What’s Wrong With the Old School?
New Standards for Teaching and Learning
Educational standards have changed since the 1970s because the world has changed. State and federal curriculum standards have moved from teaching information to teaching how to find, analyze and make decisions based on information. These skills are the core of 21st century learning in every subject, and they require a different style of teaching and a different kind of space.
What are new standards?
In 1971, when the old Belmont High School opened, teachers stood at the front of the room and lectured, and students learned the information they were taught. The new educational standards are designed to prepare students for the 21st century world they are entering.
- Education focuses on building skills, not imparting information.
- These skills are taught using real world problems, hands-on methods, project-based learning, and team environments.
- To excel in the workforce, students need to learn critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity, and these meta-skills are built into the curriculum from kindergarten onward.
How is this a building issue?
The old Belmont High School is not designed to accommodate the style of teaching that supports the new standards.
- BHS rooms are small and overcrowded.
- They are not flexible.
- There is no space for large-scale simulations or enough small project teams.
- Many hands-on activities do not fit in the constrained classroom environment.
- There is nowhere to store work-in-progress.
The new standards come with a style of teaching that requires a different kind of space. Rooms must be flexible and configurable to move from lectures, to project teams, to discussion circles, to large multi-class collaborations. Hands-on projects require spaces to design, build, and spread out. Communication requires access to media tools and the environment to use them effectively.
This is not a “nice to have,” and it is not “fancy.” This is what students must learn and how they are expected to learn it. This is as true in Dorchester and Everett as it is in Belmont and Lexington. The NEASC school accreditors and the MSBA state school building funders steer every city and town toward schools that facilitate these requirements.
Teachers do their best within the constraints, but the old building is a significant obstacle to today’s teaching and learning. Today, Belmont High School lacks the spaces designed to support these basic education requirements.
In short, teaching has changed, but the building hasn’t.
What is the impact on students?
Will Belmont students fail the MCAS test? Fail to graduate? Fail to get into college? Of course not.
But our students will be at a significant disadvantage.
- Lack of space means there are science labs students can’t do.
- History projects that can’t be assigned.
- Cross-disciplinary, multi-class collaborations that can’t be tried.
- Science and technology classes that can’t be offered.
- And more.
Our students do not, and will not, have the same opportunities as students in other towns.