Category Archives: Democracy

The Difference Between Hannah Graham and Relisha Rudd

On March 1, eight-year-old D.C. resident Relisha Rudd disappeared. She was, according to news reports, homeless, hungry, and in the care of a man who likely killed her. The search for her body didn’t even begin until almost three weeks after she was last seen, and, after just one week and a dwindling number of tips, police effectively stopped looking.

On September 13, eighteen-year-old University of Virginia sophomore Hannah Graham disappeared. She was, according to Charlottesville police chief Timothy Longo, a “bright, intelligent, athletic, friendly, beautiful college student who’s been part of our community for the past two years.” Hours after she went missing, state emergency management officials launched a massive search effort that was fueled by more than 4,000 tips. A little more than a month later, her body was recovered.

What can possibly account for the dramatic differences in these two stories?

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In memory of Ted Sizer

Several years ago, as the director of the Forum for Education & Democracy, I was lucky enough to meet Ted Sizer. A lion in the field, Ted was warm, welcoming, and eager in both theory and practice to create space for a new person like me to join him in his life’s work.

Ted died five years ago today — too young, at 77. In 2011, I edited Faces of Learning: 50 Powerful Stories of Defining Moments in Education, to try and honor his work and the impact it had on my thinking. It was a book that stitched together 50 people’s stories of their most powerful learning experiences, and the final one to share was Ted’s.

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Has Oprah come to embody what’s wrong with modern American culture?

I’ve decided that if I were to pick one person who embodies the ersatz character of contemporary American cultural life, that person would be Oprah Winfrey.

Let me explain.

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A School is Not a Pet. And Yet . . .

This weekend’s story in the New York Times about former NFL star Deion Sanders’ struggling charter school lays bare much of what’s wrong with the way Americans think about public education in general, and charter schools in particular.

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New Orleans is an all-charter city. Is that a good thing?

This week, the last five traditional neighborhood schools in New Orleans’ Recovery School district were closed – making it the country’s first district made up entirely of charter schools.

That’s a good thing, right?

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OK, Brown v. Board is 60; Now What?

As I travel around the country this month, participating in public conversations about the promise and peril of school choice, it seems fitting that right as we marked the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, I would end up having lunch with Michael Alves.

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The Neuroscience of Democracy

In the ideal educational future, is there a single design principle that matters most in establishing the optimal learning environment for children? That seems like a pretty important question to consider. And if you were to go by today’s leading reform strategies, you might conclude that the answer is, variably, greater accountability, better use of […]

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In New York, A Tale of Two Cities (and Two Selves)

At the New Teacher Center conference a few years ago, I watched a master teacher model a great way to introduce students to new material. She projected a single image onto the screen in our conference room — it was Liberty Leading the People — and asked us a single question, over and over again: “What do you see?” Any observation (“I see a strong woman”) would prompt a second question from the instructor (“What’s your evidence?”). It was fun, and illuminating, and after ten minutes, based on nothing more than our own close observations, we were ready to study the French Revolution.

I was reminded of that workshop recently, when I saw someone on Twitter share the following picture:

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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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