than $200,000. Green hopes the program will eventually be self-supporting, but it is now relying on grants and donations. Some technology money is being used but most of the computer and video equipment was donated by private industry.
Green did receive encouraging news recently when a proposal he submitted to the RJR Nabisco Foundation's Next Century School program was selected as a finalist. More than 1,600 schools applied to the foundation and the Orem proposal was one of 40 selected.
The foundation hopes to stimulate reform in public education by awarding grants of up to $750,000 over a three-year period to innovative educational programs. Last year, 15 schools received grants totaling $8.5 million.
The Next Century Schools Advisory Board will review final proposals next month and announce winners in April.
"I think we have a good chance because they kind of like the fact that we have the program ironed out already," Green said.