Curriculum Column

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In Tulsa, Okla., academic achievers are "lettering" in high-school scholastics the way other students letter in track, football, and other sports.

The program, set up by the Tulsa World, a local daily newspaper, provides students with athlete's letters--embellished with an embroidered lamp of knowledge--based on their cumulative grade-point average.

Cheryl Bensinger, president of the Tulsa Classroom Teaching Association, said, "Since students are in school to learn, this is an important idea--to give performance in the classroom the same kind of recognition as performance on a playing field."

The Tulsa World, which is picking up the cost of the letters, reports that the program is catching on in other schools in the Tulsa area. Last year, about 1,000 of Tulsa High School's 13,000 students earned academic letters.

A supplemental education program in the Philadelphia area will soon teach students to "learn how to learn." The program, developed by Morton Botel of the University of Pennsylvania, will provide practice in reading, writing, studying, and reasoning led by trained academic coaches. The weekly two-hour sessions, which will run from 4 to 16 weeks, are scheduled to begin in March.

Mr. Botel, a professor of education with the university's graduate school of education, contends that learning how to learn can make schooling more enjoyable and productive for children at any level.

By participating in "Academic Fitness," as the program is called, students master the six concepts that he says are central to learning: comprehending; writing; collaborative problem solving; studying; "testmanship"; and, for younger pupils, spelling and decoding (the ability to break down words into sounds).

"Academic Fitness" centers are scheduled to open in six towns in the Philadelphia area. Students will be placed in the appropriate "workout group" by grade.

In his 40-year career, Mr. Botel has been a teacher, reading specialist and supervisor, assistant superintendent in charge of curriculum, and college professor. Academic Fitness is his private enterprise; it has no connection with the University of Pennsylvania. The program will charge a fee of approximately $17.50 per hour per child.

The Ford Foundation has provided $474,300 for two years to help introduce national-security topics into high-school social-studies courses. The program, titled "National Security in the Nuclear Age--Education for Citizenship," is being developed by the nonprofit, Washington-based Arms Control Association and the Consortium for International Studies Education, a subscriber organization of colleges and universities working to improve international-studies curricula.

"The project arises from the conviction that, as a democratic society in a fractious and heavily armed world, the U.S. must have broad and informed public support to achieve national and international security," said William H. Kincade, one of three co-directors for the project and executive director of the Arms Control Association.

The two groups plan to develop materials for high-school teachers that will give students a balanced view of national-security issues.

"Many students feel the problems of the nuclear age in an immediate and personal way, yet there is a dearth of sound, balanced coverage of these questions either in standard textbooks or educational materials prepared by advocacy groups," said B. Thomas Trout, another co-director and chairman of the consortium.

The materials will be developed jointly by national-security experts and curriculum specialists.

More than 500,000 pages of innovative science materials are being put on videodiscs by the University of Florida-Gainesville. The university wants to make the materials easily accessible to teachers to improve the quality of public-school science instruction.

"We're talking about providing every school district that wants it with a first-class science-teaching resource at a bargain-basement price," said Mary Budd Rowe, a researcher and critic of science textbooks at the university. "Right now," she said, "that is not available in any one place in the country."

The reference source--which will contain enough information on paper to fill several rooms--will fit on three or four videodiscs, and should be useful to teachers and citizens' groups developing new curricula, as well as to textbook writers and teachers who want to do something different in the classroom, she said.

"It's ironic, but science teaching today is less innovative and more conservative than a decade ago," said Ms. Rowe, who was awarded the 1981 National Science Teachers Association's highest accolade for her contributions to science education.

The first phase of the project, supported by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, involves gathering the materials from archives and private sources. The materials include innovative textbooks, filmstrips, movies, board games, and guides designed to make science exciting.

Students at a private school in Birmingham, Ala., are giving up their free time to study classical Greek. The 15 students meet after school once a week because the class would not fit into the Altamount School's regular schedule.

Their teacher, Sarah W. Whiteside, said she knows of no other course in the state focused on classical Greek. A Latin teacher at the 300-student school for seven years, Ms. Whiteside began the noncredit classes in October at the students' request.

"A lot of them wanted to be able to read Greek, especially Greek drama, in the original," she said. "They have read enough Latin literature that they see the value of being able to read in the language in which something is written."--lo

Vol. 04, Issue 24

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