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The IDEA Blog

On the School-to-Prison Pipeline

In case you missed it, the school-to-prison pipeline's been getting some much needed attention this week.  

Last week on Moyers & Company, Bill Moyers sat down with Henry Giroux, educator and author of many works on critical pedagogy. Among the topics they covered was schools and the reality of severe disciplinary policies that redirect low-income youth and youth of color from the education pathway and into the prison pipeline. 

Here's the video and a link to the full show.

And today, Zerlina Maxwell of Ebony wrote a piece titled, "The School-to-Prison Pipeline is Targeting Your Child," in which she discusses the shift towards zero tolerance policies in the last 20-30 years, along with metal detectors and armed officers placed inside many schools, especially those with largely students of color. It's a solid and brief history of the development of the pipeline.

That piece also links to a new video out earlier this month from The Advancement Project, a next generation multi-racial civil rights organization that has done powerful work organizing to end the school-to-prison pipeline. The video uses clips from The Cosby Show, Ferris Bueller, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and Saved by the Bell to draw a comparison to how disciplinary policies have changed in just a short time. 

Here it is:

Share these resources around. This last video in particular might go a long way to opening people's eyes to the school-to-prison reality.

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Posted on Nov 27, 2013 - 12:19 PM by Dana Bennis

Too much thinking on Tuesday? A few loose things to consider on design thinking

Today brought an opportunity to talk and learn from Michael Knapp, Managing Director and starter of Green River. He said something that caught my attention and deserves more noodling.

He was breaking down Agile methodology and its influence on their work as software developers and he made a comparison between the process of designing and building a house, and designing and redesigning software. The point he was making is that software design really benefits from rapid deployment and engagement with end-users as early and often as possible in a constantly evolving iterative process (yes insert all Obamacare references here).

But what got me thinking was something of the inverse. I've spent lots of time thinking about education change, reform, faux reform, transformation, etc -- and have done a good amount of thinking about, and met lots of folks doing really good work adapting design philosophy into thinking about learning, learning spaces, and schools.

What I haven't thought enough about (I think) is the limitations of rapid design thinking. Michael's comment was not pointed in any way - just my running away with it - but it is also true that you'd never design a house with the same process that great coders use to design apps.

I'm now wondering about what aspects of educational change, "remodeling," schools, and institutional actors need to be considered through the lens of "slow design" for lack of a better term and what aspects really can be helped with the growth, value, and skills of the design universe.

Anyway - loose thoughts as Tuesday ends but seemed fun to share and I welcome insights and comments.


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Posted on Nov 26, 2013 - 10:51 AM by Scott Nine

Democracy in Education is not a Spectator Sport

There's no time for cynicism and disappointment

Working together, communities, networks, and organizations can and are engaging young people in meaningful learning. It's time to tell that story. It's time to change policies in support of that story. It's time to reclaim the public in education.

Five reasons you should give some of your hard-earned money to IDEA:

1. Impacting the National Narrative
2. Mapping the Educational Landscape
3. Generating Knowledge
4. Telling the Story
5. Connecting the Dots

We know you're busy and a lot of folks want your money and time.
We're asking you to move forward with IDEA anyway, because it's important.
  • Give $35 and keep the momentum going
  • Give $100 and cover the monthly bill for our super awesome database that helps us connect the dots
  • Give $250 and cover the flight for an educator or young person to attend an IDEA tour or IDEA camp
  • Give $1,000 and cover 1/2 the stipend of an IDEA Storyteller for a year 
  • Give $3,000 and seed a place-based team in your community or somewhere else
  • Give $5,000 and cover the cost of one team to participate in the next Learning Breakthrough Series session
Go to and see how IDEA is reclaiming the public in public education. Already, our place-based teams, storytellers, and national organizers are working to change the story of education. Now, we're trying to draft you.

Your donation not only puts us on the same team... It gives us a real chance at winning.

Thank you!

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Posted on Nov 26, 2013 - 10:38 AM by Shawn Strader

Top Ten Countdown: Final Three Hits & Welcoming Jill Ruchala

Final Report and Wrap of A Year at Mission Hill

On January 31st, 2013, the first chapter of the "A Year at Mission Hill" film was launched across the networks of 50 partner organizations, on YouTube, on Prezi, and in the conference rooms and homes of people around the country.

Here's a full wrap of the series and the campaign from start to finish. Sit back, grab a snack, and enjoy.

Ten Videos. One Year. A public school trying to help children learn and grow. The national conversation we need to be having.


IDEA on Instagram

We're all excited! IDEA is now on Instagram! 

And we're also pretty "taken" with our username, created by national storyteller, Shannan Hicks. FollowIDEAsnaps as we begin a quest to snap as many awesome photos and adventures in as many fun ways as we can. If you're on Instagram, follow us, and tag IDEAsnaps in photos to contribute!

IDEA Storytellers on Twitter

IDEA Storytellers are now on Twitter! That's 5 awesome new ways to follow IDEA on social media!

Storytellers work with and listen closely to their organizing team and are asked to focus on three primary responsibilities:

1) Telling small (and big) stories of contribution to change
2) Making critical connections
3) Sharing stories through traditional, social, and other media.

Find and follow all of our storytellers on Twitter via these handles:

Puerto Rico: @IDEA_Boricua
Vermont: @IDEA_VT
Oregon: @IDEA_OR
Jackson: @IDEA_JXN
Minnesota: @IDEA_MN


Welcoming Jill Ruchala to IDEA Staff

IDEA is excited to welcome Jill Ruchala to serve in a 1/2 time interim role as IDEA's Director of Development!

Jill Ruchala is an education consultant and activist based in Brooklyn, NY. She has learned and taught in the U.S., the Czech Republic, South Korea, Mexico, and on the Thai-Burma border. Jill is especially interested in...

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Posted on Nov 22, 2013 - 10:00 AM by Shawn Strader

Report and Wrap of A Year at Mission Hill

On January 31st, 2013, the first chapter of the "A Year at Mission Hill" film was launched across the networks of 50 partner organizations, on YouTube, on Prezi, and in the conference rooms and homes of people around the country. It was the kick-off of the #YearatMH campaign. Now coming to the end of 2013, we want to take a moment to reflect back on the film and the campaign. 
Hot off the presses is this Report on A Year at Mission Hill, which tells the story of the reach and impact of the #YearatMH campaign. The report provides helpful learnings for future national campaigns by offering a glimpse of how the series was used by partner organizations, suggesting ways to improve a campaign such as this in the future, and sharing some of the key links and tweets that were generating during #YearatMH.
And now, here's a full wrap of the series and campaign from start to finish. Sit back, grab a snack and refreshment, and enjoy this look back at an amazing story of what education can be when educators, young people, and community members come together to chart a course for meaningful learning and community engagement...
Ten videos. One year. A public school trying to help children learn and grow. The national conversation we need to be having.
If you missed the flurry of chapter releases, articles, and media connected to the film, or if you just want to watch them again and read some inspiring commentary about what education can and ought to be, this post is for you. Below you'll see each video embedded with links to articles and resources on each chapter's theme.
A brief intro.
The A Year at Mission Hill film follows the teachers, students, and community members of Mission Hill School, a public school in Boston, over the course of the 2011-2012 school year. From the school's website: 
The Mission Hill School is a Boston Public Pilot School in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts serving approximately 220 children,...

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Posted on Nov 19, 2013 - 01:56 PM by Dana Bennis

Back to Work

I just returned from four days away from the electronic universe and education headlines. 

One of the first bits that caught my eye was the obvious fury around Secretary Duncan's initial comments and efforts to defend his thinking about the upset of "white suburban moms" regarding Common Core.

Then I saw that my twitter feed held a more substantive Common Core critique by Ethan Young, a high school senior in Tennessee.

The linking of these two seemed like an easy blog but my continued catching up soon found that Anthony Cody, as often happens, had already connected the dots in these stories AND named the biggest issue I have with the common core - that it was unfolded and rolled out without the engagement of teachers, students, and parents across the country. It's one thing to want a national set of standards and common assessments - another thing altogether to develop them without actually engaging the people who live the results (is citing the Affordable Care Act as an example here too sad or easy?)

So this morning, as I continue catching up, I'm continually struck by one persisting thought:

We don't have a social contract for education in America anymore. 

You can argue we've had one, or enough of one, since 1954. But today we don't have any agreement about what the purpose of public education is. Education, its values, how it's delivered, the public investment required, and the learning it should offer is fully contested. 

Ethan Young finished his testimony by saying: "You cannot ignore me, my teachers, or the truth.  We need change, but not common core, high-stakes evaluations, or more robots."  

Which begs the question: what change do we, as a people, want?


Add a comment and join the conversation on IDEA's Facebook page.

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Posted on Nov 19, 2013 - 05:57 AM by Scott Nine

A Year at Mission Hill, The IDEA Blog, and the Top Ten Countdown

A Year at Mission Hill. Did you Miss it? Want to Revisit?

Did A Year at Mission Hill pass right by you? Maybe you were too busy to dig in, or maybe the series snuck by unnoticed. Maybe you've subconsciously been craving to revisit #YearatMH, because it's just that awesome.

Whatever the case, we wanted to shout it out again and invite you to take a step closer to Mission Hill School and the story it tells about what's possible when a community comes together to build a powerful educational experience for young people. Treat yourself to this intoxicating and provocative series of short films at A Year at Mission Hill's website.

Also, great news! The filmmakers of the series are creating a feature length documentary, respectively named, Good Morning Mission Hill. Should you go check out their new website by clicking the banner below? Yep. You definitely should. And then you should tell all your friends on Facebook and Twitter about it. It'd be a shame not to share something so cool with everyone you know, dontcha think?


IDEA's Blog is Crankin' em Out. Are you Catchin' it All?

Each week we're publishing at least three new pieces, sometimes more than five. The goal is to put out an average of 3 blogs a day by spring of next year. But if you're not following, what are we even writing for?! We want our blog to be something you enjoy, and something that helps us all to grow. If you haven't tuned in yet, subscribe to the IDEA Blog through this link. If you think we could be doing something better, let us know! And if you think what's coming out is pretty fantastic, let us know that too! Leave comments on the Facebook post of each blog by following the link at the end of all pieces.

Why not start by digging into some of our favorite & recent pieces linked below:

Truth: What it Takes to Move Forward - Black Flag frontman, Henry Rollins, calls meaningful & equitable education the "great leveler of the playing field." He's onto something for sure,...

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Posted on Nov 01, 2013 - 01:35 PM by Shawn Strader

Truth: What it Takes to Move Forward

Henry Rollins used to be one of my role models. I aspired to be as radical, outspoken, hostile, and informed as he seemed to be. But that was in high school... when I looked up to him as the frontman of Black Flag. You know, that was a long time ago... I haven't heard much about Henry Rollins or Black Flag since then.

All that said, I'm pretty stoked to see Henry in this video speaking some solid truth to the power of meaningful education. He opens up this interview with this quote:

"The way out is Education. Always has been, always will be. It is the great leveler of the playing field."

He then expands on the idea of the lack of equitable and meaningful education being a root of maginalization in the United States. Such an education will level the playing field, he posits - prison populations would plummet, and minorities would be better able to walk a path in life that supported their well being. I think that's pretty cool, Henry. I think most of what he says in this interview is pretty much awesome and true. Check it out:


But he's missing a critical piece... What Henry doesn't talk about is that with or without a better education, institutional and systemic racism in America is still at large. Now, to be fair, Henry, without explicitly naming it, speaks to this in pointing out that meaningful education isn't nearly as available for minorities in The States. But lack of opportunity doesn't just exist for minorities in schools or learning environments. Systemic racism permeates throughout our white dominant culture. And though I do believe that education must be both meaningful and equitable, I won't assume that reinventing education alone is going to remedy the racism that is still very much at play in and around our society. And you know, I don't think he assumes that either. I just would've liked to hear him speak a little bit more of that cold, hard, punk rock, in-your-face truth about what's going on. Otherwise, we're only talking about part...

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Posted on Oct 31, 2013 - 07:25 AM by Shawn Strader

What’s In a Name?

A guest post from Okaikor Aryee-Price, an IDEA organizer, which was originally guest posted to Teacher In a Strange Land on EdWeek: 

I know for many the naming of a child is a deeply personal and spiritual experience that reflects some symbolism of one's cultural, traditional, and familial background. For my children, it was all of the 1008815_10153416005460331_2098824060_o.jpgabove. And because I put so much thought, research and energy into naming them, I expect people to respect that.

I get a little miffed when people ask me for a nickname or something short. Because of this, I am sensitive to how our names are more than just letters in a random word our parents chose to give us. When I posted a short story about a recent classroom experience on my Facebook page, it did not surprise me that many related to the story, or found themselves moved by my student's story.

This story is a story about dignity, love, acceptance, and compassion. It is about identity and the small things we can do that go along way. It is not a story about how well I aligned my classroom pedagogy to the Common Core Standards, or how well I prepared my students for some standardized test that will be used to evaluate my effectiveness in the classroom. As we explore the purpose of education, this story presents the importance of what it means to develop compassionate individuals who understand the dignity that exists in every human being, what it looks like to respect and honor that.

When I was twenty years old, I found out that my father at once in his life went by a different name from what we knew him by. Around 8pm one evening the phone rang. Always one to answer the phone, I pick it up.


"Yes, hello!  May I speak to Thomas?"



"There is no one here by the name of Thomas." My dad overhears my response and comes running down the stairs. "It's for me," he exclaims and smiles at me.

Interesting. In the twenty years I had known my dad, I had no clue. My dad had a secret  he'd never shared...

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Posted on Oct 29, 2013 - 08:38 AM by Shawn Strader

IDEA 3.0 Top Ten Countdown - Learning Breakthrough Series

We're halfway to number 1 in the Countdown, and no measure short of excited to deliver here, now, and today at number 5 on the Top Ten Countdown - IDEA's Learning Breakthrough Series!

The Learning Breakthrough Series
Pioneered by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in the health field, IDEA is adapting this deep-dive action based research model to education, and launching Learning Session A from November 7-11, 2013, in Jackson, Mississippi. Over the course of two-years, teams of educators, youth, and community and policy leaders from 10 distinct communities are learning alongside one another about transforming and sustaining meaningful change in today's educational climate. The series concludes with a public summit where teams share their finding and discuss implications with a broad audience of educators, policy-makers, and the media.

The Guiding Question
What approaches to policy, practice, public narrative, and strategy support the meaningful and sustained engagement of all young people and communities in education, while honoring the wisdom and differences of local contexts?

Learning Session A begins in less than 2 weeks. If you're following us on IDEA's Blog and social media, you're bound to hear more about the aftermath of the Learning Breakthrough Series kickoff. But, if you can't wait and simply must know more now, don't hesitate to dig in here.

Looking for a breakthrough in your own day?
Crank up the volume, get outta that chair, and have your own personal dance-off to Lemonade Mouth's Breakthrough. And feel okay to smile about it as your listen and think about standing up. Daily doses of pure fun are part of what it's all about. grin


Add a comment and join the conversation on IDEA's Facebook page.

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Posted on Oct 28, 2013 - 10:22 AM by Shawn Strader

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About the IDEA Blog

Sharing positive stories of change, providing perspective on key issues, and giving you wraps of the news and analysis to inspire learning, dialogue, and action.

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