AUBURN — School Superintendent Katy Grondin is recommending a book she'd like all residents to read. It's the same book that Maine Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen has instructed his staff to read.
The book is “Inevitable: Mass Customized Learning,” written by Charles Schwahn and Beatrice McGarvey.
“Inevitable” shows why schools must change to graduate everyone from high school with the skills they need, Grondin said. “It gives a better understanding of, 'if we continue to do things the same way, we'll wonder why we get the same results.'”
Recent SAT scores showed that 44 percent of 11th-graders in Auburn were proficient in critical reading, compared to the state average of 50 percent. In math, 47 percent of Auburn students were proficient, compared to 49 percent statewide; writing, 39 percent in Auburn versus 45 percent statewide; and science, 36 percent proficient in Auburn and 44 percent statewide.
Schools, especially high school, have been teaching the same way for about a century. Some things are working well. But the book “talks about what we know are good practices in education, and what we do that doesn't match that.”
Different students learn different subjects at different rates. Instead of “seat time,” or expecting students will spend so many years in school before graduating, students ought to progress when they've mastered skills.
“It's more about what students know and less about finals,” Grondin said. “We want every student graduating with the ability to follow their future dreams.”
Grondin said the book doesn't contain a lot of educational jargon. "It takes real concepts about what you experienced in school and shows, 'What would it be like if we had thought of this?'”
She said some of the individualized learning can be helped by technology, which is why Auburn schools are aggressively using laptops and iPads.
Grondin has 75 copies of the book and is loaning them to people who are interested. Some of the books are being distributed to schools; some will be available at the School Department.
“My hope is we can do chain-letter-style reading, with one person reading the book, then passing it on,” she said.
On Jan. 23 the department will host a community discussion with author McGarvey, an education consultant and former director of education for Portland public schools. She also has been a teacher, middle school counselor and administrator.