Teacher Uses Accelerated Learning Methods with At-Risk-Youth

District Times
By Larry C. Armendariz

Miles Jones has a doctorate in bilingual and foreign language education, specializing in accelerated learning. He believes that using his background to teach sixth-grade students at John F. Kennedy Learning Center is more beneficial than working as a Dallas Public Schools' administrator.

"I have been given the opportunity to move up to administration," he explained. "But I feel that I would be committing a great disservice to the children."

It is Jones' dedication, compassion and enthusiasm for teaching that first caught the attention of Kennedy Principal Carolina Leon.

"When I first interviewed him, he told me what his goals were," she said. "He's a team player and has a strong belief that every child can succeed regardless of social background."

Jones is so dedicated that he personally tutored a group of "at risk" students for three hours a day at his apartment last summer. The students were there to improve their math skills, and in the end, they were able to mentally calculate complicated math problems and were learning algebra. Jones is a proponent of accelerated learning - an educational method designed to allow students to learn any subject at a faster pace.

Jones, who currently has his bilingual inner city elementary students reading Shakespeare, explains that accelerated education is not new. "We focus on the basic skills that are vital to the student," he said. "It's like a pyramid. You can't build [on education] from the top down. You have to start from the bottom up."

Jones' principal says that while she doesn't advocate accelerated learning over other teaching methods, she supports any teaching method that works for the individual instructor and the students. "I've been fortunate because I have been blessed with a teacher who can do anything," Leon said. "[Jones] is motivated and has the desire to teach, and that's what makes him a successful male role model."

Jones taught last year at Sam Houston Elementary School, where he implemented the accelerated learning program to predominantly Hispanic students. The students were taught to read in Spanish, then taught to speak and read in English. Success followed as the student completed both first and second grade studies in two languages before the school year ended.

"At least 75 percent of the students were above the 50th percentile nationally in both reading and math [on the Spanish Assessment of Basic Education]," he said. "Twenty percent were above the 90th percentile in both reading and math."

Jones feels the current curricula for elementary students is too diverse - offering students too many options and not providing enough concentration on learning the basic skills of reading, writing and math.

"I believe we have to challenge the system," he said. "What's the point of advancing children if they're only going to be re-homogenized next year?"

Jones is hopeful that an emphasis on the basic skills will be a priority of the district. "We can do it. I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe we could," he said. "We need to get the right people and place them in the right areas in order to make things work."

He said some administrators and teachers might not agree with the accelerated learning program, but he feels that the method works. "I believe that if accelerated learning methods were more widely used in the district, we'd be seeing our students' test scores going up by enormous amounts, not just by the percentage points that they're going up now."