I hadn't heard of the Russell Byers Charter School, so I checked out their website.
I don't like what I found. Their curriculum is an "innovative, hands-on academic program, Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound":
The Russell Byers Charter School is a learning community, built on the structures and principles of its educational model: Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound. In the Russell Byers community, students learn by doing. Academic goals are linked to adventure, service work, teamwork, and character development. And education becomes a partnership between student and teacher, as supported by enlightened school leadership and committed parents.
This partnership is key to the school’s overarching goal: empowering students to take responsibility for their own education. At RBCS, students are on a journey of self-discovery and knowledge acquisition, and teachers provide guidance for this journey, drawing on experience, compassion, and respect for diverse learning styles, backgrounds, and needs.
Using the ELOB model, students are supported in developing new skills and achieving mastery of them. As their confidence grows, so does their natural curiosity -- and their desire to try more complex assignments. This active engagement holds students' interest in the classroom and over time, enables an even more important development: it changes their way of being in the world. It turns them into lifelong learners, ever-capable of taking on a challenge.
Sounds to me like the height of nuttiness and completely inappropriate for the kids who likely attend the The Russell Byers Charter School. Strike that. It sounds inappropriate for any kid who values their education.
According to their website, the school has been around for five years now. That seems like sufficient time for the implementation to have stabilized. Let's head over to School Matters and see how the school is doing on the fifth grade PSSAs:
Reading: 20th percentile (state avg: 68th percentile)
Math: 8.6th percentile (state avg: 69th percentile)
Zoinks. Those scores are abysmal by any standard. And, there is no doubt in my mind that the nutty curriculum is fully to blame.Let's check out the research on the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound curriculum:
I don't know what's worse--having almost 96% of your research thrown out because you don't know how to conduct scientific research or getting beat by the control group in the only valid study you could pull off.
The CSRQ Center reviewed 24 quantitative studies for effects of Expeditionary Learning on student achievement. Of those, one study met CSRQ Center standards for rigor of research design. Based on its research design, the Center considers the findings of this study suggestive, which means that the Center has limited confidence in the study’s results. Because results of this study were neither statistically significant nor in a positive direction, the overall rating of the effects of this model on student achievement is zero.
The study that met standards used a matched comparison research design to compare the pre- to post-Expeditionary Learning achievement test score gains to gains in nonrestructuring schools over the same time period (1995–1999).The test scores were composite measures of five subject areas of the TerraNova standardized achievement test (reading, language, math, science, and social studies). Results showed that Expeditionary Learning schools saw decreases in scores, relative to comparison schools, though the difference was not statistically significant.
There really should be such a thing as educational malpractice. Could you imagine having a jury find out that your educational philosophy is based on ten design principles, one of which is:
Wonderful ideas. Students are involved in activitiesI kid you not. (That's from the AIR study I cited above, read the whole thing, as they say.)
that require contemplation, reflection, and experimentation.
On the bright side, the Russell Byers Charter School at least confirms the one valid study. We can now say with some confidence that the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound curriculum will most likely lead to no increase in student achievement.
Luckily Russell Byers is a charter school since charter schools can be shut down. Hopefully, the market will work its magic and rid Russel Byers of its curriculum or rid the children of Philadelphia of the Russel Byers charter school. I wish the same could be said for many of the public schools.