Tag Archives: school reform

Positively Deviant School Reform?

If you had six months, little to no resources, and a clear mandate to solve a chronic country-wide problem – knowing that, if you failed, you would be asked to leave that country altogether – what would you do?

I ask because this was precisely the challenge Save the Children was faced with, in Vietnam, in the early 1990s. And the way they succeeded has great relevance for those of us who continue to struggle with other intractable problems (like, say, comprehensive school reform).

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If Murder Can Be Tracked Like An Infectious Disease, Should Failing Schools Be, Too?

There’s a fascinating new story this morning, courtesy of NPR, in which a team of researchers pored over 25 years of murder data in Newark, New Jersey, and reached a surprising conclusion: murdering someone is not as individualized a decision as we might think. In fact, the researchers are suggesting we may need to adopt a different lens when viewing the problem, and start thinking of homicide less as an individual choice, and more as a reflection of a larger infectious disease like AIDS or the flu.

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The Empathy Formula

For over a year now, I’ve been working with a remarkable group of people at Ashoka who believe empathy is the foundational skill we need in order to become effective changemakers in modern society — and who are bold (quixotic?) enough to envision a world in which one day, every child learns to master it as readily as s/he masters the ability to read and write.

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Are Parent Trigger Laws a Good Idea?

It’s hard not to feel excited for the group of parents who successfully took over their California community’s school, and who now are dreaming of bigger things. “Our children will now get the education they deserve,” said Doreen Diaz, whose daughter attends Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto. “We are on the way to making a quality school for them, and there’s no way we will back down.”

It’s equally hard to feel confident that this story will have the ending Ms. Diaz and others envision.

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What (& Where) Are the World’s Most Transformational Schools?

OK, people, let’s get specific: out of all the outstanding and forward-thinking schools in the world, which ones are truly the most transformational when it comes to imagining a new way to think about teaching and learning in the 21st century?

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New Rules for School Reform

You know there’s a dearth of creative thinking in education when an article trumpeting cutting-edge teaching quotes somebody, without irony, saying the following:

“Get a computer, please! Log on . . . and go to your textbook.”

Yet that’s what the Washington Post did this morning – and they’re not alone. Despite ubiquitous calls for innovation and paradigm shifts, most would-be reformers are little more than well-intentioned people perfecting our ability to succeed in a system that no longer serves our interests.

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What Plato Would Think of School Choice

“But how, exactly, will they be reared and educated by us? And does our considering this contribute anything to our goal of discerning that for the sake of which we are considering all these things – in what way justice and injustice come into being in a city.”
—Plato, The Republic

Heard the bass ride out like an ancient mating call, I can’t take it y’all, I can feel the city breathin’, Chest heavin’, against the flesh of the evening, Sigh before we die like the last train leaving.
—Black Star, Respiration

What characterizes the ideal city – and the cities in which we live? How accurately does the health of a city reflect the quality of its plan for educating its youngest citizens? And does the push towards greater school choice get us closer to, or farther from, that ideal?

I’ve been thinking about those questions a lot since reading a column by George Will in last weekend’s Washington Post. In it he references two U.S. Supreme Court opinions in which the Court affirmed the constitutional right of parents “to direct the … education of children under their control.” As a student of the 14th Amendment, I sought the opinions out. What struck me had less to do with the legal arguments, however, and more to do with an excerpt in one of the opinions from Plato’s Republic, arguably the most famous political work of all time, and a work squarely concerned with the role a city – and, by extension, its education system – must play in helping all people develop their fullest potential.

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What We Talk About When We Talk About School Reform

With all due respect to Flannery O’Connor, my vote for greatest American short-story writer goes to Ray Carver. And with all due respect to America’s current crop of leaders, my hope is that they convene a summer book club to read Carver’s stories – and heed his central message.

I’m thinking specifically of his collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. As with all of Carver’s work, it’s a collection filled with a cast of characters best suited for the island of misfit toys – or the town in which you live. These are people who are down on their luck, who have fallen out of love, and who are struggling to find the right words to communicate their feelings, their thoughts, and their sense of how (and where) it all went wrong. Reflected in Carver’s spartan prose are the surface realities of life – the quotidian desperation of the things we sometimes say, see and do. But his genius comes from his ability to surface the submerged emotions of living – the weight of grief, the insufficiency of the words we live by, the slow acknowledgement of seeing what we don’t want to see. Carver’s stories are always about what we know, what we are perpetually struggling to know, and what we talk about while we linger in the chasm in between.

Which leads us to the present moment.

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The Gift, a.k.a “Waiting for Superman”

This morning, I received an email from my dear friend Maya Soetoro-Ng, a lifelong educator and all-around deep thinker, who wrote to her friends and family after seeing Waiting for Superman. Please read it — her way of framing the opportunity provided by the film is exactly what we need to hear.

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Live Chat Today at 10:00am EST — Michelle Rhee and the Future of School Reform in DC

For anyone interested, I’m about to do a live chat about Michelle Rhee and the future of DCPS. If you have a question or an idea, click here. The conversation will run from 10:oo-10:30am EST.

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