Monthly Archives: January 2016

This is how you move a school from crisis to calm

St. George’s School in England was a failing school — filled with children who were struggling in their lives and whose school was a reflection of that chaotic state of being. Today, it’s one of the top 2% nationally. If you wonder how such a change could be brought about, take a look at this […]

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Categories: Leadership, Learning, Organizational Change

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A Year of Wonder

I admit: I’m the type of person who sees every New Year as a chance to reboot, revisit and refresh.

And this year, 2016, I want to try and sustain a yearlong exploration of wonder.

Part of the reason for that is pretty straightforward: on January 1, I officially became a partner in a global design studio that helps communities reimagine learning at the intersection of space, culture and story.

Our name? WONDER, By Design.

But part of it is also a desire to wrestle with some questions my colleagues and I want to understand more deeply:

If wonder is to learning as carbon is to life, then what are the neurochemical underpinnings of wonder itself?
In what ways does our capacity for wonder help explain what is most essential to what shapes and drives us as human beings?
What blocks our ability to wonder widely about the world? What gets us unblocked?
You can imagine my excitement, then, when I saw that the Renwick Gallery, a century-old museum in Washington, D.C. once described as the “American Louvre,” had recently undergone its own reboot – a literal, massive, two-year renovation – and was reintroducing itself to the public by having its first new exhibit transform the entire building into an immersive, multisensory work of art.

The inaugural exhibit’s name? WONDER.

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Categories: Learning, Voice

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Across the Country, a New Type of Partnership Between Charters and Districts Emerges  

Increasingly, I’m hearing a question that drives me crazy: “Are you for or against charter schools?”

There can only be one legitimate answer to that question: It depends.

Are you speaking of the situation in Michigan, in which four out of five charter school operators are for-profit entities? Or the overall tendency for charters to be even more segregated than their public school neighbors? Or the reluctance by some charter leaders to hold themselves to the same standards of transparency and openness as traditional public schools?

If so, thumbs down.

But if you’re talking about places like Baltimore, where all charter school teachers are unionized (and the charters themselves are almost all locally conceived and teacher-led), or if you’re pointing to the growing movement among some charters to intentionally enroll and serve integrated student bodies – by way of the National Coalition of Diverse Charter Schools – the picture takes a very different shape.

And then there’s what’s happening with Summit Basecamp – a new sort of partnership between charters and traditional public schools that may very well offer the best evidence so far of what Al Shanker first called for back in 1988, when he imagined a new kind of school in which teachers could experiment with different ways of reaching students, and then inject that wisdom back throughout the public school system.

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Categories: Equity, Leadership, Learning

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