Monthly Archives: May 2011

Is Teach for America Becoming “Too Big to Fail”?

When it comes to reforming America’s schools, is bigger always better?

I’ve been wondering about that question since watching a recent episode of Treme, the HBO series set in post-Katrina New Orleans that chronicles the struggles of a diverse group of residents on the slow path toward rebuilding their beloved city.

In the episode, an aspiring local musician named Davis McAlary raps about changes in the school system:

Four years at Radcliffe, that’s all you know
A desire to do good and a four point oh
You’re here to save us from our plight
You got the answer ’cause you’re rich and white
On a two-year sojourn here to stay
Teach for America all the way
Got no idea what you’re facin’
No clue just who you’re displacin’
Old lady taught fathers, old lady taught sons
Old lady bought books for the little ones
Old lady put in 30 years
Sweat and toil, time and tears
Was that really your sad intention?
Help the state of Louisiana deny her pension?

It’s worth noting that Davis is rich and white himself, and that a friend of his quickly questions Davis’s logic. And yet when one considers the omnipresent discussion these days of “taking ideas to scale,” the core critique deserves some consideration.

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Categories: Democracy, Leadership, Learning, Teacher Quality

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Do Great Conferences Have a “Special Sauce”?

What makes for a transformational meeting?

I’m asking myself this question because I just attended the best conference of my life. I’m asking it because most conferences, well, suck. And I’m asking it because the people I just spent three days with were continually asking it of each other in order to identify the “special sauce” for themselves – and give us all a better chance of recreating it for more and more people.

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Categories: Democracy, Leadership, Learning, Organizational Change

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WorldBlu Live – What Would You Do If You Were Not Afraid?

In the early afternoon of the first day of WorldBlu live — a remarkable global gathering of people who share a commitment to organizational democracy — Menlo Innovations CEO Rich Sheridan shared the moment when he knew he was in trouble. “It was Take Your Daughter to Work Day,” he began, “and over dinner, I asked my daughter Sarah what she thought of the experience.

“You must be really important, Dad.”
“Why do you say that, Sarah?”
“Because no one can make a decision without you first giving the OK.”

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Categories: Learning

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Is a Free Education a Fundamental Right?

Should your zip code determine your access to the American dream? Or is the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee to provide “equal protection” a principle we have silently agreed to uphold in theory – but not in practice?

I’m starting to wonder after reading about Tanya McDowell, the Connecticut mother facing felony charges for lying on her five-year-old son’s registration forms so he could attend a better school. McDowell’s story is painfully reminiscent of Kelley Williams-Bolar, the Ohio mother who made a similar choice earlier this year – and is now a convicted felon.

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Categories: Democracy, Equity, Learning

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Democracy’s New Gatekeepers?

For many of us, the Internet still holds the promise of becoming the Great Equalizer, the Great Connector, and the Great Amplifier for the modern era. From its utility as a resource for citizens protesting a corrupt governmental regime, to its capacity to connect people who would otherwise never have an opportunity to meet, the […]

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Categories: Democracy, Equity, Learning

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Faces of Learning San Diego — High Tech High

A little over a month ago, I spent a few days on the campus of High Tech High School (HTH), a remarkable network of schools in San Diego that are, simply, among the best examples of public education our country has to offer.

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Categories: Leadership, Learning, Organizational Change

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