By Thomas O'Brien and Edward Fersch
Seventy-five years ago, use of a new technology resulted in a dramatic transformation of education in our region and in rural areas throughout the country. Until then, the one-room schoolhouse was the norm in rural places. Every back road and hollow had one; children simply walked to the one nearest their house. Each school had one teacher who taught every subject up to eighth grade. The expectation for most children was that an eighth grade education was sufficient. High School was only possible for those who lived in the villages or who could live with a family in the village during the week.
In the 1930s, new transportation technologies changed society. The automobile and its cousins meant that people could travel longer distances in less time. Educators saw the potential of this technology to transform education in rural areas; the school bus was born. Each hollow no longer needed its own school. There was now a safe way for the children from the relatively isolated farm families to travel greater distances to school each day. The one-room schoolhouses were closed and large centralized schools were built in the larger villages. Classes were organized by age and taught by a specialist in each subject. This new structure provided the students with many more educational opportunities. Student achievement soared.
Since its creation, the school bus has been the primary tool used to increase educational opportunities in rural areas. Many of the central school districts formed in the 1930's, including more than a dozen in our area, have been further consolidated. The state encourages these consolidations with funding for feasibility studies, along with increases in state aid for the newly formed district. The promise of these mergers is that the students would learn more in their new school and that the cost of their education would be reduced. Many state officials want more mergers; in fact, some have publicly stated that districts with fewer than one thousand students should be forced to consolidate.
It has been said that when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But, everything is not a nail so carpenters carry a toolbox full of tools and use the correct one for each situation. Similarly, in education if we think that the only tool we have is a school bus, then every problem has to be solved with physical consolidation of school districts. But, we have other tools so we need to look at the specific circumstances in order to craft our solutions.
Many school districts in this area cover more than one hundred square miles and have fewer than five hundred students. Our school busses travel over all the back roads where the one-room schoolhouses used to be; children in some districts are on the bus for an hour. Further physical consolidation will necessarily mean more time on a school bus and less time in a classroom. Is this really the best way to provide quality educational opportunities in our area?
Today, new communication technologies are changing the world. Internet connections, video conferencing and other forms of digital technology have made it possible for us to communicate in real time with more and more people. Our generation needs to realize the potential of this technology to transform education in our time. We no longer need the school bus to bring students to the teacher; we can use this new technology to bring the teacher to the students. Teachers in one building can conduct a class containing students in many other places. Students can collaborate on projects with their peers who attend another school. People with similar interests can learn together no matter where they go to school. Rather than using a school bus to physically consolidate our school districts, we can use digital technology to cyber-consolidate them!
The requirements for cyber-consolidation are simple--high speed digital connections throughout the school buildings and video conferencing equipment. Additionally, teachers will need access to professional development courses so they can learn effective ways to teach in this new classroom. No new buildings are needed and there is no need for increased student transportation. Nevertheless, state funding is only available to districts wishing to physically consolidate. This makes no sense.
At the annual meeting of the New York State School Board Association last October, school districts across the state overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling upon the state to fund cyber-consolidation in the same way that they fund physical consolidation. We call upon the Governor, the Legislature, the Board of Regents and the State Education Department to act on this recommendation.
Seventy-five years ago, our ancestors saw a new technology as a means to increase educational opportunities for their children. Using the school bus, they created a new educational structure. Now, it's our turn. In today's digital technology, we have a tool that will allow us to re-design the educational structure of our time. Let's use it to create a system that will use our resources more efficiently, one that will give students access to many more educational opportunities and better prepare them to be productive citizens in the twenty-first century.
Thomas O'Brien is the superintendent of Roxbury Central School.
Edward Fersch is the Roxbury Central School District Board of Education president.
- Big Chuck D'Imperio
Baseball cards: Different spokes for different folks
Baseball cards as an investment? Fugetaboutit!Continued ...
- It's just a short drive down my memory lane
- Sept. 11 Museum is sobering, inspiring
- Remembering the singing cowboy
- The plain plane truth ruins CNN
- Baseball cards: Different spokes for different folks
- Cary Brunswick
'Insurgent' or 'patriot' can be hard to define
A common perception may have been that writing human history is a mere description and explanation of events. We know better now, however, that even the driest facts are colored by the language and ideology of those doing the writing.Continued ...
- Gaskin and The Farm filled a void
- We shouldn't be surprised by Iraq's turmoil
- Brunswick column on hiatus
- Two-tiered Internet is a bad idea
- 'Insurgent' or 'patriot' can be hard to define
- Chuck Pinkey
- Guest Column
Like it or not, the curriculum needed reform
When we first examined the new Common Core Regents exams this June, we felt a sense of relief, not the distress or feeling of doom that has been played up in the media. "Exciting" is the word that comes to mind to describe how we felt about an exam that attempts to more accurately measure the real-world skills our students practice in class.Continued ...
- Police must crack down on motorcycle noise
- SAFE Act won't help get the lead out
- Sessions' betrayal should live in infamy
- Drilling's future is at stake in state's high court
- Like it or not, the curriculum needed reform
- Lisa Miller
A view from above
Fire towers in the Catskill Mountains have always been destination points, built to capture some of the region’s best views. These sentinel stations served an important role for the earliest possible sightings of forest fires in the remote mountain ranges. But the fire towers and those who manned them fulfilled a multitude of other roles as well.Continued ...
- Being a parent is a constant learning process
- Healthy doesn't have to mean expensive
- A family era ends with close of Potter series
- Independent stores make up for loss of Borders
- A view from above
- Mark Simonson
Successes, train derailment were newsmakers in July 1984
The names and accomplishments of New, Drago, Ferraro and Ono, and a train derailment in Emmons were all making news in our area during July 1984.Continued ...
- Oneonta street boomed to prosperity in 1893
- Local landmarks, new conveniences made news in summer 1954
- Locals headed to the lakesides in July 1924
- Local closures, communism, bike parade highlighted July 1949
- Successes, train derailment were newsmakers in July 1984
- Rick Brockway
Good old days revolved around a good old swimming hole
As I've told you many times, I grew up on the family farm outside of Laurens. During the summer, we spent many hours each day putting hay in the barn for the cows. It was hot and sweaty work, stacking the bales in the mow when temperatures were in the 90s and the humidity was about as high. But at the end of the day, we headed up the creek to a favorite spot â€" the old swimming hole.
- Sometimes hungry animals just come with the territory
- There's plenty to do at the Ellenville Fault Ice Caves
- Fireflies never cease to amaze as nature's night-lights
- Waterfalls are worth the trip
- Good old days revolved around a good old swimming hole
- Sam Pollak
Macho, crazy America sticks to its guns
"I shoot first, and ask questions later."Continued ...
- My father is in my mirror, my dreams
- Being president doesn't look like much fun
- Some changes are just style over substance
- Mr. Adelson disturbs my 'ghetto mentality'
- Macho, crazy America sticks to its guns
- William Masters
Schreibman tops Chris Gibson on women's issues
As the time to vote draws near, we need to remember how money can run politics more than we can. Raising funds is a prominent (if not the dominant) task of getting elected. Raising issues is also crucial, but those efforts are subject to distortion and fear-mongering.
Republicans feelentitled to allthey can garner
An entitlement is a legal benefit available from the government to individuals who are within a defined category of recipients, such as needing insurance for unemployment or health services.
Romney focuses on self; Obama emphasizes unity
Mitt Romney criticizes President Obama for saying a person's success is rooted in his community, and is not all his alone. Romney belittles this with his belief in individual initiative. He is better at the put-down than the push-up.
Romney shows little regard for common man
The Republicans in Congress have voted over and over, 33 times, redundantly and uselessly, to rescind what they call Obamacare.
Scouts' gay ban creates problem where none exists
The Boy Scouts of America's "emphatic reaffirmation" of its vow to exclude any and all homosexuals from its hallowed ranks is ill-considered and pathetic, especially in view of its having reviewed the matter for two years.
- Schreibman tops Chris Gibson on women's issues