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Special Event

Millennium 2000: Education

Aired January 3, 2000 - 0:20 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Flunking into the new millennium.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDA ROSEN, U.S. EDUCATION DEPARTMENT: Our 12th-grade students were significantly below the international average.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: America's schools. Learning from past failures. International schools leading the way. Testing new ways to teach.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: The three Rs -- reading, writing, and arithmetic -- have been at the core of U.S. public school curriculum for decades, but, in recent times, how they are taught has undergone a lot of rethinking.

As part of our millennium coverage, CNN's Rusty Dornin takes an in-depth look at changes in the classroom, especially as they apply to language arts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FILM ANNOUNCER: When Stevie Riley moved into the second grade at Davenport...

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was probably just learning to read, courtesy of these characters first introduced in the 1930s.

KIMBERLY JENSEN, SECOND-GRADE TEACHER: "Look, Jane. Look, look. See Dick."

DORNIN: For generations, Dick and Jane and their dog, Spot, spelled out the ABCs for kids in the U.S. To learn to read and write, you had to drill and practice.

ADDIE HOSLING, RETIRED MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER: The old diagramming of sentences.

DORNIN: And lines were drawn to make sure you got it right.

HOSLING: The noun as the subject.

DORNIN: Then came the '60s. Some educators felt if times were achanging, then so should what's being taught in the classroom.

JENSEN: What we found was lacking was that children weren't developing a rich love of literature. They could read. They could decode. They could do worksheets. They knew how to write, punctuate, spell. But they didn't have this love of reading.

DORNIN: Dick and Jane were all but dumped. In their place came a variety of books and authors, all part of a new method for whole language where kids read lots of literature and figure out what words mean by looking at other words in a sentence in context.

JENSEN: Reread the sentence. That's what grownups do. We reread the sentence. Look for a chunk in the word. What makes sense in that word? So we teach them also different cuing systems.

DORNIN: At first, whole language deemphasized sounding words out.

JENSEN: Listen to the first sound.

DORNIN: But many teachers refused to abandon phonics. Now that's back.

JENSEN: Make the word must.

DORNIN: Kimberly Jensen has taught reading and writing for 25 years. She favors the traditional but now combines the two methods. Jensen may show kids a book.

JENSEN: It's a big book that has very rich language and has a lot of adjectives in it. "My big blue helicopter."

DORNIN: Then students are told to make up their own story, pictures and all.

JENSEN: And so this one says, "I will go to (INAUDIBLE) on my bunny, my big -- gray, big bunny." Today, to teach this way, I think, is a lot more meaningful for -- to learn the adjectives than just circling adjectives on a paper.

DORNIN (on camera): Since 1971, test scores in reading and writing have only improved slightly in the United States, but when compared internationally, the most recent test scores in 1992 suggest that children in the U.S. rate higher in basic reading literacy than students in nearly 30 other countries.

(voice-over): While test scores haven't changed much, what we know about the way kids learn has. Since the early '60s, Addie Hosling has worked on what to teach and how to teach it. Now she mentors others.

HOSLING: Trying to hit all the learning styles so that everybody -- everybody gets drawn in, that there isn't just this style that the teacher decided, "I learned this way, so this is the way I should teach." We -- we're more sophisticated than that now. We know that the brain makes connections in different ways, other than just hearing things.

RASSAMI SOURYASACK, SIXTH GRADE TEACHER: In fact, we haven't found so much as a single...

DORNIN: So sixth-grade teacher Rassami Souryasack feels free to steer clear of the standard spelling tests that most kids dread.

SOURYASACK: I would rather have the kids create a story using those words than to complete a sentence than I've made because it is more meaningful if they get to use the words themselves.

DORNIN: Getting kids to think for themselves. That's what high school teacher Betty Tillman wants. When she first stood in front of a class in 1966, nobody really cared what the students thought.

BETTY TILLMAN, HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: The students didn't have any idea of where the lesson was going. They would just come to class and be there, and whatever the teacher did, they just did it. It's coming from the drilling to, oh, life base. What can I use in life? Well, how can I use this literature in life situations, life skills?

DORNIN: Skills that will include hitting the keyboard as part of the daily language lesson.

SALLY HAMPTON, NATIONAL CENTER ON EDUCATION AND ECONOMY: Telecommunications is making a huge difference in terms of the classroom. Kids are having to deal with computer screens and with information on screens in ways that they've never had to deal with before. They've also had to pull information from many different sources. I don't know when we'll have this right because so few schools have all the capacity that they need with computers, but I think certainly teachers are struggling to keep up with the demand of an advanced society.

DORNIN: Demands that have accelerated over the past 70 years, forcing many teachers to turn the page from the familiar to the vast options of the new millennium.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, San Francisco.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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