COMMACK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A respected New York City educator says we’re losing the battle to educate our children because our system of teaching is antiquated.

He’s brought his inner city brand of teaching to a private academy on Long Island, but could it come to your district?

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A new education model in action at the Jewish Academy in Commack has the teaching team meeting every day to discuss every student, and stays with the same kids year after year — they can also oust teachers who aren’t making the grade.

“This is not about the sage on the stage where the teacher just stands up and delivers information and children absorb, spit back and repeat. It doesn’t work anymore,” Chaya Teldon explained.

The new approach was developed by Dr. Shimon Waronker who says one-teacher classrooms aren’t healthy.

“Depersonalization. You’re just a widget, you’re a number, you’re moving through the system. Human beings can’t grow that way,” he said.

Dr. Waronker’s team method — something he helped develop at Harvard — has heart.

“Just like a plant needs sun and water, we need love and relationships, and to feel cared for,” he said.

The Army intelligence officer turned Hasidic inner city principal astounded many by turning around some of the roughest schools by fostering grit, empathy, and collaboration.

“To look at the difference we made in their lives socially, emotionally, and academically was astonishing,” master teacher Colleen O’Brien said.

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“If a kid is coming into a classroom bored or upset, they’re not going to learn. If we don’t address that part of a child we are not going to do any academic learning,” Dr. Waronker said.

Impressive results, but can the model work on a larger scale, or is it ‘pie in the sky’ in a world of teachers unions and tenure.

Dr. Bruce Torff, Professor of Education at Hofstra University, admires the progressive system, but said there are tradeoffs.

“Team teaching is very stimulating, but its effectiveness depends on the quality of the team work which is not always even,” he said.

Waronker acknowledged the tradeoffs, but said the model can work anywhere at equal cost, even with paying teachers more to attract the best, because specialties like music, art, and dance are all taught by the team in the classroom.

Other schools using this model include P.S. 770 in Brooklyn, P.S. 274 in the Bronx, and the new American Academy Charter School.

Some of the master teachers are earning more than $130,000.


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