Category Archives: Learning

New PBS documentary tells a story about education we don’t ever hear

In the small town of Hartsville, South Carolina, which sits just about two hours from anywhere you’ve ever heard of, Monay Parran and her two young sons – eight-year-old Ja’quez, and eleven-year-old Rashon – begin each day in the darkness of the pre-dawn hours.
Parran, a single parent who works two minimum-wage jobs in two towns that are almost an hour apart, must drop her boys off at the bus stop early enough to make it to her first job on time. By the time she sees her sons again, after her second shift wraps up, it will be almost midnight.

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How can we ensure better teacher quality?

I’m a big fan of the New York Times’ Room for Debate series, in which a central question is asked of five different folks.

Today, the question was about how to ensure and improve teacher quality. And although they didn’t ask me, here’s how I would have answered the question:

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What does it mean to be prepared?

I just spent three days at a wonderful independent school in Columbia, South Carolina. The students there are the types of young people you want to meet and hand over the keys of the world to — smart, thoughtful, and generous of spirit. They’re also the kind of community that is asking all the right questions.

I was most struck by a billboard they commissioned, shortly after their most recent graduation, in which the class of 2014 throws their mortarboards into the air, and the image is accompanied by a single word: PREPARED.

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A Public Charter School Is Trying to Model Itself After A Private School: Is That A Good Thing?

Yesterday, Senator Lamar Alexander stuck his foot in it when he suggested that not all charter schools are, in the end, public.

“There are some private charter schools, are there not?” Alexander said at a Brookings Institution event about school choice.

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In Reimagining School, What Must We Hold Onto – & What Must We Let Go Of?

Think about all the ways in which our brains are already hard-wired to think about “school.”

Desks. Chairs. Tests. Lectures. Lunchrooms. Hall Passes. Freshman (or Sophomore or Junior) years. AP (or Geometry or Spanish) classes. The list is endless.

Of course, all of these things came about in the creation of a model of education that was designed for the Industrial Age, when we were trying to answer a different set of questions:

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A Murmuration of Student Interest? That’s a Thing?

Last week, I spent three days at a remarkable independent school in Atlanta. It’s on the verge of designing a new building for its upper school, and I’m part of the team that is lucky enough to help them think about what such a space should look like — and what ultimate purpose(s) it should serve.

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Has Testing Reached a Tipping Point? (Part Deux)

It appears I was premature.

A year at this time, in an article for the SmartBlog on Education, I asked: “Are we witnessing the early signs of a sea change in how we think about the best ways to measure student learning and growth?”

Well, what a difference a year makes.

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Is this the template for the 21st Century school building?

The founder of Intrinsic School and her architects certainly think so. What do YOU think? Personally, I see some cool stuff, and yet overall something doesn’t sit right. Why, for example, is a school that is pushing the envelope on personalized learning still organizing its students by grade level? Shouldn’t mass groupings by age be […]

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Is this the type of learning story we need to be telling?

It comes via the U.S. Department of Education, which, of course, has a clear agenda and set of things it wants to trumpet. Does that make the overall package feel unpalatable to you? Or does it capture enough of the spirit of the modern day classroom, and both the challenges and opportunities that are unfolding […]

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In Trying to Reduce Class Sizes, Are We Trying to Solve the Wrong Problem?

Are smaller class sizes the key to breathing new life into today’s public schools, or a misguided effort to solve the problems of a dying era?

I am surprised to say I have come to believe it’s the latter.

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