New approach urged on student problems

Friday, September 25, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

READING -- Just as it may take a village to raise a child, collaboration is one of the keys to solving learning problems in children.

By inviting not just teachers but also parents and others who come in contact with the student to the table, there is a better sharing of information and chance of identifying the problem and prescribing a solution.

For two days, educators from 14 school districts in Butler, Clermont, Hamilton and Warren counties came to Reading Central Elementary School to learn the concept.

"It's not as though we have not done this kind of sharing information," said Lee Ketcham, an educational consultant with the Southern Ohio Special Education Regional Resource Center, conference sponsor.

"We now look around the table to ensure that everybody is there," said Ms. Ketcham. "Oftentimes, teachers have had to do some of that work themselves. This says we are better together, when we can pool our knowledge and have a systematic way of doing this."

Collaborative problem solving emphasizes curriculum and instruction as key variables for raising student achievement. It may also involve altering school structures, reconfiguring school staff and rethinking and reallocating resources.

This kind of problem solving uses a cycle of intervention that alters instruction and provides for continuous improvement, say proponents.

During the two days of training, educators learned problem-solving skills to improve learning.

Beth Carbo, a teacher at Carthage Paideia Academy, has witnessed the success of this technique first-hand.

It worked with a second-grader who was talking too much in class. A team was convened made up of her parents and teachers and others. They celebrated the positives about the child, and as a result the student felt supported.

"We are responsible for more than just teaching and spelling lists," Ms. Carbo said. "Children will remember how we make them feel. This process helps them grow as human beings."

The team approach to problem solving also worked for a young man with behavioral problems at Lemon Monroe High School.

"As a result of our collaboration, we kept him inside our building," said Cathy Hamilton, principal. "We treated him with dignity." And that's an important component to making collaboration work.

"Our work is missionary," Ms. Hamilton said. "Our belief system is that we are committed to a positive resolution for our youngsters. I believe collaboration for a whole lot of kids is their last chance."

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