Sam has a new book!

Our School

Our School: Searching for Community in the Era of Choice

“What Our School shows with passion and precision is that education is about real people leading real lives in real places. If school doesn’t engage them, it doesn’t work, no matter what the accountants and policymakers may say. That’s what this book is really about and why it’s so important for anyone who genuinely cares about schools, communities, and their children.”

—from the Foreword by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned author and educator
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Turning School Chance Into School Choice

There are a lot of smart people in Washington, D.C., and one of them is Evelyn Boyd Simmons.

A longtime D.C. resident, an effective parental advocate, and a firm believer in the unmatched promise of public education, Evelyn has a way of cutting to the quick on complicated, contentious issues. And so it was when in a recent conversation, she summarized the state of affairs in American public education with a clever turn of phrase.

“What people like to call school choice,” she said flatly, “is nothing more than clever marketing. What folks really have is school chance.”

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Should Integration Be a Goal of DC Public Schools?

From 2000 to 2010, the white share of the District of Columbia’s population grew from 30.8 percent to38 percent . And from 2000 to 2012, the median household income in the city rose 23.3 percent while the nation saw a 6.6?percent decline, adjusted for inflation. This rapid gentrification provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create racially and socioeconomically integrated public schools. The D.C. Advisory Committee on Student Assignment, which is redrawing school boundary lines and feeder patterns, should seize this opportunity.

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Are Tests Biased Against Students Who Don’t Give A Shit?

We might be on to something here, people . . .

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With Treme, Blues at the Equinox

Is anyone out there watching the final season of Treme, David Simon’s underappreciated series about New Orleans and, by extension, us?

Since its debut in 2010, which followed perhaps too closely on the heels of Simon’s undisputed masterpiece, The Wire, most of the comments about Treme have focused on what it is not.

It’s not thrilling. It’s not suspenseful. It’s not exciting.

It’s true – Treme is not really any of those things. Then again, unlike just about every other drama on television, it’s also not about drugs, or counter-terrorism, or organized crime.

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Understanding How Poverty Affects the Brain

Could the behavior of shoppers in New Jersey and sugarcane farmers in India tell us something useful about the challenges our poorest students face? Educator Zac Chase, writing a guest post for my Of, By, For blog at EdWeek, thinks so . . .

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Rethinking School Boundaries

Now that DC is taking up the delicate question of whether its boundary lines for neighborhood schools needs revisiting — the first time they’ve done so since 1968 — it’s worth thinking through the issue with them.

This morning, I was part of a public radio conversation that featured DC Deputy Mayor Abigail Smith and local parent activist Evelyn Boyd Simmons. You can hear that 30 minute conversation here. But you might also want to read Mike Petrilli’s 2011 piece about controlled choice, or Rick Kahlenberg’s research into the feasibility of race-neutral admissions policies, or one school’s use of a zip code lottery to ensure an even representation from kids throughout the city it serves.

What other policies or programs are worth looking at?

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Planet of the Technocrats

There’s a great book out by Harvard’s Michael Sandel on the moral limits of markets. But Sandel’s book also contains a lot of interesting information about incentives, and the ways our use of them has both grown and revised the traditional economic thinking that began with Adam Smith’s original 1776 notion of an “invisible hand.”

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This is what good teaching looks like

(not to mention why arts integration is such a good idea . . .)

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Why We Need to Look Back — and Ahead

There are two different articles in today’s New York Times that I would consider must reading for anyone interested in better understanding who we are, who we have been, and who we may become.

The first, “Obama and the Debt,” outlines Princeton history professor Sean Wilentz’s interpretations of the current crisis, and of its Constitutional underpinnings. Regardless of whether you love the Fourteenth Amendment (as I do), and regardless of whether you agree with Wilentz’s advice to President Obama (go hard or go home), I would offer this Op-Ed as very tangible evidence of why we need historians, and why there is great value in looking back to better understand that path that has led us to this particular moment.

The other article is in the Arts section, and it’s a review of David Cage’s new video game for the PlayStation 3, “Beyond Two Souls.” The game itself features star turns from two well-known Hollywood actors, Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe. And the article struck me because it hints at the Brave New World we are entering, one in which a creator like Cage excitedly imagines the development of a “Scorcese algorithm” that would imitate the filmmaker’s iconic camera style and recreate it on demand, and one in which he describes his game as “an interface that will allow you to play life.”

I understand our infatuation with unadulterated self-direction, and I worry sometimes that it’s eroding our commitment to understand, on a broad, shared level, where we have been and what we have decided. And I share the disorientation so many of us feel when we hear of an algorithm that can codify the creative genius of Martin Scorcese in order to improve the narrative flow of a video game — and I can see why such a development could be very, very cool.

Both trends bear watching, and remembering, and questioning, by all of us.

 

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Why urban education is a rigged game

According to Dylan Garity, who breaks it down at the National Poetry Slam. Listen up.

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