The D.C. Public Schools last week began broadcasting a series of 24 television shows designed to teach its teachers a new standardized method of educating children. Officials say they hope the method will help each student master all major subjects.
The programs, which can be seen on WETA-TV (channel 26), are also aimed at "helping parents understand what teachers will be doing with their kids" and why they are doing it, according to associate Superintendent James T. Guines, who has been in charge of drawing up the program. School officials call the program competency-based curriculum.
A recent preview of one of the segments of the program, however, showed it to be a highly technical step-by-step instruction method for teachers. The presentation of the new curriculum, designed to break down complicated learning to a sequence of clear simple skills which each student can master at his own rate, was dotted with words like "input" and "interface."
In order to be fully understood, each of the programs would have to be watched in order, according to Henry H. Walbesser, an education professor at the University of Maryland, who was the school system's chief consultant in developing the new curriculum.
The preview program was a lesson on "finding the missing components for a behavioral objective." The show opened with a group of school children working in various stages of animation, and then moved to Walbesser and a small group of teachers sitting in orange and tan chairs grouped around small coffee tables.
In addition to watching the televised lessons, teachers can attend a Saturday class every two weeks. Like the students to whom they will teach the new curriculum, the teachers will be quizzed on their mastery of each subject as the lessons progress.
School authorities are also encouraging parents to watch the 12-week series of programs, which are a cooperative effort of staff members, teachers and students of the D.C. Public Schools, the University of the District of Columbia, WETA-TV, and Walbesser. According to Assistant Superintendent Guines, the cost for the entire project has been $190,000.
The programs are scheduled to be broadcast at 7 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Each show will be repeated at 7 p.m. the same day. For those who miss either show, the Tuesday and Thursday lessons are repeated from 7 to 8 a.m. each Saturday. Programming of the shows is scheduled to stop for the Christmas holidays after the Dec. 17th broadcast, and then resume on Jan. 10 according to a spokesman for Channel 26.
Parents who want more information on the new curriculum can also attend workshops which will be offered by in various parts of the city by the D.C. Congress of Parent-Teachers Associations and the school system. Each of the school system's six regions will set up their own schedule for workshops. The school system has asked that people who are interested in attending, call their regional office. The telephone numbers: region one - 767-7065; region two 724-4967; region three 724-4934; region four 724-4785; region five 576-6334; region six 576-6056. Those who do not know which regional office to call can check with their child's school.
Competency-based curriculum, which will be tested in 28 of the city's schools before the entire teaching program is standardized, is based on the work of behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner.