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KY: District is in the 'brain business'

 

Reflecting the insights of brain research, students in the Glasgow Independent Schools work on projects that enhance their creativity and individuality.

Summary: Embarking on a journey through the latest research in learning, this district adopted brain-based instruction as a way to reach all students at their personal learning levels. Now, student achievement is up and teachers are enjoying the flexibility of brain-based instruction.


The latest research on how children learn best put Glasgow Independent Schools in the “brain business.”

Brain-based instruction encompasses numerous approaches and strategies that reflect understanding of how children’s brains develop and how they learn best at different developmental stages. “It involves the kind of activities and strategies that good teachers have always done,” said

District characteristics
Name: Glasgow Independent Schools
State: KY
Type: Suburban
Grades: Pre-k–12
Enrollment: 1,932
Students per teacher: 14

Enrollment characteristics
Economically disadvantaged: 39.6%
English language learners: 0.8%
Students with disabilities: 10.6%
White: 82.9%
Black: 12.8%
Hispanic: 1.8%
Asian/Pacific Islander: 1%
American Indian/Alaska Native: 0.3%
Other: 1%
Source: SchoolMatters.com

Rossie Kingery, principal of South Green Elementary School. (See sidebar, "More on Implementing Brain-Based Instruction.")

The concept of implementing “brain-based” instruction in the district was sparked by a 1997 conference on brain-based learning attended by several Glasgow administrators. After hearing from the conference participants, then-school board president Phillip Bale, a physician, became a champion for possibilities of brain-based instruction. With the support of the school board, district staff immersed themselves in the latest research, considered how other school systems were applying the ideas, shared findings with their colleagues, and put the research into practice for the district's 1,900 students.

The flexibility of brain-based instruction attracted Glasgow educators because of the district’s economically and racially diverse population. “I think the genius is the individualization,” said Superintendent Fred Carter. “Everyone learns at a different rate, coming from different perspectives. Brain-based instruction allows you to zero in on people’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Since implementing the new strategies about five years ago, achievement scores have improved annually, although math scores have stayed the same for about two years.

The school district received a 2004 Magna Award from NSBA's American School Board Journal (ASBJ) for the program. The awards are sponsored by Sodexho School Services.

More on implementing brain-based instruction

"There's been an absolute explosion of information coming out about the brain, both medically and pedagogically," says Pat Wolfe, an education consultant in Napa, Calif., who specializes in brain research and its educational value. "And if we have a better understanding of how the brain works, and how the brain stores some information and forgets other information, then we can begin to teach [better]."

Across the nation, many teachers and administrators already are working hard to put some of this research into practice. But many researchers and educators point out that these are the kind of strategies educators have been using for years–long before much of today's research on the brain was conducted.

According to Kurt Fischer, professor of human development at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, the real value of neuroscience is that it doesn't necessarily dispute decades of tried-and-true instructional strategies or the findings of cognitive science and other forms of education research.

Instead, he says, research on the brain offers educators a greater understanding of why good teaching strategies work-–and how educators can fine-tune their instructional techniques and reallocate education resources to take advantage of how the brain learns.

The problem, however, is that it's sometimes difficult for educators to draw a clear connection between how the brain works and how this knowledge can be applied in the classroom.

"You have to take a critical eye to what you read and hear," Fischer said. "You need to try and stay in touch with people who are doing the research.

Adapted with permission from the Feb. 6, 2001, issue of School Board News, copyright 2001, National School Boards Association.

Contact

Fred Carter

Superintendent

Glasgow Independent Schools

1108 Cleveland Ave.

Glasgow, KY 42142-1239

Phone:  (270) 651-6757

Email:   FCarter@Glasgow.k12.ky.us

Web site: www.glasgow.k12.ky.us. 


Posted: April 1, 2005

©2005 Center for Public Education

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