Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Remember Those Color Coded SRA Cards?

Joel Klein:

“The model we are using throughout the United States in kindergarten-to-12th-grade education is fundamentally the same as it was 100 years ago,” Mr. Klein said.

Now, he added, “we’re looking in a way that I don’t think anyone has looked at — at the way children learn, pacing them at their own pace, all of it tied to the mastery of content and skill and achievement.”

I grew up in a small town in Central Pennsyltucky with 20% unemployment in the 70's, and we had all sorts of individualized programmed instruction. We had boxes of SRA cards in elementary school, I remember some kind of Star Wars branded package that let you work up yourself up to Jedi Knight status (although we didn't stick with it that long... I guess it was the precursor to everyone's fantasies about WoW-themed learning environments), the advanced 11th grade chemistry class was built around self-paced units, and of course, we all had Little Professors and Datamen.

No doubt the new stuff is much smarter, but please, this is not something that nobody has looked at. Or did everyone else just get a much more retrograde education than me? Doesn't Joel Klein know Lauren Resnick?

10 comments:

Downes said...

Nope. I was also educated in the 70s, in a rural Ontario village where all the young idealistic teachers went for their first job, and had the benefit of a whole range of newish educational techniques, including advance placement, small classes, electives, project learning, personalized testing, and a host of other things. I've done programmed instruction all over the place, from a philosophy course (a programmed learning logic text) to corporate training ('On the way up', a programmed self-learning unit at Texas Instruments). So I _know_ none of this stuff is new.

And - it seems to me - in many ways, it's better, which has had me long wondering why it has been so disused over the last 25 years. And my thinking is, it produced a small generation (post-baby Boom, pre gen-X) of people who were _really_ rebellious, _really_ self-reliant, and _really_ capable. Exactly not what they wanted.

jd2718 said...

What were SRA cards?

I had self-paced math cards... and an open classroom... the teachers had to stop me and a friend from racing through the math... is that them?

Jonathan

Tom Hoffman said...

I mainly associate SRA with reading, but perhaps they had them for math too.

Nancy Flanagan said...

I remember a LOT about the SRA reading cards (and I graduated from HS in the 60s--I must have been experiencing the beta version).

I remember a page-sized card with a reading selection, and a multiple choice quiz to test comprehension. Get the quiz questions all right and you move on--otherwise, you're stuck in the same color, with another excruciatingly dull expository reading, about spiders or pioneers or some such.

I also remember that grey and aqua were the highest colors, and once I mastered aqua, I got the best reward ever. Mrs. Wildfong said I could read whatever I wanted from the school library for the rest of the year.

The fact that this happened some 45 years ago and I even remember the colors tells you what a big treat it was not to have to read those cards. I was one motivated sixth grader. And I still think "expository" sounds like a medical term. Use your imagination.

Mike Caulfield said...

I had SRA self-paced learning in my school as well.

What's disturbing about that quote is that any introductory book on curriculum will introduce a student to the world of both structured individualized learning and unstructured individualized learning.

Here's an introductory book on curriculum that does just that.

That a man that is running NYC's schools has never heard of self-paced individualized learning should be as embarrassing to us as a Department of Energy Secretary that has never heard of solar power.

But Joel I. Klein, like his friend Arne, has been blessed with magic lawyer powers, which allow him to magically understand educational problems without studying their history or current thinking about them, so i suppose I shouldn't worry...

Anonymous said...

I remember having SRA in my grammer school-I was reading (don't remember the color card)about some day having movies (I'm using their word )piped into our homes.I guess they meant cable?

Anonymous said...

i remember these very well. i was in elementary school in the early eighties. to this day i have some of the stories in my head, as they were all very short, but often expressed ideas allegorically, like two twins, one representing good and the other evil. i wish i could find them somewhere...

hollyce said...

Wow, I just looked up "SRA Cards" after my son's 3rd grade parent-teacher conference and stumbled on this blog as the 2nd search result. I went to elementary school in York, PA and loved the SRA cards we had in our classroom. As I remember it, we could work on SRA cards if our regular work was completed early.

Barbara said...

I remember the SRA cards very well. I grew up in Rochester, NY in the 60's and 70's. I had a disability that wasn't diagnosed until I was 32 years old. Strugeling to keep up with my peers, poorly mind you, the SRA cards were my only real success in elementary school. My teachers allowed me to concentrate on completing all of the cards for grades 3-6 in one year.

I now have a daughter with a simular disability as myself. Our school district would not permit her to attend a special ed school, BOCES, so I ended up home schoooling her. She did so well with my home made curriculum and help from other home school teachers that she was so strong in her 3R's that she bypassed high school and entered a local university from the 8th grade and completed her GED in 11 months. She will graduate with her first ASS in Liberal Arts this spring.

I tried for years to find the SRA cards while I was home schooling but discovered that it, like phonics, suffered from the implimentation of the Outcome Based Education Program instituted during the Clinton Administration. In other words the SRA cards were retired and susequently distroyed.

I wish that there was some way to recreate the SRA Programs and place them back into the school systems.

joji said...

I have been searching for the SRA cards and it looks as though McGraw-Hill for the UK. Here's the link. I hope to buy some for myself...http://www.mcgraw-hill.co.uk/sra/rl_index.html