Tag Archives: systems change

Why We Need To Kill Our Darlings

Every writer knows what it means to “kill your darlings.”

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Categories: Democracy, Leadership

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To Reimagine Education, We Must Make Ourselves the Target

It may seem crazy to seed an idea that is intended to put you out of business – yet that’s exactly what Dayton Department Stores did back in 1960 with Target. And, the more I think about it, that’s exactly what every school in America should be doing right now.

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Categories: Learning

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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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Categories: Learning

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In defense of the Industrial-era model of education

I spent yesterday attending the Blue School’s fabulous Teaching Innovation conference, where everyone is rightly concerned with how to reimagine education for a changing world.

At a few different points, people spoke about how sad it was that we are working within a system that can’t do the sorts of things we now see are in the best interests of children: personalizing instruction, creating physical spaces that feel less institutional and more welcoming and respectful, and designing learning programs that help young people acquire the skills and dispositions that will be most useful to them as they negotiate their way through a world in which content knowledge is no longer the key to the kingdom — adaptability, compassion, and creativity are.

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Summer, once the time for reflection, now the time for radical redesign

Tanesha Dixon vividly remembers the first summer she spent as a teacher – as part of a service program in Uganda, just before her senior year at Notre Dame.

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Categories: Assessment, Leadership, Learning

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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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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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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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Categories: Leadership, Learning, Organizational Change

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A Signature Shift?

Last week, I was asked by CNN to publicly comment on the news that most states will soon phase out cursive writing in order to give students more time to hone their digital skills. Initially, I wondered why the issue was receiving national coverage – there are much bigger fish to fry, after all – so I posed a Facebook query to that effect. A torrent of comments followed, and I received several long emails from viewers who saw the segment and felt compelled to share their thoughts. Everyone, it seemed, had an opinion, and strong ones at that. Why, I wondered, were so many people so upset about this seemingly small development on the gigantic landscape of K-12 education reform?

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Is Teach for America Becoming “Too Big to Fail”?

When it comes to reforming America’s schools, is bigger always better?

I’ve been wondering about that question since watching a recent episode of Treme, the HBO series set in post-Katrina New Orleans that chronicles the struggles of a diverse group of residents on the slow path toward rebuilding their beloved city.

In the episode, an aspiring local musician named Davis McAlary raps about changes in the school system:

Four years at Radcliffe, that’s all you know
A desire to do good and a four point oh
You’re here to save us from our plight
You got the answer ’cause you’re rich and white
On a two-year sojourn here to stay
Teach for America all the way
Got no idea what you’re facin’
No clue just who you’re displacin’
Old lady taught fathers, old lady taught sons
Old lady bought books for the little ones
Old lady put in 30 years
Sweat and toil, time and tears
Was that really your sad intention?
Help the state of Louisiana deny her pension?

It’s worth noting that Davis is rich and white himself, and that a friend of his quickly questions Davis’s logic. And yet when one considers the omnipresent discussion these days of “taking ideas to scale,” the core critique deserves some consideration.

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Categories: Democracy, Leadership, Learning, Teacher Quality

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