The IDEA Blog

Education Uprising & J4J’s Listening Project

YES! Magazine Spring 2014 Issue: Education Uprising

We would love everyone to be reading and talking about the newest issue of YES! Magazine.


The crew @yesmagazine took the time to research and put together an education issue that helps illuminate both the challenges and the possibilities being created by grassroots and national actors, to reimagine and reclaim the "public" in public education.

It offers a frame of what’s happening in education that puts an expose of corporatization alongside David Sobel's writing on learning outdoors, and links the testing boycott popularized by Seattle's Garfield High School with the growth of social emotional learning and a great story on restorative justice practices in Oakland.

We think it speaks to an emerging movement that may not yet be fully coherent or connected but is as visible in this issue of YES! as at any moment prior.

4 steps to spread the word
1. Follow this link to sign up for a free issue of the current magazine
2. Get a subscription for a friend or colleague
3. Follow @yesmagazine on Twitter
4. Spread the issue on Facebook

Tools like this issue give credibility and provide great entry points to start or deepen conversations in your community, school, or district around education. We hope you can celebrate and make use of individual articles as well as the larger frame it offers across the pieces.

Call to Action: Support J4J and hold a Listening Project

Journey for Justice (J4J) is a national grassroots group that is actively holding “Listening Projects” and can use additional support. The goal is 200 listening projects across the U.S. and Puerto Rico by Friday, April 4th.


IDEA held a call with J4J’s National Director Jitu Brown this week and we’ve put together this documentation from the call, which contains all the links and information you need to support or hold a Listening Project in your community.

Documentation on J4J’s...

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Posted on Mar 14, 2014 - 09:17 AM by Shawn Strader

What were guinea pigs doing at the State House? (a newsletter from Providence Student Union)

Providence Student Union never ceases to amaze me... In my opinion they are some of the most intoxicating change-makers to follow, and so I love any opportunity to share what they are up. This news letter came to me last week in a subscribed update. Not only did they take their message to the State House, but the local news covered the event, and from the way it looks the participants had a fun time demonstrating too. Check it out, and subscribe to PSU's emails on their homepage - you won't regret it. grin

Last week, the Rhode Island General Assembly got quite a surprise when an enormous pack of guinea pigs and lab rats took over the State House for an afternoon.
That's me at the podium, standing in front of some of my guinea pig friends. Behind us are state legislators - a few of them even wore ears and whiskers!
Wait, what? Guinea pigs and lab rats? I know that sounds crazy, but that's what happened! Well, almost... My name is José Serrano. I'm a member of the Providence Student Union, and I came up with the idea for last week's event, "Operation: Guinea Pig," where students from across Rhode Island rallied at the State House dressed like lab animals - complete with whiskers, animal ears, paws and more - to show how the state is experimenting on us with high-stakes testing. As I said in my speech at the protest, "The reason we are dressed like guinea pigs and lab rats is simple - that is how we are being treated. The Department of Education hypothesized that high-stakes testing alone, without the extra resources our schools need, would solve our education problems. But this unproven gamble is playing with our futures, and we are here to say this needs to stop."
Lindsey, the "scientist" from the Department of Education, with her NECAP syringe.

Watch coverage of "Operation: Guinea Pig" here!


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Posted on Feb 11, 2014 - 09:58 AM by Shawn Strader

Profound Conversation on Impact of ESEA

On January 22nd, IDEA held our first "Network Learning Call." The goal of these calls are to bring our extended community together to discuss and learn about topics key to democratic education and school and community change efforts.

Our initial NLC focused on arguably the most important federal legislation on education, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and in particular the impact ESEA has had on historically marginalized communities since it's initial passing in 1965. You may know ESEA by the title it was given during the most recent re-authorization of the law: No Child Left Behind, passed in 2001.

Moderated by IDEA National Fellow and EdWeek blogger Nancy Flanagan and IDEA Director of Change Work Crystal Mattison, the call featured 3 wonderful panelists:

  • Maya Rockeymoore, President and CEO of Global Policy Solutions

  • Ana Helvia Quintero, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Puerto Rico

  • Le Roy Shingoitewa, member and former Chairman of the Hopi Indian Tribe and former teacher and school administrator 

The call was held through the Blackboard Collaborate platform (thanks to Steve Hargadon for helping us secure this platform). Check out the full recording of the panel and discussion, or you can read the notes from the call.

A dynamic conversation took place concurrently on Twitter, led by IDEA Storyteller David Loitz, and you can see the Storify recap here

A couple quotes to spark your interest:

Maya Rockeymoore: We have policy that serves as a bait and switch - while it claimed to be for academic achievement for low income and children of color, a number of policies undermine that goal. . . If you want highly qualified teachers to teach students who are historically disadvantaged, the last thing they’d want is to have their promotions and pay structured on test scores. . . 

Policy can be used for good too. If you want, for instance, better quality counselors, and this is something...

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Posted on Jan 31, 2014 - 11:53 AM by Dana Bennis

Few Powerful Things Happen in the World Without Organizing

IDEA's "No Spectators" fundraising campaign ends today. And the first thing I want to communicate is gratitude. We’ve received a donation or pledge from more than 125 people raising over $35,200. Thank you.

IDEA’s work will continue to go on, just like your own, because when you’re not a spectator you keep finding new ways to move what needs to move forward.

In wrapping the campaign, we want to make one final push today and also acknowledge that we did not meet our larger goal. And we feel like you deserve to know, in broad terms, what that means. For now, no big changes. But we are facing a sizable hole in our budget come March that staff is working hard to fill from grants, value-aligned corporate support, and more gifts and pledges as they can come in. We aren’t desperate - if anything we’re digging in, shoring up, and resolved to find ways to continue to will the dreams, work, and connections of IDEA forward.

We know you’re giving all you can and that we’ve asked as much and in as many ways as we can conjure, hopefully without exhausting you. We know you are the choir. You are the people who see the importance of making connections, of weaving networks, of finding new narratives and new ways to organize, and we know that you are IDEA.

Thank you. Thanks for organizing. Thanks for risking. Thanks for trusting. Thanks for storytelling and sharing. Thanks for sending us money and thanks for asking others.

Few things powerful happen in the world without those ingredients,



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

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Posted on Jan 31, 2014 - 10:44 AM by Scott Nine

The (Hopefully) Future of Education in Vermont: Setting the Stage

It’s currently -11 degrees outside, and while we’re used to winter in Vermont, this is cold. Living in a challenging climate demands that we work together to ensure the health and safety of our community - visiting our homebound neighbors and making sure their heat is on and there are groceries in the fridge, helping to shovel out our neighbor’s car when we have five extra minutes in the morning and they’re scrambling to get to work or school, and making sure that students don’t leave my classroom or school without a winter coat or gloves. Through constant vigilance, communication, and cooperation we strive each day to ensure that no one in our community faces the challenges of a New England winter alone.  

It’s this spirit of cooperation that I see, just barely, beginning to take root here in Vermont around our education system. As an advocate for school change I have long noted the difficulty of working in a larger “system” where few components of our school system communicate with each other. The federal government passes down a list of requirements, some funded, others not; the state legislature establishes policies in line with those requirements; school boards work on budgets heavily dictated by those policies, hopefully in line with local needs and resources; principals do everything they can to anticipate and respond to the needs of their local students, parents, and teachers; while in all of this teachers do their best to teach and students do their best to learn. Each and every member of this system is vital for its health, and yet far too often the health of the system is sacrificed for lack of efficiencies: interconnectivity between stakeholders may be tenuous at best, contentious at worst; feedback loops are ineffective or non-existent; everyone is dissatisfied with the results, and far too often we never question the very “results” we’re seeking.

Which is why what I saw last Monday gives me great hope for the future of education in Vermont....

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Posted on Jan 29, 2014 - 11:35 AM by Peter McConville

Break On Through to The Other Side!

Break on through to the other side... of the No Spectators campaign and the Learning Breakthrough Series! There are only 4 days left in IDEA's No Spectators fundraising campaign, and we need your donation now more than ever. So far we've raised about 50% of our $65,000 goal. We know we can get this number higher, but we're going to need your support. That's why we're giving you the details now on one of our biggest projects yet, and how your donations directly support the Learning Breakthrough Series.

The Learning Breakthrough Series is one way IDEA supports local power while generating knowledge and connections for the national movement towards more meaningful and relevant education. Over the course of two years, teams of educators, youth, and community and policy leaders from distinct communities are learning alongside each other about transforming and sustaining meaningful change in today's educational climate. The series concludes with a public summit where teams share their findings and discuss implications with a broad audience of educators, policy-makers, and the media.

Our first Learning Session was held in Jackson, MS in November, where teams of organizers from New York, Vermont, Oregon, Puerto Rico, New England, Jackson, MS, and Minnesota attended. Teams were able to take a deep-dive on education issues in their communities and support each other with "provocation rounds" to understand more clearly the ways they can contribute back home and nationally. Our community dinner welcomed mayoral office representatives, college and university students, and community members - check out this short highlight video from Wellington August. We established connection to and ways IDEA can collaborate with the 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer. Some of the most powerful learning came from the honor and privilege of visiting the COFO Civil Rights Education Center where we all came face-to-face with history, stories, and songs of the Civil Rights Movement from...

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Posted on Jan 27, 2014 - 08:24 AM by Shawn Strader

Super Friends in the Legion of Cool

It’s January 6, 2014 - my first official day in the office at the Tougaloo College Owens Health and Wellness Center. I’m seated at my desk reflecting on what happened towards the end of 2013 as my colleagues greet each other with a “happy new year” and “how was your time off?” I think about how I should answer the question, but I really didn’t have any time off. I was busy writing, DJing, re-writing, thinking, designing, planning and driving - so I respond “happy new year” and “it was good.”

There were a few things I thought about most, my fiancée and our unborn child, the future of Tougaloo College, the small changes in the educational landscape of Jackson, Mississippi and how I fit into all of this. For my future wife and child, I have to be a husband and father concerned with the overall well being of my family. Currently, overall well being translates into get us out of a third floor apartment, obtain an affordable home in a safe neighborhood and maintain a steady income to support it all. As a Tougaloo College graduate and employee, I’m concerned with how to increase alumni support and student enrollment. As the Storyteller for the IDEA Jackson place based team, my interest is piqued by the small changes to educational landscape of Jackson, Mississippi and what these changes mean and why they mean so much.

In the very near future, I’ll be searching for a pre-school and elementary school where my little student can explore his/her own individuality and develop socially, emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually. As well as the students of this educational landscape could potentially enroll at Tougaloo College (which would alleviate one of my concerns). I’m sure that it will all work out because I'm working with the "Super Friends in the Legion of Cool!"


GA and Skipp
The Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC) Mississippi Leadership Academy‘s first cohort completed a year long professional development opportunity...

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Posted on Jan 16, 2014 - 12:38 PM by George Chuck Patterson

2014 Here We Come: No Spectators and Network Learning Call

Changing Education Means No Spectators

Six weeks ago we launched our annual fundraising campaign with a goal of raising $120,000 and having as much fun and making as many connections along the way as possible. It’s called No Spectators - because we think that’s very much what IDEA’s work is about -- encouraging our shared sense of responsibility and the need to act to make visible and connect work that is by, for, and with young people, educators, and communities.

And, we didn’t hit our goal. Not even close. We accept that. We’ve taken a hard look at our optimism, our messages, and our goal.

And now we’re back in January with a narrowed goal and 15 days of renewed effort. We need to get to $65,000 to keep from having to slow down as an organization and do all those things every passionate non-profit wants to avoid. And we need your help.

We are asking that you make a $10.00 gift today!

Donate here.

Every bit will go a long way and if you aren’t sure, email us and we’ll answer any questions you have.

Thanks for your consideration and support,




First Network Learning Call

On January 22nd, we are holding our first Network Learning Call. These calls focus on specific topics that can inform and support your work, be it as an educator, student, community member, policy-maker, or otherwise. Here's the information, and we hope you can join us on the 22nd.

Date and time: Wednesday, January 22nd from 6:30-8pm Eastern / 3:30-5pm Pacific
Topic: The history and impact of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) from the perspective of historically marginalized communities
Format: We'll be using Blackboard Collaborate for this call. We'll begin with a panel discussion with 3 speakers and then open it to questions and dialogue from those on the call. 
Speakers: Maya Rockeymoore, President and CEO of Global Policy Solutions; Ana Helvia Quintero, Mathematics Professor at the University of Puerto Rico; Le...

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Posted on Jan 16, 2014 - 09:56 AM by Dana Bennis

Netflix and Zappos and Agile - Oh My

I’m a change junkie. I have all the signs of a kind of joyful addiction that should temper this post and put extra attention on the word junkie.

It’s been an interesting few weeks of provocation within my inbox and FB as I’ve learned more about changes in how work gets done and noodle on what that offers IDEA, and what it signals for any place where people are trying to learn or do interesting stuff together, including those places called school (shout out to John Goodlad).

This article prompted another round of sharing (and my first time seeing) this Netflix “stack,” which is what all the hip kids call a powerpoint these days.

A few days prior, I learned via Facebook that Zappos, a company I find fascinating to learn from, welcomed everyone but their managers into 2014 as they embrace Holacracy with the likes of management and GTD guru, David Allen.

And a month ago, I began a crash course in learning about Agile, starting with the manifesto and moving onto various implementation efforts, like Scrum.

Taken together, I do feel a bit like Dorothy and company as they go from being scared to singing “Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My.”

My very fast googling suggests some folks have been playing with crossovers in education for a few years AND, of course, many of these innovations have roots in the learning of many educators, philosophers, and teachers.

What I find most fascinating is that big companies are taking courageous risks to do work differently. And doing work differently is all about learning and adaptation.

Clearly schools are far more complex than selling shoes, streaming videos, or developing software code. But I can’t help but imagine a future where schools are dynamic centers of community that borrowed heavily on these kinds of dynamic and deeply democratic structures.

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Posted on Jan 10, 2014 - 08:29 AM by Scott Nine


IDEA MN History


In December of 2012, the first meeting of our group took place in the living room of Ofir Germanic (IDEA MN Senior Fellow). Our first, official Salon (“an assembly of guests in such a room, especially an assembly, common during the 17th and 18th centuries, consisting of the leaders in society, art, politics, etc” - took place on January 2013 at the Rice Lake Teen Zone. This is a place where youth in St. Paul came to engage in building a community together. Minnesota has long been a place where youth work is vitally important, yet schools and youth centers don't seem to be connected. We have a core group of members who are strongly connected. The efforts of IDEA MNer’s Steven Grande, Sarah Olson, Cari-Ana Garcia Luna, and Jerilyn Ezaki, along with many others helped get our group off the ground. We have grown organically since then and will continue to grow. This fellowship has many of us spending time connecting with each other outside of the time we hold Salons. We have found that our work with youth intersects in ways that we never imagined when we first got started.


In Minnesota, we tend to think we are “above average” compared to the rest of nation. This is especially true when it comes to education. It may be “flyover country” to people on the East Coast and West Coast, but Minnesota has long been a hot bed for rebel education initiatives, some of which include:

  • Open Enrollment - allowing students to attend a school of their choice, rather than based solely on their geographic location

  • Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) - allows students in high school to take college classes and receive dual credit (high school & college), free of charge

  • Charter Schools - charter school legislation was approved in 1991. City Academy (St. Paul) being the first charter in the nation to open.

  • Teacher Professional Practice (TPP) - an idea dreamed up by Education Evolving’s Ted Kolderie...

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Posted on Jan 09, 2014 - 07:51 AM by Aaron Grimm

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