Let me guess - you've heard (once, twice, or countless times) that the United States is falling behind other countries and that we better catch up in the global competition for education and innovation. While there are many good ideas out there and we'd be far better cooperating than competing, the U.S. has more than a few powerful schools, programs, and ideas to share as well -- and not just in terms of test scores, but in terms of supporting young people to find meaning in their lives and to help create a better world.
Those are two of the five goals of the Jefferson County Open School, a public K-12 school outside Denver, CO, where the practices of self-directed learning, a strong advisory program, engagement in the surrounding community, and frequent travel are the norm. Students graduate by not only meeting the state graduation requirements but also fulfilling seven "passages" - intensive projects that demonstrate the skills and qualities the school believes all students should have, such as global awareness, creativity, logical inquiry, and career awareness.
I got an email yesterday from Rick Posner, retired teacher and administrator at the Open School and author of Lives of Passion, School of Hope, which tells the story of the Open School and it's impact on hundreds of alumni over the 40 years since the school was founded in the early 1970s. The book was recently translated into Mandarin and has been received in the country with strong interest.
Here's his note, a telling story of how the tensions in the U.S. are not unique and how a different international narrative on education is possible - one founded not on competition and the global "race" but on global cooperation, shared learning, and mutual goals:
I just spent ten days in China talking about the Mandarin version of Lives of Passion, School of Hope and the Open School philosophy. I spoke with Chinese parents, teachers, students, principals, superintendents and professors. It was an...
A single national team represents each partner-in-change and has expertise across four drivers of transformative change. The team includes a national storyteller and is focused on making sense of "nation-as-place."
We've made these changes because IDEA organizing is most impactful when critical connections are being made between place-based teams and national actors through story, dialogue, and collaborative actions grounded in shared values and relationships.
If you can't stop, won't stop, and need to know more about IDEA 3.0, check out the overview here, and if you missed any past hits in the countdown you can still catch them in the IDEA Blog.
Take time for this weeks soundtrack to the Top Ten Countdown: In the Mississippi River by the Freedom Singers for our Place-Based Organizing, and One Vision by Queen to celebrate our One National Team. Enjoy!
Rallies, events, community conversations, and demonstrations are being held around the country this week directed at ending zero tolerance discipline practices, such as suspension and expulsion, that push young people out of schools and often into a track towards prison. The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) is at the forefront of this 4th Annual Week of Action, coordinating events from September 28 to October 5 across 24 states and 42 cities.
These zero tolerance policies have created the reality of a school to prison pipeline that disproportionately targets youth of color and exacerbates the already existing inequities in the education system. The events this week especially focus on the alternatives to zero tolerance - positive approaches such as restorative justice, building a strong community culture and school climate, and placing attention on social and emotional learning.
The main page for the Week of Action is packed full of details and information included a list of events, flyers to download and use in promotion, a great media kit for use with social and traditional media, and lots more.
As the edu-blogosphere fills with reviews, comments, and critique of Diane Ravitch’s new book Reign of Error, one of the places hosting her speaking tour soon seems worthy of more attention.
Last January, the Vermont School Boards Association and Vermont Superintendents Association released a joint agenda for a world-class education system.
This was developed out of 11 regional meetings with school boards and communities from the understanding that if the school boards and school leaders didn’t take a leadership role in laying out a future for public education in Vermont other narratives might emerge.
On October 23rd, Dr. Ravitch will address both groups as the Vermont School Boards Association and the Vermont Superintendents Association co-host with Dartmouth University.
I’m struck by the attention in the document to the conditions of both teaching and learning and the nuance it captures in what still seems like simple and doable language.
VSBA Executive Director Steve Dale said that the work to create this document and the agreements around it have been a helpful guidepost for their efforts in supporting school boards to lead community engagement efforts and their building of a legislative agenda.
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Truckin' right along, IDEA's Four Drivers of Change comes in at number 9 on the Countdown.
We know school and community change are driven by a number of different intersecting forces. And, one of the learnings we've gleaned from places like Mission Hill, El Puente, Nuestra Escuela, Opal, and projects like PS2013, etc, is that powerful educational change work seems to coherently address each of these four drivers:
We're encouraging each IDEA organizing team to identify ways to address each of these four areas and our working across several networks over the next two years to challenge and deepen this thinking.
For those of you who want to take a deeper dive, we recommend reading through IDEA's Four Drivers of Change and the IDEA 3.0 overview. And since everyone knows a Top Ten Countdown isn't complete without a soundtrack, joining our four drivers at number 9 this week is will.i.am's That Power - because the four drivers, they got that power!
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We're thrilled to learn that Bob Gliner's new film, Schools That Change Communities, will be broadcast around the country this week and next on PBS stations carrying PBS World. We need more and more visions of actual schools and communities practicing powerful learning, and this film is one of the best to come out in recent years.
The focus of the film is on place-based and community-based learning, where young people are actively engaged in the issues of their community.
From the film's website:
When we think about schools, it usually evokes images of places separated from the larger community, place where students go to learn. . . Yet, a few public schools across the country are trying a different approach to engaging students in the learning process, using the community and neighborhoods where students live as classrooms - creating not only a different type of learning environment, but a different kind of student. Schools That Change Communities focuses on a diverse range of K-12 public schools in five states - Massachusetts, Maryland, South Dakota, Oregon, and California - that have the potential to refocus the national debate around the direction educational reform should take.
Bob Gliner is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, and puts a great deal of care into bringing the stories of these schools, young people, and teachers to life. Schools That Change Communities will be shown on PBS stations around the country on September 25th at 6pm and 9pm, September 26th at 2am, 10am, and 4pm, and October 2nd at 2am, 10am, and 4pm. Search your local PBS station's schedule to see where and when it's playing (more info on Bob Gliner's website)
This kind of high-quality and in-depth look at democratic education doesn't come often to our screens (even those without cable - like me - can access PBS with an antenna). So check it out, tune in, and share this far and wide.
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In preparation for commenting on a story about principal preparation and evaluation that’s in today’s Portland Tribune, I wrote this email to the reporter in response to some initial questions she posed. I’d love folks comments and questions...
I look forward to talking as well. Here's some quick thoughts and links and I'll double back as time allows before we talk.
1. Why do some district's principals have contracts, but not all?
Every Local Education Agency (LEA in national policy speak and usually = school district) has an interesting mix of autonomy and compliance on different issues depending on the policies of the State Education Agency (SEA) and the state itself. In English - from state to state and district to district folks have taken very different paths around the legal relationship of the district to the principal. Recent Oregon changes (see below) spur evaluation systems into place but as far as I'm aware there is no legal requirement to choose between a variety of legal employment structures.
2. Does any district meet the gold standard for 360-degree principal evaluations and best practices on principal placements?
As you know, schools, districts, and states are complex places and it is difficult to keep a "poster child" for very long because of the variance within any system over time (aka human systems). That being said, this West Ed report does a nice job looking at six state systems and South Carolina may be of particularly interest because they've been at it a while with good results.
Michael Fullan's work in Ontario is probably the closest to the "gold star" award from my lens.
3. Why are problem principals nearly always promoted rather than put on leave or fired or even not rehired at the end of the year?
This is a popular notion and painfully true in many places but also not globally true. The research is varied and inconsistent and this idea comes from the caricatures of the Rubber Room in NYC...
IDEA is evolving, and we figured if Apple is rolling out with their new operating system today, we're gonna roll out with ours too! But the thing is, IDEA 3.0 is SO BIG, there's no possible way we could hand it all over to you in one quick shot. So, in no particular order, we're gonna give you a Top Ten Countdown over the next few weeks!
Today, coming in at the top of the list at number 10 is a new IDEA Role, the Storyteller.
Organizers and educators working with IDEA over the last few years have said something like, "we're too busy making history to document it" or "I know we need to tell our story more and that it's important, but I can't seem to get to it in the balance of other priorities." It's for this reason that we've added a storyteller to all six place-based organizing teams, as well as our one national team. The storyteller role is our next effort to embed the "pedagogy of documentation as love" into education organizing and change work. Working from a core of IDEA's Values, Storytellers are asked to act, work, and listen closely to their team and to focus on three primary responsibilities.
We're excited to be one step closer toward sharing out what our amazing teams of organizers are up to, and we hope you are too! If you'd like to dig in deeper, check out the IDEA Storyteller Plan 2013-2014, and if you really want to sink your teeth in this document lays out in detail the changes we'll be sharing over the next weeks.
For some extra fun, check out the number 10 song that goes along with our new Storyteller role, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Intro!
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|I am not going to let anyone silence my voice.|
My name is Héctor Perea, and I am a proud member of the Providence Student Union.
As you know, the Providence Student Union is a group where students like me can work together to make sure we have a fair say in our education. But we learned this past week that some people still don't understand the importance of student voice.
Last Monday the Rhode Island Board of Education voted 6-5 against a proposal to have open, public hearings to allow the community to finally weigh in on the use of a high-stakes tests as an obstacle to graduation. My friend and fellow PSUer Cauldierre McKay summed up the unfortunate situation in this blog post - check it out to hear how the Board opposes allowing students (not to mention parents, teachers, and the community) to fully participate in an open and transparent public debate of this crucial issue.
Even more disappointing, however, was what happened afterwards, when Board Chairwoman...
It's not too often often that an email gets me out of my seat, increases my heart-rate, and brings out all of my pearly whites, especially when I'm the only person in the room. But this exciting email came in on Wednesday from Youth on Board and Boston Student Advisory Council. I wasn't sure if I had read right after reading through it once, so I read it two more times. Needless to say, I've read through the highlights at the bottom of the message more than thrice now since it came in. There is a lot of reason to celebrate here. That being said, I'm curious, excited, and not entirely sure of what things will look like moving forward for Boston schools. For now, all I know is that this is worth sharing and having a few conversations about. I'd love to hear your thoughts in our comments. Let us know what you're thinking.
The fight to end the school-to-prison pipeline made historic strides last week in Boston, MA when the Boston Public School Committee adopted an entirely new Code of Conduct by unanimous vote that centers on alternative and supportive practices at all levels of discipline.
This policy is the result of three years of hard work by the student leaders at BSAC in partnership with adult allies and advocates in the Code of Conduct Advisory Council (COCAC), the Chapter 222 Coalition, and BPS leadership.
BSAC leaders organized their peers, listened to hundreds of Boston youth at train stations, in schools and forums, and pushed allies and the district alike on student priorities in discipline, resulting in a bold and pioneering code. This new policy brings us closer to giving every student a true opportunity to...