Students stepping into Longfellow Elementary in Rock Island this school year will notice physical changes: a new media center and library, a new cafeteria, and a renovation that has added four new classrooms. But a more important change will be the school's new formal partnership with Augustana College.
The relationship will bring a liberal-arts-based curriculum to Longfellow - a contrast to the No Child Left Behind-forced shift in primary education that emphasizes reading and math skills to the exclusion of other subjects. Though the content of the curriculum will still conform to district standards, the way that content is presented will change: The focus will move to collaboration among students, small-group and individualized instruction, interdisciplinary learning, thematic teaching that attempts to make the coursework relevant, and the fine arts.
A No Child Left Behind-influenced curriculum "doesn't have anything to do with creative problem-solving, imagination, collaboration - all of these skills we need to survive in the next millennium," said Pat Shea, an assistant professor of education at Augustana who was part of the planning team for Longfellow. "If we don't get those things taught, it doesn't matter how many facts we know. ... We are so off-target about what it means to be an educated person, and I think we as educators have the first line of responsibility to start speaking to that."