What would you say if I told you that all of our current national efforts to improve public education were blind to the actual way people learned and interacted with the world? Depressing, right? But it’s true. To prove it, watch this short video — just 100 seconds long — and be prepared to describe to yourself what you see: … Read More
Let's Scrap the High School Diploma
This month, schools across the country are hard at work preparing auditoriums, printing programs, checking commencement speeches, and readying for the arrival of one of our society’s most cherished rites of passage – the high school graduation ceremony. Perhaps by this time next year, we can do our students an even greater service and scrap the high school diploma altogether. … Read More
NYC Learners — Go On a School Innovation Tour!
Those of you living in the NYC area have a cool opportunity worth taking advantage of this coming April. IDEA, aka the Institute for Democratic Education in America, is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure that all young people can engaged meaningfully with their education and gain the tools to build a just, democratic, and sustainable world. … Read More
Is the Scientific Method Becoming Less . . . Scientific?
In my ongoing search to better understand how we reconcile the creative tension between subjective and objective measures of the world — including our ongoing (and thus far) elusive search for a better way of tracking how people learn — I took note of a recent New Yorker article that cast light on some emerging problems with the ostensible foundation of all objective research — the scientific method.
Is Michelle Rhee putting Students First?
Like everyone else who does education for a living, I read that Michelle Rhee is launching a new national advocacy organization, Students First. And after checking out the site and hearing how she articulates its purpose, I see some reasons to feel hopeful — and many more reasons to feel deeply concerned. First, the good news: It’s hard to argue … Read More
Why We Measure Things
To conclude my recent bender on the “data craziness” that is plaguing our national education reform efforts, and once again in an effort to highlight a more thoughtful approach that resists either extreme — i.e., “all data all the time or no data none of the time” — I want to share, courtesy of my friend Lisa Kensler, this wonderful … Read More
"Data Craziness" (aka The Other Education: Part Deux)
Earlier this week, I responded to a column by New York Times columnist David Brooks, who constructed an artificial divide between our “formal education” (aka school) — which he indifferently described as linear, objective and ordinary — and our “emotional curriculum” (aka life) — which he approvingly described as nonlinear, subjective and transformational.
In fairness to Brooks, he’s hardly alone in this misconception — in fact, it’s probably inaccurate to call it a misconception, since this is how it works for too many of us: formal schooling is what you endure, and informal schooling is what helps you discover what really matters to you, what your personal strengths and weaknesses are, etc. But just because that’s the way things have been doesn’t mean that’s the way they should continue to be — a particularly relevant point for folks like Brooks, who are supposed to help light a better path, and for reform-minded cities like Washington, DC, where I now live. And yesterday I read something that gives me hope our city may be slowly adjusting its course to a more fruitful strategy for school improvement.
It's the Development, Stupid
Two years ago, my wife and I signed up to receive monthly emails charting our son’s development. When he was still in utero, the emails began with visual markers of his growth – he was the size of a grape at one stage, the size of a kumquat at another. Now, as he toddles his way through the world, the information is more focused on his behavior, reassuring us, for example, that a recent rise in meltdowns actually means that his development is “right on track.”
Across that same period, I’ve been part of a founding group that will, in August 2011, open a new public school here in DC (a school my son will one day attend). And what I’ve learned is that, for reasons I can’t fully understand, most of our country’s pre-schools maintain this evaluative focus on child development – and most middle and high schools abandon it altogether.
Why is this?
The X Factor of School Reform
In case you missed it, there was a great piece in yesterday’s New York Times, the core message of which has a lot of relevance for those of us who, barely a week removed from not one but two major reports of misleading test data being used to evaluate schools and school districts, continue to search for the simplest way … Read More
The Fake Revolution
If you spent any time in front of the TV last week, you may believe a revolution is underway in America’s classrooms. NBC dedicated a week of its programming to seed in-depth conversations about how to improve our schools. A new documentary about public education opened across the country to sold-out audiences. And a young billionaire – Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg … Read More