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Traditional education is usually the absence or target of destruction by Education reform. In the eyes of reformers, traditional methods must be transformed to a high performance system. However, many parents and conservative citizens prefer retaining time tested methodology. In order to define reformed methods, it is first necessary to define what is traditional. Most of these issues are similar in other nations.

In the United States, education reform is usually cast in contrast with Traditional education methods.

Here is a list of some of the areas of traditional education, and how they compare with some popular reform movements. The associated educational philosophies may also be linked to.

Instruction CentreEdit

Topic Traditional approach Alternate approaches
Person Teacher centered instruction: Student centered instruction
Materials Book based instruction: What is the nation's capital? Project based instruction: a student might be asked to build a model of the US Capitol out of 100 toothpicks


Topic Traditional approach Alternate approaches
Goal-setting, Varying expectations of ability Letter grade: A is excellent. Students will graduate with different grades, and some will be allowed to fail. With Standards based grading, some A students may fail to meet the standard, while some D students may pass (source: parents guide to WASL). Under Standards Based Education all students will pass a state test benchmarked at world class standards by 10 years from now. Those who fail to show the skills that all must know and be able to do for any college or career will forfeit their diploma, and be barred from any high paying job because they do not meet the standards of the 21st century.
Grade inflation/deflation Achievement based on standard for today. An A yesterday is the same as an A tomorrow. With Continuous improvement, a student or school may be classified as a failure if s/he does not show improving over a prior year. Performance levels and cut scores are not comparable between years. 80 percent of students are expected to fail the first year of a math examination, 80 percent are expected to pass in the tenth year, in the case of WASL.

Subject AreasEdit

Topic Traditional approach Alternate approaches
Mathematics Traditional mathematics: 2+2=4 In Standards-based mathematics a test in Washington state did not require a correct numerical answer for full credit, while a correct numerical answer without an explanation would not receive full credit.
Science Fact based science: The earth orbits the sun With Inquiry-based Science a student might be asked to devise an experiment to prove the earth orbits the sun.
Language learning Phonics: See spot run With Whole language the child is exposed to rich, relevant politically correct language such as "recycling is beneficial to the environment", rather than the mechanics of phonics or spelling.


Topic Traditional approach Alternate approaches
Multiple tracks Academic track and Vocational tracks. Students choose different classes if they plan to go to college, work, or be a homemaker. With School to work, academically weak students must take AP calculus, while the college bound may have to spend half-days job shadowing at the local automobile dealer.

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